Skillfully Designing New Skills for 5E D&D
Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons has taken the world by storm and I contend this is a big factor in the surge of popularity enjoyed by all tabletop roleplaying games of late. As the list of TTRPG options expands seemingly by the day new games offer their own spins on various mechanics and sometimes this leads people to find a new TTRPG option they like even better than the D&D that once held their hearts and minds. In an effort to bring new life to the world’s greatest roleplaying game I’ve devised a series of new homebrew options meant to streamline gameplay and offer some crunch to previously nebulous ideas. In this post I’m adding some crunch to 5E D&D skills.
Open umbrellas as an option for 5E D&D skills
When it comes to skills 5E D&D is already fairly robust yet if you’ve read our Skills 101 series you know there are definitely places where skills are maybe just a bit too open ended or perhaps they might bring certain concepts under their domain that aren’t necessarily intuitive. Furthermore tools have forever been a nebulous thing players almost always struggle with to make sense in relation to skills. This is due in part to a lack of official rules support for tools but I think it’s also due to a lack of certain skills.
When I think of skills the first thing coming to mind is the idea this is a task someone can perform without needing a tool. Having a tool or proficiency in a certain type of tools might offer new facets or capabilities but for something to be a skill it wouldn’t need a proper set of tools. When employing all of these additional skills it feels like there needs to be more balance. Skill proficiencies are quite difficult to come by in 5E D&D so I propose granting every character class access to one or more of these additional skills and also allow them to simply choose one additional skill beyond what’s called for during character creation.
Instead of rambling about skill balance and classification theory here are the skills I think could be added to 5E D&D to streamline the experience.
Allure is the capability to manipulate someone’s desires or otherwise convince them to want something. This might be tempting someone to make a risky decision or it might be of a romantic or sexual nature.
Allure falls under Wit for the alternate ability scores or if you’re using the standard scores it’s Charisma.
Allure isn’t necessarily Deception and it can be done in earnest. This might look like being genuinely funny or wearing something to make yourself seem more seductive. This could also be used for, say, polishing up a raggedy car to make it look newer.
Bargaining is all about an exchange. It requires acknowledgment both parties are seeking to get something out of an interaction and it represents the ability to make a deal or come to a mutually beneficial solution acceptable to both parties involved. Once again this falls under either Wit or Charisma.
Here’s one currently only a tool set. Cooking in general requires a degree of skill and finesse and does not inherently require cook’s utensils. You can absolutely cook something over a fire with only a stick for a spit. Cooking also allows you to know about what’s edible and the process for preparation to make something edible. Cooking might also cover brewing ale or making wine.
Cooking would fall under either Intelligence for classic ability scores or Wit for the new ability scores proposed in a previous post.
Craft is all about making things with your hands. While a tool kit can definitely assist with more difficult to work with materials such as paint, wood or stone being good with your hands also feels like an intrinsic skill to me. Even without proper tools there are people who are still wonderful at making things. As such craft falls under wither Prowess or Dexterity.
Driving is all about maneuvering vehicles, from carts and wagons to cars, ships and even planes. While proficiency in a given vehicle helps tremendously with certain vehicles and with finer details, driving as a skill allows for a creature to perform driving actions while under duress or perform certain key maneuvers like losing a tail or navigating a chase sequence without damaging the vehicle’s cargo.
Because driving requires keen awareness the ability score necessary is Perception or Wisdom depending on your chosen ability score array.
Endurance is about surviving harsh conditions, holding ale without getting drunk or passing out and being able to perform arduous tasks for extended periods of time.
The ability score governing this skill is Fortitude or Constitution.
Readiness is a new skill centered around the idea of Initiative being an ability score. This is the skill you roll when combat begins. It’s also useful for representing preparedness and efficiency when performing time consuming tasks. Another thing readiness covers is the ability to quickly react and catch something unexpected or prevent something from toppling.
Readiness is most obviously governed by Initiative though I could also see Intelligence being used from the classic 5E D&D ability scores.
One skill I didn’t mention in the video above is riding. Riding is a skill sort of on the other side of the coin from driving. Riding is be used for maneuvering a single mount or for maintaining balance while riding in a vehicle during difficult conditions, which allows more nuance than Animal Handling in 5E D&D currently.
Riding is based on Fortitude or Constitution though I could see an argument made for Wisdom and Prowess.
Script is communicating with the written word. It’s also the ability to recognize specific types of handwriting or embellishment. Script is based on Intelligence or Wit.
Okay, hear me out — I understand creatures can have a swimming speed but this is more about swimming under duress. This includes being able to hold breath for longer periods of time, swim through choppy seas or against a current and allows for moving full movement in the water even without a swimming speed.
Swimming is based on Fortitude or Constitution.
Sleight of Hand as a skill has always bothered me. If doing it like a magician from our own world it makes sense for this to be Performance and if using it to change quickly from one outfit to another then Readiness now covers this. As such Thievery allows for pickpocketing, lock picking with the proper tools and proficiency or knowing how to disarm or navigate traps.
Thievery is governed by either Prowess or Dexterity.
What do you think?
Are these skills an option you would incorporate in your own 5E D&D games? Are we offering some unskilled options here? We want to hear from you in the comments and on Facebook!
*Featured image — Characters can discover new and different games to engage with and test their 5E D&D skills in Taking Chances. [Illustration by Askhan Ghanbari]