Rule Of Three

This is a combination rule/discussion section; due to a lot of negative feedback (mainly along the lines of "Why bother when you can just scale the DCs to the PCs' skill checks?") I've decided to keep this rule optional.

It goes something like this: For any skill score, divide the total score (ranks + ability mod + misc. mods) by 3. This is your effective total, which is what you use when making skill checks.

That's the funky part. Here's the part where I prove my point. I'm going to use the existing 3.5 skill system and the Project Phoenix skill system to illustrate how this works in practice.

Let's say we've got Frank the L1 halfling rogue. With the 3.5 rules, he has a Climb score of 8: 4 (max ranks) + 2 (Str) + 2 (racial). He could make a DC 10 check 95% of the time (failure only on a 1), a DC 15 70% of the time (7 or better on the die), and a DC 20 45% of the time (12 or better). He could even make a DC 25 check (overhang or ceiling with handholds but no footholds) a whopping 15% of the time (18 or better on the die) - at level 1. This despite the fact that DC 15 is supposed to be difficult, and just about anything over DC 20 is supposed to range from very hard to nearly impossible for normal (read: non-epic) people, let alone a just-starting-out adventurer.

Under the Project Phoenix rules, his score would be 8 also: 1 (max ranks) + 3 (trained skill bonus) + 2 + 2.

Under the Rule of 3, his score would be 2. Suddenly, that DC 15 check looks pretty daunting - he would succeed only 40% of the time! The DC 20 check? Pfft - good luck; he could succeed only 10% of the time. The DC 25 check is impossible, as it should be for a L1 PC.

As you can see, this rule effectively curtails the rampant increase in skill scores - a DC 15 check becomes (and remains) difficult for most PCs under L10, and a DC 20 does the same for those up to L15 or so. Best of all, you don't have to do anything to PCs' or monsters' skills - you use the existing totals, just divide by 3 to get the effective score you use for checks. You would have to reduce DCs, however - it would be nearly impossible (munchkins notwithstanding) to get a check result over 30-40 with this system, unless you're playing very high epic.

And speaking of epic, it would definitely curtail the uberness of epic PCs. No longer will they be making DC 100 checks to swim up a waterfall or dance on a cloud.

This system also means that modifiers are more important - Skill Focus, for example; a simple +1 bonus from bardsong, minor spells, or even aid another become useful again. BTW, I just want to add that I'm considering changing the animal buff spells to the bonuses they add are "end of chain" - that is, they add a +4 bonus to Strength-based checks and skills instead of a +4 to the ability itself. This makes things a lot easier to figure out, and it would add a nice boost when using the Rule of 3.

Converting existing DCs to this system: If you want to try this rule, you'll have to convert the upper-end DCs to this system, to make it possible for PCs to make those checks. The rough guidelines (I haven't actually done any testing) are:

Previous DC New DC*
30-45 Reduce by 1/8
46-60 Reduce by 1/4
61+ Reduce by 1/3

*Round down in all cases.

So, for example, a DC 40 check would be DC 35 (40 - [40/8]); a DC 72 check would be 48 (72 - [72/3]). The result of this system is that a L1 PC will have around a 60% chance of succeeding at a DC 10 check if it's a focused class skill (like Perception for rogues), or 35% for a DC 15 check. Interestingly, the numbers decrease over time until it's very difficult (30% chance) for a L45 to make a DC 45 check. I'm sure I underestimated the miscellaneous bonuses here, but this indicates that the skill system actually caps out around DC 50-60 - there's no real need for DCs higher than that, which would support my opinion. Take it as you will, however.

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