This post is about some ideas for improving skills. If you think they ought to be totally mundane ("skillmonkeys can't have nice things"), this is not for you.
The basic idea is that at high levels, magic-based characters are essentially demigods who can cause earthquakes and alter reality with wish and miracle. So maybe a 20th-level fighter should be able to create an earthquake by pounding the ground with his fist. Wushia-style levitation-like leaps ought to be possible at much lower level.
The Echelon tier definitions give rough guidelines for what ought to be possible at various ranges of level, but the basic guiding principle (elsewhere on the site or in Keith's many blog posts) is that if a mage can cast a spell with a particular effect at a particular level, then a non-mage specializing in some related ability or skill ought to be able to do it (by taking a specialized "talent") at a very similar level.
In these house rules, the basic principles for associating special abilities with skill levels are:
- To have access to the special abilities, you must use the skill focus feat.
- A special ability with bad effects, usable on others, is a spell-like ability, so it can be resisted or dispelled. Otherwise it is an extraordinary ability.
- Spells with multiple targets become self-only.
- Abilities are based on the number of ranks you have invested in the skill.
- At four ranks (achievable at first level) you get a fairly mundane ability usable at will.
- At eight ranks (achievable at fifth level) you get an extraordinary ability roughly equivalent to a first-level spell usable once per day, or some class feature roughly equivalent to it usable at will.
- At 12 ranks (ninth level) you get an ability roughly equivalent to a second or third level spell usable once per day, and your eight-rank ability can be used one more time per day.
- At 16 ranks you get an ability roughly equivalent to a third or fourth level spell, and your 8- and 12-rank abilities can each be used one more time per day.
- At 20 and 24 ranks or abilities are roughly equivalent to fourth or fifth level spells, respectively, and lower rank abilities increased by one per day again.
- 4 ranks: the monk's slow fall 20' ability
- 8 ranks: feather fall
- 12 ranks: levitate
- 16 ranks: fly
- 20 ranks: dimension door
- 24 ranks: teleport
I combine Search, Spot, and Listen into Perception.
- 4: use either Perception or Survival for tracking - your choice.
- 8: Detect Secret Doors.
- 12: See Invisibility
- 16: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance
- 20: Detect Scrying. The 24-hour duration basically means you can have this essentially permanently, which is why this is here instead of at 16 ranks.
- 24: True Seeing
- 4: touching an object tells you whether it is magical, usable at will.
- 8: with a skill check, DC 15+ spell level, identify the School of any touched magical object, usable at will.
- 12: as the Identify spell