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Quick and dirty skills fix

 
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User3
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 12:05 am    Post subject: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm sure just about every one of you has done something like this, but here is my take on the matter:

1) Skills. There is a list of skills (like 2.0e general proficiencies) which everyone can take. Act like class skills.

2) Exclusive skills. These work exactly like 3.0e exclusive skills (Such that max ranks = granting class levels +3). Includes Spellcraft, Use Magic Device, and things like Starwars d20 Force skills. This is anything which you really want to have as a class feature.

3) Basic skills. These are 'I don't give a fuck background skills.' Things like 'good cook,' 'knows geniologies,' 'economics major,' and 'knows how to get little ships into bottles.'
These aren't even selected individually, they're always part of a 'background,' like the 2e table you could roll on. You don't need to put ranks in them.

No more: Bullshit with 1/2 ranks, doubled costs, or 'you must have this class feature' skills (Trapfinding, Control: These are now just "exclusive skills"). For "Skill" skills, there is no real-world logic requirement, and there will be no haphazard 'logic-improving' stealth nerfs or errata.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:37 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Seriously, why are people even suggesting Exclusive Skills? If it's a class feature, make it a class feature. The class feature "can spend limited resources on XXX" isn't a class feature, it's an anal bum cover.

If you make Disable Device into an Exclusive Skill for Rogues, you rape the Fighter/Rogue beyond repair, just as if you'd made it a numerical class feature of the character's Rogue levels.

Applying the multicaster dilemma to more things is not the answer to anything. Increasing the amount of bookkeeping people have to do is also bad.

If you expect PCs to have max ranks in special skills that let them actually use their class features, don't insult our intelligence by making PCs actually spend resources on them. Just give them those bonuses, and if you really must hand out less skill points.

-Frank
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User3
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:58 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The rationale behind exclusive skills is one of choice: If Disable device was an exclusive skill for rogues (I don't think it should be, unlike Use Magic Device), a rogue would have the option of doing one thing which other characters can't.

However, your point is well taken, and the trouble of exclusive skills probably isn't worth it. So it goes the way of Animal Empathy.

So from now on, spellcasting classes gain the "Spellcraft" class feature, which is used in various checks at a bonus of levels +3 +Spellcasting ability mod (highest if multiple attributes are used).

And rogues gain the Use Magic Device class feature.

And Druids and Rangers gain Wilderness lore (which I liked better than "survival" anyway), which includes Animal Empathy as well.

Hell, we could give clerics and paladins a special "healing" class feature, which preempts between scene CLW wand use.

Any other ideas?
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Maj
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 2:53 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ess and I combined the skills into something less than 25 total, left the skills per level as they were in 3.0, and did away with both exclusive and cross-class skills (so no class has a set skill list). We've found the biggest limitation on skills is the number of points you're allowed to spend, but if you want to be a Fighter with UMD and Disable Device, it's not like that's going to overpower the game. We also have a lot of binary skills: you spend a skill point and gain an ability such as read lips, decipher script, appraise, and innuendo. Knowledge skills have been reduced into the equivalent of Bardic Knowledge - you buy it with a feat or class feature. Lastly, no one has to spend skill points on flavor-text skills like Profession: Sailor... You just do it and no one gives a crap.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 4:03 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

People want skills to do various things, and because of that they end up doing none of it well:

Selectable class features: The basic mechanic where you have the option of adding +1 to one task or +1 to another task makes it work very poorly for this purpose. Ask yourself which costs more: A +1 dagger and a +1 halberd, or a +2 halberd? Why?
Assuming you have answered those questions to your satisfaction, why would you ever think that it was a good idea for people to have the choice between being +1 more at stealth or having an entirely new ability that you were +1 at?

Representations of Learning: I can't even begin to explain what an incredibly crappy idea this is. Skills are tied to hit dice, and hit dice don't have a damn thing to do with how much you learn. Does a giant moose learn any more than a regular moose?

Class Feature Bonus Placeholders: The class feature is like the "Traps" ability of Rogues or that stupid Channelling ability of that asstastic class that Skip wrote up. The numeric effects of that ability are kept track of by virtue of a skill. The problem, obviously, is tht skill bonuses don't have a damn thing to do with anything. It is really trivial for skills to have numeric bonuses attached to them which are twenty points higher or lower than the "expected" values. That means that any ability that is written in this fashion is already lost on the sea of potential random number generators and is completely intractible in terms of a priori value.

Flavor Text Crap: Some people are really good Smiths, or know a lot of History, or can recognize spells being cast, or whatever. I don't really give a fvck, and neither does anyone else - but it's absolutely vital for a lot of peoples' character conceptions. And oddly enough, skill points actually work fairly well for this purpose. Having someone be +3 at Knowledge: History and +1 at Profession: Meat Socket instead of just being +4 at Knowledge History is completely balanced. Unfortunately, the game is already committed to using peoples' skill points up on shit that actually makes a god damned bit of difference, which means that people can't actually have nice things.

So yeah, the idea of getting rid of the profession and craft skills from the skill list is completely the wrong direction. We should take Hide and Tumble and Disable Device off the skill list, and have people only be able to spend their skill points on the things that skill points actually work for: Innuendo and Craft: Exotic Cheese.

-Frank
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User3
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 4:38 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm not looking for a complete overhaul. I'm just looking for a quick and easy way to patch up the skill point system's greatest weaknesses.

I do believe that skill points are better when representing skills rather than knowledge, where feasable.

Thats why I've got the "basic skill" setups, which can be pretty much anything that you could call a profession. I'm thinking of letting players add or swap in a new 'facet' at certain levels, but that might be more effort than it is worth.
In here goes all of those skills which no character would ever puut a point into when given another option.

I do think that skill points work well for abilities like Diplomacy, Sense motive, Bluff, and just about anything else which is actually worth something but isn't tied to a class. If movement skills weren't so lame, they would be in there too.
And I do think Hide, Move silently, and so forth do very well as skills, because I don't mind sneaky wizards.

Anything which every character shoulden't be able to do, but every class should have the option of getting, belongs as a skill. Because where else are we going to put it?
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User3
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 4:40 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Catharz (Unregistered) wrote:

Anything which every character shoulden't be able to do, but every class should have the option of getting, belongs as a skill. Because where else are we going to put it?


Yes, I know that leads me open to the "Feats, dumbass" comment.

But feats and skills are obviously different beasts, and I like them that way. In standard D&D characters get too few feats.
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Essence
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 2:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
If movement skills weren't so lame, they would be in there too.


IMC, we have one Strength-based skill. It's called Athletics, and it combines the functions of Climb, Jump, and Swim. We also have a Dex-based skill called Acrobatics that combines the functions of Balance, Escape Artist, and Tumble. They give each other synergy bonuses.

People do in fact actually take them from time to time, but not always. Makes me figure we got it about right.
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RandomCasualty
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 2:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm in agreement with Frank on this one. Skills might as well be the stuff you don't really care much about.

Though personally as far as stuff like obscure knowledges and useless professions go, I don't even think that we should really bother even charting points for them. Instead, just have them be like a 2nd edition binary proficiency slot. Either you know about farming or you don't, and you can probably just hand them out for free just because the player wants them, considering the impact on the game is almost none. It'd also let you do good stuff like giving all characters knowledge in their local area for free, so people can mechanically know about their hometowns and similar stuff.



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User3
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 3:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Essence wrote:
IMC, we have one Strength-based skill. It's called Athletics, and it combines the functions of Climb, Jump, and Swim. We also have a Dex-based skill called Acrobatics that combines the functions of Balance, Escape Artist, and Tumble. They give each other synergy bonuses.

Same, except for the synergy bonuses. I figure, pretty much anything close enough to a skill to give it a synergy bonus should not be a separate skill anyways.
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Maj
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 8:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Frank wrote:
Selectable class features: The basic mechanic where you have the option of adding +1 to one task or +1 to another task makes it work very poorly for this purpose. Ask yourself which costs more: A +1 dagger and a +1 halberd, or a +2 halberd? Why?
Assuming you have answered those questions to your satisfaction, why would you ever think that it was a good idea for people to have the choice between being +1 more at stealth or having an entirely new ability that you were +1 at?


If skill points ran on the same expontential scale that magic items did, I might begin to buy your argument. However, in the case you're describing, a +1 Hide and +1 Listen costs the same amount as a +2 Hide. Additionally, putting +1 into Listen doesn't change the fact that you already had that ability anyway, so a +1 Listen is just one number bigger than a +0 Listen.

Now, if you want to change the skill system so that everything is binary, that's your choice. You can just have people roll d20s and see who ends up with the bigger result in order to find some way of working out how a situation is resolved. It seems like there's no room for in-betweens, and I don't like that - especially when mechanics actually make a difference.

Frank wrote:
Representations of Learning: I can't even begin to explain what an incredibly crappy idea this is. Skills are tied to hit dice, and hit dice don't have a damn thing to do with how much you learn. Does a giant moose learn any more than a regular moose?


It makes perfect sense in the context of a character growing and developing - which is what happens to anyone who goes through life and learns from their experiences. It doesn't make as much sense for monsters... But the system of creating monsters is so screwed that the fact that this is messed up shouldn't be a surprise.

Frank wrote:
Flavor Text Crap: Some people are really good Smiths, or know a lot of History, or can recognize spells being cast, or whatever. I don't really give a fvck, and neither does anyone else - but it's absolutely vital for a lot of peoples' character conceptions. And oddly enough, skill points actually work fairly well for this purpose. Having someone be +3 at Knowledge: History and +1 at Profession: Meat Socket instead of just being +4 at Knowledge History is completely balanced. Unfortunately, the game is already committed to using peoples' skill points up on shit that actually makes a god damned bit of difference, which means that people can't actually have nice things.


Because, you know... I totally want to spend points on useless crap that doesn't ever have a mechanical effect. At that point, skills are just like a character's XP - it's a number that the player thinks means something, but really is just another number to make a person feel better. I hate bookkeeping, and associating math with your flavor text is just a stupid idea.

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dbb
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 8:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Maj wrote:

Because, you know... I totally want to spend points on useless crap that doesn't ever have a mechanical effect. At that point, skills are just like a character's XP - it's a number that the player thinks means something, but really is just another number to make a person feel better. I hate bookkeeping, and associating math with your flavor text is just a stupid idea.


It's okay to spend points on useless crap if you're spending them out of a pool which has the limitation, "Only Spendable On Useless Crap". So you get the other stuff, the stuff that actually matters in an encounter, out of the skill list entirely, and what's left is a bunch of useless crap that you can spend skill points on to support whatever flavor text you have for your character. Or you can not spend them -- if you really can't stand bookkeeping you can damned well just ignore them and play The Man With No Name, and in the grander scheme of how good your character is in relation to the rest of the party, it won't make much difference.

They won't have much of any effect on combat, though I could envision a scenario in which Knowledge: Fighting Styles or whatever enables you to recognize that the mysterious black knight is actually Sir Launcelot and you better damned well not get in his way. They can still have an effect out of combat, though, so there's some added utility in having something like. Even if the only effect is that the players get to roll dice to see who figures out that Sir Launcelot is fighting under a different name, rather than the DM having to think of some way to convey the information to them -- having some way to quantify that flavor text is useful in at least some situations, and it's a damned sight less of a pain than having two players argue over whose flavor text makes them better at Profession: Trepanner.

--d.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 8:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Maj wrote:
If skill points ran on the same expontential scale that magic items did, I might begin to buy your argument.


Then you obviously didn't understand my argument.

You have a Dagger and a Halberd, one of them can be +2, or both of them can be +1. Which option is better? Which option does the game charge you more for?

You have a Move Silently and a Listen score. One of them can be +2, or both of them can be +1. Which option is better? Which option does the game charge you more for when it comes from a magic item? What is the cost difference when purchased with skill points?

OK, if you can answer all of those questions, you should be able to instantly see how the current skillz system is unsalvageable. If you can't, then you answered the questions wrong.

-Frank
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MrWaeseL
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 10:40 am    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

dbb wrote:

It's okay to spend points on useless crap if you're spending them out of a pool which has the limitation, "Only Spendable On Useless Crap".

Does this sound like an oxymoron to anyone else?

If it is useless crap with no impact on the game, the players can just as well take ALL OF IT. Doesn't make a shred of difference.
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dbb
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 2:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"Useless" is something of an exaggeration. There are times when knowing how to build a bridge, or sail a boat, or remember the history of the Dwarven Kings will actually be useful in a game. What it won't do is make a big difference in terms of how powerful one character is when compared to another, unless you're playing in a game where Profession: Engineer allows you to overcome all the challenges.

But if you're fighting a minotaur or negotiating an armistice or exploring the Forest of Doom or the sorts of things that D&D characters normally do, having Profession: Engineer is not that big a deal. It has some impact on the game -- but its impact on the game is not of the same class as things like Move Silently or Disable Device or Diplomacy. So why should we allow people to buy more Move Silently at the cost of not having Profession: Engineer? And conversely, is it really a good idea for people to be able to shoot themselves in the foot by spending all their points on Profession and Craft skills rather than buying Listen or Spot or the stuff that really matters in an adventuring context?

So you have a pool of points that you can spend on Profession or Craft or Knowledge or whatever else ends up meeting this standard, and you don't get to spend them on anything else. That pool can be as big or as small as you want it to be, and in fact if you to have it be big enough that everyone is expert in everything, or if you just want to not bother with it and run that kind of thing entirely off flavor text, the effect on game balance is pretty trivial. As long as you're not confusing the flavor text stuff with the stuff that affects encounters, it's all good.

--d.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 5:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

MrWaeseL wrote:

If it is useless crap with no impact on the game, the players can just as well take ALL OF IT. Doesn't make a shred of difference.


They could, balance wise. But for flavor reasons generally you don't want people to be a farmer, an expert chef, an engineer, a lumberjack, a baker, a book binder, and any number of other things all at once. Not that it would make a huge difference on the game, but at some point you want some kind of limit so that knowledges separate and define characters. And the only way you can do that is if some characters have certain knowledges and others don't.
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Essence
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 3:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
You have a Dagger and a Halberd, one of them can be +2, or both of them can be +1.

Which option is better?


Depends. If you want the dagger to be +1 in order to give it the Returning enchantment so that your character has a reliable ranged weapon that will always be there for him, or he’s in need of a concealable weapon that can get past DR X/magic, having two +1 weapons is better. If you don’t give a crap about the dagger and you want to hit harder with your best weapon, then obviously getting +2 to your halberd is better.



Quote:
Which option does the game charge you more for?


One +2 halberd costs 3,699 GP more than a +1 halberd and a +1 dagger together.



Quote:
You have a Move Silently and a Listen score. One of them can be +2, or both of them can be +1.

Which option is better?


Again, it depends on the circumstances your character is in and your character’s personality.


Quote:

Which option does the game charge you more for when it comes from a magic item? What is the cost difference when purchased with skill points?


From a magic item, a +2 skill item costs 200 gp more than two +1 magic items.
When purchased with skill points, there is no difference between the costs involved.


Quote:
OK, if you can answer all of those questions, you should be able to instantly see how the current skillz system is unsalvageable. If you can't, then you answered the questions wrong.


Sorry, to me this displays a problem with the magic item pricing system, not the skills system. Could you explain where you see the problem?

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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 5:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Essence wrote:
Could you explain where you see the problem?

Extensibility. If you pick up enough bonuses, the guy with two different bonuses can't succeed at tasks that are easy for the guy with one bonus. By the time this happens, the character with two bonuses can also easily perform an action that the character with one bonus cannot - but in an objective way he is not as good at his own unique schtick!

In fact, since he's growing at either 70% of the rate when using magic items, or only 50% of the rate when buying skills - he's eventually not even at the level of a fvcking cohort in the two things that he (supposedly) can do!

In a level based system, you simply can't fall behind by a percentage. Your rate of advancement can't be less than the rate of advancement of anyone else. Bonus disparities must be absolute or they ruin characters and push them off the random number generator - and they do it really fvcking fast.

Skills are one of the worst offenders, because the cut-off is two-for-one. Saves are even worse, because they are about 2.5 to 1. Magic items are also an aggrevious offender, because the power drop is 1.41 to 1. Even the damn BAB is completely unsalvageable because it demonstrates a power curve of 1.333 to 1.

The Random Number Generator isn't a problem that can be ignored or put-off. It is the central feature of a cooperative storytelling game. Skill points as imagined in 3rd edition are completely incompatible with the RNG, so we can't have them and have the game be balanced at the same time. Period.

-Frank
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 6:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Frank, you're omitting a very important factor.

It's perfectly okay to fall behind by a percentage in a level-based system, when there are a limited number of levels available. As soon as you have a maximum level, you have a maximum disparity, which is going to be a constant.

It's unusual to exceed the range of the random number generator in disparity at levels 1-8 and damn near impossible to do it before level 4 (Where a crazy saves multiclassed gnome can have a Fort save 19 points higher than a low-con elf wizard).
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Neeek
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 8:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Josh_Kablack wrote:


It's unusual to exceed the range of the random number generator in disparity at levels 1-8 and damn near impossible to do it before level 4 (Where a crazy saves multiclassed gnome can have a Fort save 19 points higher than a low-con elf wizard).


No, it really isn't. You can do it fairly easily at first level.

Halfing with 20 Dex, 4 Skill ranks in hide and MS and Stealthy has a +15 in hide and a +13 in MS. A Cleric with a 10 Dex in chainmail with a heavy shield has a -7 in both. And those aren't terribly uncommon things to see in an average party.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 8:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Personally I'd rather see the non-essential skils, like knowledges and such, reduced to three tiers of power. I don't see any real reason to have knowledge rolls, you might as well just either tell the person something or not, and save everyone a dice roll.

For instance, you can have spellcraft look like

No tiers: can't indentify anything.
Tier 1: can identify 1st-3rd level of spells.
Tier 2: 4th-6th.
Tier 3: 7th-9th.

And all your nonessential skills can look something like that. That way when you're writing a quest you can just write out stuff like "If PC has tier 2 knowledge(local), then give him the following information:" And then the DM can know whether the PCs will get that information and where, instead of relying on some random dice roll to pass on information. Because really, in quests you don't want information randomly handed out. If you want the PCs to know something you tell them, if not then you don't. Having odd dice rolls where you may or may not pass out information seems counterproductive to me.

Tumble should just be a class ability of the monk, disable device should be a class ability of the rogue (probably a selectable class ability so not all rogues have to be trap springers), Hide/move silent should be one ability of the rogue and ranger, and spot/listen should just be based on level and unlinked to any class.

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User3
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 9:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Why not just let a player know something if you want them to know it?
I mean, if you're willing to tell them do it. And if you don't want them to know, why risk it?

I don't need to know what "tier" an archeologist wizard is to tell him that he recognized some ancient arcane text.

I don't need to know how many "ranks" a character has in Profession (sommelier) to tell him that the wine smells funny.

And then have skills like Spellcraft work as skills, because it would totally disrupt D&D to do otherwise. What does tier 2 spellcraft mean to an Incantatrix? For epic spellcasting? For Shadow Adepts?.
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RandomCasualty
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 11:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Quick and dirty skills fix Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Guest (Unregistered) wrote:
Why not just let a player know something if you want them to know it?
I mean, if you're willing to tell them do it. And if you don't want them to know, why risk it?

Because PCs tend to want their characters to know certain things as part of their character concept, and the game should have some way to depict that. While you really don't need a system like that, sometimes people want their fighter to be a farmer, and the game should support some way of giving people secondary skills and knowledges

Quote:

And then have skills like Spellcraft work as skills, because it would totally disrupt D&D to do otherwise. What does tier 2 spellcraft mean to an Incantatrix? For epic spellcasting? For Shadow Adepts?.


Classes shouldn't use skills as a base for anything. If you want a PC class to be able to do something it might as well be able to do it all the time with anything. Using a skill check just opens way for all sorts of crazy synergy and people using the class to do things that you can't possibly predict. If you want to use skill tiers as a prereq that'd be fine, but having actual checks for abilities just shouldn't happen given how the current skill system is set up.

Epic spellcasting isn't even remotely salvageable, so I could really care less about it not working under this skills system, as it never really worked before anyway.
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