5E low level monster skill checks

dnd4vr

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
We actually had this happen somewhat early on in our game. The bugbear chieftain used his intimidate to frighten some of the PCs who failed in their WIS save versus the bugbear chiefs intimidate skill check. It also bolstered the other bugbears and made the combat pretty intense. Of course, we were lower level then.

Our last session was raid into a complex of gnolls. We're 9th level now, and you might think it would be cakewalk... well, it wasn't "hard" but we had to do a lot of planning, avoid large groups, stealth/scout the best path, take prisoners to get intel, and more. Even then, it was still hard at times.

All in all, the best of PCs should beat the best of monsters, but most PCs aren't the best. One or two might be very good with perception, but many others aren't.

In an ambush encounter, don't use the best roll for the PCs. Each lives and dies by their own roll. Our first rounds typically have one or two PCs unable to act due to surprise when ambushed.

I know our DM inflates some skills when making checks vs. PCs, but not a lot. He also grants proficiency to monsters that should have them on a case-by-case basis. However, I agree that some of this seems like laziness from the devs not to give monsters 2-4 skills by default each. It isn't hard to do on the fly, but should have been included from the get-go IMO.
 

S'mon

Legend
In a similar vein the party bard was delighted by what he could accomplish with his crazy bonuses :)

My interpretation of 5e native balance is that it was consciously set to easy mode, and I believe that is the correct setting for the default. For one thing it is better for new players and some rp focused groups. If right, MM creatures are as intended.

For me and people I play with, system mastery makes easy mode feel not quite right. Possibly that is part of what the OP is experiencing. Game difficulty is subjective and it is not at all more virtuous to play on a hard mode (which may be subjectively equivalent to easy in any event).

Thus as DM I can suggest a way to respond to a feeling of monster skill values offering insufficient challenge. But I would not say that a group is any more or less admirable for chosing to play or not play that way.
With more experienced groups, and higher level play, I definitely do use 'ringer' monsters - maybe from Tome of Beasts, or a converted Pathfinder stat block - with powerful abilities. Like the ancient blue dragon with access to multiple Shield spells & Animate object, a suitable challenge for a group of level 19-20 PCs. But I don't think Hard Mode or Legendary Mode should be the default. Default 5e feels like Skyrim on Adept Mode (ie, pretty easy if you don't create purposefully nerfed PCs), and I think that's the right approach.
 

S'mon

Legend
Our Battle Master never questioned orcs having Athletics, but he did question the one time I gave a quadropedal demon a special ability making it very hard to shove.
I think my players are ok with both - and I do give monsters additional Proficiencies quite often, I just don't include it as part of the default/base monster stat block. If I think a monster's stats feel 'wrong' I'm more likely to use Advantage or Disadvantage or situational modifiers, like giving flying birds a +5 AC or a flat AC 20 vs ranged attacks.

Edit: And of course per RAW, darkness is supposed to impose Disadvantage on spotting attempts with Darkvision (=> dim light), which would be -5 to the PP. Take 5 off the PCs' PP and give the hidden lurker Advantage on its stealth roll, and even a +3 starts to look decent.
 
Last edited:

S'mon

Legend
Most secret doors in published campaigns are more like DC 15.

The worst case was from Out of the Abyss, where the designer tried to describe a DC 10 door as "secret".

That really tells me that dev was on another planet. DC 10 means any random Commoner will detect it.

DC 10 is more like a regular door partially behind some old furniture - you COULD miss it, but only if you were distracted or drunk.

Your DC on the other hand tells me volumes: it means you have left the official guidelines behind and fixed what was broken.

I only wish you didn't have to, and that the game's skill scores wasn't borked in the first place.
Well I think those DC 15s or 10s are for active searching, not just "you walk down the stairs/open the door, and spot it". I don't think there are any official DCs in the DMG for spotting secret doors, just the Easy - 10 Moderate - 15 Hard -20 etc guideline. Spotting a secret door with a casual glance looks like Very Hard to me, so DC 25. And I probably got the DC from converting a Paizo adventure - divide Pathfinder DC by 2 and add 5 usually gives a good 5e DC, so eg a PF DC 50 would be a 5e DC 30 (Nearly Impossible).

Edit: Mind you the PC who spotted that door was something like Rogue-18; in my low level adventures there are plenty of secret doors more like DC 20. One thing I often do is roll for the spot DC, perhaps on d20+10.

Edit 2: I guess if I see "Secret door, DC 10" in a published adventure I'll likely make that "10 if searched for, 20 to notice with PP". Which I guess is 'fixing' it, but something so easy & trivial it doesn't take me any conscious effort.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Well I think those DC 15s or 10s are for active searching, not just "you walk down the stairs/open the door, and spot it". I don't think there are any official DCs in the DMG for spotting secret doors, just the Easy - 10 Moderate - 15 Hard -20 etc guideline. Spotting a secret door with a casual glance looks like Very Hard to me, so DC 25. And I probably got the DC from converting a Paizo adventure - divide Pathfinder DC by 2 and add 5 usually gives a good 5e DC, so eg a PF DC 50 would be a 5e DC 30 (Nearly Impossible).

Edit: Mind you the PC who spotted that door was something like Rogue-18; in my low level adventures there are plenty of secret doors more like DC 20. One thing I often do is roll for the spot DC, perhaps on d20+10.

Edit 2: I guess if I see "Secret door, DC 10" in a published adventure I'll likely make that "10 if searched for, 20 to notice with PP". Which I guess is 'fixing' it, but something so easy & trivial it doesn't take me any conscious effort.
Funny you should mention active searching. The DCs should be the DCs, no matter how you are using them. You shouldn't have one for active and another for passive, etc. IMO (and by default, you don't as I understand it). That's why I think passive checks should be based on 5, not 10.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Well I think those DC 15s or 10s are for active searching, not just "you walk down the stairs/open the door, and spot it". I don't think there are any official DCs in the DMG for spotting secret doors, just the Easy - 10 Moderate - 15 Hard -20 etc guideline. Spotting a secret door with a casual glance looks like Very Hard to me, so DC 25. And I probably got the DC from converting a Paizo adventure - divide Pathfinder DC by 2 and add 5 usually gives a good 5e DC, so eg a PF DC 50 would be a 5e DC 30 (Nearly Impossible).

Edit: Mind you the PC who spotted that door was something like Rogue-18; in my low level adventures there are plenty of secret doors more like DC 20. One thing I often do is roll for the spot DC, perhaps on d20+10.

Edit 2: I guess if I see "Secret door, DC 10" in a published adventure I'll likely make that "10 if searched for, 20 to notice with PP". Which I guess is 'fixing' it, but something so easy & trivial it doesn't take me any conscious effort.
Official WotC adventures practically never go above DC 20 for anything.

It sends the message "everything is pathetically easy" for the focused character.

Again, any sensible home DM would apply common sense. I see you have done precisely that. I just wish official guidelines were based in the same reality as characters created from the Player's Handbook...
 

S'mon

Legend
Official WotC adventures practically never go above DC 20 for anything.

It sends the message "everything is pathetically easy" for the focused character.

Again, any sensible home DM would apply common sense. I see you have done precisely that. I just wish official guidelines were based in the same reality as characters created from the Player's Handbook...
OK, it sounds like there is maybe a problem with official adventures, not the PHB (or DMG difficulty guidelines). I've not run a lot of official 5e adventures, but am running Princes of the Apocalypse currently. The group is pretty laid back and non-minmaxy, pretty much exactly what WotC thinks of as their target 5e audience I suspect. After 6 levels/8 months of play I've not encountered a problem on the DCs yet, but the endgame content certainly does look very easy for mooted levels 13-15; lots of DC 10-15 checks, as you say, and endboss monsters that a well built level 15 PC could likely solo.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Official WotC adventures practically never go above DC 20 for anything.

It sends the message "everything is pathetically easy" for the focused character.
This, the "focused character", is one of the reasons we switched expertise to advantage instead of doubling proficiency bonus. With expertise, pretty much many things were pathetically easy...
 

S'mon

Legend
With expertise, pretty much many things were pathetically easy...
I think this may be deliberate as a reaction to 3e - the 5e edition really favours breadth over depth, and there is not much point beating a check by 15 or 20. Low DCs mean that non-focused PCs can often succeed, and group stealth checks become worth attempting.

It looks like PF2e is taking the opposite approach, which makes sense.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
When it comes to published adventures, they do set the bar pretty low from what I've seen. Which I don't have a problem with. They're assuming it can be a group of casual players with no feats or magical items. They don't assume there's going to be a skill monkey in the party.

So yes, they shoot for the lowest common denominator because the expectation seems to be that an experienced DM will adjust as necessary. But they aren't writing for the experienced DM, they write for the novice DM, and the novice group.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
This, the "focused character", is one of the reasons we switched expertise to advantage instead of doubling proficiency bonus. With expertise, pretty much many things were pathetically easy...
I know there are people having trouble with Expertise.

I don't. That there exist a small number of builds that can completely trivialize non-epic skill checks is not a problem.

That any character that isn't actively bad at something completely overshadows even specialized monsters is.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
the endgame content certainly does look very easy for mooted levels 13-15; lots of DC 10-15 checks, as you say, and endboss monsters that a well built level 15 PC could likely solo.
so...

what conclusions do you draw from that...? :)
 

S'mon

Legend
so...

what conclusions do you draw from that...? :)
Well my mooted conclusion (above) is that you are probably right that published official 5e adventures at higher levels are too easy even for the intended casual audience. I haven't had a problem with the stuff I've run though, probably because I use 3rd party and converted 3e/PF or OSR stuff, and the conversion process is extremely easy. Much easier than running 3e/PF in the Original Klingon. And I don't think there is any inherent design flaw in the system. Although I don't use the encounter building system, which looks pretty terrible - I eyeball it same as when running 1e-3e.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Well my mooted conclusion (above) is that you are probably right that published official 5e adventures at higher levels are too easy even for the intended casual audience. I haven't had a problem with the stuff I've run though, probably because I use 3rd party and converted 3e/PF or OSR stuff, and the conversion process is extremely easy. Much easier than running 3e/PF in the Original Klingon. And I don't think there is any inherent design flaw in the system.
I will be the first to admit that I rarely use published adventures, I'm more of a home brew guy who occasionally buys the published stuff to mine them for ideas and plots. So anything published is just a starter.

However, I think it depends a lot on your group. More than 4 people? Using feats? Magic items? Happen to have someone good at a specific skill? Use a more generous ability score generation than point buy or strict 4d6 drop lowest (or just have someone that was lucky)? It can all affect things.

But then again, maybe I'm just jaded. I've been tweaking and modifying monsters to suit my specific vision or to increase their threat for multiple editions now. :unsure:
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I know there are people having trouble with Expertise.

I don't. That there exist a small number of builds that can completely trivialize non-epic skill checks is not a problem.
Hardly a small number of builds... Just about every rogue and most bards, and many archetypes that grant double proficiency. They are trivializing higher checks as well, also making it very difficult and rare for monsters to challenge them--which removes some of the fun IMO. It isn't just that the floor is raised, the average and ceilings are raised as well.

That any character that isn't actively bad at something completely overshadows even specialized monsters is.
But this isn't the case either, at least not to the extent you are implying. Of course, I like to think you are expounding for emphasis more than truly believe this to that extreme.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would say the challenge (or, to be more precise, difficulty) is not in using a method of random number generation to meet or exceed a target number, but in coming up with an approach that in context will achieve the desired goal. The action offered by the player (or by the DM for the monster in this case) is what influences the DC or suggests if there is an ability check is required in the first place.

If that concept is internalized, then concerns about the math largely tend to fall away in my experience.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Hardly a small number of builds... Just about every rogue and most bards, and many archetypes that grant double proficiency. They are trivializing higher checks as well, also making it very difficult and rare for monsters to challenge them--which removes some of the fun IMO. It isn't just that the floor is raised, the average and ceilings are raised as well.
If you only have 4 people in your group, what are the odds of having a rogue or bard that happens to specialize in the skills you care about?
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
If you only have 4 people in your group, what are the odds of having a rogue or bard that happens to specialize in the skills you care about?
IME, pretty good. I can't recall the last D&D game (any edition) I played in where there was not at least one rogue or thief, many times with another character also multiclassed into it precisely to pick up expertise in the skills they care about. It bugs me, because it is min/maxing, but I can't stop players from doing it.

Considering the number of posts about stealth and/or perception, yep, it's an issue for more than just me. While advantage is a great thing and bumps up their normal result, it does nothing to inflate floors or ceilings, which lessens the issue many times to a good degree.
 

Krachek

Explorer
Don't get me started on absolute abilities. :)

A thing like "cannot be surprised" might sound innocuous, but really, it's only result is to wreck stories.

Any dev that suggests abilities that trade in absolutes ("you cannot be tracked" is another) should simply be fired.

Just as I want specialized monsters to be actually good, I want there to be a chance of failure as well.
MM is already full of immunity and absolute abilities.

There is a feat that give immunity to surprise. Monster can’t have similar abilities?

There is no fair fight between monsters and PC. Monster skills are set to challenge untrained and unoptimize PC. But when the optimized PC come to help he will solve everything, just like any hero will do. by default DnD is set to heroic easy mode. If you need “PC trash hardcore mode” you will have to tweak the math.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
IME, pretty good. I can't recall the last D&D game (any edition) I played in where there was not at least one rogue or thief, many times with another character also multiclassed into it precisely to pick up expertise in the skills they care about. It bugs me, because it is min/maxing, but I can't stop players from doing it.
Multiclassing is also an optional rule. Adding optional rules should in my view come with an expectation that things may not work exactly as intended in the base rules.
 

Advertisement

Top