Comment from discussion Is it mathematically possible for 5th edition to model the following situation:

“Two characters of the same level are attempting a reasonably difficult task. One character is sufficiently unskilled that they have almost no chance of success; the other character is an expert, who is experienced enough that they have no chance of failure.”

As a concrete example, let’s say that both I and a Nobel-laureate mathematician try to derive a complex (but unremarkable) mathematical proof. I have enough knowledge of math that I could take a crack at it, but I’d need many attempts to even come close to a solution. The mathematician would have no trouble solving it on her first attempt.

This is a pretty common thing in everyday life. Most people have no chance of picking even an ordinary lock, while someone with basic training can do it with no trouble. Most people can’t deadlift 200 lbs, but most weightlifters would find it trivial. 3rd edition can easily model this with its skills system: if a task has a DC of 25, any character with less than 5 in that skill has no chance of success, while any character with 25 or more has no chance of failure, and it’s pretty easy for (say) two 10th level characters to fit that bill.

It seems like this is impossible in 5th edition, because there’s a (very small) maximum difference between the skills of any two characters of the same level. If so, why design it this way? Essentially, it seems like in 5e no character can ever be an expert at anything. At least, not compared to other characters of the same level.That’s only if you define expert as something that excludes a chance of success for other characters. D&D, being focused on heroic fantasy, doesn’t follow that line of thinking. D&D errs on the side of giving you at least some chance of success.

That’s not a judgment on what is correct for any RPG. It’s just what’s correct for D&D.AMA: Mike Mearls, Co-Designer of D&D 5, Head of D&D R&D.

“Two characters of the same level are attempting a reasonably difficult task. One character is sufficiently unskilled that they have almost no chance of success; the other character is an expert, who is experienced enough that they have no chance of failure.”

As a concrete example, let’s say that both I and a Nobel-laureate mathematician try to derive a complex (but unremarkable) mathematical proof. I have enough knowledge of math that I could take a crack at it, but I’d need many attempts to even come close to a solution. The mathematician would have no trouble solving it on her first attempt.

This is a pretty common thing in everyday life. Most people have no chance of picking even an ordinary lock, while someone with basic training can do it with no trouble. Most people can’t deadlift 200 lbs, but most weightlifters would find it trivial. 3rd edition can easily model this with its skills system: if a task has a DC of 25, any character with less than 5 in that skill has no chance of success, while any character with 25 or more has no chance of failure, and it’s pretty easy for (say) two 10th level characters to fit that bill.

It seems like this is impossible in 5th edition, because there’s a (very small) maximum difference between the skills of any two characters of the same level. If so, why design it this way? Essentially, it seems like in 5e no character can ever be an expert at anything. At least, not compared to other characters of the same level.That’s only if you define expert as something that excludes a chance of success for other characters. D&D, being focused on heroic fantasy, doesn’t follow that line of thinking. D&D errs on the side of giving you at least some chance of success.

That’s not a judgment on what is correct for any RPG. It’s just what’s correct for D&D.AMA: Mike Mearls, Co-Designer of D&D 5, Head of D&D R&D.