D&D 5E 5e consequence-resolution

Hussar

Legend
Adnd worked in a similar way. You had a flat percentage chance of success regardless of situation. If you had a 60% climb skill, then you succeeded 60% of the time. Yes the dm could add in modifiers but that was very rarely used.

Success becomes based on the character and the player controls (at least by 2e DnD ) the chances.

Granted the Adnd system has some problems- it’s class limited for example- but similar systems can and have been used more broadly.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all systems.

My beef with the 5e skill system is that it tries to have it both ways. Specific and vague and winds up being difficult to use.

An example. In my current Candlekeep game the pcs meet a monster that has regeneration. Not a troll. It’s a one off critter for the adventure so the players literally know nothing about it.

So player asks if his character knows something that might help. Perfectly reasonable request - the characters are all sort of sages that have now spent several years in Candlekeep researching between adventures.

So how do I adjudicate this? Because of the monster type Religion or Arcana would be the applicable skill. Now is that check an action? Bonus action? Non action? What’s the DC?

In other words the system basically entirely fails here. The only thing the system gives me is the pc’s bonus to the d20 roll.

That’s not much of a system. I shouldn’t have to determine pretty much everything from front to back in order to use the system for a check that is hardly some bizarre corner case. Knowing something is a pretty bog standard check.
 

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Hussar

Legend
I’m not Oofta but My immediate thought is all tasks using a particular stat have the same chance of success regardless of how easy or difficult they are in the fiction. That’s odd. I’d immediately think, how does this work if I try to persuade the king to give me his kingdom. Does that result fictionally make sense for a success?
There is a counter-argument to this though.

Does an arbitrary DC set by the DM make it less "odd"? In fiction, characters mostly succeed on whatever they are trying to do. Failure is typically a plot point. Otherwise, the character succeeds. Now, granted, gaming isn't fiction, so, we do need a fail condition for attempts or we don't really have a game anymore. But, is setting that fail condition arbitrarily by the DM somehow more believable than a flat and probably equally arbitrary chance of success that is open to everyone at the table?

Savage Worlds, for example, uses the Rule of 4. Anything higher than a 4 succeeds. The only thing that changes is the size of the dice rolled. The more complex the task, the more successes you need. It's a pretty elegant system that works rather well.

I sometimes wonder if the D20 system, where it is absolutely wedded to using a d20 for ALL checks, isn't doing itself a disservice.
 

Adnd worked in a similar way. You had a flat percentage chance of success regardless of situation. If you had a 60% climb skill, then you succeeded 60% of the time. Yes the dm could add in modifiers but that was very rarely used.

Success becomes based on the character and the player controls (at least by 2e DnD ) the chances.

Granted the Adnd system has some problems- it’s class limited for example- but similar systems can and have been used more broadly.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all systems.

My beef with the 5e skill system is that it tries to have it both ways. Specific and vague and winds up being difficult to use.

An example. In my current Candlekeep game the pcs meet a monster that has regeneration. Not a troll. It’s a one off critter for the adventure so the players literally know nothing about it.

So player asks if his character knows something that might help. Perfectly reasonable request - the characters are all sort of sages that have now spent several years in Candlekeep researching between adventures.

So how do I adjudicate this? Because of the monster type Religion or Arcana would be the applicable skill. Now is that check an action? Bonus action? Non action? What’s the DC?

In other words the system basically entirely fails here. The only thing the system gives me is the pc’s bonus to the d20 roll.

That’s not much of a system. I shouldn’t have to determine pretty much everything from front to back in order to use the system for a check that is hardly some bizarre corner case. Knowing something is a pretty bog standard check.

Is the information common knowledge (easy DC 10), more specialized (moderate DC 15), or obscure (hard DC 20)?
Does the PC have some background with said knowledge (Advantage or auto success)?
I suppose that the combat advice in the PHB on Interacting with Objects Around You could have also included knowledge recall. That might have been helpful for considering knowledge recall as something that can typically be done in tandem with movement and action in combat.

In other words, I'm not really seeing "entirely fails" or needing to "determine pretty much everything" as what is going on. If the player gives reasonable justification why the PC might know some information I would either just give it to them or, if there is some uncertainty and if failure to recall information is a meaningful consequence, have them roll accordingly.

The 5e rules are naturally less prescriptive than older editions and spin-offs. I'm glad for that flexibility. I personally don't see it as heavy lifting, though, to adjudicate when PCs are seeking knowledge. YMMV.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
When it comes to knowledge checks, I find myself leaning more and more toward simply giving the information. Especially common knowledge.

Sure, esoteric stuff may need a roll of some sort. But holding information back just seems counterproductive.
The way I think about it is that I'm generous with information on the front end without the players asking. When they want to know more than I've already described, then they need to tell me specifically what they want to know and how they get that information (which might be simply recalling it based on their character's experience in the setting). Then I can decide if there's a roll or not, just like any other action.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It's an interesting way of looking at it, I'm just not sure it's better. But maybe i don't understand. If a PC in D&D needs to climb a wall it can go anywhere from so easy that it's automatic to mountain goats are going to think you're crazy to think you can climb that and everywhere in between.

So would there be no difference in PbtA games? Is a character as likely to climb every wall no matter how difficult it would be in real life, or do you just not have checks for this kind of thing?

Edit: I should probably read a post or two before responding. But having a static target number wouldn't make sense to me much of the time. Having no difference between a rocky cliff face with decent handhold vs a shear wall that can be climbed if you're really good would be odd.
Yes, if your intent is to model some inherent cause and effect, then a static target number is a poor idea. If you look at a situation and say, "Okay, this cliff is described as pretty sheer, with few handholds, and nearly perfectly vertical. Plus it's been raining. So this fictional situation sounds like it would be a pretty hard thing to climb," then you wouldn't want to use a static number but rather a system that adapted difficulty to the fiction. This would be having a system that aligns to the fiction prior to resolution -- ie, the resolution methods are aligned to represent the fictional situation.

A static target number system, therefore, would be a bad fit for this approach. But it exists in the wild, in a pretty popular game (Apocalypse World by itself hits the top 10 RPGs, the gamut of PbtA games holds a decently sized slice of the entire RPG pie). So, then, how does that work?

It works because these systems are not looking to align resolution with the fiction first, but rather align the fiction to the resolution. In these games, you wouldn't present a cliff to climb as an obstacle by itself unless it was directly important to the play. And how challenging it was to climb would remain pretty vague -- it's a cliff, dangerous (because if it's not dangerous, you're not featuring it in play period), but not in sharp focus. And this is because what the cliff is isn't really that important -- that it's between what a character wants or needs and the character is or somehow asks a question about who this character really is. So you roll the static roll. Most games like this don't have much in the way of bonuses -- usually a small plus or extra die at the top end, so the "accuracy" is well "bounded." The result tells us what happened, and then we can align the fiction. A success? The PC found ample handleholds, scampered up the cliff, and achieved what they wanted. A middle result? The PC gets up the cliff and achieves what they wanted, but at a cost, or a complication. Somethings not right, and we now need to deal with that. A failure? The door's open for bad stuff because we don't really care about climbing the cliff, but about what happens when the PC fails their goal or doesn't get what they want or finds out the answer to who this character is isn't a happy one. But, at no point is the game about how hard this cliff is to climb. We just don't really care about that answer.
 

Oofta

Legend
There is a counter-argument to this though.

Does an arbitrary DC set by the DM make it less "odd"? In fiction, characters mostly succeed on whatever they are trying to do. Failure is typically a plot point. Otherwise, the character succeeds. Now, granted, gaming isn't fiction, so, we do need a fail condition for attempts or we don't really have a game anymore. But, is setting that fail condition arbitrarily by the DM somehow more believable than a flat and probably equally arbitrary chance of success that is open to everyone at the table?

Savage Worlds, for example, uses the Rule of 4. Anything higher than a 4 succeeds. The only thing that changes is the size of the dice rolled. The more complex the task, the more successes you need. It's a pretty elegant system that works rather well.

I sometimes wonder if the D20 system, where it is absolutely wedded to using a d20 for ALL checks, isn't doing itself a disservice.
We all have preferences. If I have a wall that may or may not be climbable it could be because it was just part of the scene. A PC wants to climb it for reasons I didn't anticipate since they do things I don't expect all the time. Maybe I set up ahead of time as a risky, faster, alternative.

If the wall is described as rough I would expect it to be easier to climb than if it had been described as smooth. Having a 60% chance of success no matter how the wall was described would not be my preference.

I want to describe a world and scenarios and let the PCs interact with it how they wish, not plan out plot points.

EDIT: to ne clear, there's nothing wrong with either approach. I just prefer the simulationist approach. It also doesn't mean DCs are arbitrary (or at least they shouldn't be), they should adhere to the fiction of the world.

These fictional worlds are always going to be fundamentally arbitrary because we make them up. We're just shifting that arbitrariness around.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
For me it kind of depends. Opening a safe quickly is kind of a pass-fail thing. Knowing some details about a religious symbol or a particular sect of a religion is where I do a lot of variable DCs.
Interestingly, I tend to be almost flip-flopped compared to your approach.

With an action-oriented scene like cracking a safe, I'd probably rule the check to have a gradient of success/partial/failure.

Whereas with knowledge-based stuff, I'm far more likely to either eschew the roll entirely, or making it a binary roll (you know it / you don't).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Having set DCs that never vary wouldn't work for D&D because of the ever-escalating proficiency/skills/attributes.

But if it did work, as it does with PbtA games, what it does is removes any ambiguity from the process. I know that when I pick up the dice, if I roll a 10+ I get a full success. Nothing changes that.
@FrogReaver for vis

To clear up some possible misapprehensions. In PbtA if I roll a 10 but I have -1 for the relevant ability then I don't get a full success. PbtA uses a narrower range of modifers than 5e, and few or none come from the environment - they come from player choices - but it still does use a roll+modifier index to results.

In the set roll+modifer approach I suggest for 5e, the differences are that a wider range of modifers are used (an advantage of the d20 flat distribution against the 2d6 curved) and those modifiers can come from things outside player choices, such as environment.

The basic version of what I suggest is like this

10+ = full success
5+ = success with complication
Lower = failure with consequences

Difficulty classes are converted to modifiers Very Easy becomes +5, Easy +0, Moderate –5, Hard –10, Very Hard –15, Nearly Impossible –20. As you can see, this is mathematically no different from DCs-as-targets. But it does remove ambiguity from the process. Players know that if their roll+modifier is 10+, they succeed.

What this change does is make it easier and more reliable to apply the DMG 242 rules in play, allowing better focus on three (or more) levels of consequences.
 

Hussar

Legend
Is the information common knowledge (easy DC 10), more specialized (moderate DC 15), or obscure (hard DC 20)?
Does the PC have some background with said knowledge (Advantage or auto success)?
I suppose that the combat advice in the PHB on Interacting with Objects Around You could have also included knowledge recall. That might have been helpful for considering knowledge recall as something that can typically be done in tandem with movement and action in combat.

Now, how do you determine whether that information is common knowledge or obscure? - Completely arbitrary DM decision. The rules certainly aren't helping you here.

What combat action would be done in tandem with a knowledge check?

But, the point is, the rules here are doing pretty much nothing. I could simply say, "Roll a d20, roll high and you know the information" and it would be just about as much use as the 5e rules.

In other words, I'm not really seeing "entirely fails" or needing to "determine pretty much everything" as what is going on. If the player gives reasonable justification why the PC might know some information I would either just give it to them or, if there is some uncertainty and if failure to recall information is a meaningful consequence, have them roll accordingly.

The 5e rules are naturally less prescriptive than older editions and spin-offs. I'm glad for that flexibility. I personally don't see it as heavy lifting, though, to adjudicate when PCs are seeking knowledge. YMMV.
"Reasonable justification"? Again, purely arbitrary.

It's not that I'm incapable of doing it. I can do it. I simply don't want to. I shouldn't have to. The system, if it was actually of any use, should be able to provide me with a framework for adjudicating resolution beyond, "roll something that looks right".

I really find hard to understand how people defend a system that doesn't actually do anything that it's supposed to do. A skill system should be able to adjudicate standard uses of the skills, no? I shouldn't have to make stuff up and play amateur game designer every single time the players want to use a skill for something that is a perfectly normal way of using that skill.

I'm not talking about using Athletics to leap off an angry dragon onto a galloping horse while singing opera. Fair enough, I don't think there are too many systems out there that would be able to answer that question easily. :D But, "Does my character know something about this monster" isn't exactly a corner case question. Yet, right out of the chute, the rules are largely useless for resolving that. The rules don't set a DC, don't tell me what kind of action it would be, don't tell me pretty much anything other than the raw bonus on a d20. :erm:

That is not a good system.
 

Hussar

Legend
I just prefer the simulationist approach. It also doesn't mean DCs are arbitrary (or at least they shouldn't be), they should adhere to the fiction of the world.
See, that's where you lose me every single time this comes up, @Oofta.

This isn't simulation AT ALL. It's just not. It's 100% arbitrary decisions by the DM. What is the DC for a rough wall? Whatever the DM says it is. There is pretty much zero simulation going on in the 5e skill system. You keep saying you want a simulationist approach, yet completely reject anything that actually works as a simulation in favor of a half-baked system where you may as well just roll a random d30 for every check to set the DC. Because, there's one thing about it, the 5e skill system is about as far from simulation as you can get.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
There is a counter-argument to this though.

Does an arbitrary DC set by the DM make it less "odd"?

I don't think the DM setting a DC makes the DC arbitrary unless he actually done so arbitrarily. Much like 2 judges could hear the same case and rule differently, that doesn't mean their decisions are arbitrary.

In fiction, characters mostly succeed on whatever they are trying to do. Failure is typically a plot point. Otherwise, the character succeeds. Now, granted, gaming isn't fiction, so, we do need a fail condition for attempts or we don't really have a game anymore. But, is setting that fail condition arbitrarily by the DM somehow more believable than a flat and probably equally arbitrary chance of success that is open to everyone at the table?
Neither is arbitrary unless you go to the extreme of calling virtually everything arbitrary. The flat roll is codified in the system. We use that because the system tells us to, despite whether it's correlated with what the fictional chances of success should be. That makes it non-arbitrary. The DM setting a DC based on the scene described isn't arbitrary either. He may pick a different DC than a different DM but much like 2 judges deciding a case, the different results don't mean judges rule by fiat.

Savage Worlds, for example, uses the Rule of 4. Anything higher than a 4 succeeds. The only thing that changes is the size of the dice rolled. The more complex the task, the more successes you need. It's a pretty elegant system that works rather well.

I sometimes wonder if the D20 system, where it is absolutely wedded to using a d20 for ALL checks, isn't doing itself a disservice.
I agree there. I'm not very fond of the d20 for most skills.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
@FrogReaver for vis

To clear up some possible misapprehensions. In PbtA if I roll a 10 but I have -1 for the relevant ability then I don't get a full success. PbtA uses a narrower range of modifers than 5e, and few or none come from the environment - they come from player choices - but it still does use a roll+modifier index to results.

In the set roll+modifer approach I suggest for 5e, the differences are that a wider range of modifers are used (an advantage of the d20 flat distribution against the 2d6 curved) and those modifiers can come from things outside player choices, such as environment.

The basic version of what I suggest is like this

10+ = full success
5+ = success with complication
Lower = failure with consequences

Difficulty classes are converted to modifiers Very Easy becomes +5, Easy +0, Moderate –5, Hard –10, Very Hard –15, Nearly Impossible –20. As you can see, this is mathematically no different from DCs-as-targets. But it does remove ambiguity from the process. Players know that if their roll+modifier is 10+, they succeed.

What this change does is make it easier and more reliable to apply the DMG 242 rules in play, allowing better focus on three (or more) levels of consequences.
I think I follow.
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think the DM setting a DC makes the DC arbitrary unless he actually done so arbitrarily. Much like 2 judges could hear the same case and rule differently, that doesn't mean their decisions are arbitrary.
However, those two judges by and large won't give completely different rulings either. Most likely, those rulings will be pretty close.

In this case, we've got a range of judgements from "don't roll at all, it's an automatic success" to "don't bother rolling, it's an automatic failure".

And, frankly, if your go to example of a good system is a legal system then that's a game I have zero interest in playing. If the system is so complex or so lacking in any guidance (either extreme) then it's a very poor system for a game.

Again, I point you to my very real example. How is the system helping me here? Yes, I can absolutely do it on my own. I can come up with a resolution on my own. I'm quite capable of that. But, what is the system doing? If I have to determine the DC on my own, with no input from the system, determine how it works in the game (what kind of action is it) and determine the results of a pass and a failed check (can it be retried? is there some sort of gradiation of success?), then what is the system actually doing here?
 

Oofta

Legend
See, that's where you lose me every single time this comes up, @Oofta.

This isn't simulation AT ALL. It's just not. It's 100% arbitrary decisions by the DM. What is the DC for a rough wall? Whatever the DM says it is. There is pretty much zero simulation going on in the 5e skill system. You keep saying you want a simulationist approach, yet completely reject anything that actually works as a simulation in favor of a half-baked system where you may as well just roll a random d30 for every check to set the DC. Because, there's one thing about it, the 5e skill system is about as far from simulation as you can get.
Everything about a TTRPG is ultimately arbitrary. Have a system where the GM decides whether some action is possible or not? Arbitrary. There's a chance of failure set at 60% by the author of the system? That author made an arbitrary decision. The fact that my last session had the group fighting skulks that (when revealed) looked vaguely like Danny Devito's penguin from the Batman movie? Arbitrary.

If I tell people that it looks like the wall should be easy to climb, they generally know it's going to be around a DC 5, as stated in the DMG. Virtually but not completely impossible? Better hope you get that 30.

Is the decision on the general difficulty arbitrary? Of course. Just like everything in the world that I'm staging for the PCs. I don't see how it matters. All decisions on how difficult it is to succeed at a task when the outcome is uncertain are arbitrary. The only difference is who decides that percentage.
 

Now, how do you determine whether that information is common knowledge or obscure? - Completely arbitrary DM decision. The rules certainly aren't helping you here.
You prefer rules that delineate how widely known a fact is in the game world? That sounds... unnecessarily prescriptive. I'm not sure that's exactly what you are saying, but it kinda seems like it.

As DM, yes, I do determine what is common knowledge in my world. The published adventures do a little bit of this as well.

What combat action would be done in tandem with a knowledge check?
Any combat action. Just like all the examples of "Other Activity on Your Turn" (PHB pg 190) can be done with any combat action.

But, the point is, the rules here are doing pretty much nothing. I could simply say, "Roll a d20, roll high and you know the information" and it would be just about as much use as the 5e rules.
Which is why I think it good practice to tell the player the DC of what their PC is trying to accomplish. I'm not a fan of a DM calling for a roll and determining, seemingly after the fact, that the roll was "high enough". That, to me, is arbitrary.

"Reasonable justification"? Again, purely arbitrary.
I mean, what are you looking for from a player if not some reasonable specificity about what their PC is doing in the game world? Call it arbitrary if you want but not every statement from a player can be codified. Otherwise we could just skip the human DM and have a computer handle it for us. I don't think that is exactly what you are saying, but I suppose I'm not fully understanding your grievance either.

It's not that I'm incapable of doing it. I can do it. I simply don't want to. I shouldn't have to. The system, if it was actually of any use, should be able to provide me with a framework for adjudicating resolution beyond, "roll something that looks right".
In a game where the players can propose almost anything for what their PC is trying to do, a DM often has to make calls using the advice in the rules. Is that something you are objecting to?

I really find hard to understand how people defend a system that doesn't actually do anything that it's supposed to do. A skill system should be able to adjudicate standard uses of the skills, no? I shouldn't have to make stuff up and play amateur game designer every single time the players want to use a skill for something that is a perfectly normal way of using that skill.
I'm only defending it because it accomplishes the goals of play at our table: to have fun and create an exciting, memorable story. I'm not redesigning anything when we play. I simply make quick adjudications based on what the PCs are doing in the fiction and utilizing the advice on how to run Ability Checks that are in the rules.

I'm not talking about using Athletics to leap off an angry dragon onto a galloping horse while singing opera. Fair enough, I don't think there are too many systems out there that would be able to answer that question easily. :D But, "Does my character know something about this monster" isn't exactly a corner case question. Yet, right out of the chute, the rules are largely useless for resolving that. The rules don't set a DC, don't tell me what kind of action it would be, don't tell me pretty much anything other than the raw bonus on a d20. :erm:
"I don't know, why would your character know something about this monster? Is there something in their backstory, background, or training that could be useful?"

The player's job is to give the DM something to work with to make a fair adjudication. The rules give clear advice on how to set a DC and when to employ ability checks. Otherwise, yeah, ignore that advice and we are just arbitrarily rolling dice.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Interestingly, I tend to be almost flip-flopped compared to your approach.

With an action-oriented scene like cracking a safe, I'd probably rule the check to have a gradient of success/partial/failure.

Whereas with knowledge-based stuff, I'm far more likely to either eschew the roll entirely, or making it a binary roll (you know it / you don't).
I'm more like @Oofta with a safe or lock. I do have succeed with a consequence if you fail by a point or two, but I don't really vary the DCs of something like that. With knowledge checks I do have variable DCs. The player will roll and a 10+ might get them the name of the god involved, a 15+ will get the name plus holy symbols and other basic knowledge of that god's religion, and 20+ will get the previous information plus obscure information and holidays.
 
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hawkeyefan

Legend
I am certain that my use of DCs in 5e has been inconsistent at times. What may be hard is going to have so many variables involved that I think consistency is challenging.

It's simply a drawback of the system/method. It's fuzzy, it will mean different things to different people, and maybe even multiple interpretations of the same instance by one GM.
 

I am certain that my use of DCs in 5e has been inconsistent at times. What may be hard is going to have so many variables involved that I think consistency is challenging.

It's simply a drawback of the system/method. It's fuzzy, it will mean different things to different people, and maybe even multiple interpretations of the same instance by one GM.
But how is this not fundamentally true for any judgement a human being has to make? Setting appropriate DCs is among the easiest judgements a GM has to make.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
But how is this not fundamentally true for any judgement a human being has to make? Setting appropriate DCs is among the easiest judgements a GM has to make.

Is it? To be consistent over time on a multitude of tasks and their relative difficulty to one another? While also including the character attempting the task?

Now, I'm not saying that it's much of an obstacle in the sense that I just make a decision and go with it, and I don't worry about it. And I certainly try to be consistent. But given the number of DCs I have to set and for the variety of actions for the myriad of characters, I know that I'm not always consistent.

If consistency is a concern, then I think it's actually pretty tough.
 

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