Skill Mastery makes my DM want to increase the DC

Halfling rogue with the thief and charlatan backgrounds. This means I have a minimum 16 on Bluff, Insight, Sleight of hand, Find and Remove traps, Open locks and Stealth.

This means as long as I don't throw a 1, my halfling rogue should be able to accomplish a Hard DC 16 task with really little problem. This in turn makes my DM want to up the DC to either Very Hard (19) or Formidable (22) so that there is a fair possibility of failure in my roll - some uncertainty - a reason for the roll in the first place.

Interestingly, he doesn't feel the need to make the DC the same for other players. Because a moderate DC 13 is perfectly "fair" and "challenging" for them. If I'm trying to convince the Kobold Queen to release my friends by boldly lying to her, my DC is 19 while the fighters is DC13. 

Is skill mastery too powerful? Or just broken? Does my DM have to learn to let my character succeed "without trying"? Should 1st level include DC19 or 22 challenges, for anyone? Is it boring to rarely fail? And what is my DM trying to solve, from his point of view, and how does he recapture the sense of excitement in a dice roll without raising the DC above what it ordinarily should be?
 
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
I see there a several threads on exactly this problem. Glad I'm not alone.
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
Yup, you identified the main problem of skill mastery.

If the rogue would only be able X number of times/day then the player can decide himself when to use it (after hearing the DC from the DM).
I not like the idea of DM use diferent DC to PCs, it ultimately generates a feeling of cheat in the group.

I replace the "take 10" for "take 5" and the problens with skill mastery vanish in my group.
Rplacing "take 10" with advantage would be better, move take 10 to Knack feat to replace advantage

Happy gamin' Rogue Tom

Rplacing "take 10" with advantage would be better, move take 10 to Knack feat to replace advantage



I like Knack as it is stated because it allows the rogue to use SA in combat in crutial moments, and Knack fit very well in the role of rogue.

On the oder hand I disagree with replace "take 10" for advantage because advantage is a bonus superior to "take 10". Poof this is not very hard but involve combinatorial math, a computacional simulation is easy to do and shows that in 79% of time advantage is superior.  A easy way to view that is true is thinking if the first roll you get a number > 10 you have no bonus to "take 10" but in the case of advantage you have a new chance to improve that number, on the other hand if you get a number < 10 "take 10" let you 10 while the new roll as 50% of chance to get a better number. 
Even if advantage is better, it still leaves open the chance of failure and calls for a roll to be made.  That, alone, should be enough to satisfy the DM in question and prevent un-fair DC increases.
The metagame is not the game.
Even if advantage is better, it still leaves open the chance of failure and calls for a roll to be made.  That, alone, should be enough to satisfy the DM in question and prevent un-fair DC increases.



Exactly there is a chance of failure with the advantage, no chance of failure with "take 10"

Replacing "take 10" with advantage would be better, move take 10 to Knack feat to replace advantage



I like Knack as it is stated because it allows the rogue to use SA in combat in crutial moments, and Knack fit very well in the role of rogue.

On the oder hand I disagree with replace "take 10" for advantage because advantage is a bonus superior to "take 10". Poof this is not very hard but involve combinatorial math, a computacional simulation is easy to do and shows that in 79% of time advantage is superior.  A easy way to view that is true is thinking if the first roll you get a number > 10 you have no bonus to "take 10" but in the case of advantage you have a new chance to improve that number, on the other hand if you get a number < 10 "take 10" let you 10 while the new roll as 50% of chance to get a better number. 



As to the math, and the statisics I have roughed them out them and average score for advantage (assuming +3 for skill, and +3 for skill mastery)  is about 18.7 while the "take 10" is 18, however, if you plot your results to a curve your results (or solve for the mean) you will note that your mean score for advantage is in the 15-17 range while the "take 10" is solidly at 16 - which also happens to be the low score for "take 10" thus no chance of failure on a hard task, making "take 10" the superior mechanic 

The advange giving you a slightly better average is why I recommended a reduction in the skill mastery replacement value to +2 when I discussed skill mastery on another thread   

Happy gamin'
Rogue Tom

Happy gamin' Rogue Tom

Even if advantage is better, it still leaves open the chance of failure and calls for a roll to be made.  That, alone, should be enough to satisfy the DM in question and prevent un-fair DC increases.



Exactly there is a chance of failure with the advantage, no chance of failure with "take 10"



I completly agree with you in this point, and to be honest i not had thought in this detail yet. Advantage allow failure while keep the good chance for rogue, the next time i play i you try that.

 As to the math, and the statisics I have roughed them out them and average score for advantage (assuming +3 for skill, and +3 for skill mastery)  is about 18.7 while the "take 10" is 18, however, if you plot your results to a curve your results (or solve for the mean) you will note that your mean score for advantage is in the 15-17 range while the "take 10" is solidly at 16 - which also happens to be the low score for "take 10" thus no chance of failure on a hard task, making "take 10" the superior mechanic 



My statistics is a litle different. I do not use the mean to measure what is the better mechanic, instead i use a simulation build with a python program. My simulation is based on law of large numbers and a statistical paired test. I found that in 79% of the time advantage archive a large result than take 10. This simulation do not acount the sucess or failure in the test, but only what type of roll give you the best result in avarege.

follow my simulation

import random
aproxfactor = 1000000
t10cnt = 0.0
advcnt = 0.0
#inicialize the seed of the pseudo random number generator using current time
random.seed()


#do a statistical paired test
for i in range(aproxfactor):
#simulate the d20's roll
fr = random.random()*20 + 1.0
sc = random.random()*20 + 1.0


#decide the better bonus in current test
if max(fr, 10.0) > max(fr, sc):
t10cnt += 1
else:
advcnt += 1


#print the statistics
print t10cnt/aproxfactor
print advcnt/aproxfactor


that plot

0.203585 for take 10
0.796415 for use advantage





The rogue ability makes sense for certain skills like stealth, opening locks, etc. Especially in a system where the rogue's bonus may not be very much higher than the archer's, that's a big deal to promote the "master of skills" archetype. The fact that a rogue never really botches a roll is a good thing from a storytelling standpoint, becuase nobody wants to be the rogue that fails climbing a conventional surface or sets off a simple trap instead of disarming it. That's the sort of humiliating thing that makes PCs dislike their characters.

I don't see a big problem with saying rogues always roll in the 10-20 range for most skills. I can definitely see not allowing it for social skills, because you may not want a character who sees through lies with absolute certainty or can always bluff people. So I might put a limit on that for certain games.

But stealth isn't a big deal. Yeah you're quiet, but what about the rest of your party? All it really lets you do is scout a bit better without getting smoked on a bad roll. As for disarming traps, again, not a huge deal. Disarming traps is what rogues do. The difficult part of a trap should be deciding to search for it, not the disarming aspect. The skill mastery allows you to have particularly tough traps that are a gamble and trivial traps that you just need to find to be able to disarm. If anything I was more upset with 4E passive trap perception, since it made some traps automatically noticeable, which removed the whole point really.

Surely the solution to this "problem" consists of a strongly worded warning to the DM not to do this, because it is effectively arbitrarily taking a key ability away from a PC. Don't blame the rules for bad DMing.




EDIT: Actually, there is one respect in which blaming the rules is appropriate here, and that's that the paragraph on page 3 of the DM guidelines beginning with "Here's another secret" needs to be killed with fire, forever, at least twice. (My avatar will be happy to volunteer for the job.) That may, in fact, be your problem right there.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
From what I can see here, the problem is a too small DC for the fighter... tricking a queen, even a kobold one, should be a rather difficult task. I'd say a 16 is a quite fair DC for that one, as an expert bluffer (such as the rogue in question) should be able to pull it off rather easily, while someone untrained in doing that should have a hard time of it. A 13 for a fighter and a 19 for him are equal challenge, but for unequal people. After all, in a fight the fighter should be able to hit that same queen far more easily than the rogue... it's the same thing. Adjust the challenge to the situation, not the person attempting it.
A solution is to change skill mastery so instead of a "take 10" it is a "take 6".
This way the rogue succed automaticaly to any easy task (die : 6 + skill : 3 + carac : 3 = 12 vs 10).
With skill improve at even level he can even achieve to succed automaticaly to moderate (die : 6 + skill : 4 + carac : 3 = 13 vs 13) and hard (die : 6 + skill max : 7 + carac : 3 = 16 vs 16) task.
If this needs fixing - though as I said above, if it does, it's not for the reason given at the beginning of this thread - here's a variant I was thinking about last night:

Twice a day (or whatever number seems appropriate), after making a check using any of your skills and getting a "natural" result (i.e. the actual number rolled on the d20, before applying any modifiers) between 2 and 9 inclusive, you can choose to to determine the check result as though you got a natural result of 10 instead.

This still gives the rogue a significant advantage in skill use, but they are now stuck with any natural 1s they roll, and even when that doesn't happen, they can't rely on this many times in rapid succession.

EDIT: I would also drop the "+3 or your relevant stat modifier" thing, not only because it's too good in combination with the auto take 10, but also because there isn't necessarily one stat modifier that you're always using with any given skill. I also don't see any reason why the number you can replace the die roll with should scale up with level, ESPECIALLY given the "bounded accuracy" philosophy, so I'll definitely be dropping that no matter what.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
The "solution" is design dungeons that don't fall completely apart when a door is unlocked.
The "solution" is design dungeons that don't fall completely apart when a door is unlocked.

That's twice in as many days one of my posts has been immediately followed by an objection from you that doesn't even make sense.

The solutions being proposed here, far from conflicting with your "suggestion", presuppose it. They give a chance of success, just not automatic success. The philosophy behind that would seem to be that the adventure should be able to handle both the door remaining locked and the possibility of its becoming unlocked. I would go so far as to add that depending on the latter happening is just as bad as disallowing it altogether. (I am NOT a big fan of the extremely linear nature of most D&D adventures from the early 80s to the present.)


(I didn't reply to the other one because it didn't make sense in the sense that I couldn't even tell what the hell you were trying to say. At least it's clear what you're saying here, it merely doesn't make sense as a response to what I or anyone else said.)
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
That's twice in as many days one of my posts has been immediately followed by an objection from you that doesn't even make sense.

I assure you, that's mere coincidence and nothing else.

The point is, if the DM intends a locked door to not be opened, it should have been a wall, or the attempt responded to with a simple "it doesn't work, so stop trying" or similar.  The same is true of any other skill-obstacle.
My DM (A newer player) flat out states that Skill Mastery is too powerful, yet he "abuses" the hell out if it in his test character that is a rogue and never tried to do anything to hinder me with my rogue.

After my session though, I thought about it a lot...and I can't really come up with a solid argument that Skill Mastery is simply too powerful or too good. I think it is a good class-defining ability that represents what rogues have always, supposedly, been about: Skills.

A rogue is a skillfull individual, and he spends huge amounts of time/effort honing those skills. So it really makes no sense for such a powerfully adept person to "trip" and expose himself in the middle of a dungeon he is attempting to sneak through...they are so practiced in the art of sneaking (and anything they are trained in) that silly mistakes are essentialy beyond them.

Most other characters do not have such rigourous training in skills, most others are warriors that are versed in combat, spells, or perhaps a bard who can do many things a rogue can but doesn't focus on them as exclusively as a rogue.

I will concede on certain skills it makes less sense, IE social skills like Bluff and Diplomacy...however, since the ability only works on a skill that the Rogue is trained it, it would make sense if they are trained in social skills they were be unprecedentidly good at that skill and the auto-16 still fits.

Maybe a distinction of skill types that technical skills "take 10" and social/lore skills "take 5" perhaps? As a rogue really should never fail to disarm simply traps with that retarded 1 they can roll.

All that said, some form of this has to remain for rogues unless they change how skills work, as skills are much much harder to "pump up" considering you get a mere 3 + 3 (or atribute if higher) and can only add a +1 every even level. This would severly hinder rogues compared to say 3.5 as they can not push their raw + skill modifier as high to allow them to bypass low rolls and fumbling simple traps/locks/sneak checks they have zero business failing.
The point is, if the DM intends a locked door to not be opened, it should have been a wall, or the attempt responded to with a simple "it doesn't work, so stop trying" or similar.  The same is true of any other skill-obstacle.


I agree with that as far as it goes, but what it has to do with this thread remains mysterious.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
What I would do (and indeed what I WILL do in my games if wotc doesn't come up with something better)  is very simply always give the rogue advantage on any skill check in which he has training in the associated skill...no extra +3, no knack.

The idea that the rogue should always succeed at skill checks like the current system allows is IMO rediculous, and even if it weren't why wouldn't you just literally allow automatic success?
Why would a rogue fail at picking a standard lock? Or disarming a simple trap? Or sneaking around like he has done half his life? I'm just curious on your viewpoint, as I can't fathom the above situations in any "realistic" setting (I'm aware we are playing imaginary dragon slaying dudes).

The only argument that holds true for the above is: during combat. A stressed/low time environment is the ONLY time I would considering an accomplished thief/rogue/whathaveyou to be able to fail the above (baring even stealth, they should never "fail" stealth past a certain level of skill, only really observant enemies noticing them if they pass appropriate skill checks).

The chance to let a basic arrow trap shoot me in the face because of a dreaded 1 out of 20 roll is one reason I never played a rogue in the past...it just never made sense to me.
Of those examples, stealth is VERY unreliable, with countless variables that D&D doesn't normally pay attention to but instead abstracts into the d20 roll. It strikes me as the poster boy for the d20 mechanic, not at all as something on which success should be easily obtained.

I have no idea, and I'm willing to be neither do you, what would "realistically" be involved in disarming traps, and it also strikes me that there's no such thing as a "standard" one. So I don't see that you have a case there either.

So of your three examples, only lockpicking is even a plausible candidate for autosuccess, and not coincidentally it's also the only one of the three that it was routinely possible to take 20 on in 3.x. What you seem to be arguing for is a return of that widely misunderstood mechanic, not so much skill mastery.

Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
Hrm...don't really see much that convinces me. Stealth seems more than reliable if you're exceedingly practiced at it. In fact your only rolling to see "how" stealthy you are compared to enemy "spot" check (includes hearing atm)...in that case a rogue should never fail, and should be able to pull off a particular level of practice at it no matter his enviroment...a skilled stealth practicioner is not going to strip over something, scrape against something, etc, etc, and It suspends a huge amount of belief in the setting if something like that happens.

For instance, I was DMing for some new-er players in 4e a year or so ago and a fighter was trying to stealthily look through a door. He rolled a 1 so I said he tripped over a rock and fell through the door...a rogue would never EVER do this as he practices at his skills and hones them to a razor edge: or he dies.

As for traps, it matters not one lick if we know how they "realistically" function. My character does, he's trained in dealing with traps. He should be compitant in dealing with traps up to a certain level of skill. "Standard" is defined by the DM and adventures, and it is unknown to the player but the DM sure knows how complicated one is and whether my 19 skill trap disarmer can easily handle the dwarven arrow trap or not.

Lockpick especially, basic locks are DC16...no rogue should fail that unless they purpously eschew(sp) skills for combat (perhaps a thug build).

There are few skills I can come up with any reason to ignore an auto-XYZ score. Only during combat when time/pressure is a concern would it be OK to me to ignore the take 10 unless you can construct something reasonable to me....which is hard if you try so we're probably jsut at an impass on how we think the class should go

Just talking, no offense intended in anything ^_^

I think the solution is to replace skill mastery with advantage and would most likely house rule it this way if this was the final product.  

It might be a bit larger of a bonus, but at least you have to pick up the dice.  You can also cancel advantage in situations that offer disadvantage; this is an improvement over skill mastery, as disadvantage on an almost automatic success is still an almost automatic success.  If you were concerned this was too big of a bonus you could make it X number of times a day where X increases as you go up in levels.

One thing that's worth noting is that in exchange for the right to add your expertise dice to skill checks, you've given up the chance to be a substantially more effective combatant. The only thing Rogue gives you that Fighter doesn't is the System Mastery maneuver (and a few other less important ones), proficiency with thieves tools, and 4 additional trained skills. In exchage, you give up 2hp/level on average, the ability to use heavy weapons (including the longbow) the ability to use medium and heavy armour and shields (you may not want to, but having options are always good), 2an additional maneuver known, an extra attack per round, and the ability to add your attack dice to attack/damage without the conditions imposed by sneak attack. As an elven fighter with the first feat from the stealth tree, you can have 7 skills including spot, listen, and sneak. A few more would be nice, but you can get by with that.

By increasing the DC to fit the character, your DM has removed the only advantages to playing a rogue. You could do everything you currently do EXACTLY as well and have all of the above listed benefits if you were a fighter focusing on stealth and skills. The current design of the rogue means that you can get by in combat (albeit suboptimally), but you are awesome at skill challenges. Your DM has to understand that they are taking away the only awesome thing about the class, and in effect making you a fighter (but worse).
It will change as per Mike Mearls on Twitter:

Danny HughesDanny Hughes
@mikemearls I don't like that the Thief in our group always succeeds on DC20 to 25 skill checks. Please fix this.


Mike MearlsMike Mearls
@MockingBirdDan A lot of playtesters agree, so that's going to change.


Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

I don't like skill mastery either.

It has a bunch of strange rough spots.  Take a rogue with a +6 skill bonus.  A DC 16 check is auto-success, while a DC 17 is 50% success: a tiny change in difficulty results in a huge change in success rates.

The temptation to "just up the numbers" on the part of the DM is natural.  There are entire schools of DMing built around doing just this, where you eyeball how hard things should be based on how competent you think the players should be.  Tossing bonuses of this kind at a player can easily lead to DC-inflation (much as adding to your attack bonus leads to AC-inflation in monsters, or boosting your AC leads to attack-inflation in monsters).

Abilities that let you do things, like the combat expertise dice, can help get around this.  A fighter's expertise dice aren't just adding to damage or ability to lift things, they also let the fighter impose their will upon the world -- knock critters prone, knock them flying, etc.  This is a vulgar form of competence that isn't answers nearly automatically with a "inflate numbers" response on the part of an eye-balling DM.
Imo the way to go is give all rogues advantage with any skill in which they are trained(though this could be cancelled out by something that causes disadvantage) , but at least to start with this should be ALL they get--no extra skills, no other bonuses.  The feats under Skill specialist (and possibly other ones such as stealth related) would have to be reworked, making sure to use a light handed approach--with auto advantage the effect of each will be magnified-- and have each feat apply to only one skill.