Vry vs The Dungeons & Dragons 5e Character Sheet
I have a bone to pick with you, Mr. Character Sheet.
Your attempts to make things “easier” and “accessible” have left me with a constant frustration at our table. You’ve dumbed things down so far as to completely break any attempt to swim against the stream. Customizable? Hardly. You sir, have betrayed the very players you swore to aid!
Of course, what I’m actually talking about is the way that the Dungeons & Dragons character sheet automatically assumes that you should fill in the appropriate ability score modifiers with the skills they “go with”. Bah. I scoff at you, Sir Sheet. I use the very rules laid out in the Player’s Handbook that state – AND I QUOTE!
In some situations, though, your proficiency might reasonably apply to a different kind of check. In such cases, the DM might ask for a check using an unusual combination of ability and skill, or you might ask your DM if you can apply a proficiency to a different check. For example, if you have to swim from an offshore island to the mainland, your DM might call for a Constitution check to see if you have the stamina to make it that far. In this case, your DM might allow you to apply your proficiency in Athletics and ask for a Constitution (Athletics) check.Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook
How then am I supposed to accomplish that easily when every player at the table immediately stares at the big glaring number next to the word Athletics and murmurs out a series of monosyllabic grunts that could only be interpreted as, “Well that’s what I use right?” Instead, I – their benevolent god of all – have to halt the game that I have crafted with these two hands of untold power for their amusement to explain that no, simple ignorant player of meat and bone, if you have proficiency with Athletics, you can add your Proficiency bonus to a Constitution check. Then attempt to reascend my throne of conjured creativity to wrangle these blind and deaf cats to the next plot point before one of them opens their steaming word hole to unleash another question that they would know the answer to if only they had pried open that holiest of tomes that they spent half a c-note on and actually read something in it.
How about a proposal, if you will, to hide the ‘default skills’ and just show that big dot that shows you have Proficiency with the skill. Indeed, we can clean things up significantly by putting Skills & Saves in a single column (first Saves, then Skills) and just a dot next to them to indicate whether to add the proficiency bonus to them. You could put the box that indicates their current Proficiency Bonus right at the top of the column. Just give it a quick scan and see if you add the number at the top to your Ability Check.
I don’t think this approach is unreasonable. Not in the slightest. In every adventure, on every monster block, and indeed any part of any published text will always frame the check as such: [Ability Modifier to Add to Roll] (Skill to Add Proficiency With) [Difficulty Check Number]. So really there wouldn’t ever be a need in that format to remember what skill goes with what ability score. If you really need to remember on the fly, Dungeon Master Screens and various other shortcut cheat sheets for the Dungeon Master can readily have that information available for reference. The only possible way this would be difficult is if you were completely illiterate and are still learning what colors are and which shapes going in the different holes. In that case, 4th Edition is over there.
At the core of it, I’d like to draw attention that these are called “Ability Checks” in both the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Not “Skill Checks” – which was the nomenclature of previous editions. Shouldn’t the focus be on making a check with your ABILITY SCORE and then getting a bonus based on your training. If you wanted the focus to be on Skills then why didn’t you call them Skill Checks as was the standard until this very edition? Do you hate the written word so much at the Wizards of the Coast that you wish to destroy the already unstable foundation that our modern English shakily stands on like a chihuahua trapped in a wind tunnel?
Defaulting assigning a specific numeric value to the Skill on the character sheet will cause the player to associate that number and that number alone with that skill. For example, if the player had a great strength score and decided for some reason to make constitution their dump stat, then using the example above would be akin in their mind to driving over their first born in a pick up truck. You have robbed them of a potential 20% increase in their chances to succeed and believe me when they are muttering to themselves in the late of night while sharpening the very blade that is destined for your poor dungeon master throat – you will regret the false hope that Mr. Character Sheet gave to your player.
So really what I’m saying is maybe a few more options for character sheets set at the campaign level in D&D Beyond.
Oh, and uh. One final note here. This is all just for fun. The Character sheet thing is a pet peeve of mine that I figured I’d have a bit of a laugh at making a big hyperbolic argument about it. However, the internet is a place where sarcasm and humor is sometimes very easily missed so I wanted to place this little disclaimer here at the bottom before everyone got their blood boiling. No, I don’t think this is a serious issue. Yes, I would love more options for character sheet layouts on digital tools. No, I don’t hate D&D 5e. I don’t hate D&D 4e. In fact, 4e has a very fond place in my heart. Do not worry, this was just hear to be a bit of silly-angry-rant-fun. Hope you had a giggle. – Vry