Ability Modifier: wisdom
Active/Passive: passive – as a background always going skill, spotting something is passive. The thing being spotted (or missed) is what triggers the roll.
Class skill for: artificer, Druid, monk, ranger and rogue
Untrained use? Yes
Armor check penalty? No
Racial and feat modifiers: drow, elves +2
What it represents: your visual awareness of what is around you. This differs from search in that it represents what you see passively without knowing it’s there. Search is a careful looking about, spot is what you see in a glance. A person looking for their keys is using a search skill. A person who happens to notice that a picture is askew on their wall has used their spot skill.
In other terms, spot is your “spidey sense.”
How it affects gameplay: spot is used to detect secret doors and traps nearby. Basically, spot tells you where to search. If you are in range to spot something you are in range to find it. If you spot something you will get an eyeball icon indicating this until you move out of range as well as a “pop up” message.
Spot also occasionally gives extra DM text as hints in a small number of quests.
Spot is also used to against a monster’s hide check. If you are able to spot a hiding monster you will “see” them as a grayed outline until they become unhidden. Unlike listen, which gives you little indication of where a monster even is, spot shows you exactly where a monster is and which direction they are facing.
Special considerations: like search, spot does not involve a roll of the die. It’s based solely on your current skill modifier.
While true seeing will automatically “spot” secret doors (see below), it will not find monsters that are naturally hiding and spot will not always find creatures that are hiding using magical, non-natural means.
Who likes it: trappers, new people, and those with memory problems. Also, movie goof fanatics.
How much should you have? This is a little trickier than most skills. Conventional wisdom says that if you are a trapper then you should max this skill (and pure artificers and rogues should have no problem with this). However, if you already know where traps and secret doors are you technically don’t need it to do traps. There are a few quests throughout the game that have semi random traps (they can appear in several places but are not always there). You can still memorize these locations though and search each of them. Even if you don’t know where traps are you can still “spot” them with relative ease. Some players call this the “barbarian” or “Zerg” method to spotting traps: you simply run into them. This can lead to death however, especially if doing the quest on elite with trap scaling.
Generally, if you are a trapper, I’d tell you to max it out. Wisdom is a fairly useless stat for most trapper types and will likely not get any build points. This means spot will be your weakest trapping skill. If you can, wear a spot item so you can boost this skill even further. Spot is harder to swap items for since you don’t necessarily know when you will need it, but there are several combat oriented items with other effects on them (many named spot items also have search). The only trappers I wouldn’t recommend maxing spot are the very experienced and the ones that know quests very well, but I offer this cautionary advice: new quests do come out and you will have to learn where things are (or at least can be) at some point.
New players with extra skill points might also consider this skill especially if they don’t do many PUGs. You basically have 3 options for learning where traps and secret doors are. 1) find them (sometimes the hard way ie running into them to your death) 2) have others show you where they are or 3) don’t find them at all and miss them. If you aren’t a trapper then you are primarily concerned with secret doors. Now this still requires you to be able to find secret doors either through search or a find secret door clicky. However, once you can get true seeing (mantle of worldshaper + voice of the master as early as level 5, a select number of other items, or the spell which is also available via scroll) you can automatically find secret doors without spotting them OR searching for them. However, this method no longer finds all secret doors, but it will cover any doors that are 1) critical to find and 2) that you would be able to find with a small number of skill points in search.
Don’t worry about spotting enemies. Unless you are a stealth build that would actually benefit from knowing where hiding monsters are this is nothing more than a bonus for trappers. Stealth builds will benefit from knowing where these monsters are so they don’t bump into them, but everyone else is giving up at most a couple of swings by not knowing where monsters are.
Ability Modifier: strength
Active/Passive: passive – moving through water (and other liquids) necessitates swimming.
Class skill for: barbarian, Druid, fighter, ranger, and rogue
Untrained use? Yes
Armor check penalty? Yes, and this penalty is doubled.
Feat modifiers: athletic +2
What it represents: how well you can move through deep liquids. Wading and waterwings not included.
How it affects gameplay: primarily determines how long you can hold your breath underwater. When underwater you get a breath meter that goes down at a rate determined by your swim modifier. When your meter runs out you will start taking damage until you die or until you take a breath of air.
Swim also moderately affects your swim speed. This has been estimated to be about 1% increased speed per +1 modifier. It is believed that this also applies to flying speed but has not been conclusively verified.
The notion that swim speed affects how fast you fall has been debunked however.
Special considerations: warforged do not breathe and therefore do not have a breath meter. For a short time this was changed to give them a breath meter albeit a much longer one. This was later reverted. (Side note: during this time frame I ran into a situation where my warforged barbarian had to come up for air…twice…).
Using an underwater action item negates the need for a breath meter.
Who likes it: the swim team and children of Poseidon.
How much should you have? None.
Swimming is a footnote. There are a couple of places that require swimming but an even shorter list of places that require swimming with any serious distance. Nearly every single one of those have some way to breathe air to cover the distance unless your swim is horrendous. The only way your swim is that bad is if you have a set of full plate on and a tower shield and no strength. Take off the armor, stow the shield, and then go swimming. Also, get an underwater action item, they are plentiful and you just need to have something handy to swap in. There’s no fighting underwater (except 1 quest that is an anomaly and you get a giant air bubble) so you don’t have to worry about combat while you are swimming.
Footnote: in PnP how long you can hold your breath is determined by your constitution score not your swim skill.