What is the goal of the new skill system?


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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Two remarks in advance:

1.) I have only read the system, and not played it so far. My observations are thus based on a theoretical approach.
2.) I have no objections to the consolidation of the skill list, nor to the separation of Perception as its own thing. I applaud both of these decisions.

With that in mind: I cannot discern what the point of the new skill mechanics is or what advantage the new system offers over the old one.
To explain, here are the main points of the new underlying system as I see them:

a.) Level of complexity
In PF1e, your overall expertise in a skill (measured as a chance of success in most cases) was influenced by the following factors:
- Your corresponding stat.
- The number of ranks you put into the skill (limited by level.)
- A bonus for a class skill (and a further bonus for skill focus.)
- (depending on what you wanted to do: If you were trained in the skill at all.)

In PF2e, we have:
- Your corresponding stat.
- Your level.
- A bonus for your proficiency rank. (limited by level and by whether it is a signature skill.)
- (depending on what you want to do: If you are trained in the skill at all.)
- (also depending on what you want to do: Possession of relevant skill feats.)

So, right off the bat I do not see any simplification. You might say that no longer getting to distribute skill ranks streamlines choices, but this is in fact more than made up for by having to make new choices about levels of training and skill feats.

b.) Relative importance of factors
Since all skills improve by the character's level, it is by far the most important factor in your overall proficiency. The effects of this are:
- Flattening of proficiencies across skills as you progress in level.
- Higher level characters outperforming lower level characters even in the latters' given professions. For example, a level 1, Strength 18 Barbarian who is trained in Athletics is worse at any typical feat of strength (grapping, breaking down doors etc.) than a level 8, Strengh 10 untrained Wizard.
It should be readily apparent that this is a step backward as far as verisimilitude is concerned.
(On a personal level I should mention that this is the exact same way D&D 4e changed from 3.x and this was one major reason for me to leave 4e behind.)

c.) Relevance and descriptive accuracy
This is closely related to the preceding point. If a Strength 10 character demonstrably performs better at all feats of strength than a Strength 18 character, then the numerical value for "Strength" has little worth as a descriptor.
Consider this: If we took the proficiency rank as the actual level of training in a given area of expertise and wanted to replace the level bonus by attribute increases, it would mean that every attribute would increase by 2 points every level. A level 5 character who started out with Strength 12 would have Strength 20. At level 10, Strength 30. And at level 20, Strength 50.
For purposes of checks, this is the same as the flat level bonus.

A related problem is the negligible numerical impact of proficiency ranks both between the different ranks and compared to character level. Not only is the difference between a "trained" user and a "master" a mere 10 percentage points (and thus irrelevant in ~90% of all practical cases), it is also much less relevant, again, than the character's level.
The effect is that the mechanical description "She is a master diplomat" simply does not correspond to the connotations such a description would indicate to a layman. It merely means she has a small bonus which may be easily offset by her overall level of experience or her basic attributes.

To summarize: In my opinion, for reasons I have just explained, the new skill system does not improve a.) ease of use (beyond the consolidation of the skill list), b.) verisimilitude or c.) accuracy of description. If any of these were design goals, I would argue that the new system does not meet them. If they were not, or if there were other design goals, I would like to know what they are.

Regards,

Wulfhelm


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I was going to post something to this effect myself, but you've covered it so well and so eloquently, that there's no need.

You even mention the similarity to 4e's skill system to which I had the same distaste for.

Like you I've only had a chance to read the playtest rules, but so far the skill system is the last major barrier to me adopting the game. (Well... Resonance still needs tweaking but they're working on that.)

In my estimation it's not too difficult of a fix either. Just remove (or greatly diminish) level as a factor, and add a greater bonus per proficiency rank. This might mean increasing the amount of skill training you receive per level as well, but I'd be a lot happier with that system than the current one.


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I think your problems are completely born from a misunderstanding of what the proficiency system is intended to do. The system doesn't seem to be set up correctly to there are still problems with it.

3.X and PF1e used a "how tall" system for checks. Basically what you could do with a skill was completely determined by how many points you had in a skill. The PF2e system is intended to be more a gatekeeping system than the "how tall" system you are examining it as.

From what I can tell, effects of a skill check and what skill checks you can attempt should be based on the level of proficiency. The various levels of proficiency are supposed to determine what you can do while level, ability and proficiency determine chance of success.

A level 8 untrained Wizard might have a +6 bonus to Athletics checks compared to a level 1 trained Barbarian's +5 bonus to Athletics checks, but that dooesn't mean that the Wizard should be attempting to make every check that the Barbarian can attempt. The Wizard might have a better chance to succeed when making a check both can perform due to experience but the Wizard can not attempt any check that requires training, expertise, mastery or being legendary.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ultimatecalibur wrote:
A level 8 untrained Wizard might have a +6 bonus to Athletics checks compared to a level 1 trained Barbarian's +5 bonus to Athletics checks, but that dooesn't mean that the Wizard should be attempting to make every check that the Barbarian can attempt. The Wizard might have a better chance to succeed when making a check both can perform due to experience but the Wizard can not attempt any check that requires training, expertise, mastery or being legendary.

I agree. The gatekeeping is the most important part of this system. Because of that I would like to see very clear details on exactly what activities are 'gated' for the final product. Each Skill should have a specific list showing the gated actions. Very important list because it becomes 'anything not on this list is basically available for anyone to attempt.'

It would be bad form if future supplements added to the gated actions so they need to have this comprehensive from day one.


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Ultimatecalibur wrote:
I think your problems are completely born from a misunderstanding of what the proficiency system is intended to do. The system doesn't seem to be set up correctly to there are still problems with it.

No, I understand what it's meant to do, I just don't think A) that it's achieving that and, B) that what it's meant to do is particularly desirable.

Ultimatecalibur wrote:


A level 8 untrained Wizard might have a +6 bonus to Athletics checks compared to a level 1 trained Barbarian's +5 bonus to Athletics checks, but that dooesn't mean that the Wizard should be attempting to make every check that the Barbarian can attempt. The Wizard might have a better chance to succeed when making a check both can perform due to experience but the Wizard can not attempt any check that requires training, expertise, mastery or being legendary.

There's a couple of problems with this. The first, is that said Level 8 untrained wizard is still better at all of the things one can do untrained than the Barbarian who HAS trained in it. That, to me, is a huge hit to verisimilitude.

The second is that even if, as Githzilla called out, they are clear with what is gated and what isn't, and don't move the goal posts later on (which is a big ask of a company that makes it's money selling rule books) there is still the question of "why the hell can't I even attempt it?" Some of the very best gaming stories have been borne out of trying to do the thing that was nigh unto impossible and either pulling it off, or failing spectacularly. Gated skills means that doesn't happen with skills anymore. Frankly, this too, is a knock on verisimilitude. If something is hard it should be more difficult to achieve for an untrained person, not be impossible for them to attempt.


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ZeroPathos wrote:


There's a couple of problems with this. The first, is that said Level 8 untrained wizard is still better at all of the things one can do untrained than the Barbarian who HAS trained in it. That, to me, is a huge hit to verisimilitude.

Then the real world should give you conniption fits for constantly breaking verisimilitude. Experience is an incredible success modifier even without training.

The level 1 Barbarian is the equivalent of a highschool (American) football player while the 8th level Wizard is the equivalent of his or her highschool science teacher.

Both can open a stuck door but the teachers experience usually lets them get the stuck door open easier.

Quote:


The second is that even if, as Githzilla called out, they are clear with what is gated and what isn't, and don't move the goal posts later on (which is a big ask of a company that makes it's money selling rule books) there is still the question of "why the hell can't I even attempt it?" Some of the very best gaming stories have been borne out of trying to do the thing that was nigh unto impossible and either pulling it off, or failing spectacularly.

And many of those very same stories are considered the stupidest things that GMs have let happen due to 5% or 10% chances of super success/failure.

Quote:
Gated skills means that doesn't happen with skills anymore. Frankly, this too, is a knock on verisimilitude. If something is hard it should be more difficult to achieve for an untrained person, not be impossible for them to attempt.

I'm of the mind that the standard success results for most skill checks should be the something like following:

Critical Success- You succeed getting a result for the proficiency tier 1 higher than your own proficiency level
Success- You succeed getting a result for your proficiency tier
Failure- You succeed getting a result for one tier lower than your proficiency tier
Critical Failure-You succeed getting a result two tiers lower than your proficiency tier


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So "skill uses gated by proficiency" is not new, since PF1 had several things you could not roll on without ranks in the appropriate skill (e.g. knowledge checks above DC 10.) We've simply expanded on that system for PF2, so it should be familiar.

Skill feats, I feel, exist to allow someone to differentiate between different aspects of a given skill, in terms of what a character is good at. So if you wanted a deceptive character to be a great liar but only average at disguise, you could take lying feats instead of disguise feats. If you want to be excellent at picking locks and disabling traps, but don't want to also be a pickpocket simply eschew the pickpocketing feats. I figure this will be clearer as time goes on and we have more skill feats representing more things one can do with their skills.


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Ultimatecalibur wrote:


The level 1 Barbarian is the equivalent of a highschool (American) football player while the 8th level Wizard is the equivalent of his or her highschool science teacher.

Both can open a stuck door but the teachers experience usually lets them get the stuck door open easier.

If there was any experience needed in body checking open a door, the footballer would still have the edge 99 times out of 100. There really isn't though. If this is actually the case where you grew up I feel really bad for your highschool's football team.

But let's reverse things there. Let's say we have a 20 year old undergrad student in chemistry and say a 50 year old successful stock broker with no formal training in chemistry. Are you honestly trying to tell me that simply by virtue of their "experience" the stock broker should be better at chemistry than the undergrad?

Furthermore would that same grad student be a better at athletics than the highschool footballer simply by virtue of her experience?

Ultimatecalibur wrote:


And many of those very same stories are considered the stupidest things that GMs have let happen due to 5% or 10% chances of super success/failure.

In my experience when that happens it's the fault of the GM letting something that should actually be impossible still have a 5% chance of success. Regardless of your acrobatics skill "I flap my arms really fast and try to fly" should still fail.

Ultimatecalibur wrote:


I'm of the mind that the standard success results for most skill checks should be the something like following:

Critical Success- You succeed getting a result for the proficiency tier 1 higher than your own proficiency level
Success- You succeed getting a result for your proficiency tier
Failure- You succeed getting a result for one tier lower than your proficiency tier
Critical Failure-You succeed getting a result...

I've seen in real life people with no experience pull off (once) things that experts struggle to achieve, and I've seen experts screw up things that they should be able to do with ease. Both these extremes should be rare, but not impossible. The tiers you suggest don't allow for an expert to fail at something that is one tier below their proficiency without it being a critical fail, and a novice can only get one tier above. It's better than not being able to attempt one tier above at all, but still doesn't go far enough.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
So "skill uses gated by proficiency" is not new, since PF1 had several things you could not roll on without ranks in the appropriate skill (e.g. knowledge checks above DC 10.) We've simply expanded on that system for PF2, so it should be familiar.

There's a big difference between "You've never studied that at all so there's zero chance you'd know" and "doing a back flip is hard so you can't even attempt it."

PossibleCabbage wrote:


Skill feats, I feel, exist to allow someone to differentiate between different aspects of a given skill, in terms of what a character is good at. So if you wanted a deceptive character to be a great liar but only average at disguise, you could take lying feats instead of disguise feats. If you want to be excellent at picking locks and disabling traps, but don't want to also be a pickpocket simply eschew the pickpocketing feats. I figure this will be clearer as time goes on and we have more skill feats representing more things one can do with their skills.

But what if I want to play a great liar who was absolute crap at disguise? What if I want to play a pickpocket who couldn't disarm a trap to save his life? Not that these are great examples because of the skill merges (that's a whole separate issue for another thread that someone else can start. I really don't care as much about that).

A better example of what's affected here is what if I want to play someone started out as a pickpocket, but gave it up, never got any better at it because they focused on other things, why should I get better at picking pockets because I got better at swinging an axe, or studying a religion?


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

The main problem I'm having with the skill system is the Feats. I like the idea of having mastery of a skill gated by a feat, or by level, or by rank. That makes sense in a way.
Having mastery of a skill gated by several feats, to the point that a 7th level character is only taking one skill's feats seems excessive.
Shouldn't it be possible for a character to be good at more than one thing? Couldn't I reasonably expect to Jump and Intimidate, without needing twice my levels allotment of feats to be capable of the range of abilities?
Why not "Jump Mastery" and "Intimidate Mastery" which simply unlock additional skill uses, while the effectiveness of the skill is gated by what level it's trained to?

Liberty's Edge

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For armwrestling, you can still used opposed strength checks. For busting down a door, you could use hardness/dents (body slam damage + strength modifier - anyone can probably jury rig how much more blunt damage a solid shoulder would do than a fist). Skills are for abstractly achieving a goal in which expertise plays a big part.

If you've ever sparred with a really old martial arts instructor, you can appreciate what practice and experience can do.

I like the magnitudes of proficiency stacked with level. We always had Feats, Features, and Gear to modify skills, and this system is just different - a high level adventuring character is gaining very wide-spread experience that applies to many tasks. Sometime though, specific knowledge is irreplaceable, so specific Lore, Feat, or Feature is required. I think that the system will work best if NPCs are not locked to follow PC rules for advancement, that a every-day-job life is different, focusing skills in only certain areas.

However, these aren't answering the post's question - what is the goal? The goal appears to be to emphasize character level, and in special circumstances, use character choice (proficiency magnitude or feats). Having specific Skill Feats is a great idea - every character picks some things to get better at, and doesn't do so at the loss of a class feat (or general feat). The goal, in streamlining, appears to be to avoid the book-keeping of skill points, and add another dimension - proficiency magnitude.


The goal of any system that includes critical failures for walking down the street is slapstick.


I'm not a fan of the "+level" skill system either, for reasons others have already discussed ad nauseum, but as far as an alternative, what about something like:

Untrained: +0
Trained: +0 + (Level/5) (round up)
Expert: +1 + (Level/4) (round up)
Master: +2 + (Level/3) (round up)
Legendary: +3 + (Level/2) (round up)

This addresses the "untrained yet amazingly good" phenomenon while maintaining steady growth in any skill you've decided to devote any effort to and keeping the range somewhat reasonable (at least between trained and legendary, where the max separation is 9 at level 20) while still meaningfully differentiating between levels of proficiency.

Admittedly, there's a bit more math/complexity, enough to eliminate any gains on that front that the 2e system may make over 1e, though it does still lend itself to gated feats/actions and reduce skill point micromanagement.


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I would remove +1/lvl treadmill.

Then:

Skills at: +0,+4,+7,+9 and +10 proficiency bonus.

Attack/AC/spell DC bonus at: +0,+2,+4,+6,+7 and +8,


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Yeah, count me as also against the idea of using skills to gate characters from being able to attempt things. That feels like a corner case (there are things that are impossible to try if you aren't trained, but it certainly isn't like that for everything, and I for one am more willing to tolerate a setting that lets you try anything than one that forces you to consult a master list every time you try and do a thing to see whether or not you can roll to try).

Likewise the idea that you get more bonus to your skills from level than you do from training leads to all sorts of preposterous situations that really make me think the skill system needs to be rethought completely. Don't get me wrong--P1 was awful in that regard. I dreaded having to pick through that big skill to spend my pile of skill points every level. It felt like the most pointless kind of paperwork. But ultimately there was a sense that your character was constantly growing, and it did genuinely reflect the things your character knew how to do or not, which the new system doesn't.

Additionally I'd really like to second the complaints about skill feats. Having dealt with them in the playtest for a few weeks they remind me of 4e's powers in a bad way. Many of them feel like things that characters should just be able to do without taking a special feat and often the mechanics behind them don't accurately reflect the ability they describe, instead giving you some little dice trick you can do.


Igor Horvat wrote:

I would remove +1/lvl treadmill.

Then:

Skills at: +0,+4,+7,+9 and +10 proficiency bonus.

Attack/AC/spell DC bonus at: +0,+2,+4,+6,+7 and +8,

I'd do something similar, although for skills I'd go with something like:

+0, +3, +5, +7, +10
Just so fully investing in a skill gets you a big bump and feels worth that last expenditure.

I am curious as to the reasoning behind why you chose the progression you did though. Maybe you've thought of something I haven't.


ZeroPathos wrote:
Igor Horvat wrote:

I would remove +1/lvl treadmill.

Then:

Skills at: +0,+4,+7,+9 and +10 proficiency bonus.

Attack/AC/spell DC bonus at: +0,+2,+4,+6,+7 and +8,

I'd do something similar, although for skills I'd go with something like:

+0, +3, +5, +7, +10
Just so fully investing in a skill gets you a big bump and feels worth that last expenditure.

I am curious as to the reasoning behind why you chose the progression you did though. Maybe you've thought of something I haven't.

I went for reduced bonuses later as it describes that more you invest in one field, more work you need to put in to have and increase of performance.

It also promotes general skill training instead of few focused.

I.E. for 4 skill trainings

you could have one skill at +10

one skill at +9, other at +4(total bonus of +13)

two skills at +7 (total of +14)

four skills at +4 (total of +16)


Igor Horvat wrote:


I went for reduced bonuses later as it describes that more you invest in one field, more work you need to put in to have and increase of performance.

I like (and more importantly, agree) with you on where you're coming from on that, the issue I see with it though is that there isn't a lot of incentive to take that last skill level since all it gets you is a measly +1. You also want the people who have risen to the top of their field be more consistently able to do things that even folks one tier below struggle with, which +1 doesn't really reflect.

Not sure how I'd fix it though. You could have that last level gain you more, but cost 2 skill slots to buy. That's a solution I'd be happy with, but it would add an extra layer of book-keeping to the skill system, which I suspect is what the developers were trying to avoid with the existing system.


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ZeroPathos wrote:
But let's reverse things there. Let's say we have a 20 year old undergrad student in chemistry and say a 50 year old successful stock broker with no formal training in chemistry. Are you honestly trying to tell me that simply by virtue of their "experience" the stock broker should be better at chemistry than the undergrad?

Let’s look at this...

The 20 year old chemistry undergrad would be traind in Crafting (alchemy)
-he could craft alchemical items he has formulas of.
-he can repair alchemical items (but has only limited experience in ways to do it)

The 50 year old stock broker would be untraind in Crafting (alchemy)
-he cannot craft any alchemical items.
-he can repair alchemical items (has 30 years in seeing and hearing ways to fix things)

So let’s look at an alchemical item...

ALCOHOL (Rum)

The undergrad could craft a batch of Rum, and if it later it was damaged he could repair it (“we need to add more molasses”).

The stock broker can only repair it (we could add more molasses, we could add more sugar, we could add more sugarcane juice...)


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Dr Styx wrote:


The undergrad could craft a batch of Rum, and if it later it was damaged he could repair it (“we need to add more molasses”).

The stock broker can only repair it (we could add more molasses, we could add more sugar, we could add more sugarcane juice...)

This misses the key issue; Which is that the 50 year old stock broker can "repair" the rum better than the undergrad can despite having no idea how to "craft" rum in the first place and the undergrad having training in that specific skill.

And hell, let's kick it up a notch. The Undergrad graduates and becomes a Grad student (Expert). The Stock broker takes a a learning annex course in chemistry (Trained) The Stockbroker can now craft better chemicals than the than the Grad student simply by virtue of his "levels" in Stockbroker.

And if one can "repair" an alchemical item why the hell shouldn't one be able to attempt to craft it? They clearly know what the end result should be, and what each of the ingredients are otherwise they wouldn't be able to "repair" it. The gating there is arbitrary, and limits what one should reasonably be able to attempt, just at a higher level of difficulty than one who has actually studied the skill.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I don't think the proficiency bonus (untrained, trained, expert, master, legendary) has to be a gating factor in every situation. I think it is meant to provide a structure that is easy to grasp and utilize.

For example, many of the skills with untrained actions are things you could easily attempt just by watching someone else demonstrate it, but you'd probably be terrible against a level appropriate DC if you aren't proficient. But as you age and gain experience, you could trip a low level goblin that runs past you, but would fail rather spectacularly if that was a red mantis of your level running by.

For those skills with little untrained uses, it seems represent that this action is "harder than it looks" and you are lacking some key piece of knowledge and training to make the attempt.

In addition, having these ranks defined and applied to all skills gives the GM a little bit of flexibility such that a character with proper equipment/tools/environment and also getting coached by someone with the correct proficiency level might have a slim chance at success so you add a penalty to the check and relax the gatekeeping.

As for the constant growth per level, I think we want to see experience matter, even in broad skills, because much like real life, people pick up lots of skills in life just by living and dealing with problems. I'm not much of a mechanic, but I've had help and done enough repairs that I have a slight chance of success provided I have the tools despite not being formally trained in auto repair.

There really isn't a lot of options for representing that general organic growth without constantly revising DC's down as PCs level up, or constantly increasing checks. Maybe less than one per level seems more palatable, but I like the math being simple with whole numbers.


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Zamfield wrote:
For example, many of the skills with untrained actions are things you could easily attempt just by watching someone else demonstrate it, but you'd probably be terrible against a level appropriate DC if you aren't proficient. But as you age and gain experience, you could trip a low level goblin that runs past you, but would fail rather spectacularly if that was a red mantis of your level running by.

I wouldn't have an issue with the system if it's execution resulted in in what you're describing. Unfortunately, in the system's current iteration you would be at only a slight disadvantage when it came to tripping the red mantis, since the difference between being untrained and being a master is greatly overshadowed by your level.

IMO the different training levels should gate how much experience applies. Where you get to add your level to all skills but only up to a certain amount based on your rank. Something like

Untrained = +lvl upto 5
trained = +lvl upto 10
expert = +lvl upto 15
master = +lvl upto 20
legendary = +lvl no cap

This kind of scale would allow characters to "pick up skills" from just general experience, while reflecting that casual experience alone will only get you so far. The amateur and the professional might carry out the same task (and therefore have the same experience) but while the experience becomes an "ah hah" moment for the professional it just comes across to the amateur as being harder for some reason that they can't understand.


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LordKailas: That might actually work out really well. Good thoughts.


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They pretty much borrowed most of the skill system from Stars Without Number but left out the most important detail.

Proficiency ranks worked really well in SWN even with small bonuses because players rolled 2d6 for skills instead of 1d20.

With 1d20 you have 20 possible results that each correspond with 1 "total". Your chance of rolling a 1 is the same as your chance of rolling a 14 or a 20.

2d6 has 36 possible results, but those results only create 11 "totals". Those 36 possible outcomes aren't distributed evenly across all possible totals, you actually have a 66% chance of rolling 5,6,7,8, or 9. That's double the chance that you roll a 2,3,4,10,11, or 12.

A bonus of +3 feels a LOT bigger than a +1 on a 2d6 roll, but the difference is barely noticeable (outside of a large sample size) on a 1d20.

They couldn't even steal someone else's idea correctly. They borrowed the proficiency ranks, then removed the mechanic that underpinned that skill system's success. Tight math doesn't work very well when your die roll is as random as a d20. It turns the game into a series of slightly weighted coin flips.


LordKailas wrote:


This kind of scale would allow characters to "pick up skills" from just general experience, while reflecting that casual experience alone will only get you so far. The amateur and the professional might carry out the same task (and therefore have the same experience) but while the experience becomes an "ah hah" moment for the professional it just comes across to the amateur as being harder for some reason that they can't understand.

I could get on board with something like this. Life experience counts for something, but not as important as specific training in a skill.


I like the new skill system. It's much cleaner to create characters with it. I understand why to cut out signature skills on errata, but I think it's a mistake. I even agree the system works better whitout them, but for execution issues. They are a great idea and shouldn't be discarded all together. A solution would be sugest signature skills, using favored skills logic. The class creation table would list a favored/signature skills list, all trained at level 1 (plus Int mod skills at player discretion). Then, evolution takes any direction pointed by player will, up to master or espert. Within favored skills the player selects her signature skills to achieve legendary tier. So they would get signature skills for free at lvl 1, and use signature skills from start.
That sayed there is one other thing. I think the TEML needs adjustments. Even though it's based on your level, I feel a +2 improvement per lvl would be a more solid math at higher levels, at least in comparison to the chalenge table by level.

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