What do you think of the skills rules? (And my house rules)

I really liked the addition of the skill dice in the most recent playtest packet, but there were several areas where I felt the skills rules fell short...namely:

a) there were no rules for how many starting skills a character should have (sure there were 4 attached to specialities, but was that all the player got? It was unclear. As the DM, I can fiat, but I'd rather not have to do that.)

b) there were no rules for acquiring new skills. Let's say I spend an adventure climbing through a cave, can I pick up the climb skill? I mean, we spent a LOT of time climbing. Again, another place where DM fiat can work, but I'd rather not have to think about that.

c ) skill advancement is tied to level advancement; personally, I think your level should be reserved for class advancement and skills fall outside class advancement.

That is, your class is more of a martial designation than anything -- in many ways, it defines how you fight (and probably a few other things, too), but not necessarily what you can do. For example, a wizard class is expected to cast spells. So, level advancement should advance their spell casting abilities. But just because you become a better caster, does not mean that you also become a better fisher (assuming the caster also has a fishing skill).

I also think this fits in with the current focus on shifting benefits for higher levels in a class.

d) all skills advance at the same time. It's nice and simple, but it limits character growth in a big way. For example, even if the entire party starts with the same skills, if everyone starts taking on different tasks, their skills should advance differently and, after three or four sessions, they should start to play like different characters.

- - -  

So those are the core problems I have with the skill rules as they are. Mods and Game Designers, you can do with those as you see fit. Really curious to see what else you have up your sleeve for skills in upcoming packets.

BUT! In the meantime, I've been noodling on these issues and have come up with my own rules that try to keep the flavor of the current system, while allowing for more customization as the character grows.

I'd really like some feedback on how this potentially breaks the game at higher levels -- and would love for some math-folk to crunch numbers to see how it holds up and if players are advancing at a reasonable rate. I would crunch the numbers myself, but I only have a rudimentary understanding of this stuff and figure I will, ultimately, get it all wrong.

So, here are the rules...

Skill Pools
Each skill has its own pool. When you take a skill, you start with 1d4 and can increase the pool by adding more d4s to it. A second level skill would be 2d4. A third, 3d4, etc.

Untrained
If you do not have a skill, you are considered untrained in that skill, which means you are at a disadvantage for the attempted use of the skill. Rolling 2 ones results in an unrecoverable critical failure. Rolling 2 twentys results in an automatic success as well as an automatic 1st level in that skill. 

You may add your ability modifier if you have a related skill. For example, in some situations, the DM may allow you to add your Strength bonus to a jump check because you have climb -- assuming the jump is more of a strenth-based task than a dex-based task.

Another example: You want to make a listen check to see what's happening in the other room, but don't have the listen skill? If you have Search, you can roll 2d20 (disadvantaged) and add your wisdom modifer. Search often involves listening, but in a different context and usually complemented with other skills.

Note: The automatic advancement to first level in a skill that you roll 2 twentys on is something I am considering not offering. However, you would still get 2 SP for both 20s.

Skill Advancement and Skill Points (SP)
Skills advance through skill points. Every time you roll a 20, you get a skill point. Skills advance in multiples of 5 --  that is, it's 5 times the skill level you are advancing to. So, to get a skill to level 2 (2d4), you have to spend 10 skill points.

I really like the idea that skills advance separately from the character's class. I think it encourages a new level or role-playing outside combat in Dungeons and Dragons. If you don't use your skills, they don't advance. Sure, you wiped out the cave of Orcs and advanced three levels, but your still the same bumbling idiot when you try to sell some of the treasure to the local merchant. Why should your negotiation or bargaining skills go up just because you leveled up?

Skill Points can be used to advance any skill.

Note: I like the idea of restricting SP to advance only the skill they came from, but I am worried about the amount of record-keeping for that.

Question: How many rolls, on average, would it take to advance a skill to second level? Third? To my untrained mind, it seems like you should roll a 20 (on average) every 20 rolls. So you would need to make 100 rolls to get 5 SP. Is that math correct? Does anyone have data on how many skill roles occur in the average game? That seems like a lot to me. I am considering reducing the SP acquisition rate to 3 or 4. Or, potentially giving SP on rolls of 1 or 20.

Automatic Successes
You can automatically succeed on any task with a DC that is lower than your skill level + 10. So, if you have a second level skill, you automatically succeed on anything with a DC of 12 or lower. 

Question: Does this break the system at higher skill levels? And, should the ability modifier be added here? 

Critical Success & Critical Failure
My initial thought is that there are no automatic successes. If you roll a 20, that just means you performed the task very good.

However, I do like the idea of Critical Failures. I think failures add to the fun of the game. So, roll a 1 on your d20, and you fail miserably.

Question: Should you be able to offset your critical failures by spending some skill points? Or should spending a skill point allow you to re-roll?

Starting Skills and Skill Packages
Your background and speciality will both have 2-4 skills each. These start at 1d4. 

You'll also have an additional 25 points to buy new skills or advance skills from your packages. (You buy at the 5x rate listed above.)

Skills List
I think the skills list needs to be tweaked for all this to work right. The current list is a little too narrow. I am a little worried that people will end up with 1 level in a lot of skills and all the characters will feel too similar.

- - -

So, there you have it. Curious what other folks think about the rules. How do you think they can be improved?

Are you happy with the skills rules? If not, how are you fixing them?

Thanks!
Rick
Ok, I'll shed a light on a few things for ya. 

First, from reading over your post you have a misconception concerning how skills work. Don't worry though, a lot of people make the same mistake. Skills have changed drastically from their 3e/4e counterparts. Skills are no longer a measure of what you can do, but what you are very experienced at. They have completely removed the "Skill roll", everything is now an ability check. Skills are now just a situational bonus to ability checks if it happens to fall under your skill. A character no longer needs a skill to make any roll, the skill only helps him succeed more often.

Ok, here goes.

a) You only get the 4 skills from your background and any granted by your race, officially. You can houserule as many as you want.

b) There are no rules for gaining new skills in the current packet. If I were to add a quick houserule for it, I would make it a feat.  

c) I can see the case for this, but the issue comes in that the skill die is actually bigger than skills. Currently its being used in several abilities. You'd have to keep that die and just removed skills from them, or else you'd have to reword most of the rogue and a bit of the fighter.

d) No real comment. Just personal preferences i suppose .



As far the houserules go, it's an interesting system. But just remember that adding complexity isn't always the best option. If your play group likes that complexity, go for it. But there's a beauty in simplicity as well. As well, to me it seems like you are putting in rules to make it more like 3e/4e. Which is fine, but I feel you are just more comfortable with 3e/4e's skill system rather than actually not liking 5e's system.

I'd keep an eye on how many skills your characters have. Too few, and the untrained penalty is too harsh. Too many, and it's meaningless.


As far as how I feel? I like 5e's skill system. It leaves a lot of rooms for players to be creative with their skills, but leaves it limited enough that the decisions feel meaningful. I've always liked skills the way WW does them rather than 3e/4e. I feel the change has been a good one. 
My two copper.
First of all, happy new year!

Jenks practically said it all, here's my two cents (and a wall of text along with them Tongue Out )

I really liked the addition of the skill dice in the most recent playtest packet, but there were several areas where I felt the skills rules fell short...namely:

a) there were no rules for how many starting skills a character should have (sure there were 4 attached to specialities, but was that all the player got? It was unclear. As the DM, I can fiat, but I'd rather not have to do that.)

b) there were no rules for acquiring new skills. Let's say I spend an adventure climbing through a cave, can I pick up the climb skill? I mean, we spent a LOT of time climbing. Again, another place where DM fiat can work, but I'd rather not have to think about that.



Yes, atm the only way to learn new skills beyond the four a starting character gets from his background, is to take the Superior Skill Training feat. I'm sure this will probably change in the future, though.

c ) skill advancement is tied to level advancement; personally, I think your level should be reserved for class advancement and skills fall outside class advancement.

all skills advance at the same time. It's nice and simple, but it limits character growth in a big way. For example, even if the entire party starts with the same skills, if everyone starts taking on different tasks, their skills should advance differently and, after three or four sessions, they should start to play like different characters.


I agree that automatic skill advancement based on your level is extremely simplistic, as is the entire skill system. However, it is the devs' decision to keep skills simple, and more of an aspect that simply adds character flavor. DDN will not be a skill-focused system, so skills are on purpose as simplistic as possible (just like it was in 2E).
I do not agree with this approach, but to challenge it means that more than just the skill system will have to be changed. The more significant skills become, the more they will begin to affect other character aspects as well - for example, if Tumble or Acrobatics become significant, it makes perfect sense that they should have some impact on a character's ability to dodge blows and missiles (in other words, his AC). Given that some character attributes (like AC or save bonuses) are useful to all characters, everyone will want these skills. Making the skill system more integral to a character will most likely require adjustments in other game areas as well. I don't think the devs are ready to go there yet.

Skill Pools
Each skill has its own pool. When you take a skill, you start with 1d4 and can increase the pool by adding more d4s to it. A second level skill would be 2d4. A third, 3d4, etc.


I assume when you figured out the rate of gaining skill levels, you considered bounded accuracy?

Untrained
If you do not have a skill, you are considered untrained in that skill, which means you are at a disadvantage for the attempted use of the skill. Rolling 2 ones results in an unrecoverable critical failure. Rolling 2 twentys results in an automatic success as well as an automatic 1st level in that skill.


Overly complicated imo, and for no real reason. If you are untrained, you already cannot add a skill die, which is disadvantage enough when the task at hand is not easy.
Also: tying skill advancement to lucky rolls is a major NO-NO. While character-level-based skill advancement should not be an automatic thing, it should be tied to character level, otherwise you have virtually no way to balance it. After all, being good at a skill means having had experience using it, and the measure of a character's experience is his character level.


You may add your ability modifier if you have a related skill. For example, in some situations, the DM may allow you to add your Strength bonus to a jump check because you have climb -- assuming the jump is more of a strenth-based task than a dex-based task.

Another example: You want to make a listen check to see what's happening in the other room, but don't have the listen skill? If you have Search, you can roll 2d20 (disadvantaged) and add your wisdom modifer. Search often involves listening, but in a different context and usually complemented with other skills.


I can see how it might make sense, but it's too complicated for what it offers.


Note: The automatic advancement to first level in a skill that you roll 2 twentys on is something I am considering not offering. However, you would still get 2 SP for both 20s.


Imo you should remove both the automatic advancement and the bonus SPs.


Skill Advancement and Skill Points (SP)

Skills advance through skill points. Every time you roll a 20, you get a skill point. Skills advance in multiples of 5 --  that is, it's 5 times the skill level you are advancing to. So, to get a skill to level 2 (2d4), you have to spend 10 skill points.


Just give characters a fixed amount of SPs per character level (say, 5) and let them spend those SPs (or hoard them) as the players see fit. That way, all PCs are equally balanced in terms of total SPs.


I really like the idea that skills advance separately from the character's class. I think it encourages a new level or role-playing outside combat in Dungeons and Dragons. If you don't use your skills, they don't advance. Sure, you wiped out the cave of Orcs and advanced three levels, but your still the same bumbling idiot when you try to sell some of the treasure to the local merchant. Why should your negotiation or bargaining skills go up just because you leveled up?


First of all, let me say that I am vehemenently opposed to the resolution of a negotiation or bargain solely through skill checks. PC-NPC (or even PC-PC) interaction falls squarely in the realm of role-playing. So, what are those skill checks useful for?
Well, consider Jack the player. Jack is a successful lawyer in real life, but in DDN he plays a dwarf fighter. James on the other hand, who is an astrophysicist, plays a human rogue. I think everyone agrees that as far as the characters are concerned, a rogue is much, much better at negotiations than a fighter (especially a dwarf one). However, if the DM lets the players role-play such a situation, Jack will have to say nonsense on purpose, simply to be in character, while James will probably say nonsense nomatter how hard he tries to be in character and come up with something useful to say.
Skill checks can even out such discrepancies, because Jack's dwarf will statistically roll lower than James's rogue, even if somehow Jack role-plays too well and earns a bonus from the DM, while James doesn't.
Second, if for some reason advancing a skill after leveling up makes no sense (for example, advancing Swim when your character spent the entire last level in a desert), the DM can intervene and forbid such a skill advancement.
Third, usage-based skill advancement does not promote role-play. If nothing else, it promotes roll-play even more. The only way to advance a skill now is to roll it, regardless of how well you roleplay and gain xp for it, so players will simply attempt to make skill checks as often as possible - even under ludicrous circumstances. Such systems have appeared through the years in various MMOs. I remember in one, how people were gathering even useless herbs (which they threw away), just so they could level Herbalism.
Skill Points can be used to advance any skill.


Question:
How many rolls, on average, would it take to advance a skill to second level? Third? To my untrained mind, it seems like you should roll a 20 (on average) every 20 rolls. So you would need to make 100 rolls to get 5 SP. Is that math correct?

Yes, it is.

Does anyone have data on how many skill roles occur in the average game? That seems like a lot to me. I am considering reducing the SP acquisition rate to 3 or 4. Or, potentially giving SP on rolls of 1 or 20.


PCs will make on average about 15 skill checks each (in total, not per skill) per 5-hour session. Sometimes less, sometimes way more.

Automatic Successes
You can automatically succeed on any task with a DC that is lower than your skill level + 10. So, if you have a second level skill, you automatically succeed on anything with a DC of 12 or lower.


Too good. And not needed (unless intended to reduce the amount of skill checks, hence skill advancement rate).

Question: Does this break the system at higher skill levels? And, should the ability modifier be added here?


No and definitely No.


Critical Success & Critical Failure
My initial thought is that there are no automatic successes. If you roll a 20, that just means you performed the task very good.

However, I do like the idea of Critical Failures. I think failures add to the fun of the game. So, roll a 1 on your d20, and you fail miserably.


And I like the idea of automatic successes, but not automatic failures. You either include both or none, otherwise the system is unfair.


Question: Should you be able to offset your critical failures by spending some skill points? Or should spending a skill point allow you to re-roll?


No. If you've fumbled, you fumbled. Otherwise, remove auto successes and failures and don't bother any further.


Starting Skills and Skill Packages
Your background and speciality will both have 2-4 skills each. These start at 1d4. 

You'll also have an additional 25 points to buy new skills or advance skills from your packages. (You buy at the 5x rate listed above.)


What exactly do specialties have to do with skills? No skill should have more than 1d4 at 1st level, or you exceed bounded accuracy limits. You shouldn't need to provide additional skill points, simply have each background provide three fixed skills and one of the player's choice, all at lvl1. This should allow for enough customization. Later on, players can learn new skills, or advance existing ones, by spending earned skill points.


Skills List
I think the skills list needs to be tweaked for all this to work right. The current list is a little too narrow. I am a little worried that people will end up with 1 level in a lot of skills and all the characters will feel too similar.


You bet they need to be tweaked. Right now, skills are "a little something extra." Your system turns them into almost the most important part of a character. If you want to see a skill-focused system, go check Alternity, Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, or the 2nd Edition of World of Darkness (I hope I remember the edition correctly). This is a realm entirely different from D&D.

Edit: Typos, of course.

Jenks, first, thanks for the detailed reply. Very much appreciate that. You've given me some new info and some things to consider as I work to refine these rules.


Ok, I'll shed a light on a few things for ya.
First, from reading over your post you have a misconception concerning how skills work. Don't worry though, a lot of people make the same mistake. Skills have changed drastically from their 3e/4e counterparts. Skills are no longer a measure of what you can do, but what you are very experienced at. They have completely removed the "Skill roll", everything is now an ability check. Skills are now just a situational bonus to ability checks if it happens to fall under your skill. A character no longer needs a skill to make any roll, the skill only helps him succeed more often.


Wow. I've totally misunderstood the skills. Re-reading the description, it still doesn't sound like what you describe. I can somewhat see this in the way that the "Basic Rules" intro in "How to play". If this is their intention for skills, they either need to call them something else or add some clarification.

Do you have other source material that you can point me to that better explains this?


I guess I would ask: why have skills at all, then? As it stands, skills feel very much like 2e skills in that they were tacked on and, at least in my group (way back in my 2e days), were never used. Make everything an ability check and be done with it. 

Or, if you want to keep some semblance of skills, allow your background to note some types of checks where you are more experience, so you gain an advantage on those rolls.




c ) skill advancement is tied to level advancement; personally, I think your level should be reserved for class advancement and skills fall outside class advancement.


c) I can see the case for this, but the issue comes in that the skill die is actually bigger than skills. Currently its being used in several abilities. You'd have to keep that die and just removed skills from them, or else you'd have to reword most of the rogue and a bit of the fighter.





True, but I also thing that spending the skill die to trigger abilities is weak. It doesn't have the same level of urgency as spending a MDD has. To me, at least, if you're going round-to-round, spending a skill die seems like a trivial spend to activate one of your special abilities.




As far the houserules go, it's an interesting system. But just remember that adding complexity isn't always the best option. If your play group likes that complexity, go for it. But there's a beauty in simplicity as well. As well, to me it seems like you are putting in rules to make it more like 3e/4e. Which is fine, but I feel you are just more comfortable with 3e/4e's skill system rather than actually not liking 5e's system.


I've actually never played 3e/4e. The last edition I played was 2e. After playing that for over 5 years, I quit (long before 3e came out) in favor of simpler systems. Some homebrew, some indie games. So I very much appreciate the beauty in simplicity.


At first glance, this skills system felt too simplistic. With only 6 abilities, you are going to have a lot of overlap in abilities. 


That is, all strong characters can climb and jump really well. All Charismatic characters will be good at negotiation and diplomacy. All wise characters will be good at healing. All Intelligent characters can take traps apart, pick locks, and find hidden doors.


The simplicity of the system leads to homogeneity of the characters.

Here's an example. If a Rogue, skilled in disabling devices (d6) fails his DC at a d20 + d6 + 3 (ability mod), the Wizard can then try it. His check is a d20 + 4 (ability mod). It's a reasonable chance at success even though, quite possibly, the Wizard has had no previous training in disabling devices. If the Wizard fails, let the Cleric step up -- he might have a decent INT, too!


Only by DM fiat can this situation be avoided and I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. (I'll talk a little more about DM fiat in my response to lok_soldier.)




As far as how I feel? I like 5e's skill system. It leaves a lot of rooms for players to be creative with their skills, but leaves it limited enough that the decisions feel meaningful. I've always liked skills the way WW does them rather than 3e/4e. I feel the change has been a good one.


And to completely contradict myself here, now that I see that skills aren't really skills at all. They are, to coin a new word, "masteries", I think there could be some value to leaving them as they are. I will definitely need to ponder this more.


Also, what's WW? White Wolf?


Thanks, again, for the great response.

Yeah, they've been considering changing the name of skills to prevent the cognitive dissonance its been creating. I also appologize for the convoluted explaination. The changes are big, but it's hard to explain them without making it sound like minor alterations.

And yes, WW means whitewolf

Also, DOH! Totally forgot about the skill training feat actually in the packet :P
My two copper.

Thanks for the great response, lok_soldier. Some great stuff for me to think about. Hope you're having a great New Year so far!




I really liked the addition of the skill dice in the most recent playtest packet, but there were several areas where I felt the skills rules fell short...namely:

b) there were no rules for acquiring new skills. Let's say I spend an adventure climbing through a cave, can I pick up the climb skill? I mean, we spent a LOT of time climbing. Again, another place where DM fiat can work, but I'd rather not have to think about that.



Yes, atm the only way to learn new skills beyond the four a starting character gets from his background, is to take the Superior Skill Training feat. I'm sure this will probably change in the future, though.




Fair point. I'm always complaining about people not treating this as a playtest. I should take my own advice!



c ) skill advancement is tied to level advancement; personally, I think your level should be reserved for class advancement and skills fall outside class advancement.

all skills advance at the same time. It's nice and simple, but it limits character growth in a big way. For example, even if the entire party starts with the same skills, if everyone starts taking on different tasks, their skills should advance differently and, after three or four sessions, they should start to play like different characters.


I agree that automatic skill advancement based on your level is extremely simplistic, as is the entire skill system. However, it is the devs' decision to keep skills simple, and more of an aspect that simply adds character flavor. DDN will not be a skill-focused system, so skills are on purpose as simplistic as possible (just like it was in 2E).

I do not agree with this approach, but to challenge it means that more than just the skill system will have to be changed. The more significant skills become, the more they will begin to affect other character aspects as well - for example, if Tumble or Acrobatics become significant, it makes perfect sense that they should have some impact on a character's ability to dodge blows and missiles (in other words, his AC). Given that some character attributes (like AC or save bonuses) are useful to all characters, everyone will want these skills. Making the skill system more integral to a character will most likely require adjustments in other game areas as well. I don't think the devs are ready to go there yet.




I see what you are saying here, but disagree. I don't think someone skilled in Acrobatics should get an improvement to their AC. Now, I could see a special rule that allowed them to forego their action so they could actively dodge an attack and use their acrobatic or tumbling skill in that way. And that actually fits in with the rules as they are now -- instead of attacking, you can do an skill/ability check. It's just that this becomes a readied defense rather than a readied action.


Or, if you really wanted to get crazy, you could allow the rogue or the fighter to spend a MDD to activate this defensive maneuver. That way they can still attack, but if they think that they will have better luck dodging the strike than their natural AC provides, have at it!


(Actually, I think this rule sounds pretty cool.)


Skill Pools
Each skill has its own pool. When you take a skill, you start with 1d4 and can increase the pool by adding more d4s to it. A second level skill would be 2d4. A third, 3d4, etc.
I assume when you figured out the rate of gaining skill levels, you considered bounded accuracy?



So, this comment and another comment you made on bounded accuracy have confused me a bit.


Are you referring to the part where, as DMs, you shouldn't have to throw harder challenges at players? That is, breaking down a wooden door should be just as difficult at level 20 as it was at level 1? (Over-simplification, yes, but it gets the point across.)


I think it does. In that characters with greater skill can do some things more easily -- and harder things start to become within reach. Just as you would expect things to happen in level advancement.



Untrained
If you do not have a skill, you are considered untrained in that skill, which means you are at a disadvantage for the attempted use of the skill. Rolling 2 ones results in an unrecoverable critical failure. Rolling 2 twentys results in an automatic success as well as an automatic 1st level in that skill.

Overly complicated imo, and for no real reason. If you are untrained, you already cannot add a skill die, which is disadvantage enough when the task at hand is not easy.



I'm starting to see that the skill die actually adds quite a bit of a benefit to the roll. I didn't think it did, but am starting to understand how it works.




Also: tying skill advancement to lucky rolls is a major NO-NO. While character-level-based skill advancement should not be an automatic thing, it should be tied to character level, otherwise you have virtually no way to balance it. After all, being good at a skill means having had experience using it, and the measure of a character's experience is his character level.


I completely disagree on this point. Rolling a 20 has always meant something in d20. As far back as 2e, you had critical hits happening when you rolled a 20. I think 20s can continue to mean something here -- it means that you learned something new. You don't learn something new every time you complete a task, but occassionally there's something that you come across that surprises you -- that's what I think a 20 represents. That aha! moment.


Ultimately it comes down to personal preference.


I also like that it takes the XP award out of the DMs hands. There are plenty of other things that I have going on. I want to remove as much of the mechanics from my plate as possible so that I can focus on the characters and plot.


I would also argue, that skills shouldn't be balanced. First off, people are going to be good at different things. Certainly if some players find ways to use more of their skills than other players -- they will advance more. That's just the way it's gonna be.


I also like that it provided a different path of advancement, which I think actually complements the current implementation of the Bounded Accuracy philosophy quite well. It also has some interesting affects on the healing-dilemma. More on that in a bit...


Anyway, just a difference of opinion here.




I really like the idea that skills advance separately from the character's class. I think it encourages a new level or role-playing outside combat in Dungeons and Dragons. If you don't use your skills, they don't advance. Sure, you wiped out the cave of Orcs and advanced three levels, but your still the same bumbling idiot when you try to sell some of the treasure to the local merchant. Why should your negotiation or bargaining skills go up just because you leveled up?


First of all, let me say that I am vehemenently opposed to the resolution of a negotiation or bargain solely through skill checks. PC-NPC (or even PC-PC) interaction falls squarely in the realm of role-playing. So, what are those skill checks useful for?



Personally, I think skill checks inform how you role-play a situation.


Take the Dwarf played by the lawyer below. Let's say he gives an impassioned speech to the guards, trying to bluff his way out of getting arrested-- because Jack is really good at these things in real life, the speech is incredible.


Now, I can DM fiat and say "Success!" But the speech is out-of-character for the dwarf, so I could also say "FAIL!" But why? Jack's speech was awesome. Or, if there were rules for it, I could have him make a negotiation check. Great, now we let the dice decide. If it's successful, the dwarf pulled it out of his ass and walks free. If he fails, most likely, we play it up that the guard was just suffering from a hangover and didn't hear a word he said. Or some such thing.


But the rolls take some of the decision-making off my shoulders. The dice decided and now I have to roll with the punches, too -- just like my players.


For me, that randomness, is part of what makes things exciting. I don't want to play god. I don't want to make all the decisions. I want to be just as surprised as the players are. I want to have to react to a situation and not know if my reaction will actually get the result I want! And when it doesn't, that's when things get FUN!


While I understand what you're saying about the rolls not always deciding the outcome, I disagree with it. Let the rolls decide how you role-play the situation.




The only way to advance a skill now is to roll it, regardless of how well you roleplay and gain xp for it, so players will simply attempt to make skill checks as often as possible - even under ludicrous circumstances. Such systems have appeared through the years in various MMOs. I remember in one, how people were gathering even useless herbs (which they threw away), just so they could level Herbalism.


I think it's a mistake to compare MMOs to table-top games. I would never abide a player that is wasting time collecting herbs and throwing them away. It's part of the social contract there. Whereas online, who cares? You're not wasting anyone else's time by doing that.


I also think good role-playing should be rewarded no matter what. So whether it's in SP or XP, the DM should be awarding additional experience points.


In fact, I try to keep track of great, improvisational moves during encounters and award additional XP to those players. In the same way, you would award additional SP to great role-playing. BUT! The key is that this is in addition to what they are earning through the adventure. It's not the main source of advancement.




Critical Success & Critical Failure
My initial thought is that there are no automatic successes. If you roll a 20, that just means you performed the task very good.

However, I do like the idea of Critical Failures. I think failures add to the fun of the game. So, roll a 1 on your d20, and you fail miserably.



And I like the idea of automatic successes, but not automatic failures. You either include both or none, otherwise the system is unfair.



I think this will be another difference of opinion.


For me, the difference is that you might have a DC of 35. A roll of 20 should not mean instant success. But rolling a 1, which has always had special meaining in D&D, can mean epic failure.


If I were writing this for general consumption (not just rules for my table, that is), I would probably make this an optional rule.




Starting Skills and Skill Packages
Your background and speciality will both have 2-4 skills each. These start at 1d4.

What exactly do specialties have to do with skills?



This is another thing that I think is broken with the current playtest. Specialties and Backgrounds are very similar. For example, if you're an ambusher, shouldn't you have the skills to support that? But what if you want your background to be a fishmonger?


The way it's setup now, the system encourages twinking. You're going to pick the best background to match your specialty to give you the biggest bonuses. There's little reason to add an interesting background, like fishmonger, that makes your character unique.


This is one part I really hope they fix. And it's ultimately why I got sick of 2e so many years ago. There was just so many ways to twink the system -- it really felt like it was encouraged (otherwise why give all those options in the first place?)



No skill should have more than 1d4 at 1st level, or you exceed bounded accuracy limits. You shouldn't need to provide additional skill points, simply have each background provide three fixed skills and one of the player's choice, all at lvl1. This should allow for enough customization. Later on, players can learn new skills, or advance existing ones, by spending earned skill points.


Why does this break bounded accuracy? I've re-read Thompson's article three times tonight and I cannot figure it out.




Skills List
I think the skills list needs to be tweaked for all this to work right. The current list is a little too narrow. I am a little worried that people will end up with 1 level in a lot of skills and all the characters will feel too similar.

You bet they need to be tweaked. Right now, skills are "a little something extra." Your system turns them into almost the most important part of a character.



I don't see how the skills become the most important part of the system with these house-rules. I think it makes them equal to the Class system, not subservient as they are now. The Class system is the core of D&D. You're not going to change that by adding in a more robust skill system.


I know you accused my house-rules of encouraging roll-playing, but, to some extent, we are here to roll-play. If all we wanted to do was role-play, we would play Universalis or take up acting.


I would argue that what you get XP for is what the system encourages players to do. For D&D, you get XP for killing monsters. The DM can give you XP for other kinds of interactions, but this is completely up to the DM. 100% up to the DM. BUT! If you kill a monster, you get XP automatically.


In this way, the system encourages cave-diving and monster-killing. Not role-playing your interactions selling the jeweled dagger to the local merchant. Sure, it happens and sometimes it's fun, but you don't gain anything (system-wise) from the experience.


Which leads me to my point about the healing-dilemma.


Because we are awarded for our combat efforts, that's where people spend all their time -- thus creating the cycle of encounter-rest, encounter-rest. There's no real system incentive to interact with people.


Rather than make it so that healing is faster, they need to encourage other kinds of interaction. Make successful interactions with merchants and other people tangible in the form of some kind of automatic experience reward -- the same as happens in combat; I kill a monster, I get experience. Then, at least, you'll get combat-interaction+interaction+interaction-rest. Then back to the combat (potentially).



If you want to see a skill-focused system, go check Alternity, Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, or the 2nd Edition of World of Darkness (I hope I remember the edition correctly). This is a realm entirely different from D&D.


I've played other skill-based systems -- TORG, VtG (back when it was just VtG) -- certainly not the ones you mention, so I should def give them a try.


To me, these systems have always had something missing. And I think it's the flavor that the classes bring to the table. Maybe one of the above systems have solved that problem. I'll need to look into them.


I disagree, though, that this isn't the realm of D&D. Maybe not 2e, maybe not 3e, and maybe not 4e, but I think they have made it perfectly clear that 5e is our D&D. They are accepting that people have house-rules and they are trying to make it as modular possible so we can more easily add our house-rules to the system.


For me, I'd love to see the D&D system actively encourage more role-playing and I think that can be done, partly, through a more robust skills system that uses a separate award system from the classes and actively rewards more personal interactions (rather than hack-and-slash style combat).


(I also have a few other ideas, too, but I'm saving those for another post.)


Thanks, again, lok_soldier for all the great feedback. You're questions are definitely helping me refine my idea here. Between you and Jenks, I think I'm gonna keep this on the drawing board and continue to try the base skills system in the current playtest. Maybe I'll pull this back out in a couple of weeks.




I agree that automatic skill advancement based on your level is extremely simplistic, as is the entire skill system. However, it is the devs' decision to keep skills simple, and more of an aspect that simply adds character flavor. DDN will not be a skill-focused system, so skills are on purpose as simplistic as possible (just like it was in 2E).

I do not agree with this approach, but to challenge it means that more than just the skill system will have to be changed. The more significant skills become, the more they will begin to affect other character aspects as well - for example, if Tumble or Acrobatics become significant, it makes perfect sense that they should have some impact on a character's ability to dodge blows and missiles (in other words, his AC). Given that some character attributes (like AC or save bonuses) are useful to all characters, everyone will want these skills. Making the skill system more integral to a character will most likely require adjustments in other game areas as well. I don't think the devs are ready to go there yet.



I see what you are saying here, but disagree. I don't think someone skilled in Acrobatics should get an improvement to their AC. Now, I could see a special rule that allowed them to forego their action so they could actively dodge an attack and use their acrobatic or tumbling skill in that way. And that actually fits in with the rules as they are now -- instead of attacking, you can do an skill/ability check. It's just that this becomes a readied defense rather than a readied action.


Or, if you really wanted to get crazy, you could allow the rogue or the fighter to spend a MDD to activate this defensive maneuver. That way they can still attack, but if they think that they will have better luck dodging the strike than their natural AC provides, have at it!


(Actually, I think this rule sounds pretty cool.)



My mistake - I assumed way too many details were obvious to you. Allow me to clarify: If you want skills to have a bit more impact in your game, and you introduce some skills which somehow improve your combat effectiveness (having, for example, Tumble or Acrobatics improve somehow your AC), then those skills will be so good that everyone will want them. If skill acquisition is not somehow made separate from class/background/specialty choice, then those classes/specialties/backgrounds which grant the good skills will be taken by nearly everyone, while the rest will not be so popular.


Of course, you can choose not to have skills that somehow improve your combat effectiveness, or have skills such as Tumble or Acrobatics, but with no effect to one's combat effectiveness. Like I said, I assumed all of the above were obvious and need not be said

I like the idea of a maneuver - the option to use your action to dodge already exists, a maneuver would make it possible for someone to attack and attempt to actively defend. Fighters have parry, however (which is essentially what you describe, since it includes the skill die), so adding a maneuver might not be so simple. However, I do agree it's cool.




Untrained

If you do not have a skill, you are considered untrained in that skill, which means you are at a disadvantage for the attempted use of the skill. Rolling 2 ones results in an unrecoverable critical failure. Rolling 2 twentys results in an automatic success as well as an automatic 1st level in that skill.


Overly complicated imo, and for no real reason. If you are untrained, you already cannot add a skill die, which is disadvantage enough when the task at hand is not easy.



I'm starting to see that the skill die actually adds quite a bit of a benefit to the roll. I didn't think it did, but am starting to understand how it works.



And it makes an even greater difference in your system, where the "skill die" is actually multiple dice. The average "bonus" of 2d4 is 5, which is between the average of a d8 (4.5) and a d10 (5.5), but with a much better minimum and spread.





Also: tying skill advancement to lucky rolls is a major NO-NO. While character-level-based skill advancement should not be an automatic thing, it should be tied to character level, otherwise you have virtually no way to balance it. After all, being good at a skill means having had experience using it, and the measure of a character's experience is his character level.


I completely disagree on this point. Rolling a 20 has always meant something in d20. As far back as 2e, you had critical hits happening when you rolled a 20. I think 20s can continue to mean something here -- it means that you learned something new. You don't learn something new every time you complete a task, but occassionally there's something that you come across that surprises you -- that's what I think a 20 represents. That aha! moment.


Ultimately it comes down to personal preference.


I also like that it takes the XP award out of the DMs hands. There are plenty of other things that I have going on. I want to remove as much of the mechanics from my plate as possible so that I can focus on the characters and plot.


I would also argue, that skills shouldn't be balanced. First off, people are going to be good at different things. Certainly if some players find ways to use more of their skills than other players -- they will advance more. That's just the way it's gonna be.


I also like that it provided a different path of advancement, which I think actually complements the current implementation of the Bounded Accuracy philosophy quite well. It also has some interesting affects on the healing-dilemma. More on that in a bit...


Anyway, just a difference of opinion here.



I will not disagree entirely. Rolling a 20 does have a special meaning - it's a critical success!


I cannot even understand why taking the XP awards out of the DM's hands is a good thing. The rate at which a DM hands out XP is the only way to control PC power level. If PCs can somehow improve themselves beyond the DM's control, then eventually even the best laid plans, plots, and storyline of a DM will be ruined. Players can derail a storyline easily as it is now, by simply "taking an unexpected turn along the road."


Of course, how significant such a deviation will be depends on how much of a game effect skills have. I can see how skills with little in-game significance can be worked out entirely on the players' side, but if that Cleric can persuade a lord to grand the PCs access to the realm's treasury, then I'd like to be in control somehow over the rate at which the PC's Diplomacy skill improves... (just an example, and probably not a very good one, but I hope it gets my point through).





I really like the idea that skills advance separately from the character's class. I think it encourages a new level or role-playing outside combat in Dungeons and Dragons. If you don't use your skills, they don't advance. Sure, you wiped out the cave of Orcs and advanced three levels, but your still the same bumbling idiot when you try to sell some of the treasure to the local merchant. Why should your negotiation or bargaining skills go up just because you leveled up?


First of all, let me say that I am vehemenently opposed to the resolution of a negotiation or bargain solely through skill checks. PC-NPC (or even PC-PC) interaction falls squarely in the realm of role-playing. So, what are those skill checks useful for?



Personally, I think skill checks inform how you role-play a situation.


Take the Dwarf played by the lawyer below. Let's say he gives an impassioned speech to the guards, trying to bluff his way out of getting arrested-- because Jack is really good at these things in real life, the speech is incredible.


Now, I can DM fiat and say "Success!" But the speech is out-of-character for the dwarf, so I could also say "FAIL!" But why? Jack's speech was awesome. Or, if there were rules for it, I could have him make a negotiation check. Great, now we let the dice decide. If it's successful, the dwarf pulled it out of his ass and walks free. If he fails, most likely, we play it up that the guard was just suffering from a hangover and didn't hear a word he said. Or some such thing.


But the rolls take some of the decision-making off my shoulders. The dice decided and now I have to roll with the punches, too -- just like my players.


For me, that randomness, is part of what makes things exciting. I don't want to play god. I don't want to make all the decisions. I want to be just as surprised as the players are. I want to have to react to a situation and not know if my reaction will actually get the result I want! And when it doesn't, that's when things get FUN!


While I understand what you're saying about the rolls not always deciding the outcome, I disagree with it. Let the rolls decide how you role-play the situation.



If Jack delivers an awesome speech (which is out-of-character enough already), you can grant a bonus on the dwarf's skill check. And likewise, if James does not manage to add anything useful, you can apply a penalty on the rogue's skill check. The intrinsic skill of a character would still be there, thus providing some measure of believability, while the player's role-playing contribution would also be factored in. If you depend entirely on the dice outcome alone, you've eliminated the need for role-playing. My check result will be the same, no matter what I say. Players will only voice some basic, iconic queues, just to justify the skill check, and not bother further. I've seen it happen, with DMs who didn't bother with what the player said, only with what the dice came up with. As the trolls in WoW would say, "bad mojo, mon!"


I've designed several role-playing systems myself, adjudicating role-playing-related skills has always been a PITA, and I can't say I've come up with a good enough solution yet. But my experience tells me yours is not good...





The only way to advance a skill now is to roll it, regardless of how well you roleplay and gain xp for it, so players will simply attempt to make skill checks as often as possible - even under ludicrous circumstances. Such systems have appeared through the years in various MMOs. I remember in one, how people were gathering even useless herbs (which they threw away), just so they could level Herbalism.


I think it's a mistake to compare MMOs to table-top games. I would never abide a player that is wasting time collecting herbs and throwing them away. It's part of the social contract there. Whereas online, who cares? You're not wasting anyone else's time by doing that.


I also think good role-playing should be rewarded no matter what. So whether it's in SP or XP, the DM should be awarding additional experience points.


In fact, I try to keep track of great, improvisational moves during encounters and award additional XP to those players. In the same way, you would award additional SP to great role-playing. BUT! The key is that this is in addition to what they are earning through the adventure. It's not the main source of advancement.



Starting Skills and Skill Packages
Your background and speciality will both have 2-4 skills each. These start at 1d4.

What exactly do specialties have to do with skills?



This is another thing that I think is broken with the current playtest. Specialties and Backgrounds are very similar. For example, if you're an ambusher, shouldn't you have the skills to support that? But what if you want your background to be a fishmonger?


The way it's setup now, the system encourages twinking. You're going to pick the best background to match your specialty to give you the biggest bonuses. There's little reason to add an interesting background, like fishmonger, that makes your character unique.


This is one part I really hope they fix. And it's ultimately why I got sick of 2e so many years ago. There was just so many ways to twink the system -- it really felt like it was encouraged (otherwise why give all those options in the first place?)



I agree here.  Specialty and background choices should either complement each other already (meaning if you choose a Background, you are automatically limited in your choice of specialty), or otherwise be as self-contained as possible. Indeed, an Ambusher specialty should by definition include Sneak training. There is space for improvement here.


Personally I'd prefer to see background abilities similar to those in the August platest package - the last two packages have made all Backgound special abilities essentially provide free food and shelter under a variety of circumstances. The August ones were much more interesting. Also, perhaps Backgrounds could grant training in three skills of the player's choice, selected from an allowed list of 5 or six skills related to each Background (in short: each Background would have a clause like this: "Select three of the following skills as trained skills: "). Such a schoice allows for more customization, and makes Backgrounds applicable to a wider range of character concepts.


For examble, the Bounty Hunter background could have the following list of skill choices: Gather Rumors, Intimidate, Persuade, Sense Motive, Spot, Track, and Use Rope. Each character can choose three, but this would allow for different types of Bounty Hunters, all implemented using a single background - less book space, better result. It ain't IDIC, but it works.


Likewise, a Specialty could provide training in a skill or two, and leave a couple of feat slots unlocked, so the player can choose his own. Ambusher, for example, really needs Sneak, but can do without Improved Initiative or First Strike, since the Ambush feat works perferctly well on its own and can be taken as early as lvl1. At lvl9, Covert Strike is the natural choice. That leave the feats at lvls3 and 8 to the player's choice. More variation, same - or even less - book space. Closer to IDIC, so better.






Skills List
I think the skills list needs to be tweaked for all this to work right. The current list is a little too narrow. I am a little worried that people will end up with 1 level in a lot of skills and all the characters will feel too similar.

You bet they need to be tweaked. Right now, skills are "a little something extra." Your system turns them into almost the most important part of a character.



I don't see how the skills become the most important part of the system with these house-rules. I think it makes them equal to the Class system, not subservient as they are now. The Class system is the core of D&D. You're not going to change that by adding in a more robust skill system.


I know you accused my house-rules of encouraging roll-playing, but, to some extent, we are here to roll-play. If all we wanted to do was role-play, we would play Universalis or take up acting.


I would argue that what you get XP for is what the system encourages players to do. For D&D, you get XP for killing monsters. The DM can give you XP for other kinds of interactions, but this is completely up to the DM. 100% up to the DM. BUT! If you kill a monster, you get XP automatically.


In this way, the system encourages cave-diving and monster-killing. Not role-playing your interactions selling the jeweled dagger to the local merchant. Sure, it happens and sometimes it's fun, but you don't gain anything (system-wise) from the experience.


Which leads me to my point about the healing-dilemma.


Because we are awarded for our combat efforts, that's where people spend all their time -- thus creating the cycle of encounter-rest, encounter-rest. There's no real system incentive to interact with people.


Rather than make it so that healing is faster, they need to encourage other kinds of interaction. Make successful interactions with merchants and other people tangible in the form of some kind of automatic experience reward -- the same as happens in combat; I kill a monster, I get experience. Then, at least, you'll get combat-interaction+interaction+interaction-rest. Then back to the combat (potentially).



Well, I disagree with killing-based XP awards as well. I also disagree with the statement "If you kill a monster, you get XP automatically." If the DM does not say so, you get nothing. This aspect of the game is one of the few reasons I liked 2E. It explicitly stated that the DM has the final word on everything. So if you wanted to run a game where only story-based or role-play-based XP awards existed, you could - if you knew what you were doing.


XP values on monsters are extremely convenient as a way to gauge encounter difficulty. Somehow, it seems logical enough (not to me!) to award the same amount of XP to the PCs if they overcome the encounter. I suppose killing the final Boss of an adventure justifies some XPs rewarded, but overcoming a random encounter - nah, at least not as many XPs as it is supposedly worth.




If you want to see a skill-focused system, go check Alternity, Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, or the 2nd Edition of World of Darkness (I hope I remember the edition correctly). This is a realm entirely different from D&D.


I've played other skill-based systems -- TORG, VtG (back when it was just VtG) -- certainly not the ones you mention, so I should def give them a try.


To me, these systems have always had something missing. And I think it's the flavor that the classes bring to the table. Maybe one of the above systems have solved that problem. I'll need to look into them.


I disagree, though, that this isn't the realm of D&D. Maybe not 2e, maybe not 3e, and maybe not 4e, but I think they have made it perfectly clear that 5e is our D&D. They are accepting that people have house-rules and they are trying to make it as modular possible so we can more easily add our house-rules to the system.


For me, I'd love to see the D&D system actively encourage more role-playing and I think that can be done, partly, through a more robust skills system that uses a separate award system from the classes and actively rewards more personal interactions (rather than hack-and-slash style combat).



You really should check out Alternity. It was skill-focused but had classes as well, and classes had a significant impact on the character. IMO the best sci-fi role-playing system, but when TSR was bought by WotC they discontinued it. Proud to have played it, though.

Skill Pools

Each skill has its own pool. When you take a skill, you start with 1d4 and can increase the pool by adding more d4s to it. A second level skill would be 2d4. A third, 3d4, etc.

I assume when you figured out the rate of gaining skill levels, you considered bounded accuracy?



So, this comment and another comment you made on bounded accuracy have confused me a bit.


Are you referring to the part where, as DMs, you shouldn't have to throw harder challenges at players? That is, breaking down a wooden door should be just as difficult at level 20 as it was at level 1? (Over-simplification, yes, but it gets the point across.)


I think it does. In that characters with greater skill can do some things more easily -- and harder things start to become within reach. Just as you would expect things to happen in level advancement.





No skill should have more than 1d4 at 1st level, or you exceed bounded accuracy limits. You shouldn't need to provide additional skill points, simply have each background provide three fixed skills and one of the player's choice, all at lvl1. This should allow for enough customization. Later on, players can learn new skills, or advance existing ones, by spending earned skill points.


Why does this break bounded accuracy? I've re-read Thompson's article three times tonight and I cannot figure it out.




OK, bounded accuracy. It essentially means that yes, breaking down a wooden door is just as difficult at lvl20 as it is at lvl1 (in terms of DC). It also means that the bonus a PC can apply on a check/attack/save/what have you, has a specified upper limit. So, if your attack roll/saving throw/skill check/etc. is 1d20 + modifiers, then modifiers is capped at +15 or so (as far as I can tell in the current playtest version). For skills, it seems capped at +17 (max of d12 + ability modifier), so maybe there is some more to it. A final cap (including all magic effects) seems to be +20 (not just skills, every kind of d20 roll). The DCs listed in the DM Guidelines document seem to correlate these values.
If somehow a PC exceeds the above values, the game is broken, as he can succeed on tasks much easier than he ought to. Other characters, who lack the "super bonus," essentially become obsolete or take a background spot to the story. I've seen it happen in 3.5E (where the published accessories after a point allowed for really broken combos).

For you (and your system) this means that skills should be impossible to train past lvl3 (max of 3d4 = +12, same as the current implementation). Not improbable, or highly unlikely to happen. Straight down impossible. If you give players 4 skills already at lvl1, and 25 points on top of that, you can see how easily you can break bounded accuracy.
Now three levels of training seem pretty good (Trained - Expert - Master), but I think the cost to attain each shouldn't be linear, but exponential. For example, you need 5 SPs to buy a new skill at lvl1, 5 SPs to go from lvl1 to lvl2 (=lvl1 squared times 5), and 20 SPs to go from lvl2 to lvl3 (=lvl2 squared times 5). That also automatically solves the problem at character lvl1. A character could become a Master in a skill he already is Trained, but he'd have to blow all his SPs to get it. And of course, you should explicitly state that lvl3 is the max allowed.



Untrained

If you do not have a skill, you are considered untrained in that skill, which means you are at a disadvantage for the attempted use of the skill. Rolling 2 ones results in an unrecoverable critical failure. Rolling 2 twentys results in an automatic success as well as an automatic 1st level in that skill.



Overly complicated imo, and for no real reason. If you are untrained, you already cannot add a skill die, which is disadvantage enough when the task at hand is not easy.


I'm starting to see that the skill die actually adds quite a bit of a benefit to the roll. I didn't think it did, but am starting to understand how it works.


And it makes an even greater difference in your system, where the "skill die" is actually multiple dice. The average "bonus" of 2d4 is 5, which is between the average of a d8 (4.5) and a d10 (5.5), but with a much better minimum and spread.





I see that now.


Basically, what confuses me about the d20 system (and all its editions and variations) is that there is always a 1 in 20 chance of rolling any number on the die. DC seems to fix this. With a DC of 15, there is a significant difference in d20 + ability mod versus d20 + ability + skill die.


Tangent, though, how is the average of a d8 4.5? Every time you roll the d8, you have a 1 in 8 chance of getting any number. This does not mean that you will get one 8 every 8 rolls.


I'm re-working my house-rules based on this feedback and, as it stands right now, I would keep the skill die concept, but change it so that each skill (or mastery, really) has a different skill die. If I have time, I'll post some of my updates today.




I cannot even understand why taking the XP awards out of the DM's hands is a good thing. The rate at which a DM hands out XP is the only way to control PC power level. If PCs can somehow improve themselves beyond the DM's control, then eventually even the best laid plans, plots, and storyline of a DM will be ruined. Players can derail a storyline easily as it is now, by simply "taking an unexpected turn along the road."


This comes down to personal preference and DM-philosophy.


I have two aspects of my philosphy that apply here:


1) I want to be surprised. I don't do this to railroad the players. For me, the fun is being surprised. Not just how the PCs react to situations, but also how my NPCs react to those situations. Rolling for reactions and results in personal interactions actually allows me to be surprises -- I role-play the roll.


2) I don't want to be responsible for PC advancement. I want the system to handle that for me. As the PCs increase in power, I'll just have to get more creative with my encounters. Its what keeps me on my toes.


I would expect, though, that the system isn't going to allow them to go from level 1 to level 20 overnight. Same with skills. The skill system should allow for growth at a reasonable rate and I should, for the most part, be able to anticipate what that growth rate is.




...but if that Cleric can persuade a lord to grand the PCs access to the realm's treasury, then I'd like to be in control somehow over the rate at which the PC's Diplomacy skill improves... (just an example, and probably not a very good one, but I hope it gets my point through).


You are right, it's not a very good example. But let's run with it.


What if the Cleric does persuade the King to donate all his money to the Cleric's church? Is it possible? Maybe. I still doubt you'll get all the gold as there are plenty of other checks-and-balances the DM can put into place to make it harder for the Cleric to get his money. But so what if the Cleric does get the money? Roll with it. Make it work. It's a huge opportunity to try new and different things.



If Jack delivers an awesome speech (which is out-of-character enough already), you can grant a bonus on the dwarf's skill check. And likewise, if James does not manage to add anything useful, you can apply a penalty on the rogue's skill check. The intrinsic skill of a character would still be there, thus providing some measure of believability, while the player's role-playing contribution would also be factored in.


Right. I assumed this was obvious. There are plenty of ways to adjudicate the situation. It comes down to DM style. (And, if truth be told, the player's negotiation ability. As well as, to some extent, how much the DM likes that particular player.]



If you depend entirely on the dice outcome alone, you've eliminated the need for role-playing. My check result will be the same, no matter what I say. Players will only voice some basic, iconic queues, just to justify the skill check, and not bother further. I've seen it happen, with DMs who didn't bother with what the player said, only with what the dice came up with. As the trolls in WoW would say, "bad mojo, mon!"


A roll-player will always roll-play. No matter what. If you try to get them to role-play, it's not going to work. And the best role-players always role-play. They make their character come to life and use their rolls to influence how they play.


Likewise, a DM that prefers straight-up dungeon crawls is going to gloss over selling the loot -- "You get 100gp for that +3 sword" versus a full-on negotiaition


This is why I say that this comes down to personal preference. For me, results from skill dice can guide the role-playing. For others, role-playing should be an end unto itself. Still, for others, they just want to roll. And it's all good. Just different philosophies.


I get that all this should be obvious. But it seems like it needs to be stated as you seem to think that adding dice rolls means that you're changing from role-playing to roll-playing and I am trying to illustrate why that is not necessarily true.



Personally I'd prefer to see background abilities similar to those in the August platest package - the last two packages have made all Backgound special abilities essentially provide free food and shelter under a variety of circumstances. The August ones were much more interesting. Also, perhaps Backgrounds could grant training in three skills of the player's choice, selected from an allowed list of 5 or six skills related to each Background (in short: each Background would have a clause like this: "Select three of the following skills as trained skills: "). Such a schoice allows for more customization, and makes Backgrounds applicable to a wider range of character concepts.

For examble, the Bounty Hunter background could have the following list of skill choices: Gather Rumors, Intimidate, Persuade, Sense Motive, Spot, Track, and Use Rope. Each character can choose three, but this would allow for different types of Bounty Hunters, all implemented using a single background - less book space, better result. It ain't IDIC, but it works.


Likewise, a Specialty could provide training in a skill or two, and leave a couple of feat slots unlocked, so the player can choose his own. Ambusher, for example, really needs Sneak, but can do without Improved Initiative or First Strike, since the Ambush feat works perferctly well on its own and can be taken as early as lvl1. At lvl9, Covert Strike is the natural choice. That leave the feats at lvls3 and 8 to the player's choice. More variation, same - or even less - book space. Closer to IDIC, so better.



Yeah, I'd like to see backgrounds give softer benefits and maybe some professional skills while specialities not only give feats, but also offer some skills that would be more inline with the character template.




Well, I disagree with killing-based XP awards as well. I also disagree with the statement "If you kill a monster, you get XP automatically." If the DM does not say so, you get nothing. This aspect of the game is one of the few reasons I liked 2E. It explicitly stated that the DM has the final word on everything. So if you wanted to run a game where only story-based or role-play-based XP awards existed, you could - if you knew what you were doing.

XP values on monsters are extremely convenient as a way to gauge encounter difficulty. Somehow, it seems logical enough (not to me!) to award the same amount of XP to the PCs if they overcome the encounter. I suppose killing the final Boss of an adventure justifies some XPs rewarded, but overcoming a random encounter - nah, at least not as many XPs as it is supposedly worth.



Again, this is a philosphical difference. I don't want to control PC advancement. I want the system to do the bulk of this work for me. In D&D, it has always been encounter-based XP awards -- and almost all encounters in D&D are focused on combat or out-smarting the bad guy. At least, that's how their XP system is setup.


When I give out XP, I want players to sit up and take note. They did something pretty amazing to earn that reward. Not just a standard evening of play. I also want to be stingy with my XP awards. So stingy that if you relied solely on my awards, you would never advance. If I give you 50 XP for a particular interaction, you're more excited about the award than the actual amount of the award.



OK, bounded accuracy. It essentially means that yes, breaking down a wooden door is just as difficult at lvl20 as it is at lvl1 (in terms of DC). It also means that the bonus a PC can apply on a check/attack/save/what have you, has a specified upper limit. So, if your attack roll/saving throw/skill check/etc. is 1d20 + modifiers, then modifiers is capped at +15 or so (as far as I can tell in the current playtest version). For skills, it seems capped at +17 (max of d12 + ability modifier), so maybe there is some more to it. A final cap (including all magic effects) seems to be +20 (not just skills, every kind of d20 roll). The DCs listed in the DM Guidelines document seem to correlate these values.
If somehow a PC exceeds the above values, the game is broken, as he can succeed on tasks much easier than he ought to. Other characters, who lack the "super bonus," essentially become obsolete or take a background spot to the story. I've seen it happen in 3.5E (where the published accessories after a point allowed for really broken combos).


I see what you're saying. You're inferring that, based on the constant DCs, there is an upper max that the system can handle. It's not a rule so much as a guideline. Makes sense. And, I do see how the dice pool mechanic breaks this.

Ain't quoting anymore, enough with the Great-Wall-of-China-sized replies Laughing

>Tangent, though, how is the average of a d8 4.5? Every time you roll the d8, you have a 1 in 8 chance of getting any number. This does not mean that you will get one 8 every 8 rolls.

Well, this is statistics. There is no contract that says that the average of a random distribution must be one of the possible results. And no, you will not get an '8' precisely once every 8 rolls. However...
If you roll the d8 say 100 times, or even 200, and note down each result, the way to calculate the average of all those rolls would be to sum them and divine by their number (in this case, 200). Well, that result would equate about 4.5 - Doesn't make much sense, I know. Now, roughly 1/8 of those 200 results (about 25) would be '8's.
The practical rule for an n-sided die, with the numbers 1 to n printed on its sides, all equally possible to come up on a roll, is that its average is (n+1)/2. It's easy to prove mathematically.

>Basically, what confuses me about the d20 system (and all its editions and variations) is that there is always a 1 in 20 chance of rolling any number on the die. DC seems to fix this. With a DC of 15, there is a significant difference in d20 + ability mod versus d20 + ability + skill die.

The choice of a single die has been more of a tradition, than actual practical usefulness. If you attempt to create a Monte Carlo simulation for a real-world phenomenon, then all random choices you have to make typically follow the Normal distribution [or the chi-square one, or the logarithmic one (typically if youn have a phenomenon described by an exponential law), or some other distribution, but almost never the uniform one]. This stems from what the random number generation actually strives to emulate: random errors.
The same concept underlies task resolution in an RPG. Now, when you attempt a task, all factors you cannot control are assumed to follow the Normal distribution (much like experimental errors are assumed to follow the Normal distribution). Obviously, the roll of 1d20 does not get anywhere near a Normal distribution, but the task resolution itself is not the 1d20 roll alone. 1d20+modifiers vs DC works a lot closer, but still lacks. However, it is easy to understand and implement.
There have been other systems, using e.g. 3d6 instead of 1d20 for task resolution. Haven't played any of them unfortunately, so can't tell you how they worked out. They appear good in theory, though.
Thanks for the explanation on the d20 system. Makes sense that it's not perfect, but is close enough. 

One homebrew system that I really liked used a 2d6 mechanic 6s were counted as 0s. It had a nice bell curve for results.

Thanks, again, for the great feedback. I'm taking it all to heart and have some ideas on how to improve my house-rules without breaking the system.

Thanks! 
Skills are no longer a measure of what you can do, but what you are very experienced at. They have completely removed the "Skill roll", everything is now an ability check. Skills are now just a situational bonus to ability checks if it happens to fall under your skill. A character no longer needs a skill to make any roll, the skill only helps him succeed more often.




To me this just feels like a Pot(ay)to - Pot(ah)to case.

Skills have not really changed (in concept, I mean, not mechanics) from 3ed to 5ed.
Before it would be said that Ability Scores gave a bonus to Skills, and now it is said to be the inverse; before it would be a "skill roll" with an added bonus from your Ability Score and now an "ability roll" with an added bonus from your Skill...

But look at it with a practical eye and it's the same: the same two things contributing to a single check to determine whether you're successful in a specific action.

3ed:
1d20 + Ability Modifier + Your Skill Bonus

5ed:
1d20 + Ability Modifier + Your Skill Dice


The only practical difference is a mere detail in the "using skills" mechanics; where before skills gave a fixed adjustment to your roll, now you roll an extra dice.

And before (3rd edition) just as now, you could use your Ability Score only to perform most actions that were skill-related (except in the case of skills that were trained-only). You could climb a wall making only a Str check if you didn't have any points in the Climb skill; you could use Diplomacy with a Cha check only, etc.



How you gain your skills, however, is something that has changed drastically in this new edition.
I'm not at all excited with the idea of characters having "this and that" skill chosen in character creation and that's about it.


I understand that with the dice roll mechanics they're trying to reduce the difference between a low-level skill check and a high-level one, just as they did with Attack Bonus (a fighter now progresses from +1 to +5 BAB, instead of the old +1 to +20).

Nonetheless, I would throw in something like that instead:

* You choose a number of skills at 1st level, and you gain, say, +2 or +4 when checking that skill (or, if you prefer to use the new terms, then you gain that bonus when checking an Ability Score to do what the skill suggests - it's really the same).

* At every X levels you gain another "skill allocation slot" (or whatever you like to call it). With that you can either gain that same bonus to check new skills, or you can increase your check with a skill you already purchased by another +2 or +4 or whatever.


AND, if unlike me you like the idea of throwing and extra dice instead of a fixed adjustment to the roll, this could easily be translated into something like that:
* When first you allocate a "slot" or "point" or "whatever" into a skill, you gain the +1d4 on its rolls. If then you allocate another slot in the future, you increase that dice to d6, d8, and so forth.



This would keep skill progression more independent, give players more choice, and in my humble opinion make character progression more fun.
It would be similar to the 3ed rules for skills, but more attuned to the game balace in numbers that I believe the developers are reaching out for with this new edition.


I really love the 3ed skill system. To me it's one of the best things that edition brought.
Not only spending your skill points gave characters a great level of customization and depth, but it also made skills a very important part of the game (perhaps just as much as combat). And not just a side-rule to be used on the eventual occasion.

I've played sessions where the use of skills were 90% of it, and they were incredibly fun.

This one time while DMing, I set up a ruined tower with no monsters whatsoever, but to get to the top and retrieve the piece the players were looking for, they had to make tons of skills rolls, including Climb, Rope Use, Search, Balance, and several others, even Knowledge (engineering) to study the safety of a particular point of the structure.

On other occasions there were "town-sessions" where the players did no real adventuring but stayed in a city, and using the many skills to interact with the citizens made it all quite fun as well.



All that said though (and what a wall o' text)... I dislike the OP's suggestion of making skill progression entirely independent from leveling.
I know it would feel more "realistic" but to me it just wouldn't feel like a D&D thing...

I will most surely use some house-rules on the line of what I've mentioned above, but I'd love to see some such skill system incorporated natively in the 5ed instead of the current "skill-gain" system, which to me seems overly-simplified.
Simplifying is good, but over-simplifying not so much if the price is taking out a fun part of the game.