Tome of Prowess (3.5e Sourcebook)/Rules
- 1 Rules
- 1.1 General Rules
- 1.2 Retraining
- 1.3 Skill Bonuses
- 1.4 Converting to the Tome of Prowess
Adjusting the skill system to fit the scaling challenge system that D&D uses requires some extensive changes. The core, system level changes are explained in this chapter along with conversions for the core base classes to make adoption more convenient. Changes to other class feats and subsystems can be found in the Supporting Changes chapter.
There are enough changes and updates in this work to make it worth rewriting any duplicated parts of the base rules for clarity. As such, this section is intended to be used on its own and you should not need to reference the SRD rules at all. Where the rules differ substantially from the SRD, we have generally included sidebars to discuss the reasoning behind the changes.
Those of you who are familiar with the SRD rules and just want to know what the big differences are can find them in the spoiler box below.
|Changes and Updates|
|No More Intelligence Bonus|
|Because of the greatly increased power of these skills, you no longer gain your Intelligence modifier as a bonus to your skill points per level. Getting a bonus skill from high intelligence with this variant is akin to getting bonus feats for a stat, and that would be bad. So it got cut. We believe there are ample reasons to retain a decent Intelligence score still, and there are still some classes that depend on it.|
Every class comes with a number of granted skill points, which are used to gain ranks in a skill. You gain a bonus to checks with a skill equal to the number of ranks you have in it, and unlock more impressive skill abilities based on your total ranks in a skill. The way that you invest these points to gain ranks in a skill depends on whether you elect to advance your skills automatically or manually, as described in the sections below.
Automatic Skill Investment
At first level, you gain a number of skill selections equal to the skill point value of your class. You may select any class skill to advance at the class rate of character level + 3, or you may use that selection to instead gain two skills at the cross-class rate of (character level + 3) / 2 rounded up. Once a skill is selected in this way, it automatically gains ranks based on your level and the selected progression.
This system works poorly with multiclass characters and may require substantial additional bookkeeping. Because a class skill for any class is a class skill for every class, we recommend that multiclass characters simply make the same selections across all classes if possible. If it is not possible due to differing numbers of skill points, we instead recommend that they use the manual skill investment rules instead.
Manual Skill Investment
Some players prefer a bit more management of their skill selections. There is power to be squeezed out of a completely manual assignment of skill points, if you want to spend the time and energy looking for it.
|Cross Class Purchasing|
|Unlike in the SRD, you gain cross class skill ranks at the cost of 1 skill point each. With this change, you can sacrifice one of your main skills for two cross-class skills at half rank. And if you ever multi-class into a class where those are class skills, you haven't permanently given up a pile of skill points. Additionally, you round the cross-class maximum up instead of down so that we can avoid people being unable to spend skill points on cross-class skills at even levels (and thus having unused skill points). It also sets the level 20 cap at 12 ranks instead of 11 and grants additional powers at the top end, which is a nice thing for cross class skills to get.|
If you elect to manually assign your skill points rather than simply select some skills for maximum investment, you gain a number of skill points as determined by your class selection each time you gain a level. At first level, the skill points granted by your class are multiplied by 4.
The skill points acquired from your levels are invested in your skills. Each skill point you invest in a skill grants you 1 rank in the skill. You may invest up to your character level + 3 skill points in any class skill, and up to (your character level + 3) / 2 rounded up in any cross class skill. Once you have reached these rank maximums, you may not invest additional skill points in that skill until you increase the maximum through level gain.
If a skill appears as a class skill for a class that a character possesses, the maximum ranks for the character in that skill is equal to their character level +3. Effectively, if a skill is a class skill for one of your classes, it is a class skill for all of your classes.
Additionally, if a character takes a level in a base class that offers more skill points per level than any of his other current base classes, he gains an additional number of skill points equal to 3 times the difference between the number of skill points granted by his new class and the highest number of skill points granted by one of his current classes. These points may be invested in current or new skills as normal.
Each of the new skill abilities include a rank minimum (even if that rank is Untrained), and characters with at least this many ranks may attempt that use of the skill without penalty. This adjustment allows us to ignore the trained / untrained distinction previously present in skills. There are simply abilities that you can use at your current skill level, and abilities you can not because you lack sufficient ranks.
|Where did the penalties for trying to do better go?|
|There used to be penalties in the skills that you could take if you were trying to do better than the default success rate. These have been eliminated entirely, and generally subsumed into the degrees of success check results. The reason is straightforward: you are always assumed to be trying to do as well as you possibly can with your skill, without taking unnecessary risks. If you need to push yourself for some reason, roll the die instead of taking 10. The chances of failure or underperforming are roughly equal to the chances of you performing better, and that’s much better for these purposes than sticking a negative modifier on your roll.|
To make a skill check, you roll 1d20 and add your skill check modifier to your roll. Your check modifier includes your skill ranks, your attribute bonus from the related attribute, and any miscellaneous modifiers for circumstances related to the ability ranging from racial bonuses to equipment bonuses or armor check penalties.
Your check result is compared against the task DC. This DC is either determined by the DM based on the obstacle or set by someone else making an opposed check. Your degree of success or failure against the DC is used to determine the degree of your success or failure with the skill ability. These results are listed in the skill abilities, which use this format:
Base DC: The basic DC required to use the ability. This entry also includes an indication of applicable modifiers.
- DC+10 and above: This entry indicates how the ability changes if you roll better than the DC by 10 or more. It may not be present in all abilities.
- DC+5 to DC+9: This entry indicates how the ability changes if you roll better than the DC by 5 or more, or it may be written as “DC+5 and above” if there is no greater success possible. It may not be present in all abilities.
- DC+0 to DC+4: This entry indicates the default level of success for the ability by meeting or exceeding the DC. It is present for all abilities, and may be written as “DC+0 and above” if there is no greater success possible.
- DC-1 to DC-5: This entry indicates the default level of failure for the ability if you do not meet or exceed the DC. It is present for all abilities, and may be written as “DC-1 and below” if there is no greater failure possible.
- DC-6 and below: If there is a more substantial failure possible than the default level, it is listed in this entry. It may not be present in all abilities.
Almost every skill ability includes a penalty for failing by more than a certain amount. This was done to discourage repeated attempts when the abilities are first acquired, since a number of these abilities mimic spells in effect. The abilities also include benefits for successes over a certain amount. This was done to provide characters improving benefits from their abilities and to reduce ability obsolescence, as well as to make characters choose between risking failure by rolling for a stronger result and playing things safe by taking a fixed result instead of the roll.
Checks without Rolls
Making a roll for a skill ability includes the potential for both great success and great failure, and there are times when you might rather just get by without worrying about it. These times are generally those when you are not under pressure to perform, like in combat, and when you have time to focus.
You may "take X" with any skill ability whenever you are not actively threatened or distracted. Additionally you may "take X" with any skill ability even when you are actively threatened or distracted as long as you have 4 more ranks in the skill than the minimum required to use the skill ability. Gaining four levels means you get the task under hand, and it’s just not that big of a deal anymore.
Taking 10 represents putting in an average amount of effort, and not attempting to reach for a greater result. It can be thought of as doing "just enough to get by". For the purposes of your skill check, you treat your 1d20 roll as if it had come up 10. Taking this option takes the same amount of time as a normal use of the skill ability does.
Taking 15 represents spending time and effort to do a good job, but without spending time to make it perfect. It can be thought of as "taking the time to do it right". For the purposes of your skill check, you treat your 1d20 roll as if it had come up 15. Taking this option takes four times as long as a normal use of the skill ability does.
Taking 20 represents putting in a great deal of effort in an attempt to make the check as "perfect as you can get". It means doing it over, and over, and over until you get it right... even if you get it wrong once or twice along the way. If you would fail the check in a way that would not allow you to retry it had you rolled a 1, you treat your 1d20 roll as if it had come up 1. Otherwise you treat your 1d20 roll as if it had come up 20. Taking this option takes 20 times as long as a normal use of the skill ability does.
|Make Your Own Checks|
|Checks that the DM used to make for you for secrecy reasons have been rewritten into checks that players should make themselves. While it wasn’t bad for the DM to make these checks, it only served to make players feel disconnected from their success or failure and to keep information from them that might make them not continue ahead. It’s easy enough to write these checks in such a way that you either know you failed, know you succeeded, or believe you’ve succeeded (but be wrong about it), and in those cases there’s no reason to keep that from you. As part of this trade off though, once you say you do something and you roll the die for the check, you’re bound by its results and you’re bound to carry through the action. The DM doesn't need to tell you the DC of the task though, so it's generally best to not worry about your action once it's begun.|
|Why is retraining a core rule?|
|Retraining is a core rule for two reasons. The first is that it vastly increases the flexibility of the skilled classes. As mentioned in the rules section, the skilled classes simply have no recourse if the adventure shifts to an area where a skill they could have been investing in, but were not, suddenly becomes relevant. Retraining allows them to gain a bit of the flexibility that spellcasters all have with their ability to simply memorize different spells each day. As reworking the skill system to allow the skilled classes to better keep up with spellcasters is the whole point of this revision, anything that helps in that regard is included in the core rules.
The second reason has to do with defaulting. People are simply less likely to use an optional rule they have concerns about than they are to remove a core rule they have concerns about, so setting it as the default rule means that more people will use it. While retraining has historically been frowned upon for various reasons, from narrative to realism concerns, we feel that these are generally overstated. And since the benefits outweigh the minor drawbacks from these concerns, we include it by default to get as much of that benefit as possible.
Still, if you just can't swallow it, you have a few options. You can increase the time it takes to retrain to something you think more realistic. Doing so limits some of the flexibility to greater periods of downtime, but doesn't eliminate it entirely. It's a nerf, but a minor one. Actually removing the ability to retrain is on the table as well, as it's ultimately your game and you will use or exclude rules as you see fit. While there's nothing we can do to stop you from making that decision, we do not believe it to be a good one for the game in general. We hope we've presented reasons here for you to keep it in your games, at least to try it out, and that when you see it in play you find it's not a problem after all.
Retraining is a core part of the Tome of Prowess revision, not an optional rule that only some games take advantage of. The concept has been around in house rules for ages, but was officially introduced in the Player's Handbook II. The version in that book does not work well for our purposes and we do not use there here. So if you have read those rules, please forget them now.
There will be situations where you’ll want a skill ready that you haven’t been investing in. You may need to learn how to climb to scale the Frostfell Mountains, or you may decide that you don’t ever use the acrobatics and something else would serve you better. Casters deal with these situations the same way they deal with anything else; they just rememorize or supplement their spell selection with scrolls, and then they go back to ignoring the skill system entirely. Since skilled characters can’t do that, it’s really quite necessary that they get to retrain their skills instead. It’s not a big deal; real people do it all of the time. It just takes some time, dedication, and (because this is a game) a training montage.
To retrain, you simply dedicate some time to the process and, at the end of that time, move a number of skill points from the skills which had them at the beginning to the other skills that you wish to raise. The time required depends on what you wish to train your new skills up to, as indicated in the table below. The days spent must be consecutive, but after you have spent the required time you may raise one skill up to any rank equal to or less than the maximum rank indicated. If you wish to retrain any other skills during the same period, you may do so; simply increase the time spent by 2 days for each additional skill. If you wish to train several skills up to different levels, you must spend the time required for the highest skill rank you wish to achieve, plus 2 additional days for each additional skill.
For example, if you have a level 8 character with 6 skill points per level who wished to consolidate all of their skill points into 6 skills at max rank, you would need to spend a total of 17 days to accomplish this: 7 days for the first skill to achieve maximum rank plus 2 additional days for each of the 5 extra skills. If you wanted to train 4 skills up max rank and 4 others up to a cross-class maximum, you would need to spend a total of 21 days retraining: 7 days for the first and 14 additional days for each additional skill. Seriously, your character is an adventurer and they can prepare for just about anything in less than a month.
If you had been adventuring for a while, you would pick up and remember all sorts of useful things. Unfortunately, the skill system is really bad about representing this. You can never make checks to see if you recall anything about a creature type you've faced dozens of times before, you can never try your hand at opening a lock like you've seen your companions do, and you never improve even a little bit at the untrained things that you could attempt if you wanted. To rectify this, characters gain the option to spend additional time on an otherwise untrained, or under-trained, skill check in exchange for temporary ranks in the skill.
You may use a skill as if you had a number of ranks in it based on your level, as indicated in the table below, but you must spend 4 times as long as the normal action required for the skill check. If the action would normally be performed as a free action, you must spend a standard action on it instead. If it would be performed as a swift or immediate action, you must spend a full-round action on it instead.
You may not take 10 or 15 on this skill check, even if you would normally be able to if you had invested in the skill. This is because you lack sufficient practice with the skill and are making a best guess based on things you have seen in your journeys or been told by companions. You may take 20 if circumstances would normally permit you to do so, but it takes 80 times as long as the normal action required for the skill check. In this case, you are simply 'winging it' over and over and over again until you get your 20. You otherwise act as if you had the ranks in the skill for the purposes of the check.
While your ranks are important for providing a level of competence and opening up new abilities, equally important is your total bonus to these ability checks. Each skill ability is designed to be usable, but not necessarily reliable, when you first acquire them in order to offset the fact that you can basically use them all of the time.
Bonuses to skills are broken up into five groups, each detailed below.
- Skill Ranks are a bonus equal to the amount of skill points invested in a skill.
- Attribute modifiers are gained from having a high attribute related to a skill.
- Conditional modifiers are those gained based on actual conditions when you use a skill ability, and are generally detailed in the skill descriptions. Bonuses arising from different conditions stack, unless otherwise noted in the condition description.
- Competence modifiers are any racial ability, class feature, feat, gear, spell, or any other bonus or penalty to a skill that does not fit into one of the other groupings. Bonuses do not stack with other bonuses, and are capped at +3 in order to keep success rates within expected progressions. Penalties do not stack with other penalties, but are not capped. Only the largest available competence bonus and penalty apply on any particular roll.
- Circumstance modifiers are a miscellaneous +/-2 modifier that the DM may apply as necessary. They should be reserved for special cases where the existing condition modifiers do not adequately cover the situation.
The competence bonus limit is a substantial change, and one worth understanding. A simple example of the non-stacking implications can be found among feats. While skill focus and the various skill feats that boost two skills by +2 are still in the game and still work normally, these feats no longer stack. If you want to be very skilled in one thing, you should take skill focus in it. If you want to be rather skilled in multiple things, you should take the feat that offers a +2 bonus to each of those things. You should never take both for the same skill or take feats to boost skills that you gain racial bonuses on, because they do not stack and that's a big waste of your rather limited feats.
There are many racial features, class features, feats, gear abilities, or spell benefits that do not fit into the strict new bonus structure. They may offer bonuses to skills that no longer exist, bonuses that are too large, or grant an ability that doesn't make any sense. These generally require some conversion on your part before they can be used properly. While it is impossible to cover every conversion case for every published item, the most common are detailed in the next sections and should provide a good reference for any that aren't covered.
|What about synergy bonuses?|
|Synergy bonuses exist to give characters a reason to take similar sets of skills and only work to provide larger bonuses. Since there's no reason in this work to push people into taking similar sets of skills and we are really concerned about stopping people from stacking bonuses, we left them out.|
Converting Racial, Class, and Feat Bonuses
Every bonus or ability that does not fit into the Tome of Prowess bonus structure must be updated independently. If there are two racial abilities, class features, or feats that grant skill bonuses going in, there should be two after conversion as well. While it may be tempting to merge some abilities before converting, doing so will reduce their effectiveness and is not recommended.
Every skill conversions can generally be performed as indicated in the skill updates section later in this chapter. The following table provides suggestions on how to convert bonuses and abilities.
|Original Ability||ToP Replacement Ability|
|Class feature requires a removed (not merged) skill to function||Replace all references to the skill with references to class level + 3.|
|Ability grants bonus to merged skills||Whenever the unmerged skills would be applicable, ability grants a +3 bonus to the new merged skills as well as 1 re-roll* for the skills per minute per 2 points of bonus greater than +3|
|Racial ability or feat grants a +2 bonus to three or more skills (except jump)||Grants a +2 bonus to any two of the listed skills, player's choice|
|Racial ability or feat grants a +3 or greater bonus to two or more skills (except jump)||Grants a +3 bonus to the one of the listed skills, player's choice, as well as 1 re-roll* per minute per 2 points of original bonus greater than +3|
|Class feature grants a +3 or greater bonus to one or more skills (except jump)||Grants a +3 bonus to the skills, as well as 1 re-roll* for the skills per minute per 2 points of original bonus greater than +3|
|Ability grants a bonus to jump checks||Grants a maximum bonus of +3, but also grants a bonus on total jump distance equal to half of the original bonus whenever the original bonus is +5 or greater|
|Ability grants free ranks in one or more skills.||Skills are treated as class skills regardless of class|
|Ability grants a +1 to +3 bonus to a removed (not merged) skill||Grants a related background ability at Grade I; a bonus to gather information has no direct replacement at this bonus size|
|Ability grants a +4 to +8 bonus to a removed (not merged) skill||Grants a related background ability at Grade II; a bonus to gather information may instead be replaced with the bardic knowledge class feature|
|Ability grants a +9 or greater bonus to a removed (not merged) skill||Grants a related background ability at Grade III; a bonus to gather information may instead be replaced with the bardic knowledge class feature with a +2 bonus|
|Ability allows character to "take 10" under pressure||Ability allows character to "take 10" under pressure without the normal 4 rank delay, and may "take 12" after the normal 4 rank delay|
|Ability duplicates a skill ability that was already granted||Ability grants a minimum value for the d20 roll, between 5 and 10 depending on the intended strength of the ability, for skill checks with the ability|
*Only one re-roll may be used per skill check, regardless of the number available. A character may also declare a re-roll and elect to "take 10", if they could do so otherwise.
Converting Gear Bonuses
|Retaining Masterwork Skill Items|
| Many players remain attached to masterwork skill items, and may be resistant to simply removing them from the game. If strongly limited, they can be made to function with the Tome of Prowess skills and bonus changes. Here is an option for their retention:
Masterwork skill items: A masterwork skill item grants a +2 bonus to one skill ability, not every ability within a skill. They may not grant this bonus to any skill ability with 6 or more required ranks.
Masterwork skill items don't really fit with the spirit of the new skills. In the SRD system, they grant bonuses to a very focused skill and are rather narrow in use. Here each skill grants several abilities and it is difficult to justify a single tool granting bonuses to all of them. We also don't need minor number boosts like this anymore and they conflict with the revised racial benefits. As a result, masterwork skill items have been removed from this work and do not exist.
Like masterwork skill items, the SRD magical skill items have also been replaced. There is still a place for magical skill items, however, they just need to work within this altered system and not allow people who use them to gain extraordinary benefits or perform well above the expected mark for their level. These items need to be useful for characters who don't substantially invest in a particular skill, and this can be done by giving ranks with the items instead of bonuses. They also need to provide some utility to characters who have already invested heavily in a skill, and this can be done with competence bonuses, "take X" abilities and variations, or re-rolls.
Conversion to these items is a simple matter of replacement, or of allowing the character to select new gear with the appropriate cost. Example skill items that offer benefits to those who have the skill, as well as those who don't, appear in the Running a Skilled Game section.
Converting Spell Bonuses
|Why no skill spells?|
|The main problem with these sorts of spells is a thematic one. Spells are supposed to just do things that the truly skilled can attempt with a lot of practice. The revised skills don't even do anything that spells don't already generally do anyway, though we have tried to make them go about it in a different fashion. Since there already is substantial overlap between skill abilities and spells, making a spell that grants skill abilities just dilutes the feel of the individual systems for no benefit.
The secondary issue is a value one. It is extremely difficult to cost both variable and fixed skill bonus spells appropriately because of their effects, and that makes it hard to place in the right spell level. If you place it too low, you have a low level spell that turns low level actions into high level actions. If you place it too high, you have a high level spell that no one casts because it doesn't do anything they can't do with other spells already. Deciding what spell level these sorts of things belong at is generally not worth the effort.
For these reasons, any spell that allows you to attempt to do something with a skill should be rewritten as a spell that just does the thing or removed from the game. If it helps you to justify it in game, you can consider it an inefficient use of magic to emulate a skill, which it is.
With the revised skills here, there is no place for spells that provide temporary ranks in a skill, or that provide a static bonus to a skill. While there is actually room for spells that function as temporary skill items, you probably shouldn't do that for thematic reasons, as well as to avoid putting every tool in the game in spellcasters' pockets. To avoid the magic vs. skill thematic issues, value concerns, and omnitasking possibilities, we have just removed spells that directly affect your skill modifier from the game or rewritten them into a spell that just does something appropriate for its spell level.
Conversion of spells to this system involves equal parts spell replacement and bonus adjustment. Updated and removed spells appear in the Running a Skilled Game section.
Dealing with Attribute Bonuses
The above topics cover the most common direct skill bonuses and at least offer suggestions on dealing with the more unusual cases. But they don't talk about indirect bonuses at all, like the bonuses you get from the attributes that you will be increasing as you level. Between +6 enhancement bonuses from items and +5 inherent bonuses from wishes or books and +5 more from simple levels, you can get an extra +8 bonus on an attribute modifier (or more) fairly easily in some games. And in other games, you never see even half of that. This isn't as large a modifier as you used to get from skill boost items, but suffers all the same problems of deciding whether to expect it in the base DC or not.
Unfortunately, because of large variances in when these stat jumps hit and by how much they grow, this isn't really something we can plan around. And removing these stat jumps from the game entirely isn't a particularly workable solution for a large number of play styles. The best that can be done is to point out that we do not assume any large attribute boosts in our base DCs, because we don't want attribute boosters to be necessary to get reasonable use out of your skills at higher levels. Since that still leaves holes out there for some play styles, we have included several suggested solutions to the potential problem for use in your own games.
Option - Scale DCs
If you expect large attribute boosts and want to keep the skill abilities balanced such that characters are not overly successful with them when they acquire them, you can just scale up the DCs. In general, you should add 1 to every non-opposed DC for every 2 ranks greater than 4 are required to access the ability. You may need to adjust this rate if there are large jumps at level 9 or 10 (when players can chain-bind for wishes and boost all of their attributes by +5 at once), though the fact that there are fewer abilities gained after this point means you will probably be fine if you do not. As was mentioned before, there's a lot of variance in trying to account for these.
Option - Cap Attributes
If you don't want to scale the DCs but you also don't want to worry about players using higher level skill abilities more reliably than expected, you can simply put a cap on their attributes or the attribute bonuses that can be applied to skills. We recommend setting the limit at 20 + their racial attribute modifier for each attribute, and just using whatever that modifier is if you're going to cap skill adjustments and not attributes entirely. For races in the SRD, this gives a maximum range of 18 to 22 on attributes, or a +4 to +6 bonus. That gives players some room for growth, but since these numbers are within expected ranges they will work with the skill ability DCs over all levels of the game. It also pushes players to grow multiple attributes, as the combination of attribute boosters and attribute ceilings causes diminishing returns for continued attribute investment after a point.
Option - Do Nothing
If your games don't involve large, universal attribute boosts or you don't care if higher level attribute focused characters get better results more reliably on their shiny new high level abilities than they did when they got their lower level skill abilities, then you don't need to do anything at all. The DCs listed in the skills chapter should serve you just fine; you probably won't see major divergence from the expected success rates until higher levels anyway.
|Why all these skill bonus changes?|
|In the SRD skill system, you need huge bonuses to get meaningful effects out of your skills. It is not uncommon for characters to gain as large a bonus from an item as they do from ranks, and then stack on a class feature bonus, masterwork item bonus, and a racial bonus. Those who really need a couple of extra points can even burn a feat for it. The inclusion of all of these different bonuses would make it difficult to meet our reliability goals. If we account for them and expect them, then you need a skill item or class feature or assorted other things for all of the skills that you care about. Without them, or without whatever level of them we decided to account for, you won't be able to meet the higher DCs that we would need to set to account for them. And if we don't account for them, or don't account for enough of them, then a large bonus destroys the balance we've put in place for these unlimited use abilities. Since neither of these options is actually workable or interesting, we decided to strip the stacking and large bonuses out instead.|
Converting to the Tome of Prowess
This work includes a fair bit of skill consolidation or re-characterization, so that the skills themselves remain relatively close to each other in terms of utility and value. The new class skills for core SRD class are listed here and conversions for some published works may be found in the appendix. Advice on converting published classes without an entry, as well as homebrew classes can be found after the SRD skill listings below.
Core Class Skill List
|Skill Name|| Key
Converting Other Classes
For non-SRD classes, the following advice should help you determine how many skill points and class skills are appropriate for a class, be it homebrew or published.
Class Skill Points
The point of these skills is to supplement class features and increase relevant options available to characters. One of the easiest ways to determine the relevant options of a class is to look at its balance level. Lower balance classes tend to have fewer options in the same power range as the new skill abilities, and should get more skill points to increase their utility. Higher balance classes tend to have more options in the same power range as the new skill abilities, and thus benefit less from additional skill points.
Any balance range referred to should be understood to exclude contributions from Use Magic Device or Use Psionic Device, as these skills can skew balance assignments. Most classes with one or both of these skills should be treated as one balance category lower for the purpose of determining how many skill points they should get.
- Low and Moderate balance non-casting classes should get 10 skill points per level. Low and Moderate balance partial casting classes should get 8 skill points per level. Low and Moderate balance full casters should get 6 skill points per level.
- Most High balance non-casting classes should get 8 skill points per level. Some non-casting classes in this range may have sufficiently useful non-combat options to need only 6 skill points per level, like the High balance partial casters should receive. High balance full casters should receive 4 skill points per level.
- Very High balance non-casting classes and partial casting classes should receive 6 skill points per level. Very High balance full casters should receive 4 skill points per level.
This advice presumes you want to bring under-performing classes up and not worry too much about the over-performers. If you want a lower powered game, feel free to exclude higher balance classes entirely and reduce the skill points granted in general.
Class Skills List
Determining how much power a class needs to gain from skills is only a part of the conversion. How many skills they have to select from determines how varied their skills might be. In general, full casters get the fewest class skills as they have a wide pool of other effects to select from. Non-casters lack these ability pools, and gain a wider array of skills to help them compensate.
- Classes with full spellcasting progressions should get 50% more class skills than they have skill points. For a VH class like the wizard, for example, they should have 6 class skills on which to spend their 4 skill points.
- Classes with partial spellcasting progressions should get 50% more class skills than they have skill points or 9 class skills, whichever is greater.
- Classes with no spellcasting progressions and largely combat class abilities should get 12 class skills. For High and Very High balance classes, this means that they will likely have almost twice as many class skills as they do skill points. Moderate and Low balance classes in this group should get an extra class skill, bringing them up to 13.
If you feel that a class needs more or less than this amount of class skills, remember that additional skills increase utility when given time to retrain as well as dilute the core of what the class is capable of. The opposite is also true, since fewer class skills reduces utility and tends to restrict character options. It's generally a bad idea to do those things.
Once the number of class skills has been determined, all that is left to do is assign the class skills. The easiest way to assign these class skills is to simply convert their original skills into the revised skills in this work. That will give you a base to work from, but probably won't leave the class skill list complete. After you have completed the initial skill conversion, you may need to remove some skills or add a few new ones. Some classes may need to give up a skill to remain within the guidelines. Alternately, some may already have all the appropriate skills and be left with acquiring class skills that might not fit with their common interpretation. More often than not, the best way forward in these circumstances is to embrace the chance to expand their repertoire and utility. As an example, the SRD fighter has gained access to a large number of utility abilities in the above conversion and is a more valued party contributor as a result.
To assist with determining which skills a converted class would have access to if converted directly, each of the old skills is listed below along with a brief explanation of where you can find it now. It should help you determine a starting class skill list, which you can then modify as indicated above.
|Old Skill||New Skill||Notes|
|Appraise||Appraisal||Appraise has been expanded to include analysis of situations as well as objects. It has also taken in Forgery, since forgery was a poor skill on its own and characters who know what to look for make more effective forgeries.|
|Balance||Acrobatics||Balance has been combined with Tumble into a new Acrobatics skill. The two are thematically similar, and together the two can be boosted into relevance.|
|Bluff||Bluff||Bluff remains the skill of liars. It has acquired the acting portion of the Disguise skill, as that always had more to do with lying than looking like someone or something else.|
|Climb||Athletics||Climb has been combined with Swim in a new Athletics skill. This skill interacts with a revised overland movement and running system to allow for cross-country runners and triathletes.|
|Concentration||Concentration||Concentration has taken uses from the Auto-Hypnosis skill, and several uses have been forked into a new Endurance skill. Casting defensively has been moved into each of the relevant magic skills. Concentration now holds a position similar to Escape Artist with respect to spells; you may use it to override failed Will saves for a time.|
|Craft||—||Craft scales so abysmally that it has not been carried over. It is not possible to write a worthwhile craft skill without giving people the Craft Arms and Armor and similar feats for free when they begin to exceed 8 ranks in the skill, and that change was left out for now. The ability to craft things should be thought of in the same terms of a character knowing something. Please refer to the section on character knowledge for additional information on this adjustment.|
|Decipher Script||Ciphers||Decipher Script has been expanded upon and combined with portions of Speak Language in the new Ciphers skill. Understanding the various language patterns required to decipher dead script lends itself to a study of written languages in general, as well as magical symbols, glyphs, and scrolls.|
|Diplomacy||Affability||Diplomacy has been refocused into a skill that gets people to like you, called Affability. That you can then use that relationship to get people to agree to things remains, but works quite differently.|
|Disable Device||Devices||Disable Device has been renamed Devices. It no longer requires the Trapfinding class feature, as it was entirely useless without it. That class feature has been rewritten, and traps have been more clearly defined. Open Lock has also been subsumed by this skill, as locks are devices by definition.|
|Disguise||Transformation||Disguise has lost the portions of the skill that dealt with acting, but has gained a much larger repertoire of physical modifications. It now competes directly with other transformational spells like Alter Self and Polymorph.|
|Escape Artist||Escape Artistry||This skill retains its original focus, though it has been expanded upon. It has been renamed Escape Artistry.|
|Forgery||Appraisal||Forgery has been expanded upon to allow item forgeries as well as written ones, and subsumed into Appraisal.|
|Gather Information||—||Gather information has been removed from the game, as it was largely redundant with playing the game. There remain ample ways to gather information in other skill and spell abilities.|
|Handle Animal||Creature Handling||Handle Animal retains its original focus and has been expanded upon significantly, gaining pieces of the Animal Empathy class feature. It has been expanded to include handling of additional types of creatures.|
|Heal||Healing||Heal retains its original focus and has been expanded upon significantly. It has been renamed Healing.|
|Hide||Stealth||The original hide rules relied upon physical conditions that would make a person hidden even without ranks in the skill. This was compounded by the lack of facing rules in the game, which conspired to make the skill absolutely useless without the Move Silently skill unless your target was deaf. This skill has been combined with the Move Silently skill into a new Stealth skill which has seen substantial adjustments.|
|Intimidate||Intimidation||Intimidate retains its original focus and has been expanded upon significantly.|
|Jump||Jump||Jump functions differently enough from the Climb skill in helping a character achieve distance or height to allow it to remain its own skill. It has been expanded upon significantly, and now allows substantial distance at much lower levels levels through non-linear scaling.|
|Knowledge||Various||The Knowledge skills are a special case, and have been compressed and altered significantly, and some have been removed entirely. Only the creature identification portions really remain. Please refer to the section on character knowledge for additional information on this adjustment.|
|Listen||Perception||Listen was a significantly useful skill on its own, but generally only showed up in the game to notice something that the DM wanted players to know, or to oppose a Move Silently check. Because Move Silently has been merged with Hide, and boosting Listen on its own proves to be extremely challenging, it has been merged into a new Perception skill with Spot.|
|Move Silently||Stealth||Though Move Silently was a better skill than Hide because it did not require specific physical conditions, it has been merged with Hide into the new Stealth skill.|
|Open Lock||Devices||Open Lock was a specialized case of disabling or bypassing a specialized device. It has been wholly subsumed by the Devices skill.|
|Perform||—||Perform scales so abysmally that it has not been carried over. The ability to play an instrument or recite a poem or dance alluringly should be thought of in the same terms as a character knowing some other mundane thing. Please refer to the section on character knowledge for additional information on this adjustment. As this skill is required for Bards, we simply give them their class level + 3 ‘ranks’ in the ‘skill’ for free.|
|Profession||—||Profession doesn’t scale at all, can’t be made to scale, and has not been carried over. The ability to tend a bar or run a shop is not useful for an adventurer, and should be thought of in the same terms as a character knowing something. Please refer to the section on character knowledge for additional information on this adjustment.|
|Ride||Animal Handling||Ride scales poorly, and has been subsumed into the Animal Handling skill. Characters who wish to ride without the creature training baggage can select a feat in place of investing in the skill. The Riding subsystem has also been rewritten to be more consistent with the rest of the skills and features.|
|Search||Various||Search was generally most useful in conjunction with the Trapfinding ability, which has been largely eliminated. The ability to find and disable traps and locked secret doors has been rolled into the ability to disable them, and now appears in the Devices skill. The ability to find traps, secret doors, and hidden caches (but not necessarily open them) has moved into Perception.|
|Sense Motive||Psychology||Sense Motive had some interesting uses, and these have been expanded upon. It has been renamed Psychology.|
|Sleight of Hand||Legerdemain||Sleight of Hand has been expanded upon significantly, and includes updated rules for theft that work in conjunction with the remainder of the system. The skill has been renamed Legerdemain.|
|Speak Language||Various||The ability to recognize patterns in written language can be applied to languages both living and dead. Because it is easy to characterize this way and lacks value on its own, this skill has been expanded upon with the Decipher Script skill in the new Ciphers skill. The ability to speak languages is useful for those who spend a lot of time with other peoples, and has been moved into the Cultures skill.|
|Spellcraft||Various||Spellcraft has been forked into three different skills (which have also merged with the remnants of some knowledge skills) for three different styles of caster. It retains most of its uses, and has not been generally expanded upon as casters don’t need the assistance.|
|Spot||Perception||Spot was a significantly useful skill on its own, but generally only showed up in the game to notice something that the DM wanted players to know, or to oppose a Hide check. Because Hide has been merged with Move Silently, and boosting Spot on its own proves to be extremely challenging, it has been merged into a new Perception skill with Listen.|
|Survival||Survival||Survival retains its original focus and has been expanded upon. It has also subsumed the Use Rope skill.|
|Swim||Athletics||Swim has been combined with Climb in a new Athletics skill. This skill interacts with a revised overland movement and running system to allow for cross-country runners and triathletes.|
|Tumble||Acrobatics||Balance has been combined with Tumble into a new Acrobatics skill. The two are thematically similar, and together the two can be boosted into relevance.|
|Use Magic Device||Various||Aside from being poorly designed, this was one of the most powerful skills in the old system. It has been reworked, but it has also been very split up. The functions it used to include have been merged into other skills; it is more difficult to be a master of every magical item now, though easier to use level-appropriate items of types related to your field.|
|Use Rope||Survival||Use Rope did little before, and it is not possible to provide it sufficiently scaling options. It has been subsumed into the Survival skill.|