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View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next MOG Mechanics: Improved Ability Checks (Fixing unused skills with player agency)



Man_Over_Game
2019-01-14, 11:28 AM
At a lot of tables, specific skills have specific uses, which makes each skill feel unique. And while this can be a good thing, this naturally cuts down on using skills for broader scenarios.

You can't use Investigation to find people, that's what Perception is for; You can't use Persuasion to tell if someone is lying, that's what Insight is for, etc. To cut down on one skill being too effective, we naturally say that each skill has its own niche, but this ends up making some skills get overlooked.

So rather than falling into this problem and making each skill have its own niche, I created a simple change that broadens the uses of skills while empowering players' decisions.

===============
The rules:


Checks do not rely on a skill. Rather, the players say they wish to attempt an action, and the DM only asks for the player to make an Ability check (I.E. Strength, Intelligence) that's specific to the attempt.
The player must use that ability score, but they also can pick 1-2 proficiencies that they have that tie into the action itself.
With 1 proficiency, they add their proficiency bonus as normal. With 2 proficiencies, they gain advantage on their check.
If the proficiencies the player chooses do not count, the DM says why their experience cannot be applied to this check, but the player can pick another proficiency to apply.

===============


Example:

Ron, the Arcane Trickster Rogue, has proficiency in Medicine and Investigation but has an eyesight problem and isn't proficient in Perception.

The team encounters a broken down caravan with nobody around it

Ron: "I'd like to see if I notices anything out of the ordinary before we approach."
DM: "Make a Wisdom check"
Ron: "Adding Investigation?"
DM: "Sure."

Ron rolls Wisdom + proficiency.

DM: "Besides the dead horse are some blood splatters. The horse is missing a leg. One of the wheels looks like it was burned off. Other than that, there's nothing you notice from this distance"
Ron: "We approach the wagon".

[Some Time Later]

Ron: "I'd like to see if I can track the attackers"
DM: "Make an Intelligence or Wisdom check for me"
Ron: "I'd like to apply Investigation and Medicine"
DM: "Medicine?"
Ron: "To maybe see how old the horse's corpse is and tell how far off they might be.
DM: "Good use of Medicine. Roll it".

Ron rolls Intelligence + proficiency + advantage

DM: "Judging by the few flies, lack of stench, and the warmth of the blood, you guess this is very recent. You also don't find blood in the cabin or any near the wagon besides the horse, which implies the riders were uninjured. There are some blood splatters, likely from the horse's missing leg, that indicate it was moved East of here, into the forest. Someone can make a Wisdom check to closely follow the blood splatters, if you'd like".

This does not use a different formula than the base rules (Ability Score Modifier + Proficiency), but it does allow players to creatively use skills for more scenarios, and rewards them for specializing (such as a Bard having musical instruments and Performance on the same check, or a Rogue having Thieves' Tools and Investigation and wants to use both).

In the above example, most players would assume that Survival would be the best choice for this kind of attempt, but the player was able to use Medicine and Investigation perfectly to solve an otherwise niche problem. Medicine no longer is strictly about making people healthy, but any scenario where the health of a creature may be relevant. Athletics is no longer a specific action, but applied whenever your agility and endurance may assist you.

As a side feature, this also makes players more aware of their character's talents. No longer are they forgetting about a skill until a specific event, but rather each event is a chance for them to consider how each of their skills can be applied.

Overall, this makes players' skills less about saying what things your character can do, but rather what your character wants to do.

Mith
2019-01-15, 01:11 AM
At a lot of tables, specific skills have specific uses, which makes each skill feel unique. And while this can be a good thing, this naturally cuts down on using skills for broader scenarios.

You can't use Investigation to find people, that's what Perception is for; You can't use Persuasion to tell if someone is lying, that's what Insight is for, etc. To cut down on one skill being too effective, we naturally say that each skill has its own niche, but this ends up making some skills get overlooked.

So rather than falling into this problem and making each skill have its own niche, I created a simple change that broadens the uses of skills while empowering players' decisions.

===============
The rules:


Checks do not rely on a skill. Rather, the players say they wish to attempt an action, and the DM only asks for the player to make an Ability check (I.E. Strength, Intelligence) that's specific to the attempt.
The player must use that ability score, but they also can pick 1-2 proficiencies that they have that tie into the action itself.
With 1 proficiency, they add their proficiency bonus as normal. With 2 proficiencies, they gain advantage on their check.
If the proficiencies the player chooses do not count, the DM says why their experience cannot be applied to this check, but the player can pick another proficiency to apply.

===============



This does not use a different formula than the base rules (Ability Score Modifier + Proficiency), but it does allow players to creatively use skills for more scenarios, and rewards them for specializing (such as a Bard having musical instruments and Performance on the same check, or a Rogue having Thieves' Tools and Investigation and wants to use both).

In the above example, most players would assume that Survival would be the best choice for this kind of attempt, but the player was able to use Medicine and Investigation perfectly to solve an otherwise niche problem. Medicine no longer is strictly about making people healthy, but any scenario where the health of a creature may be relevant. Athletics is no longer a specific action, but applied whenever your agility and endurance may assist you.

As a side feature, this also makes players more aware of their character's talents. No longer are they forgetting about a skill until a specific event, but rather each event is a chance for them to consider how each of their skills can be applied.

Overall, this makes players' skills less about saying what things your character can do, but rather what your character wants to do.

I like the idea of this system. I think the only thing I would do differently is that I like doing 2d10 for skills over 1d20 for the curve spreading out your character's level of skill at a task, so instead of advantage, I might do 3d10 best 2.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-01-15, 08:08 AM
To be quite honest, the only difference here from the DMG guidance is giving advantage for having 2 relevant skills. Because the DMG already basically says to do exactly that--call for an ability check, let the player suggest a proficiency, and go with it if they have any kind of a semi-plausible explanation of how that will help.

I tend to let them use almost any "related" skill (ie can substitute within an ability score and often between them), but give different information/have different consequences. The obvious ones:

* Using Persuasion vs Intimidation vs Deception signals a different approach (and thus different chances of success and different consequences for failure).
* Using History vs Nature vs Arcana vs Investigation vs Religion vs Medicine vs Survival will all give different slices of information about the object/scene in question.
* Using Perception vs Insight vs Investigation vs Medicine (sometimes) will have you focus on different things and get different slices.
* Using Athletics vs Acrobatics in a physical check may be the difference between balancing expertly or clinging on using brute strength.
* Using Stealth vs Deception is different ways of hiding--some may work certain times and others at others.
* etc.

The odd one out is Sleight of Hand, but that rarely comes up at my tables. Might be related to Stealth or Deception, depending on what you do.

The key is to let the fiction control and dictate. Most players will use the "obvious" one without being told, and when they don't they often come up with creative ways around things that you hadn't noticed (and should be rewarded for that).

Also, raw ability checks (no proficiency) are a thing--in fact, they're the default thing.

Man_Over_Game
2019-01-15, 09:54 AM
To be quite honest, the only difference here from the DMG guidance is giving advantage for having 2 relevant skills. Because the DMG already basically says to do exactly that--call for an ability check, let the player suggest a proficiency, and go with it if they have any kind of a semi-plausible explanation of how that will help.

I tend to let them use almost any "related" skill (ie can substitute within an ability score and often between them), but give different information/have different consequences. The obvious ones:

* Using Persuasion vs Intimidation vs Deception signals a different approach (and thus different chances of success and different consequences for failure).
* Using History vs Nature vs Arcana vs Investigation vs Religion vs Medicine vs Survival will all give different slices of information about the object/scene in question.
* Using Perception vs Insight vs Investigation vs Medicine (sometimes) will have you focus on different things and get different slices.
* Using Athletics vs Acrobatics in a physical check may be the difference between balancing expertly or clinging on using brute strength.
* Using Stealth vs Deception is different ways of hiding--some may work certain times and others at others.
* etc.

The odd one out is Sleight of Hand, but that rarely comes up at my tables. Might be related to Stealth or Deception, depending on what you do.

The key is to let the fiction control and dictate. Most players will use the "obvious" one without being told, and when they don't they often come up with creative ways around things that you hadn't noticed (and should be rewarded for that).

Also, raw ability checks (no proficiency) are a thing--in fact, they're the default thing.

All very true, and intentionally so!

Just because it was intended that way, though, doesnít mean itís true or that itís what people actually do, though.


By paying attention to what this play style provides, players will remember to use it rather than their default methods. And if some of them realize this is actually just the core rules allowing 2 skills on a single check( (and even that was suggested in Xanatharís), great! But we all know thatís not what actually happens at tables.

Trying to convince people theyíre playing incorrectly is a lot harder than convincing them to add new and fun mechanics to the table.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-01-15, 11:08 AM
All very true, and intentionally so!

Just because it was intended that way, though, doesnít mean itís true or that itís what people actually do, though.


By paying attention to what this play style provides, players will remember to use it rather than their default methods. And if some of them realize this is actually just the core rules allowing 2 skills on a single check( (and even that was suggested in Xanatharís), great! But we all know thatís not what actually happens at tables.

Trying to convince people theyíre playing incorrectly is a lot harder than convincing them to add new and fun mechanics to the table.

Ah. The old "It's not vegetables--it's <something interesting>" trick to get a kid to eat something he doesn't like. :smallbiggrin: