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D&D 5E 5th ed D&D general impressions from a new player and DM.

TheSword

Legend
If the proposed approach and goal by the player meet the criteria, I'm calling for a check. How is that punishing them? It just reflects something about what they are doing in that scene is uncertain and there is a meaningful consequence for failure.
By adding risk to an action that wouldn’t otherwise have risk then you are punishing searching. I would assume that has a discouraging factor.

I’m not in favour of having wandering monsters appear as a consequence of a bad roll. I’m not a big fan of wandering monsters to be honest unless it’s justified with patrols and the like. I’ve always seen it as a fairly blunt instrument.
 

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One line of thought on this is that a roll that cannot succeed automatically fails.
I think we're pretty much on the same page here. But, to clarify, there is no roll if the proposed action has no chance of success. The proposed action just fails.

The meaningful consequence is uncertainty.
Sometimes it is - but I use this sparingly, most often with WIS(Insight) checks (e.g. "it's hard to read this NPC"). But I really prefer that something actually happens as a result of a failed check most of the time. "Nothing happens" or "you don't find anything" doesn't often really change the fiction.
 

By adding risk to an action that wouldn’t otherwise have risk then you are punishing searching. I would assume that has a discouraging factor.

I’m not in favour of having wandering monsters appear as a consequence of a bad roll. I’m not a big fan of wandering monsters to be honest unless it’s justified with patrols and the like. I’ve always seen it as a fairly blunt instrument.
As long as the players know ahead of time that there are wandering monsters or patrols, I'm not adding the risk that wasn't there. It was already there. If they want to take time to search in such an environment, they just need to do it efficiently (e.g. guidance, working together, inspiration, someone keeping close watch, whatever).
 

TheSword

Legend
As long as the players know ahead of time that there are wandering monsters or patrols, I'm not adding the risk that wasn't there. It was already there. If they want to take time to search in such an environment, they just need to do it efficiently (e.g. guidance, working together, inspiration, someone keeping close watch, whatever).
Sure. That’s fair enough. It just doesn’t help when there aren’t any wandering monsters and I don’t want my players to automatically know there’s a hidden drawer in the desk.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Sure. That’s fair enough. T just doesn’t help when there aren’t any wandering monsters and I don’t want my players to automatically know there’s a hidden drawer in the desk.
Sometimes not finding the secret drawer with the McGuffin is the penalty in and of itself; the McGuffin would have let them avoid some future obstacle or they missed out on some minor reward.

Failure is penalty enough without throwing an extra penalty on top.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Not sure if it’s come up. I do ask for a perception check if players search irrespective of opportunity for success. Otherwise players know if you ask them to roll, there is something to find. There are probably other examples.
This is a non-issue if you require the player to describe a goal and reasonably specific approach. If they do so and fail without a roll, they know only that their approach had no chance of succeeding in accomplishing their goal, not necessarily that no approach could have done. And as long as there is a cost for the attempt or consequence for failure, the players will always have to weigh their options before attempting another approach.
[Edit] I also ask for a stealth check if someone sneaks even if there is no one to hear them.
If the party is moving quietly as they explore, I believe a passive check is appropriate (representing the average result of the players continually attempting to move quietly over time). In more moment-to-moment resolution, I prefer to include in my description of the environment something that the players can respond to - they hear the guard’s footsteps coming down the hall, or hear a “what was that?” or some such - and then ask them what they do. But I don’t really see any situations where a (non-passive) stealth check would be required if there isn’t anything to perceive them.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Sometimes not finding the secret drawer with the McGuffin is the penalty in and of itself; the McGuffin would have let them avoid some future obstacle or they missed out on some minor reward.

Failure is penalty enough without throwing an extra penalty on top.
Thinking there might be something you missed and never really knowing is an even greater punishment 😂

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Sure. That’s fair enough. It just doesn’t help when there aren’t any wandering monsters and I don’t want my players to automatically know there’s a hidden drawer in the desk.
If there is no time pressure in a scene, the search can be auto-successful if the players describe with reasonable specificity that the PCs are thoroughly examining the desk. If they don't bother checking the desk carefully, they don't find the hidden drawer. That's a judgement call for the DM to make. It doesn't require phantom rolls in another scene to make it possible. At least, not at my table.
 

TheSword

Legend
If there is no time pressure in a scene, the search can be auto-successful if the players describe with reasonable specificity that the PCs are thoroughly examining the desk. If they don't bother checking the desk carefully, they don't find the hidden drawer. That's a judgement call for the DM to make. It doesn't require phantom rolls in another scene to make it possible. At least, not a my table.
Sure. Different strokes for different folks.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
By adding risk to an action that wouldn’t otherwise have risk then you are punishing searching. I would assume that has a discouraging factor.
So don’t add risk to actions that wouldn’t otherwise have it. Call for checks when actions have risk, and don’t when they don’t.
I’m not in favour of having wandering monsters appear as a consequence of a bad roll. I’m not a big fan of wandering monsters to be honest unless it’s justified with patrols and the like. I’ve always seen it as a fairly blunt instrument.
Wandering monsters appear as a result of the passage of time. The passage of time is often a cost for attempting or failing certain actions. It’s not because you failed to pick the lock or whatever that the monster wandered by, it’s because the monster was wandering the hall, and you were still there trying to pick the lock when it did.

I can absolutely sympathize with not liking wandering monsters that spawn out of nowhere though. While I’m not particularly bothered by it, I totally understand why it bothers many people, and to those whom it does, I highly recommend using adversary rosters rather than keyed encounters. That way you can have patrols and other wandering monsters in the roster that you can pull from as needed.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
DMing 5E, I have on occasion had a player presume a roll was going to be called for, and roll, and then either A) announce the result or B) ask if they were supposed to roll, and then be disappointed that the good roll wasn't going to make a difference. I've never asked for a roll if a task was guaranteed success/failure.
A, occasionally ticks me off. I have an older player who does this occasionally.
 


For any new DMs out there, the DMG should be read according to your interests, not in order of page number!
Sure, but page count spent on one thing aren’t available for something else.

Specifically, page count spent on the region effects of a dozen planes isn’t available for a section on how to set up non-combat encounters that aren’t just roll 1d20 four times, or how to set up combat encounters that aren’t just 3 monster A appear, what do you do?
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
This is a non-issue if you require the player to describe a goal and reasonably specific approach. If they do so and fail without a roll, they know only that their approach had no chance of succeeding in accomplishing their goal, not necessarily that no approach could have done. And as long as there is a cost for the attempt or consequence for failure, the players will always have to weigh their options before attempting another approach.
Exactly. When someone says "I search the room," my first question is "for what?" They may respond "for traps, enemies, or anything that may look off," and I'll respond "How are you searching?"

If they refuse to move things aside or open stuff to check, they're probably not going to find anything since I already tell them what they see in the room. If something was off, unless its extremely subtle, they'll know.

Now, I will also have Passive Perception in this. If there's like a small bump under a rug, that's a Passive Perception as soon as they walk in the room. Then I tell them there's a bump under the rug. If their Passive Perception wasn't high enough to catch that, then they don't see it even if they "search the room" unless they specify that they check the rugs as well.

If they happen to lift the rug for no reason, they still also discover the hatch underneath because thats how life works. Maybe they wanted to take the rug or whatever but they get a little surprise just by chance.

Personally, I think thats an efficient way to play the game.
If the party is moving quietly as they explore, I believe a passive check is appropriate (representing the average result of the players continually attempting to move quietly over time). In more moment-to-moment resolution, I prefer to include in my description of the environment something that the players can respond to - they hear the guard’s footsteps coming down the hall, or hear a “what was that?” or some such - and then ask them what they do. But I don’t really see any situations where a (non-passive) stealth check would be required if there isn’t anything to perceive them.
I typically wait until they're near something before asking for stealth checks.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Sure, but page count spent on one thing aren’t available for something else.

Specifically, page count spent on the region effects of a dozen planes isn’t available for a section on how to set up non-combat encounters that aren’t just roll 1d20 four times, or how to set up combat encounters that aren’t just 3 monster A appear, what do you do?
The complaint I was addressing was the ordering of the content. Is the complaint rather (or also), what content made it into the book?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Exactly. When someone says "I search the room," my first question is "for what?" They may respond "for traps, enemies, or anything that may look off," and I'll respond "How are you searching?"

If they refuse to move things aside or open stuff to check, they're probably not going to find anything since I already tell them what they see in the room. If something was off, unless its extremely subtle, they'll know.

Now, I will also have Passive Perception in this. If there's like a small bump under a rug, that's a Passive Perception as soon as they walk in the room. Then I tell them there's a bump under the rug. If their Passive Perception wasn't high enough to catch that, then they don't see it even if they "search the room" unless they specify that they check the rugs as well.

If they happen to lift the rug for no reason, they still also discover the hatch underneath because thats how life works. Maybe they wanted to take the rug or whatever but they get a little surprise just by chance.

Personally, I think thats an efficient way to play the game.

I typically wait until they're near something before asking for stealth checks.
[RANT (aka personal preference)]
I've always hated this. I don't want to do the equivalent of TOtM pixel bitching. Maybe the DM forgot to mention there was a rug, maybe I missed it when he was describing every bit of clutter and fluff or I as a player didn't think to look under it because I'm not there and I'm not the one doing the searching.

I would hate a game where I have to go into detail about how I'm carefully searching every drawer in the dresser you may or may not have mentioned in your description of the room (seriously, how detailed are your descriptions?).

Then, how the ** am I supposed to know specifically what I'm searching for? I'm searching for anything that might be useful or valuable, what the ** else would I be looking for?
[/RANT]

In my game I ask how thoroughly people are searching, everything from a quick once-over to tossing the place leaving obvious traces that the room has been searched along with a general idea of how long it's going to take to do those things. If they want to do a thorough search I may also ask for some other checks if they're trying to be careful.

It's the PCs searching the room, not the players. I'll give them perception and investigation checks as appropriate basing DC on how thoroughly they're searching.
 

I hear you about the DMG. I honestly can’t imagine how it was decided that the FIRST thing a new DM would want to learn is cosmologies and how to create planar adventures.

"Traps? When would a DM ever want to put traps in a dungeon? We don't really need mechanics for that, do we? Fine, here's a single table...now, on to those 25 pages on the multiverse!" There are actually a surprising number of charts in the DMG that would theoretically be useful if it were at all possible to find them on the spur of the moment. Did you know there is chart for tracking DC based on surface? I was today years old when I found it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
[RANT (aka personal preference)]
I've always hated this. I don't want to do the equivalent of TOtM pixel bitching.
It isn’t pixel bitching.
Maybe the DM forgot to mention there was a rug, maybe I missed it when he was describing every bit of clutter and fluff or I as a player didn't think to look under it because I'm not there and I'm not the one doing the searching.
Encouraging the DM to be economical with their description and the player to be attentive to it are advantages of this approach.
I would hate a game where I have to go into detail about how I'm carefully searching every drawer in the dresser you may or may not have mentioned in your description of the room (seriously, how detailed are your descriptions?).
“I thoroughly search the dresser” is plenty of detail. Remember, reasonable specificity is all that’s needed.
Then, how the ** am I supposed to know specifically what I'm searching for? I'm searching for anything that might be useful or valuable, what the ** else would I be looking for?
And that’s a reasonably specific statement of your goal.

With one simple sentence: “I thoroughly search the dresser for anything useful or valuable,” you’ve clearly communicated a goal and approach with a reasonable degree of specificity. I would have enough information there to resolve that action.
In my game I ask how thoroughly people are searching, everything from a quick once-over to tossing the place leaving obvious traces that the room has been searched along with a general idea of how long it's going to take to do those things. If they want to do a thorough search I may also ask for some other checks if they're trying to be careful.
Cool. Glad that works for you.
It's the PCs searching the room, not the players. I'll give them perception and investigation checks as appropriate basing DC on how thoroughly they're searching.
To paraphrase Gygax, the players are making believe they are the characters. Accordingly, my preference is that they make decisions as their characters would, which includes where and how to search and for what. If your preference is to abstract that process into a single check with varying degrees of thoroughness, great! I hope you and your players have fun doing it that way.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It isn’t pixel bitching.

Encouraging the DM to be economical with their description and the player to be attentive to it are advantages of this approach.

“I thoroughly search the dresser” is plenty of detail. Remember, reasonable specificity is all that’s needed.

And that’s a reasonably specific statement of your goal.

With one simple sentence: “I thoroughly search the dresser for anything useful or valuable,” you’ve clearly communicated a goal and approach with a reasonable degree of specificity. I would have enough information there to resolve that action.

Cool. Glad that works for you.

To paraphrase Gygax, the players are making believe they are the characters. Accordingly, my preference is that they make decisions as their characters would, which includes where and how to search and for what. If your preference is to abstract that process into a single check with varying degrees of thoroughness, great! I hope you and your players have fun doing it that way.
Looking out at the room I'm in, I'm sitting at a table with a pile of papers, there's a puzzle box, another large flat square box and what looks to be a notebook on some kind of stand. To one side of the room there are chairs in a circle, a curio cabinet filled with knick-knacks, and a circle of chairs with a table in the middle. The table has two layers with various books, papers and miscellaneous items on it. Between the chairs are small end tables with drawers. Along one wall is a kitchen with ... well you get the idea.

So how do I describe where I'm searching? Do I have to start with the kitchen table? With the pile of papers? The notebook? The puzzle box or the large square box (it holds puzzles in progress because cats). That's just the kitchen table. Do I describe searching each of the 4 end tables? The curio cabinet? The table? All the pictures on the wall? Oh, did I forget to mention those, what about the clock on the mantle?

Okay that was exciting. But wait! I haven't even gotten started on the kitchen, what do you mean you don't search the freezer I forgot to mention?

I see no value in saying "I'm searching the dresser". If there's a dresser in the room and I'm doing a thorough search, of course I'll search the dresser. I don't see why going through a checklist of every object and potential hiding place described adds any value.

I mean, you do you. I'd rather give the players an overview, get a general idea of their approach and then focus in on things that matter. So I'd describe a cluttered great room with kitchen table, chairs around a table, a kitchen. If doing a quick search being careful not to disturb anything you'll notice something laying out. Maybe with a decent perception check you'll notice the trap door in the floor for the electrical outlets. If doing a thorough search, it's going to take a while because it's a big room with a lot of potential hiding places. But then I'll do a mini "skill challenge" that focuses on searching the couch cushions with a chance to notice the hidden trap and so on. Basically give flavor for the room, but only focus on details and actions that matter.

Unless your PCs only ever have to search small barren rooms, specifying exactly what their search and how would be tedious at best, boring at worst for me.

P.S. Just to be clear: I'm not the messy one but I've given up.
 

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