In my Mearls D&D game in the sidebar, I’ve been ignoring skills: when someone calls for a Bluff check, I simply make a Charisma check. Since I started playtesting 5e, this has become my favorite way to run a D&D game: the +1 to +4 attribute bonus lends enough weight to a roll without an additional skill bonus.
However, if people want a skill system, you have to have skill bonuses.
4e gave you a +5 bonus for being trained in a skill. +5! If you gave first-level characters +5 swords, that would make a mockery of the combat system. Similarly, a +5 bonus to skills makes a mockery of the skill system.
5e’s skill bonus is +3, which is much more palatable. Still, I’d reduce it another step.
Here are the basic details about the current version of the 5e skill system:
1) +3 for being trained in a skill
2) If you get training in the same skill from two different sources, you choose a different skill. Thus, if a rogue gets Stealth from his class and his background, he gets Stealth and a random skill of his choice.
3) Every even level, you get +1 to a trained skill of your choice.
Here’s my proposed tweak:
1) +2 for being trained in a skill
2) If you get trained in a skill which you already possess, your bonus goes up one point. Thus, a rogue who gets Stealth from his class and background has a +3 Stealth bonus instead of +2.
3) Every even level, you can train a new skill of your choice. That means you can either train a new skill, at +2, or enjoy the fruits of point 2) and increase a skill’s bonus by one point.
4) What the heck, let’s say you can spend your skill point to learn a new language. (How does a language compare to +1 in your favorite skill? Not sure.)
It’s a tiny tweak, but it deflates runaway skill bonuses a tiny bit; allows a mechanism for learning new skills and languages; and provides for a synergy bonus for a focused class/background.