At 04:43 PM 11/8/2003 -0600, Kenneth Gauck wrote:

>Perhaps Gary will share some of the other techniques he uses to keep the

>purchase of these skills a no-brainer.

OK, tell ya` what. I`ll make a couple of suggestions about what one could

do, and then I get into what I think one really should do.... :)

But first, I think I should address the issue of combining Hide/MS and

Spot/Listen winds up creating uberskills. It`s certainly more useful than

the pairs of skills, but I made this change over a year ago, and the

"uberskill" issue hasn`t been a problem. I`d suggest several

reasons/explanations for that:

1. I`ve noted that other RPGs have only those skills a couple of times and

they aren`t uberskills in those systems, so the contention that they will

be D20 uberskills doesn`t correlate with evidence from other games,

particularly since there are existing 3e uberskills that have more general

utility than the combined ones I`m suggesting. The multiple uses of Bluff,

for instance, are far greater and broader than what I`m suggesting.

2. If you take a look at the character classes for whom Listen/Spot and

Hide/MS are class skills you`ll notice that the number of skill points

those classes have is higher than it is for the classes for whom the skills

are cross classed. In effect, the character classes are "normalized" to

doubling the cost of certain skills. Why do rogues have more skill points

per level than any other class? Well, I can`t say absolutely, but their

pre-3e incarnation had eight main "skills"--Pick Pockets, Open Locks,

Find/Remove Traps, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Detect Noise, Climb

Walls and Read Languages. All of those are 3e skills now, as is their

ability to read magical scrolls. If we combine a few of those skills. (I

also combined Open Lock and Disable Device IMC, and found it worked just as

well as combining Hide/MS and Listen/Spot.) Essentially, the 3e rogue`s

skill points are based on the conversion of the 2e version of that class`

skills directly into 3e skills. If one combines the 3e skills one should

reduce his skill points appropriately--which is why I said in the original

post to reduce the rogue`s skill points to 6/level. It`s not exactly the

same--he gets an extra skill point--but given the extraneous skills in 3e

it`s fine to give him the benefit of a doubt.

3. Characters who were likely to have ranks in either Listen or Spot had

the same number of ranks in "Observe." They were no more or less likely to

be successful than characters with ranks in either skill were because

there`s no change to the key ability, max ranks or modifiers.

4. Characters who have ranks in one skill tend to have them in

both. That`s not absolutely the case, of course, but it`s pretty unusual

for a character to have ranks in one skill, but not in the other. Rare is

the character that hides in shadows noisily or who strolls across well lit

rooms with hardly a sound. Similarly, characters who have ranks in Spot

also tend to have ranks in Listen for apparently the same

reasons. Thematically and logically people just design their characters to

be stealthy and/or observant, not just silent with good eyesight, or

shadowy and able to hear a pin drop. Furthermore, because the skills use

the same key ability and have mostly the same modifiers characters tend to

have a like number of ranks in both skills. Usually Spot and Listen checks

for monsters in the MM are either identical or within a couple of points of

each other. Even in those cases where they are not, it looks to me like

that`s a problem more often than it is a feature. That is, is there a

reason why the 3e Lamia has Hide but not Move Silently? Their lion-like

appearance would seem to have the same thematic basis as the Lammasu, and

would inspire similar skills. Combining Hide and MS won`t actually cause

many thematic problems in this regard.

5. The way 3e/3.5 skill work really encourages players and DMs to spend

their skill points on class skills. Even though they`ve gotten rid of the

half max ranks for cross class skills in 3.5 it`s still too expensive to

buy skills in cross class skills without a particular purpose.

6. Lastly, max ranks is still in effect, so even if one does wind up

creating uberskills their use is never out of step with the character level.

OK, so let`s assume none of the above has any influence at all, and for a

moment get into how one might prevent the combined skills from turning into

uberskills. First, and most obviously, one should address skill

points. Reduce skill points appropriately so that players are still

obliged to husband them for their characters. Second, pay attention to the

class skill and cross class skill issue. If one makes the combined skill a

cross class skill for various classes one winds up doing what the split

skill does. That is, if the skill point cost is 2/rank rather than 1/rank

that`s essentially the same as spending 1 skill point to get 1 rank in two

different skills, so if one is really worried about the combined uberskill

issue then class skills are one fix. Third, one can take a look at the

other skills in the skill list and combine them where appropriate. Use

Rope, for instance, still isn`t the skill with the broadest application in

the world. If that were rolled into Sleight of Hand or Escape Artist then

one makes skills that have equivalent utility and are more attractive to


I don`t do any of those things, though. I use MORE skills--several of

which I`ve posted in the past--and a system of subskills that would let a

character spend ranks on "Sneak: Hide" rather than just Sneak. He gains a

bonus on his checks to hide, but must pay a penalty to do things like move

silently, so if someone wants to portray a character who is actually better

able to move silently than hide he still can.

Similarly, I assign skill points to the character classes based not on some

abstracted idea of balancing skill points against BAB, HD, saves, etc. but

against the theme of the character class. I come up with a list of class

skills that express the character class` theme and THEN I determine the

number of skill points as a fraction of that overall list.