Articles - Expert Gaming

Expertise System for Performing and Craft Skills

The expertise system is a skill subsystem designed to allow players to add flavor to their characters with a mechanical base that can be used in skill challenges and other success critical situations. This system can be used to simulate hobbies, background skills or anything in between.

An expertise is an area or subject in which your character has some form of competency. Each rank a character has in this expertise (novice, apprentice, skilled, master, grandmaster) grants both a bonus to appropriate ability checks made to perform the expertise and a circumstance bonus to skill checks relating to the character’s expertise (at the DM’s discretion)

At first level, each character has 3 expertise points to spend as they wish. These points buy a rank in a given expertise based on tier of play (see table below). At 6th, 11th, 16th, 21st and 26th level, characters gain an additional point to purchase new ranks. No character can have a rank higher than grandmaster in a given expertise. Characters may spend expertise points whenever they gain a level, but they need not spend points when they earn them. A character cannot buy a rank in an expertise without first buying a previous rank (ie, a character must buy novice rank before they can buy apprentice rank).

Cost Bonus on Expertise Checks Circumstance Bonus
1 +3 +0
Apprentice 1 +5 +2
Master 2 +7 +2
Grandmaster 2 +10 +4

Expertise checks are made to determine the quality of a performance, or a created craft in relation to similar pieces. When a character wishes to use their expertise, they make the following roll:

1d20 + ½ level + bonus from ranks + appropriate ability modifier.

This check is usually made against the expertise checks of other characters the character with the highest check has the superior result.

An expertise check can be used to put on a performance or create an item with the express purpose of impressing an NPC. If the expertise check is made for this purpose, the DM is encouraged to use either the target’s Will Defense or a DC appropriate for the target’s level as per DMG pg. 42. A success means that the crafter gains the circumstance bonus from their rank on the next Diplomacy or Streetwise check made while interacting with that NPC.

Player characters can craft items if they have the appropriate craft expertise with no roll required. A player character is assumed to require raw materials, tools and work space to craft an item. Crafting an item costs the same as buying the item at cost. Crafting takes 10 hours of work, modified by the table below (minimum 1 hour). This work need not be contiguous, but time spent doing things other than crafting does not count toward the time spent crafting.

When a character creates and item, they may choose to roll an expertise check to make an exceptional quality item. An exceptional quality items can be used to impress NPCs (see above). Otherwise, no roll is needed to craft an item.

Circumstance Time Modifier
has no moving parts -6 hours
has few moving parts -4 hours
has complex moving parts +2 hours
is built from common materials -4 hours
is created using volatile or fragile materials +2 hours
requires heating or cooling +5 hours
requires mandatory setting/cooking time +0 hours (creation time cannot be less time than this time)
is a craft (arts) expertise +10 hours per chapter, volume or similar component.
Crafter has ranks above novice -1 hour per rank above novice.

At the DM’s discretion, a character gains a circumstance bonus based on his ranks in his expertise when the skill check is related to his area of expertise. For example, a character with Master rank in stonemasonry gains a +2 bonus to Athletics checks made to climb a worked stone wall.

The DM should be careful to make certain that the bonus is reasonable given the circumstances. For example, a character with Grandmaster ranks in basket weaving should not gain a bonus to Nature checks when using a basket to gather food, for example.

Below are the major categories of expertises and sample choices a character can make. The relevant ability modifier for a given category or expertise is indicated in parenthesis ():

Performance (Cha)
Performance expertise deals with active types of expression such as dance, song or recital. There may be some overlap between perform and craft: art expertise, typically with creation and recital of a poem, or composition and choreography of a dance.

  • Dance
  • Song
  • Instrument (or family of instruments)
  • Oration
  • Acting
  • Ceremony (tea service, presentation)

Craft: Arts (Cha)
Art expertise involves the creation of an aesthetic or provocative piece, be it a written work, an art piece, or a written piece of music. There is some overlap between art expertise and performance expertise.

  • Painting (or a given medium)
  • Sculpture
  • Literature (or a genre)
  • Storytelling (or a genre)
  • Jewelling
  • Composition
  • Choreography

Craft: Pragmatic (Wis)
Pragmatic craft expertise deals with the creation of items needed for day to day life, such as cooking, weaponsmithy, or growing food.

  • Cooking
  • Masonry
  • Weaponcraft (or a given type of weapons)
  • Armoring
  • Blacksmithing
  • Tanning
  • Basketweaving

Craft: Precision (Int)
Precision craft expertise deals with creating objects that make life easier and/or require precise measurement to get right such as working with chemicals, making tools, or creating mechanical devices.

  • Alchemy
  • Cheese making
  • Lye production
  • Tool smithing
  • Machination
  • Mirror craft

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition © Wizards of the Coast
World of Ere and related original content © Landon Porter