Proficiency - Why start at -4


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Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Can someone point me to a thread about the math, or at least an explanation for why we start at -4 for proficiency? What's the reasoning for it.

Why not start at 0 for untrained, then boost as you gain... trained would be +4, etc. And just boost all the DC's by four? This seems so much more positive for the players. Instead of having a bunch of depression-inducing -4's, the character gains a boost (not just erases a negative) when they get trained.

I know that Paizo recently increased the gap between untrained and trained by reducing untrained from -2 to -4... and reduced some DCs. But couldn't we have done the same thing by upping untrained to +2... wouldn't even have had to lower DCs in that case.

Again, my objective here is to get pointed to a discussion on why the design decision to make "Trained" being +0 is important, why choose starting at -4.


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Agreed.

It's the same idea that monsters have lower AC and higher attack bonuses than PCs. PCs will learn their attack bonuses and it feels terrible to know the goblin rolling in faeces that can't spell his own name is better at using a weapon than your barbarian.


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I'd be happier with Untrained at 0, trained at +4, Expert at +5, etc. Something about being penalized is more irritating than "just add a smaller number."

It seems like "adjust the numbers in the bestiary/GMG" is a better way to balance things than "adjust the number on your character sheet." Since, heck, a big part of the aesthetic appeal of this game in particular is "feel like big darn heroes" so penalties feel worse than
lower bonuses.


I think they did it just because of all the people complaining about being untrained and high level makes you better then someone trained and low level. Wasn't a problem for me but people seemed to complain about that A LOT.


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The negative penalty appeals to me more, precisely because it feels worse. It emphasizes to the player that these are aspects her character is bad at. Starting at 0 makes it seem more like the character is simply not as good as someone else and I think it is important the player realize they are unlikely to succeed unless they have significant other advantages (like a very high stat in that skill and favorable circumstances).

That said, if the math for everything was adjusted up by four, I am having trouble seeing what would be different mechanically.

Silver Crusade

Vidmaster7 wrote:
I think they did it just because of all the people complaining about being untrained and high level makes you better then someone trained and low level. Wasn't a problem for me but people seemed to complain about that A LOT.
Yep. People saw "Untrained" and didn't like that it had an appearance of being average rather than being a negative.
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I'd be happier with Untrained at 0, trained at +4, Expert at +5, etc. Something about being penalized is more irritating than "just add a smaller number."

I'm leaning more towards this route the more I think on it.


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I don't mind the minus 4 so much myself. I know people seem to want to avoid that negative but in reality its the same thing and my players are mature enough to recognize that. plus I mean it is untrained so a penalty does make sense.


RyanH wrote:
But couldn't we have done the same thing by upping untrained to +2... wouldn't even have had to lower DCs in that case.

Its exactly the same, so why are you complaining?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Cuz of the perception of playing with negatives everywhere vs all advancement starts from zero and you increase. Psychology.

It is the same, so why at baseline cause the negative feeling of a -4 and why cause Extra (albeit simple) math from the get go. (Imagine that first player on their first time with their first 1at level character... “I rolled an 18!”... “sorry, no, you have to apply -4 to most of those skills”... just a negative experience right out the gate)

My question (not my complaint) is, “what is the design philosophy behind starting at negative” as I’m sure it wasn’t arbitrary.

Silver Crusade

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RyanH wrote:

Cuz of the perception of playing with negatives everywhere vs all advancement starts from zero and you increase. Psychology.

It is the same, so why at baseline cause the negative feeling of a -4 and why cause Extra (albeit simple) math from the get go. (Imagine that first player on their first time with their first 1at level character... “I rolled an 18!”... “sorry, no, you have to apply -4 to most of those skills”... just a negative experience right out the gate)

My question (not my complaint) is, “what is the design philosophy behind starting at negative” as I’m sure it wasn’t arbitrary.

^

To guess at your question, it was probably due to the amount of people asking for Untrained to be a negative. Though Iagree with you I would liek for it to be 0 instead and the other Proficiencies to be a bit higher, feels better while keeping the same math frame.


I'm a proponent of the progression going Untrained/Trained/Expert/Master/Legendary as 0/+2/+4/+6/+8, personally. Might need to tweak some things about combat accuracy, but this feels right for skills (and Armor could use another pass anyway.)


PossibleCabbage wrote:
I'm a proponent of the progression going Untrained/Trained/Expert/Master/Legendary as 0/+2/+4/+6/+8, personally. Might need to tweak some things about combat accuracy, but this feels right for skills (and Armor could use another pass anyway.)

I've suggested that they use the progression they use for potency runes: -2, 0, 2, 4, 5. Still, I can see the point about negatives. No matter what, I think they need to do a *much* better job distinguishing between ranks above untrained, either through bigger bonuses (a bit bland) or better automatic abilities outside of simply additions to the die.


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I like -4 for untrained. The most common situation is were someone is just trained. Having trained be the zero keeps the math simplest. Adjusting everything up by 4 (ACs, DCs, attacks, skills, saves seems unnecessary).

-4 also seems like you are learning the skill from scratch. When you first are learning a skill most people really suck at it.


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I like the -4/0 for untrained/trained.

Untrained means that you have no idea what you are doing, and that should come at some cost. Negative number is a good description for incompetence.

Trained means that you have some sense of what you are doing.

Think about fresh out of driving school.
You know how car drives, you know traffic laws(at least you should), but probably any high speed turn would end with sliding off the road.

And +0 is a good description of having basic competence with some skill.

Now if they drop +1/level treadmill then more ranks of proficiencies that come with a cost(not auto level), either in class features or general feats would come in handy.

I.E:

Untrained: -4
Trained: +0
Expert:+1
Master:+2
Grandmaster:+3
Epic:+4
Legendary:+5

But, in both variations bonus of +1 means very little because of swinginess of the D20.

If we use 3d6 instead of d20 then +1 bonus would be felt more.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don’t know... seems like if I have “no training” I’d be at +0 ... that seems like a more intuative baseline. And go up from zero.

Negatives, or PENALTIES would happen if I was hampered, had low ability scores (below average), etc... the negative, is a penalty. Positives are training, boosts, enhancements, etc. zero is the average person trying a thing.

Base of zero seems 1) more intuitive and 2) isn’t penalizing the player (which again, just doesn’t make people excited to roll dice)

The spread between untrained and legendary is a different question and a different design decision.


I've noticed that most people seem to ignore that Untrained also has a second layer of incompetence.

Let's not forget that there are a bunch of Skill Uses that are gated behind the trained proficiency.

(Personally I think more of the current uses should be gated behind training.)

I think part of the problem here is that because of the tight math, the bonuses feel nigh to meaningless.
This is especially true if you were used to 1e.

Dropping Untrained down by an extra -2 and adjusting the DCs was a good solution for the psychology factor of looking at a character sheet and seeing the difference, but it does ignore the gating factor.

So in reality, Untrained is even worse than it appeared by strict numbers.
And I'm ok with that.
Just go ask a person that has no training in programming to code something.
Even if they have read about it on their own, but never really practiced much, they are not likely to be able to code as well, as quickly, or as efficiently as someone that has proper training.

I'm all for doing a similar adjustment to the higher proficiencies, even if it would be a ton of work, I'd rather wait a little longer for a better product than get crap earlier that has to be errata'd into the ground.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

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I vastly prefer untrained being at a negative rather than 0. I want my characters to be bad at things they don't know how to do. I know I'm pretty awful at things I have zero skill at - no matter how good I am at some things, learning languages and playing musical instruments are things I'm completely untrained at (despite having actually taking lessons/classes in them). I want to be able to build characters who are also bad at things they don't know how to do, because, that's how life works.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
JoelF847 wrote:
I vastly prefer untrained being at a negative rather than 0. I want my characters to be bad at things they don't know how to do. I know I'm pretty awful at things I have zero skill at - no matter how good I am at some things, learning languages and playing musical instruments are things I'm completely untrained at (despite having actually taking lessons/classes in them). I want to be able to build characters who are also bad at things they don't know how to do, because, that's how life works.

But things that are difficult should just be a higher DC... otherwise, untrained at jumping is -4 and untrained at computer programming is -4... that makes no sense that I'm equally as bad at those to things and have an equal chance of success... the DC is what matters. And my lack of training is +0... I have no bonuses for training and no minuses for being exceptionally low intelligence or low strength etc.

So to you wanting to be bad at things... having untrained be zero, and all DC's being higher does the same thing.

I imagine what you're saying here though is the design reason. They wanted people to feel crappy at the things they aren't trained in. But, lest a designer chimes in, we won't know the actual reasons.

I know the -4 really turns off some people... I actually saw this argument brought up in another venue, and I agreed with the concerns, but not the vitriol (clearly not someone hoping to help make Pathfinder 2.0 a shining success.)... so in any case, knowing that some people will be turned off by penalizing players (and resulting in a negative gameplay experience for them), I was curious as to the reason.

I don't really care either way for MY experience (though I DO think +0 at untrained makes sense as the baseline), I agree with the sentiment that you should suck at stuff and it does not give me a negative feeling. BUT if we could attract more players by having a positive game-play feel for them (while achieving the exact same mathematical results as we have with the -4) then I vote for increasing our player-base and making Pathfinder more successful... cuz that's what I want.


I don't think people are going to play/not play based on whether the number is -4, -8, +0, or +206 (with all the other numbers scaled respectively).

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Draco18s wrote:
I don't think people are going to play/not play based on whether the number is -4, -8, +0, or +206 (with all the other numbers scaled respectively).

You should have read the thread I was reading! :)

In any case... my original question stands, "what was the design goal/reasoning for penalizing with the -4 for untrained rather than going +0 as the untrained baseline."

I think many of everyone's above posts contain likely reasons... will leave this here to see if it gets a dev response.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Starting at -4 for Untrained does feel needlessly punitive when they could have increased the bonus from proficiency (U +0, T: +4, E: +5, M:+6, L:+7) Saves/ACs/DCs also raised commensurately.

+7 for legendary also feels better for considering something legendary than +3.

Baseline starts at a penalty, which feels psychologically more punishing for failing to pick an option, than it feels psychologically rewarding to get trained.

Trained only cancels a penalty, and therefore doesn't feel like much of a benefit at all.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This is part of the reason why Hunt Target "feels bad". It reduces the Multi-Attack Penalty. Mathematically this is a tangible benefit, especially when combined with the new archery/TWF options.

However, psychologically, a reduced penalty is still a penalty and makes taking an action with any penalty feel less rewarding than taking an attack at a reduced bonus.


RyanH wrote:
Draco18s wrote:
I don't think people are going to play/not play based on whether the number is -4, -8, +0, or +206 (with all the other numbers scaled respectively).

You should have read the thread I was reading! :)

In any case... my original question stands, "what was the design goal/reasoning for penalizing with the -4 for untrained rather than going +0 as the untrained baseline."

I think many of everyone's above posts contain likely reasons... will leave this here to see if it gets a dev response.

They didn't do it for a design reason.

They did it for a psychological reason.

People were complaining that the difference between untrained and trained felt like it was too small. (Never mind that there are a lot of Skill Uses locked behind trained.)

So they made the penalty -4 so that when you look at that number on the character sheet it feels and looks like there is a more significant difference.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Starting at -4 for Untrained does feel needlessly punitive when they could have increased the bonus from proficiency (U +0, T: +4, E: +5, M:+6, L:+7) Saves/ACs/DCs also raised commensurately.

+7 for legendary also feels better for considering something legendary than +3.

Baseline starts at a penalty, which feels psychologically more punishing for failing to pick an option, than it feels psychologically rewarding to get trained.

Trained only cancels a penalty, and therefore doesn't feel like much of a benefit at all.

You're ignoring Skill Use unlocks. Depending on the skill, training does more than cancel a penalty. The problem with those is that they are not shown on the character sheet. Out of sight, out of mind.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

This is part of the reason why Hunt Target "feels bad". It reduces the Multi-Attack Penalty. Mathematically this is a tangible benefit, especially when combined with the new archery/TWF options.

However, psychologically, a reduced penalty is still a penalty and makes taking an action with any penalty feel less rewarding than taking an attack at a reduced bonus.

Hunt Target feels bad more because it's a lousy class feature that costs too much, competes with it's own class feats, and is utterly divorced from the central theme of what players generally associate with what a Ranger is.

That said, simply wording it differently (gain a +1/+2 bonus to your 2nd & 3rd attacks) does a lot to improve the psychology it presents.

However, that doesn't fix the actual problems it has.
It just covers them up.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
LordVanya wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Starting at -4 for Untrained does feel needlessly punitive when they could have increased the bonus from proficiency (U +0, T: +4, E: +5, M:+6, L:+7) Saves/ACs/DCs also raised commensurately.

+7 for legendary also feels better for considering something legendary than +3.

Baseline starts at a penalty, which feels psychologically more punishing for failing to pick an option, than it feels psychologically rewarding to get trained.

Trained only cancels a penalty, and therefore doesn't feel like much of a benefit at all.

You're ignoring Skill Use unlocks. Depending on the skill, training does more than cancel a penalty. The problem with those is that they are not shown on the character sheet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Skill Use Unlocks?

You mean the "trained only" uses of skills. Those are not that common.

But additionally, when skill checks are gated behind a certain proficiency level it just feels like a punishment whenever you pick "wrong".

For example:

In the second adventure of the playtest, there was a door with a trap. We found the trap (good perception check), but because the Thievery check to disable it was gated behind Expert we basically had no option but to set off the trap. The trigger was basically: "If you try to open the door, or break the door or just sneeze too hard while adjacent to the door".

We were an alchemist, cleric, paladin and sorcerer. None of whom were likely to spend their first skill unlock on Thievery. I had decent thievery because as an Alchemist I had good Dex, and I brought it to trained just in case there was some trap-disabling needed.

Skill gating feels like just another way of punishing players for making the "wrong" choices.

My point is:

Starting at zero and then getting dramatic numerical jumps feels good. Greater proficiency should make you faster, or give you more verbs that your character can do. What proficiency gating shouldn't do is punish PCs for picking their skills based on their characterization, rather than the One Correct Way To Solve The Adventure.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
LordVanya wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

This is part of the reason why Hunt Target "feels bad". It reduces the Multi-Attack Penalty. Mathematically this is a tangible benefit, especially when combined with the new archery/TWF options.

However, psychologically, a reduced penalty is still a penalty and makes taking an action with any penalty feel less rewarding than taking an attack at a reduced bonus.

Hunt Target feels bad more because it's a lousy class feature that costs too much, competes with it's own class feats, and is utterly divorced from the central theme of what players generally associate with what a Ranger is.

That said, simply wording it differently (gain a +1/+2 bonus to your 2nd & 3rd attacks) does a lot to improve the psychology it presents.

However, that doesn't fix the actual problems it has.
It just covers them up.

I did say it was part of the reason. So thanks for agreeing I guess?


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I think the skill unlocks could be improved I think every one of them should work like cat fall works. where they get automatically upgraded as your Prof goes up.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
I think they did it just because of all the people complaining about being untrained and high level makes you better then someone trained and low level. Wasn't a problem for me but people seemed to complain about that A LOT.

I'm one of those people. I agree this is a knee jerk reaction to those complaints. The problem is it doesn't actually address the underlying problem. That level completely overshadows training.

It also sounds like skill unlocks have been poorly explained. If you become trained in a skill so that you can do skill check X (which is stated to be unlocked at trained), then you should be able to roll when that check shows up. It's messed up if the game suddenly says,

"ooo, sorry you're only trained in baking cakes, this puzzle requires you to be an expert in baking cakes."

That will piss people off when it's just stated that being trained lets you bake cakes. The skill needs to state that trained only lets you make basic cakes and expert lets you make fancy cakes. Then at least there will have been some warning.


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I like the -4. Negative numbers tell (new) players that they are specifically bad at the skill (/weapon) and shouldn’t expect to be very successful.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
LordVanya wrote:
RyanH wrote:
Draco18s wrote:
I don't think people are going to play/not play based on whether the number is -4, -8, +0, or +206 (with all the other numbers scaled respectively).

You should have read the thread I was reading! :)

In any case... my original question stands, "what was the design goal/reasoning for penalizing with the -4 for untrained rather than going +0 as the untrained baseline."

I think many of everyone's above posts contain likely reasons... will leave this here to see if it gets a dev response.

They didn't do it for a design reason.

They did it for a psychological reason.

People were complaining that the difference between untrained and trained felt like it was too small. (Never mind that there are a lot of Skill Uses locked behind trained.)

So they made the penalty -4 so that when you look at that number on the character sheet it feels and looks like there is a more significant difference.

1) attempting to achieve a specific psychological result IS a design decision

2) I understand people wanted the gap to be larger... but that does not require the starting point to be negative, nor did that explain the original -2... this whole conversation stands if you replace -4 with the original -2.


It's because then you have to add in your natural ability and experiences to get your actual modifier. Like a lvl 1 Druid who has a 16 Str actually gets a +0 instead of a -4. That same Druid using untrained Medicine gets a +1 due to her Natural Wisdom. It depends on a lot of things.

It makes training more important.


RyanH wrote:
Draco18s wrote:
I don't think people are going to play/not play based on whether the number is -4, -8, +0, or +206 (with all the other numbers scaled respectively).
In any case... my original question stands, "what was the design goal/reasoning for penalizing with the -4 for untrained rather than going +0 as the untrained baseline."

Because they didn't have to recalculate all the DCs. Yes, they did mess with the numbers, but those were done in addition to making Untrained -4.

If they'd made Untrained 0 and boosted everything else by 4, they'd have to write errata for more of the book. And as it is mathematically identical, they didn't do that, because it was silly.

Plus, Untrained already had a negative modifier and it made more sense to just increase that penalty rather than shove everything around.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Draco18s wrote:


If they'd made Untrained 0 and boosted everything else by 4, they'd have to write errata for more of the book. And as it is mathematically identical, they didn't do that, because it was silly.

Plus, Untrained already had a negative modifier and it made more sense to just increase that penalty rather than shove everything around.

They intend to re-release the entire book any way... this is a playtest intended to find issues and correct them. It would be more silly to leave something sub-optimal just becuase they'd have to edit a little more. (IF it was suboptimal... not saying I'm right)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I just realized, and I don't think anyone has said this...

..starting with a negative for untrained has always been the case (probably even in 5e)

in 1E, 3.5, as far back as AD&D I think, if you're proficient in your armor or weapon it's +0 as a base... if you're not-proficient (untrained) it's -4 to hit with weapons... and there are penatlies with armor... skills were just 0 if you didn't have training (or you flat out could not do the skill without training for some)

The difference is they took these multiple disperate systems that all behaved differently, and made one system for all of these things (armor, weapons, skills, spells, etc) modeled somewaht on weapon proficeincy (starting at -4 if you're untrained), and somewhat after To Hit (automatically goes up with level), and somewhat after skills (you can choose to boost some).

The -4 is a mechanic that has always been in the system, it's just become more obvious because it isn't just weapons

Edit: Just looked up 5e to see how it worked... if you are not proficient in your weapon, you just don't get your proficency bonus. So, +0 base for untrained and goes up from there as your proficency grows. (Does that mean a 20th level 5e wizard is +0 with the two-handed sword? If so, for comparison the 20th level PF2 wizard is -4 for untrained, +20 for level for +16 to hit with the two-hander.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The design reason was actually very simply, so that +1/+2/+3 for training lines up with the +1/+2/+3 item quality bonus for expect, master, and legendary crafted items.

That's 1 set of modifiers, It's more streamlined.


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LordKailas wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
I think they did it just because of all the people complaining about being untrained and high level makes you better then someone trained and low level. Wasn't a problem for me but people seemed to complain about that A LOT.

I'm one of those people. I agree this is a knee jerk reaction to those complaints. The problem is it doesn't actually address the underlying problem. That level completely overshadows training.

It also sounds like skill unlocks have been poorly explained. If you become trained in a skill so that you can do skill check X (which is stated to be unlocked at trained), then you should be able to roll when that check shows up. It's messed up if the game suddenly says,

"ooo, sorry you're only trained in baking cakes, this puzzle requires you to be an expert in baking cakes."

That will piss people off when it's just stated that being trained lets you bake cakes. The skill needs to state that trained only lets you make basic cakes and expert lets you make fancy cakes. Then at least there will have been some warning.

I personally have to problem with level overshadowing proficiency. It has always had the biggest effect on character so that's not that much different. I just think of level as a completly different thing then some I guess. When I think of untrained whihc is now -4 and legendary +3. 7 points difference doesn't sound like much. especially when the difference between 1 and 20 is 20 but when you have 2 10th level characters its the difference from needing a 10 to suceed or a 17. when you add in attributes it could spread it even further. One of the things I don't like is magic items increasing the difference even further, but that's whatever. The only thing is they need to get the skill feats improved and the division from untrained and legendary to be more promeninet in the skill feats.


training diference and ability diference is overshadowed alot by level bonus(1-20) and dice bonus (1-20).

Dice would not be a problem if it is a bell curve(3d6) as it the pushes results to middle of your capability in certain task.

Having same chance to completely fail, succeed unbelivebly and make an average atempt is unreal.

result of 10 on d20 should not have a same chance as 1 or 20. But as it is a single die it is.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

The chance of getting a 1 or a 15 on the die is the same, true, the chance of success or failure is not the same though:

If you need to roll an 11 or better, you have a 5% chance to critically fail, a 45% chance to fail, a 45% chance to succeed and a 5% chance to critically succeed. Pretty much a coin-toss, but only if your bonus is as high as the DC-11.

If you only need a 9 or better, the chances change to 5%/35%/50%/10%.
Conversly, if you need a 15 instead of the (coin-flip) 11 that's the difference untrained uses now the chances are 20% CF / 50% F / 25% S / 5% CS.

Yes, even though a 10 is equally likely to roll as a 1 or 20, the chances to succeed or fail do not depend on a bell curve.

Changing 1d20 to 2d10 or 3d6 just concentrates the rolled results towards the middle (if you work in that the average result is higher). And if your target rolled result is right in the middle of the curve, all you changed is the chance for a critical result, as those are now less likely.

The way the system is currently tuned is, that you are rolling a lot against that average result.


Vidmaster7 wrote:


I personally have to problem with level overshadowing proficiency. It has always had the biggest effect on character so that's not that much different. I just think of level as a completly different thing then some I guess. When I think of untrained whihc is now -4 and legendary +3. 7 points difference doesn't sound like much. especially when the difference between 1 and 20 is 20 but when you have 2 10th level characters its the difference from needing a 10 to suceed or a 17. when you add in attributes it could spread it even further. One of the things I don't like is magic items increasing the difference even further, but that's whatever. The only thing is they need to get the skill feats improved and the division from untrained and legendary to be more promeninet in the skill feats.

I really don't understand the logic.

Assuming the characters have the same stats, an untrained 20th level character gets +16 to a check compared to the 15th level legendary who gets +18. This means that both characters will generally succeed or fail at the same tasks since a +2 is easily lost behind a d20 roll. This is the best case scenario for a difference of 5 levels.

A character who is 5 levels higher then another character is better at everything skillwise, then someone who is specialized and maxed out in something. Yes, experience counts for something but it shouldn't be the only thing that really matters.


RyanH wrote:

I just realized, and I don't think anyone has said this...

..starting with a negative for untrained has always been the case (probably even in 5e)

in 1E, 3.5, as far back as AD&D I think, if you're proficient in your armor or weapon it's +0 as a base... if you're not-proficient (untrained) it's -4 to hit with weapons... and there are penatlies with armor... skills were just 0 if you didn't have training (or you flat out could not do the skill without training for some)

The difference is they took these multiple disperate systems that all behaved differently, and made one system for all of these things (armor, weapons, skills, spells, etc) modeled somewaht on weapon proficeincy (starting at -4 if you're untrained), and somewhat after To Hit (automatically goes up with level), and somewhat after skills (you can choose to boost some).

The -4 is a mechanic that has always been in the system, it's just become more obvious because it isn't just weapons

Edit: Just looked up 5e to see how it worked... if you are not proficient in your weapon, you just don't get your proficency bonus. So, +0 base for untrained and goes up from there as your proficency grows. (Does that mean a 20th level 5e wizard is +0 with the two-handed sword? If so, for comparison the 20th level PF2 wizard is -4 for untrained, +20 for level for +16 to hit with the two-hander.)

I was actually thinking about this very same thing.

I still think it makes more sense in general, and for the playtest it makes sense because of the reasons others have already stated.

For me, I have no problem with the penalty, because I look at it from the point of view that not being trained is detrimental to performing a skill-based task.

Take two identical athletes performing the exact same long jump.
One has training while the other one has never trained.
Neither of them has much experience and have done very little practicing if at all.

The trained one knows all the basic tricks and has proper technique.
Without any advanced knowledge or experience, that athlete does no better than anyone else of equal training and inexperience.
That is competence to me. Being competant does not mean being good at something, it is baseline.
That is a +0.

The untrained one doesn't know anything about the basics or have any knowledge about techniques involved in the task.
Without even basic knowledge and equally lacking in experience, they are at a great disadvantage to the other athlete.
That is incompetence to me. They can still get lucky and pull it off, and their natural aptitude helps (ability mod).
That is a -4.

The other ranks of training beyond this put you at an advantage over the average person.
That is perfectly reflected in a bonus.

If anything, that makes the system more realistic and makes more sense to me than the 1e version of skills.
You suck if you are a know-nothing.
You get nothing for doing what you are supposed to do.
You get rewarded for going above and beyond.


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RyanH wrote:

I just realized, and I don't think anyone has said this...

..starting with a negative for untrained has always been the case (probably even in 5e)

in 1E, 3.5, as far back as AD&D I think, if you're proficient in your armor or weapon it's +0 as a base... if you're not-proficient (untrained) it's -4 to hit with weapons... and there are penatlies with armor... skills were just 0 if you didn't have training (or you flat out could not do the skill without training for some)

The difference is they took these multiple disperate systems that all behaved differently, and made one system for all of these things (armor, weapons, skills, spells, etc) modeled somewaht on weapon proficeincy (starting at -4 if you're untrained), and somewhat after To Hit (automatically goes up with level), and somewhat after skills (you can choose to boost some).

The -4 is a mechanic that has always been in the system, it's just become more obvious because it isn't just weapons

In my experience at least "rolling for a skill in which you are not trained" is vastly more common than "using weapons or armor in which you lack proficiency." So it's not clear to me why we should make skills work like weapons instead of weapons working like skills.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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There is a psychological component here, to be sure, but there is also a simple game "signaling" reason.

Characters, generally are only untrained in the things they should avoid doing, to give space for others to excel in those areas. Negatives help to reinforce that notion. We could shift all the math up, but we would lose that learning edge.

It's not huge, but it is worth it for now.

Silver Crusade

Jason Bulmahn wrote:

There is a psychological component here, to be sure, but there is also a simple game "signaling" reason.

Characters, generally are only untrained in the things they should avoid doing, to give space for others to excel in those areas. Negatives help to reinforce that notion. We could shift all the math up, but we would lose that learning edge.

It's not huge, but it is worth it for now.

Would it though? If you started Untrained at 0 and Trained at +4 or something (which is what putting your first rank into a class skill in 1st did basically) it would still send the message of Untrained = not good, Trained = good would it not?

"generally are only untrained in the things they should avoid doing"

That's also an issue, as PCs will be Untrained in a lot of stuff, so with a null modifier they'll still believe they can attempt something, even if the can't excel at it, whereas with a negative modifier they'll likely not even try. And then we're back to the issue of "Okay I'm going to roll Diplomacy, everyone else go sit in the corner for 30 minutes".

Grand Lodge

I'm not sure if this has been brought up yet but with the -4 penalty Trick Magic item has been dealt a severe blow. If you're fighting anything your level or above and are using wands, scrolls, or staves for spells the enemy is passing the save generally on a roll of 5 or more. With many combat spells a critical success negates any effects and becomes a waste of resonance and actions. With the previous -2 it was manageable and you could have a reasonable chance of the enemy failing, -4 pushes that too far. I don't know whether Trick Magic item should instead use your proficiency rank in the skill used to trick the item or be always at trained so you're not suffering a massive penalty to the DC. Either way it is something that should be looked at because the -4 is a harsh blow.


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Jason Bulmahn wrote:
Characters, generally are only untrained in the things they should avoid doing, to give space for others to excel in those areas. Negatives help to reinforce that notion. We could shift all the math up, but we would lose that learning edge.

However, a non-rogue with minimal intelligence investment will be trained in 5 skills at level 1 and have 9 skill increases over their career. Because the DC math incentivizes "doubling and tripling down on the stuff you should be good at" I've found people do not spread their skills around very much. In a vacuum, that would be fine but unlike "using the wrong weapon/armor" circumstances emerge for "roll that random skill" quite frequently- "determine if that mushroom is poisonous", "climb the garden wall", "sneak past the old guard dog", "pass yourself off as a waiter to get into the party", "identify the contessa without drawing attention to yourself", etc.

It's hard to run sequences like this if no one but the rogue is trained in nature, athletics, stealth, deception, and society so everybody else is eating -4s all over lest this turn into a solo adventure for the one person who has got all the skills.

I mean, if the point is "you should avoid doing things you are untrained in" we're going to need to hand out more skill increases; since while weapons and armor are largely subject to player choice, skill checks are subject to narrative circumstances.

Grand Lodge

PossibleCabbage wrote:

However, a non-rogue with minimal intelligence investment will be trained in 5 skills at level 1 and have 9 skill increases over their career. Because the DC math incentivizes "doubling and tripling down on the stuff you should be good at" I've found people do not spread their skills around very much. In a vacuum, that would be fine but unlike "using the wrong weapon/armor" circumstances emerge for "roll that random skill" quite frequently- "determine if that mushroom is poisonous", "climb the garden wall", "sneak past the old guard dog", "pass yourself off as a waiter to get into the party", "identify the contessa without drawing attention to yourself", etc.

It's hard to run sequences like this if no one but the rogue is trained in nature, athletics, stealth, deception, and society so everybody else is eating -4s all over lest this turn into a solo adventure for the one person who has got all the skills.

I mean, if the point is "you should avoid doing things you are untrained in" we're going to need to hand out more skill increases; since while weapons and armor are largely subject to player choice, skill checks are subject to narrative circumstances.

I know this isn't PFS but scenarios regularly have everyone attempting things they won't have skill training in. Also, it means that ONLY the Rogue and maybe the Bard will be able to participate in skill challenges which isn't fun. A game in which professionals who have spent significant amounts of their career and resources to be the best at something only succeeding 50% isn't fun and it doesn't make sense.


Rysky wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
I think they did it just because of all the people complaining about being untrained and high level makes you better then someone trained and low level. Wasn't a problem for me but people seemed to complain about that A LOT.
Yep. People saw "Untrained" and didn't like that it had an appearance of being average rather than being a negative.
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I'd be happier with Untrained at 0, trained at +4, Expert at +5, etc. Something about being penalized is more irritating than "just add a smaller number."
I'm leaning more towards this route the more I think on it.

Gonna resurrect this notion from the early parts of the thread.

The notion that players wanted "untrained" to be lower and worse was a misunderstanding the Paizo folks seem to have ascertained from feedback. What was widely asked for was to make higher proficiency ranks feel separate from lower ones. What we got was "Fine! We made the one no one ever uses for anything way worse!" I mean, cool, it's a good move and what Jason said above is a great reason to use the negative modifier. The unfortunate thing is that the best swordsman is still a Wizard w/ Magical Striker or a Cleric of Gorum. Why? Because the magic item +1 bonus is enough to keep them even with the allegedly much more skilled Fighter. This remains true of characters that have raised their skill to a higher proficiency rank, but did not back it up with a stat or lag behind another character by a level or two. This was sold to the community as being something where proficiency would matter more than the number and it's obviously not the case. Only the final numbers matter and because the range from "I barely invested in this" to "I invested heavily in this" is only a +1 or +2, you cannot feel special by being a "master" at anything Vs "trained" counterparts.

Silver Crusade

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Greg.Everham wrote:
The notion that players wanted "untrained" to be lower and worse was a misunderstanding

No, plenty of people were indeed asking for that. I'm disagreeing with it more and more as the days go by but there are people who wanted it like this and are happy it happened that way. Hopefully it get's changed for the final product.

Paizo Employee

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Rysky wrote:
Greg.Everham wrote:
The notion that players wanted "untrained" to be lower and worse was a misunderstanding
No, plenty of people were indeed asking for that. I'm disagreeing with it more and more as the days go by but there are people who wanted it like this and are happy it happened that way. Hopefully it get's changed for the final product.

Yep, as Rysky said, lots of people requested that they be worse at things. There's literally a thread on the subject called "Let Me Be Bad". And it's far from the only place that's come up, the sentiment is even repeated right in this thread. It definitely doesn't seem like a misunderstanding, there were a meaningful number of people who requested many times across multiple forums and threads that being untrained be made a more significant penalty.

I find myself in the same camp as Rysky, however, in that I find myself hoping this is one change that doesn't persist into the final version.

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