Sprucing Up Skills – Specializations in 4e D&D
After playing in a few Cthulhu homebrew games run by one of my players who is a long time DM, and running an open ended game like Dead of Night I’ve been thinking a lot about skills lately. Reading Mike Mearls’ latest Legends and Lore post on “Skills in D&D” is really what really tipped my decision to take action. Recently I’ve been trying to take a more active role in further seperating trained skill checks and untrained checks within my game and all of this piled together is what really made me start experimenting with creating on my own set of house rules for Skill Specialization in hopes to further build on the skill mechanics in 4e D&D I love so dearly.
To keep the post here clean I’ve placed them in this handy container below, simply click the title and it will pull down all the ruling details. If for some reason this doesn’t work for you, just hit up my campaign wiki on Obsidian Portal. I’m asking for feedback of all kinds, love it or hate it – I want you to pick this apart for me before I actually implement it in my game. You can do so in the comment section below.
Your character may choose to specialize in a skill, it can be anything your heart desires from “Ventriloquism” to “Tying Knots” to “Slaying Vampires”. Doing so grants you an extra bonus (combat and/or skill check) when performing actions related to your specialization. For major skills – spending some of your livlihood developing these specializations means you’ll incur a small penalty to the base skill check however.
All skill specializations should retain a certain degree of relevancy in context to the story of the campaign and pertaining to your character in a believable way. (Ex: Tabarast cannot specialize in wielding light sabres, hacking computers, etc.) It is assumed that your character spends some of their free time honing/concentrating on whatever these things are and is assumed that these behaviors be at least lightly role played.
Skill specializations are very specific things. You cannot for example, specialize in “Killing Bad Guys”, “Attacking Humanoids” or “Being Charming”. They are more along the lines of “Goblin Hatred”, “Swinging from A Rope” or “Distracting Gnomes with Shiny Objects”. All proposed skill specializations must be approved by the DM before use in-game. The base skill in which a specialization falls in is up to both the DM and Player to agree upon.
Specializations are noted on your character sheet in parethesis next to their base skill, a capital M is displayed for a Major skill and lowercase for minor.
You may take a minor skill specialization at levels 4, 14 and 24. A minor skill specialization may be any of the 17 skills on your character sheet, regardless of whether you are trained in it. Minor skills do not incur a penalty to the base skill as they only reflect things your character may dabble in or only perform occasionally, but still frequently enough that they excel at it to some degree.
Minor Skill specializations warrant a bonus to skill checks (and related actions) equal to 1/4 of your current level. If your specialization is combat oriented this bonus is reflected as a flat +2 power bonus to attack and damage which raises to +3 at paragon tier and +4 at epic.
You may take a major skill specialization at levels 8, 18, and 28 A major skill specializing must be one that pertains to one of your characters already trained skills. Major skill specializations incur a -2 penalty to the base skill per tier, so -4 and -6 at paragon and epic respectively, these penalties are not cummulative.
Major Skill specializations grant a bonus to skill checks (and related actions) equal to half your current level. If your specialization is combat oriented this bonus is reflected as a flat +4 power bonus to attack and damage which raises to +6 at paragon tier and +8 at epic.
Unlearning & Retraining Specializations
A skill specialization may not be “quick swapped” at any point in time unless specific circumstance warrants it. Should a character wish to change a minor specialization they may do so over the course of a few sessions, however a Major skill is one they have dedicated a lot of their time and resources to and may not be dropped as easily and is only allowed per DM discretion and over the course of numerous sessions.
Swapping and Trading Out
A Major skill specialization may be skipped in favor of taking another (single) minor specialization, this occurs as it normally would at the indicated level for the intended major skill. A player may choose at a later time to drop that minor and resume taking up a major, or perhaps turn their minor into a major, however this process is not backwards compatible.
|Skill Specializations||Level Earned||Bonus Incurred||Penalty Incurred|
|Minor||4th, 14th, 24th||+ 1/4 level on skill checks, +2 / +3 / +4 in combat (per tier)||None|
|Major||8th, 18th, 28th||+ 1/2 level on skill checks, +4 / +6 / +8 in combat (per tier)||-2, -4, -6 to the base skill (per tier). Non-cummulative|