Abilities....Which check would you use?

Poll: Which check would you use?

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  1. #1
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    Abilities....Which check would you use?

    A character (not a ranger) has found some animal tracks and wants to try and determine information from them, including what type of creature made them, how many there are, and whether any are injured. What kind of check would you have them make?

    1. Wisdom (Survival)

    2. Wisdom (Perception)

    3. Intelligence (Investigation)

    4. Intelligence (Nature)

    5. Some other combination, like Intelligence (Survival) or Wisdom (Investigation)?

  2. #2
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    What I see here are goals (what the PC hopes to achieve) but not approaches (how the PC tries to achieve the goal). The approaches will determine the uncertainty as to the outcome, whether there's a meaningful consequence for failure and, if both of those elements are present, what ability check and skill proficiency is called for and the DC for the roll.

    So my vote is "DM needs more information."
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by iserith View Post
    What I see here are goals (what the PC hopes to achieve) but not approaches (how the PC tries to achieve the goal).
    It isn't like this is a modern forensics game, where the PC can choose to take pictures of image processing, or take samples to the lab for analysis for approaches. Nor are players likely to be forensic scientists, or even people who actually have the skills in question, that would be able to name approaches would actually be fruitful. This is, honestly, a major problem with the "goal and approach" way of dealing with things - if the *player* doesn't have domain knowledge, they can't always guess what approaches are reasonable. This can lead to, "I beat the ground with my club until the very Earth itself tells me what I want to know to avoid the pain," frustration approach.

    I think we can presume, "I examine the tracks," to be the basic approach, and all those skills are applicable to that approach.

    So, in answer to that - you could determine which skill the PC is best at, use that one, and give them information that's appropriate to that skill. Perception and Investigation, for example, probably won't tell you specifically what kind of animal it is.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Springheel View Post
    what type of creature made them
    Intelligence (Nature). This is firmly in the "recalling specific information" which is an intelligence check, the Nature skill specifically says, "ability to recall lore about...animals."

    How many there are
    Wisdom (Survival) - Survival skill specifically lists detecting the track, and if you're counting creatures, you're basically asking the PC to detect each set of tracks, which is all survival.

    whether any are injured
    Wisdom (Medicine) - one of the few actual listed uses of medicine concerns determining injury, so it seems like this would be applicable to the tracks itself. However, if the question is "do you spot blood" it might instead be covered by Survival or investigation.
    Last edited by Mistwell; Monday, 24th June, 2019 at 10:29 PM.

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    I'd have Survival give the most information at the lowest DC possible. If Survival isn't good at reading tracks, it really doesn't deserve a place on the skill list.

    I'd let Nature tell you what kind of animal it is, but not really follow the tracks. Investigation could give some clues as to how old they are and a general sense of what kind of creature it is, but would be a much higher DC to follow them.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    It isn't like this is a modern forensics game, where the PC can choose to take pictures of image processing, or take samples to the lab for analysis for approaches. Nor are players likely to be forensic scientists, or even people who actually have the skills in question, that would be able to name approaches would actually be fruitful. This is, honestly, a major problem with the "goal and approach" way of dealing with things - if the *player* doesn't have domain knowledge, they can't always guess what approaches are reasonable. This can lead to, "I beat the ground with my club until the very Earth itself tells me what I want to know to avoid the pain," frustration approach.

    I think we can presume, "I examine the tracks," to be the basic approach, and all those skills are applicable to that approach.

    So, in answer to that - you could determine which skill the PC is best at, use that one, and give them information that's appropriate to that skill. Perception and Investigation, for example, probably won't
    tell you specifically what kind of animal it is.
    While it's commonly put forward as a "major problem with the 'goal and approach' way," precise knowledge of how to perform the task isn't and has never been required of players to state an approach to the goal, at least at my table. I definitely need something more than what's been offered in this example to even determine if a check is needed, leave alone what ability score and skill proficiency applies or what the DC may be. That information comes from the player who is solely in charge of what the character tries to achieve and how the character sets about that effort.
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  7. #7
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    Abilities....Which check would you use?

    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    It isn't like this is a modern forensics game, where the PC can choose to take pictures of image processing, or take samples to the lab for analysis for approaches. Nor are players likely to be forensic scientists, or even people who actually have the skills in question, that would be able to name approaches would actually be fruitful. This is, honestly, a major problem with the "goal and approach" way of dealing with things - if the *player* doesn't have domain knowledge, they can't always guess what approaches are reasonable. This can lead to, "I beat the ground with my club until the very Earth itself tells me what I want to know to avoid the pain," frustration approach.

    I think we can presume, "I examine the tracks," to be the basic approach, and all those skills are applicable to that approach.

    So, in answer to that - you could determine which skill the PC is best at, use that one, and give them information that's appropriate to that skill. Perception and Investigation, for example, probably won't tell you specifically what kind of animal it is.
    While I agree that examination is a sufficient approach, Ive never yet had a player try to beat the ground with a club to force a confession out of it.

    Im trying to write a joke response about Internet forums and beating dead horses, but you can all just presume its funny.

    -
    But in response to the OP - I would not ask for a check if the character had training in Nature. Some questions (whether any of the passing creatures were infirmed) might also qualify for automatic answers if the character were trained in the specific field theyre asking about (medicine, in this example).

    Moreover, if time were not a factor and there were no other costs or consequences, that would be another very good reason for a No check ruling to apply.

    So overall, my vote is leaning toward N/A. If there are costs, consequences, and uncertainties, the check Id ask for would be dependent on the approach (and I examine the tracks and Im looking for x, y, and z would be sufficiently descriptive - no need to call in CSI or try to intimidate the nearby foliage).
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by iserith View Post
    What I see here are goals (what the PC hopes to achieve) but not approaches (how the PC tries to achieve the goal).
    If I asked my players, "HOW do you try to figure out how many creatures there are," I assume I'd get a blank look and something like, "I look closely at the tracks...?" What else would you expect from yours?
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Springheel View Post
    If I asked my players, "HOW do you try to figure out how many creatures there are," I assume I'd get a blank look and something like, "I look closely at the tracks...?" What else would you expect from yours?
    And would that be sufficient to identify the tracks?

    The point, if oblique, is that if the player says how they might identify the tracks, the question of what ability should resolve itself. I don't see past relying on knowledge of tracks or experience with tracking, both of which go to Intelligence for me. But mabye they want to beat the ground with a club? Why should I guess?
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bawylie View Post
    While I agree that examination is a sufficient approach, Ive never yet had a player try to beat the ground with a club to force a confession out of it.
    That's because Comprehension Through Pugilation isn't a listed skill in 5E. It should be.
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