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D&D Q&A: 09/19/2013
Rodney Thompson

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1 Is the plan to keep the skill list in its current form, or will rules and character modules possibly add more skills to the list?

Right now, we’re pretty comfortable with the skills we have. We think the list encompasses the majority of the tasks that are common to all games of Dungeons & Dragons, and it reflects the concept of skills (things that you can train to be good at that rely only on your own skill and experience) very well.

From the beginning, one of our goals with the game is modularity, so we want to make sure that skills are equally modular. We plan to include advice for Dungeon Masters on adding new skills, removing or changing existing skills, and even alternate rules for player-created skills based on backgrounds or story elements. For example, we’re considering an alternate rule that allows the player to name their own skills with a word or a short phrase, or even tie in to our Ideal/Flaw/Bond concept; under such a system, my human fighter who is a pirate-turned-privateer might have skills like “Sailing,” “Privateering,” and “Command,” which I chose and named since those are relevant to my character’s story.

2 How will taking proficiency with a tool work? Proficiency isn't listed in the skills, so is it part of a background or a class or what?

With one exception, proficiency is our catch-all term for “get your proficiency bonus to your roll when you use it.” Proficient in a skill? Add your proficiency bonus to a check when your skill applies. Proficient in thieves’ tools? Add your proficiency bonus to a check when you use them. Proficient in a weapon? Add your proficiency bonus to your attacks with that weapon. It’s our way of saying, “Your skill and experience gives you a leg up on the task you’re attempting.” We’re also introducing proficiency in saving throws to help characters “grow out” of lower-level monster save DCs, allowing you to get better at saves that your class is good at. Across all of these things—skills, tools, weapons, saving throws—we use the proficiency language to point you toward your proficiency bonus, which scales with your level no matter what class you take.

3 Will some classes still have ways to gain new skills instead of adding to existing ones? Will there be other options for picking up new skills? What about ways to get proficiency with tools, or weapons? Is that going to use a similar system?

We have a few ways of thinking about this, but the short answer is, “Yes, there will be ways to get new proficiencies.” Exactly which ones and how is still being worked on, but I can give you a few examples. Certain class features can give you proficiencies at higher levels (for example, we’re renovating the rogue’s Slippery Mind class feature to give you Wisdom saving throw proficiency). Some feats will continue to give you proficiencies.

We’ve talked about our downtime system before, but this is an area where we think that system could really shine. One of the goals of that system is to give characters a way to develop outside of adventures. An avenue we want to explore inside that system is the ability for you to spend downtime training in skills, weapons, tools, and more to gain proficiency. We haven’t fully worked out all the details, but we want to give you a chance to expand your character’s repertoire of capabilities using the background system, and we don’t want to end up in a place where the game says “Everyone is proficient in everything!” We do think that a lot of the other things that you can get from backgrounds—including possibly traits—are the kinds of things we’d like to see players spend gold and downtime to learn.

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Rodney Thompson
Rodney Thompson began freelancing in the RPG industry in 2001 before graduating from the University of Tennessee. In 2007 he joined the Wizards of the Coast staff as the lead designer and developer for the new Star Wars RPG product line. Rodney is the co-designer of Lords of Waterdeep and is currently a designer for Dungeons & Dragons.
Giving the players the possibility to gain proficiency in skills, weapons, ecc. during downtime, in certain good, but the payback needs to be heavy.
Only time, gold and a teacher is often not a great problem. But if this task consume experience points, maybe...

Personally, I want fields of lore back, and the same for climb, jump, swim, spot and listen skills.
Lore is really fascinating option for caracter creation.
It's possible to insert lore in actual system by erase Arcana, Nature and Religion skills and go back them as fields of lore.

Lore is more related to a culture, when background is like a job.
So, the skills whent by a mixture of lore (cultural extraction), background (civil job), and class; creating more interesting characters.

For examples: Natural Lore + Artisan Background (cartographer) + Class (Cleric) Can result in a priest of a god related to wilderness that love explore and detail natural world for religious task an... (see all)
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (9/25/2013 9:30:00 PM)


Now that the packet is out, I'd say it is reasonable to allow characters to gain additional background traits, languages, and tool proficiencies with downtime, but not weapons, armor, or skills.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (9/20/2013 4:41:26 PM)


I like the proficiency concept but I'm going to miss the "Drive" skill.
Posted By: Pyrate_Jib (9/20/2013 1:19:29 PM)


Why? It was one of those skills (along with Profession and Innuendo) that didn't actually DO anything.
Posted By: Kalranya (9/21/2013 5:17:46 AM)


1. "Our list is complete,
But you might not view it so;
Add them as needed."

2. "There is no limit,
Be proficient in each thing:
saving your arse, too."

3. "Anyone can gain them -
Skills, Proficiencies, and all -
With Downtime Training."
Posted By: swmabie (9/20/2013 8:40:03 AM)


I don't like the idea of glossing over downtime and saying you learned a skill during it. If there is downtime then the players should tell the DM what they want to do. If learning a new skill is one of their choices then I'd rather role play finding someone to teach them and work out payment options. This may open up future adventures as we have a new NPC to play with.
Skills need to be nurtured otherwise they will be forgotten and become less effective. I'd rather have a system in place for extended rests where the players have the option to do things other than regaining health while camping. The default option can be to heal (it should take at least a week to heal from 0 HP to full BTW), assuming they do nothing else. But a player can choose to forgo the full effects of a good night's sleep by honing skills, sharpening blades, repairing armour etc. The effort should be rewarded, like getting advantage on the next couple uses of the honed skill, or opponents having disadvantage... (see all)
Posted By: Rartemass (9/19/2013 6:34:50 PM)


I worry that adding even more bonuses to saves through this proficiency thing is going to make it too easy to pass saves at high levels. I just did a practice fight with 4 14th level characters fighting a beholder, death knight, and a dracolich and the fighter didn't fail a single save. He got hit twice with the beholders petrification ray and with a +4 con vs a DC 14 save, with advantage from the indomitable ability, it was very unlikely he would fail (and both the cleric and paladin had resources to undo the petrification so it wasn't really an instant death button).If you throw a +5 on top of it, it will steal a lot of thunder from the monsters. Of course, you could just increase the DCs but now were back to number bloat for no reason. I think the save/DC mechanic right now works pretty well.

As for skills, I share the same concern that it doesn't make sense to learn a skill for the first time but have it automatically have a high bonus just because you are high level wh... (see all)
Posted By: moes1980 (9/19/2013 12:57:16 PM)


I agree totally and have the same worry. I hate when monsters are no longer scary because of bloated bonuses. Keep out the bonus creep PLEASE!!!
Posted By: tirwin (9/19/2013 5:56:22 PM)


While I don't disagree with all the stuff mentioned yet, I will say that it sounds like some of this stuff is going to get fairly convoluted, which is fine when it's in optional system modules, but I'm still worried that the core might get a little fat...
Posted By: JakeZim (9/19/2013 12:29:25 PM)


so since this column is back on the front page. does this mean those of us who want answers for 4th edition will finally get answers? or are we still getting tossed under the bus?
Posted By: RedHeadSamurai23 (9/19/2013 11:37:25 AM)


Becoming better at skills is an important part of the game. Becoming better at all skills, equally, just because you gained a level doesn't strike me as staying true to D and D, or even a good game system. More importantly, being able to gain a skill or proficiency at higher levels, such as when you gain a feat, and have it equal to a skill the PC has had from first level does not fit at all. It's lazy game design, IMO.

Skills represent knowledge and proficiencies that grow as the character does, through time and investment of resources. But there also needs to be a cost, and limitation, to how much and which skills increase over time. Choices that can be made at level advancement, which to me is part of the fun of gaining a level. Getting to make those choices. That's something the latest packet really lacks, is meaningful and interesting choices when a character advances levels. This silly focus on simplicity has stripped all that away.

And with Feats ... (see all)
Posted By: LupusRegalis (9/19/2013 10:54:16 AM)


Exactly. This is how we feel too. There is very little feeling of choice in your progression. In character creation, sure. But not as your character advances.
Posted By: Lillari (9/19/2013 11:22:20 PM)


I'm very much in favor of this system, particularly with the ability to expand upon it. What I'm not happy about is all the fields of lore being condensed into four knowledge related skills. Or the loss of the word "lore" for that matter, which was a very evocative term.
Posted By: Trillinon (9/19/2013 10:15:36 AM)


Building a way to gain skill or proficiency during downtime is what I have been wanting from the beginning!!

The way that I do it in my game is by assigning a number of days worked until Novice, Familiar, Expert and Master. To make it simple you can just that your character must work ten days at a level to advance.. So after doing something for 10 days straight you are a novice.. 20 days Familiar.. ect ect.. but you must be actively training during those days.. so if it something like a language you can learn it incrementally up until fluency at master level.

Also for real skills like perform, diplomacy, ect.. the tiers could increase.. so it would be more like Novice 10, Familiar 20, Expert 30, Master 60 (so 120 days to be master)

this way you can work on things overtime while adventuring and then in large chunks during downtime.
Posted By: patch101 (9/19/2013 9:00:11 AM)


While the language is a bit clunky as far as saving throws, overall I like where proficiencies is going. Perhaps proficiencies gained through the downtime system should be restricted by Intelligence somehow.
Posted By: Osgood (9/19/2013 8:30:23 AM)


It seemed like these were initially baked into the playtests, but not always equitably for each class. The "Fields of Lore" played well to describe things scholarly classes would know but did less to help with more activity-focused classes.

"Field of Lore" really will cover everything a Wizard or Cleric is doing out of combat. On the other hand, possessing "Nature Lore" won't really make a barbarian much better at hunting since that is more likely to require "Expertise" type class features for Str/Dex/Wis checks.

Considering that 'Rage' grants advantage on STR rolls in combat and Damage Resistance, the Barbarian actually would require lower STR/CON scores than a Fighter and can weirdly result in a Barbarian that isn't nearly as good at climbing, swimming, running long distances... or many of the other out-of-combat wilderness skills you'd expect. Unless the DM was very open to it - which the playtest info doesn't necessaril... (see all)
Posted By: Dlgood (9/19/2013 8:15:30 AM)


But it doesn't make sense for a Wizard to gain "Proficiency in Strength Saving Throws" now does it?

No one complains that a Fighter gains an attack bonus when they already attack well with their Strength. Why would them gaining Proficiency to Strength be any different.
Posted By: PinkRose (9/19/2013 5:08:39 AM)


Allowing characters proficiency in Saves "that their class is good at" doesn't seem to add very much. It's almost certainly going to be a bonus to something that the class almost has to be good at to function properly. If for instance Fighters get to be proficient with Strength saves - that's already going to be a save they're good at, because I don't think there are going to be many fighters that lack high strength. Meanwhile they aren't as likely to have high stats in other areas, and I'm worried that they'll also not be able to get proficiency in those saves.
Posted By: Bluenose (9/19/2013 4:36:15 AM)


I think the skill bonus progression should be different from the spell DC bonus progression and the hit roll bonus progression under the proficiensy system.
A good way IMO to do that effectively is to have three different tables of progression, the "Good, Moderate, weak" at the start of the chapter and say in the character class description for say, the fighter,
Attack: good.
Skill: Average.
Spell bonus: weak.
Posted By: alhoon2 (9/19/2013 3:26:47 AM)


1 I expect attacks, skills and saving throws to get better as you go up in levels and i'm good with the proposed system of uniserval proficiency bonus to cover this. I hope not there will be variation between classes and that some classes will have higher weapon proficiency bonus than others for exemple. As for the skill list . i find it too narrow for my taste but i can work with that, and i love to hear that DMs will be able to customize and create new ones if they want to. I ddefinitly like the idea to tie in to the Ideal/Flaw/Bond system too and make it tie to your character even deeper.

2 Proficiency in saving throws sound weird to me at first, but if its another term to represent increasing bonus i see no problem there. I think a universal language keyword for such bonus sounds good as long as it doesn't bring too much confusion.

3 Glad to hear there will be ways to get new proficiencies most likely through classes, backgrounds and feats but also p... (see all)
Posted By: Plaguescarred (9/19/2013 1:23:13 AM)


#1 is a very John Wick-esque answer; reminds me of HotB in a good way. I still think the decision to roll some "skills" into "tool proficiency" instead is bizarre and I'm not comfortable with some of the skill choices, but meh.

#2; I'd rather be able to improve the saves my class is BAD at. Will that be an option?

#3; I reserve judgement until it's in print. I dislike the "downtime system" concept and see no need for one: downtime is what happens offscreen. Things that happen offscreen don't need "systems" to manage them. That's the DM's job.
Posted By: Kalranya (9/19/2013 12:30:16 AM)


But surely a "system" is just a tool to help guide the DM while she does her "job"? An inexperienced (or bad) DM is going to need guidance, and a good one won't, in any way I can imagine, be hindered by there being a system in place. I expect the downtime system to be a great addition to the game. (Well, at least I HOPE it will be.)
Posted By: FitzTheRuke (9/19/2013 1:29:32 AM)


You missed my point. We don't need a downtime system because there should't BE any downtime at the table. Downtime is what happens offscreen, between game sessions.
Posted By: Kalranya (9/19/2013 8:21:44 AM)


I have to disagree. As a DM and player there is a need for a system to do things during 'downtime' like construct a stronghold, ship, or tower. Start a guild, a kingdom, or society. train with a blacksmith, alchemisty, wizard ect. Start your own town, complete with, business, trade, currency ect... these are all things that players could do while not out actively adventuring/dungeoneering.. and it would help if there were some system in place to facilitate this.
Posted By: patch101 (9/19/2013 8:51:55 AM)


Okay, but WHY do you think such a system is necessary? What could a set of rules accomplish for these things that the DM alone could not? If it's just a matter of convenience or helping along lazy or inept DMs, fine; but if you have a reason more substantial than that I'd like to hear it.
Posted By: Kalranya (9/21/2013 5:16:03 AM)


Nearly all of the things you mentioned as happening in downtime should be role played. If creating a stronghold players should hire workers, hire security for the build site (or secure it themselves), perhaps an official needs bribing. All of these bring in new NPCs to further expand the campaign. If players don't want to go into that level of detail you can always simply hire an overseer to run the project and do all that work for you. This way the party only needs to provide instruction and money. But getting that overseer should be role played and he should toss in issues that the players need to fix.
Starting a guild should always be role played. You can gloss over the guild charter specifics but getting members and getting the word out should be managed in game. Once it has become big enough to self manage the players can do other things. I'd expect the guild building to be littered through other adventures over several sessions. Training with a blacksmith/wizard/etc should b... (see all)
Posted By: Rartemass (9/19/2013 7:06:46 PM)


Initial thoughts on the last point:

I love the idea of being able to learn new things in downtime, but it really is ging to be tricky. My recommendation is to only allow acquisition of features not directly tied to character class or numeric stats (if possible). Non-adventuring downtime should be able to grant non-adventuring benefits without a problem. Background traits, languages, (and if we still had them) fields of lore are perfect. Weapons, skills, and lockpicks are really tempting for players, and just shouldn't be available without character leveling resources (ie, classes or feats).
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (9/19/2013 12:29:28 AM)