Fix for gating skill feats?


Homebrew and House Rules


I'm thinking about using pf2e for a new campaign, but I really don't like "gating feats" for skills.

For instance, Courtly Graces and Connections. I would rather Society be able to do these things, but Courtly Graces and Connections mean you get a big bonus.

The DCs can be set very high when it's a fictional big ask and the feats help you meet those at lower levels.

So I want everyone trained in Society to be able to try to get an audience with an important person, but:

Level 5 -- set DC so it is hard (but not impossible) to get a audience with a local Baron for someone trained and good ability, moderate to easy with the feat
Level 10 -- hard to get an audience with a duke or mayor of the largest city, moderate to easy with feat
Level 15 -- hard to get an audience with king/emporer, moderate to easy with feat
Level 20 -- hard to get an audience with a demon lord or demi god, moderate to east with feat

And perhaps the level 10 character with feat can get lucky and get an audience with the King (although they risk the critical fail which makes things interesting...).

I'm not familar enough with Pf2e average bonuses per level, expected magic items, etc. What would be a good bonus for these types of feats to model this? +5? +6?

So, we'd have feats like this:

Connections
You have social connections you can leverage to trade favors or meet important people. When you’re in an area with connections (typically a settlement where you’ve spent downtime building connections, or possibly another area in the same nation), you get a +5 bonus to Society checks to arrange a meeting with an important political figure or ask for a favor in exchange for a later favor of your contact’s choice.

Courtly Graces
You were raised among the nobility or have learned proper etiquette and bearing, allowing you to present yourself as a noble and play games of influence and politics. When you use Society to Make an Impression on a noble, as well as with Impersonate to pretend to be a noble if you aren’t one you get a +5 bonus. If you want to impersonate a specific noble, you still need to use Deception to Impersonate normally, and to Lie when necessary.

These are the easier ones I think. I'd also want to do this for things like Group Impression. Instead of the number of targets based on proficiency, the Will save DC gets bumped based on number you are trying to influence and the Group Impression removes this bump or gives a bonus.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

This should probably be in the Homebrew and House Rules forum

Liberty's Edge

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This is homebrew for sure but if you want a rule of thumb, NO BONUSES to d20 checks should ever exceed +3 and that's at max level, the fact that you're looking at +5/+6 tells me you are way off base, there is literally nothing in the whole system that offers that high of numeric bonus, even for extreme niche activities or actions.


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If you wanted to homebrew this I'd go in the other direction. Let the skill feats work as is, let players try it without them at a penalty.


dirtypool wrote:
This should probably be in the Homebrew and House Rules forum

Happy to move it but can't seem to find I way to do it. I flagged my own post as wrong forum.


Themetricsystem wrote:
This is homebrew for sure but if you want a rule of thumb, NO BONUSES to d20 checks should ever exceed +3 and that's at max level, the fact that you're looking at +5/+6 tells me you are way off base, there is literally nothing in the whole system that offers that high of numeric bonus, even for extreme niche activities or actions.

Thanks. I think I was going off the suggestion to for Lore skills:

"You might use different DCs for a task based on the particular skill or statistic used for the check. Let’s say your PCs encounter a magical tome about aberrant creatures. The tome is 4th-level and has the occult trait, so you set the DC of an Occultism check to Identify the Magic to 19, based on Table 10–5. As noted in Identify Magic, other magic-related skills can typically be used at a higher DC, so you might decide the check is very hard for a character using Arcana and set the DC at 24 for characters using that skill. If a character in your group had Aberration Lore, you might determine that it would be easy or very easy to use that skill and adjust the DC to 17 or 14. These adjustments aren’t taking the place of characters’ bonuses, modifiers, and penalties—they are due to the applicability of the skills being used."

Here you get a 2-5 point adjustment for having a more applicable Lore.

Perhaps being able to get an audience with an important person is more useful than Abberation Lore so perhaps the +3 is more warranted. (although it is limited to places you have spent time in).


Guntermench wrote:
If you wanted to homebrew this I'd go in the other direction. Let the skill feats work as is, let players try it without them at a penalty.

Why is this a better method? Does giving bonuses mess with something else?

The altering DC method like the Lore example could be similiar I suppose.

DC is Hard for someone just trained in Society
DC is Easy or Very Easy for someone that has the feat (-2 to -5 adjustment).

This puts the onus on the GM though to make this DC adjustment, rather than the player to apply the bonus.

Here's how I envision it working:

Player: "We need to bring this up with the King. Can I get an audience using my contacts?"
GM thinking: Hmm, getting an audience with the King would be challenging for a level 15 PC (or whatever the fiction dictates) so "Roll Society against DC 34."
Player: "Sure, and I have Connections so +3 on my roll"

vs.

GM thinking: Hmm, getting an audience with the King would be challenging for a level 15 PC (or whatever the fiction dictates) BUT this PC has connections so I'll adjust the diffculty down to Easy "Roll Society against DC 32."

Seems like the first reduced the GM load although the 2nd allows the GM to have lattitude on whether the "bonus" is between +2 and +5.


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Themetricsystem wrote:
This is homebrew for sure but if you want a rule of thumb, NO BONUSES to d20 checks should ever exceed +3 and that's at max level, the fact that you're looking at +5/+6 tells me you are way off base, there is literally nothing in the whole system that offers that high of numeric bonus, even for extreme niche activities or actions.

That's not exactly true. Nothing adds a general +5 to something, nor should it, but Pickpocket removes a -5 penalty to a particular type of task. If the base DC for these tasks was higher than normal, as OP suggests, the net effect effect is pretty similar.

That said, OP could stick closer to the design aesthetic of PF2 by just copying the format of pickpocket entirely, and saying that these tasks have a regular DC but you take a -5 penalty to attempting them without the feat.


hsnsy56 wrote:
Guntermench wrote:
If you wanted to homebrew this I'd go in the other direction. Let the skill feats work as is, let players try it without them at a penalty.

Why is this a better method? Does giving bonuses mess with something else?

The altering DC method like the Lore example could be similiar I suppose.

DC is Hard for someone just trained in Society
DC is Easy or Very Easy for someone that has the feat (-2 to -5 adjustment).

This puts the onus on the GM though to make this DC adjustment, rather than the player to apply the bonus.

Here's how I envision it working:

Player: "We need to bring this up with the King. Can I get an audience using my contacts?"
GM thinking: Hmm, getting an audience with the King would be challenging for a level 15 PC (or whatever the fiction dictates) so "Roll Society against DC 34."
Player: "Sure, and I have Connections so +3 on my roll"

vs.

GM thinking: Hmm, getting an audience with the King would be challenging for a level 15 PC (or whatever the fiction dictates) BUT this PC has connections so I'll adjust the diffculty down to Easy "Roll Society against DC 32."

Seems like the first reduced the GM load although the 2nd allows the GM to have lattitude on whether the "bonus" is between +2 and +5.

Because that's how other skill feats work. Like the pickpocket example from the poster above.


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I generally allow people to "use" a feat they could reasonably do without the feat at a -4 circumstance penalty.

-4 is a reasonable sweet spot for me in terms of percentages changed, but -5 is easier for some people to do the math with on the fly. And it works similarly either way.

So say someone is low level fighting a flying or levitating foe, they could try use the fighter feat to jump and hit, but at a big penalty.


vagrant-poet wrote:

I generally allow people to "use" a feat they could reasonably do without the feat at a -4 circumstance penalty.

-4 is a reasonable sweet spot for me in terms of percentages changed, but -5 is easier for some people to do the math with on the fly. And it works similarly either way.

So say someone is low level fighting a flying or levitating foe, they could try use the fighter feat to jump and hit, but at a big penalty.

Interesting.

Just for trivial encounters or combat ones too?

For example, would you allow a character to also use scare to death, without having the skill feat, with a -5 circ penalty?


hsnsy56 wrote:
Guntermench wrote:
If you wanted to homebrew this I'd go in the other direction. Let the skill feats work as is, let players try it without them at a penalty.

Why is this a better method? Does giving bonuses mess with something else?

The altering DC method like the Lore example could be similiar I suppose.

DC is Hard for someone just trained in Society
DC is Easy or Very Easy for someone that has the feat (-2 to -5 adjustment).

This puts the onus on the GM though to make this DC adjustment, rather than the player to apply the bonus.

Here's how I envision it working:

Player: "We need to bring this up with the King. Can I get an audience using my contacts?"
GM thinking: Hmm, getting an audience with the King would be challenging for a level 15 PC (or whatever the fiction dictates) so "Roll Society against DC 34."
Player: "Sure, and I have Connections so +3 on my roll"

vs.

GM thinking: Hmm, getting an audience with the King would be challenging for a level 15 PC (or whatever the fiction dictates) BUT this PC has connections so I'll adjust the diffculty down to Easy "Roll Society against DC 32."

Seems like the first reduced the GM load although the 2nd allows the GM to have lattitude on whether the "bonus" is between +2 and +5.

The simple answer is, it's easier to tell your players "Since you don't have the feat, I'll allow you to attempt this but at a penalty". That way your working well within the existing rules frame work. The only "homebrew" you're doing is allowing access to feats that players wouldn't normally have by applying a penalty.


HumbleGamer wrote:
vagrant-poet wrote:

I generally allow people to "use" a feat they could reasonably do without the feat at a -4 circumstance penalty.

-4 is a reasonable sweet spot for me in terms of percentages changed, but -5 is easier for some people to do the math with on the fly. And it works similarly either way.

So say someone is low level fighting a flying or levitating foe, they could try use the fighter feat to jump and hit, but at a big penalty.

Interesting.

Just for trivial encounters or combat ones too?

For example, would you allow a character to also use scare to death, without having the skill feat, with a -5 circ penalty?

It is important to remember, in threads like this, that stuff like this doesn't come up SUPER often. Generally if they want to do something, I let them try at a penalty.

Normally they'll only try to do stuff that they'd expect a person to be roughly able to do, and enabling that but showcasing that it takes training to do it well is what "Sure, it's normally a feat but you can try at a big penalty" is for: Narrative consistency.

Scare to Death is "You can frighten foes so much, they might die.", which tbh is not something most people would think they could do without specific training, so I don't think people would really try much without the feat. But if there was a compelling story happening, sure I'd let it happen. Might be an even bigger penalty though, like a "You take a -10 so as a level 8 ridiculous superhero if you really try you might scare a random farmer to death", that seems like it'd mean it'll only come up in a fun story, but never cause issues in the game to me. And because it's "use un-taken feats by convention", the understanding is that if some corner-case is awkward, we won't allow that in a case-by-case manner.


I think instead of a bigger penalty it's reasonable to gate some of them by proficiency level, just like the feats themselves.


Guntermench wrote:
I think instead of a bigger penalty it's reasonable to gate some of them by proficiency level, just like the feats themselves.

Probably both a penalty and gating you to require to have the proficiency level required for the skill feat.


Claxon wrote:
Guntermench wrote:
I think instead of a bigger penalty it's reasonable to gate some of them by proficiency level, just like the feats themselves.
Probably both a penalty and gating you to require to have the proficiency level required for the skill feat.

I think Guntermench was just arguing no bigger penalty than the usual -5 (or whatever).

So anyone who is Legendary can Scare to Death or Cloud Jump at -5 , the feat takes the penalty away.

I think you'd have to do the math. If it's too reliable for someone proficient with good stat and other bonuses then the feat is devalued. The difference between these types of actions and say the Connections idea I think is that with Connections the GM has wiggle room to set the DCs such that it makes fictional and math sense whereas the DCs for these actions are set at Will DC.


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Yes, the same generic penalty but you also can't attempt the action until you have X proficiency.


Guntermench wrote:


Because that's how other skill feats work. Like the pickpocket example from the poster above.

Claxon wrote:
The simple answer is, it's easier to tell your players "Since you don't have the feat, I'll allow you to attempt this but at a penalty". That way your working well within the existing rules frame work. The only "homebrew" you're doing is allowing access to feats that players wouldn't normally have by applying a penalty.

I definitely see this point of view, and maybe it is easier in the end given how things have been designed.

I don’t care for the design though. The GM basically needs to memorize every skill feat to understand the limits of normal skill use to assign those penalties. It's not too bad now, but I assume the skill feats will just keep growing as more books come out. Every time a skill feat “allows” you to do something, it takes that away from the base skill.

I’m fine with that gating for more mythical things, but as mentioned they could have just gated that stuff around proficiency and then still had feats that made it easier to do specific hard stuff.

Gating around proficiency would have made the game a ton more flexible. You could have just redefined the baseline expectations of what you can do with say Legendary proficiency and the feats would not have to be adjusted.

You could have a setting where Legendary proficiency in Acrobatics means you can literally try to jump from cloud to cloud or Legendary in Thievery means a very hard DC check you can steal someone’s shadow and put it into a bottle. If feat is +5 bonus to stealing then that helps you regardless of how you define the baseline per tier. But that is going a little far off topic…

Another benefit if feats are bonuses to specific situations, then the cognitive load is on the exception that an individual player has rather than the GM matching a situation to the entire cataloge of feats and applying the penalty.

Anyway, sounds like some people think -/+ 4 or 5 is not too crazy so I will probably try that out either as a penalty to use a feat action you don’t have (gated by proficiency for more mythic things) as suggested, or I will just use the feats as guidelines to set DCs and give the feats a +5 bonus.

Customer Service Lead

I have moved this thread to the Homebrew section.


FowlJ wrote:

That's not exactly true. Nothing adds a general +5 to something, nor should it, but Pickpocket removes a -5 penalty to a particular type of task. If the base DC for these tasks was higher than normal, as OP suggests, the net effect effect is pretty similar.

That said, OP could stick closer to the design aesthetic of PF2 by just copying the format of pickpocket entirely, and saying that these tasks have a regular DC but you take a -5 penalty to attempting them without the feat.

Now that I look at this closer this is a weird example of inconsistency. The only reason the Feat is like this, is that "protected object is -5" is defined in the base skill.

I like this, but more consistent with other Feats (Group Impression, etc.) would have been to gate stealing "protected objects" with a Feat.

I would have much preffered if they had done the Thievery way for other "mundane" things. Make an Impression on 2 people at once at -2, 10 at -5, 25 at -10. Feat takes away penalty at each proficiency tier.

-5 penalty to Make an Impression immediately instead of 1 minute.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Guntermench wrote:
I think instead of a bigger penalty it's reasonable to gate some of them by proficiency level, just like the feats themselves.

Kinda wish Paizo had done this in general and had more natural skill uses that are proficiency based instead of making them all feats.


Guntermench wrote:
Yes, the same generic penalty but you also can't attempt the action until you have X proficiency.

That's good to me.

Thought it might seem unfair, I appreciate when during AP the checks require a character to be at least expert in that skill to proceed and make an attempt.

It seemed just a thing for thievery at first, but I am glad they managed to also include it in their AP.

Not to say that DC are moderate enough to encourage players not to maximize 3 skills but to widen their skillset by taking more "expert" or as soon as they reach higher levels "master" ranks.


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I think Paizo didn't set up skills to allow for all these kinds of actions with penalties that get removed by taking a feat because it feels super lame to take a feat that only removes a penalty. It feels much better when that feat lets you do stuff no one else can do.


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It's been, like, two years, and the only book that's added any significant amount of skill feats is Advanced Player's Guide. You're probably fine taking the above approach of being able to try skill stuff at your proficiency level without the feat, using a penalty.


Claxon wrote:
I think Paizo didn't set up skills to allow for all these kinds of actions with penalties that get removed by taking a feat because it feels super lame to take a feat that only removes a penalty. It feels much better when that feat lets you do stuff no one else can do.

Bonuses could have effectively done that without the hard gate keeping though. That’s why I am leaning toward bonuses in my games.

It may be roughly the same math, but it feels better to have a +5 to impersonating a noble and feel above the curve. As long as it lets you do much harder things with more reliability than without the feat you get a sort of soft gate keeping that is more satisfying to me.

That way,

Sure, someone with proficiency and stat could probably impersonate a noble to cow a inn keeper but only someone with the feat could reliably impersonate a noble at the king’s gala where 30 noble families are attending. (Perhaps an above level very hard check at mid levels)


I think it still feels equally bad to spend a feat to only get a bonus to a specific kind of check (not all uses of a skill).

Like, you would have to increase the DCs from what are presented in the rule books by the amount the bonus would provide to keep the balance.

Feats that let you do something no one else can is far more interesting.

The hard gatekeeping is the point in my opinion.

It also breaks the system in other areas, because currently you can pull a "moderate DC" for any skill task and the DC is the same for all the tasks.

By applying a bonus you need a higher DC for specific actions to compensate for the bonus.

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