Skills Focuses: A new way to interact with skills

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Hi everyone.  

I don't write a lot, but I lurk around a lot. This forum is amazing.

Anyway: after more than one year with fourth edition, I'm starting another campaign and I'm trying to test a bunch of house rules.

This one is very important to me and I'd really appreciate your comments and suggestions.

The reasons why I thought about it are:
1- the need to increase the differences between characters with the same trained skills;
2- the idea to give intelligence an important role in what you're able to learn;
3- reduce the auto-wins in skill checks.

Here it is.
Each skill has at least THREE Specialities (as shown below). During creation, you can choose TWO specialities for each trained skill you have. Then, you had a speciality for each point of your Intelligence Mod (not one for every skill, but one for ANY skill).

You get the TRAINING bonus (+5) just when you roll for a speciality you have.

On the opposite, to counterbalance this limitation, EVERY TIME a player rolls for a NON-trained skill, gets a penalty of -5 to the roll.

In this way:
- I've no penalties in skill checks I'm trained for;
- I'm better than others that have the same skill but NOt the same speciality (and worst, in the opposite);
- the CD is kinda higher than usual when I try to do something I'm not trained for (so there's still a BIG benefit in having a trained skill, even without the +5 bonus).

It's a funny way (IMHO) to play on "gaps" more then on straight capabilities. It's kinda...storytelling stuff.

I'll write down the specialities I've got. Feel free to ask, comment and criticise, but please, do it with a ratio, not just attacking the idea.

Thanks a lot for reading.
- Stunts;
- Escape from Grabs or Restraints;
- Feather Fall.

- Planes and Creatures (Elemental Caos, Feywild and Shadowfell);
- Far Realm Knowledge;
- Rituals (Knowledge and casting);
- Detect Objects;
- Detect Magical Effects.

- Climb;
- Swim;
- Ride;
- Escape from Grab;
- Jump.

- Cheat;
- Bargain;
- Disguise.

- Inspire Trust;
- Etiquette;
- Negotiate.

- Resist Poison;
- Resist Desease;
- Resist Thirst and Hunger;
- Resist weather and fatigue.

- Sense of Direction/Follow clues (close places);
- Detect Traps;
- Detect Environmental Hazards;
- Scrounge (close places, subterranean, Underdark);
- Creatures of the Far Realm and Underdark.

- First Aid;
- Deseases;
- Pyshical condition analysis.

- Heraldry and Nobility;
- Geographical History;
- Folklore;
- Laws and Traditions.

- Scrounge (nature environements);
- Handle Animals;
- Nature Knowledges (Terrain knowledges, environment analysis);
- Natural Creatures..

- Listen;
- Spot Hidden;
- Sixth Sense.

- Ceremonies;
- Theology;
- Immortal and Undead Creatures.

- Outer environements Stealth;
- Inner environements Stealth;
- Hide.

- Disable Traps;
- Pick Lock;
- Sleight of Hand/Legerdemain;
- Steal;
- Craft (profession) - here I interprete "thievery" as "crafting abilities" and you can pick up a Profession (or more, multi-choosing this speciality) related to manual skills.

Here we go.
I'm not gonna go through all your subcategories, but I will comment on the idea.

I'm not all against this, although I don't quite understand your part about the Intelligence modifier.
I suggest you make the penalty vary on the skill. We all know climbing a rope without much practice is much easier that taking a History exam when you've never read a book. I think all knowledge skill checks should get the -5 but other skills only -2, since these can be ad-libbed. 

Okey, I WILL go over your subcategories.

Arcana: I think both detection specialties should be the same "detect the presence of magic"
Athletics: I think you should allow your PCs to make jump checks without penalties.
Bluff: Needs to be seriously revised.

Lie convincingly
Feinting in combat

Endurance: I think these should be cut down into three: Survive (endure harsh conditions and extreme physical stress), resist physical illnesses and hold breath
Heal: Mend (first aid and extended treatments), Pathology, Investigation.
Nature: Change the names of the last two to Natural Enviroments and Natural Creatures
Stealth: Should be three skills, Move undetected and Hide(self or object) and Leave Clues.
Thievery: Sleight of hand and pickpocketing should be the same
I like the 3.5 mindset you have here. You're going to love this, it's like ranks but for 4e:

I think this change you are suggesting is needed in 4e. Not only does this give new players tons of ideas of how their character uses and can use his abilities, but it will also motivate DMs to pose challenges where these skills are involved. This is like DnD meets World of Darkness. 


Look at my Playable Illithid, my Monster Generating excel file , my Lifestealer in progresss (Heroic tier almost complete!) , our Improved Orc, our Improving Kenku and our Improving Duergar
Also, take a look at my friend's Improved Minotaur, Gadren's amazing Arcane Archer and of course the Avatar Project
More links! Qube's Block Builder, Classless D&D and the characters I've created using the classless system.


Thanks for your time, at first. ;)


I made some changes to this system after a bunch of playtesting, but the core is the same...

I'm tryin' it without the Intelligence mod stuff...I exchanged that rule for more freedom.


Basically, the new idea is:

1- 1 focus for each trained skill, then additional focus to spend as you like equal to the number of trained skills you have. In this way, instead of havin', let's say, 4 trained skills with 2 focuses each, you can have 2 trained skills with 1 focus and 2 with 3 focuses.

2- More restriction on "trained only" stuff. There has to be. I just assume that there is stuff you can't even try with no training. Most obvious example of "try even if untrained" can be "survival" (as you said...I like it ;))...The opposite is "Recognize Magical Effects". With this mindset, this addittion is definitey needed.

3- To counter the increasing difficulty of getting the right skill at the right moment, the easiest way to get the concept is: training is actually a +2. You get "+5" just while using a FOCUS on a trained skill.

In this way, not havin' the right focus or not having the whole skill will already be a big pain i.t.a.

If you want an easier way to think about it, just assume that each "non focused but trained" skill roll gets a -3.

4- If you purchase a new Skill via feat (or by any mean), you immediately get 2 focuses for it.

5- At 11th and 21th level, you get 1 focus.

6- Skill Focus Feat: applies ONLY to your focuses (not the whole skill).

7- Racial skill bonus: applies to the WHOLE skill (a racial bonus is inteded to be a "basis" of your character, before focuses could kick in).

8- "Ritual" is a focus for any ritual skill.

9- Some focuses have been added/deleted/changed: one example is TORTURE under HEAL.



Here it is as it's now...Suggestion? Insults?


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