Skills Summary

When the player chooses a class for his character, the character gains a number of class skills; he gains a +3 bonus to the check when using them. All other skills are cross-class – the character gets no bonus. Each skill point the character spends on a skill gets him 1 rank (equal to a +1 bonus on checks with that skill) for each point. A character's maximum ranks in a skill, trained or not, can be no greater than his character level.

The maximum number of ranks a character can have in a skill is equal to his character level.

Using Skills: To make a skill check, roll:

1d20 + skill modifier (Skill modifier = skill rank + ability modifier + miscellaneous modifiers)

This roll works just like an attack roll or a saving throw - the higher the roll, the better. Either the player is trying to match or exceed a certain Difficulty Class (DC), or he's trying to beat another character's check result.

Skill Ranks: A character's number of ranks in a skill is based on how many skill points he has invested in a skill. Many skills can be used even if he has no ranks in them; doing this is called making an untrained skill check.

Ability Modifier: The ability modifier used in a skill check is the modifier for the skill's key ability (the ability associated with the skill's use). The key ability of each skill is noted in its description.

Miscellaneous Modifiers: Miscellaneous modifiers include racial bonuses, armor check penalties, and bonuses provided by feats, among others.

Using Skills

When a character uses a skill, he makes a skill check to see how well he does. The higher the result of the skill check, the better. Based on the circumstances, his result must match or beat a particular number (a DC or the result of an opposed skill check) for the check to be successful. The harder the task, the higher the number you need to roll.

Circumstances can affect the check. A character who is free to work without distractions can make a careful attempt and avoid simple mistakes; if he has lots of time, he can try over and over again, thereby assuring the best outcome. If others help, the character may succeed where otherwise he would fail.

Skill Checks

A skill check takes into account a character's training (skill rank), natural talent (ability modifier), and luck (the die roll). It may also take into account his race's knack for doing certain things (racial bonus) or what armor he is wearing (armor check penalty), or a certain feat the character possesses, among other things.

To make a skill check, roll 1d20 and add the character's skill modifier for that skill. The skill modifier incorporates the character's ranks in that skill and the ability modifier for that skill's key ability, plus any other miscellaneous modifiers that may apply, including racial bonuses and armor check penalties. The higher the result, the better. Unlike with attack rolls and saving throws, a natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success, and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure.

Difficulty Class

Some checks are made against a Difficulty Class (DC). The DC is a number (set using the skill rules as a guideline) that you must score as a result on your skill check in order to succeed.

Table 1: Difficulty Class Examples

Difficulty (DC) Example (Skill Used)
Very easy (0) Notice something large in plain sight (Perception)
Easy (5) Climb a knotted rope (Climb)
Average (10) Hear an approaching guard (Perception)
Tough (15) Rig a wagon wheel to fall off (Disable Device)
Challenging (20) Swim in stormy water (Swim)
Formidable (25) Open a good lock (Disable Device)
Heroic (30) Leap across a 30-foot chasm (Jump)
Nearly impossible (40) Track a squad of orcs across hard ground after 24 hours of rainfall (Survival)

Opposed Checks

An opposed check is a check whose success or failure is determined by comparing the check result to another character's check result. In an opposed check, the higher result succeeds, while the lower result fails. In case of a tie, the higher skill modifier wins. If these scores are the same, roll again to break the tie.

Table 2: Example Opposed Checks

Task Skill (Key Ability) Opposing Skill (Key Ability)
Con someone Bluff (Cha) Sense Motive (Wis)
Pretend to be someone else Disguise (Cha) Perception (Wis)
Hide from someone Stealth (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Make a bully back down Intimidate (Cha) Special1
Sneak up on someone Stealth (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Steal a coin pouch Sleight of Hand (Dex) Perception (Wis)

1 An Intimidate check is opposed by the target's level check, not a skill check. See the Intimidate skill description for more information.

Trying Again

In general, you can try a skill check again if you fail, and you can keep trying indefinitely. Some skills, however, have consequences of failure that must be taken into account. A few skills are virtually useless once a check has failed on an attempt to accomplish a particular task. For most skills, when a character has succeeded once at a given task, additional successes are meaningless.

Untrained Skill Checks

Generally, if a character attempts to use a skill he or she does not possess, you make a skill check as normal. The skill modifier doesn't have a skill rank added in because the character has no ranks in the skill. Any other applicable modifiers, such as the modifier for the skill's key ability, are applied to the check. Many skills can be used only by someone who is trained in them.

Favorable and Unfavorable Conditions

Some situations may make a skill easier or harder to use, resulting in a bonus or penalty to the skill modifier for a skill check or a change to the DC of the skill check.

The chance of success can be altered in four ways to take into account exceptional circumstances.

1. Give the skill user a +2 circumstance bonus to represent conditions that improve performance, such as having the perfect tool for the job, getting help from another character (see Combining Skill Attempts), or possessing unusually accurate information.

2. Give the skill user a –2 circumstance penalty to represent conditions that hamper performance, such as being forced to use improvised tools or having misleading information.

3. Reduce the DC by 2 to represent circumstances that make the task easier, such as having a friendly audience or doing work that can be subpar.

4. Increase the DC by 2 to represent circumstances that make the task harder, such as having an uncooperative audience or doing work that must be flawless.

Conditions that affect your character's ability to perform the skill change the skill modifier. Conditions that modify how well the character has to perform the skill to succeed change the DC. A bonus to the skill modifier and a reduction in the check's DC have the same result: They create a better chance of success. But they represent different circumstances, and sometimes that difference is important.

Time and Skill Checks

Using a skill might take a round, take no time, or take several rounds or even longer. Most skill uses are standard actions, move actions, or full-round actions. Types of actions define how long activities take to perform within the framework of a combat round (6 seconds) and how movement is treated with respect to the activity. Some skill checks are instant and represent reactions to an event, or are included as part of an action.

These skill checks are not actions. Other skill checks represent part of movement.

Checks Without Rolls

A skill check represents an attempt to accomplish some goal, usually while under some sort of time pressure or distraction. Sometimes, though, a character can use a skill under more favorable conditions and eliminate the luck factor.

Taking 10: When the character is not being threatened or distracted, he can choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, calculate the result as if he had rolled a 10. For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful. Distractions or threats (such as combat) make it impossible for a character to take 10. In most cases, taking 10 is purely a safety measure - you know (or expect) that an average roll will succeed but fear that a poor roll might fail, so you elect to settle for the average roll (a 10). Taking 10 is especially useful in situations where a particularly high roll wouldn't help.

Taking 20: When the character has plenty of time (generally 2 minutes for a skill that can normally be checked in 1 round, one full-round action, or one standard action), he is faced with no threats or distractions, and the skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, you can take 20. In other words, eventually you will get a 20 on 1d20 if you roll enough times. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, just calculate your result as if you had rolled a 20.

Taking 20 means you are trying until you get it right, and it assumes that you fail many times before succeeding. Taking 20 takes twenty times as long as making a single check would take.

Since taking 20 assumes that the character will fail many times before succeeding. If you did attempt to take 20 on a skill that carries penalties for failure, your character would automatically incur those penalties before he or she could complete the task. Common “take 20” skills include Acrobatics, Disable Device, and Search.

Ability Checks and Caster Level Checks: The normal take 10 and take 20 rules apply for ability checks. Neither rule applies to caster level checks.

Combining Skill Attempts

When more than one character tries the same skill at the same time and for the same purpose, their efforts may overlap.

Aid Another: Often, several characters attempt some action and each succeeds or fails independently. The result of one character's Climb check does not influence the results of other characters' Climb checks. However, one character can help another achieve success on his skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a cooperative effort. If the first PC rolls a 10 or higher on his check, the character he is helping gets a +2 bonus to his or her check, as per the rule for favorable conditions. (You can't take 10 on a skill check to aid another.) In many cases, a character's help won't be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once.

In cases where the skill restricts who can achieve certain results, a character can't aid another to grant a bonus to a task that he couldn't achieve alone.

Skill Synergy: It's possible for a character to have two skills that work well together. In this case, the DM can rule that the second skill can add a +2 bonus to the check for the first skill. This bonus stacks with the bonus granted by others using the aid another action.

The table below shows which skills can be used to grant bonuses for other skills (or uses thereof). This is not an exhaustive list, however.

Table 3: Skill Synergies

Skill Bonus
Bluff Diplomacy, Sleight of Hand
Bluff Disguise checks made to act in character
Craft (any) Appraise checks for items made using that Craft skill
Decipher Script Use Magic Device checks to use scrolls
Diplomacy Gather Information, Knowledge (nobility)
Handle Animal Ride, wild empathy
(arcana) Spellcraft
(architecture) Search checks to find hidden/secret doors
(dungeoneering) Survival checks when belowground
(geography) Survival checks to avoid becoming lost or avoiding natural hazards
(history) Bardic knowledge checks
(local) Gather Information
(nature) Survival checks in aboveground settings
(nobility) Diplomacy checks
(religion) Turning checks
(the planes) Survival checks on other planes
Search Survival checks to follow tracks
Sense Motive Diplomacy
Spellcraft Search checks to find magical traps
Spellcraft Use Magic Device
Survival Knowledge (nature)

Ability Checks

Sometimes a character tries to do something to which no specific skill really applies. In these cases, he makes an ability check. An ability check is a roll of 1d20 plus the appropriate ability modifier. Essentially, he's making an untrained skill check.

In some cases, an action is a straight test of one's ability with no luck involved. Just as you wouldn't make a height check to see who is taller, you don't make a Strength check to see who is stronger.

Table 4: Skills

Skill Brd Clr Drd Ftr Mnk Pal Rgr Rog Sor Wiz Untrained Ability
Acrobatics C cc cc cc C cc cc C cc cc Yes Dex1
Appraise C cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc Yes Int
Bluff C cc cc cc cc cc cc C C cc Yes Cha
Climb C cc cc C C cc C C cc cc Yes Str1
Concentration C C C cc C C cc cc C C Yes Con
Craft C C C C C C C C C C No Int
Decipher Script C C cc cc cc cc cc C cc C No Int
Diplomacy C C C cc cc C cc C C cc Yes Cha
Disable Device C cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc No Dex
Disguise C cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc Yes Cha
Gather Information C cc cc cc cc cc cc C C cc Yes Cha
Handle Animal cc cc C C cc C C cc cc cc No Cha
Heal cc C C cc C C cc cc cc cc Yes Wis
Intimidate C cc cc C C C C C C cc Yes Cha
Jump C cc cc C C C C C cc cc Yes Str1
(arcana) C C cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C No Int
(architecture & engineering) C cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C No Int
(combat & tactics) C cc cc C cc C C cc cc C No Int
(dungeoneering) C cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc C No Int
(geography) C cc C cc cc cc C cc cc C No Int
(history) C cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C No Int
(local) C cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C No Int
(nature) C cc C cc cc cc C cc cc C No Int
(nobility & royalty) C cc cc cc cc C cc cc cc C No Int
(poisons) C cc C cc cc cc cc C cc C No Int
(religion) C C cc cc C C cc cc cc C No Int
(the planes) C C cc cc cc cc cc cc cc C No Int
Perception C cc C cc C cc C C cc cc Yes Wis
Perform C cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc Yes Cha
Profession C C C C C C C C C C No Wis
Ride C cc C C cc C C cc cc cc Yes Dex
Search C cc cc cc C cc C C cc cc Yes Int
Sense Motive C cc cc cc C C cc C cc cc Yes Wis
Sleight of Hand C cc cc cc cc cc cc C cc cc No Dex1
Speak Language cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc No None
Spellcraft C C C cc cc C C cc C C No Int
Stealth C cc C cc C cc C C cc cc Yes Dex1
Survival cc cc C cc cc cc C cc cc cc Yes Wis
Swim cc cc C C C C C C cc cc Yes Str2
Use Magic Device C cc cc cc cc cc cc C C cc No Cha

1 Dex penalty for armor applies to checks.

2 Double the Dex penalty applies to checks.

Related Rules and Discussion

The rule of 3. The Rule of 3 is an optional variant rule for calculating skill checks.

Speechcraft system: A unified system for all interactive skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Perform.

Skills Discussion

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