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Let’s say you have to study a level 9 character sheet created by another player. However, you have no record of whether the player put additional points into INT or not, and cannot ask him/her.

How do you determine whether the character has been allocated the correct number of skill points if the character may have gained one or more points in INT at some point in the past?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is D&D 3.5, sorry. Though I am mainly using the d20 SRD as a reference. It is actually for video game files in "The Temple of Elemental Evil", so there is no DM. All I have are bare stats. I have written an algorithm but am faced with the above issue. \$\endgroup\$ – posfan12 Aug 7 '19 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. I've edited the title to match the question in the body of the post; please check to make sure it matches your intent. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 7 '19 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Does an intelligence boost retroactively give skill points? \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Aug 7 '19 at 4:57
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In order for this to work, you nearly have to assume only automatic ability progression (or a headband of intelligence, if it's on their sheet) could be used to increase Intelligence. It "works" otherwise, but you'll have no way to verify your conclusion.

A lot of math.

First, you know the amount of skill points they have. You also know their current Int and which class(es) they've taken. Add up their total for if they had their current Int since level 1.

The System Reference Documents can help you with the core classes; you may need to reference other classes outside of this link.

  • For example, a level 9 Fighter with 12 Intelligence (since level 1) would have 4x(2+1[int])+8x(2+1[int]) = 4x3 + 8x3 = 36 skill points.

  • Next, remove the number of skill points spent in class skills because that's a 1-1 ratio. Any points spent in Climb, Craft (any), Handle Animal, Intimidate, Jump, Ride, or Swim can be taken out of this number.

  • Finally, remove double the number of skill points spent in cross-class skills.

If you have "negative" skill points left over, you know they increased their Int, and can deduce what level by the difference from 0. Each "overspent" point is 1 level they had lower Intelligence. Luckily at level 9, they (almost) can't have increased their Int by 4. This wouldn't complicate things too much, but it is simpler this way.

You can tell based on how many 'leftover' skill points you have, the level at which Int was increased to an even number, if ever.

Or a ton of math if they multiclass... if it's possible at all.

Unfortunately, things get very complicated if they have more than one class and you don't know when they adopted the second class. You almost have to assume they didn't take cross-class skills, or else you have to do the math for every possible level.

  • As an example, the same (level 1) Int 12 but for a Fighter 4 Monk 5 would have either (1st level Fighter) 4x3 + 4x3 + 5x5 = 49 OR (1st level monk) 4x5 + 4x5 + 4x3 = 52 skill points.

  • Monk adds Balance, Concentration, Escape Artist, Hide, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Move Silently, Perform (any), Profession (any), Sense Motive, Spot, and Tumble to their class skill.

  • First, follow the above process (for either skill total) assuming all skills in a class skill from either are a 1-1 ratio. This should result in either all skill points being used (no Int increase) or an Int increase on level 4 or 8.

  • Then, if you didn't come to a viable conclusion try it for the other skill total.

  • If that doesn't work, you may not be able to do the calculations; there are more iterations than I care to calculate. They could have spent any number of points on cross-class skills at 1/2 value at each of 9 levels that could be any one of their classes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a good answer, but it might be made better with a preamble explaining how the difficulty of the issue comes from dnd-3.5's policy of non-retroactive skill points, which is an exception to how ability score increases work. Without that policy, say as a house rule, the problem becomes trivial to solve. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Aug 7 '19 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good catch, I'll fix it \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 23 '19 at 1:03
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There’s too many variables to be able to determine that after the fact unless you have them documented.

  • starting stats
    • random?
    • predefined?
    • player applied?
  • were racial points applied to Int?
  • was Int increased at new levels?
  • any long-term temporary increase/decrease applied?
  • any other permanent increase/decrease applied?
  • etc.

I always recommend players keep a log on the char sheet of important dates that impact anything permanently, i.e most of the items above.

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Ask the player for a breakdown of what was gained when

Assuming you are in a game that cares about accounting for every skill point, they should already have such a breakdown, because it is the only way to correctly produce the character in the first place. If they haven’t done so, they should. If they have, it should be no problem to give it to you.

You can then follow the sequence of level-ups and acquisitions of items and other features to calculate their skill points gained and spent.

Or houserule the problem away

This is an immense amount of work and bookkeeping and accounting, for almost-literally no benefit to the game. Skill points are just not that valuable; they should not consume so much effort. It’s one thing to spend a lot of effort building the important parts of your character, but quite another to do it on trivialities.

It’s also easily fixed: make Intelligence gains retroactively grant skill points. Then you no longer have to worry about when Intelligence went up.

You could go farther, and also eliminate the doubled cost of cross-class skill points, or make that work on the same “once a class skill, always a class skill,” principle that the skill rank maximum does.

You might recognize these changes as being quite similar to what Pathfinder does. They got these ideas from houserule that had been common in 3.5e for years prior to Pathfinder. Ideas like these have been very, very widely used, for the obvious reason that the official rules are complicated, fiddly, and in no way worth it. This is some very well-tested stuff, and I can basically guarantee it will improve your game.

While you’re at it, consolidating the skill list is another thing Pathfinder did that was already widely done as a houserule. In fact, most tables in my experience went further than Paizo did—in 1e. In 2e they pared things down even more. Another thing all but certain to improve your game.

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