Skills can be used outside of combat for a variety of purposes and they grant auxiliary combat bonuses. The five skills are Stealth, Athletics, Lore, Mechanics and Survival. Every class gains initial proficiency bonus in two skills, but not limited to them. Non-combat skills are gained separately from combat skills (Abilities, Talents) and they do not use the same resources.
Skills come to play in a variety of different contexts and partially determine how the player character or their followers can interact with the world around them.
Notably, only the Watcher's skills are taken into account in dialogue (i.e. a dialogue option that requires 8 Lore won't be available to a Watcher with 7 Lore, even if they have Durance with 12 Lore in the party). Other party members can use their skills in regular gameplay (the game will automatically select the character with the highest applicable score whenever eg. Mechanics are used) and scripted interactions where it's possible to select a character to carry it out (i.e. retrieving the dragon egg during Nest Egg, where you can pick a character with a high Athletics score).
|Skill||Purpose||Gameplay effect||Use in interactions and conversations|
(based on the in-game description)
|Stealth||allows characters of any class to attempt to avoid being seen or heard||Can stay close to NPCs in scouting mode for a longer period without being seen|
|Athletics||Once per encounter, characters with Athletics can use the Second Wind ability to recover lost Endurance. A higher Athletics score increases the effect of Second Wind||
||Used in interactions that require physical exertion, such as climbing, jumping, running, or swimming.|
|Lore||A character's accumulated miscellaneous knowledge and trivia, often of occult or esoteric topics||
Lore allows characters to use scrolls. Which level is available is determined by dividing the Lore score by 2 (with a minimum of 1). As such:
|For picking up on relevant historical or cultural contexts, contributing general knowledge, or using own mastery of lore in conversation.|
|Mechanics||Makes it easier to open locks, find and disable traps, and place traps of your own.
Also needed to find hidden loot and switches, as neither Perception nor Stealth do this.
This skill allows you to disarm traps and pick locks. If the difficulty level is equivalent or lower than the Mechanics rating, it's free. If it's one level higher, it costs a variable amount of lock picks (the higher the level, the more lock picks it needs). Anything above and picking or disarming is not possible.
Each level of mechanics also grants +3 accuracy for own traps per level.
|For any mechanical purposes, such as interacting with machines, disarming and arming traps or mechanisms, etc.|
|Survival||Allows characters to choose from a variety of long-term bonuses each time they camp.||The first six ranks grant the following bonuses:
Note: After 6th rank, the previously earned bonuses become more powerful in the same order they were received (for a max of 3 levels of bonuses).
|Used in wilderness challenges, and for contributing specialized knowledge of nature or alchemy.|
Upon achieving a new level, a character gains six skill points. Advancing a skill to the next rank costs one point, plus one point per time the skill has already been advanced. Note that class, background, and other bonuses are "free" and do not increase the cost of advancing skills.
The following table lists bonuses received from classes:
- = 1 rank, = 2 ranks
This section lists all bonuses from backgrounds:
- = 1 rank, = 2 ranks
|Farmer (NPC only)|
|Gentry (NPC only)|
|Midwife (NPC only)|
|Soldier (NPC only)|
|Trapper (NPC only)|
Certain wearable and consumable items can additionally provide temporarily bonuses to skills. See the associated skill pages for more information.
Skill development planning
As the maximum character level in Pillars of Eternity is 12 (14 in [WM1] and 16 in [WM2]), the highest achievable skill ranks are strictly limited. At each level-up, the character gains 6 new skill points, which means each character is only allowed to distribute the following total amount of skill points:
|Game||Total skill points gained via levelling up|
|Pillars of Eternity||66 (=11×6)|
|Pillars of Eternity: The White March - Part I||78 (=13×6)|
|Pillars of Eternity: The White March - Part II||90 (=15×6)|
Class and Backround innate skill bonuses
Skill points allocation pool creates a practical limit on maximum skill ranks a character can achieve in game. However, since each class and background gives one to two initial points to certain skills, character can have a combined innate bonus to a skill of up to 4 points. These free innate bonuses (especially when combined from both class and background) can greatly increase the absolute "basic" skill (i.e., not counting buffs) maximum achievable for a character.
For example, a Ranger with the Colonist background would have an innate bonus +4 to Survival skill, which would allow him to achieve level 16 in Survival by investing total of 78 skill points into the skill when levelling up. By wearing a proper item increasing the Survival skill, he can even achieve rank 18, which will unlock an amazing "+30% Damage to Flanked targets" resting bonus.
|Total skill points allocated:||1||3||6||10||15||21||28||36||45||55||66*||78✝||(91)||—||—||—||—||—|
|with innate bonus +1:||1||3||6||10||15||21||28||36||45||55||66*||78✝||(91)||—||—||—||—|
|with innate bonus +2:||1||3||6||10||15||21||28||36||45||55||66*||78✝||(91)||—||—||—|
|with innate bonus +3:||1||3||6||10||15||21||28||36||45||55||66*||78✝||(91)||—||—|
|with innate bonus +4:||1||3||6||10||15||21||28||36||45||55||66*||78✝||(91)||—|
Talent skill bonuses for main character
|Skaen's Boon (Deific Boon)||+1|
|Athletics||Galawain's Boon (Deific Boon)||+1|
|Lore||Hylea's Boon (Deific Boon)||+1|
|Survival||Rymrgand's Boon (Deific Boon)||+1|
Since Deific boon talents can only be gained during the Council of Stars quest in the very finale of the game, the only talents that really influence the gameplay are the Dungeon Delver and Blooded Hunter. And since both Mechanics and Stealth skills, which are increased by these talents (for +2 Stealth and +1 Mechanics total), have to be raised as high as possible in the game, this effectively makes Rogue the best class for the protagonist character (at least skill-wise).
Notable skill thresholds
There are several important skill thresholds which should be taken into account when planning the skill development of each character. These include (but might not be limited to):
- no strict threshold, but getting it as high as possible will allow character to be undetected when scouting
- 1 point: grants the Second Wind ability (consecutive points enhance it)
- 8 points: enough to cast most scroll spells (that is, except Scroll of Maelstrom in [PoE1], except Scroll of Restore Critical Endurance in [WM1] and except Scroll of Prayer Against Imprisonment and Scroll of Prayer Against Treachery in [WM2])
- 10 points: enough to cast all scroll spells in [PoE1] and [WM1]
- 12 points: enough to cast all scroll spells in [WM2] (but the only level 6 scroll is Scroll of Prayer Against Treachery, so if you do not need to cast this one, Lore 10 would be enough also in [WM2])
- 12 points: the highest Mechanics needed in [PoE1] (i.e., this is enough to unlock all locks, disarm all traps and to detect all hidden objects in game)
- 14 points: the highest Mechanics needed in [WM2] except two places (Crägholdt Bluffs and Galvino's Workshop)
- 15 points: the highest Mechanics needed in [WM2]
- 1 point: +1 Damage Reduction
- 4 points: +10 Accuracy against creature type (at rank 10/15 this bonus increases only by 5 to +15/+20 Accuracy)
- 6 points: +10% Damage to Flanked targets
- 12 points: +20% Damage to Flanked targets
- 13 points: +3 Damage Reduction
- 18 points: +30% Damage to Flanked targets