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5E low level monster skill checks

Odysseus

Explorer
When I'm using low level monster against higher level PCs. I find that there skill checks, with things like stealth , perception insight etc, is terrible compared to the PCs. The monsters can still be a challenge combat wise. But any sort of skill check vs the party they just seem to fail.
Any body else get this? and if so , possible solutions. I'm thinking about adding some sort of bonus for all monsters.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Yeah, I started a thread about similar problems, mostly resulting from expertise and how insanely easy it is for rogues to sneak by most foes of their "level" and lower. Similar issues are with ogres lack of athletics skill for purposes of grappling, etc.

Our first solution was to change expertise and double proficiency bonuses into advantage instead. This way the character is more likely to "do well" via the advantage, but the floor and ceilings of possible results aren't inflated.

Another thing is just give monsters proficiency in skills you think they should have which are currently lacking.

Do you have another other specific examples?
 

Odysseus

Explorer
I havn't any examples where I recorded the all the info. I though I'd post and see if other people were having the same issues.
The impression I was getting was that the monsters are getting little or no bonus, while the party getting +10 or so on checks. And what ever I roll, the PC will win.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
I think they wanted to keep the monster stat blocks to a minimum to make the game run faster, rather than go back to 3e style stat blocks that had everything.

The downside is monsters suck at everything except fighting, and they're even expected to lose at that.

At low level, expertise is good but monsters typically still have a chance even with a flat d20 roll. It's not until proficiency bonuses go up to +4 and beyond that it becomes truly hopeless (specifically in combination with Reliable Talent), and at that point the low-level monsters aren't supposed to be a challenge anyway.

Basically, if you have a high level Reliable Talent Rogue with Expertise, they need skill challenges that not even other PCs are going to have a chance at succeeding at, while still allowing those other PCs to defeat the challenge in some other way.

For example, maybe the McGuffin is sitting on a pedestal in a brightly lit room, no cover, bubble wrap covered in flour on the floor, and guarded by some Big Bads. These factors make it impossible for pretty much anyone to sneak in there, but your high level rogue might just be able to pull it off if he gets help from his friends (distraction, spells like silence, invisibility and fly, etc.).

That all said, I do think it's unfortunate that high-level skill challenges are more difficult to design due to the massive gap between average PCs and reliable talent experts. It will either be impossible for everyone but the rogue, or the rogue will basically auto-succeed.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
5E is intended as an easy mode game, which likely contributes to its popularity.

My solution? Just cheat. Any monster described as great at sneaking should be that relative to the adventurers it is likely to meet.

Whether it can sneak past som drunken commoner is utterly irrelevant.

So just require the more perceptive heroes to roll, say, 15 on the die they roll for their Perception check.

What the total is? I don't care.

What the DC is? I don't care.

I only care about how many groups are likely to have at least two high Wisdom characters trained in Perception, and that the probabilities of multiple die rolls mean that the probability of at least one of them will roll a 15+ (or that one of the rest rolls 19-20) really does give them a fair chance.

Creating a win win scenario: either nobody succeeds and the players will accept the ambush: "it did stealth really well, and none of us rolled great, so I guess we deserve it..."

Or somebody rolls really great and the group is rewarded by averting the ambush.

Don't tell the players you're only interested in the result on their dice though. Let them believe you care about their totals, or that you actually rolled up the DC using the monster's skill score!
 

Odysseus

Explorer
The solution I'm considering is something along the lines of giving monsters relevant proficiency bonus and some sort of extra dice roll. The dice depending on the parties level.
 

clearstream

Explorer
When I'm using low level monster against higher level PCs. I find that there skill checks, with things like stealth , perception insight etc, is terrible compared to the PCs. The monsters can still be a challenge combat wise. But any sort of skill check vs the party they just seem to fail.
Any body else get this? and if so , possible solutions. I'm thinking about adding some sort of bonus for all monsters.
I get this too. My impression (really just speculation) is that they either didn't have time or didn't think to work skills carefully through the MM. Shield Master is a good example: even before the timing nerf (or clarification, depending on your view) I found that if I made the assumption that most creatures would implicitly have Athletics, or even Expertise Athletics in cases where that feels right for my world, then the balance was a lot better. Without that assumption, making a roll to resist the shove felt like ceremony devoid of mechanical value.

With that kind of thought and observation in mind, and because I am using Fantasy Grounds, I just gave monsters what I felt were reasonable skills. I find myself moving toward something fairly consistent, whereby the most elite monsters will have one or two skills they have Expertise in, and up to four others, while plebs might have only one or two skills all told. At some point, I may even write that up. I've been stacked lately though.
 

Krachek

Explorer
Monsters are meant to fail and die.
Pc are heroes. They are meant to have success most of the time.
I like that success rate rise effectively. with level.
In past edition we were gaining big bonus, but sometime then same 50% success rate as first level.
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
Whereas I prefer the sensation of a living breathing world, not just there as the players' playground. If a monster is described as very athletic, smart or stealthy, I expect it to be just that against a regular adventurer of its level.

In other words, that while the party Rogue might well out-stealth it, it is still hard or very hard for the fighter (wizard, sorcerer, etc) to detect.

I completely reject the MM notion that monsters are supposed to be truly hopeless at everything they do except for their signature skill, where they're merely average.

The idea monsters are generally untrained at everything they do is a shitty idea that makes my game less fun.

It devalues true skill. If success isn't an achievement, success isn't valuable.
 

clearstream

Explorer
Monsters are meant to fail and die.
That's true and relates to what I meant about the checks sometimes feeling like "ceremony devoid of mechanical value". I don't object to monsters typically losing, I do object to monsters always losing (or so much so, that making a check feels pointless). Players should mostly win, but take that too far and for me it diminishes rather than increases the fun.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
In particular, a monster should not be losing when it is doing the thing it does best.

You're supposed to outwit stupid monsters, outrun the strong ones, and just kill the sneaky ones with fire.

If monsters are never actually better than you at anything, you never need to adapt and you never need to change up your strategies.

This makes everybody lose, since the game becomes less interesting, less challenging, less fun.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
The monsters in general are really devoid of skills. The simple solution (and what I have done in my Hardcore series on this forum) is give them appropriate skills. But I think you already realized that.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I havn't any examples where I recorded the all the info. I though I'd post and see if other people were having the same issues.
The impression I was getting was that the monsters are getting little or no bonus, while the party getting +10 or so on checks. And what ever I roll, the PC will win.
Well, see, "the party getting +10" seems like specific magic being used, like say pass without trace.

Usually, I find it rare that the entire party has +10 on any given skill check, at least in tiers 1-2 thru 10th levrl. Then maybe even into lower tier-3.

But then, to me, at the higher levels, it's not the mundane monster skills thst are the threat. It's the more magical aspects.

That's to me a gesture, not a bug.

At tier-1, mundane aspects are dangerous, wolves can spot you too often, or maybe sneak up on you.

At tier-2 you gradually move beyond those being concerns, but your foes start becoming more and more capable in 9ther areas - passing through walls, blind sight, spells or breath weapons, etc etc etc.

By the time you are looking at whole part having +10s you are well past the point where a run of the mill beast with mundane skills is a serious threat or competitor.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I do find it annoying at how few monsters actually have proficiency in any skills. I periodically just add skills I feel should be relevant, and the proficiency modifier is easily calculated by looking at the attack modifiers.
 

Krachek

Explorer
That's true and relates to what I meant about the checks sometimes feeling like "ceremony devoid of mechanical value". I don't object to monsters typically losing, I do object to monsters always losing (or so much so, that making a check feels pointless). Players should mostly win, but take that too far and for me it diminishes rather than increases the fun.
DnD is an heroic game by default. Dm should describe how amazing are
PC skills, features, spells. In an heroic movie we don’t get tired of superiors sense and skills of our heroes.
But of course if your table prefer Pc being more casual people, you can tweak the game a bit to avoid extreme bonus. For example give two more trained skills in place of expertise. Optimal builds are well know today, it is not so hard to nerf them a bit.
 

Horwath

Explorer
I agree.

Background 2 skills,
Class; at least 2 skills,

every commoner should have proficiency in Athletics and/or Animal handling/Survival

There should be some themes with skills for all monsters

Brute:
Athletics, Intimidate, Survival,

Soldier:
Athletics, Intimidate, Survival, Perception,

Scout:
Athletics, Acrobatics, Stealth, Perception, Survival, Nature

Acolyte:
Religion, Arcana, Medicine, Insight

Thief,
Acrobatics, Stealth, Sleight of hand, Perception, Investigation, Deception, Thief tools

Diplomat;
History, Insight, Deception, Persuation, Intimidation,

Scolar;
Arcana, Investigation, Nature, History, Religion
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I havn't any examples where I recorded the all the info. I though I'd post and see if other people were having the same issues.
The impression I was getting was that the monsters are getting little or no bonus, while the party getting +10 or so on checks. And what ever I roll, the PC will win.
This makes it sound like you’re doing opposed rolls? If monsters are hiding/stealthing near the party you should be rolling their stealth and comparing against the party’s passive perception. You should also have each member of the party declare what they’re doing when traveling/wandering through a dungeon and what the marching order is.

So only the PCs that have declared that they’re keeping watch for monsters would have their passive perception checked with the monsters stealth.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I haven't had this issue, chiefly because the monsters in my game only very rarely make ability checks. Generally those checks are Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) as they relate to grappling and shoving, plus Dexterity (Stealth) when hiding or trying to gain surprise and passive Perception for trying to avoid it.

In general I have found the monsters are not great at grappling or shoving compared to the strong fighter. And they aren't great at spotting the stealthy rogue. But when it comes to every other PC, it can go either way. This feel about right to me. I don't have any expectation that monsters will win against "specialized" PCs in certain areas.

What does it currently look like in your game and what expectations do you have about what it should look like, specifically? That will inform what, if any, action you take.
 
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clearstream

Explorer
DnD is an heroic game by default. Dm should describe how amazing are
PC skills, features, spells. In an heroic movie we don’t get tired of superiors sense and skills of our heroes.
But of course if your table prefer Pc being more casual people, you can tweak the game a bit to avoid extreme bonus. For example give two more trained skills in place of expertise. Optimal builds are well know today, it is not so hard to nerf them a bit.
Posters here seem to agree that PCs should be more powerful than ordinary folk in a typical campaign world. So I don't think it is right to raise the spectre of wanting them to be "more casual people". Rather I think the concern is - how reliably should PC skill checks (active, passive or contest) defeat monster capabilities? With that in mind, I'd want to give skills to monsters, before I changed Expertise or nerfed optimal builds.

A wolf gives a good idea how well this plays out. It has proficiency in perception and gets advantage on top of that, whenever relying on hearing or smell. A ranger with proficiency in stealth and prioritising Dex (say +4?) at level 4 might have +6. Stack in Pass Without Trace (2nd level spell, +10), and the wolf might (rarely) still detect the ranger. Stack in Guidance or Bardic Inspiration and the wolf might be unable to detect the ranger. Still, this is a CR 1/4 monster and the party have thrown in a few resources.

On the other hand, most creatures don't have proficiency in a wide range of skills that to me feel as if they should be common - such as athletics - far less advantage with them! So you can see how without proficiency a party can just perma-beat many creatures, even in tier 1.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
If monsters are hiding/stealthing near the party you should be rolling their stealth and comparing against the party’s passive perception. You should also have each member of the party declare what they’re doing when traveling/wandering through a dungeon and what the marching order is.

So only the PCs that have declared that they’re keeping watch for monsters would have their passive perception checked with the monsters stealth.
Yes, and parties are invariably led by a high-Wisdom Perception-trained character, since players are not stupid.

So the DC monsters need to beat is 16 or 17. At first level.

Good luck finding a monster described as "super sneaky" that does not stand an overwhelming chance of failing miserably at doing the one thing it's there for: executing an ambush of the PCs...

About the stealthiest MM monster I could find at CR 2 or lower was the Shadow and its +6 modifier. That still means it fails more than half the time against a zero xp character. And its a frikkin' shadow. And even that assumes the party isn't bringing a lantern.

Tl;dr: the skill scores of MM monsters (mainly their Athletics and Stealth, but also Perception) is downright pathetic.
 

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