Overview of Pathfinder’s Skills: Climb to Diplomacy

Climb (Full Description on PFSRD)(-C’s Post): This is a bad skill, and should be removed from the game. Or, at the very least, merged into some kind of “Athletics” skill, along with Swim and Fly. But even that combined skill would be worthless. Can you guess what Captain Kirk is doing?

Climbing is a binary proposition. Either you CAN, or you CANNOT. Perhaps some characters can climb things which would otherwise be unclimbable, or can climb things faster than other characters, but that sounds like something which would be better handled by a class ability or a feat. The few times I’ve attempted to use it have never been fun for anyone involved, and I’ve always used a single roll to represent an entire climb. Can you imagine if I called for a roll every few feet the way Pathfinder’s rules dictate?

Judgement: House rule this skill out of the game. Allow characters with STR 16 or higher to climb walls at half of their speed, and characters with STR 15 or lower to climb walls at one quarter of their speed. If the surface is particularly difficult to climb, only characters with climbing equipment can climb it. If you like, you can even allow characters with a high dexterity (16+?) to climb such walls without climbing equipment. Characters cannot climb with heavy armor. Characters lose their dexterity bonus to AC while climbing. If a character takes damage while climbing they must make a STR check to avoid falling. The DC can be 10, or equal to the damage taken, or equal to half the damage taken, or whatever you prefer.

Coming up with a better mechanic for this isn’t really difficult. (Though most of that was pulled from -C, I admit.)

Craft (Full Description on PFSRD)(-C’s Post):

I do not like the craft skill, because I love crafting.

Greecian BlacksmithWhen -C covered this skill, his primary complaint was about the stupidity of crafting having random results. Which, I agree, is a problem. But that’s not my only problem. The entire implementation just seems strange to me. In order to craft any magical items (i.e. anything worth taking the time to craft) characters need to take a feat like “Craft Magical Arms and Armor,” which means that the craft skill is only valuable to those who are willing to sacrifice a feat. And if the character isn’t a spellcaster, they need to take two feats. One to be able to craft magical versions of whatever they’re able to make, and another (“Master Craftsman”) to be able to use scrolls to imbue items with magic.

So remind me: what are the Craft and Use Magic Item skills for? How can a character have max ranks in both of these things, yet still be unable to craft a magic item because they lack two feats? It’s frustrating how often I find myself linking to my post on the problem with feats, but the damned thing never stops being relevant.

I know this is never a popular thing to say within the tabletop gaming community, but I think World of Warcraft got it right. (I’m sure other games got it right as well, WoW is just a game which I’m very familiar with). For those who don’t play, I’ll break it down: every character in WoW is able to learn two of the ten available professions, which include things like “alchemy,” “blacksmithing,” “leatherworking,” and “tailoring.” These professions are developed independently from the character’s other abilities. Players are never forced to choose between “learn a new combat ability” and “learn to craft better,” which is precisely the choice being forced by Pathfinders feat requirements.

The progress of these crafting abilities is throttled in two ways: first, players must raise their crafting skill in order to craft better items. This seems logical to me, unlike Pathfinder’s “one out of twenty times, a novice painter will create a masterpiece” nonsense. The second throttle is patterns/schematics/blueprints. or what have you. Essentially, none of the best items in the game can be crafted until first finding instructions on how to craft them, which are often guarded the game’s most ferocious monsters.

I doubt restricting players to patterns would work very well in a game like Pathfinder, and I don’t think it would be good to try. Players who become invested in their crafting should feel as though they can create anything, so long as they can figure out a good way to do it. However, finding patterns to create powerful items could certainly be used to get players more interested in crafting. If a wizard finds a book detailing the method for crafting a powerful staff, they’re going to want to figure out how to make it.

Judgement: Crafting functions adequately in its current state, but adequately isn’t good enough. Sometime soon I plan to write a more detailed house-rule to replace the current Crafting mechanic entirely.

Diplomacy (Full Description on PFSRD)(-C’s Post): The way diplomacy works is a problem. A huge problem. The fact that diplomacy is so broken as to be absolutely game-breaking is pretty well known at this point, so I won’t delve further into that. Though, if you never have, you really ought to read up on that link. It’s a pretty amazing and irrefutable critique of the system.

Lenin was a level 13 DiplomancerDiplomacy suffers from all the problems of bluff, and then some. On the one hand, it is valuable–I would go so far as to say necessary–to have a mechanic to handle NPC interaction in a game like Pathfinder. However, handling diplomacy as a single roll with a success/fail result is ludicrously random. Players quickly begin to wonder what the point of all their well-rehearsed arguments are if all it nets them is a circumstance bonus. And since attempting to make a point honestly is both less fun than lying, and comes up more often within a game context, diplomacy isn’t able to hide its flaws as well as bluff does.

As I mentioned in the bluff entry, I really think there needs to be a united social mechanic for players to rely on. Something completely different from Pathfinder’s skills system. However, lacking that, it may be a good idea to require multiple checks for each interaction, with circumstance modifiers playing an important roll. And, most importantly, don’t be afraid of judiciously applied GM fiat. Before you call for a roll, take a moment to think: if your players succeed in convincing their target, would you be able to justify that target being convinced? It works the other way around as well. If the PC’s present an overwhelmingly powerful argument, could you justify the target continuing to be unconvinced? If the answer to either question is no, then don’t call for a roll. Simply make a decision.

Judgement: Completely broken, without question. Can be made semi-workable with some fiddling. Ought to be expanded and revised. Future games would benefit from a complete overhaul.

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4 thoughts on “Overview of Pathfinder’s Skills: Climb to Diplomacy”

  1. Ok i have an idea and your not going to like it…i really think your not going to like it.

    ok instead of using a d20 for skill checks you could use 2 D10 and drop the dc of most checks by 5 this would give an average die results of 11 plus skill and give you a nice probability curve. I know you would like to play d 20 but this dose mean your peasant with on skill jumps 11 ft on average and only 20 one time in 100

    sorry if you don’t like this and im am not just posting to argue


    1. I’m not sure why you seem so nervous about posting the idea. Even when I do vehemently disagree with what my commenters think, I welcome their input. Having discussions with people who disagree with you is one of the best ways to learn about, and understand an issue.

      And, as it so happens, I don’t disagree with you. I have no special attachment to the twenty-sider. In future games, I think that 2d10 or 3d6 would make for a much better skill roll. I have not included that in my analysis of skills thus far because it is a more fundamental change than simply amending or disregarding certain skills.

      Thank you for your input!

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