What effect would removing or partially removing the skill cap have in the d20 System (with a focus on D&D 3.5 and Cthulhu d20)?

By partial removal, I mean - for example - (handing out all the skill points a character would earn by lv10 and) raising the cap to that of lv10, (both) at character creation. Standard skill progression and cap raising would resume at lv11.

The sole - theoretical - reason for this question is that I've been pondering running a few stories in Cthulhu d20 (to which I definitely prefer the BRP-based Call of Cthulhu, but hell, why not), and having a "Professor" start at lv1 with a Knowledge (anything) skill of 4 seems a little... ridiculous?

However, I'd be interested in the effect of cap removal in D&D 3.5 as well.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You realize CoC d20/any other d20 game you don't have to start PCs at level 1 right? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 8, 2013 at 4:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Sure. But higher levels mean more than simply higher skills, obviously, and I'm not sure I'd want that, especially in CoC. \$\endgroup\$
    – OpaCitiZen
    Feb 8, 2013 at 10:14

3 Answers 3


Fundamentally, you'll remove opportunities for advancement on the skill side of the character up to level 10. This will make combat, saves and feats the only options for expanding capability through the game. It will also make your players ability to predict the game at character creation even more important than usual.

The biggest benefit to the game is that DCs can stay the same throughout and there will be a wider range of possible obstacles for the PCs. Whether that will actually help the game make more sense to you and your players is something your group will have to discover for itself.

Regarding your example - remember that a level 1 Professor is likely to have a skill modifier of at least +6 to +8 after taking feats and ability modifiers into account. Circumstance modifiers like good libraries are also really important to those Professors. Skill ranks alone are not the only measure of capability.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Plus there's the whole issue with Rogues and how many skill points they get. Imagine getting 80 skill points without a limit. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Feb 6, 2013 at 16:40

You're going to trivialize stuff intended for lower levels, except in the case of failure. The particularly worrysome one would be something like traps, where the consequences of failure are based on HP and saves (both of which you didn't scale up). To provide any chance of failure to find/disarm a trap for a character with level 10 skills, you're going to need to use ones with DCs high enough that they'll be absolutely lethal against level 1 HP/saves should the find/disarm fail.

Another side effect will mean that someone can't at level 4 decide to start taking something they hadn't originally planned on. They'll have to wait all the way until level 11, which magnifies any mistaken skill choices at character creation.


You would break things. Many prestige class prerequisites, for example, are based on a number of ranks required in a certain skill, without it you'd be looking at PCs with level-inappropriate abilities and abilities that display erratic behavior.

Balance aside, you'd be cutting away a significant portion of what you gain from level-ups, and level-ups are a rather crucial part of at least the 3.5 gameplay experience.

If you desire your starting characters to be more capable, you could try raising the starting level of your campaigns. If you do not want your characters to also become combat powerhouses in the process, you may want to look at non-d20 systems.

As for your specific example, I'd say a human 1st level professor would be an Expert with high Intelligence, and the Skill Focus and Research (Eberron Campaign Setting) feats. He may also have the Specialized Trait (Unearthed Arcana). Taking 10, he should be able to know most things (DC 20+ means really tough questions) relating to his subject of choice off-hand. By taking 20 and using research facilities, he can figure out almost anything.

Disclaimer - The answer assumes D&D 3.5 advice and concerns are applicable. I am not very familiar with CoC.


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