Author Topic: Skill bonuses by level  (Read 3315 times)


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Skill bonuses by level
« on: September 21, 2013, 03:36:19 AM »
This is, in large part, for my own benefit, hoping to help me to get a good idea of what kind of skill bonuses you can expect to be available at what levels. They're kinda hard to come by. As with my fury/precision topic, this isn't really intended to be a very well-organized guide or anything, but if anyone gets use out of it, then so much the better. I expect I'll miss things or screw them up, but let's get started.

As a note, I'll be using the term "baseline bonus" to refer to your ranks and your ability modifier, no bonuses from anything else. It's not a guideline or a judgment call; rather, it's there to help me have a quick reference for what we're looking at for skill bonuses before we actually devote any build resources (feats/tracks/items/racial bonuses) to it, assuming a skill is tied to either your highest or second-highest stat. It's not a profound calculation, just a super rough cheat-sheet for where we're starting.

Levels 1-2: First Circle

Primary ability scores will be somewhere in the 16-20 range, depending on whether you spend your item on a stat boost and whether you get a perfect stat boost from your race. Secondary ability scores will be around 14-16. Accordingly, baseline bonus at the end of the level range will be roughly 4-7.

  • Racial bonuses are at +1 right away, and they can be to any skill with the right racial choice. The exception is Earth Pony, which gets +2 to Medicine (but doesn't scale). Honestly, I don't know if Earth Pony is 1.0-ready or if it'll ever be updated.
  • Dervish gives a 1/circle bonus to Acrobatics, so it currently gives a +1.
  • Judgment gives a whopping +4 Perception. If you have Bastion, you can share this.
  • Esoterica Radica lets you take 10 on any two skills no matter what. This isn't strictly a bonus, but it's still really handy, since moderate investment in most skills will let you succeed at least on the combat usage on a 10.
  • True Mage (Sceptre) gives a +2 to a single interaction skill. This can affect you, or it can affect one other ally.
  • Vigilante gives a +2 item bonus to Athletics.
  • Wildborn gives a +2 to Perception.
  • Demon gives a +3 to one interaction skill.
  • Telekinetic Adept gives a +2 feat bonus to Athletics, or a +2 feat bonus to Arcana if you have Dartmuth Secret.
  • Arcane Magister gives a +2 feat bonus to Arcana.
  • Cloaked Casting gives a +2 feat bonus to Larceny.
  • Explosives Expert gives a +2 feat bonus to Engineering.
  • Journeyman Healer makes Medicine checks 2 points easier for you and your allies. This stacks if multiple people have the feat, and it affects the whole team regardless of who takes it. It also isn't actually a bonus, so it can stack with other applicable feats.
  • Martial Magister gives a +2 feat bonus to any physical skill.
  • Master Scout gives a +2 feat bonus both to Acrobatics and to Athletics.
  • Savvy Librarian gives you a +2 feat bonus either to Geography or to History.
  • Sinister Sinews changes Intimidate from CHA-based to STR-based. A STR-primary character with this is no better than a CHA-primary character without it, but to open up a skill as even worth considering is worth mentioning.
  • Keep Them In Line gives a +1 feat bonus to everything, but it only works in combat, and only once you've activated it. However, it affects your allies as well as you.
  • Skinjob gives a +3 racial (not feat!) bonus to Larceny.

Levels 3-5: Second Circle

By the end of this level range, characters will have a +2 to each of their primary and secondary stats, and non-FBI characters will have two Lesser items and one Greater. Baseline bonus by level 5 will be roughly in the range of 8-11.

  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics increases to +2.
  • Fortune's Friend lets you give yourself or an ally a +2 to all skills as a swift action.
  • Tactical Insight can give you and your allies a +2 to Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate/Perception against a target. This needs an opponent to work, but I don't see why it wouldn't work in a social encounter as well.
  • Non-FBI characters get access to their first Greater item at level 5. An Adept item (a 1-point enchantment, but it must be on a Greater item or higher) gives a +2 item bonus to any skill. (Relic or Artifact versions work on more skills, but no bigger bonus.)
  • Worry Beads give you another skill trained.

Levels 6-8: Third Circle

By the end of this level range, non-FBI characters will have 3 Lesser and 2 Greater items, so most (certainly not all) will have an item bonus to their primary, though maybe not their secondary. Baseline bonus at level 8 is roughly 11-15.

  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics jumps up to +5. You're not going to be failing too many of those from here on out.
  • Path of the Ancestors gives a +2 to Vigor.
  • Discipline of the Serpent gives access to Open Gate, a combat maneuver that gives everyone a +2 bonus to skills against a creature if it works.
  • Danger Sense gives a +2 feat bonus to Perception.
  • Ghost Hunter gives a +2 feat bonus to Perception.
  • Terrifying Shout gives a +2 feat bonus to Intimidate.

Levels 9-11: Fourth Circle

Stats keep ticking upward. Nearly every non-FBI will have item bonuses to both primary and secondary stats. Baseline bonus at level 11 is roughly in the range of 16-18.

  • At 9th level, standard racial bonuses increase to +2.
  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics increases to +6.
  • Incantation gives you one chance per scene to reroll a failed d20 roll. It might be rare to make this a skill check, but if you need it, you need it.
  • The Bitter Dregs gives a +1 feat bonus to everything.
  • At 10th level, The Sun Grows Dim gives a +2 (typeless) bonus to any interaction skill as long as your shadowy servitors are present.

Levels 12-14: Fifth Circle

Even tertiary stats will probably be 18 by this point, thanks to that +4 kicking in. For skills on primary or secondary stats, baseline bonus at 14 is roughly in the range of 19-21.

  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics increases to +7.
  • Fortune's Friend gives you several chances per scene to reroll a d20 after you know you've failed.
  • If you choose, it is possible to increase the bonus to skill checks granted by C2 of Tactical Insight from +2 to +3. Most characters will have better choices at this circle, though.

Levels 15-17: Sixth Circle

Nothing new or surprising to add, but the numbers keep adding up. Baseline bonus by 17 is roughly in the range of 22-25.

  • At 17th level, standard racial bonuses increase to +3.
  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics increases to +8.
  • Bastion gives allies a scene-based pool of points (half your level) to spend on retroactively increasing d20 rolls, including skill checks.
  • Fortune's Friend lets you retroactively add 1d4 to any d20 roll as an immediate action. If you don't have a source of extra swift/immediate actions, it's tricky to combine this with the C2 effect from the same track, but many characters with Fortune's Friend will have Esoterica Radica as well.
  • At level 17, non-FBI characters gain an Artifact. The Visited Place Artifact gives a +1 to all d20 rolls.
  • The Book of Seven Lies Artifact trains you in one knowledge skill and one interaction skill, and it gives you a +5 bonus to each. Ironically, if you care enough about these skills to devote your one and only Artifact to them, you'd almost certainly have them trained already, so if you aren't starting at level 17+, talk to your GM about tweaking this a bit.

Levels 18-20: Seventh Circle

This is, of course, as big as we go. Baseline bonus at level 20 is roughly in the range of 27-29.

  • Foresight (Tactician spell) can turn any d20 roll into a 20. This won't be an automatic success, but it'll probably come damn close.
  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics increases to +9.
  • Esoterica Radica lets you roll 2d20 and take the better whenever you would normally roll 1d20. Like with Foresight, this isn't technically a bonus, but it sure as hell helps.

Some not-entirely-organized thoughts and observations:

  • Dervish's bonus to Acrobatics is pretty incredible, since no other track gives a scaling bonus to a skill, much less with a bump in the middle.
  • Other than Dervish/Acrobatics, Perception is the easiest skill to increase through track choice. As an extreme example, Judgment/Demon/Wildborn/True Mage would give you a basically unbeatable +11 at level 2, ignoring bonuses from feats, racial traits, ranks, or stats. That track combo might even be halfway playable, if not incredibly optimal.
  • Fortune's Friend is pretty much the single best source for all-purpose skill bonuses, allowing +2 to everything at C2 and an extra +1d4 to whatever you need at C6. The action cost can make knowledge skills tricky to use, since both the boost and the check require a swift, but most other combat skills require a partial move, so there's less conflict. Between FF C2 and Esoterica Radica C1, Rogues can easily maintain their stereotypical reputation as very good, arguably the best, users of skills.
  • As a super general rule of thumb, a feat, item, or track is worth about +2 to a given skill check. Exceptions abound, but this is a good way to estimate how much bonus a character can expect to get from a given level of investment, or how much investment a character can expect to need to get a given level of return.
  • Nature is the hardest skill to boost. There's no feat bonus to it (other than the universal The Bitter Dregs or Keep Them In Line), and nothing else specifically boosts it. There are enough "choose any" boosts or universal boosts to make high Nature checks possible, but nothing will specifically help you.
  • Like Nature, there are no feats to specifically increase Bluff or Diplomacy, but there are plenty of sources of bonuses to interaction skills (either all of them or the user's choice).
  • The only item that gives an item bonus to skills is the Adept enchantment. Since two of the same item or two of the same enchantment can't stack regardless of typing, the only thing that the typing on the bonus prevents you from using at the same time is Vigilante's armor, which gives a +2 item bonus to Athletics. (I understand that giving Adept items the item typing is just future-proofing against any yet-to-come items, but it's interesting.)
  • Several feats allow skill substitution, or at least skill substitution for certain purposes, usually combat uses of interaction skills. This isn't a bonus as such, but it can make your build resources go farther.
  • Master Healer is fiendishly hard to use. Cool when it works, but seriously hard to really get a satisfying result. Minus ten is harsh.
  • Esoterica Radica C1 is a pretty good deal for reliability. Since the DCs for most combat skills is 10 + target's level + stat, turning the check into 10 + your level + your stats + your miscellaneous bonuses is going to nearly guarantee success (getting a few points higher will be good for dealing with surprises, of course). However, for knowledge skills, you're trying to exceed the base DC of 10 + target's level by as many increments of 5 as you can, so depending on what your other bonuses are, it might be worthwhile to keep the d20 involved in the hopes of earning one or (rarely) even two more pieces of information than you would if you take 10.
  • Even without ER C1, there are many more things that boost interaction skills than that boost the DCs of interaction skills. With moderate investment, you can reach a point where you will succeed on interaction checks against the default DCs nearly without rolling. (Without ER C1, to literally succeed without rolling against the default DCs will usually require multiple track investment or support from an ally, but it is possible.) Whether this is worth the investment depends on the character and the game, but the user of interaction skills generally has the advantage against the target. Of course, then they make a check against you in return . . .

That's probably enough for now. Like I said in the beginning, this is primarily for my own benefit (writing in this style helps me organize my thoughts, sometimes) and makes no claim at being authoritative advice, but I'm sure someone else can use at least part of it. Comments and discussion are welcome.
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Re: Skill bonuses by level
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2013, 02:37:31 PM »

I believe standard racial bonuses are intended to increase at Levels 8 / 16, not 9 / 17.

Nature is specifically boosted by Elves' racial bonus.  Not super noteworthy, since Humans can boost any skill with theirs.

As I understand it, the Knowledge checks made (as partial move actions) for Tactical Insight are supposed to grant you their usual information about opponents' abilities, in addition to granting the track's specific bonuses.  (Otherwise, Savvy Librarian wouldn't fix non-Tactician Insight'ers like it's supposed to.)  Therefore, taking Tactical Insight can fix the action conflict that you mention for Fortune's Friend and Knowledge skills.  This is also an interesting way to make a non-aggressive Rogue character.

The redundancy you mention for Book of Seven Lies has really bothered me for a long time.


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Re: Skill bonuses by level
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2013, 09:20:54 AM »
"Honestly, I don't know if Earth Pony is 1.0-ready"

No, it isn't. It may be updated at some point (my money is Monster Guide) but it isn't 1.0-ready, which is why it isn't in 1.0. Anything that isn't in the 1.0 core rulebook should be treated as not being 1.0 compliant and used with caution if at all.

Also: I have always, always treated Book of Seven Lies as if it says this: While this item is attuned, you count as trained in any one Knowledge skill and any one Interaction skill, and gain a +5 untyped bonus to any two Knowledge or Interaction skills." It works much better.,1185.0.html - A point-buy chassis (class) system. Perfectly balanced by the judicious application of SCIENCE!

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