D&D Q&A: Skills & Proficiencies

Earlier this week it was revealed that skills would be part of the default game (yay!), and we even got to see the current roster (yay...). This week's Questions & Answers follwup sheds a bit more light on the skill list, how proficiencies work, and if/how you can pick more up.

The skill list is mostly fine, though a few like Perception and Search could stand to be combined (just swap out Wisdom and Intelligence depending on the circumstance), and I can easily see something like Drive being useful if a character wants to use a chariot, like in Eberron or Dark Sun.

This is not a big deal since according to the article they will provide advice on adding, removing, and/or changing them, as well as skills based on backgrounds or story elements. They are even considering an alternate rule that allows you to create a skill using a short phrase, which seems very much like FATE's aspects and 13th Age's backgrounds, so I both approve and prefer that model.

When I originally read this article I felt that the proficiency bonus was a promising idea, because if attacks and skills had the same range of bonuses that it would be really easy to make one set of DC's for use in and outside of combat. Additionally an established range of bonuses would make it easier to determine what the range of DC's in general should be (probably not up to 35).

However I have since read the latest packet where the proficiency bonus is implemented, and I am not impressed with it; the bonus is not only based on your overall character level, but it uniform across the board.

This means that two characters with the same proficiency will have the same bonus throughout the campaign, differentiated perhaps only by ability score (which will ultimately account for less than half of the overall bonus, anyway). Even worse is if you pick up a proficiency later, as it is immediately set to your level-bonus, so a fighter can go from having no knowledge about magical things, to having comprehensive knowledge of it in an instant.

I, as well as many others I am sure, would rather have characters make an actual choice between increasing a skill or choosing a new one instead of having one bonus. The range of the bonus is fine, but a player should choose which one(s) to increase over time so that you get to see your character improve through deliberate choice. Also add something like skill powers to the mix.


  1. For what it's worth, I think they've differentiated a "Drive" skill by vehicle, adding them as individual proficiencies. For example, many of the warrior-y classes are proficient in "Mounts (land)" which I take to mean that they have skill in riding horses and such. I could easily imagine a proficiency in "Vehicles (elemental trains)" or something like that for Eberron. Though my interpretation is that anyone can ride a horse or drive a train, just like anyone can climb or anyone can try to persuade the king to do whatever - the skill is for keeping the horse under control during tense situations (e.g. combat) or navigating it over treacherous terrain.

    I am kind of ambivalent about the skill system. It's basically 4e's system (small number of skills, with a flat bonus), except that bonus increases over time. Classes have traits that go above and beyond proficiencies for more particular, fine-grained variation. The Rogue's Expertise trait is a good example (though it makes a significant change for rogues getting it right out of the gate). So, the customization is there, it's just baked into specific features.

  2. Like I said it is not a big deal because they specifically mention guides on adding/changing them, as well as allowing you to use other words or brief background descriptors.

    The only classes that seem to gain Expertise are the bard and rogue, which adds in a pretty big bonus. My preference is to have the proficiency bonus locked unless you make a conscious choice to improve it.

    Classes could have features to boost a skill further, but I would not limit it to bards and rogues: I could see fighters gaining Expertise in something like Intimidate or even Bluff (for feinting in combat).

  3. wow, the beginning of the article made it sound like you actually *liked* something about Next.

  4. To be fair I like that skills made it back. :-P


Powered by Blogger.