Friday, August 1, 2014

5e Musings: The Investigation Skill

Art by Steve Prescott
Over on Bat in the Attic, Rob Conley's posted a few thoughts on 5th Edition's Investigation skill and its proper use at the table. Those thoughts inspired some of my own.

For those of you who haven't read the D&D Basic Rules yet, Chapter 7 presents the following description for the Investigation skill: 
"Investigation: When you look around for clues and make deductions based on those clues, you make an Intelligence (Investigation) check. You might deduce the location of a hidden object, discern from the appearance of a wound what kind of weapon dealt it, or determine the weakest point in a tunnel that could cause it to collapse. Poring through ancient scrolls in search of a hidden fragment of knowledge might also call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check." 
Although there is some obvious overlap between Intelligence (Investigation) checks and Wisdom (Perception) checks, the former seems to act like a hybrid between the latter and a knowledge skill, allowing the user to deduce certain pieces of information about the subject. For an example, let's say you've stumbled upon a recently deceased corpse while exploring a dungeon. The DM might ask for an Intelligence (Investigation) check to find the fatal wound and learn what could have caused it.

While that seems pretty simple, a thought occurred to me: Why not just perform a Wisdom (Perception) check in conjunction with an appropriate knowledge skill? Using the above example, the character would make a Wisdom (Perception) check to find the wound and possibly a Wisdom (Medicine) check to discern the cause of it.

Although I personally feel the Perception + Knowledge skill method could reproduce the same effects as the Investigation skill, the argument could be made that boiling things down to a single skill makes the action much more simple and streamlined. That train of thought does have some serious merit to it and I suspect that its probably the reason the skill exists at all. However, I think I actually prefer the Perception + Knowledge method because I like the idea of characters having to use multiple skills to get information like this.

What about you? Do you like the Investigation skill, or would you prefer the Perception + Knowledge route?