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Building Blocks 35: Skills 1

Skills 1: Introduction

Skills are a set of abilities that each character has that can be increased during the leveling process.  Skills are typically abilities that are less specific than feats and indicate a characters ability to perform certain generic tasks they might encounter while adventuring, but they are more specific than just an ability check.  The list of skills in DDO is similar, but not the same as you would find in PnP DnD.  Additionally, many of the skills function differently than their PnP counterparts.

The number of skills a character gets at each level is primarily determined by their class taken at each level.  Fighters, paladins, wizards, sorcerers, clerics and favored souls get 2 skill points per level.  Artificers, barbarians, Druids and monks get 4 skills points per level. Bards and rangers get 6 while rogues get 8.  Additionally, characters get 1 skill point for each permanent intelligence modifier, that is their intelligence modifier as determined by their base score plus inherent boosts from tomes.  These additional skill points are only granted at each level at the time the level is taken, you do not get more skill points for eating a tome later in life.  Finally, humans get 1 extra skill point per level.  If your intelligence modifier is negative, you will lose skill points, but you always gain at least 1 skill point per level.

Each level you get to spend these skill points in the available skills.  However, at first level you get 4 times this amount. (Side note: if you plan on taking any levels in rogue, make sure to take a rogue level at first level to maximize this first level bonus for skills). While leveling you spend skill points to increase your “ranks” in a skill. We use the term rank to differentiate the bonus to uses of a skill achieved from spending these skill points from other modifiers. 

Each class has a list of class skills while the remaining skills are considered cross-class skills.  Class skills can be increased at the rate of 1 skill point per 1 rank, but cross-class skills are increased at the rate of 2 skill points per 1 rank.  Additionally, class skills may only have as many ranks as your level + 3 while cross-class skills can only be increased to half that amount.  For a pure class build, this means that they can max out a number of skills equal to the number of skill points they get at each level.  Multiclass builds treat any skill as a class skill in regards to max ranks so long as at least 1 of their classes has it as a class skill but rank costs are determined normally based on which class is being taken at each level.  When advancing in epic levels all skills are increased by 1 through the feat epic skills.

When making a skill check you roll a d20 and then add your skill modifier to that roll.  Your skill modifier is the sum total to the bonuses you have towards that skill.  That includes ranks (+1 per rank), ability modifier (each skill has an associated stat to which its modifier applies to), and other bonuses like spells, items, racial modifiers, feats, enhancements and the like.  Most uses of skills involve a die roll, but some do not.  UMD to equip items, swimming and haggle are the most common examples, but many dialog options also do not use a die roll and only use your static modifier.

Some skills can only be used if trained. These skills can only be used if you have at least 1 rank in them.  If you do not have any ranks you cannot even attempt a skill check.  UMD, tumble, and disable device are some examples, but most skills can be used untrained.

Many skills (usually physical skills) are subject to an armor check penalty (ACP).  This modifier comes from the armor you are wearing and represents how it impedes your ability to perform certain skills.  An armor’s ACP is listed in its description in the stats section.  Encumbrance can also impose an ACP and medium encumbrance can be hard to notice (heavy encumbrance has an icon and a pop up warning).  Medium encumbrance gives a -3 ACP and heavy gives -6.  (Side note: if you are not proficient with your armor the ACP also applies to your attack rolls).

In some cases using a skill can result in a critical failures.  The most common example of this would be failing a disable device check.  When this happens the results are disastrous and generally means another attempt cannot be made.  In the case of disable device this means that you blow the trap box up and can no longer disable it and the explosion can damage those in its vicinity.  However most checks cannot be critically failed.

Other checks are considered opposed checks.  These are skill checks that your opponent must also make a skill check against.  The prime example is sneaking: move silent vs listen and hide vs spot.  These checks provide more variability as the DC can vary by 20 in addition to your skill check varying by 20.

Skills are used in 1 of 2 way: active and passive. Active skills must be initiated by the player and are typically specific intended tasks.  Searching for and disabling traps, use magic device to cast a scroll, and trying to intimidate monsters are all active uses of skills.  Passive skills are initiated by the environment, monsters, and other forces.  These are skills that are technically always “on” so to speak and whenever applicable a roll is made.  In many cases, both in PnP and in DDO these checks are made in secret without the player’s knowledge because if they knew a roll was being made it would allow for metagaming. If the DM asks you to make a listen check, for example, the player would immediately be on guard and draw their weapon, even though their character may not have heard anything.  Listen and spot are the 2 most common passive skills that would be rolled in secret.  Using balance, tumble, swim, or even jump to move across terrain would also be considered a passive use of a skill because the terrain is forcing the use of any of those skills.  A player could try to run across a room forcing a balance check to walk along a narrow surface.  If they were to fail this check they might need to make a jump check to try to jump to safety and perhaps a fail there would require a tumble check to reduce falling damage.  The key between passive and active is if the skill check is made as part of another action (passive) or IS the action being made (active).

In DDO skills that can be used in an active fashion are denoted by a square symbol which can be placed on a hot bar.  Skills that can only be used passively have a hexagonal symbol and cannot be placed on a hotbar.  Note that some active skills can still be used passively.

The feat skill focus can be taken for each skill granting a +3 bonus to that skill.  There are also skill enhancements and epic destinies that increase specific skills and mastery versions that add to all skills.  Epic levels also add to all skills and most skills have a wide selection of items that add bonuses to skills – some even have different types of skill bonuses allowing for some minimal stacking.  UMD items are very rare however and are only found on a handful of named items.

Update 18 saw the release of skill tomes.  Similar to stat tomes, skill tomes raise a specific skill by the amount of their +#. Like a stat tome, only the highest tome eaten applies, the tome bonus (or inherent) bonus does not stack with itself.

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