Skill Training

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 16, 2009

Let’s face it some skills have more in-game applications than others. On any given night at my gaming table Perception checks are made at least once an hour. Stealth is also a very commonly used skill. And when it’s time for a skill challenge the skills most often relied on are tend to be Diplomacy, Insight and Streetwise.

So what if you’re a Fighter and your best skill is Endurance? How do you turn that skill training and that base roll of +10 into something useful and constructive to the story? More importantly how do you have fun as a player in the process? The answer is simple – use your imagination.

One of the mantras of 4e is for the DM to say yes. If the players come up with creative ways to use their skills the DM should allow it. If your use of the skill is kind of “out there” or crazy the DM may increase the DC, but any reasonable request should be allowed.

The PHB gives some of the most common ways to use skills but this is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s up to you to be creative. Training in any skill gives you +5 over and above racial, ability, feat and level modifiers. It also gives you a clear advantage over other, non-trained characters. But what does this mean?

Let’s stick with Endurance for purposes of example. The obvious (and boring) explanation of why your character has a high Endurance is that he’s stronger, tougher and made of sturdier stuff than other characters. I’ll give you that. But the +5 also represents training. Think about what kind of training your character received to earn this advantage?

An Endurance check may allow you to travel further, rest less often and for shorter periods, go without food and water, and survive the extreme elements. This may be possible because you’re tough, but what training assists you in achieving these extreme accomplishments? This is where a well thought out history will give you clues and cues to explain your training. Once you’ve got a good reason for being trained is a specific skill, then you can get a better idea of how to apply it in role-playing situations.

Here are a few examples that explain why your character might have training in Endurance.

  • You have extensive military training. Your drills included marching extreme distances while carrying heavy loads and travelling through all kinds of hazardous weather conditions. Training in Athletics and History are also reasonable assumptions for someone in a large and proud army.
  • You spent weeks, months or even years alone in the wild. You survived the hazards of living in a desolate forest, a scorching desert or the cavernous underground. Training is Nature or Dungeoneering could accompany this kind of back-story.
  • You grew up on the streets of a major city alone and abandoned. You had to be tough to survive. Your training comes from years of experience and not from some regimented school or teacher. Training in Streetwise or Thievery would be natural complimentary skills with this background.

Take a look at your character sheet and see what skills you’re trained in. If you can come up with an explanation as to how and why your character received this training you’re more likely to come up with imaginative uses for these skills. It gives you context and helps put you in the character’s shoes.

So next time you’re participating in a skill challenge don’t be afraid to come up with a creative use for your Dungeoneering, Athletics or Endurance skills. Remember, your character has formal training and he should be able to do extraordinary things.

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