Need opinions for a homebrew skill system


Homebrew and House Rules


The current skill system have been used on all my plays to this day, but there are always been 2 major flaws that were a problem to me, and I think to many other players as well.

First is that to be decent in a skill that isn't combat related, you have to put rank in it which means level up in a combat class. For example, if I make a character that has been working at his village's bakery until he decided to seek fame and fortune by adventuring, he'll start level 1 and be a crappy baker no matter what because he'll have 1 rank in his profession skill. Same goes with a scholar in geography who want to see the world he studied by his own eyes, etc.

The second main problem is that a player with a high enough level, knowing nothing about a subject, can suddunly become an expert because he has leveled up and invested all his ranks in it.

So thought about it and came up with this system.

Each skill has its own individual XP bar, and whenever you roll for it you earn XP. When having sufficient XP you earn a rank, regardless of your current number of HD.

You earn skill XP in the following way :

- If you roll a skill opposed to a DC and succeed the check, you earn an amount of XP equal to the DC in the involved skill. If you fail by 9 or less, you earn half XP, and if you fail by 10 or more you earn no XP at all. Additionally, if you succeed by 15 or more, you don't earn any XP as the task is too trivial for you to be able to learn anything.

- It works the same way if you're rolling an opposed skill check (e. g. perception vs stealth) but you count the opposed check for the purpose of earning XP.

- You can also spend time practicing your skill, provided that you have what's required to do so. You'll need books to practice knowledge, trees or a cliff to practice climbing, a mount to practice riding, etc. When doing so, every day of training, roll a d20 as if you were making a check and add the result to the XP bar of the ivolved skill. You can roll untrained skill for the purpose of training them.

- You can have a master helping you in training, doing so double the amount of XP received but the master need to have at least 5 more ranks in the involved skill for this effect to work.

- Anytime you receive any amount of XP to a skill, multiply this amount by the number of skill rank per level you'd normally earn (you still add your int. modifier). This ensure that classes designed to be very skilled will earn new ranks in skills they use much faster than other classes.

The main issue with this system is that it can be tedious for the GM to count skill XP everytime someone roll a given skill but I hope I'll manage that. I might even make an automated spreadshit for this purpose.

What are your thoughts about this system ?


this post should be in the homebrew forum


Leaving aside the assumptions about non-adventurers for some reason not gaining experience points, this system sounds extremely tedious. It was tedious enough running up and down hills in Elder Scrolls games; it'd be far more tedious when there's no computer doing the calculations for you.

One of the two primary questions when considering a rules change is, "does this change make the game more fun?" This doesn't seem more fun to me.

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Moved.


1. Your first problem doesn't seem seem like a problem; a non-adventuring lifestyle doesn't gain experience at nearly the same rate. The baker and the scholar you were talking about could very easily be competent in their fields (+4-6) at level 1, then decide to go and seek their fortunes.

2. The "gain a bunch of stuff all of the sudden" problem is with this type of level-based system on a whole, not just skills.
My players have to run every choice they make at every level by me, first. If I see a sudden six ranks drop into a skill, I'm going to want some justification.
But really, it's an abstraction. Suspend your disbelief. It's not like the system from those Elder Scrolls games resulted in an any more believable situation.

Check out Chronicles of Darkness. Their system requires you to spend experience points on everything individually.


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There was a rule in Rolemaster once which did something like this. If you're OK with the burly half-orc elbowing the little thief out of the way so he can have first chance at the lock, go for it (this was something I saw, not just theorycraft). It does seem like it promotes immersion-breaking activity to me though.


blahpers wrote:

Leaving aside the assumptions about non-adventurers for some reason not gaining experience points, this system sounds extremely tedious. It was tedious enough running up and down hills in Elder Scrolls games; it'd be far more tedious when there's no computer doing the calculations for you.

One of the two primary questions when considering a rules change is, "does this change make the game more fun?" This doesn't seem more fun to me.

I don't have the Elder Scroll reference, sorry :/ the only one I played was skyrim and I don't remember grinding any skill.

Besides that I'm aware that complexity is the main issue, counting everyone's skill XP can be a headache that's for sure. Fortunatly, we always play at my place so I have my computer that I can use for things like that. I'm planning to use a google sheet that'll do the calculation for me. I'll see if it works, if it's too tedious I'll drop that and go back to the vanilla system.

About the fun part, I don't think it makes the game more fun, but I think it makes it more fair and limit the number of absurd situations like the one I've been describing. A good share of the people I played pathfinder with (inclusing myself ofc) were unsatisfied with the skill system so that's why I'm trying to add my 2 cents.

Quixote wrote:
1. Your first problem doesn't seem seem like a problem; a non-adventuring lifestyle doesn't gain experience at nearly the same rate. The baker and the scholar you were talking about could very easily be competent in their fields (+4-6) at level 1, then decide to go and seek their fortunes.

+6 isn't what I'd call competent, the usual DC for the most basic stuff is 10 so it means that when answering the most basic question in its field of competence, the scholar will fail roughly 1 time out of 5, and to make the most basic bread, the baker will fail the same amount of time. To me this fail rate on the easiest task is HUGE for someone supposed to be competent.

To me it would be legit that someone who has spent years training or practicing a skill should be able to complete an average task (translating into game mechanic, it would be DC 15) using this skill nearly every time the attempt it.

Quixote wrote:

2. The "gain a bunch of stuff all of the sudden" problem is with this type of level-based system on a whole, not just skills.

My players have to run every choice they make at every level by me, first. If I see a sudden six ranks drop into a skill, I'm going to want some justification.
But really, it's an abstraction. Suspend your disbelief. It's not like the system from those Elder Scrolls games resulted in an any more believable situation.

Check out Chronicles of Darkness. Their system requires you to spend experience points on everything individually.

I also inspect their sheet when leveling up but I'd prefere a rule that everyone aknowledge, which is more fair. I'll check Chronicles of Darkness when I'll have time.

avr wrote:
There was a rule in Rolemaster once which did something like this. If you're OK with the burly half-orc elbowing the little thief out of the way so he can have first chance at the lock, go for it (this was something I saw, not just theorycraft). It does seem like it promotes immersion-breaking activity to me though.

Well basically I'm ok that someone who trained a skill is better at it than someone who didn't. If the half-orc spent more time and ressources training lockpicking than the thief, well, so be it.


Not at all. The half-orc had spent less; his player just wasn't going to lose out on a free opportunity by letting the character who'd spent more go first and possibly take the XP for that lock.


avr wrote:
Not at all. The half-orc had spent less; his player just wasn't going to lose out on a free opportunity by letting the character who'd spent more go first and possibly take the XP for that lock.

But this can happen in regular play. And if it's only for XP, we're playing with a common XP pool anyway.


I think one of the biggest problem (other then record keeping which you seem willing to handle) might be characters gaining far higher or lower skill levels then class level which might create some real problems.

Let's take what is probably the most common skill roll in the game, Perception. If characters are rolling this all the time, then even when there isn't something for them to find (like a secret panel, clue, etc) then they are going to probably be a few levels higher in this skill then their class level. Which might trivialize something like an ambush or a series of traps you set up in your dungeon unless you give them a ridiculous high DC. Which you can do, of course, but then it just feels like you are punishing the adventures for being good at what they do. Which has been discussed quite a lot in these forums.

Let's also look at the other side of the example. Any skill that doesn't get used frequently. Sense motive might be a good one, but here is my favorite, knowledge - nobility. There probably won't be many opportunities for characters to actually roll this skill. So the only way they are going to be able to keep the skill advancing is my your training method. But if the training method is relatively quick, then it kind of removes much of the point of all this record keeping.

There is also the problem where high intel characters in a class that already gets quite a few skills (bard/rogue) might have a near impossible time keeping their slew of skills leveled, especially if they have a bunch of esoteric ones like linguistics, performance, medicine (really, how many times in PF1 have you actually made medicine checks?).

A lot of this will be effected by how varied the challenges you throw at your party and how much bonus xp you are willing to give the player for defeating the challenge through skills instead of combat. But even that has a downside that others in this thread have alluded to in that then the players might be fighting with each other to try to be the first one to use a skill to overcome a challenge. Imagine having to roll initiative in order to see who gets to try to talk to the orc first (in order to improve linguistics or knowledge - local) or disarm a lock/trap.

Certainly some of that might be mitigated by a group of mature/easy going gamers willing to step aside to allow others to take on a challenge, but there are a lot of gloryhounds/powergamers out there that might be willing to abuse the system/group. And then there is the flip side, the meekish player that doesn't put themselves forward.

No way for me to know what your group dynamic is or how you like handling in party conflict. I think it would be a very tough system to balance effectively. I commend you on your willingness to put out the effort if you do decide to try this however.

I do remember the old Call of Cthulhu game where all your skills where % based. If you succeeded in a check during the adventure you would check mark the skill. At the end of the adventure you would roll against all your check marked skills. If you rolled higher then the skill, you got a +5% increase to the skill. A much simpler system then tracking individual xp for each skill however.


applecat144 wrote:

+6 isn't what I'd call competent, the usual DC for the most basic stuff is 10 so it means that when answering the most basic question in its field of competence, the scholar will fail roughly 1 time out of 5, and to make the most basic bread, the baker will fail the same amount of time. To me this fail rate on the easiest task is HUGE for someone supposed to be competent.

To me it would be legit that someone who has spent years training or practicing a skill should be able to complete an average task (translating into game mechanic, it would be DC 15) using this skill nearly every time the attempt it.

Competent does not always equal "years of training."

You think a 20% chance of failure is unacceptable for someone who has just begun to make progresss in a field? I'd say that's pretty fair. Especially since, when it comes to day-to-day stuff, you just don't roll. The baker doesn't fail to make bread 20% of the time; he just makes bread.

You're really getting into the mud, here. Do you think it takes the same amount of time to increase any given skill by the same amount? How long do you think it takes to learn basic first aid? I'd say an afternoon. What about learning your way around a pipe organ? To get that initial +1 (or +4), you're going to need to put in a TON of work. And that's just one of countless issues with an abstraction of this magnitude.

The system isn't meant to work and make sense in every corner of life, in every situation. It just needs to work for our purposes.

applecat144 wrote:
I also inspect their sheet when leveling up but I'd prefere a rule that everyone aknowledge, which is more fair.

I see this issue a lot. People want hard and fast rules. They want structure. These kinds of games simply don't provide that. You need to get comfortable with improvisation. That is the expectation.

At any rate, it's your game. If you want to get bogged down in the minute details, go for it. I used to do the same. But I was only using half of the toolbox every GM has, and the results showed it.


Quixote wrote:
applecat144 wrote:

+6 isn't what I'd call competent, the usual DC for the most basic stuff is 10 so it means that when answering the most basic question in its field of competence, the scholar will fail roughly 1 time out of 5, and to make the most basic bread, the baker will fail the same amount of time. To me this fail rate on the easiest task is HUGE for someone supposed to be competent.

To me it would be legit that someone who has spent years training or practicing a skill should be able to complete an average task (translating into game mechanic, it would be DC 15) using this skill nearly every time the attempt it.

Competent does not always equal "years of training."

You think a 20% chance of failure is unacceptable for someone who has just begun to make progresss in a field? I'd say that's pretty fair. Especially since, when it comes to day-to-day stuff, you just don't roll. The baker doesn't fail to make bread 20% of the time; he just makes bread.

You're really getting into the mud, here. Do you think it takes the same amount of time to increase any given skill by the same amount? How long do you think it takes to learn basic first aid? I'd say an afternoon. What about learning your way around a pipe organ? To get that initial +1 (or +4), you're going to need to put in a TON of work. And that's just one of countless issues with an abstraction of this magnitude.

The system isn't meant to work and make sense in every corner of life, in every situation. It just needs to work for our purposes.

applecat144 wrote:
I also inspect their sheet when leveling up but I'd prefere a rule that everyone aknowledge, which is more fair.

I see this issue a lot. People want hard and fast rules. They want structure. These kinds of games simply don't provide that. You need to get comfortable with improvisation. That is the expectation.

At any rate, it's your game. If you want to get bogged down in the minute details, go for it. I used to do the same. But I was only using half of the...

In the end I choosed to not use this system, you're right there are just too many situations that would need a special treatment.

It's a shame tho, as I'm still very unsatisfied with the current system :D


Don't pack it in just yet. I've been thinking in similar lines lately but I just saw this thread.

Here's a few thoughts:

To track each skill, just keep a tally in the margin, every 10 marks advances a skill. Now we just need to find a different way to advance.

Mechwarrior 2e had an interesting method. Every roll was 2d6, on a 2 or 12 you advance a skill. 1 and 20 on a d20 are almost twice as common, so we can make it a 50% chance to gain 1 skill xp on a 1 or 20. After all, you don't always learn on the first try.

To keep commonly used skills from drastically outpacing the others, limit the number of possible advances per (day/week/month) to the number of skill points a character would gain while leveling up, and allow some of that limit to be spent on practice. After an appropriate amount of practice time, the character can get a roll for that 2.5% chance of advancement.

Finally, when leveling up, you still get your usual allotment of skill points, but they can't be used to exceed the normal skill cap. Yes, this guarantees more skills and makes higher skill limits possible, but it won't break the game.

I think you're on to something here. I hope some of these ideas help.


Another thought I had:

Rather than skill xp characters could still get a limited number of attempts to advance a skill after using it or spending time in training.

To advance this way, they make an opposed ability roll (Wis for Profession, for example) against the skill they're trying to advance. (Profession:Baker for example). They must meet or exceed the skill roll to advance.

This maintains the increasing difficulty of advancing higher level skills and cuts down on the moving parts to keep track of.


Another potential way to do it is split it such that some of the XP is gained from levels and other is gained from usage.

Say 50% of skill ranks can be placed on level up as potential and stuff you some how get or whatever fluff. The remainder can be placed placed at the end of a session if you used the skill enough.

Ex: A Rogue gets 6 ranks. At level up he may use 3 ranks. And at the end of each session he can place a rank (up to 3) on a skill used 3 times during the session.

Not sure how good this would be but I think its simple.


My only thought reading this was "has Noone brought up taking 10?".
Let's imagine that previously mentioned basic Baker with a +4/+6 on profession. If he's doing the same thing every day, he's not rolling. That guys taking 10 for a 14/16. Easily makes sense of DC 10 and 15 tasks.

I'm not sure why so many people forget about taking 10 outside combat. Tis very strange to me. I realise the topic has moved on, just wanted to note that.


It's because take 10 is more of an "oh right I could do that" thing. It's used so little that most people forget it even exists. But yes that is a great rule that perfectly expresses the "I'm okay at this, not need to risk it by experimenting."

So solution, take 10 doesn't count for increasing skill level. Which can explain why lots of people have low skill, they just keep doing the minimal effort and not improving.


Temperans wrote:
So solution, take 10 doesn't count for increasing skill level. Which can explain why lots of people have low skill, they just keep doing the minimal effort and not improving.

I don't understand how you came to this conclusion.

Yes, you're not experimenting, but you're making sure you're doing what needs to be done correctly, in the right order, etc. If you're a cook, a baker, a lumberjack, whatever, by taking 10, you still do the thing, but you can get better at it, get faster because you've learned to do that task by rote.

When you think of someone who's a master in their craft or whatever, many times it's not just because they can do some amazing things, but that they can do these things with a speed and precision a new person can't even understand how it's possible.

That is their skill level increasing.

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