Observation / Theory about skills "proficiencies"


Prerelease Discussion


So, a lot of people see rather concerned about the usage of the term, and apparently mechanics, of "skill proficiencies" that sound similar to 5e. Personally, I find that to be one of my least favorite design choices from 5e. That being said, reading some of the faqs and listening to the preview podcast, I'm feeling a bit better about the sound of this version.

First of all, they have been demonstrated to be slightly more complex, with "trained" as well as "expert", offering an additional plus 1.

Now, with mention of "master" quality weapons, I believe that there are additional proficiencies.

Also, with the mention of "skill feats", I feel like this may replace skill ranks to some extent. It is possible that you gain skill feats at a set rate based on class.

If this is true, it certainly sets aside some of my fears for skills. Thoughts?


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From personal experience, I found in my early 3.5 days, I ended up just picking X skills and dumping all my points in them every level, so D&D 5e's system didn't bother me horribly.

However, as I've played more diverse characters, that kind of system can be very limiting. I have a "know it all" Divination wizard with every knowledge skill trained at least minimally, diversifying with more points and study into creatures she sees often, or effects she needs to potentially counter.

For me, it will really depend on how uses for skills change. If you get a lot more out of each skill, then I've little real issue with a tier-based skill system, and perhaps limited selections every couple levels similar to feats. If they stay as they are though for use, I would prefer a more liberal system to offer minimal investment on skills I only want a point in for the sake of using.


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Their comments about the skill system concerned me. Obviously, we don't have any details, but I'm not really a fan of connecting skill rolls to a character's level.

If you run a game where the DCs escalate with level, then this approach kind of makes sense. 20th level rogues face 20th level traps, so to speak.

But not every GM runs that way and certainly not every player thinks that way. I much prefer characters that broaden their skills as they level. Throwing +30 on a skill check is nice if you want a Sage, or other kind of specialist. But many characters just want to be proficient in many things. Isn't Swim +5 enough for folks who just want to swim? Isn't +10 enough for a craftsman to make a Masterwork item?

At the same time, there are players at the table who don't want all of the choices each level, so picking skills once and adding character level is certainly appealing to them.

So I come down to the notion that both approaches should be supported in the rules, even if the spending of skill points is considered an optional rule. That way Hero Lab will support it, which is what I really buy anyways -- not books so much anymore, but data sets.

Regarding skill feats, those have generally been a large waste of print over the years...

There are dozens of Feats that add +2 to two different skills. Why not just one generic Feat that let you pick two skills to get that bonus?

Also, why +2? Its not enough of a bonus for players to want to take it. Couldn't it also make those skills a class skill for the character?

Also, why not let each class have a couple of skills they get to choose to be class skills? Then players can adjust things to fit their character conceptions a little.

Overall, some classes get too few skill points. One game I play in adds 5 skill points to each character per level. That works out great, though maybe 2-3 would be more ideal. You could even make it part of the Ancestry ... give each character a Profession or Craft plus two skills to elect to be proficient in.


Apparently the notion of "pick skills once" is not part of the design.

http://paizo.com/community/blog/v5748dyo5lkl9&page=11?First-Look-at-the -Pathfinder-Playtest#503

The devil will be in the details.


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I would hope that a skill feat is more some specific trick that you unlock for reaching a certain rank in a skill rather than one that adds a flat bonus to skills.

Something like a knowledge feat that let you add your knowledge proficiency to damage against monsters you've identified or to use it to lower their damage resistance or spell resistance. That seems more interesting.


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A big problem with the current skill system is that there is too wide a spread in skill bonuses. At level ten, a character can have a skill bonus from -1 to +30 or more in a skill when using buffs. But I feel the problem here is in the buffs, not in the spread itself. A spread of 10 really is needed to make a roll against a static 10 + opponent's skill check reliable, and skills like Stealth need to be reliable or they get you killed pretty fast. A spread of -1 to +3 is too small against a static DC. It works better with an opposed roll, that introduces a bell curve (really a pyramid) probability distribution. This makes a small margin of skill is much more important.

Another problem from 4E that I fear for PF2 is the tendency that your class attribute is totally dominant in determining your skill. If ability scores work like Starfinder, having an 18 in a main stat is all but obligatory, and you will enhance your main stat every chance you get. Your secondary attributes do advance significantly (unlike 4E), but its still likely that the only ones that will ever be good at Charisma skills will be classes with Charisma as their main ability, and so on for all the ability scores.


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There is an issue I've seen in Society play that would be exacerbated by skill proficiencies - DCs for the same task scaling with level for no reason (I'm not talking about a higher-level trap having a higher-level DC, but things like the perception check to find the plot letter is higher just because they're higher level).

If that's going to happen with leveling, they may as well just change the whole system to having three levels of proficiency in a skill/save/weapon attack - success on 15 on the die, success on a 10 with the die, and success with 5 on the die, with which category you get for each skill/etc being dictated by your class options.


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TheFlyingPhoton wrote:

There is an issue I've seen in Society play that would be exacerbated by skill proficiencies - DCs for the same task scaling with level for no reason (I'm not talking about a higher-level trap having a higher-level DC, but things like the perception check to find the plot letter is higher just because they're higher level).

If that's going to happen with leveling, they may as well just change the whole system to having three levels of proficiency in a skill/save/weapon attack - success on 15 on the die, success on a 10 with the die, and success with 5 on the die, with which category you get for each skill/etc being dictated by your class options.

THIS is exactly my problem. The design decision is obvious all throughout 5e and 4e as well. When you hear 'streamlined design' and 'simplified skills' this has been what's been on the table the entire time. Why did jumping that pit get harder? Am I not higher level? Can I not jump further now? Why did climbing get harder? Am I not a total wombat hero not unlike Batman?

I don't want coin-flip challenges, I want challenges with nuance based on my skill. My Warlock is freaking Iron Man; when I roll for Engineering or Nobility or Spellcraft or Arcana I am all but guaranteed to succeed. The difficulties for those tasks are usually fairly trivial unless I need to know something astronomically difficult, because at Level 7 I've specialized in those abilities... and let's not get into the +21 I'm running on Craft: Armor or Craft: Weapons.

But I'm unlikely, even trained, to be able to flip past my opponents anymore. That skill has lagged behind since Level 3. And I still don't have Know: Religion, Nature, or Planes, despite my high Int score. I can sort of ride, because it's a leisure activity for my Social Persona, and for the same reason I have Perform: Dance and Appraise trained. Once you lock us into these 'simplified systems' where the DC is always "Fourteen plus your level" you've removed our ability to be specialists, and to be special. It's the same issue I had with 'escalating DCs to make your training rolls in this organization mean unless you take a feat to specialize this skill you will always have a 70% chance of failure'.

Level should NEVER be a factor in the DC of your check, unless it's based on Caster Level.


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I don't really think the bonus is the problem with the 5e skill system*. Its that the 5e system is entirely vague and it isn't ever made clear what skills do, or what happens on success or failure. There is a vague general DC chart buried in the midst of the DMG, and that's about it.

With clear write-ups and clear effects of skill rolls for each skill, PF2 would avoid the real problems of the 5e skill system.

And really, they need to do something. The 3rd edition skill system had a lot of problems, most of which weren't addressed by PF beyond squishing (too few) skills together. The +3 bonus for a class skill instead of 4x skill points at level one certainly didn't cut it.

The big problem is background details like profession:baker aren't the same game as 'sneak to ambush,' 'evade an ambush' or 'use a magic power that isn't yours.' Its a cute detail, but isn't a character resource in the same way.

Shadowrun 4 had a useful pool of points for background details like that- they were related to skills, but were there to flesh out the character concept, not provide real character power.

*though I agree, DC scaling and inflation is weird and inappropriate. It gives the sense that you aren't progressing, just treading water.


I believe that there is a space between 5e and what we have now that might be more interesting. I don't like 5e's skills, but I can see some merit to their design. If they were built into a more complex and variable system, I could see something good here.

And Voss, I agree with you on the gap between certain skills. I really liked the background skill system in Unchained, but I wouldn't mind something a little more interesting.

Dark Archive

Diplomacy should be a scaling dc though since by raw, diplomacy check with demigod wouldn't be much harder than diplomacy check with a dragon if they don't have absurdly good charisma :P

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm a little surprised by the concern over level = skill; I've only been playing for a little over a year, so bear that in mind, but most people I play with choose the same skills to rank up every level, essentially leaving their skill ranks be equal to their level. Is this not commonplace?


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Derry L. Zimeye wrote:
I'm a little surprised by the concern over level = skill; I've only been playing for a little over a year, so bear that in mind, but most people I play with choose the same skills to rank up every level, essentially leaving their skill ranks be equal to their level. Is this not commonplace?

There are a lot of skills where it can be useful to just dip a few points in rather than invest wholly; a rank or two in climb/swim can be the difference between breezing past simple environmental encounters or making yourself look silly. Knowledge skills are another one, I usually try to put at least one point in every knowledge skill I have as a class skill unless I happen to be dumping Int with this character.


For me the move to this kind of system is one of the things which draws me more towards it.

I've long hated the 3.X / Pathfinder skill system because of how quickly it breaks and how little the characters base power has to do with that.

From what I have heard/read so far this seems close to Star Wars Saga style skills which I was really okay with (I've not read 5E rules for skills but probably should).

The biggest issue I had with the Saga system was the lack of ways to pick up skills outside your class, meaning making that Fighter who was well versed in Arcane knowledge (their father was a wizard, they sucked at magic)becomes hard if there is no way to make that skill trained/specialised etc.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Arachnofiend wrote:
Derry L. Zimeye wrote:
I'm a little surprised by the concern over level = skill; I've only been playing for a little over a year, so bear that in mind, but most people I play with choose the same skills to rank up every level, essentially leaving their skill ranks be equal to their level. Is this not commonplace?
There are a lot of skills where it can be useful to just dip a few points in rather than invest wholly; a rank or two in climb/swim can be the difference between breezing past simple environmental encounters or making yourself look silly. Knowledge skills are another one, I usually try to put at least one point in every knowledge skill I have as a class skill unless I happen to be dumping Int with this character.

Right, that clears it up. I'd never even considered that before, and now I have to admit that disabling even that small level of customisation seems like a waste. Maybe even a small fix, like a feat (since they're getting changed up all over the place!) to allow for those dips could be worth investigating?


CorvusMask wrote:
Diplomacy should be a scaling dc though since by raw, diplomacy check with demigod wouldn't be much harder than diplomacy check with a dragon if they don't have absurdly good charisma :P

No dc will be scaling per se, but PCs will generally be trying more difficult things. For example higher level PCs will often be trying diplomacy against stronger willed high level people. So in a sense there is scaling - but it’s scaling in what is tried. The dcs go u because you are trying to jump fifteen foot pits instead of ten, not because ten gets more difficult.


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Derry L. Zimeye wrote:
I'm a little surprised by the concern over level = skill; I've only been playing for a little over a year, so bear that in mind, but most people I play with choose the same skills to rank up every level, essentially leaving their skill ranks be equal to their level. Is this not commonplace?

I can't speak for every game, but "no" not here.

But, it depends on your game/GM. If you play only Adventure Paths then you can get away with your approach because the challenges always scale up with your level, you typically face combat-like challenges, and the rest of your party is generally available to help.

But, if you play in a game where characters continue to engage with the common world around them, and you sometimes are acting alone, then you're better off diversifying your skills. Characters do things like learn to swim, climb, and ride to a skill level of around +5. Other characters might develop a journeyman level of proficiency with crafting so they can repair weapons. None of these folks are interested in being "world-class" in those skills, just competent enough to tame the fickle d20 and avoid drowning in the mill's pond.


To me it sounds a lot like what they are calling "proficiencies" are essentially the consolidated skills + grouped skills from Unchained.


Were-wraith wrote:
To me it sounds a lot like what they are calling "proficiencies" are essentially the consolidated skills + grouped skills from Unchained.

Which would be unfortunate...


RDM42 wrote:
Were-wraith wrote:
To me it sounds a lot like what they are calling "proficiencies" are essentially the consolidated skills + grouped skills from Unchained.
Which would be unfortunate...

Sure, but it's way better than D&D 5e style proficiencies, which is what a lot of people are worried about.

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