Skills: How much is too much?


Advice


Hi all,

I tried to search for any advice on this topic but couldn't find any good sources, so sorry if I'm reposting.

I'm new to PF and I've been wondering if there becomes a point where you really don't need to put any more ranks into certain skills. So I wanted to open this question up to the community:

What is your recommended max total bonus for each skill before you start to waste ranks?

Thanks all in advance!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

You haven't said what class you are playing, what you are doing, etc.

For example, if you were playing a gnome summoner with magical linguist trait, you would only need 3 ranks of linguistics to pick up all the summoning languages you would ever need.

What you need for skills depends on what your PC wants to do.

A bard with versatile performance is going to max some of her perform skills, because by doing so, she gets boosts in other needed skills like diplomacy, bluff, intimidate or sense motive. Or even acrobatics or fly. Non bards won't care as much.

If you are a face character, you can never have enough diplomacy. If you're not a face, maybe you only get enough diplomacy to reliably aid others in their skill rolls.

If you have an animal companion, you will need enough ranks in handle animal to easily retrain your buddy in a single session. For most characters, this is five ranks. If you have a high intelligence companion with lots of tricks, you will want more ranks than this.

Most characters who do combat will likely want 3 ranks in acrobatics, but high dex types will want far more.

My answer is: it depends.

Hmm


He's asking when DCs for certain skills stop rising, and any number of ranks past those points would be a waste.


Dr.FelixUrr wrote:

Hi all,

I tried to search for any advice on this topic but couldn't find any good sources, so sorry if I'm reposting.

I'm new to PF and I've been wondering if there becomes a point where you really don't need to put any more ranks into certain skills. For example, I'm sure that you would recommend a higher Perception than Climb. So I wanted to open this question up to the community:

What is your recommended max total bonus for each skill before you start to waste ranks?

Thanks all in advance!

do you get a lot of skills or not much? Do you have a high int,wis, or cha?

If the answer is not many and no, then I answer with, 0 as someone better skilled will handle it. you have no bonus to skill and no skill points to stay competitive.

If you get a fair amount and have bonus to a mental stat, my answer is, never, as most skill checks are opposed, meaning that enemies with more ranks makes a harder check, and you have a nice bonus for it so pump it sky high.

For something that has static DC, enough ranks to do the Static DC thing you want to be able to do.


Given the existence of circumstance penalties and RAW-sanctioned GM-specific uses for skills, that's a pretty complicated question. It really depends on the character and the campaign. In general, a skill rank is only wasted if you never have the opportunity to use it at that level of difficulty.

That said, save your GM a headache and don't put a rank per level in Craft (wicker basket) unless you really like making wondrous wicker baskets.


Chess Pwn wrote:

do you get a lot of skills or not much? Do you have a high int,wis, or cha?

If the answer is not many and no, then I answer with, 0 as someone better skilled will handle it. you have no bonus to skill and no skill points to stay competitive.

If you get a fair amount and have bonus to a mental stat, my answer is, never, as most skill checks are opposed, meaning that enemies with more ranks makes a harder check, and you have a nice bonus for it so pump it sky high.

For something that has static DC, enough ranks to do the Static DC thing you want to be able to do.

Maybe we can just keep this theoretical at the moment? Meaning, it doesn't matter what my class is nor how many skills ranks I get per level.

@Chess Pwn I appreciate the feedback about opposed skills vs static ones. Any interest in writing out what you think each of the static DC skills should be maxed at?

There seems to be some confusion about what I'm asking. In order to illustrate my point, let's look at the skill: Perception. What's the difference between having a total bonus of +12 vs +18 in Perception. Do you find that these extra 6 skill ranks into Perception really make a difference? Do you think it's possible to spend those 6 skill ranks into other skills that might make a bigger impact?

Ultimately, my question is asking how to maximize your skill ranks?

Grand Lodge

Dr.FelixUrr wrote:

Hi all,

I tried to search for any advice on this topic but couldn't find any good sources, so sorry if I'm reposting.

I'm new to PF and I've been wondering if there becomes a point where you really don't need to put any more ranks into certain skills. So I wanted to open this question up to the community:

What is your recommended max total bonus for each skill before you start to waste ranks?

Thanks all in advance!

If you have more skill ranks in a skill than you have hit dice, then that's too much.

Other than that, depending on character, I keep about x-3 (give or take a couple depending on class) maxed where x is the number of total skill ranks I get. But I spread it out thinner than that over the first few levels so that I can get at least one skill rank in each skill that's a class skill so I can be somewhat good at it for little effort. (class skill is an extra three, so it bumps it up by four for the cost of one, or even more if it's a trained only skill and you have a good mod for it)

edit: Specifically about perception: yes. I keep perception maxed out on every single one of my characters. (unless I know I'm going to be bad it and know that someone else in the party is going to keep it maxed out). As your perception goes up, so does their stealth skill. If you stop putting points in perception while they keep putting points in perception they're becoming harder and harder to spot.


I think there's a very definite difference between +12 Perception and +18 Perception. A DC 25 Perception check is not atypical, and that makes a difference between a 35% chance and a 65% chance.

I think there's two questions:

1) Which skills are so marginally useful that putting ranks into them is wasted?
2) Which skills have low static DCs so putting many ranks into them becomes wasted?

For category 2, Swim and Climb come to mind. These are checks you don't want to fail, but typically have low DCs. Ride probably also falls in this category - the DCs are static, and once you have enough ranks to do what you want to do, any more is wasted.

As for category 1, these are skills that I think of as RP skills since the game doesn't really require them, generally. Appraise, Craft, Heal, Linguistics, Perform, Profession, and Sleight of Hand are ones that are only useful in pretty specific circumstances. Sure, and alchemist wants points in Craft (alchemy), a bard wants ranks in Perform, and a pickpocket wants maxed-out Sleight of Hand, but these are the skills you probably won't really be using for your typical character.


RumpinRufus wrote:

I think there's a very definite difference between +12 Perception and +18 Perception. A DC 25 Perception check is not atypical, and that makes a difference between a 35% chance and a 65% chance.

I think there's two questions:

1) Which skills are so marginally useful that putting ranks into them is wasted?
2) Which skills have low static DCs so putting many ranks into them becomes wasted?

For category 2, Swim and Climb come to mind. These are checks you don't want to fail, but typically have low DCs. Ride probably also falls in this category - the DCs are static, and once you have enough ranks to do what you want to do, any more is wasted.

As for category 1, these are skills that I think of as RP skills since the game doesn't really require them, generally. Appraise, Craft, Heal, Linguistics, Perform, Profession, and Sleight of Hand are ones that are only useful in pretty specific circumstances. Sure, and alchemist wants points in Craft (alchemy), a bard wants ranks in Perform, and a pickpocket wants maxed-out Sleight of Hand, but these are the skills you probably won't really be using for your typical character.

Thanks for that RumpinRufus. I do think that it's good to clarify category 1 skills and to point out that they are more RP skills than essentials.

However, your category system is missing a category: category 3 is everything that isn't categories 1 or 2. And from what I'm understanding from other posters is that if given the opportunity, they would have category 3 skills maxed. But do you really need to have a + 30 total bonus for Stealth?

I'll point out again, I'm new. So I really don't know if you want a +30 to Stealth. As Claudekennilol points out, I didn't know that Perception was used to spot Stealthed enemies. Good to know.


Dr.FelixUrr wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:

do you get a lot of skills or not much? Do you have a high int,wis, or cha?

If the answer is not many and no, then I answer with, 0 as someone better skilled will handle it. you have no bonus to skill and no skill points to stay competitive.

If you get a fair amount and have bonus to a mental stat, my answer is, never, as most skill checks are opposed, meaning that enemies with more ranks makes a harder check, and you have a nice bonus for it so pump it sky high.

For something that has static DC, enough ranks to do the Static DC thing you want to be able to do.

Maybe we can just keep this theoretical at the moment? Meaning, it doesn't matter what my class is nor how many skills ranks I get per level.

@Chess Pwn I appreciate the feedback about opposed skills vs static ones. Any interest in writing out what you think each of the static DC skills should be maxed at?

There seems to be some confusion about what I'm asking. In order to illustrate my point, let's look at the skill: Perception. What's the difference between having a total bonus of +12 vs +18 in Perception. Do you find that these extra 6 skill ranks into Perception really make a difference? Do you think it's possible to spend those 6 skill ranks into other skills that might make a bigger impact?

Ultimately, my question is asking how to maximize your skill ranks?

See, anything that you don't want to fail and is opposed put ranks in it. A +12 perception opposed to a +18, Yes, because you want to see those stealthed enemies sneaking up, so they don't get a surprise round. +30 stealth means that your that much harder to spot.

EX opposed:
I'm lv4 and have a +6 stealth, guard is lv4 with +3 perception.
I'm lv5 now and still have +6 stealth, guard is lv5 also, now with +4 perception. I just "got worse" at my skill for not keeping up with it.

EX not opposed assuming you want auto-pass:
Ride, if I want to "Guide with knees" I need a +4 so my lowest roll is a 5 to auto pass.
If I want to "Fight with a combat-trained mount" I need a +9 so I auto pass.
if I want to "Fast mount or dismount" i need a +19 to auto pass.
Anything more than a +19 is a waste for these options as you can't use that skill any better.
NOW ride can be used with mounted combat to negate a hit to your mount, in which case you want that to be as high as you can to have a better chance of negating that hit.

So static is the DC isn't changed, there are set DC's for what you want to do. Opposed means that different enemies have different values, so a harder enemy is better, so you want to keep it super high to continue to have a good chance of succeeding.


Knowledge skills are useful and I invest in them whenever I can up until a total score of about 15. That is usually enough to find out plenty of information even on a bad roll. Any more investment is prolly overkill since the DM withholds little on a good roll and often just hands over the monster's bestiary entry for an exceptional roll. I generally only put ranks in knowledge skills that already class skills for a character.

When I decide to have a character invest in them, the skills that I never stop adding ranks to are: acrobatics, bluff, diplomacy, disable device, intimidate, sense motive, sleight of hand, spellcraft, stealth, UMD. These skills are either opposed checks, have scaling DC's or have benefits for getting a super high roll on the check. It's unlikely that I would invest in all of these on a single character. I would decide on a focus, sneak or diplomacizer or such like, and max out the relevant skills.

All of my characters have maxed out perception and I will often spend a trait to make it a class skill if it's not already. It's the most commonly used skill in the game and is often rolled as an opposed check.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

My socialite characters tend to max diplomacy and bluff. I *should* be maxing sense motive, which I suck at, but there are usually others in the party better at that high wisdom skill.

The DCs to change someone from hostile to helpful can be really tough. With bluff / sense motive, you wind up getting into opposed skill check territory. Right now, I am playing in an AP where Hell Knights and Inquisitors are in high supply. Both tend to have excellent sense motive skills, so my character's bluff skill has to be as high as I can get it.

I tend to use a lot of "not a lie" half-truths around these characters because geting caught in a lie can cause me to wind up with my head on a pike in the area I'm in.

I have yet to put a point in perception, and my perception rolls are laughably bad. But my party is full of rangers, inquisitors, and rogues. With everyone else having a high perception, I've decided that my sorcerer with very few skill points can let this one skill slide...

Hmm


If you are a character built around stealth-- a Rogue, or a Slayer, or somebody else who likes ambush tactics-- then there's no such thing as too much stealth, ever.

Stealth is something that typically has opposed skill checks. You need to beat their Sense Motive consistently, and that means every single point counts. Any opposed skill falls into this category. You either take enough to pull off Aid Another consistently, you keep it maxed, or you ignore it.

Contrast, say, Use Magical Device. The highest check you'll ever need to make is a 40; using a scroll of a CL20 character. This means that the highest UMD you should ever need is 39. But, you might recognize that you're relatively unlikely to come across a scroll from a CL20 character. Emulating an Ability Score is the next-highest, at DC34 to emulate a 19. So, I'd probably stop at 33 for UMD. But if I only wanted UMD to make use of Wands of CLW, then I'd stop at 19.

Fly is another one. In theory, you could be a Colossal creature with Clumsy maneuverability trying to do a 180 in a tornado-- a combination of circumstances that would require you to pull off a DC52 Fly check. But more realistically, you're going to be Medium with Average maneuverability and you're not crazy enough to Fly in anything greater than a Windstorm. That means you'd only ever need a 27 because the DC is 28.

One thing to consider on the static checks is if you can Take 10. If you can, instead of aiming for 1 under your target DC you can aim for 10 under. For example: if you're willing to sacrifice the ability to Swim in Stormy water (which you can't take 10 on) and the ability to consistently Swim while in combat or otherwise distracted, you'd only ever need 5 in Swim.

So, basically:

1. Establish what your DCs are going to be.
2. Establish what you want your target for that character to be for that DC; "I want to be able to cast any spell off any scroll" vs. "I want to be able to swim in non-stormy water while taking ten"
3. Establish /when/ you want to be good at this. There's a lot of difference between rushing to hit UMD 19 and then doing nothing and spreading the UMD out over twenty levels.
4. Keep in mind that contested skills should almost always be kept maxed.


Really, the way to figure this out is to look at the skill descriptions, decide what you want to be able to do, and get enough ranks to do that. You also have to decide if you want to succeed on a take 10 or get enough for an auto-succeed every time (on a 1).

Acrobatics is another skill like Ride. The basic DC of moving across slippery surfaces is static, but the DC of moving through a threatened square is based on the opponents' CMD. And a jump check is based on the distance: if you want to jump a 10 foot gap, then 10 is high enough; if you want to jump 40 feet, then you need a 40.

Most skills will have this kind of progression. "How many ranks is enough" is completely dependent on what you want the character to be able to do.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
claudekennilol wrote:
But I spread it out thinner than that over the first few levels so that I can get at least one skill rank in each skill that's a class skill so I can be somewhat good at it for little effort. (class skill is an extra three, so it bumps it up by four for the cost of one, or even more if it's a trained only skill and you have a good mod for it)

That's the most important thing: put one into all your class skills, ASAP, or else you're just letting stuff go to waste.

IMHO you should then target the skills that are most important for you and max those every level, assuming you have enough points to throw around.

I try to keep 1, 2 or 3 spare points every level to put into things I want to be able to *try* (especially if you need a rank to even get a roll), favoring skills linked to my higher stats.

I've never yet played a character with less than 14 INT (even a fighter!), simply because I really like having skills.


Some skill checks, like Bluff, Acrobatics, Stealth, and Sleight of Hand, are used against opposed checks. Diplomacy is such an open-ended skill, the higher the score just might convince NPCs to agree to all kinds of outrageous things. Similar things could be said of Crafts or Professions.

***

Slippery Ketta, the Halfing Rogue: I use my Well-Prepared Feat to see if I just happen to have an Instant Fortress packed.

DM: You what? *sighs* Okay, make a check.

Ketta: Okay, I roll a 12. Sleight of Hand is a class skill, and I have a Dex of 18, so with my ranks, that's a *figuring quickly* 60,019 on my Sleight of Hand check. Is that enough?


Thanks all for the responses. From what I can tell, most of you don't think there are ever total bonus caps on at least half of the skills (bluff, acrobatics, stealth, etc.).

Let me put my question another way:

At levels 5, 10, and 15 what should your total bonus be for these "category 3" skills? Assume that they are all the same "cap" per level since most posters aren't differentiating between these category 3 skills. Diplomacy can drastically alter the outcome depending on the total bonus so we can disregard this skill.

I ask this because many players have pointed out that these skills need to be maxed because they oppose characters of a similar level.

Lastly, I strongly believe that there is a "cap" to these skills per level since I think you would all agree that having a Perception bonus of +30 at level 5 isn't recommended in order to find stealthed enemies. It helps, but isn't necessary.

So what do you recommend?


Dr.FelixUrr wrote:

Thanks all for the responses. From what I can tell, most of you don't think there are ever total bonus caps on at least half of the skills (bluff, acrobatics, stealth, etc.).

Let me put my question another way:

At levels 5, 10, and 15 what should your total bonus be for these "category 3" skills? Assume that they are all the same "cap" per level since most posters aren't differentiating between these category 3 skills. Diplomacy can drastically alter the outcome depending on the total bonus so we can disregard this skill.

I ask this because many players have pointed out that these skills need to be maxed because they oppose characters of a similar level.

Lastly, I strongly believe that there is a "cap" to these skills per level since I think you would all agree that having a Perception bonus of +30 at level 5 isn't recommended in order to find stealthed enemies. It helps, but isn't necessary.

So what do you recommend?

Dude a +30 perception at lv5 would be AWESOME!!!

skills
lv 5 = 3(class skill)+5+"3 or 4"(ability mod)=~11-12 at least to be 'good'. Though you'd want something that gives a bonus, say another +2or3. So a 15 at lv5 will be quite good.
If you're focusing on the skill lv10=3+6(ability)+10+~8=27
If you're focusing on the skill lv15=3+6(ability)+15+~8=32 at least

Now these are all for being one of the best at it, and hopefully succeed more often than not.

To sum up, I feel the "cap" is however high you can get it with whatever amount you're willing to put into it. If your willing to put in money and feats then go and be the very best. Like no one never was.


Dr.FelixUrr wrote:

Thanks all for the responses. From what I can tell, most of you don't think there are ever total bonus caps on at least half of the skills (bluff, acrobatics, stealth, etc.).

Let me put my question another way:

At levels 5, 10, and 15 what should your total bonus be for these "category 3" skills? Assume that they are all the same "cap" per level since most posters aren't differentiating between these category 3 skills. Diplomacy can drastically alter the outcome depending on the total bonus so we can disregard this skill.

I ask this because many players have pointed out that these skills need to be maxed because they oppose characters of a similar level.

Lastly, I strongly believe that there is a "cap" to these skills per level since I think you would all agree that having a Perception bonus of +30 at level 5 isn't recommended in order to find stealthed enemies. It helps, but isn't necessary.

So what do you recommend?

My standard:

1. Pick the category 3 skills you actually care about. I like the suggestion posted earlier that you can have up to x-3 of these, where x is your skill points per level.
2. If the skills is an opposed check or one vital to your setup, max it. So long as you're not compromising your build elsewhere (by taking things such as the +2 in two skill feats, which are generally pretty terrible), you want them.
3. If the skills have fixed DCs, I tend to rush to my mark as fast as possible, then raise another skill.

For example (and fair warning now, this is a long example), I have a character who, at level 2, has 9 skill points per level. At the moment her skills look like this:

Acrobatics: 1 rank
Climb*: 1 rank
Fly*: 2 ranks
Knowledge (Arcana)*: 2 ranks
Knowledge (Dungeoneering)*: 2 ranks
Knowledge (Nature): 2 ranks + 1 bonus awarded by GM
Knowledge (Planes)*: 2 ranks
Perception: 2 ranks + 1 bonus awarded by GM + trait to make it a class skill and add +1
Spellcraft*: 2 ranks
Use Magical Device*: 2 ranks + trait to make it work off Int

* are class skills. Int is her key stat.

With nine ranks/lvl, she can have up to six 'primary' skills. At the moment, though, she actually has eight: Fly, the Knowledges, Perception, Spellcraft, and UMD. I sunk some early open resources (the Extra Traits feat, basically) into setting up two of those. Eventually, she'll take Skill Focus (Perception), because it's a pre-req for another feat, but that will be the limit of boosts that those skills get beyond just more skill ranks. I don't want to compromise the build.

Now, I want to get the Knowledges up to my targets as soon as possible. For the Knowledges, that's a 34: consistently identifying the nature of a rare CR20 creature, and identifying any spell cast on her. I know that my target end-game Int mod is a 40 (it's a high-powered game), so a modifier of +15. All but Nature are Class Skills, for another 3. That means I need to get each Knowledge up to 16. To do it as fast as possible, they'll be cleanly maxed until relatively late in the game.

For Fly, I know she'll be Medium throughout her career, will have a maneuverability of Good, and my acceptable target is being able to fly in a Windstorm. That's a DC20 check, and with a target Dex of 24 (+7), she only needs to invest five ranks into Fly to reach my goal (5 ranks + 7 Dex + 3 Class + 4 Maneuverability = 19).

I know Perception is a contested skill, and Wis is one of her worst stats. Thus, even though it's getting the heaviest investment, Perception will stay maxed through her career.

The highest Spellcraft check required (outside of Crafting) is a 35, to identify the properties of a CL20 magic item. However, that's something that she can always take 10 on and will be relatively rare, so my target is the lower DC29 to detect a 9th level scroll. With her target Int mod and Spellcraft as a class skill, this means she'll need 28-3-15=10 ranks in Spellcraft.

For UMD, I want her to be able to use a scroll of Miracle if need be (our party lacks a Cleric or Oracle). That means she'll need to be able to emulate a Wis/Cha of 19, so the target is 34. After Int and class skill bonus, she'll need 16 ranks.

So, those are my targets from the starting line. Now, at level 5:

Acrobatics: 3 ranks
Climb*: 2 ranks
Fly*: 5 ranks
Knowledge (Arcana)*: 5 ranks
Knowledge (Dungeoneering)*: 5 ranks
Knowledge (Engineering): 1 rank
Knowledge (Geography): 1 rank
Knowledge (History): 1 rank
Knowledge (Nature): 5 ranks + 1 bonus
Knowledge (Nobility): 1 rank
Knowledge (Planes)*: 5 ranks
Knowledge (Religion): 5 ranks
Linguistics: 1 rank
Perception: 5 ranks + 2 bonus
Spellcraft*: 5 ranks
Swim*: 2 ranks
Use Magical Device*: 5 ranks

I am assuming that she now has 11 skill ranks/lvl-- a +3 (as it's currently odd) jump in Int.

Things are interesting here. She's picked up another key skill, Religion, in order to identify Undead as well. Fly is at the point that it's functionally maximized. Acrobatics and Climb are done; there's not much investment required there. One rank each in Linguistics and those extra Histories at least allows a roll, and since Int is her key stat and the DCs tend to be low on those (more so the Knowledges than Linguistics, but taking 10/20 is an option on Linguistics so that's okay). Swim is also as high as it's going to get.

At level 10:

Acrobatics: 3 ranks
Appraise: 5 ranks
Climb*: 2 ranks
Fly*: 5 ranks
Knowledge (Arcana)*: 10 ranks
Knowledge (Dungeoneering)*: 10 ranks
Knowledge (Engineering): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Geography): 4 ranks
Knowledge (History): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Local): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Nature): 10 ranks + 1 bonus
Knowledge (Nobility): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Planes)*: 10 ranks
Knowledge (Religion): 10 ranks
Linguistics: 1 rank
Perception: 10 ranks + 2 bonus + 6 Skill Focus
Sense Motive: 2 ranks
Spellcraft*: 10 ranks
Stealth: 10 ranks
Swim*: 2 ranks
Use Magical Device*: 10 ranks

I'm assuming 13 ranks/lvl here, another +4 Int.

Fly is, as previously noted, finished here. Five ranks in Appraise means that taking 10 on the roll + Int mod will hit even the highest Appraise DC. That also means every Int-based stat is being taken into use, meaning she's fully utilizing her high Int. Further, with 4 ranks in the 'lesser' Knowledges, she can roll low and still hit the DC 20 that is the high end for most checks (when her Int is maxed, she can roll a 1 on these and make it). Only identifying some Humanoids will be out of reach, and since high-CR Humanoids are fairly rare I'm okay with this.

After hitting Appraise and the Knowledges, she has 12 skill points to spend and has hit her core bases. This is a good indication of why the 'x-3' guideline is a good one: X is 10 for her, but she currently has only eight priority skills. Thus, Stealth was added. It's not an optimal choice, as her Dex is not her best skill, but the build has some capability to act in surprise rounds so having more options to make use of that offensively as well as defensively is nice. The last two are being dumped into Sense Motive. Though she'll never be able to stop a Bard from Bluffing her, she can perhaps stop some NPCs.

At level 15:

Acrobatics: 10 ranks
Appraise: 5 ranks
Climb*: 2 ranks
Disable Device: 15 ranks
Fly*: 5 ranks
Knowledge (Arcana)*: 15 ranks
Knowledge (Dungeoneering)*: 15 ranks
Knowledge (Engineering): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Geography): 4 ranks
Knowledge (History): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Local): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Nature): 15 ranks + 1 bonus
Knowledge (Nobility): 4 ranks
Knowledge (Planes)*: 15 ranks
Knowledge (Religion): 15 ranks
Linguistics: 5 ranks
Perception: 15 ranks + 8 bonus
Sense Motive: 15 ranks
Spellcraft*: 10 ranks
Stealth: 15 ranks
Swim*: 2 ranks
Use Magical Device*: 15 ranks

14 ranks/lvl is the assumption. Int boosts are harder to come by now.

At this point (really, at level 10) there's no more skill monkeying to be done in her area of choice, being a bookworm. She finished another primary skill-- Spellcraft-- back at level 10, and the rest are soon to follow. For character reasons, I'm going to purposefully avoid giving her Cha-based skills. Thus, we're going to dig more into the Dex skills.

Thus Disable Device gets the full upgrade. Sleight of Hand is the other choice, but it's less useful than DD. The remaining ranks are spread across the secondary skills, giving a little more leeway with Acrobatics (though she'd prefer to be flying, a backup doesn't hurt) and bringing Linguistics down to needing a Take 10 instead of Take 20 for the rare stuff.

Going forward, skills will really open up. The class skill main Knowledges can stop at 16, as can UMD. The non-class Knowledges will stop at 18 (Nature) and 19 (Religion). Ironically, this means that some of the skills she picked up later, like Stealth and Sense Motive, will wind up with more raw points, because she has

Now, of course, this is an Int-based character, in a high-powered game enough that an Int of 40 is actually reasonable. She has a /lot/ of skill ranks (her end-game cap, by my projections, is 360). But there's little enough difference between this and the Cavalier who only has four skill ranks for life; the latter is just a more boring example of what you can do by plotting things out compared to the more complex character. But the process is the same: pick your primary skills, identify their DCs, drop the minimum necessary points into secondary skills, collect new primary skills as needed.


So from what I understand the three categories are fixed DC, opposed skill, and opposed (other).

Fixed DC is easy, put points until you get whatever DC you're going for. Handle animal is a good example here, you want enough to consistently train (with take 10) and push (probably requires a roll since it's usually in combat). You don't have to rush (skill focus, traits) if you think the campaign will give you time to reach the level you want. Same for +19 Ride so it works on a 1, or +19 UMD to use wands consistently. Some things are "fixed" by virtue of having a maximum (DC 37 for 9th level scrolls).

Opposed skills we can, at best, estimate maximums and minimums.
At level 5 facing an equal level classed opponent, you need at least 5 (ranks) + 3 (class skill) + 0 (stat). That's +8. That's a humanoid with no bonuses who maxed it. Fey could have up to 8 HD at that level for minimum +11. Reasonable maximums are probably 5 (ranks) +3 (class skill) + 5 (stat) + 3 (skill focus) + 5 (competence item) +2 (1/2 level special ability) +2 (trait). That's +25. Special exception for stealth which can get an easy +4-8 size and +4 race. Level 10 upgrades skill focus, probably adds 1 to the stat, changes the competence item to +10. So minimum +13, maximum +37. Level 15 stat goes up 2, competence item is +15. So minimum +18, maximum +46.

So for totals:


  • Level 5: 8-25
  • Level 10: 13-37
  • Level 15: 18-46

These are really rough estimates, as pointed out you can get easy bonuses for stealth (invisible mosquito assassin, automatic +16 size and +20 invisibility). There's probably other item types (luck, morale, etc.) and many monsters get racial bonuses (T-rex has +8 perception).

You want to be within 10 of the maximum if you want to make sure you always have a chance to succeed, for the most part that gives you good odds to succeed against the minimum.

Opposed (other) is just too complicated to cover reliably. The big one is Acrobatics versus CMD. The short answer is that everything has more HD than CR, and so everything with full BAB will have more BAB than you have ranks. This means your extra bonuses (including class skill bonus and stat) have to be higher than their Str + Dex + Misc. The big offender here is Outsiders, who tend to be monsters stat-wise. CR 5 demons have 17/16 Str/Dex, devils are 19/15. CR 10s have 22/13, 29/15, and 17/25. That one's not even a combat devil. Only CR 15 is a demon at 22/23, CR 16s are 35/19, 24/23, and 31/27. Anything else that gets a huge Str or Dex also has some silly high CMD. However more Acrobatics is always helpful as it lets you move full speed and through their square, so that one's just an "always max". For practical maximums, moving through a pit fiend's square at full speed on iced rubble at a 45 degree angle in an earthquake across a balance beam is 5+53+10+5+5+5+10+5 for a total of DC 98.


These are all by RAW. YMMV based on GM and Circumstantial modifiers he/she invokes.

Since your new, taking 10 means you are considered to roll a 10 on the dice, which cuts your ranks needed down by 9 if you want to guarantee success everytime. For instance, if you have 10 ranks in appraise, you can take 10 to hit 20. If you have 10 in Swim, and your in stormy water with a DC 20, you have to roll a D20 and add it to it, which means you have a 45% chance of failure.

Acrobatics: No Limit, Always Useful

Appraise: A DC 35 will let you find the most expensive item in a pile of loot (a huge pile) and tell if its magical. There is no DC higher than this. This seems extremely circumstantial though and DC 20 tells you the value of an item, and detect magic if its magical. Therefor, unless sneaking in and out of dragon hoards, +10 is the most you'd need, then just take 10 outside of combat. Most GM's never even use appraise (I do but I'm weird).

Bluff: No Limit, Always Useful.

Climb: Generally 1 rank(if a class skill) and forget it. For very specific campaigns (like if there is no magical flight, or you spend all your time underground and want better maneuverability) it may become more useful. The highest DC by raw is 35, but you can double your movement rate by taking a -5 on the check (so DC 40 really). Since this may be a skill you have to use in combat, if you can't take 10 it COULD go all the way to 39.

Craft: No limit, but if your gm uses RAW crafting rules your better off not crafting.

Diplomacy: No Limit, Always Useful. DC's can get very high depending on how much aid you need. If you can hit 50 you can make hostile sorcerers reveal state secrets though, so not bad!

Disabel Device: No Limit, Always Useful. I have seen DC's in the 50's, though by raw its really hard to get over 40 (50 if you are somehow deprived lockpicks).

Disguise: No Limit, Always Useful - Note though, only when its useful, which is a very small number of campaigns.

Escape Artist: No limit if its gonna be your get out of grapple card, or if you get tied up or locked up a lot. Otherwise, not all that useful.

Fly: By RAW it looks like the highest DC is 25, but you can take up to a 16 point penalty on it, boosting that to 41. Depending on how you get your fly speed you may get a bonus (like the Fly spell is good, so you have a +4 while using it). Since you often can't take 10 because of combat having a 40, while probably overkill, pretty much guarantees success. Failing fly checks tend to suck pretty badly.

Handle Animal: Pushing an animal is DC 25. You get a +4 if its for your animal companion, and probably can't take 10 when pushing him(due to combat). So a +20 for your Animal companion isn't ridiculous, but if you have most the tricks you only need to consistently hit DC 10. If you want to rear wild animals taking it higher is probably a good idea. HD is often much higher than CR. Most campaigns this is not really a factor though, but hey, yours may be an exception!

Heal: Highest DC is poison/disease DC. I believe the highest RAW DC's are right around 25-28. You can usually take 10 on this, so +15 can probably get you most the time.

Intimidate: No Limit, Always Useful, especially if using it to actually intimidate.

Knowledge's (Monster Lore): No Limit, Always Useful. More info is more better.

Knowledge's (Other): The highest DC I've ever seen by something published by Paizo was 45 or 50, but you can get most things with a 25 or 30, and can usually take 10 on these.

Linguistics: How many languages do you want? I believe people underestimate this skill because they say "theres always tongues." My problem with that is half the time the act of casting "tongues" initiates combat with those folks you just wanted to diplomacize with. I've seen this written in quite a few published materials where "if someone casts a spell the peaceful people who could help advance the plot attack," and its something I use as well in home games. If your forging stuff in an intrigue campaign you'd probably want high ranks, but overall not that useful.

Perception: Seriously, no limit. So good, all the time.

Perform: It only nets you tiny amounts of cash, but for bards no limit because of versatile performance.

Profession: Nearly worthless most the time, but occasionally something like Soldier or Sailor is really useful. Very campaign specific though, your GM should let you know if a profession will hold any real value (hopefully).

Ride: Riding bareback on an inappropriate mount the highest DC is 30. With only one of those its 25, and otherwise its 20. Often won't be able to take 10 on it. If you're using Mounted Combat, avoiding hits is good, so probably keep it maxed.

Sense Motive: Counter to bluff and intimidate to cause shaken. Can't be too high if your in the right campaign. If your GM loves dazzling display a good thing to keep maxed.

Sleight of Hand: Can never be too high, but it tends to be very dangerous and not particularly useful most the time (this coming from someone who has a few characters with this maxed.)

Spellcraft: Highest RAW DC is 29, which you'd be able to take 10 on. If using it for crafting there could be higher DC, probably a DC 40 could craft nearly any item, and you can take 10 on craft checks.

Stealth: If its useful, it worth keeping maxed. If a class skill and you aren't using it, its worth putting 1 rank in anyway.

Survival: Highest RAW DC is 41, but some classes (ninja at least) can increase the DC even higher. My experience is tracking is pretty rare though and there is usually an alternate way to find what your looking for. I guess it could be a big help if you have to get to person in X amount of time before they get executed or something.

Swim: Highest RAW DC is 20, and you can't take 10 on it.

UMD: Highest RAW DC is 35, but you can't take 10 on it.

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