Skills Issue: With One Arm Tied Behind My Back ...

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In SWSE, trained/focused skills are always a constant margin above untrained skills. And this works well for the situation where a skilled and unskilled character are facing a challenge of the same DC. When the focused character has an 75% chance, the skilled character has a 50% chance, and the unskilled character has a 25% chance - no matter their level.

Disclaimer: I know SWSE is not the same as 4E. However, given that BAB and saves will all be 1/2 level with possibly a one-time class bonus, it seems likely skills will go the same way.


But the place this breaks down is "with one hand tied behind my back"* situations. That is, let's say we have a highly skilled thief, master of lockpicking. And then we have a warrior, veteran in combat, but no experience with locks. A lock the warrior can pick, the thief should be able to pick "with one hand behind his back".

This implies a significant difference in modifiers. For two people of equal skill, one would expect that a handicap of that magnitude would result in significantly lower success chance. If we say 70% vs 10%, that's a -12 modifier.


And the situation is magnified more when we consider that there may well be more than one degree of this. As far in Knowledge skills as the well-educated sage is above the literacy-hating barbarian, is the meta-genius inventor above the sage. That thief who was so cocky earlier may be getting schooled by the mechanical savant who designed the royal vaults.

Of course, maybe these people are just higher level. But if skills increase at 1/2 level, any significant skill difference requires quite a large level difference. Do we really want to amplify the "great artist means great fighting skills too" effect?


As far as solutions, here's mine. Start with the basic SWSE bonuses, but increase them as the character's tier increases. So that by the Epic tier, there's rather more than a 5-point difference. This could also vary by skill; while losing a little simplicity, it allows greater differential where it works, and relative parity where it's needed.


*This should go without saying, but "one hand behind my back" is metaphorical, and applies equally to skills not involving hands. For instance, swimming with one's legs tied together, or trying to follow a trail from inside a fast-moving coach.
I don't see a problem. A fighter can't pick the lock at all because he's not trained in the skill. Trained and untrained make a big difference even if the skills are only a few points off.

If you want to make a character who is exceptionally good at a skill compared to someone else trained in it, there is skill focus and also talents that let you reroll.
You forgot two things about the Star Wars Saga system :

1°) a true expert/specialist will have skill focus , for a total +10 against someone untrained.

Moreover, ability modifier can increase the difference by several more point (each for 5%)

2°) most skills have actions that cannot be done untrained :

your 20th level barbarian might have +10 to untrained knowledge checks, and it might allow him to know, thanks to his experience, that vampires are vulnerable to sunlight (knowledge (religion) for undead lore, with a low DC as it is common knowledge), but it will not have any chance to have knowledge of the name of an obscure plane of existence (only the wizard trained in knowledge (the planes) will have a chance to know such information)

Picklocking is only for the trained rogue
Tracking is a trained-only usage of the survival skill (no need for a track feat)
Tumble might be useable by everyone, but the special action allowing to ignore Attacks of opportunité is reserved for those that are trained in the skill

and so on ...
Do we really want to amplify the "great artist means great fighting skills too" effect?

Not at all. Instead, we want to amplify the "you're a cinematic hero, so you have some chance of fudging just about anything".
As far as solutions, here's mine. Start with the basic SWSE bonuses, but increase them as the character's tier increases. So that by the Epic tier, there's rather more than a 5-point difference. This could also vary by skill; while losing a little simplicity, it allows greater differential where it works, and relative parity where it's needed.

I don't understand your solution. Wouldn't this just increase the difference between high level characters and low level characters? If so, doesn't that still require you "great sage" to be significantly higher level than you "illiterate barbarian" to have the modifier differential you want?

Trying to get specialist NPCs to have skills higher than the PCs without being as high level has always been a problem, and probably always will be. The only "fix" is to throw more feats that only an NPC would bother taking to increase his skill. Except, if these feats ever apply to something a PC finds advantageous, the skill bonus gets out of hand fast.
Instead, I would just fudge it. If the level system doesn't allow me to make a master inventor, engineer of the king's vault, but I don't want him to have any adventurous capability at all, I'd simply give him a completely illegal bonus to his engineering skills and keep him low level
In SWSE, trained/focused skills are always a constant margin above untrained skills. And this works well for the situation where a skilled and unskilled character are facing a challenge of the same DC. When the focused character has an 75% chance, the skilled character has a 50% chance, and the unskilled character has a 25% chance - no matter their level.

Alright. Sounds mathematically sound. A challenge appropriate to a skilled character of the same level could be one where DC == skill. I'm following you so far.

But the place this breaks down is "with one hand tied behind my back"* situations. That is, let's say we have a highly skilled thief, master of lockpicking. And then we have a warrior, veteran in combat, but no experience with locks. A lock the warrior can pick, the thief should be able to pick "with one hand behind his back".

And you lost me. What does it mean to have a lock "the warrior can pick?"

If it's one where the DC to pick it equals the skill of an untrained character of the appropriate level, then the skilled, focused thief can only fail that check on a 1 thanks to their relative +10 skill bonus. That thief *can* pick it "with one hand behind his back." If the thief is only skilled and not focused, then is he really "a master of lockpicking?"

Please explain the problem here.
Since NPC are likely built like monsters, they can have however much Religion or Arcana you damn well please, without being the greatest Wizard in town, another reason to switch to the "Monsters have whatever stats are appropriate" approach.
Since NPC are likely built like monsters, they can have however much Religion or Arcana you damn well please, without being the greatest Wizard in town, another reason to switch to the "Monsters have whatever stats are appropriate" approach.

Is this related to the topic at hand?
Ok, I'll admit it - lockpicking was a bad example. However, trained-only uses are not the entirety of the skill system.

Secondly, Focused skills. While these are often refered to like they were just another step of trained skills, they do require a feat. Is it really reasonable that a skilled type like a Rogue would have to take 8+ feats to have their skills at appropriate levels?

Third, not all skills are just success/failure. For skills with degrees of success, the 5-point difference is rather jarring at high levels. For instance, jumping. An acrobatic Rogue, at level 30, would be able to jump about 30'. An armchair Wizard would be able to jump about 25'. Not exactly an impressive difference, is it?


The original thing I was proposing was that the trained bonus would increase each tier. However, I have had an alternative idea.

If skill tricks for each skill were created, they could serve be given out to trained skills only, perhaps once every five levels. So the Rogue may only have a 5-point higher Athletics skill than the Wizard, but he can jump significantly better due to his "Unbounded Leap" skill trick.
Ok, I'll admit it - lockpicking was a bad example. However, trained-only uses are not the entirety of the skill system.

Secondly, Focused skills. While these are often refered to like they were just another step of trained skills, they do require a feat. Is it really reasonable that a skilled type like a Rogue would have to take 8+ feats to have their skills at appropriate levels?

Third, not all skills are just success/failure. For skills with degrees of success, the 5-point difference is rather jarring at high levels. For instance, jumping. An acrobatic Rogue, at level 30, would be able to jump about 30'. An armchair Wizard would be able to jump about 25'. Not exactly an impressive difference, is it?


The original thing I was proposing was that the trained bonus would increase each tier. However, I have had an alternative idea.

If skill tricks for each skill were created, they could serve be given out to trained skills only, perhaps once every five levels. So the Rogue may only have a 5-point higher Athletics skill than the Wizard, but he can jump significantly better due to his "Unbounded Leap" skill trick.

Skill tricks is an idea I like. Not the way they worked in PHB2, though. But if 4E does go "saga edition" with skills, it would be a nice thing to have, specially when you consider it'd be a new "level up, yay" gift, in place of the gone skill points.
Is this related to the topic at hand?

I think it's related to the "NPCs need high levels" issue. People have this idea that there can be no exceptions to the character-building system, so if you want a world-class artist (with a Craft: Painting skill of +20) then they need to be level 17 to have all those skill ranks. However, as the poster was pointing out, if you just build NPCs using whatever is appropriate to the story, you can have a level 1 Expert with +20 to painting, because that's what he should have.

It's not exactly directly related to the topic at hand, but it's a good point to raise.

Back to the topic, the idea of a level 30 "armchair wizard" doesn't really work in D&D. That wizard is still an incredibly competent fighter, capable of taking on hordes of ordinary soldiers and winning even without the use of his magic. The fact that he can jump 25 feet to the rogue's 30 (more likely higher due to stat differences) is just a symptom of a level-based system - that "armchair wizard" is actually a world-class athlete by the time he reaches level 30, because he's essentially god-like at that point.
Another point to raise is that someone, somewhere, did an analysis comparing various skills to real-world accomplishments, and found that most that could be be subjected to quantitative analysis topped out at around what could be expected at around 5-6th level.

So any skill modifier that requires more than 8-9 skill ranks isn't just world-class. It's superhuman. Now, in a fantasy world you get people like that, but one shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking D&D Einstein had to have 20 ranks in Knowledge(Physics).

So that 17th-level painter? Its likely that he or she has some kind of 'power source' of his or her own that happens to make them better able to defend themselves. Maybe their muse, as well as just inspiring them to paint, also inspires them to fight better when necessary. Maybe, because he or she knows she's just that good, he or she just has that much more to live for, and thus that much more of a will to live, then your typical noncombatant.

Making illegal characters is one way to do things, but another way to look at things is to accept that a character is supernaturally good at what they do (even if it doesn't directly involve magic) and consider the general leveling benefits as a side effect of some manner.
Another point to raise is that someone, somewhere, did an analysis comparing various skills to real-world accomplishments, and found that most that could be be subjected to quantitative analysis topped out at around what could be expected at around 5-6th level.

Damn, I did a quick search around but didn't find it. And I think it was about 9th level.

Making illegal characters is one way to do things, but another way to look at things is to accept that a character is supernaturally good at what they do (even if it doesn't directly involve magic) and consider the general leveling benefits as a side effect of some manner.

If you consider a lvl 9 Expert (NPC class), the general level benefits are 3 feats (probably skill enhancers like Negotiator, or Skill Focus), +6 BAB, and a LOT of skill points, no more than 12 in a single skill, but much more than you should need. I never needed more than this for random NPCs.
Of course, maybe these people are just higher level. But if skills increase at 1/2 level, any significant skill difference requires quite a large level difference. Do we really want to amplify the "great artist means great fighting skills too" effect?

If we make NPCs with arbitrary numbers instead of via a system, like PCs, then we can do whatever we want. If we want to give the artist crap attack bonus and hp, but awesome skills, then we can. One of the nice things about being absent from a system for monster/NPC design is that you're now off the rails. So anything is possible.

As far as PCs, it's important to stick to the level distinction. Of course, no PC is likely to make a non-combat artist, since that's an NPC character, so the problem doesn't exist for them.
Most of this is a flaw in using the level-based system, as has already been pointed out.

Which is why there are games that aren't level-based.

I actually prefer level-less systems, and I've been endeavoring for years to create a system completely to my liking. Problem is, I like designing my adventures and campaigns more. Such is life.

Oh, and about the topic on hand - my level 30 wizard is an old, bent, wizened sage. Not exactly words that lend themselves well to the physically fighting off a slew of level 1 soldiers.

You know, except Gandalf the White. Apparently, his brand of two-weapon fighting with a two handed weapon and a melee weapon (regardless of what hand either is in) is an exception. So much for being an old, bent, wizened sage.
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