On Skill Deconstruction: Appraise

Appraise is a skill reflecting your ability to assess the monetary value of an object. It uses the Intelligence stat as a modifier

What can you do with Appraise?

Well, basically what it says on the tin. It's a DC 20 check for common items. Success means you know the value. Five over and you can sense magic. Five under and you get it within 80% (+/- 20% of value). Less than that and your result is random. Rare items may be more difficult to identify in increments of 5.

An interesting sub-ability of this skill is the 'which of these is most valuable' when given a selection of items in a room.

What ground is there for having this be a skill?

Is not knowing the value of treasure a worthwhile addition to the play of the game at the table?

There are no time constraints to this skill (except for some iterations of the sub-ability use) and that means that any character can do research and find out the actual value of the item. Assuming that this isn't the case for some reason there are a variety of situations where this skill can come into play:

1.) You can be out in the dungeon or on the adventure and be at the limit of your encumbrance and have to decide what to take.
2.) You can be back at town and need to know if the value of the goods is near to what the merchant is offering you.
3.) You can be in a room under time constraints and need to decide what the most valuable item is.
4.) One of the players may lie to another player about the value of a good.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

We have a way for characters to either know or not know the value of the treasure they recieve that doesn't come in gold pieces.

What do we lose?

Time. A whole lot of spending time.

Lets look at each of the options in turn:

1.) You can go down your inventory list and item by item while the DM makes your appraisal rolls and tells you the estimated value of each item.
2.) As above, except at the end, he gives the price the merchant will pay.
3.) The DM makes the roll and tells you or doesn't tell you what the most valuable item in the room is.
4.) The DM makes the check for the slighted party and informs them what their perceived value of the item is.

Let's address 1 & 3 first.

How is sitting there and reading the results of dice and then making a decisions based on strictly numerical information ("Well we don't know the value of these, so we keep them, and these are worthless") superior to actually describing what the characters possess and letting them investigate which items are valuable and then make their own decisions about what to keep and drop or what to filtch?

In number 2, how is the game improved once the player are back in town by a long tedious process of appraising every single item to insure the value is the correct one. Is there some enjoyment from this process? I can see this being interesting for the low level characters or the poor, but at that point in the game the appraise skill hasn't had a chance to be developed. Are they going to be shorted some gold - is this worth valuable table time? Do you really want to simulate this at downtime?

Regarding number 4, I am not interested in providing tools for the players to engage in competitive play with each other. Some may be - stealing and lying to party members may be a large part of many games, but Dungeons and Dragons is a game about parties of adventurers. There is a tacit understanding that the thief (who takes a lot of risks) may end up filching a little extra gold. Because of the massive experience point bonus that provides to the thief this makes the whole party stronger.

Lastly and most damning - this skill is one of the easiest to portray at the table. The players know the relative value of metals and gemstones and generally have very good tools for finding out about the world around them. This should allow them to estimate the value of goods with a fair degree of accuracy.

This is an example of a skill where the roll is much, much less interesting then the actual player skill and decision making involved.

Conclusions & Suggestions:
  • Eliminate the skill completely.


  1. Doing an appraise roll for every brass button or nickel bracelet that the players find in a pile of purple worm poop sounds boring. Any player with half a brain should know that a gold object is going to be worth more than a copper one of the same size/weight.
    And, as a DM, I wouldn't have a problem with fastforwarding through most market transactions.
    Only in a fantasy world does a flask of oil or coil of rope cost the exact same price every day and in every shop.

  2. My game has a Appraisal skill as a sort of feat. You don't know the exact value of anything unless you have the skill, and if you do then it's automatic. This turns the skill into an opportunity cost, in that you should have someone in the group choose Appraisal but that means the skill point doesn't get spent on something else like Weapons or Spellcasting.

    If the PC doesn't have the skill, he still gets environmental information. For example, if he holds a gold ingot and I tell him it's "one stone" in weight, he knows if it's pure and solid gold it's worth 1,000 GP because 1,000 coins weighs one stone. But if it's an engraved urn of the same weight of gold, he doesn't know how much the engraving and the shape of the urn affect the value (he does get "the engraving looks like good workmanship, very precise and beautiful" or something like that).

  3. I loathe appraise. More than any other skill in all of Pathfinder, it needs to be removed. It is worthless.

    I tell my players how much something is worth, or let the vendor do it. Aside from special circumstances, vendors will not try to cheat players. (If they go to Chaotic Evilville, the vendors will cheat them, or if being cheated is a plot hook of some kind.)

    The only time I really would use any kind of appraisal is for an item of special value. For example, in an upcoming game, my players will be delving into a dungeon where giants stored a lot of stolen gnomish treasures. So there will be things like art, sculpture, jewelry, rugs, and more, which is significant to gnomes. If the players don't think to sell it to gnomes, or to a collector of gnomish artifacts, then they're going to get 50% of the price.

    But I don't need an appraise check for that. For more obvious stuff, I can just tell them. (A gnome shaped crown, an ancient painting of a gnome) And if everything is less obvious I can make a knowledge check behind the screen to see if they recognize an artifact as having gnomish origins.

  4. Appraise is a stupid skill. If it is useful for players to have to roll to know everything about a certain object then substitute skills tied with the objects and either have them automatically know shit or roll that skill.

    For example if you have a pile of jewels then if the player has a jewel crafting skill then just tell him what they're worth or have him roll if you want to spend the time on that, but having a catch-all skill of "knowing the cash value of everything but nothing else about it" is stupid.

    That's basically how my dwarf fighter works in the 1ed game I play in. His background is a jeweler who went bankrupt and decided to go adventuring instead so the DM tells me what all the jewels are worth.

  5. I agree with David, why not tie the ability to appraise something into the relevant craft/profession skill? Shouldn't a bladesmith be better at determining the quality and value of a sword or axe than a dagger wielding thief? Wouldn't a sculptor better recognize skill and talent in a sculpture than an uncivilized cut-purse?

    If anything, appraise could be used to determine what is the most valuable item in a room (yes, the 3000lb gold and platinum plated statue is the MOST valuable, but we can't carry it out), but not the value of the item - *maybe* an approximation.

  6. I agree with the previous comments in general. I like the concept of an appraisal check (for those odd moments when you need to be able to tell that the noblewoman is wearing fake jewels). But it is not important enough to be a skill.

    Spycraft added an interesting wrinkle to the Appraise skill that I love. It is the skill for determining the worth of an object, but not simply the cash value. That is, it is the "art appreciation" skill that allows you to identify the painting as a rare Monet. It is the "sommelier" skill that allows you name the vintage of the wine. Which is really cool in a spy game. In my experience, though, it still didn't come up often enough to justify the skill points.

  7. Players asking for a Skill Check to determine the "right" answer is always counter to good play. This goes for Appraise, Insight, and whole catalog of Knowledge skills. Don't even get me started with Perception. On the other hand, players asking for more information is the lifeblood of exploration. Perhaps the problem is not with the Appraise skill per se, but with the kinds of information handed out from the successful use of this skill.

    Example (Insight). Player: I want to know if the Innkeeper is lying to me about not knowing anything about the death cult. [rolls dice] I got a 17 on my Insight check. So, is he lying? DM: The Innkeeper has deep circles under his eyes and keeps glancing out the window with a worried look. Despite his cheerful facade, he looks tired.

    Example (Appraise). Player: How much is the statue on the table worth? What's more valuable, the statue or the painting on the wall? [rolls dice] I got a 25 on Appraise, so which is it? DM: The statue is carved from a combination of Jade and Quartz. The craftsmanship appears mediocre at best. Probably created by one of a handful of human artisans who work east of the Sylvan Forests. On the other hand, the painting in pretty bad shape, but is at least 300 years old. Unless you are mistaken, it's and original Murg from the 10th dynasty. One of Murg's earlier paintings sold for a small fortune last summer in Glitterhaegen.

    As a player, it's super lame if I spend any of my character points on a skill whose purpose is to remove interesting choices during my adventures. Buying skills or skill points in order to get more detailed and colorful information during dungeon exploration is, on the other hand, very cool. I believe this is essentially the point made in one of the comments above.


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