Skills & Skill Tricks

Using Skills

When your character uses a skill, you make a skill check to see how well he or she does. The higher the result of the skill check, the better. Based on the circumstances, your 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 your check. A character who is free to work without distractions can make a careful attempt and avoid simple mistakes. A character who has lots of time can try over and over again, thereby assuring the best outcome. If others help, the character may succeed where otherwise he or she 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 or her race’s knack for doing certain things (racial bonus) or what armor he or she is wearing (armor check penalty), or a certain feat the character possesses, among other things.

To make a skill check, roll d20 and add your 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: Difficulty Class Examples
Difficulty (DC) Example (Skill Used)
Very easy (0) Notice something large in plain sight (Perception)
Easy (5) Climb a knotted rope (Athletics)
Average (10) Hear an approaching guard (Perception)
Tough (15) Rig a wagon wheel to fall off (Disable Device)
Challenging (20) Swim in stormy water (Athletics)
Formidable (25) Open an average lock (Disable Device)
Heroic (30) Leap across a 30-foot chasm (Athletics)
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: Example Opposed Checks
Task Skill (Key Ability) Opposing Skill (Key Ability)
  1. An Intimidate check is opposed by the target’s level check, not a skill check. See the Intimidate skill description for more information.
Con someone Deception (Cha) Sense Motive (Wis)
Pretend to be someone else Deception (Cha) Perception (Wis)
Hide from someone Stealth (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Make a bully back down Intimidate (special) Special1
Sneak up on someone Stealth (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Steal a coin pouch Sleight of Hand (Dex) Perception (Wis)
Tie a prisoner securely Sleight of Hand (Dex) Escape Artist (Dex)

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 your 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.

Certain uses of skills requires ranks in the skill, and cannot be made untrained.

Taking 10

When your character is not being threatened or distracted, you may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, calculate your result as if you 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 you have 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), you are 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.

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.

Skill Synergy

It’s possible for a character to have two skills that work well together. In general, having 5 or more ranks in one skill gives the character a +2 bonus on skill checks with each of its synergistic skills, as noted in the skill description. In some cases, this bonus applies only to specific uses of the skill in question, and not to all checks. Some skills provide benefits on other checks made by a character, such as those checks required to use certain class features.

Table: Skill Synergies
5 or more ranks in… Gives a +2 bonus on…
Deception Diplomacy checks
Deception Intimidate checks
Deception Sleight Of Hand checks
Escape Artist Sleight Of hand checks involving bindings
Handle Animal Ride checks
Handle Animal Wild empathy checks
Athletics Acrobatics checks
Knowledge
   (arcana)
Spellcraft checks
   (dungeoneering) Survival checks when underground
   (geography) Survival checks to keep from getting lost
   or for avoiding hazards
   (local) Diplomacy checks
   (nature) Survival checks in aboveground natural
   environments
   (religion) checks to turn or rebuke undead
   (the planes) Survival checks when on other planes
Search Survival checks when following tracks
Sense Motive Diplomacy checks
Spellcraft Use Magic Device involving scrolls
Survival Knowledge (nature) checks
Acrobatics Athletics checks
Use Magic Device Spellcraft checks to decipher scrolls

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