More on 4e Skills

Well, after a brief and incomplete consultation, I’m prepared to move on to the next stage regarding skills. The consensus is to keep the expanded skill list (with a few changes), and to assign skills using option two – a limited number of trained skils dependent upon your class, and then a set number of secondary skills. Secondary skills work like untrained skills in the published rules. Everything that isn’t a trained skill or a secondary skill, will be designated untrained.

A couple of things have changed to the skill list. Firstly, I have removed Watercraft and folded it back into Profession (Sailor) or Profession (boatman) or some such skill. I have removed Jump from the skill list and reintroduced Athletics. You make an Athletics check if you want to jump, but the skill has a  broader utility. For example, you will be able to make an Athletics check to resist a grab. This puts the house rules closer in line with the printed rules, which is probably a good thing. Climb, Swim and Ride remain separate skills.

Also you don’t use Bluff to forge documents; in hindsight that probably is a bit silly. I’ve not put a Forgery skill into the list, as it seems a little specialised. The option for Profession (forger) is there if a PC really wants to take it.

I have renamed Knowledge (divine) to Knowledge (transcendent). This is just me being a bit of a pedant, but I feel that if clerics and warlocks are going to get their power from the same magical tradition, then Divine Magic is an inappropriate term. There is nothing divine about what warlocks do. So the tradition is Transcendent Magic, and the sub branches are Pact Magic (for warlocks) and Divine Magic (for clerics and paladins). That make sense?

I have reintroduced Handle Animal to the list. I took it out initially, but I’m rather pressed to see what other skill would fulfill that function. Knowledge (nature) doesn’t really do the job, and while Ride might be a reasonable substitute for horses it isn’t really appropriate for your average squirrel wrangler. So, Handle Animal returns.

After some discussion, we have opted to give no special status to Craft or Profession skills. You can take them if you want them, or not depending on your character background. There should be enough skills sloshing around to make that possible. It should be noted that Craft and Profession aren’t tied to any particular attribute. The attribute will change depending on the skill. Craft (basketweaving) could well come off Dex, for example.

So, without further ado here is the new definitive list of skills for fourth edition:

New Skill Attribute Modifier
Acrobatics Dex
Athletics Str
Bluff Cha
Climb Str
Craft (choose) Varies
Diplomacy Cha
Disable Device Dex
Disguise Cha
Endurance Con
Escape Artist Dex
Handle Animal Cha
Heal Wis
Insight Wis
Intimidate Cha
Knowledge (Aberrant) Int
Knowledge (Ancients) Int
Knowledge (Arcane) Int
Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) Int
Knowledge (Dragons) Int
Knowledge (Elemental) Int
Knowledge (Fey) Int
Knowledge (Geography) Int
Knowledge (History) Int
Knowledge (Incarnum) Int
Knowledge (Nature) Int
Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) Int
Knowledge (Primal) Int
Knowledge (Psionics) Int
Knowledge (Religion) Int
Knowledge (Shadow) Int
Knowledge (Sonorism) Int
Knowledge (Transcendent) Int
Perception Wis
Perform Cha
Profession (choose) Varies
Read/Write Script No check
Ride Dex
Sleight of Hand Dex
Speak Language No check
Stealth Dex
Streetwise Cha
Survival Wis
Swim Str
Weavecraft Int

The skill list has therefore increased from 17 skills to 44 – and potentially many more than 44 if you consider that many variations of Profession and Craft are possible. Now, let’s revisit how we are going to handle that.

At this stage you have to forget the terminology used in the official fourth edition rules. Skills are either trained skills, secondary skills or untrained skills. The definitions of these are not necessarily the same as you would find inside the printed rulebooks.

Assigning Skills

Each character class has a list of Class Skills. These are the skills from the master list that are most closely associated with each class. During character generation you can choose a set number of skills from your list of Class Skills. You are trained in these skills. The exact number of trained skills differs by class, although it is usually about eight. Additionally, you may select a further ten secondary skills. A secondary skill can be any skill from the master list. You do not have to select solely from your class list. Any skill that is not a trained skill or a secondary skill is an untrained skill.

Skill checks work like this:

  • Trained skill: 1d20 + half your level + relevant attribute modifier + 5
  • Secondary skill: 1d20 + half your level + relevant attribute modifier
  • Untrained skill: 1d20 + relevant attribute modifier

Some skills cannot be used untrained. For example, you can’t even attempt a check on most knowledge skills if you are untrained in them.

Languages

Like skills, languages can be trained, secondary or untrained. If you are trained in a language then you speak it like a native. You can hold complex discussions and conversations, you can write complicated prose and poetry in that language. If you have a language as a secondary skill then you know enough to get by. You can buy dinner, ask the way to the beach and understand a simple written message. If you are untrained in a language then you do not know it at all. That’s my nod to your desire for different levels of language proficiency, Steve.

During character generation, you gain four languages or scripts (unless you are a half-elf in which case you gain six). These can be any languages as long as they are supported by your character background – you don’t have to be able to speak your racial tongue. You could learn how to speak many languages, but not know how to read and write them – it is entirely up to you. All of these languages are considered to be trained skills.

You can gain additional languages through the skills system. Each time you select the Speak Language skill you can speak one more language. Each time you select the Read/Write Language skill you can understand one more script. Depending on your class, you can either choose these skills as trained skills, or secondary skills. Whatever you choose, you never have to roll on checks to speak a language.

After character generation, you get new languages in the same way you get any new skills. You select the Skill Training feat. To gain understanding of a language you do not know, or to increase a secondary skill in a language to a trained skill, you have to select the this feat. However, the Linguist feat is also extremely useful to you. See the list of altered feats.

Feats

The changes to the skill list has necessitated changes to a few of the feats presented in Player’s Handbook 1. These are my proposed changes to these feats.

Agile Athlete [Paragon]
Benefit: You may roll twice and use the higher result whenever you make a skill check with the following skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Climb, Escape Artist and Swim.

Arcane Initiate [Multiclass]
Benefit: Unchanged except that you get training in Knowledge (arcane).

Escape Artist [Heroic] (I’ll rename this feat Escapologist, to avoid confusion).
Prerequisite: Trained in Escape Artist skill.
Benefit: You can attempt to escape a grab as a minor action as opposed to a move action. You gain a +2 feat bonus to Escape Artist checks.

Jack of all Trades [Heroic]
Prerequisite: Int 13
Benefit: You gain a +2 feat bonus to all secondary skills.

Initiate of the Faith [Multiclass]
Benefit: Unchanged, except you can choose to gain Knowledge (transcendent) or Knowledge (religion) as a trained skill.

Light Step [Heroic, Elf]
Prerequisite: Elf
Benefit: Most benefits of this feat are unchanged. The +1 feat bonus to skills applies to Acrobatics, Escape Artist and Stealth.

Linguist [Heroic]
Prerequisite: Int 13
Benefit: Any language or script you select as a secondary skill is treated as if it was a trained skill. See the section on languages for more information.

Mounted Combat [Heroic]
Benefit: Largely unchanged. Your mount is able to use your base skill check when it uses any of the following skills: Atheltics, Acrobatics, Climb, Endurance, Escape Artist, Stealth or Swim.

Skill Training [Heroic]
Benefit: Choose one secondary skill or one untrained skill. You upgrade that skill to the next level of proficiency. A secondary skill becomes a trained skill; an untrained skill becomes a secondary skill.
Special: You can take this feat more than once. Each time you select this feat, choose another secondary or untrained skill.

Sneak of Shadows [Multiclass]
Benefit: Largely unchanged. You gain training in one skill from the rogue’s skill list – it doesn’t have to be Thievery or related to thievery.

Sure Climber [Heroic]
Benefit: Gain a +1 bonus to Climb not to Athletics. The other benefits of the feat are unchanged.

Character Classes and Class Skills

One final thing to do is to revisit the eight classes from PHB1 and make a definitive list of class skills for them, and set a number of trained skills that each one aquires at level one.

Cleric

Choose Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (transcendent and any six skills from the following list:

Class Skills: Craft (varies), Diplomacy (Cha), Heal (Wis), Insight (Wis), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (transcendent), Knowledge (any other two), Profession (varies), Read/Write Script, Speak Language, Weavecraft (Int)

Fighter

Choose any eight skills from the following list:

Class Skills: Athletics (Str), Climb (Str), Craft (varies), Endurance (Con), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty), Knowledge (any other one), Profession (varies), Ride (Dex), Speak Language, Streetwise (Cha), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str)

Paladin

Choose Knowledge (religion) and any seven skills from the following list:

Class Skills: Craft (varies), Diplomacy (Cha), Endurance (Con), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Insight (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (transcendent) (Int), Knowledge (any other two), Profession (varies), Read/Write Script, Ride (Dex), Speak Language, Weavecraft (Int)

Ranger

Choose any ten skills from the following list:

Class Skills: Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), Climb (Str), Craft (varies), Endurance (Con), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (any other three), Perception (Wis), Profession (varies), Ride (Dex), Speak Language, Stealth (Dex), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str)

Rogue

Choose Stealth and either Disable Device or Sleight of Hand. Then choose a further ten skills from the following list:

Class Skills: Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (varies), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Insight (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (any three), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (varies), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Speak Language, Stealth (Dex), Streetwise (Cha), Swim (Str)

Warlock

Choose a Knowledge skill related to your Pact, and another seven skills from the following list:
Class Skills: Bluff (Cha), Craft (varies), Disable Device (Dex), Disguise (Cha), Insight (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (transcendent) (Int), Knowledge (pact dependent: either aberrant, fey or ancients), Knowledge (any other two), Profession (varies), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Speak Language, Streetwise (Cha), Weavecraft (Int)

Warlord

Choose eight skills from the following list:
Class Skills: Athletics (Str), Climb (Str), Craft (varies), Diplomacy (Cha), Endurance (Con), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (architecture and engineering), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nobility and royalty), Knowledge (any other two), Profession (varies), Read/Write Script, Ride (Dex), Speak Language, Survival (Wis), Swim (Str)

Wizard

Choose Knowledge (arcane) and a further seven skills from the following list:
Class Skills: Craft (varies), Diplomacy (Cha), Insight (Wis), Knowldge (arcane) (Int), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (any other), Profession (varies), Read/Write Script, Speak Language, Weavecraft (Int)

Racial Skill Bonuses

I thought I would restate these, so that everything is in one post. I have changed the racial skill bonus for Dragonborn. This is an Iourn-related thing. Knowledge (history) might be more appropriate for other campaigns:

  • Dragonborn: +2 Knowledge (religion); +2 Intimidate
  • Dwarf: +2 Survival; +2 Endurance
  • Eldarin:+2 Knowledge (arcane); +2 Knowledge (history)
  • Elf: +2 Knowledge (nature); +2 Perception
  • Half-Elf: +2 Diplomacy; +2 Insight
  • Halfling: +2 Acrobatics; +2 Sleight of Hand
  • Tiefling: +2 Bluff; +2 Stealth
  • Warforged: +2 Endurance; +2 Intimidate

To Conclude

Right, I think that about covers everything in advance of next week’s character generation. Hopefully everything won’t be too confused on the night. Obviously, the skills system should be judged as a work in progress. We’ll play with this list, and then see if it feels right in the context of the game. If not, we can always change things. The retraining mechanic will help us in this regard.

Next

It’s still character classes.

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