Tuesday, April 16, 2013

D&D Next March Playtest - Skills

The skill system in D&D Next seems to me to be somewhat of a middle ground between 3.x and 4E.  What I mean by this is that it's a longer, more granular skill list than 4E, but it doesn't have the fiddly skill rank crap that plagued 3.x.  I liked 4E's condensed, streamlined skill list a LOT, but that system did still suffer from skill disparity (though not as severe as 3.x).  Skill disparity being when a character accrues such a high modifier for a given skill that it's pretty much an auto-success, while his companions have such a low modifier that failure is much more likely than success.  There's a fine line to walk here; a trained character needs to feel like his training is worthwhile, but an untrained character shouldn't be so discouraged that he shouldn't attempt a skill (being more likely to do harm than good in the attempt).

This system, in good ol' Bounded Accuracy fashion, seems to hit that line pretty well.  A highly skilled character is more likely to get a high bonus for being trained, but can always roll a 1 with the skill die, closing that skill disparity gap.  However, I still can't help but feel d20 + other die is just inelegant when the core mechanic is a d20 roll.  A modifier (+3 for being trained, which is the average of a d6?) and limiting the amount of misc. boosts that can be accrued would be cleaner and more intuitive.  That said, I'm really not sure if I like that more than the "hybrid dice pool" where your bonus is variable.

Of course the BIGGEST SELLING POINT of this system, to me, is that the SACRED COW OF CLASS-BASED SKILL DISCREPANCY HAS FINALLY BEEN SLAIN!!!!!!  Yep, if nothing else I'm happy that every class starts with the same number of skills by default.  Yeah, Rogues gain more skills through schemes, and that's cool if you're going for the skill monkey Rogue, but as I stated in my review of the Rogue I'd prefer that that be an OPTION.  A combat Rogue need not be any more skilled than a Fighter, meaning that some schemes wouldn't provide extra skills (but rather some extra combat utility).

I'll conclude with some comments on individual skills.

Balance + Tumble - My preference would be for this to be combined into Acrobatics.  Because Tumble is generally a pretty useful skill, but Balance is so situational that I can't imagine many players picking it up.

Break Object (WHAT?!?!) + Climb + Jump + Swim - These should all be consolidated into Athletics.  I mean, come on now, we all know that watering down the physical skills will have the same effect as "Hi, I'm Mr. Fighter I get less skillz cuz I'm dum and only good at fighting!"

Spot + Listen - What's wrong with Perception?  Or better yet, call it Awareness.

Sneak - SEE!  Hide and Move Silently were consolidated into one skill!

Conceal Object - Oh yeah, I forgot about how disarm trap, lockpicking, etc. are frickin' FEATS now.  See the feats article for those complaints, but to summarize these should all be neatly consolidated (as SKILLS!) into Thievery.  Or Detect/Disarm Traps separate from the Thievery skill (which would cover sleights of hand, which are situational, and lockpicking).

Ride/Drive/Handle Animal - Here's a proposition; why not get ride of Drive (unless your campaign setting departs from the medieval fantasy base and has some steampunk elements, perhaps)?  I mean, setting-specific skills are fine if detailed in their specific setting books/modules, but most vehicles in standard D&D will be animal powered anyways.  And thematically, I don't see much of a reason to separate Handle Animal and Ride, actually.  You have to be able to handle your horse to ride it, right?  The key being that "handle" is a pretty vague term anyways.  I see that as being training and commanding, which includes riding.

Speaking of DRIVE, why is there no Boating or Sailing skill?  That comes up WAY more frequently in my experience than "Ride" even.  Heck, moreso than Handle Animal even considering my streamlined definition above.

Recall Lore - The knowledge skill look pretty good, but I'm thinking Subterranean Lore should be called Dungeoneering Lore (though that's pretty nitpicky).  Glad to be rid of Heraldric Lore (I think Political Lore covers that pretty well).  I'm still not feeling Forbidden Lore.  What exactly is that?  Why can't that be handled by either Natural, Magical, or Religious Lore?

1 comment:

  1. Another enjoyable review. Thanks for taking the time to go through the playtest packet!