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Grouped Skills Optional Rules

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Using this system, a character can gain broad training in a group of skills, while specializing in a few subsets.

This system is perfect for groups that feel the granularity of skill points requires too much bookkeeping. Using grouped skills decreases the complexity of allocating skill points and broadens a character's ability to participate in skill-based interactions while narrowing his area of true expertise.

Using the grouped skills system, characters gain bonuses for large categories of skills and higher bonuses for specific skills. Instead of replacing or modifying the skill list, this system finds commonalities among skills and divides them into groups. Choosing skills is simplified, so instead of expending skill ranks to gain one skill at a time, a character gains training in a small number of skill groups, and gains specialties that give her bonuses to particular skills as she advances in level. The groups represent broad talents, and the skill specialties draw from the standard skill list.

With this system, players don't need to worry about expending skill ranks. A character adds 1/2 her level when attempting skill checks for her chosen grouped skills, thereby making that character at least somewhat competent in skills she might otherwise neglect. This system makes characters more broadly skilled, but gives them fewer skills they truly excel at—at least at low levels.

Skill Group Rules

At 1st level, a character gains training in a number of skill groups determined by her class's number of skill ranks per level, as shown on Table: Skill Specialties and Groups by Level. A character can gain training in any skill group, even if none of the included skills are class skills for her.

At 1st level, a character gains one skill specialty, plus a number of bonus skill specialties equal to 1/2 her Intelligence modifier. At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, a character gains a specialty in one additional skill. If at any point her Intelligence modifier increases or decreases, her number of bonus skill specialties changes accordingly. Each skill specialty applies to a single, specific skill, and a character is allowed to take a specialty in a skill that isn't in one of her skill groups. However, her bonus with that skill isn't as high as it would be if she were also trained in the corresponding skill group.

When determining whether a character can use a trained-only skill, the character counts as trained if she has either a specialty in that skill or training in the skill's group.

Table: Skill Specialties and Groups by Level
Skill Groups Included Skills
Natural Handle Animal, Heal, Survival
Perceptive Perception, Sense Motive
Physical Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride, Swim
Scholarly Appraise, Craft, Knowledge (all), Profession, Spellcraft
Social Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Linguistics, Perform
Thieving Disable Device, Disguise, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Use Magic Device

For example, a 1st-level druid with an Intelligence score of 12 gains training in two skill groups. She chooses Natural and Physical. She has one specialty to spend (1/2 her Intelligence modifier rounds down to 0 in this case, so she won't gain bonus specialties unless she increases her Intelligence score to 14 or higher). The druid chooses Perception for her skill specialty.

Calculating Skill Bonuses

If a character has a specialty in a skill and that skill is also in a skill group she's trained in, her bonus on checks using the skill is equal to her relevant ability modifier + her character level. If only one applies—she only has a specialty in the skill or she is trained in that skill's group but doesn't have a specialty in the skill—her bonus is equal to her relevant ability modifier + 1/2 her character level (minimum 1).

Grouped Skills in Other Variants

With a bit of adaptation, skill groups can work alongside the background skills or consolidated skills systems.

Background Skills

Instead of gaining background skill ranks at every level, a character gains one additional skill specialty at 1st level that can be used only to select a background skill. She can expend her normal skill specialties to select either background or adventuring skills. The Artistry and Lore skills fall under the Scholarly skill group. The character can take a specialty in Lore any number of times, choosing a different type of Lore each time. To attempt a check with a Lore skill, a character must have a specialty in it. Having training in the Scholarly skill group doesn't allow a character to use all the potential Lore skills untrained, but it does enable a character with one or more Lore skills to add her full level as a bonus on those checks, rather than just 1/2 her level.

Consolidated Skills

Reduce both the number of skill groups and the number of skill specialties characters gain by 1/2 (rounded down, to a minimum of 1). Use 1/2 the class's skill ranks per level from the core rules to determine that class's number of skill groups and specialties (see the sidebar to the right), not 1/2 the adjusted values presented in the Class Skills section.

You also need to change the skill groups to the following.

Skill Groups Included Skills
Natural Nature, Survival
Perceptive Perception
Physical Acrobatics, Athletics
Scholarly Religion, Society, Spellcraft
Social Influence, Performance
Thieving Finesse, Stealth
Table: Skill Specialties and Groups by Level
Character Level Specialties1 Skill Groups
2 + Int2 4 + Int3 6 + Int4 8 + Int5
1st 1 2 2 3 3
2nd 2 2 2 3 3
3rd 2 2 2 3 3
4th 3 2 2 3 3
5th 3 2 2 3 3
6th 4 2 2 3 3
7th 4 2 2 3 3
8th 5 2 3 3 4
9th 5 2 3 3 4
10th 6 3 3 4 4
11th 6 3 3 4 4
12th 7 3 3 4 4
13th 7 3 3 4 4
14th 8 3 3 4 4
15th 8 3 3 4 4
16th 9 3 3 4 4
17th 9 3 3 4 4
18th 10 3 4 4 5
19th 10 3 4 4 5
20th 11 3 4 4 5

1 A character adds 1/2 her Intelligence bonus to her number of specialties; characters always have a minimum of 1 specialty.
2 This category includes the arcanist, cleric, fighter, magus, paladin, sorcerer, summoner, warpriest, witch, and wizard.
3 This category includes the alchemist, barbarian, bloodrager, brawler, druid, gunslinger, monk, oracle, shaman, skald, and swashbuckler.
4 This category includes the bard, cavalier, hunter, inquisitor, investigator, ranger, and slayer.
5 This category includes the rogue.

If a skill is on her class skill list, she gains the +3 bonus if she's trained in its skill group or has a specialty in it—she doesn't have to both be trained and have a specialty. Class skill bonuses look only at specific skills, not groups. If Diplomacy is on a character's class skill list but Bluff isn't, having training in the Social skill group doesn't allow that character to gain the class skill bonus on Bluff checks. Any circumstance that modifies skill checks, such as the Skill Focus feat or certain spells, still grants the same bonus or penalty as it would if the campaign weren't using grouped skills.


A character's bonus languages from the Linguistics skill work like the bonus on skill checks she gains from her level. She gains a number of bonus languages equal to 1/2 her level (minimum 1) if she has either a specialty in Linguistics or training in the Social skill group. If she has both a specialty in Linguistics and training in the Social skill group, she knows a number of bonus languages equal to her full level.


A multiclassed character uses the class with the lowest number of skill ranks per level to determine her number of skill groups. This doesn't cause her to lose skill groups she's already selected if she gains a level in a new class that would have fewer skill groups at her character level—once a skill group has been selected, it can't be unselected. For instance, a character with 6 levels in rogue would have training in three skill groups. If she then took a level in druid, she would still have three groups, but the number of skill groups she knows would now increase to four at character level 18th instead of at character level 8th.