The Role of Rolls – Skills Numerical and Non
There is a bit of a philosophical debate going on about DnDnext. Many players who were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons through 3rd or 4th edition have a different view of skills then those who grew up with earlier editions. In WotC’s quest to unify D&D under one big tent, the community must confront balancing player skill vs. PC skill.
The 4e mechanic of skill challenges may have exacerbated the situation. Skill challenges tried to quantify roleplaying challenges and reward making character building choices sometimes at the expense of actual roleplaying. This commonly occurs during a skill challenge when a player says something along the lines of, “I’m rolling diplomacy… I got a 19.” This makes the “old guard” cringe.
Ideally, you would come up with a convincing argument, and speak in character to the GM. Something like, “We are honored to be in your presence your majesty. Forgive our intrusion m’lord, but we come bearing urgent news. Your enemies gather on the border and are threatening war!” In the old days, the DM would evaluate how you presented yourself and make a judgement on the spot as to how the NPC would react. This requires some serious improv skills on both the player and the GMs part.
Some people just aren’t into this style of play, while others live for it. How does DnDnext plan on bridging this gap between a PC’s role in the party and what they “should” be good at, and rewarding player ingenuity for creative solutions outside the numbers?
I would propose I hybrid approach, and would be surprised if this wasn’t too far off the mark. (If I get a cease and desist from WotC, I’ll know I’m *really* close!) What I would do is have skills similar to that of 3e and 4e, but reward significant bonuses for creative role-playing. If you just roll a die, maybe you get that score, maybe there is a penalty for not role-playing, but if you describe what your character is doing in detail (for physical skills) or make a convincing speech/bluff/argument (for social skills) the DM would have the option of lowering the DC or providing a bonus to the check, anywhere from +2 to +10, if it is incredible. That provides a mechanical reward for out-of-the-box, off-the-character-sheet thinking. A roll would still be required, and a 1 would auto-fail, and a 20 would always succeed (you’ve always got at least a chance, no matter how improbable), I think this system could lead to a really great experience and encourage some really awesome role-playing. What’s more essential to ALL the editions than that!?