PHB3: Skill Powers – Learning stuff was never so awesome…

2010 March 15
by Dante

The Player’s Handbook 3 introduces some really great new mechanics to augment the bumper crop of fun stuff presented in the other two Player’s Handbooks.  Today we’re going to talk about Skill Powers, which may seem rather familiar because this mechanic has been “invented” by nearly every DM I’ve played with over the years.

How It Works

Skill Powers can be taken whenever you reach a level that would normally grant a utility power from your class.  Instead, you gain a utility power based on your trained skills.  You can also use the retraining rules presented in the PHB to swap out class skills you already have for new skill powers.  You can’t do this swap for a utility power from a paragon path or an epic destiny, but that’s not too much of a hindrance.

Like all other abilities, each of these Skill Powers are tiered in their abilities and benefits.  Some of them are fairly laughable, for example there is an Acrobatics skill power called Agile Recovery that allows you to stand up as a minor action, at will.  The Acrobatics skills, for example, quickly go to places you would expect… the Drop and Roll level 10 ability allows you to shift three squares after a fall where you would take no damage.  At the highest levels, your tumbling and dodging ability allows you to shift by half your movement speed and reduce an attack’s damage by half.

That’s pretty cool no matter how you shake it!

Appreciable gains for focusing on a skill

My favorite thing about this mechanic is that I’ve used it in my campaigns all the time.  Invariably, my players would ask “I have a lot of <insert skill here>, would that help me in this situation?” and now there are concrete rules for how your knowledge will aid you.  The mappings make sense: book learnin’ skills such as History and Arcana earn you battle tactics that aid your initiative, AC, or provide other tactical advantages.  More brawny skills such as Athletics grant you appropriately brawny skill powers for use in combat.

You can add a lot of flavor for your character by adding in some skill powers.  As I was reading through the Nature skill powers, it dawned on me that a lot of these skills are tailor-made for a ranger or druid and seemed to align with the normal skill training that is done for those classes.  That allows for added variety within standard classes and gets even further away from the “cookie cutter character” worry.

Choosing is Hard

The more I got into the Skill Powers section, the more trouble I had determining which I would choose for my characters.  There are so many interesting options it’s hard to choose only a few to add some zest to my character.  If you’ve got any questions, be sure to post them up in the thread and I’ll do my best to answer them!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Granger44 permalink
    March 16, 2010

    I remember reading somewhere there was a feat that allowed you to add another skill power to your repertoire. Is this still the case? If so and assuming you can spare the feat, seems like you could take a few skill powers to broaden your arsenal.

  2. March 16, 2010

    I’m not much a fan of skill systems to begin with, but I live with them in my 4e games just fine.

    I think skill powers are getting a little silly.

    Drop and roll? Why wasn’t this possible without a stat block?

    I suppose it’s possible to appreciate what WotC is attempting with the system. Afterall, 4e does try to help people to avoid reliance on house rules by codifying as many actions as possible into the system. For many players it might just be easier.

    It adds another layer of complexity to character generation to be sure. Perhaps it removes some ambiguities for certain kinds of players. I think it’s just fluff and makes PHB3 less of a “must-have” item than the first two books.

    Though it does make me wonder what they have planned for the fourth and fifth books. Do we really need more rules?

  3. March 17, 2010

    @ Granger44 Yep, the Skill Utility feat is in there. I forget what it is called, but that feat seems to be a great way to take a Skill Utility power.

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