126 – Skill Granularity in Roleplaying Games

The Mythcreant Podcast

Let’s say you want to sneak up on an orc. Do you need to roll Move Silently to avoid stepping on a twig, and then Hide to keep the beast from seeing you, or can you cover both tasks with a single Stealth roll? That’s skill granularity, and it’s what we’re talking about today. We consider the consequences of making a skill too narrow, the potential for abuse when a skill is too broad, and try to find a happy middle ground. Also we learn that each host has a different idea of what the Etiquette skill does.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

3.5 D&D


Call of Cthulhu

Legend of the Five Rings

Serenity Roleplaying Game

Chronicles of Darkness

Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course. Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.



  1. Fay Onyx

    In term of the bluff skill running roughshod over a Pathfinder or DnD game, I think it really depends on how you interpret the skill. The way I (and my group) interpret it is that with a successful bluff check the person appears to be telling the truth. That doesn’t actually mean that the person listening to you takes it at face value however.

    My character, for example, is a sorcerer who knows she is not good at reading people. She also knows that mind-altering magic, skillful lying, and illusions are all a thing in this world. So when someone tells her something, she combines that with her other knowledge and doesn’t just take things at face value. She is cautious, investigates what she can, and takes precautions in case the thing isn’t true.

    I think this way of interpreting prevents it from being an “I can convince anyone of anything” situation, while still allowing the GM to use the bluff to advance the plot along the lines of the what character is trying to do (rather than throwing them in prison). If the king believes that you are telling the truth when you say that his rival is trying to steal something from him, he (as a sophisticated leader who knows about magic) could take action to follow up, such as investigating your claims or partially doing what the character wants but involving his own trusted people too. The characters as a group then have an opportunity to either try to extricate themselves or double down on the lie by taking advantage of the new situation. Doing this also means that more plausible lies will get you farther, making it less broken.

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