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5E low level monster skill checks

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I wish skills and combat used the same 5e math.
Don't they? Isn't a melee attack simply a strength check with proficiency (if you're proficient with that type of weapon) AC is simply another name for DC (because it's associated with a particular target and not generally set by the DM).
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Tl;dr: the skill scores of MM monsters (mainly their Athletics and Stealth, but also Perception) is downright pathetic.
Live by bounded accuracy, die by bounded accuracy.

You're not wrong of course. But bounded accuracy does really compress the range of numbers. Of course we're only rolling dice if there's uncertainty? If you think it's certain that the creature can remain hidden from the party then why roll the dice? :)
 

Krachek

Explorer
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.
With your Ranger example, giving more bonus to monsters won’t help that much.
Reviewing all monsters is a big task, be sure it will really help your cause.

I would prefer give abilities to monsters, like tremorsense, blindsight, detect lie, pass without trace, etc
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
With your Ranger example, giving more bonus to monsters won’t help that much.
Reviewing all monsters is a big task, be sure it will really help your cause.

I would prefer give abilities to monsters, like tremorsense, blindsight, detect lie, pass without trace, etc
Same. If for a particular challenge, I want these monsters right here to be really good at grappling, then I'll just add a trait that makes them good at grappling. Or give them keen senses because reasons. In a recent Eberron adventure, I used this for example: "Grapple-Prone (Reaction). If an attempt to grapple the owlbear super-soldier fails, the attacker is instead grappled by the owlbear super-soldier (escape DC 17)." So yeah, you go right on ahead and try to grapple Agent Hootsworth.

Add the trait, telegraph the change so the players aren't blindsided, and off we go. Saves from having to make a blanket rules change.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Live by bounded accuracy, die by bounded accuracy.

You're not wrong of course. But bounded accuracy does really compress the range of numbers. Of course we're only rolling dice if there's uncertainty? If you think it's certain that the creature can remain hidden from the party then why roll the dice? :)
Pathetic skill scores has nothing to do with bounded accuracy. Thx
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Pathetic skill scores has nothing to do with bounded accuracy. Thx
5e is all about keeping the numbers for ability checks (of which attacks are subset) to within a limited range. So if the range of possible skill scores is not constrained by the concept of bounded accuracy then I guess I'm really confused! :D
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I don't expect low CR Monsters to challenge high level PCs the same way they challenged them back when they were low level PCs. Though I do like that they can still represent a threat, especially in numbers.

I will however take an existing statblock and modify it to present the challenge I want to present to the party.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
If I think a monster "should" be good at a particular skill, I'll usually double what the book says and give it advantage.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
How do monsters even use the Intimidate skill? Is that really worth an action or better to just ATTACK and let that be intimidating :) Like a bugbear chief has intimidate +2. I can't remember ever using these skills
 

Larnievc

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 just make the low level mob roll against the passive score or the PCs. That seems to cover most situations.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
How do monsters even use the Intimidate skill? Is that really worth an action or better to just ATTACK and let that be intimidating :) Like a bugbear chief has intimidate +2. I can't remember ever using these skills
The only scenario I can see the DM making a Charisma (Intimidation) check for a monster is if it is trying to intimidate another monster or NPC and for some reason the outcome is uncertain and there's a meaningful consequence for failure. That could be a situation like trying to rally monsters the PCs have already routed, for example. Or a contest versus a PC trying to influence a villain's minions or the like - it works against the PC's efforts and basically sets the DC.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
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.
As others have stated, just give the monsters proficiency or even expertise. Sometimes I'll give them special low level magic chameleon goo that they smear on themselves. Think somewhat magical ghillie suits.

But the easiest way is to simply make sure the PCs don't have a chance to clearly hear or see them. Use the environment to the advantage of the monsters, especially if the PCs are invading their home turf. Have the monsters hiding in holes with small peep-holes, use minor illusions to give them cover and so on. Give those goblins fog/low cloud cover and gliders while they drop bombs or beehives on the group only to disappear once more into the night.

For other types of checks like trying to grapple a PC, I just use lots of bad guys and mob rules.

There's no one solution so I use a variety based on what I'm trying to achieve.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
Rogues cannot actually hide where there is no place to hide. They need to also have invisibility. Something as simple as a brightly lit open area prevents that. When they hide it doesn't mean the heavy armor low dex cleric doesn't blow it for the group anyway.

At one point it was mentioned games would be playable without proficiency or with optional proficiency rules. The basic assumption was the ability check was the basic mechanic and that's what most monsters use. Anything beyond a standard ability check is above and beyond the expected standard.

It's generally no bonus is 50% success vs easy, 25% vs moderate, almost impossible vs hard, out of reach for very hard or near impossible tasks. That's increased with a combination of natural skill or training (proficiency) so a +5 bonus (either some skill and natural ability at lower levels, high talent or natural abilities at high levels) allows for 75% success vs easy, 50% vs moderate, 25% vs hard, almost impossible for very hard, out of reach for nearly impossible. Assuming a check is required, OC.

That's where most characters fall into place. A perception proficiency and high wisdom score isn't normal to start with. Perception isn't on the proficiency lists available to clerics and monks, and clerics don't normally take a background to add it. Monks might but monks and druids are the two class who combine both wisdom and proficiency, and they are rare classes. An example that doesn't typically exist isn't really indicative of what's happening. If it were, more players would be plaything those two classes.

Expertise is possible but that doesn't usually coincide with high wisdom because of ability score competition.

Low level monsters don't scale as well as combat against PC's so I'm not sure where the expectation that they would in skills. However, it's possible for numbers to apply advantage or disadvantage to NPC's / PC's as applicable via helping / hindering, and NPC's can also take advantage of the "take 20" spending extra time in prep while there's no inherent danger or distraction. Kobold trapsmith's concealing a trap, for example.

I would say a high level fighter isn't going to struggle with grappling an ogre. The fighter's strength, training, and experience are going to be too much. Two ogres grappling a high level wizard aren't going to struggle in the slightest. Examine what intelligent (or at least semi-intelligent) monsters are actually doing. Comparing poor score against the best scores doesn't tell the full story,

Ultimately, if the DM wants the monster to demonstrate training beyond what's typical of the monster's race or characteristics then give it proficiency. If the DM wants the monster to demonstrate experience beyond what's typical give it proficiency and increase it's HD, or give it actual class levels.

It's only an issue if someone assumes it's not working as intended. It takes uncommon combinations to get some of the highest bonuses being discussed. PC's aren't going to have proficiency plus high ability scores in most of the checks to be made for any given character due to limited numbers of proficiencies and ASI's.
 

S'mon

Legend
If a creature ought to have Advantage - eg large grappling medium, or animal smelling human - I give it. I don't go further than that; a Rogue ought to be able to sneak past most foes. If the Fighter in plate can sneak past most foes it'd be an issue, but I don't see that. Each PC has their area of expertise and Rogues ought to be good at theirs.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
5e is all about keeping the numbers for ability checks (of which attacks are subset) to within a limited range. So if the range of possible skill scores is not constrained by the concept of bounded accuracy then I guess I'm really confused! :D
Now you're starting to irritate me, since I suspect you're stringing me on. But let me try to say this very civilly:

Please don't conflate two wholly separate issues. I said "Pathetic skill scores has nothing to do with bounded accuracy", not something like "skill scores are not limited by bounded accuracy" or somesuch.

In blindingly clear English: the fact the devs implemented bounded accuracy is no excuse for not also giving out skill proficiency to the monsters that need them! Somewhat lurky monsters should have gotten racial modifiers to their Stealth scores so they succeed more often than not against perceptive heroes (and not just against boozing Commoners). Exceptionally lurky monsters should have gotten even bigger modifiers, so that the players need to actively hunt them down instead of simply waiting for them to inevitably fail their checks.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
As others have stated, just give the monsters proficiency or even expertise.
Or, you know, the game could have included this from the get-go, saving you the trouble of homebrewing and providing a better product for your money.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
In blindingly clear English: the fact the devs implemented bounded accuracy is no excuse for not also giving out skill proficiency to the monsters that need them! Somewhat lurky monsters should have gotten racial modifiers to their Stealth scores so they succeed more often than not against perceptive heroes (and not just against boozing Commoners). Exceptionally lurky monsters should have gotten even bigger modifiers, so that the players need to actively hunt them down instead of simply waiting for them to inevitably fail their checks.
I'm really not trying to be annoying. I just don't see how things can go the way you want without bumping against the limits imposed by the system. You said it yourself, a 1st level character designed to be perceptive is already hitting 15-16 for their passive score making it very hard for a low-level monster to best that even with proficient stealth and decent Dex. I totally understand your frustration and I'm sorry if you feel I'm being glib.

But I do think the simple fix is to wear your DMs hat and determine if the monster is even perceptable in the first place? Perhaps their tracks are, but not the monsters themselves - so you can at least foreshadow their attack. If we're getting stupid results from dice rolls then perhaps we shouldn't have rolled them in the first place? :)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But I do think the simple fix is to wear your DMs hat and determine if the monster is even perceptable in the first place? Perhaps their tracks are, but not the monsters themselves - so you can at least foreshadow their attack. If we're getting stupid results from dice rolls then perhaps we shouldn't have rolled them in the first place? :)
Some folks, perhaps coming from the tradition of other games, think this should be handled by the system instead of the DM. They're wrong in the case of D&D 5e which is pretty clear on the DM's and system's role in this regard. This is especially true for people who think that anything which vaguely sounds related to a listed ability check or skill proficiency comes with a roll without considering other factors. I can't say if this is the position of anyone in this thread, but it's definitely a thing I've seen among many DMs in play.

It could also be argued, at least in the case of Stealth, that surprise is a very powerful effect and that even monsters one imagines are good at lurking can't pull off surprise with certainty or near certainty all the time. Even so, a monster with training in Stealth is likely to be able to surprise some of the PCs but not all and that's still pretty useful.
 

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