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5E low level monster skill checks

CapnZapp

Adventurer
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.



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.
I'm saying low skill DCs and low monster skill bonuses is a real problem.

I am also saying I think Expertise is much less problematic than it initially appears: so what if the Rogue can detect traps and find secret doors automatically. You want and need that part to happen anyway.

Besides, imo Rogues pay a steep price in their fragility and decidedly mediocre DPS, so taking away some minor skill ability (all skill-related abilities are minor) is not on the table.

If the Rogue were to be elevated into a true glass cannon, say by being allowed two Sneak Attacks each round, then maybe, just maybe, I could discuss toning down Expertise (and Reliable Talent).

Regards
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
With experienced players interested in crunch, I would see PC specialisation and stacked buffs. Ignoring Variant Human, one might see +3 stat +2 prof +2 guidance +4 inspiration +advantage from help. Level 1 flies by so the bulk of play could assume expertise, observer etc. Agreed not a flat, always on +12 as you say, but much higher as experienced at the table than one might guess.

I found that giving most monsters proficiencies, and in a few cases special abilities, worked well across a two year campaign.

I also changed it so that in most cases only the character with the highest score rolled. And instead of giving advantage, the helper rolled too (dilutes buffs). Although that might seem pronounced, many cases (such as the notorious shove) are unchanged. It catches some of the more egregious situations.
The claim was specific to first level.

Guidance - yep can get +1d4 if you get Guidance cast within the last minute - which is not particularly good for stealthy since casting verbal components is not stealthy and casting a spell is not hiding.

If a group travelling or on watch wants to pair up a scout observant type with a Guidance buff guy, that's cool with me, that d4 costs you the second person and his noise.

Inspiration is not ongoing, it's one shot.

Help requires someone up there helping. Helping is not hiding.

A party combining multiple people's efforts and spells and expendable resources to for a brief moment out sneak or out spot a rather simple beast is a much different scene and example thsn the bemoaning exaggeration being portrayed here.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.

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

My experience with OotA was that not only were many secret foors DC 15 perception but that many if not most had "within 5'" added to the requirement. I know some hidden compartments had Investigation called for.

So, in fact, a door which casual passing by that did not get you close being easily missed even by a sober commoner make perfect sense. No " off the planet" needed.

It's pretty common in my game for "hidden" and "secret" to not be some elaborate facade making things into some kind of "master thief notices paint flecks off" to find - but instead just stuff covered up or placed in a way most folks wouldn't notice but folks taking time to search would find it if they can afford the time.

It would be common say in a business like an inn or something, a place where you wanted yourself easy access but others to not just see it there. Commoner, no special training, not spending a lot of effort on it - yeah DC 10. A search will find it but a typical glance would not.

Then again, in my game, difficulties are based on the what, why, where a not the PCs.

If that same innkeeper wanted to hire an expert, spend lotsa money on secret storage, etc and keep ongoing effort like rotating staff so often nobody figured it out as that same DC might be a 25 (and the "hidden" get a vastly different narrative manifestation.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Passive checks are for tasks that are performed repeatedly, not "passively" (in the sense that you're not "actively" doing something). If you're performing a task repeatedly while traveling a dungeon, then it may be that you're not keeping watch for danger (DM decides if can perform other tasks).

If you're not keeping watch for danger because you are searching high and low for secret doors as you move about, then - if the DM says as a result you're not alert to hidden dangers - you are automatically surprised if you run across a lurking monster (or it runs across you). You also don't apply your passive Perception to notice traps along your path.

Only characters that are keeping watch while traveling in the dungeon get to apply their passive Perception and only notice threats if they are in the position to do so, such as with characters in the front rank of the marching order noticing a trap the party is approaching. Rangers in favored terrain are an exception to this as they can both keep watch and do another repetitive task.

So, make it a trade-off. You can either stay alert to danger or search for secret doors - what'll it be? That makes it an actual choice and one that makes marching order, pace, and choice of activity of real concern.

If someone does opt to search for secret doors while traveling the dungeon, then they apply their passive Perception to that end, with a +5 if someone is working together with them on that task. (The DM may also say the person helping is not alert to hidden danger and at risk of automatic surprise and befalling traps.) Once the secret door is found, then figuring out how it works is the next challenge and may call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check depending on the approach the player describes. This may also take time which could be tied to a wandering monster check.
 

clearstream

Explorer
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.
It certainly isn't hard to roll a d20 regardless of the target number :)

The consequences of the roll might make subsequent events more or less difficult to navigate!
 

Ashrym

Explorer
Here is a quick table of the most common classes using the most common race.

skills.jpg


There are only so many proficiencies a character can select or select from. There are only so many ASI's or ability scores bonuses at all. There are a lot more checks than any character can be proficient and there are many checks for which proficiency does not exist at all.

The big numbers being discussed are outliers. The only way to get them is to stack on bonuses to make bigger numbers for the sake of making bigger numbers. In my table I used stealth and perception expertise because they keep coming up per this thread, and felt the need to give them to the fighter because...

Players Hand Book page 175 said:
When a number of individuals are trying to accomplish something as a group, the DM might ask for a group ability check. In such a situation, the characters who are skilled at a particular task help cover those who aren't. To make a group ability check, everyone in the group makes the ability check. If at least half the group succeeds, the whole group succeeds. Otherwise, the group fails.
...so when a group is moving stealthily anywhere the choices are everyone makes a roll and the group very rarely surprises or the group makes a group check and needs half the group to make the check to succeed. Sneaking up on anyone is restricted by the poor checks, not the good check by the rogue unless the team splits up.

Adding in a spell like pass without trace is not typical because it requires having a class in the party who could have it and having that PC take it and having that PC expend a limited resource on it's use including considering opportunity costs.

If a PC makes that investment and gives up the opportunity to use that spell slot elsewhere to hide from enemies that's what the bonus is for. It's to help the characters who suck at stealth (like that cleric with no skill or natural ability and disadvantage on the check from his armor) just so the group can succeed. Not a bad thing. The super high bonus it also gives the rogue is superfluous.

The other thing to remember is stealth is a conditional ability. A character cannot hide without cover or concealment. The chance to walk across a clear open field in broad daylight with guards are posted in the watch towers and at the gates is zero regardless of how high the bonus is.

So if a group casts pass without trace and invisibility in a high enough level slot to cover the party and makes a group check to drastically increase the odds of success (because low DEX heavy armor can still easily blow it without the group check) then that's not really easily all the time kind of tactics. And the low DEX heavy armor no proficiency characters can still blow it even with all that. It's not like that wizard / warlock / sorcerer is pro at stealth checks either.

Perception is also something that's limited. A character who is distracted by other activities (unless a ranger in his terrain) do not get to make perception checks in the activities stated in the PHB, or others at the option of the DM.

A high bonus that is denied isn't going to do anything, although this is typical of wilderness travel tbf. Groups who set a watch are limited by the perception of the PC who is on watch at the time. The general benefit of high perception most of the time is simply not getting surprised. That's hardly game breaking.

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...
Or it might be sending the message that building extremely focused numbers isn't the way to be the best general "skill monkey" in 5e. ;-)

It's hard to call something easy when most PC's would fail a roll more than half the time because they need high level proficiency and max ability score to get to that 50/50 roll rate. People are arguing extremes instead of typicals here. The table I gave used all ASI and no feats. More players are more likely to invest in combat that skill proficiencies.

Having a team of characters means having more likelihood of a better check at any giving task but nothing to the extremes of huge bonuses against everything.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
Passive checks are for tasks that are performed repeatedly, not "passively" (in the sense that you're not "actively" doing something). If you're performing a task repeatedly while traveling a dungeon, then it may be that you're not keeping watch for danger (DM decides if can perform other tasks).

If you're not keeping watch for danger because you are searching high and low for secret doors as you move about, then - if the DM says as a result you're not alert to hidden dangers - you are automatically surprised if you run across a lurking monster (or it runs across you). You also don't apply your passive Perception to notice traps along your path.

Only characters that are keeping watch while traveling in the dungeon get to apply their passive Perception and only notice threats if they are in the position to do so, such as with characters in the front rank of the marching order noticing a trap the party is approaching. Rangers in favored terrain are an exception to this as they can both keep watch and do another repetitive task.

So, make it a trade-off. You can either stay alert to danger or search for secret doors - what'll it be? That makes it an actual choice and one that makes marching order, pace, and choice of activity of real concern.

If someone does opt to search for secret doors while traveling the dungeon, then they apply their passive Perception to that end, with a +5 if someone is working together with them on that task. (The DM may also say the person helping is not alert to hidden danger and at risk of automatic surprise and befalling traps.) Once the secret door is found, then figuring out how it works is the next challenge and may call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check depending on the approach the player describes. This may also take time which could be tied to a wandering monster check.
I agree with part of that and disagree with other parts. The reasons for not being given passive checks were rather specific, and because the PC's were also specifically doing other things. If PC is not distracted I give passive checks because:

1) The other reason for the passive check is because it's to not tip off the PC's what's being rolled. It's not just for repeat checks.
2) The PC is generally considered alert and observing the surroundings unless distracted by other activities (like mapping).

Unless a PC is actually doing something else he or she would be entitled to the check within the parameters of the situation (like passing within x number of feet of a secret door or trap). The stipulation given to us is that the group needs to travel at half pace to be watching for the traps as well. If they are moving half pace, yes; if they are moving full pace, no unless they have a feature (like dungeon delver).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I agree with part of that and disagree with other parts. The reasons for not being given passive checks were rather specific, and because the PC's were also specifically doing other things. If PC is not distracted I give passive checks because:

1) The other reason for the passive check is because it's to not tip off the PC's what's being rolled. It's not just for repeat checks.
2) The PC is generally considered alert and observing the surroundings unless distracted by other activities (like mapping).

Unless a PC is actually doing something else he or she would be entitled to the check within the parameters of the situation (like passing within x number of feet of a secret door or trap). The stipulation given to us is that the group needs to travel at half pace to be watching for the traps as well. If they are moving half pace, yes; if they are moving full pace, no unless they have a feature (like dungeon delver).
Yes, I didn't mention the "secret roll" thing because it wasn't relevant to this context. Also I think that's kind of a stupid technique and, while it's in the rules, I don't want it to seem like I endorse it. But mostly that aspect wasn't relevant here and my post was long enough. :)

I'm not sure if we agree or disagree on searching for secret doors being sufficient to being "distracted." I rule that it is in my games since per the rules it is left to the DM's discretion and I think that is at least as distracting as drawing a map. It also creates a trade-off and thus a meaningful choice for the players and my opinion is that the game benefits by having more of that.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
Yes, I didn't mention the "secret roll" thing because it wasn't relevant to this context. Also I think that's kind of a stupid technique and, while it's in the rules, I don't want it to seem like I endorse it. But mostly that aspect wasn't relevant here and my post was long enough. :)

I'm not sure if we agree or disagree on searching for secret doors being sufficient to being "distracted." I rule that it is in my games since per the rules it is left to the DM's discretion and I think that is at least as distracting as drawing a map. It also creates a trade-off and thus a meaningful choice for the players and my opinion is that the game benefits by having more of that.
I just keep that simple. Moving at half pace gives passive checks. Actively searching for secret doors (ie the party stops and does their thing) I would agree would cause the PC doing so to lose that perception for a kobold sneaking up.

The rogue scouting ahead and disarming a trap or opening a lock would be another example that I think I see more often. That rogue could have an awesome passive perception but if he's focused on disarming a trap then there's an argument against using it while those kobolds sneak up behind him. Blindsense starting at 14th level is more applicable in that situation.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
I'm not sure if we agree or disagree on searching for secret doors being sufficient to being "distracted." I rule that it is in my games since per the rules it is left to the DM's discretion and I think that is at least as distracting as drawing a map. It also creates a trade-off and thus a meaningful choice for the players and my opinion is that the game benefits by having more of that.
My only question is why would searching for secret doors preclude one from noticing traps? Seems like the character looking closely at walls and floors would be equally amenable to finding either.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I just keep that simple. Moving at half pace gives passive checks. Actively searching for secret doors (ie the party stops and does their thing) I would agree would cause the PC doing so to lose that perception for a kobold sneaking up.

The rogue scouting ahead and disarming a trap or opening a lock would be another example that I think I see more often. That rogue could have an awesome passive perception but if he's focused on disarming a trap then there's an argument against using it while those kobolds sneak up behind him. Blindsense starting at 14th level is more applicable in that situation.
Okay. The way I look at it is kind of a "zoom in" or "zoom out" situation. So if you zoom in, you might have characters declaring specific, say, "exploration tasks" in a given area. Being that those are not repeated tasks, if there's any uncertainty and a meaningful consequence for failure, we'll have an ability check. If we're zoomed out, characters are covering a lot of ground, performing tasks repeatedly in the doing, and we're looking at things from a high level as with Activites While Traveling. That's when things get resolved with passive checks.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
My only question is why would searching for secret doors preclude one from noticing traps? Seems like the character looking closely at walls and floors would be equally amenable to finding either.
I mean, fill in the blanks here with any reason that makes fictional sense in context. But chiefly I separate them out to create trade-offs and thus meaningful choices for the players. You can't do everything. You have to choose, which also reinforces teamwork.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
My only question is why would searching for secret doors preclude one from noticing traps? Seems like the character looking closely at walls and floors would be equally amenable to finding either.
This I also agree with. Both are similar enough to be done simultaneously. "I investigate this wall because it caught my attention" type of reasoning. I think that gets into broader actions vs specifics. If the PC was specifically looking for a secret door I would probably give a passive check on a trap if it's also there because the PC knows he's looking for the door; active check. Because the PC is searching that area (the actual action, imo, regardless of being specific) I would use the passive check for the trap because I don't want to tip off the player.

Requiring the PC to state both actions gets repetitive / redundant, and then it gets into player vs character skills. A player might not remember to be specific on the SOP, but a character would still have the experience, training, and mindset not to miss it.

I find DM'ing often requires a broader view on what characters are actually doing at any given time. A specific action might include other actions that cross over, or might preclude them.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This I also agree with. Both are similar enough to be done simultaneously. "I investigate this wall because it caught my attention" type of reasoning. I think that gets into broader actions vs specifics. If the PC was specifically looking for a secret door I would probably give a passive check on a trap if it's also there because the PC knows he's looking for the door; active check. Because the PC is searching that area (the actual action, imo, regardless of being specific) I would use the passive check for the trap because I don't want to tip off the player.

Requiring the PC to state both actions gets repetitive / redundant, and then it gets into player vs character skills. A player might not remember to be specific on the SOP, but a character would still have the experience, training, and mindset not to miss it.

I find DM'ing often requires a broader view on what characters are actually doing at any given time. A specific action might include other actions that cross over, or might preclude them.
Are you telegraphing the presence of the traps or secret doors in your game specifically (rather than just "you're in a dungeon, so expect this sort of content)? Because I'm telegraphing, so players aren't typically going to poke around for a trap or secret door unless something about the environment may indicate one.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
I mean, fill in the blanks here with any reason that makes fictional sense in context. But chiefly I separate them out to create trade-offs and thus meaningful choices for the players. You can't do everything. You have to choose, which also reinforces teamwork.
Sure, if I'm not at the front of the party, then I won't find any traps there before it's too late.

But if I'm in some random dungeon room examining floors and walls for anything that looks out of the ordinary, like a pushable brick, sconce, etc., I'm probably also going to notice the slot in the wall that a blade might come out of, or a hidden pressure plate, or whatever.

Once I notice these things, then it might be up to my Int (Investigation) to figure out if whatever I found triggers a trap or opens a secret door, but the things I'm looking for are pretty similar between the two.

This kind of goes back to if the "not noticing the clown because I was looking for rats" meme. As a player, I'd be pretty disappointed if I did well on my Wis (Perception) while examining a wall only to have a trap come out of that same wall moments later.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
Are you telegraphing the presence of the traps or secret doors in your game specifically (rather than just "you're in a dungeon, so expect this sort of content)? Because I'm telegraphing, so players aren't typically going to poke around for a trap or secret door unless something about the environment may indicate one.
No, I don't. I believe that gives information to players they would not normally have. If I gave descriptions similar to telegraphing the presence of traps or secret doors it's based on the passive check results. Typically, if they fail to make a passive check they find the traps or whatnot the hard way or miss the secret door completely.

This avoids the player vs character skills and knowledge conflict better, imo.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure, if I'm not at the front of the party, then I won't find any traps there before it's too late.

But if I'm in some random dungeon room examining floors and walls for anything that looks out of the ordinary, like a pushable brick, sconce, etc., I'm probably also going to notice the slot in the wall that a blade might come out of, or a hidden pressure plate, or whatever.

Once I notice these things, then it might be up to my Int (Investigation) to figure out if whatever I found triggers a trap or opens a secret door, but the things I'm looking for are pretty similar between the two.

This kind of goes back to if the "not noticing the clown because I was looking for rats" meme. As a player, I'd be pretty disappointed if I did well on my Wis (Perception) while examining a wall only to have a trap come out of that same wall moments later.
This goes back in part to the "zoom in" and "zoom out" think I was referring to above. If we're talking repetitive tasks while traveling the dungeon, then the tasks may be separated out and passive checks are used to resolve uncertainty. If we're talking about something like the dungeon room you mention, we're not using passive checks there. Those will be ability checks, if any checks at all are needed and there might be a situation where you notice a trap while looking around for secret doors. In general though, and because I telegraph things, players are searching for one and not the other, so there may be some separation.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
No, I don't. I believe that gives information to players they would not normally have. If I gave descriptions similar to telegraphing the presence of traps or secret doors it's based on the passive check results. Typically, if they fail to make a passive check they find the traps or whatnot the hard way or miss the secret door completely.

This avoids the player vs character skills and knowledge conflict better, imo.
Okay. I don't believe there is a conflict between player and character skills/knowledge personally, so this isn't a concern for me.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
Okay. I don't believe there is a conflict between player and character skills/knowledge personally, so this isn't a concern for me.
I find telegraphing a trap (or whatnot) means player's realize it's there before even making the roll. That can change how they act or react regardless of the outcome of the roll. That's the reasoning behind passive checks not tipping players off.

The difference is just different playstyles in that regard. Telegraphing was the norm at one point and passive checks not tipping players off came after that. I think the take away for other people who want to DM would be to determine their approach and follow suit.

EDIT: I keep a small table of passive scores on my tablet. I use them regularly based on the actions of the NPC's or environment to which the PC's would react. I use active rolls based on the actions of the PC's.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I find telegraphing a trap (or whatnot) means player's realize it's there before even making the roll. That can change how they act or react regardless of the outcome of the roll. That's the reasoning behind passive checks not tipping players off.
As you say, it's a playstyle difference because I don't see an issue of realizing there's a trap there. They still have to act to find it, figure it out, and disable or avoid it. Those actions might come with ability checks attached, plus time, and probably wandering monster checks based on that time.

The difference is just different playstyles in that regard. Telegraphing was the norm at one point and passive checks not tipping players off came after that. I think the take away for other people who want to DM would be to determine their approach and follow suit.
Yes, that's how I would have done it in D&D 4e for sure.
 

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