DDN Q&A: Skills

If you were wondering why skills were largely jettisoned in the most recent playtest packet, I guess it is to...streamline the game? If you were also wondering why lores were kept (and the bonus drastically inflated), it is because a lot of the players apparently missed being able to be an expert in a field of knowledge...?


I am serious: they kept asking what their characters would know, so the solution was to give them a non-scaling bonus to a couple of checks, which at
a whopping +10 is less of a bonus, and more of a guarantee, so I guess it
accomplishes their mission of streamlining the game since players will not even
need to ask.

You know what I miss? Being able to make meaningful decisions when building my character. 4th Edition gave us more control, especially since you could pick up training in any skill by using Skill Training or most multiclass feats. So if you wanted to, you could easily have a fighter that knew some stuff about magic, or was at least competent in social situations. Want your illusionist to be good at lying and sneaking? An easy two feats, at least one of which might give you something else like Sneak Attack.

As refreshing as this was, 5th Edition made it even better...for while anyway: you got to pick any four skills you wanted. No feats, no variant class features, anything goes. With this Josh was able to easily make a thug-type wizard that could intimidate people and sneak around pretty well. Given the lack of choices elsewhere in the bigger picture it was not much, but it was something. Now? Aside from spell selection he is virtually identical to every other evoker out there.

Personally I think that most groups want skills in some capacity. It is not like most of them are terribly complicated. Well, maybe when you are trying to jump; I can never remember the formula for that. Anyway, basic rules for skills should be the default. If you do not want them, then a sidebar or module can give you guidelines on how to adjust DCs. Same thing if you want more elaborate skills, or other ways to use them.


  1. I think we've got a bit of a feedback loop going here. People who like more rules-heavy games like 3e/4e are tuning out of the playtest because the playtest isn't their style of play. DDN may one day become their style when all of the optional rules are added, but until then it's not so much fun. So more of the feedback is coming from rules-lite players and the game is following their wishes. They don't need skills, so skills get thrown out.

    I just question if enough optional rules can be added to make it appealing to the rules-heavy customers while still having it play well. I can see the systems requiring a lot of futzing - changing DC's, changing monsters.

  2. Yeah, I am seriously considering just not changing the skill system for my ongoing playtest campaign. I am reasonably confident that my players would do me a terrible violence if I tried to remove those rules.

    In addition to the previous skill rules, I've added in training in additional skills as a kind of reward, and my players seem to really like that.

  3. Using skills as an alternative reward is interesting. I'll look into that.

  4. You guys are missing the point. They are trying to build a game that's easier to learn and teach. They have succeeded. That was what the last Playtest was about. Adding in the missing pieces from there is easy.

    What's challenging is making it so that the simple characters (run by my 9- & 8-yr-old, respectively)can play in the same game as my complex ones, like the ones I personally want to make.

    Think of it in 4e terms: they just released the "Essentials" version of D D Next. Which, honestly, is what they should have done with 4e. Now they need to release the bit with the complete set of choices.

  5. Dungeon World, Numenera, and 13th Age are pretty simple but still let you make decisions. Even martial classes out of Essentials could still make decisions, even if you did not count skills or feats.

    My complaint is that at its most basic level there are not enough decisions to be made, and my argument is that the game can still allow for some while being keeping things simple.


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