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View Full Version : Pathfinder A Simple Houserule for Skill Focus [PEACH]



Steel Mirror
2014-04-20, 02:46 PM
In my group, I've noticed a definite trend over the years that the skill list is the portion of the character sheet that players get the least excited about (barring the occasional player who plays a skill-heavy rogue for RP reasons). As I think about a swashbuckling-type campaign that I am planning to start up soon, I am realizing that I want to buff skills to promote the sort of derring-do that the genre celebrates. In particular I want to make it quite simple for any character class to achieve impressive and reliable ability with a small set of skills appropriate to their archetype, at very little investment of character resources. To that end, I am thinking of changing the Skill Focus feat to the following.

Skill Focus
Choose two skills that you have at least one rank in. You are particularly adept at those skills.
Benefit: You roll two d20's when making any skill check with one of the chosen skills, and take the result you prefer. Additionally, both skills you chose are now treated as class skills even if they were not before you chose this feat.
Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to new skills.

Now this is clearly powerful compared to other skill affecting feats and options in Pathfinder, and that is the point. It makes it much easier to succeed at routine or moderately challenging tasks, makes succeeding at very difficult tasks somewhat easier (though not as much as the normal Skill Focus feat does), and crucially it makes it very rare for characters with a decent amount of competence to fail at easy tasks. I think that last one is particularly important, because nothing rains on your master-saboteur super-spy's parade like making it all the way through a big heist flawlessly and then setting off the alert because you rolled a 2 on your check to turn off your car alarm in the parking lot. Or whatever.

Another thing that I notice with low-level characters (and this will probably be an E6 or E8 game) is that they are incredibly feat starved, so every character will be starting with an additional 2 bonus feats. My group also uses critical success/failure rules on natural 20/1 respectively. I mention those houserules only because it might affect how you evaluate this feat in the context of my upcoming game, and how likely it is that players choose Skill Focus as one of their precious feats.

So after looking at the modified feat, are there any pitfalls you can foresee that might trip me up if I let my characters take it? Any non-obvious synergies that break the game? Some loophole that leaps to your mind that I should be prepared to nip in the bud if any players look to exploit it? Or is there some change that you would make to my version of the feat that you think makes it work a little better? Thanks for your honest critique, and for reading my ramblings!

erikun
2014-04-20, 04:47 PM
Skill Focus
Choose two skills that you have at least one rank in. You are particularly adept at those skills.

Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new skill.
So when you take the feat a second time, does it apply to two more skills or just one? Because taking the skill again would seem to mean that you pick two new skills to apply the effects, but the last line implies that you just choose one skill for any additional times you take it.

Also, the fact that you need to have one skill rank to take the feat can make it awkward for characters, especially 1st level characters, to pick it up easily. A character would understandably want to get the feat before spending skill points, because it avoids the cross-class penalty, but then they'd need to get the feat after spending their skill points. A 1st level character who would want to Skill Focus in a cross-class skill couldn't take feats before skill points, because then they wouldn't quality for the feat. But if they spend skill points first, then they'd only have 2 skill ranks at best.

It's basically the Weapon Finesse problem.

Steel Mirror
2014-04-20, 04:59 PM
So when you take the feat a second time, does it apply to two more skills or just one?
I changed the wording to be more clear. You get 2 skills each time.

Also, the fact that you need to have one skill rank to take the feat can make it awkward for characters, especially 1st level characters, to pick it up easily.
This is for a Pathfinder game, so cross class works differently than in 3.5. You can take a single rank in a cross-class skill at no penalty, and then the feat goes and gives you the +3 trained skill bonus with no penalty. If you wanted to use a similar feat for 3.5, yeah, you'd have to rework it.

TuggyNE
2014-04-21, 07:16 PM
My group also uses critical success/failure rules on natural 20/1 respectively. []
So after looking at the modified feat, are there any pitfalls you can foresee that might trip me up if I let my characters take it?

The feat increases the usual 5% auto-success on any skill to 9.75%. I don't consider auto-success on skill checks sensible under any circumstances, and this is a pretty substantial worsening of that.

Without that it's basically always-on D&DN-style advantage, which is fairly powerful but not gamebreaking.

Steel Mirror
2014-04-21, 07:58 PM
The feat increases the usual 5% auto-success on any skill to 9.75%. I don't consider auto-success on skill checks sensible under any circumstances, and this is a pretty substantial worsening of that.

Thanks for the comment. I suppose I should have clarified that our version of critical success/failure isn't an auto-fail or auto-success. Now that I reread that, it's pretty clear that I should have clarified.

A nat 20 will let you succeed extra-impressively at something you would normally have just succeeded at. So while climbing the wall of the castle and landing a nat 20 you might be able to scamper up like a monkey and then flip over the top before anyone has a chance to respond, no number of natural 20's would let you climb up the side of a cloud (just to choose an obvious situation where a 5% autosuccess makes no sense). So having this feat makes you more likely to do something really qualitatively impressive, but doesn't give you a 1 in 10 chance of breaking the laws of physics, or anything like that.

TuggyNE
2014-04-21, 09:00 PM
Thanks for the comment. I suppose I should have clarified that our version of critical success/failure isn't an auto-fail or auto-success. Now that I reread that, it's pretty clear that I should have clarified.

A nat 20 will let you succeed extra-impressively at something you would normally have just succeeded at. So while climbing the wall of the castle and landing a nat 20 you might be able to scamper up like a monkey and then flip over the top before anyone has a chance to respond, no number of natural 20's would let you climb up the side of a cloud (just to choose an obvious situation where a 5% autosuccess makes no sense). So having this feat makes you more likely to do something really qualitatively impressive, but doesn't give you a 1 in 10 chance of breaking the laws of physics, or anything like that.

Ah, that's rather better. Yeah, now it's just a rather strong feat. Maybe gate it with some prerequisites (2-5 ranks?) or daily uses (1/2 level, min 1?) but it shouldn't be too horrifying without those.

AttilaTheGeek
2014-04-21, 10:12 PM
Remember mathematically that choosing the higher of 2d20 is about equal to a +4 bonus. 2d20b1 averages 13.82, and with the fact that you're progressively more likely to roll higher numbers it pretty soundly rounds to a +4. It may not allow characters to hit DCs as high as they would be able to with a +3 from the old skill focus, but it's still a bigger effective bonus and it applies to twice as many skills. I would recommend reducing it to one skill, but I think it's a good alternative to Skill Focus. Maybe rename it Skill Mastery or something, and let players choose between increasing their maximum roll by +3 or increasing their average roll by +4.

Steel Mirror
2014-04-22, 10:30 AM
I would recommend reducing it to one skill, but I think it's a good alternative to Skill Focus. Maybe rename it Skill Mastery or something, and let players choose between increasing their maximum roll by +3 or increasing their average roll by +4.
Thanks for looking at it! I actually want it to be more powerful than normal skill focus, because none of the people in my group ever take skill focus. I suppose I would compare it not to other feats that improve skills, but rather to other feats in other categories. Would a fighter, who has feats to burn, always take this over other good miscellaneous feat options, say Improved Initiative or Combat Reflexes? If yes, then maybe my feat is too powerful. If that is a decision that could go either way, depending on the character, then I think it's about where I want it.