Please keep non-combat skills CORE parts of D&D rules!

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Look, I know the idea is to streamline things, fine, no problem, except that skills that aren't used in combat ARE important to D&D!! Sorry, nto all of us play hack & slash, wlel, I liek hack & slash but with lots of roleplaying too ;)

Roleplaying...ROLEplaying...needs skills in the actual PHB for folk to use, not tacke odn as "optionals", or D&D shifts into a COMBAT simulator, not a roleplaying game, big difference.

So, please keep things like the Professions, Diplomacy and the like
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A PC's activity is split up into three areas: combat, exploration, and social interaction. Success in all of these helps to progress the character, and also helps benefit the group. Combat is self-explanatory, exploration is interacting with the environment (tracking, finding traps, searching for secret doors, etc), and social interaction involves activities like negotiaton, intimidation and trickery. It doesn't necessarily involve talking - a skill like Sleight of Hand for pick-pocketing could be considered social interaction even if it's not very "sociable".

If a skill is primarily non-combat, it needs to boost the PC's exploration abilities or their social interaction abilities. If it doesn't do any of these, being a skill purely to add colour to the PC, then my standpoint is: there should be a place for it in D&D, but not at the expense of the PC's limited resources.

These limited resources are the feats, skills, and talents (I'm assuming there'll be talents or something like them) which a player allocates to their PC in order to help them perform in the three adventuring spheres - combat, exploration, social interaction. A PC who has any of these resources allocated to none of these spheres, in favor of "role-playing", has passed up the opportunity to maximise their advancement potential, and is officially gimped.

Some players are fine with this. They're happy to give up Diplomacy or Survival in order to have Craft(basketweaving) or Profession(sailor). But should a player who fancies their PC as a basketweaver or sailor be forced to give up useful skills, that directly aid advancement, to take skills that suit the character concept but gimp the PC? I don't think so. I think that players should have the freedom to build their PC to maximise their adventuring potential, and to add in purely 'flavorful' skills that flesh them out.
A PC's activity is split up into three areas: combat, exploration, and social interaction. Success in all of these helps to progress the character, and also helps benefit the group. Combat is self-explanatory, exploration is interacting with the environment (tracking, finding traps, searching for secret doors, etc), and social interaction involves activities like negotiaton, intimidation and trickery. It doesn't necessarily involve talking - a skill like Sleight of Hand for pick-pocketing could be considered social interaction even if it's not very "sociable".

If a skill is primarily non-combat, it needs to boost the PC's exploration abilities or their social interaction abilities. If it doesn't do any of these, being a skill purely to add colour to the PC, then my standpoint is: there should be a place for it in D&D, but not at the expense of the PC's limited resources.

These limited resources are the feats, skills, and talents (I'm assuming there'll be talents or something like them) which a player allocates to their PC in order to help them perform in the three adventuring spheres - combat, exploration, social interaction. A PC who has any of these resources allocated to none of these spheres, in favor of "role-playing", has passed up the opportunity to maximise their advancement potential, and is officially gimped.

Some players are fine with this. They're happy to give up Diplomacy or Survival in order to have Craft(basketweaving) or Profession(sailor). But should a player who fancies their PC as a basketweaver or sailor be forced to give up useful skills, that directly aid advancement, to take skills that suit the character concept but gimp the PC? I don't think so. I think that players should have the freedom to build their PC to maximise their adventuring potential, and to add in purely 'flavorful' skills that flesh them out.

Well said.
Besides, background skills as defined do not need some kind of representation. What is preventing you from writing on one's sheet, was a weaver?

Frankly, if you aren't pursuing the skill to it's maximum, it's really best represented with the base skill = 1/2 level or untrained. I hope they will bring Occupations from d20 Modern into 4e with a modified format for developing backgrounds, that would be enough to roleplay instead of rollplay.
I agree with Nautilus, but if you still want "hobby-skills" then there is an easy way to do this without sacrificing the Adventure-Skills:

Create new Skills that are declared hobby-Skills (Craft, Profession, Knowledge(games), etc.) and give each Character 2(+int?) hobby-Skills for free.

If there will be a Feat Skill-Training like Star Wars Sage, then I would recommend to give one Adventure-Skill AND one Hobby-Skill for it.

I took this Idea from Shadowrun, where this works really great.

Have FUN!
Baumi
The term "Background Skills" is better, I think, as it 1) does not demean what are actually significant skills in the game as mere "hobbies" (such as Profession: Lawyer), and 2) also indicates that these are generally skills acquired before the "hero's journey" into adventure and almost nonstop peril, and rarely acquired afterwards.

Every character can have one trained Background skill for free. It's not that they will *never* have a game impact -- indeed, once in a great while they may be crucially important -- but are so *rarely* useful in achieving game goals as to not be worth requiring a character to invest "adventuring skill" points in them.

A player who really, really wants to have a "well rounded character" can, if he wants, have two additional background skills, *or* one additional background skill plus a skill focus in a background skill (another +5 in the skill of you choice, for a total +10 when added to the trained bonus) for the cost of a feat.

That's not really an optimal choice for a character, but it's not an awful choice either, and those who pride themselves on Role-Playing Uber Alles should be allowed to choose it. If they're from the no pain, no gain school of roleplaying, let them do so.

Alternately, a character may have 1+Int bonus trained background skills and/or focuses in background skills, which would also be fine, if a bit more than a DM is comfortable giving away for free.

The PBH will have to contain a list of such skills and a very brief description, often just grouped into broad categories (Knowledge, Performance (including all games and hobbies, except games of chance, which are covered by Gambling skills), Profession, Craft will generally do).

Others will be allowed at player suggestion, but only after very serious DM consideration -- because the rules-shysters will attempt to create "Background Skills" which seem inconsequential at first glance but which actually have important uses that really would make them normal skills, or at least close to normal skills.

This is actually a very good idea, and the immersive roleplaying crowd is to be thanked for suggesting it (obliquely-- it's the RPG Realists like Nautilus who offered the practical idea of making such skills free). Such Background skills would allow additional character differentiation -- a fighter with Background Skill: Sailor is obviously of a different flavor than one with Background Skill: Chess -- while posing no balance issues whatsoever. Furthermore, it's a handy and quick way of dealing with all the *thousands* of skills which *must* exist in an RPG world, and yet are simply not important enough to list on character sheet, let alone deal with them at great length.

For those who say "Sailor" should be a full-on skill: Uh, no. Of course there will be instances where it will be very useful -- Marooned! -- but those will happen once or twice in a complete campaign. And if an adventurer is down on his luck, he can make some small amount of coin with such skills, at least enough to get his sword out of hock after a few months. But "Sailor" is simply not essential to adventuring success like "Stealth" or "Deception" is.

I agree on the need for (or at least desirability of) a mechanical representation of such less-important skills. Yes, anyone can *write* Master Portrait Artist on his character sheet, but D&D is premised largely on a character being defined by numbers and such, and really, there's no harm in allowing a wizard to select Background Skill (plus Skill Focus): Portraiture, and be happy with his +10 (plus Wis bonus) skill at painting.

Plus, absent a cold hard number, how can the DM determine when he's made a very salable painting that can fetch him 10g or so, or gain an ally/contact in the nobleman whose mistress he so elegantly captured?

Sure, it affords him a little advantage here and there, but since all characters will have similar advantages here and there due to the rule, there's no problem with game balance. And really, they just will come up so infrequently that no one will notice all that much.

In some campaigns -- like an almost entirely nautical pirates-and-magic game -- "Background Skill: Sailor" would be elevated to a full-on adventuring skill, but that's on a case-by-case basis depending on the campaign and the DM's judgement.
Another decision:

You just think of some profession you want to have and choose a skill which is close to it (subject to DM approval).
Example:

Juggler - Jump
Woodsman - Survival
Merchants - choose Deception or Persuation (are you honest or not)
Blacksmith - it is hard to tell yet - it is Mechanics in StarWars, but who knows

There are weak points in this system, but I think it is usable enough if you need to roll something which concerns your profession.

But in the long run a player could just choose anything from some list of common professions and thats all. If the DM and players care for some rolls they can just make a level check, modified by relevant ability modifier.
The problem I see is that depending on the game, a background skill could turn from completely useless to mindblowingly essential. Let's take the profession sailor for instance, what if the campaign took a turn into a aquatic campaign or the like. THe DM can't simply take away the skill, and we see an unbalance of power.

This rule is interesting but it should be better refined than a background skill as it is fleshed out here. I see it has much poteneital but as I see it right now it will work in selective campaigns only as a house rule.

Here's an idea that we might want to change the skill point cost of such skills. Roleplaying wise a DM could just allow a character who has a huge background and has been everywhere to do certain things, just reflecing off the backstory and not mechanically anywhere. This idea works.

However 4e is also about mechanics. If we want a mechanic system we could modify skill point costs as we do with cross-class skills as a result of effectiveness. We might say these background skills might only cost 1/2 a skill point.
I am pretty sure skill points are out, it's not essential to running a good game, and it's very tedious and slow for DM's to create NPC's. I think Saga is a sign of what to expect, and it really does work nice.
The problem I see is that depending on the game, a background skill could turn from completely useless to mindblowingly essential. Let's take the profession sailor for instance, what if the campaign took a turn into a aquatic campaign or the like. THe DM can't simply take away the skill, and we see an unbalance of power.

This rule is interesting but it should be better refined than a background skill as it is fleshed out here. I see it has much poteneital but as I see it right now it will work in selective campaigns only as a house rule.

Here's an idea that we might want to change the skill point cost of such skills. Roleplaying wise a DM could just allow a character who has a huge background and has been everywhere to do certain things, just reflecing off the backstory and not mechanically anywhere. This idea works.

However 4e is also about mechanics. If we want a mechanic system we could modify skill point costs as we do with cross-class skills as a result of effectiveness. We might say these background skills might only cost 1/2 a skill point.

I like the name 'background' for skills of this type. I think it's better than my previous adjectives 'fluff' and 'decorative'. However, 'background' doesn't always correlate with 'usefulness', in my opinion.

What makes a core skill core, and therefore worth spending resources on, is that meaningful results are attached to success & failure, and the resolution of a skill check adds to the gaming experience. That's why the non-combat skill Diplomacy is core. Succeed in persuading the reluctant informer, or mollifying the angry king, and you'll gain something significant or maintain the status quo. Fail, and it's a different story. Such a check adds to the gaming experience because situations like one with a still-furious king who's about to take action are tense and dramatic.

In an aquatic-themed campaign, Profession(sailor) might be very important. It may be highly desirable that every PC knows their way round a rigging, and that at least one of them can take over the captain's job if needed. But when does the success or failure of a Profession(sailor) role have any meaningful, dramatic impact? "Roll a d20 to see if you pull the wrong rope. Oh you failed, so the sail goes limp for a moment, and your fellow crew members correct the error while instructing you in the right way." That's nice RPing fluff that might be used when a PC is on a ship and learning to sail, but it doesn't really necessitate throwing the d20 around.

I don't think that background skills should involve d20 rolls, in fact. I think a PC should have a certain level of competence, and will automatically succeed in any task that falls within his limits. For example, a sailor will always perform competently as a crew member on a ship, with no need for rolls. But he can't be a captain - that requires the next level of competence. To become a captain, the sailor has to be trained on-board by another captain. Or he might get forced into the role when the ship's captain drowns in a storm, or is mutinied - in which case the DM may rule that a lengthy self-taught stint of trying to skipper a ship qualifies the PC to act as a captain from then on.

I support a limit on the number of background skills a 1st-level PC can have (they don't know everything), and tiered levels of competence (a cook might be able to provide palatable meals at the village inn, but needs further training before being hailed by the nobility as a great chef)
The problem I see is that depending on the game, a background skill could turn from completely useless to mindblowingly essential. Let's take the profession sailor for instance, what if the campaign took a turn into a aquatic campaign or the like. THe DM can't simply take away the skill, and we see an unbalance of power.

Nope. Even if the campaign should turn to the sea for a while, big deal. Who cares which of the PCs is sailing their boat? Don't we allow people to ride horses for "free"? A boat's just a way from getting from one area to another.

And if they PC is sailing his party's boat, big whoop. If no one had sail they would just pay someone a not terribly large some of money to be brought someplace.

Every once in a while Sailing would become very important -- marooned, trying to guide a makeshift raft back to land -- but even if a campaign spent four or five levels worth of adventures on the sea, that sailing skill isn't going to come up much except for in a trivial way (the PC is able to sail his own boat rather than just hiring out small boat for travel, saving them at most 1000g over a long series of seaborne adventures... a savings the entire party enjoys, not just the guy with Sail).

In such a campaign, Sail isn't mindblowingly necessary. SWIM is, and yet no one takes it. Which just demonstrates that skills are always either underpriced or overpriced depending on a particular campaign style and sometimes veer back and forth between the two. So worrying about whether a guy with Sail is going to have an advantage in long seaborn campaign is rather small potatoes compared to the fact that Swim, a real skill, can vary dramtically in actual usefulness.

If a background skill like this really becomes "mindblowingly" crucial in a particular campaign, there's always the option of spending a feat (which will be much more common in 4e) to just gain the skill.

Background Skill: Kiting is obviously an unimportant hobby skill. And yet if the characters spend six levels on the elemental plane of air, where travel is often done by (say) flying skiffs propelled by large kite-sails controlled by a kite-pilot, that's suddenly important too. This can happen to any skill, not just background one. the fact that a player may get lucky in a campaign or unlucky in another one in a skill's usefulness is just a general given and really not worth worrying about too much. In extreme cases, people can buy a skill that's suddenly become all but necessary, and if the DM realizes he's allowed someone to select Swim in a desert world with almost no water whatsoever, he can allow that guy to select a different skill in its place.