5E low level monster skill checks

clearstream

Explorer
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.
It is good to start seeing some detailed analysis. What I found in play is that a handful of skills were by far most often used...

Stealth
Perception (I got Investigation into my game by ignoring official module text and assiduously following the rules)
Athletics
Persuasion (often separated from Deception solely as a matter of style)

Less frequent, but still with fair salience were...

Arcana
Insight
Survival
Thieves Tools

For most of those eight, players were able to have one specialised and one decent as back up. Situationally, a few skills are checked against all characters.

Possible next steps might be to decide on how each skill is most often used, and how priority skills can/will be specialised. And then represent the values not as a bonus, but as chance against sample creatures in the tier.
 

Kinematics

Explorer
If I plop down a lurking monster, I do so because I want to showcase it's awesome ambush routine or whatever. Not to see it being instagibbed before it can act.

So.

Assume at least one party member rolls high. Doesn't have to be the perceptive Wisdom character, and so let's not assume DC 27 for the Stealth attempt.

But let's say DC 20.

Now, I need my lurkers to actually be lurky. That means they should succeed more often than not; let's say at least a 60% success rate.

Which brings us right back to the +12 from earlier.

Back then I kind of made it up. Now I realize I was more right than I thought.

Tldr a lurking monster that's supposed to lurk a 1st level party should have closer to +12 Stealth than a pathetic +3.
So I decided to do a little testing on this. It depends somewhat on how you handle the opposed checks. I'm assuming that out of a party of 4, two of them can be actively searching, while the other two just get their passive perceptions. That at least guarantees a minimum result from the passives, but the difficult stuff is up to the actives to find.

(I wrote a quick program to check things; if anyone wants the code, let me know.)

For a 1st level group, I dropped in a +3 and a +5 perception as the active checks. Nothing particularly special. The +5 could be from a cleric, or a rogue with a low Wis, but Perception Expertise. (Though I rather like changing that to Advantage, that adds extra complication that I don't want to deal with for this little test.)

Anyway, for the two active searchers to succeed 40% of the time against a lurking critter (ie: the lurker has a 60% chance of succeeding in its ambush), the critter needs a total bonus of +10 (average if rolling) to +11 (Take 10 straddles the +10 and +11 range). For one, two, or three players with +5 Perception, the target to aim for would be +8, +11, or +13 to allow the critter to succeed 60% of the time.

With two higher-level players in the +9 to +10 range (high Wis or Expertise), the critter needs a total bonus of +13 against just one player to succeed 60% of the time. With two players, you want a +15 to +16. With three players, you want a +17. With four players, you want a +18.

It looks vaguely like +6 over the highest party skill give you a 60% success rate, when you have to contend with a couple players rolling instead of just one. Each additional player after that increases the total by +1 or +2.


In any case, that's way too high for raw skill alone. However the creature doesn't need only raw skill. Circumstantial bonuses undoubtedly apply. If this creature regularly tries to use ambush tactics, and is in its home territory, it almost certainly has the advantage. You can slap a +5 on the Take 10 target DC and only need a +6 in actual skill. At level 1 proficiency, that would imply an 18 Dex, which seems entirely reasonable. (Alternatively, give the players disadvantage, although that may give away more information than you want to reveal.)

If we want a more generalized setup, I'll look at the 50% success rate instead of 40%/60%. For 50% vs two players, you want about +5 over their skill level. Each 5% adjustment is a +/- 1, as expected, and each additional player participating in the contest would suggest a +2 to the difficulty to keep it stable (or +1 after you get past 3-4).

In general, it doesn't feel like creatures need huge boosts to their skills (although they definitely should have more standard proficiencies). Rather, circumstance bonuses need to come into play more. A lurker hidden in a ceiling crevasse should get a solid bonus to stealth, instead of relying solely on skill.

I notice this a lot in some of the games I play, particularly those based on modules. There is very little consideration given to the environment, and how that might affect a creature's performance. Empty rooms are annoying, because there's nothing to use to make combat more interesting, and noone even considers the advantages some creatures might have, given the chance to set things up the way they'd want.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Well, gone to work for the afternoon and there is too much to bother reading up on since I have to get ready for our game tomorrow. Enjoy the thread all, I'm out. :)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
So I decided to do a little testing on this. It depends somewhat on how you handle the opposed checks. I'm assuming that out of a party of 4, two of them can be actively searching, while the other two just get their passive perceptions. That at least guarantees a minimum result from the passives, but the difficult stuff is up to the actives to find.
Characters are still actively searching even when they’re using passive scores. They’re just doing it over an extended time period. It’s not an always on radar. The players should declare an ongoing action for their character: searching for traps, keeping watch for monsters, etc for the passive score to have meaning.

(@Parmandur - this is precisely what I’m talking about when I say players are confused about the meaning of “passive”)
 

Parmandur

Legend
Characters are still actively searching even when they’re using passive scores. They’re just doing it over an extended time period. It’s not an always on radar. The players should declare an ongoing action for their character: searching for traps, keeping watch for monsters, etc for the passive score to have meaning.

(@Parmandur - this is precisely what I’m talking about when I say players are confused about the meaning of “passive”)
I just haven't seen that happen myself, but you know, limited dataset.
 

clearstream

Explorer
In general, it doesn't feel like creatures need huge boosts to their skills (although they definitely should have more standard proficiencies). Rather, circumstance bonuses need to come into play more. A lurker hidden in a ceiling crevasse should get a solid bonus to stealth, instead of relying solely on skill.

I notice this a lot in some of the games I play, particularly those based on modules. There is very little consideration given to the environment, and how that might affect a creature's performance. Empty rooms are annoying, because there's nothing to use to make combat more interesting, and noone even considers the advantages some creatures might have, given the chance to set things up the way they'd want.
The conversation has focuded on Stealth and Perception. I think the OP's concern can extend to a range of skills. Athletics to resist a shove. Insight to detect a lie and Deception to pass one off. Survival to track.

Perhaps circumstantial advantage shouldn't be too common. Across all of those. It should play a role I agree. Albeit perhaps more by spiking the challenge than as the background expectation.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
In general, it doesn't feel like creatures need huge boosts to their skills (although they definitely should have more standard proficiencies). Rather, circumstance bonuses need to come into play more. A lurker hidden in a ceiling crevasse should get a solid bonus to stealth, instead of relying solely on skill.
Not sure what you're saying here.

The stealth and hiding rules in 5E are notoriously hazy, vague and wonky. There are no rules at all for giving out distance penalties to Perception.

So you'll have to excuse me if I want the number in the Monster Manual stat block to be the relevant figure.

Saying "circumstance bonuses need to come into play more" sounds sensible until you realize there are no rules for this. At most a vague go-ahead to slap disadvantage on somebody.

What this means to me is that "circumstance bonuses need to come into play more" in practical play translates to "it's up to the DM" which in turn translates to absolving the developers!

Why? Because if it doesn't matter if the monster's Stealth score is +3 or +9 (or -3) because the DM is expected to "make it right" through modifiers...

...then the only result is to free devs from the burden of doing their job and get it right themselves!

So no, you'll have to excuse me, but I'd much rather have workable numbers right out the gate than some nebulous "circumstance bonuses need to come into play more".

I pay WotC good money expecting them to do the work and give me the end numbers. Much better than hazy advice would be a stat line saying, for example:

Stealth +3 (+9 in swampy terrain)

...for some Bog Lurker thing. If you absolutely insist on "core" numbers being pathetically low. (Myself I see zero reason why a Lurker monster can't have its +9 everywhere to keep things simple)

I want the devs to commit to a number. That way we can hold them accountable when they get it wrong.

Just lazily making it up as you go and then expecting each DM to fix things at their table is NOT why I pay good money to a professional publisher.
 

Ashrym

Adventurer
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.



Yes, that's how I would have done it in D&D 4e for sure.
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DMG page 121 said:
You can also compare the DC to detect the trap with each character's passive Wisdom (Perception) score to determine whether anyone in the party notices he trap in passing.
Okay, there's more to it than that listed there; but it's a good page for reference on detecting traps. It goes gives details on not needing rolls to detect or bypass traps when clear visual clues are there, for example. That's what I think of when I think of the older telegraphing styles -- it gives the trap away and therefore can enable bypassing it without a check IF it's visible. To me, telegraphing is leading into passing it without the check.

It took me a bit to find the rule on it. Kids and stuff. Guess they need to eat. ;-)
 

Ashrym

Adventurer
Penalties or bonuses are generally not used in 5e in favor of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. If someone is constantly using either there's a misconception going on.

Visual range is the typical factor in perception and the difficulty in seeing something doesn't need adding disadvantage or penalties. That's already done by the DM determining whether it's automatic, easy, moderate, hard, very hard, nearly impossible, or impossible to perceive something at that range. Adding a penalty is redundant after the DM already set the DC; it's part of the hassle that comes with DM empowerment. ;-)

Harder to do it when it's an opposed check over a static DC.

Various section mention it, however. For example low light imposes disadvantage. Heavy rain imposes disadvantage. Page 243 of the DMG expands on visibility and noticing other creatures. Every reference I find is stealth vs perception is in reference to encounter range. It's sneaking past someone or surprising someone. The intent seems to be to not make the check until that range.

The rule is both parties automatically notice each other if within sight or hearing range if neither is trying to be stealthy. If they are trying to be stealthy make the checks. Perception isn't x-ray vision and stealth requires a place to hide.

According to the rules, a Wood Elf can hide when lightly obscured or a Lightfoot Halfling can hide if only obscured by a creature one size larger than it. There is no level of obscure between light and heavy. Heavy gives total concealment and it takes a special feature to hide in anything less. Total concealment or darkness grants the blindness condition.

To hide, the character cannot be visible. Most characters cannot "hide in shadows" (dim light is considered lightly obscured). This is one of those things that errata was clear on the DM determining if the conditions exist to hide. An NPC could be in a watch tower overlooking an open field in broad daylight. He can see someone approaching for miles because there is no opportunity to make a stealth check in the first place. He cannot hear the PC but the PC has no place to hide. The PC is visible.

Stealth is more about being quite than not being seen. No one can see the PC anyway because it's a requirement to hide in the first place. Only 10th+ level rangers can hide without being obscured and that takes preparation and requires not moving.

I get the impression some of you are being too liberal with stealth. If someone is outside of earshot and heavily obscured no roll is necessary. Others are blind to the PC (per heavily obscured rules) and cannot hear a PC trying to be quiet at a distance. If the PC is not heavily obscured there is still no roll needed because it takes special abilities to hide at that point and the PC cannot do it. If the PC has a position that's lightly obscured and that ability to use it then make a normal roll.

Also remember that whatever is giving the heavily obscured position isn't necessarily mobile. If someone is hiding in some dense brush then moving out to the next patch of dense brush requires moving out into the open and giving up hiding if that area is under surveillance.

The way 5e portrays stealth is very much under the DM empowerment. It's generally the DM has described a place that suitable to hide, PC's hide there and wait for NPC's to move on and then quietly move to the next position when the coast is clear (no one is looking) and then hide again; or they move around quietly while out of sight so that they don't let on that they are creeping around in the dark.
 

Kinematics

Explorer
So you'll have to excuse me if I want the number in the Monster Manual stat block to be the relevant figure.
I'm not saying that the monster stats don't need skill proficiencies. I'm saying that they don't need to shoulder all of the weight. Your example ambush creature doesn't need +12 to stealth; it only needs maybe +6 total (including stat), and another +5 from circumstance.

Having example circumstance modifiers in the book is fine, however. The point about needing more explicit detail in the book is valid. The MM stat blocks should be location agnostic, but creature behavior should give you more hints on how to actually use the creature, including the circumstances it might benefit from.

Taking an example... the Ankheg. CR2, and described as being "Lurkers in the earth", ambushing prey from where they're hidden, buried in the earth.

And they have 11 Dex and no stealth skill.

So how are you expected to interpret that? Adventurers might notice evidence of the ankheg's burrowing, but may not even know what it means (Nature check). Even if they do know what it means, they don't automatically know where the ankheg is located, if it's even still in the area. Does the ankheg need to make a Stealth check? How do you determine what that is? What is it that the adventurers might notice on a Perception check? How difficult is it?

This is a creature where the circumstances about how it operates definitely needs more mechanical detail, while simply slapping on a Stealth skill likely wouldn't be appropriate. The ankheg doesn't have "Stealth", it has "circumstances it makes use of that give it stealth".

If I were to try to lay out the mechanics, I'd consider:
  1. Passive perception against DC ~14 to notice the burrow trails. Not to notice their existence, which is pretty much guaranteed, but to notice them as significant. Unlikely to fail.
  2. Nature check against DC 13 for anyone paying attention to recognize this as the remnants of a burrowing creature. DC 15 might indicate that the area is of a type favored by ankhegs (plus some details about them). Might give disadvantage to urban-focused characters.
  3. DC 15 Investigation to pinpoint an area that is the most likely location for the ankheg to set up its ambush.
  4. If they fail to discover the location of the ambush, and proceed across the ambush area, random check for which target is attacked, and surprise happens. Obviously if they discover it, they can deliberately trigger it, or bypass it altogether.

Ultimately, minimal use of Perception, and no Stealth. It's not an additional skill proficiency that's necessary; it's the mechanics of how to handle the attempted ambush that's lacking.

Similar arguments might be made about animated objects. They have a "false appearance", but not stealth. In a room with a dozen suits of armor, how do you determine which one (if any) is the animated armor? Rather than the armor making a stealth check, it might be an investigation check to notice a disturbance in the layout, or some damaged carpet, or something like that.

These are situations where Perception vs Stealth is a stand-in for "How do the players determine that there's a threat, and where that threat is?" The problem is that there's no simple number that fixes it, and depending on Perception (and thus Stealth on the enemy's side) isn't always the right approach. But there are idiomatic circumstances that make sense to document and provide to the GM. "These are common elements and checks for handling an ambush by intelligent creatures." "These are common elements and checks for handling an ambush by non-intelligent creatures." "What circumstances are most likely to be used to augment certain skills, and how much benefit they provide." Etc.

The only areas in the DMG that seems to go into such details is the section on Wilderness Survival (p.109), and the section on Traps (p.120), where there's DCs for various types of hazards, and certain types of checks allowed for in the example traps. There's no analogous section in the MM. Both books mostly focus on charts and categories.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Penalties or bonuses are generally not used in 5e in favor of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. If someone is constantly using either there's a misconception going on.

Visual range is the typical factor in perception and the difficulty in seeing something doesn't need adding disadvantage or penalties. That's already done by the DM determining whether it's automatic, easy, moderate, hard, very hard, nearly impossible, or impossible to perceive something at that range. Adding a penalty is redundant after the DM already set the DC; it's part of the hassle that comes with DM empowerment. ;-)

Harder to do it when it's an opposed check over a static DC.

Various section mention it, however. For example low light imposes disadvantage. Heavy rain imposes disadvantage. Page 243 of the DMG expands on visibility and noticing other creatures. Every reference I find is stealth vs perception is in reference to encounter range. It's sneaking past someone or surprising someone. The intent seems to be to not make the check until that range.

The rule is both parties automatically notice each other if within sight or hearing range if neither is trying to be stealthy. If they are trying to be stealthy make the checks. Perception isn't x-ray vision and stealth requires a place to hide.

According to the rules, a Wood Elf can hide when lightly obscured or a Lightfoot Halfling can hide if only obscured by a creature one size larger than it. There is no level of obscure between light and heavy. Heavy gives total concealment and it takes a special feature to hide in anything less. Total concealment or darkness grants the blindness condition.

To hide, the character cannot be visible. Most characters cannot "hide in shadows" (dim light is considered lightly obscured). This is one of those things that errata was clear on the DM determining if the conditions exist to hide. An NPC could be in a watch tower overlooking an open field in broad daylight. He can see someone approaching for miles because there is no opportunity to make a stealth check in the first place. He cannot hear the PC but the PC has no place to hide. The PC is visible.

Stealth is more about being quite than not being seen. No one can see the PC anyway because it's a requirement to hide in the first place. Only 10th+ level rangers can hide without being obscured and that takes preparation and requires not moving.

I get the impression some of you are being too liberal with stealth. If someone is outside of earshot and heavily obscured no roll is necessary. Others are blind to the PC (per heavily obscured rules) and cannot hear a PC trying to be quiet at a distance. If the PC is not heavily obscured there is still no roll needed because it takes special abilities to hide at that point and the PC cannot do it. If the PC has a position that's lightly obscured and that ability to use it then make a normal roll.

Also remember that whatever is giving the heavily obscured position isn't necessarily mobile. If someone is hiding in some dense brush then moving out to the next patch of dense brush requires moving out into the open and giving up hiding if that area is under surveillance.

The way 5e portrays stealth is very much under the DM empowerment. It's generally the DM has described a place that suitable to hide, PC's hide there and wait for NPC's to move on and then quietly move to the next position when the coast is clear (no one is looking) and then hide again; or they move around quietly while out of sight so that they don't let on that they are creeping around in the dark.
Okay, so a long walk-through of the rules, but what is the relevance to the discussion at hand.

Do you think a monster described as lurky should have a good chance of successfully ambushing a party?
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I'm not saying that the monster stats don't need skill proficiencies. I'm saying that they don't need to shoulder all of the weight. Your example ambush creature doesn't need +12 to stealth; it only needs maybe +6 total (including stat), and another +5 from circumstance.

Having example circumstance modifiers in the book is fine, however. The point about needing more explicit detail in the book is valid. The MM stat blocks should be location agnostic, but creature behavior should give you more hints on how to actually use the creature, including the circumstances it might benefit from.

Taking an example... the Ankheg. CR2, and described as being "Lurkers in the earth", ambushing prey from where they're hidden, buried in the earth.

And they have 11 Dex and no stealth skill.

So how are you expected to interpret that? Adventurers might notice evidence of the ankheg's burrowing, but may not even know what it means (Nature check). Even if they do know what it means, they don't automatically know where the ankheg is located, if it's even still in the area. Does the ankheg need to make a Stealth check? How do you determine what that is? What is it that the adventurers might notice on a Perception check? How difficult is it?

This is a creature where the circumstances about how it operates definitely needs more mechanical detail, while simply slapping on a Stealth skill likely wouldn't be appropriate. The ankheg doesn't have "Stealth", it has "circumstances it makes use of that give it stealth".

If I were to try to lay out the mechanics, I'd consider:
  1. Passive perception against DC ~14 to notice the burrow trails. Not to notice their existence, which is pretty much guaranteed, but to notice them as significant. Unlikely to fail.
  2. Nature check against DC 13 for anyone paying attention to recognize this as the remnants of a burrowing creature. DC 15 might indicate that the area is of a type favored by ankhegs (plus some details about them). Might give disadvantage to urban-focused characters.
  3. DC 15 Investigation to pinpoint an area that is the most likely location for the ankheg to set up its ambush.
  4. If they fail to discover the location of the ambush, and proceed across the ambush area, random check for which target is attacked, and surprise happens. Obviously if they discover it, they can deliberately trigger it, or bypass it altogether.

Ultimately, minimal use of Perception, and no Stealth. It's not an additional skill proficiency that's necessary; it's the mechanics of how to handle the attempted ambush that's lacking.

Similar arguments might be made about animated objects. They have a "false appearance", but not stealth. In a room with a dozen suits of armor, how do you determine which one (if any) is the animated armor? Rather than the armor making a stealth check, it might be an investigation check to notice a disturbance in the layout, or some damaged carpet, or something like that.

These are situations where Perception vs Stealth is a stand-in for "How do the players determine that there's a threat, and where that threat is?" The problem is that there's no simple number that fixes it, and depending on Perception (and thus Stealth on the enemy's side) isn't always the right approach. But there are idiomatic circumstances that make sense to document and provide to the GM. "These are common elements and checks for handling an ambush by intelligent creatures." "These are common elements and checks for handling an ambush by non-intelligent creatures." "What circumstances are most likely to be used to augment certain skills, and how much benefit they provide." Etc.

The only areas in the DMG that seems to go into such details is the section on Wilderness Survival (p.109), and the section on Traps (p.120), where there's DCs for various types of hazards, and certain types of checks allowed for in the example traps. There's no analogous section in the MM. Both books mostly focus on charts and categories.
Sorry but "+5 circumstance bonus" is your houserule.

I'd prefer it if the monster stats already from the get-go are competitive (in no need of adjustment), and the sad truth is that the MM stats simply aren't.
 

S'mon

Legend
Not sure what you're saying here.

The stealth and hiding rules in 5E are notoriously hazy, vague and wonky. There are no rules at all for giving out distance penalties to Perception.

So you'll have to excuse me if I want the number in the Monster Manual stat block to be the relevant figure.

Saying "circumstance bonuses need to come into play more" sounds sensible until you realize there are no rules for this. At most a vague go-ahead to slap disadvantage on somebody.

What this means to me is that "circumstance bonuses need to come into play more" in practical play translates to "it's up to the DM" which in turn translates to absolving the developers!

Why? Because if it doesn't matter if the monster's Stealth score is +3 or +9 (or -3) because the DM is expected to "make it right" through modifiers...

...then the only result is to free devs from the burden of doing their job and get it right themselves!

So no, you'll have to excuse me, but I'd much rather have workable numbers right out the gate than some nebulous "circumstance bonuses need to come into play more".

I pay WotC good money expecting them to do the work and give me the end numbers. Much better than hazy advice would be a stat line saying, for example:

Stealth +3 (+9 in swampy terrain)

...for some Bog Lurker thing. If you absolutely insist on "core" numbers being pathetically low. (Myself I see zero reason why a Lurker monster can't have its +9 everywhere to keep things simple)

I want the devs to commit to a number. That way we can hold them accountable when they get it wrong.

Just lazily making it up as you go and then expecting each DM to fix things at their table is NOT why I pay good money to a professional publisher.
Are you one of those darn Millennials who should Get Off Our (Gen-X) lawn?!


Pundit explains he made 5e to be edited by GMs, not to have 'official' 'rules'.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
DMG support me. 🙃

Okay, there's more to it than that listed there; but it's a good page for reference on detecting traps. It goes gives details on not needing rolls to detect or bypass traps when clear visual clues are there, for example. That's what I think of when I think of the older telegraphing styles -- it gives the trap away and therefore can enable bypassing it without a check IF it's visible. To me, telegraphing is leading into passing it without the check.

It took me a bit to find the rule on it. Kids and stuff. Guess they need to eat. ;-)
Yeah, I'm pretty familiar with that section on traps. As I've discussed on the forum before, there are several parts of the DMG that I find to be sloppily written and inconsistent with the language of the rules for passive checks or ability checks in general. This is one of them. It's honestly like someone else wrote them with a totally different understanding of how the game works that was particularly influenced by their experience with D&D 4e.

For example, in addition to what you point out, it has a line that says "A character actively looking for a trap can attempt a Wisdom (Perception) check against the trap's DC. But characters don't make checks. It says the same thing with regard to the character attempting an Intelligence (Arcana) check to detect or disarm a magical trap and in a couple other places I've noticed in the DMG. It's conflating actions and ability checks. Lost Mine of Phandelver has some similar language and I do wonder if there was some editing problem around that time of the game's production. Because if you read the D&D 4e Rules Compendium, the language in the skills section is very much like "Characters using the X skill..." Further, if you compare the rules for passive checks in D&D 5e and D&D 4e, the latter specifically says "When creatures aren't actively using a skill..." a passive check comes into play. D&D 5e says nothing like that in the rules for passive checks. So the section on traps in the DMG is a mess. I'm not surprise they revisited it in Xanathar's.

So, while yes it does say that in the DMG, and a game could be run just fine that way (though I argue you do lose something in the doing and in some ways it leads to "gotchas"), it's so inconsistent with the rules on passive checks in D&D 5e (and so consistent with the rules in D&D 4e) that I assume it's an error on the DMG writer's part.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
The conversation has focuded on Stealth and Perception. I think the OP's concern can extend to a range of skills. Athletics to resist a shove. Insight to detect a lie and Deception to pass one off. Survival to track.
I’ll say again that the first step in any of these contests is being overlooked. First the DM has to determine whether the outcome is uncertain. When shoving for example, if the creature is larger than the PC then I’ll either say that the attempt fails outright or give the creature advantage to resist the shove.

We can’t go straight to the dice to resolve every action (even in combat). Garbage in: Garbage out.
 

S'mon

Legend
Yeah, I'm pretty familiar with that section on traps. As I've discussed on the forum before, there are several parts of the DMG that I find to be sloppily written and inconsistent with the language of the rules for passive checks or ability checks in general. This is one of them. It's honestly like someone else wrote them with a totally different understanding of how the game works that was particularly influenced by their experience with D&D 4e.

For example, in addition to what you point out, it has a line that says "A character actively looking for a trap can attempt a Wisdom (Perception) check against the trap's DC. But characters don't make checks. It says the same thing with regard to the character attempting an Intelligence (Arcana) check to detect or disarm a magical trap and in a couple other places I've noticed in the DMG. It's conflating actions and ability checks. Lost Mine of Phandelver has some similar language and I do wonder if there was some editing problem around that time of the game's production. Because if you read the D&D 4e Rules Compendium, the language in the skills section is very much like "Characters using the X skill..." Further, if you compare the rules for passive checks in D&D 5e and D&D 4e, the latter specifically says "When creatures aren't actively using a skill..." a passive check comes into play. D&D 5e says nothing like that in the rules for passive checks. So the section on traps in the DMG is a mess. I'm not surprise they revisited it in Xanathar's.

So, while yes it does say that in the DMG, and a game could be run just fine that way (though I argue you do lose something in the doing and in some ways it leads to "gotchas"), it's so inconsistent with the rules on passive checks in D&D 5e (and so consistent with the rules in D&D 4e) that I assume it's an error on the DMG writer's part.
5e is all over the place. I find it part of the game's charm; it looks a bit like a full game, but really it encourages you to build your own game from the not-fully-consistent parts provided. I kinda like your iconoclastic take on it. :D
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
For example, in addition to what you point out, it has a line that says "A character actively looking for a trap can attempt a Wisdom (Perception) check against the trap's DC. But characters don't make checks. It says the same thing with regard to the character attempting an Intelligence (Arcana) check to detect or disarm a magical trap and in a couple other places I've noticed in the DMG. It's conflating actions and ability checks. Lost Mine of Phandelver has some similar language and I do wonder if there was some editing problem around that time of the game's production. Because if you read the D&D 4e Rules Compendium, the language in the skills section is very much like "Characters using the X skill..."
Yeah I really don’t like how they describe those challenges in the adventures as it actually encourages the “magic words” of skill declaration to resolve. Completely at odds with the way the game play is described in the 5e PHB.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yeah I really don’t like how they describe those challenges in the adventures as it actually encourages the “magic words” of skill declaration to resolve. Completely at odds with the way the game play is described in the 5e PHB.
Or maybe, just maybe, ya'll are reading too much into other sections. That telling the DM what you want to do by specifying what skill proficiencies are being used is a perfectly okay style whether you choose to follow it or not. That "goal and approach" is never actually spelled out in any official book while multiple styles and approaches to play is mentioned in a few places.

Bah. What am I saying. It's just the DMG.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Or maybe, just maybe, ya'll are reading too much into other sections. That telling the DM what you want to do by specifying what skill proficiencies are being used is a perfectly okay style whether you choose to follow it or not. That "goal and approach" is never actually spelled out in any official book while multiple styles and approaches to play is mentioned in a few places.

Bah. What am I saying. It's just the DMG.
Yeah, it's certainly clear that we'll never come to agreement, and yet we still periodically give it another go :). The good thing is we and our players enjoy our games and really that's all that matters. Just started a new group up and it's so fun to be back at presenting simple challenges, their characters are so nice and squishy :)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What a plain reading of the books looks like to me is that there is a baseline approach (call it "basic rules") and then there are a number of variants and options the DM can adopt according to the campaign, adventure, or group. I certainly tweak those dials quite a bit depending on what will best support what I'm going for. But the fundamentals ("How to Play," DM adjudication process, etc.) and core mechanics (attack rolls, ability checks including passive checks, saving throws, etc.) and the approach those things foster as a whole remain the same game to game, even if I've played with resting variants, encumbrance, feats or no feats, multiclassing or no multiclassing, and so on. The DM can then tack on rules additions or house rules of his or her own creation. I do that, too. What I don't do is argue that my rules additions or house rules are actually part of the rules. I'm happy to point out that they are not because that is the truth.

I didn't come to D&D 5e wanting to play the game as I play it now. I fought hard against it during the playtest for many of the reason my current detractors state. If those forums survived, you'd be able to read plenty of my posts pushing for D&D Next, as it was called at the time, to be more like D&D 4e which is the game I preferred and still enjoy. I lost those arguments. And I certainly don't run my D&D 4e games like I run my D&D 5e games for the reasons I have stated. I don't have any particular agenda or preference. I change up how I play and run games according to the game. I'm not going to play two different board games the same way either. Why would I do that in D&D? If I don't like the way a version of D&D plays, I'll just play the one I do like. That seems like the right approach to me.

But what a plain reading of the books also looks like is that there are what appear to be mistakes in it. This is self-evident simply because of the existence of errata. What is discussed in the DMG's trap section is inconsistent with the baseline approach I mention above and cannot in my view be considered an exception or example of specific overriding general. It isn't impossible to imagine a committee of writers, editors, and producers just not getting this right and then, given as I have stated that it will not ruin your game to play the game more like D&D 4e, not bothering to correct it as they might do with a magic item's text, poison details, or the like.

So, if someone wants to say that these inconsistencies in the trap section of the DMG somehow undermines my otherwise coherent positions on what the rules and game fundamentals say and what sorts of approaches naturally arise from those things, that's certainly their right. It just doesn't strike me as a serious argument and more of a defense of how they want to play, when nobody's attacking their way of playing to begin with. People play the game differently for any number of reasons. And that's okay.
 

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