Skill Proficiency and "Only" options


General Discussion


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I think one of the solutions to potentially making those with higher level proficiency feeling more meaningful compared to those without requiring them to create more Skill Feats could be to add more "Only" options that extend outside the "Trained Only".

I.E. Expert Only could provide a series of abilities that are only accessible to those that have achieved that proficiency, and cannot even realistically be attempted by those without it.

Some would argue that Skill Feats are supposed to fill this niche, which I would agree is the intended purpose, but to me that doesn't provide the satisfaction of achieving a new proficiency and suffers from choice limitation and is dependent on GM's presenting those opportunities regularly enough that they seem like meaningful choices.

Proposal: Move some of the Skill Feats that currently exist to automatic options for Skills for that respective tier (I.E. Expert/Master/Legendary Only actions) where those show progression in ability (Swift Sneak for instance could be one of these, where it simply becomes available to anyone who gains that level of proficiency)

But what about Skill Feats?

Skill Feats could then take on new aspects that are powerful, but perhaps limited. Some could remain as they are (Fascinating Performance could remain largely the same) and others could be added:

I.E.

Perfect Eclipse
Prerequisites: Master in Stealth
Cost: 1 Reaction
Description: On any turn in which you started with cover to an opponent, you can treat yourself as keeping cover until the start of your next turn for that opponent.

Now I wrote the above off the cuff, but it semi-fills the types of niche scenarios that I am talking about.

I think a lot of the issues with level bonus and proficiency feeling "empty" kind of live very close to the way Skills operate. AC/To Hit/etc. seem to be relatively tailored to a reasonable point, but it seems like even Paizo felt that Skills would need a slightly different treatment (which is where Skill Feats and Trained Only I imagine were created to compensate). I think isolating Skills from the Level Bonus discussion and what exactly can be done to resolve them specifically would be a better focus perhaps.

Happy gaming!

Shadow Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I'm going to agree. I like the idea you've expressed and was kind of hoping for more of this in the rules. Hopefully there will be more feedback of this type and we see this idea develop

Sovereign Court

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I kind of dislike the idea of artificially gating off uses of skills behind 'you must be X good at this to enter' signs. Trained/Untrained is fine and is about as far as I'd like it to go.

My preference is more towards the current system of using feats to unlock certain uses of skills - it gives the impression of learning new uses of a skill through some effort.

For instance: the Battle Medic feat. Anyone can use Medicine to save someone's life (aka the first aid action), but it takes proficiency AND some training to heal HP in the span of 1 action.

Personally, I feel like the lack of meaningful difference between the skill tiers is more a problem with the proficiency system than the present uses of skills.

That's just my thought on the matter.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I agree with the premise here. I have found myself looking at my skills to increase & not seeing much gain from becoming an expert, just a +1 which just lacks "wow factor".

This may just be a "more content" issue. I'd love to see a greater range of Skill Feats with proficiency prerequisites for each skill. They seem to have filled "Legendary" but not really given much love to trained/expert/master on many skills. Some skills have a good range of options, but others seem lacking and being a Master of those skills really just gives you +1.

I hope to see more options in the final rulebook on this, as currently skill advancements are very lacklustre unless you pick one of the skills that is actually fleshed out. For example Athletics and Deception both have a respectable set of core options. I'm sure splat-books will add more later but it'd be really good if every skill at least had 1-2 options at each tier.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I like this idea.

I can see the reasoning behind skill feats, but I'm not sure how clear it is at the start.

If I have a 20 int elf fighter with trained arcana and a 10 int goblin rogue with master arcana, in many ways the elf looks better (lvl +5 vs lvl + 2).
I realise that the skill feats are what makes the difference; the goblin can have feats that the elf simply doesn't qualify for. Until you've reached the point where you are putting feats into those characters though, this doesn't really show.

Having something in Core that says "Ah, but when you get to master arcana you can now do X" makes having master arcana in itself obviously better.

For balance reasons this might mean that if some skill feats just became options the number of skill feats might need to be reduced.

As a watered down version, it might also help if the table of proficiency vs available actions had "boosts" or something mentioned.
I know earning a living at Lore gets much better as proficiency goes up. Earning a living as available right at the start, and those boosts are sort of hidden.
e.g.
Simplistically if anyone can sneak, but different proficiencies improve it then you might add (in the various columns)
Untrained: Sneak (say with some restrictions)
Trained: Fast Sneak Sneak boost - only 1 action to sneak
Expert: Vanish Sneak boost, sneak as a reaction when not observed
Master: Where'd he go Sneak boost - when you make a distraction roll you sneak as a free action
Legendary: Plain Sight Sneak boost - you can sneak even when observed, but at -5
At the moment I think that would be written as one action with some quick text down the bottom. It could still be written that way in the rules, just suggesting putting it in the table makes it clearer that a higher proficiency is more than just a bigger number.


The Great Potato wrote:
I kind of dislike the idea of artificially gating off uses of skills behind 'you must be X good at this to enter' signs. Trained/Untrained is fine and is about as far as I'd like it to go.

I do kind of agree with your sentiment, which is why the "only" I chose for the premise was one where the speed at which you can perform a Sneak simply allows for faster movement.

Those would be the types of skill feats that you could simply move to "X Only".

A lot of the "trained only" Skill Feats could simply be moved into the "Expert Only" category, so think of them as "free" Skill Feats instead of gating abilities.

Quote:
For instance: the Battle Medic feat. Anyone can use Medicine to save someone's life (aka the first aid action), but it takes proficiency AND some training to heal HP in the span of 1 action.

I would argue that "training" could be quanitified simply by the proficiency level, however Battle Medic is actually one I would leave safely in the Skill Feat territory, as it is powerful, grants a significance to the skill that did not exist prior (rather than just a flat enhancement).

Quote:
Personally, I feel like the lack of meaningful difference between the skill tiers is more a problem with the proficiency system than the present uses of skills.

I agree.

Personally I would love if the Proficiency level for Weapons/AC/etc. all created outcomes like the above as well (possible X proficiency in a weapon upgrades a particular Weapon Trait, or allows you to add a weapon trait to a weapon that normally doesn't have it).

That said though, it probably might unbalance something, because the +level bonus to those attributes right now is very ingrained in the system at the moment.

My thinking was they've already set the premise of gating certain Skill actions by proficiency, so enhancing skills to be more "meaningful" differences could be resolved without hampering the other aspects of the proficiency system.

You've certainly made some good points though.


This is how it already works, they just told the GM to establish these gates.


Xenocrat wrote:
This is how it already works, they just told the GM to establish these gates.

It's not how it already works because there is a lot of overlap for Skill Feats making that not possible.

Quite literally "Swift Sneak" is not a gated ability because it is a Skill Feat which you must take.

Skill Feats should be reserved for significant additional benefits or advanced modifiers to an Skill.

Either way, establishing a precedent for at least one expert would give people more guidance.

Dark Archive

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The forum maintenance ate my post, but I agree with this.

I would say have skill feats give either new actions (Spell Thievery is a great example of this) or impossible abilities (Cat Fall is my favourite feat in this edition!). The boring stuff like Assurance, Defensive Climber, Terrain Stalker, and Steady Balance, should be either built into the skill by applying circumstance penalties or should be part of proficiency.

Eg.

With Trained Athletics you are no longer flat-footed while climbing. With Expert Athletics you can Climb with one hand. With Master Athletics you Climb at half speed on a success and at full speed on a critical success. At Legendary Athletics you gain a Climb speed.

Then add a feat that lets you Climb with no handholds by just punching your own into a surface. Or a feat that lets you carry ridiculous amounts while climbing. Give us something cool when we spend a feat.

Edit: If we move a bunch of these Athletics feats into just proficiency, there may not seem to be much left. So let's add more ridiculous stuff, like being able to run faster (10 ft expert, 20 ft master, 40 ft. legendary), or being able to run forever without getting tired. It's also interesting that there don't seem to be any Athletics feats for breaking things, tripping or grappling massive creatures, or being able to climb huge creatures you've grappled (okay, so that might not happen, but it would be awesome if it did).

Sovereign Court

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Mergy wrote:

I would say have skill feats give either new actions (Spell Thievery is a great example of this) or impossible abilities (Cat Fall is my favourite feat in this edition!). The boring stuff like Assurance, Defensive Climber, Terrain Stalker, and Steady Balance, should be either built into the skill by applying circumstance penalties or should be part of proficiency.

...

With Trained Athletics you are no longer flat-footed while climbing. With Expert Athletics you can Climb with one hand. With Master Athletics you Climb at half speed on a success and at full speed on a critical success. At Legendary Athletics you gain a Climb speed.

I see what you're getting at (and Cat Fall is indeed a really cool skill feat), though I still don't like gating certain uses of skills like that Athletics example does.

Unlocking more uses automatically at each tier:
- Gives players abilities they may not have intended to acquire. Someone who takes Athletics to boost their Grapple may not know their skill ranks also let them climb with one hand.
- Each skill-up automatically adds new rules and content for both the GM and players to keep track of. Imagine you were GMing a combat on a cliff-face where each player had different levels of skill in Athletics AND may not know the special climbing rules due to the above point.

Now, that Athletics example is a perfect example of an "impossible ability" like Cat Fall. I think getting all four abilities would be a worthy skill feat. (Not four, like the current version of the rules)


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Quote:
Each skill-up automatically adds new rules and content for both the GM and players to keep track of. Imagine you were GMing a combat on a cliff-face where each player had different levels of skill in Athletics AND may not know the special climbing rules due to the above point.

This is a good point, but I think maybe Mergy touched on the likely solution:

Changes to skills that comes with Proficiency should likely be passive boosts (i.e. Action reductions, action qualifiers reduced, speed increases, etc.)

That would keep Skill Feats squarely in the territory of "active changes" so the GM doesn't have to manage a bunch of different niche special actions, but allows players to feel significance in becoming a better proficiency.

Assurance is another good example of a "passive" benefit, as all the player would say is "Since I'm expert, I take 15 on this check instead of rolling." and the GM doesn't have to take issue with that.

They can break down the increases exactly as he did for Sneak, very similar to the layouts we're already used to in the "degrees of success", so there's already this familiarity with the formatting (and just like those tiers sometimes don't get increases, so too can be some Skill actions).

The only downside I can see to this is that Skills that have a lot of available action choices might seem like better choices for Proficiency increases, but that might not be such a bad thing.

Personally I have no problem with the Expert in Athletics becoming better at climbing, jumping, swimming, and also grappling because it fits thematically and in all honestly Grappling could potentially be one of the "being Expert grants nothing, but being Master does" situations I previously mentioned.

Dark Archive

The Great Potato wrote:

Unlocking more uses automatically at each tier:

- Gives players abilities they may not have intended to acquire. Someone who takes Athletics to boost their Grapple may not know their skill ranks also let them climb with one hand.
- Each skill-up automatically adds new rules and content for both the GM and players to keep track of. Imagine you were GMing a combat on a cliff-face where each player had different levels of skill in Athletics AND may not know the special climbing rules due to the above point.

You get so few Expert, Master, and Legendary skill increases, that I would put it on the player to know what their skill increases give them. The grapple example also makes perfect sense: improving your strength enough to pick someone up and pin them should (in a fantasy world at least) make you better at climbing as well. Heck, maybe you got into grappling shape by climbing a mountain.

The Great Potato wrote:

Now, that Athletics example is a perfect example of an "impossible ability" like Cat Fall. I think getting all four abilities would be a worthy skill feat. (Not four, like the current version of the rules)

Well, it's Acrobatics that provides that. The only impossible feats Athletics seems to give is that Wall Jumping one. Cool, but not as cool as surviving any fall.

Sovereign Court

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Mergy wrote:

You get so few Expert, Master, and Legendary skill increases, that I would put it on the player to know what their skill increases give them. The grapple example also makes perfect sense: improving your strength enough to pick someone up and pin them should (in a fantasy world at least) make you better at climbing as well. Heck, maybe you got into grappling shape by climbing a mountain.

The Great Potato wrote:
Now, that Athletics example is a perfect example of an "impossible ability" like Cat Fall. I think getting all four abilities would be a worthy skill feat.
Well, it's Acrobatics that provides that. The only impossible feats Athletics seems to give is that Wall Jumping one. Cool, but not as cool as surviving any fall.

Er, I should have said your Athletics example, the one where you combined the four Climb feats. And I'd say three of those four things are both very cool and also very impossible: climbing at your full movement speed with one hand and while fighting? Easily as cool as Cat Fall and probably better in a mechanical sense.

If we were just talking about increases to climb, then I'd agree about keeping track of your own abilities. There are plenty of places in the game where its reasonable to expect players to know their stuff. But climb is a single use of one of sixteen skills. If each of them had more than one use and each use has 3-4 passive benefits due to increased skill...that's ~96 separate rules to keep track which depending solely on skill level. (16 skills * assuming an average of 2 uses per skill * 3 passive increases, assuming Trained doesn't give you anything).

I'm speaking more for the GM's benefit here, but players seem to get somewhere between 15 and 25 skill increases, so that's still a solid number niche of rules that can be easily forgotten in the heat of combat.

I think we just fundamentally disagree with what a skill increase means to us. I believe being better at a skill should make it easier to accomplish tasks using that skill and that's really it. Skill feats are where you learn to accomplish those tasks with syle. Remember, each player gets a minimum of ten skill feats, which is a lot compared to PF1.

Speaking of PF1, first edition didn't give us many of these recommendations. If you could, would you also want them added there? Are you satisfied that skill differentiation in PF1 was primarily numerical?

MidnightToker wrote:
Assurance is another good example of a "passive" benefit, as all the player would say is "Since I'm expert, I take 15 on this check instead of rolling." and the GM doesn't have to take issue with that.

I really like this idea! If everyone got increasing levels of Assurance as they increased rank, that would be a tangible benefit that would be consistent across all skills. On top of it all, it would protect players from nat 1's on checks they know are trivial.


The Great Potatoe wrote:
If we were just talking about increases to climb, then I'd agree about keeping track of your own abilities. There are plenty of places in the game where its reasonable to expect players to know their stuff. But climb is a single use of one of sixteen skills. If each of them had more than one use and each use has 3-4 passive benefits due to increased skill...that's ~96 separate rules to keep track which depending solely on skill level. (16 skills * assuming an average of 2 uses per skill * 3 passive increases, assuming Trained doesn't give you anything).

You could definitely streamline this however with Traits being added to skills or simply applying consistency:

i.e. Climbing/Swimming/Sneak/Balance/Tumble could all passively gain full speed movement on Master proficiency. Call it the Trait "Swift" and then just have it read Master: This action gains the "Swift" Trait.

Then for skills like Intimidate/Diplomacy/Deception/Performance apply something akin to "Evasion" where even on a Critical Failure, you only treat it as a Failure or you treat all Successes as Critical Successes. Call it the Trait "Commanding" or something in that vein.

You could also do a trait for Action reductions (i.e. Mergy's suggestion for Sneak is a great example of this), call the trait "Effortless" or something.

Or even better, maybe once you gain Proficiency you can choose a trait similar to the above and add it to your skill if it allows for that trait (Sneak activity could allow Swift and Effortless but Commanding obviously wouldn't apply).

That's just one way I could see it working, and there are parallel's in the game that corroborates that approach since reducing actions, increasing speed, and reducing failures are already mechanics that are intuitive and easy to produce.

Quote:


I'm speaking more for the GM's benefit here, but players seem to get somewhere between 15 and 25 skill increases, so that's still a solid number niche of rules that can be easily forgotten in the heat of combat.

As far as I can tell, outside Trained, unless I am missing something, you only get 9 increases to Skills.

And that doesn't account for the fact that if you want to be Legendary in something you have to spend 3 Skill Increases on it.

So you can be legendary at 3 things and 3 things only, and that means the rest of your skills are going to be Trained (and the ones you couldn't afford at 1st untrained unless you grab General's for Training).

Quote:
I'm speaking more for the GM's benefit here

And as the forever GM of my group, I see exactly where you are coming from here, but I think there is a way to marry the concerns you have with these passive increases to Skill Proficiency.

As a side note, regardless of if passive increases ever became a thing in any form, I do also think Skill Feats could use a little more distinction in terms of their design goal, and a lot of them are so situational that I'm not sure they have a lot of value. Some of them look like outright "traps" to me, but perhaps more playtesting would do. How strong they are shouldn't be the only factor though, there are some I just don't think I'd ever want to take regardless of what I was playing (currently running scenarios with a level 3 Bard and I've tried the Rogue with my fiance as well).

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