Posted by : David Guyll September 01, 2009

Shazbot (aka Josh) pointed out that skill powers are in the latest Character Builder update...neat! Skill powers are a suite of utility powers that you can choose from as long as you're high enough level and are trained in the skill. There are no other requirements demanded, meaning its similar to skill tricks from 3rd Edition except open to all characters and actually useful.

The idea behind skill powers is to allow characters to get more out of skills without just ramping up the the bonus or just granting some kind of auto-success ability, which is a good thing to me because it allows me to keep skill challenges challenging without making it impossible for other characters to contribute. This was an issue I've had numerous times in games like WEG Star Wars or Shadowrun, where players might crank up a couple skills to the point where if I make it challenging for them, I basically make it impossible for anyone else.

Peter Schaefer adds in some commentary that they wanted to make them useful without stepping on the toes of utility powers belonging to a class thats supposed to be good at what the skill does. In other words, good for some classes but underpowered for others. The example cited is physician's care. Its nifty at healing but not as good as a healing power that you would find in a leader's selection of powers. I dont mind this, as the offering is abso-fucking-lutely free. You can pick it up for a bit of flexibility, or just ignore it.

I will note that the skill powers presenting in the article/update amount to about half what will be in Player's Handbook 3, so if you're like Wyatt and you dont find many (if any) useful, then there might be hope for you yet! Of course, I expect many people (including Wyatt) to invent their own anyway: the idea has merit even if none of the powers do.

Speaking of usefulness, lets have some examples.

  • Arcana: Arcane mutterings (level 2) lets you make an Arcana check instead of a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check.
  • Dungeoneering: Eyes of the deep delver (level 6) grants you blindsight 10 for a turn.
  • Heal: Time out (level 10) lets an ally within 1 square regain her use of second wind. I'm going to also give props to swift recovery, which lets an ally within 1 square use second wind wihtout spending an action to do it. Kind of like an automatic Heal check to trigger it. Me likey.
  • Streetwise: Navigate crowds (level 10) lets you shift your speed and move through enemies' spaces while doing so.
So...good? Bad? Well, I have an idea for a fighter with the Mark of Sentinel that also serves as a bodyguard. Navigate crowds would be good for getting into the fray even if enemies are interposed in my path. Its thematic, but is it on par with the other fighter utilities?
Into the fray lets you move 3 squares as a minor action, provided you end your move adjacent to an enemy. Good, and not hindered by heavy armor and the like.
Strength from pain is a daily stance that gives you +4 to damage, Athletics, and Endurance checks for the entire encounter, but it is a daily (navigate crowds is an encounter power).
Stalwart guard is another good bodyguard themed power, but its also a daily and grants a +1 power bonus to AC and Reflex defenses to one ally that is adjacent to you (2 if you have a shield).

Hmm...

I dunno. All seem like good options, except if I wanted more mobility I'd definitely consider taking up navigate crowds since its a shift and lets me move through enemies. I dont think its better than into the fray since thats a minor action to trigger and not a move: both have their perks. I guess in the end, some of them could be useful and good for giving characters incentive to pick up certain skills (or just a better chance to get some use out of them).

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. At some point, when I work myself into caring about it, I'll probably do a post about which skill powers I think are nice and which gargle balls. Though with how unkind to my opinion some people have been on the subject (criticism of 4e summons Father Dagon! Obviously Wyatt hates everything 4e-related!) I may leave out the second group and just talk about which ones I like.

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  2. Eh, I'd do both. Not everyone thinks that you hate all 4E just because you dislike SOME things about it. I mean, with your extensive original creations its pretty obvious that you REALLY like it, just not every single last fucking thing (which is also stupid to think that anyone WOULD).

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