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I'm homebrewing a class, and at about character level 14 I'm considering granting the class the following special ability:

Appraise Anything (Ex): The creature's Appraise skill check result always equals the check's Difficulty Class.

If a character is a Wiz14 to Wiz20 with access to all of the game's official resources,1 are there ways the character can ruin the campaign2 with his ability to always succeed on Appraise skill checks?3

(An examination of other perceived Even if you can't fail, you still don't win skills is a welcome digression.)


  1. That is, all official published material, including setting-specific material; Web material; and also Dragon and Dungeon magazines and Dragon Compendium Volume 1.
  2. For example, by casually overcoming level-appropriate challenges, by generating infinite wealth, by creating oodles of magic items, or by sucking all the fun from the room.
  3. I am well aware that there are many other ways the Wiz14 to Wiz20 can ruin the campaign, but I'm concerned only with this one.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason you have defined it to fix the die roll rather than adjust the DC to something trivial, or just say that it always succeeds? It seems like rolling arbitrary check results is potentially more broken than just always succeeding. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Oct 25 '14 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BraddSzonye There are a variety of ways the ability can be phrased to yield a similar effect, but this one didn't run afoul of any (to my knowledge nonexistent) opposed Appraise checks (which just don't have a DC). If you've better phrasing, though, suggestions are welcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 25 '14 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that this phrasing effectively grants a continuous Detect Magic effect with regards to objects, via the epic uses of appraise with DC 50 - see may answer below for details... \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Oct 26 '14 at 17:28
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Probably not, unless the GM has other weaknesses, or the game is overly dependant on the assumption that an assessment can be failed, somehow.

However, as a thought problem, or assuming a group of players who are interested in exploiting abilities for business purposes, a couple of ideas come to mind:

  • If this is a class ability that is unique or very rare for people in the gameworld to have, then someone might choose to use it to create a business reputation or moral crusade about it. They could back up and demonstrate their claim of infallibility, and gain a reputation. They could then sell this reputation as an infallible touchstone service to others. They might try to go further, to ruin the practice of businessmen who cheat others. This seems a bit silly even to me, but I can imagine some players I have met getting into this sort of thing. This seems very unlikely to be a concern unless your group decides it is fun.

    However, as a counter-example, this can already practically be done if the GM cedes to RAW, by someone who hires a dozen people with merely high assessment skills, and has them all offer their opinions. But as a counter-counter-example, a good GM might decided that groups of assessors have to roll once as a group, because the roll may abstract that there is some peculiarity to the task of assessing some items, and that people may influence each others' opinions.

  • If this class ability is going to be common enough in your gameworld population, then it may tend to undermine the value of other people's imprefect assessment skills. Slight shift in balance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Price accuracy as a moral crusade? That's fantastically weird. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 25 '14 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hehe, yes it is, but I've seen weirder in RPGs. I think though that it's just a reflection back on the weirdness of there being one right answer to the value of something, which is really just a convenient simplification. In a universe where it is possible to know the right agreed value of something, though, it could form the basis for a moral judgement of whether something is fairly priced or not. In reality, something like this was taken seriously, but in regard to the value of precious metals, and with the importance of honest accurate weights for market scales. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Oct 25 '14 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, knowing the value of raw materials lets one reverse engineer the amount of raw materials present, for example, making the character himself an incredibly accurate scale and perhaps even yardstick. Also, the character's the most brutally objective art critic ever. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 25 '14 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yup. And so, if the players are sensitive to such things, then the GM might want to consider adding the detail that a "right" appraisal can only possibly be so accurate, because there is no exact answer. Otherwise, it can start to have side-effects on the reality of the world if/when characters start over-using the ability. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Oct 25 '14 at 23:00
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This interacts in sort-of-broken ways with the 5th-level ability of the exemplar from Complete Adventurer:

Persuasive Performance (Ex): Starting at 5th level, an exemplar can use her skill artistry to improve the attitudes of NPCs. To do this, the NPCs must observe her using one of the skills to which she has applied skill artistry. Treat this as a Diplomacy check made to influence NPC attitudes (see pages 71—72 of the Player's Handbook), but replace the Diplomacy check with a check using the chosen skill.

The demonstration must be nonthreatening and intended to entertain and amuse the onlookers. Viewers must be within 30 feet of the exemplar, must be able to see her clearly, and must willingly pay attention to her actions. This ability requires at least 1 minute to perform, and it can affect a particular creature only once every 24 hours.

Of course, you have to be 19th level to pull this off, and be able to come up with a reason why appraising things is entertaining (your character is flavored as a Price is Right contestant?). But making arbitrarily hard Diplomacy checks is kind of a big deal...

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for pointing out the one guy that is even more interesting than the guy that just jumped halfway across the country. \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Oct 25 '14 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ While a Wiz14 could forgo 5 levels of spellcasting to be able to take 1 minute to turn folks who aren't immune to mind-affecting effects from hostile to fanatic, I can't see anyone thinking that's better than casting 9th-level spells. But it is a thing. Cool find. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 26 '14 at 20:16
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The ability to successfully appraise any item is certainly useful, but is not unbalanced to the level of breaking the game. The party may end up a few gold richer per item they sell, but the more expensive the item, the harder it should be to find a buyer who will pay what it is worth.

As an example, in a Darksun game I have played in my character was able to steal a number of masterwork metal manacles (for those who don't know Darksun, metal is extremely rare, thus expensive). Despite having on my person approximately 9000gp worth of metal (at level 3 or 4 - a potentially game-breaking amount of wealth), I have so far only made 450gp in profit because I could only find a single buyer in the places I have been who could gather enough coin to buy a set (I am now level 7).

While I don't know every piece of officially published material, a good rule of design (especially for adventures) is that success or failure of a roll should not be able to completely derail an adventure, thus I would think that any official material would not allow success/failure to pivot on a single roll, especially not something as insignificant as knowing whether an item is worth 100gp or 120gp.

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Appraise isn't going to break anything. Even if you know the amount of money that an item is worth you won't be able to sell it at full price without a good Diplomacy check. Most merchants won't pay more than half price for a magic item because they're going to be the ones selling it at full price, a good diplomacy check might get you 60-70% of the magic items actual value, but in no way would knowing the value of something break the game.

There's a finite amount of experience points that your wizard can use to make magic items if he wants to still level up in his class, so even if he wants to go crazy crafting items, knowing their value isn't going to tip the scales much in the wizards favor, wizards are already ridiculously powerful in other aspects, they can make as much money as they want.

At that level a wizard is going to have a ridiculous level of power, and could easily craft a spell, or use magical appraisal. Not to mention a wizard at that level (15+) easily has access to the spell Moment of Prescience which would give him a caster level bonus ridiculous result on any skill check that he wanted to roll.. which would auto-pass any appraisal check. Also it's in the PHB.

A wizard is also absurdly good at overcoming any level-appropriate challenges, as the right combination of spells can end any encounter you can think of in a round or two. A wizard with a little extra money at that level isn't really going to destroy game balance more than the wizard is already capable of doing. They only need a spell component pouch or Eschew materials to destroy game balance. They're just that good.

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There are some holes you should plug if they're not intended:

1. Epic Appraise

This ability effectively grants the character an improved, constant Detect Magic effect, because of the epic use of appraise:

Appraise

The character can sense magical auras in objects.
Task: Detect magic
DC: 50

Detect Magic
The character can sense if an item has a magical aura. He or she can then use Spellcraft to learn more about the item as if he or she had already cast detect magic on the item. This requires a full-round action.

So, by taking a single full round action, this character automatically gains the benefit of casting detect magic and concentrating for 3 rounds on an object.

This still doesn't brake the game (although the limited number of 0 level spells per day in 3.5 makes this advantage more tangible compared to PF for example). But you may wish to explicitly address this in the ability description (either allow or forbid it, as intended).

2. Unforeseen interaction with other exotic abilities

As Micha has demonstrated, there may be some unforeseen interactions with other exotic abilities, such as the Exemplar's Persuasive Performance.

The remedy (?)

It may be a good idea to phrase the ability so that it applies only for the two "standard" uses of the skill - appraising common items, and appraising rare/exotic items.
That should allow you to avoid all sorts of unexpected abuses.

Also, since this is a homebrew, the social contract can help you avoid bizarre, unexpected and unintended side-effects. This obviously depends on your group's way of handling house-rules, but unlike published rules, in this case you always have a clear idea of what are the RAI, and use that when your RAW yield funny results.


Other than that, you are probably fine

I doubt that the use of this ability as intended can have a major effect on the game. A level 14 wizard can easily have a +16 to +20 modifier in appraise(1), and much more if he uses magic / magic-items, while the DC usually won't be much more than 20 - 25. So auto-success isn't that far from the norm anyway, Especially keeping in mind that:

  1. The only benefit of success is knowing how much an item costs.
  2. That still doesn't guarantee finding a potential seller (for items you wish to acquire).
  3. That still doesn't guarantee finding a buyer who'll pay that price (for items you wish to sell).
  4. Some people may be willing to pay much more than an item's actual worth ("that rusty old shield belonged to my great grandfather!").
  5. Some people may even object to the idea of certain items being bought or sold - valuable as they may be ("How did you get that angleskin armor anyway?!").
  6. Some circumstances may radically change an item's worth ("with all the rumors about vampire attacks, you'll pay dearly for garlic in this town...", also this).

So I wouldn't worry that much about it breaking the game.


(1) A 14th level wizard with +5 from Int, and 14 ranks in appraise (cross class skill for wizards) will have a +12 modifier. Add to that a masterwork magnifying glass (+4), masterwork merchant's scale (another +4), or some other relevant masterwork tool (again +4), and you can easily reach +20 when at least two of these tools apply.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A Wiz9 can use the spell permanency on the spell detect magic, and a Wiz11 on the spell arcane sight. Although the Appraise version would be extraordinary instead, the possibility of constant detection of a magic auras is available much earlier than level 14. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 26 '14 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan - question is, did you intend to include that as part of the "Appraise Anything" ability? If yes, it may be worth mentioning, if not, even more so. Gaining permanent Arcane Sight costs 1,500 XP, it's a visible effect ("your eyes glow blue") and magically detectable. I'm not saying that any of these are that big a deal for a level 10+ character, just that they are much more relevant to PCs than just being really good at guessing the price of gems etc. So, if it's meant to be part of the granted powers of this ability, it is better to explicitly mention that... \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Oct 27 '14 at 15:34

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