When D&D 2e came out, we were pretty psyched, because the new PHB had a bunch of cool new Proficiencies. Something that IIRC had been introduced in Dragon Magazine as an option had been expanded and made “official”.
We quickly discovered that by relying upon a limited number of skills that our PCs could be proficient in, we seemed to be NOT-proficient in all of the other skills and activities. Before Proficiencies, we just rolled against whatever Ability Score seemed most appropriate. Or we just assumed our PCs knew how to do a lot of things that we Modern Folk might not know about. Like how to properly fell a tree. How to load panniers on a donkey. How to tan animal hide. Basic, “Pioneer-type” skills that we don’t have, but that our “make everything for themselves” PCs certainly would.
We made a House Rule
Proficiencies became “Expert Level” knowledge. Your PC spends 2d4 weeks and some gold studying astrology with the Fortune Teller down the road, gains Proficiency in Astrology. Otherwise, “which constellation rises first in the Spring?” becomes an INT check. Gaining Expert-level knowledge of a topic became a down-time skill-building exercise like Level-training.
Looking at all of the Proficiency types, Skills, Feats, and Special Abilities that come with first-level D&D5e characters makes me feel the same way I did years ago. Because your PC doesn’t have Proficiency in one of these areas, she can’t do it at all.
A New Way to Look at Skill Resolution
From Shamgrog, waaaaay back in 2011!
The Art of Delving
A general purpose d6 roll is used for determining success or failure when undertaking various mundane tasks in the game. Refs can adjust the target 5 as needed, increasing it to 6 or lowering it to 4 or less as the game demands.
Note: It is suggested that Refs avoid simply reducing these acts to straightforward dice rolls. Encourage player reasoning and input, and reward or penalize them accordingly. The 5+ roll is a baseline suggestion, one which should be modified depending upon how the characters are attempting them, the prevailing circumstances, and the difficulty of the particular endeavor.
The 5+ Rule:
1: Absolute Failure
6: Success and roll again. With a result of 6 on the roll again, the character denotes one pip above the relevant task.
Improving with Experience: When six such pips are earned the character gains a permanent +1 on all 5+ checks with that particular task. No further bonuses may be gained in this manner for that particular task.
This would totally replace the idea of Proficiencies and give a good chance for a reasonably competent adventurer to accomplish many mundane tasks. AND it gives a player some input on how they approach preparing for and executing the task. A well-thought-out plan would get a +1 to their roll, while doing something off-the-cuff may cause a -1 adjustment.
I like this a lot, and plan to add it to the Grimdark Fantasy setting.
Please share your thoughts in the Comments.