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5E A Reliable Talent for Expert Stealth

Fenris-77

Explorer
I don't think expertise ruins the game precisely, but I do think it's throws a mighty big wrench into third pillar play. Expertise in Deception, for example, can be really difficult to deal with as a DM in an intrigue game. Not always, but often enough that I feel like it's an issue. I would also prefer a "yes and.." approach to additional success to just stacking mods to the sky.
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
Let them be super sneaky. It's their thing.

Besides, these checks are available to the entire party at level 3 with Pass Without Trace.
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
I don't think expertise ruins the game precisely, but I do think it's throws a mighty big wrench into third pillar play. Expertise in Deception, for example, can be really difficult to deal with as a DM in an intrigue game. Not always, but often enough that I feel like it's an issue. I would also prefer a "yes and.." approach to additional success to just stacking mods to the sky.
The social skills aren't mind control and players only make ability checks when the DM deems it necessary due to an uncertain outcome.

The main antagonists of an intrigue campaign probably know a lot of what is going on so they're not going to be deceived.

The best liar in the world can't convince me that the Earth is flat for example.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
The social skills aren't mind control and players only make ability checks when the DM deems it necessary due to an uncertain outcome.
The difficulty is that when there is an uncertain outcome , thus a roll, one PC is auto succeeding, essentially, while the rest of the party would be appropriately challenged. It's hard to plan for both. I'm going to call this the Glitterboy conundrum.

I also think you might be underestimating how often Deception could be rolled in an intrigue campaign, and how flexible the possibilities are about what can be accomplished with a good untruth. Some of the best lies work with what someone knows and believes. Creative PCs aren't telling people the earth is flat.
 

iserith

Explorer
The difficulty is that when there is an uncertain outcome , thus a roll, one PC is auto succeeding, essentially, while the rest of the party would be appropriately challenged. It's hard to plan for both. I'm going to call this the Glitterboy conundrum.
Why do you think that is a problem?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Why do you think that is a problem?
Because you can't challenge the party, only that particular character? The whole 3rd pillar is bare enough of nuance that this is, or often can be, a pretty significant barrier to party balance.

Deception in the hands of a creative player can be especially troublesome when the mod is high enough.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
Once again - when a hero focuses that much on a skill, it is expected they will almost always succeed. It is superhuman. It is amazing. It is what makes them a hero. Expertise does exactly what it is supposed to do.

Don't fear their excellence. Celebrate it. Make the players feel awesome for being so great at (skill). That is what they envisioned when they made the skill system work as it does.
 

iserith

Explorer
Because you can't challenge the party, only that particular character? The whole 3rd pillar is bare enough of nuance that this is, or often can be, a pretty significant barrier to party balance.

Deception in the hands of a creative player can be especially troublesome when the mod is high enough.
"Party balance" in what sense? Why is it bad that this character can do a thing well and others can't? Wouldn't it be the case that this expert won't be able to do other things as well in this or the other two pillars?

Also, how is "deception in the hands of a creative player" troublesome? Setting aside that the DM decides whether there is a roll or not in the first place, what's the actual trouble here? That the NPCs get messed with? Because, if so, that's kind of what the characters do, right?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I don't disagree in principle. However, the more common that skill is in the context of a particular game, the more difficult it is to accomplish that celebration without having the character in question doing too much stuff solo. This isn't an issue for a stealthy rogue in a standard campaign, it works fine. But with other skills in other kinds of campaigns it can be a problem.
 

iserith

Explorer
I don't disagree in principle. However, the more common that skill is in the context of a particular game, the more difficult it is to accomplish that celebration without having the character in question doing too much stuff solo. This isn't an issue for a stealthy rogue in a standard campaign, it works fine. But with other skills in other kinds of campaigns it can be a problem.
Really that just argues for the DM to balance the pillars of the game as much as he or she can in my view and to incentivize play to that end via XP and treasure. If the DM is leaning too heavily on any one pillar or incentivizing particular play to the exclusion of others, it's reasonable behavior for players to create and advance characters with particular skill proficiencies and other features and, within the context of that specific pillar, the rogue is going to shine in certain of those areas due to Expertise.

So this seems like a DM issue rather than a mechanics issue to me.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
"Party balance" in what sense? Why is it bad that this character can do a thing well and others can't? Wouldn't it be the case that this expert won't be able to do other things as well in this or the other two pillars?

Also, how is "deception in the hands of a creative player" troublesome? Setting aside that the DM decides whether there is a roll or not in the first place, what's the actual trouble here? That the NPCs get messed with? Because, if so, that's kind of what the characters do, right?
Your missing my particular context. In an intrigue campaign, you're putting additional emphasis on skills, and you are going to tend to have parties with more homogeneous skills sets as a whole (deception, investigation, stealth etc). That one character isn't niche anymore, and his massive skill check takes away any real interest other party members are going to have in using that skill. It also makes it difficult to build narrative tension by providing appropriate challenges.

Example one: Lets say the party is going to infiltrate the Duke's ball in disguise. I can't provide an NPC with appropriate skill levels for opposed rolls. Either our superhero is always good and everyone else has an appropriately tense time, or that NPC essentially auto-spots anyone but the superhero. This has several obvious side effects on a campaign, none of which I enjoy.

Example two: The party is approached by the city watch and decides to talk their way out of trouble. Several characters have good CHA and deception, but the only character who is ever actually going to make that roll is the one with expertise. There's just too big a gap for anything else to make sense, even though it really cuts in on the fun of players who built solid non-rogue characters with the right skill set for the campaign. There isn't even a compelling reason to use a spell for the same job, since the spell is a finite resource and the skill isn't

The troublesome part comes back to mods and the comparison to the rest of the party, plus the nature of opposed rolls in the system. A creative player will essentially auto deceive anyone he meets, and you can't challenge them without making it impossible for the rest of the party to succeed at the same task. Anyway, I get that my problems with this are kind of niche based on the kind of campaign I'm using for context.
 

iserith

Explorer
Your missing my particular context. In an intrigue campaign, you're putting additional emphasis on skills, and you are going to tend to have parties with more homogeneous skills sets as a whole (deception, investigation, stealth etc). That one character isn't niche anymore, and his massive skill check takes away any real interest other party members are going to have in using that skill. It also makes it difficult to build narrative tension by providing appropriate challenges.

Example one: Lets say the party is going to infiltrate the Duke's ball in disguise. I can't provide an NPC with appropriate skill levels for opposed rolls. Either our superhero is always good and everyone else has an appropriately tense time, or that NPC essentially auto-spots anyone but the superhero. This has several obvious side effects on a campaign, none of which I enjoy.

Example two: The party is approached by the city watch and decides to talk their way out of trouble. Several characters have good CHA and deception, but the only character who is ever actually going to make that roll is the one with expertise. There's just too big a gap for anything else to make sense, even though it really cuts in on the fun of players who built solid non-rogue characters with the right skill set for the campaign. There isn't even a compelling reason to use a spell for the same job, since the spell is a finite resource and the skill isn't

The troublesome part comes back to mods and the comparison to the rest of the party, plus the nature of opposed rolls in the system. A creative player will essentially auto deceive anyone he meets, and you can't challenge them without making it impossible for the rest of the party to succeed at the same task. Anyway, I get that my problems with this are kind of niche based on the kind of campaign I'm using for context.
It just sounds to me like the argument is not so much "Expertise is problematic..." but "Expertise is problematic when I chop away two of the three pillars underpinning the game and things get wobbly." Which doesn't so much sound like a problem with Expertise per se, but the choices the DM has made. I think we agree here?

Also there does seem to be an underlying assumption in your post that players are pushing "skill checks" here, even though I know you know the DM decides whether there is a roll or not. There is no "auto-deceive" or "auto-spot" except as the DM decides. And "opposed rolls" are only as frequent as the DM makes them since contests only come up in certain, specific circumstances. Further, the DM is always in control of the spotlight, so in a situation like Example 2, the DM need only have the city watch point to someone other than the rogue and make their demand of that character and no others. The rogue trying to jump in at that point might just make matters worse.

The social interaction rules in the DMG may also be helpful here and suggest to me that multiple characters must be involved in different ways to achieve success. It's not just the one Deception check to achieve the goal. It's a number of things going on at once before we even get to that point (again, assuming there's an ability check at all) and the rogue may not be in the position to both suss out the NPC's agenda, ideal, bond, or flaw while keeping the NPC's attention during the conversation. That may need to fall on someone else.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
One thing that every DM should do, IMO, is give every single NPC in the game at least 4 total trained skills, and most of them racial traits and a feat.

Even the trash mobs. You don't have to decide ahead of time. and don't give the trash mobs top tier feats.

But a scout style NPC of appropriate challenge rating to be expected to challenge the rogue, with racial mods applied, Observant, and expertise in Perception, can probably get numbers that challenge the rogue. Also, some of those guys could have something like Reliable Talent. With 1-4 skills trained, it's not nearly as powerful as what the rogue has, but it's still useful for this stuff.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
No, we don't exactly agree, although I do agree with most of your post. My issue, at least with your characterization of my post: An intrigue campaign doesn't have to cut away two pillars and that wasn't my plan, and the third pillar is wobbly already. The under developed nature of social interaction is really the bigger picture problem here, and the rules in the DMG to flesh it out ... aren't good.

On the issue of skill checks, why don't we just assume I'm not a mook and move on from there. :D Obviously there aren't auto successes, but when your mod is +11 and everyone else has +5 or whatever there are some things that come mighty close. Or at least close enough that there's never any doubt about who makes the roll when more than one PC has the skill and there's a roll to be made. I have the same tools at my disposal as you to control the spotlight, but there's a point at which it feels contrived and obvious that the rogue is getting skipped on a regular basis. In a more meta way, I also find it annoying to have to plan that much just to deal with one characters outlandish mod in one skill.

To be clear, my issues are part of the design process, not an ongoing campaign. I'm attempting to proactively fix some issues that I know from experience will come up. Its not a table management issue at all though.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all over ways to involve the whole party in different aspects of a task to achieve group success. I'm writing some rules overlays for social interaction specifically help accomplish this. And yet at every turn I'm running numbers, and thinking yeah, that works really well ... damn ... expertise mucks it up I'm not saying that expertise and reliable talent make what I want to do impossible, I'm saying they have significant potential to make what I want to do less fun for several someones at the table on a regular basis.
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
The difficulty is that when there is an uncertain outcome , thus a roll, one PC is auto succeeding, essentially, while the rest of the party would be appropriately challenged. It's hard to plan for both. I'm going to call this the Glitterboy conundrum.

I also think you might be underestimating how often Deception could be rolled in an intrigue campaign, and how flexible the possibilities are about what can be accomplished with a good untruth. Some of the best lies work with what someone knows and believes. Creative PCs aren't telling people the earth is flat.
The problem here is playing a game for intrigue in a game not designed for it.

If succeeding in deception needs to be challenging as a core part of the campaign then you need to make house rules for it. D&D is just not designed to be that kind of game.

There are many things that other characters can do without checks because it is their thing.

Let Rogues have their thing too. A Rogue specializing in Deception should be very good at it. This is heroic fantasy we're talking about not a noir game.
 

Leatherhead

Adventurer
I was actually just thinking about starting a post about whether or not expertise ruins the game.
Here is a change for you to consider:
The Expertise Bonus now replaces (instead of stacks with) the Ability Score Bonus.
Aside from smoothing the math out, the major gameplay change with this is that Expertise becomes more of something that shores up a weakness instead of something that you double-down on in order to become a super-specialist. And if for some reason you a player still wanted to be an expert in something that they had a good stat in, it's ok, because Expertise is still better than not being an expert in the long run (a +6 bonus instead of +5, baring magic items)
 

Quartz

Explorer
I'm curious to hear from other D&D5 dungeon masters how you challenge high-level rogues in terms of going about undetected.
Remember that the PC only gets to roll if the result is in doubt. Yes, you might be Batman with +20 to your Stealth (+6 base Proficiency, +1 to Proficiency from Ioun stone, 22 Dex boosted by Tome) and Reliable Talent, for a minimum result of 30 but if there's nowhere to hide then you don't get to hide.

And nerf Expertise to +2. Which still gives Batman a minimum result of 25.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
Have not read whole thread do likely repeating, the goal of expertise snd reliable is to allow the tier-3 rogue to be able to so excel at routine tasks that it's not a challenge. As game evolves, challenges of certain types fall away as the capabilities increase. A 20' pit might be eortidome at lower levels yoo, but by 11th, not so much.

But I would take issue with this
"To be clear, /negating/ this advantage would be easy. Denying the rogue a place to hide is not a solution. "

In those case, stealth, it seems to me like it is. Mainly, because this is not a GM deciding to setup a stealth buster, but, simply put, it's something done in game by NPCs. By 11th level, the threats of infiltration have to account for not just rogue stealth but invisibility, gas form etc and of thosexsteslth is entirely manageable by a simple well light empty hallway and a couple guards - not to mention magic Mouths and alarm sprlls etc.

Stealth depends on cover, obscuring opportunities, poor lighting or a variety of in-game-world manageable by NPCs options in many cases.

Obviously there are quite a few cases where this proficiency-plus-two-class-features ability will best typical threats, but that is imo appropriate.

Honestly, stealth is to me not one of the better expertise options.
 
No, we don't exactly agree, although I do agree with most of your post. My issue, at least with your characterization of my post: An intrigue campaign doesn't have to cut away two pillars and that wasn't my plan, and the third pillar is wobbly already. The under developed nature of social interaction is really the bigger picture problem here, and the rules in the DMG to flesh it out ... aren't good.

On the issue of skill checks, why don't we just assume I'm not a mook and move on from there. :D Obviously there aren't auto successes, but when your mod is +11 and everyone else has +5 or whatever there are some things that come mighty close. Or at least close enough that there's never any doubt about who makes the roll when more than one PC has the skill and there's a roll to be made. I have the same tools at my disposal as you to control the spotlight, but there's a point at which it feels contrived and obvious that the rogue is getting skipped on a regular basis. In a more meta way, I also find it annoying to have to plan that much just to deal with one characters outlandish mod in one skill.

To be clear, my issues are part of the design process, not an ongoing campaign. I'm attempting to proactively fix some issues that I know from experience will come up. Its not a table management issue at all though.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all over ways to involve the whole party in different aspects of a task to achieve group success. I'm writing some rules overlays for social interaction specifically help accomplish this. And yet at every turn I'm running numbers, and thinking yeah, that works really well ... damn ... expertise mucks it up I'm not saying that expertise and reliable talent make what I want to do impossible, I'm saying they have significant potential to make what I want to do less fun for several someones at the table on a regular basis.
Do your other players just not interact in social situations then? I am playing a character that doesn't have any social skills, but that doesn't mean I just stop doing everything in roleplaying/social encounters. I still talk and interact, which means sometimes I am the one that ends up making a skill check. It almost sounds like (at least from your post) either only that person even attempts to lie, or whenever anyone lies, that character is the one to roll.
In a social intrigue game, I also wouldn't expect everyone to always be together all the time. If they are infiltrating a Duke's ball like in one of your previous posts, are they just walking around in a group the whole time? Have NPCs approach other characters or just refuse to speak to/around certain characters.
And lying isn't always the best approach. Even if someone believes the lie, they may find out the truth later. That can have big consequences for the party. If they are trying to lie about something to a Duke or leader of a theives guild or some other person that might have their own spies, maybe he buys the lie for now, but is going to have someone immediately check up on that. Suspicious people will always double check info or assume someone is lying even if it was very convincing.
 

iserith

Explorer
No, we don't exactly agree, although I do agree with most of your post. My issue, at least with your characterization of my post: An intrigue campaign doesn't have to cut away two pillars and that wasn't my plan, and the third pillar is wobbly already. The under developed nature of social interaction is really the bigger picture problem here, and the rules in the DMG to flesh it out ... aren't good.
I think they're okay for D&D standards. But almost nobody uses them in my experience because I don't think many DMs actually read the DMG.

On the issue of skill checks, why don't we just assume I'm not a mook and move on from there. :D Obviously there aren't auto successes, but when your mod is +11 and everyone else has +5 or whatever there are some things that come mighty close. Or at least close enough that there's never any doubt about who makes the roll when more than one PC has the skill and there's a roll to be made. I have the same tools at my disposal as you to control the spotlight, but there's a point at which it feels contrived and obvious that the rogue is getting skipped on a regular basis. In a more meta way, I also find it annoying to have to plan that much just to deal with one characters outlandish mod in one skill.
The rogue isn't being skipped and it isn't really planned though - at least no more than combat where everyone gets a turn. If that doesn't bother you (does it?), why should what amounts to taking turns in a social interaction challenge be bothersome? If a character lacked spotlight in the previous combat challenge, for example, I'm most certainly going to shine that spotlight on the character in this scene. That may or may not be the rogue.

Also, let's not forget that Inspiration is useful for effectively closing the gap somewhat between that +11 and +5. Other resources may also come into play which allow characters with lower bonuses compete with the expert rogue and participate effectively in the challenge. So even if the DM shines the spotlight on the character that isn't very effective in social interaction challenges, he or she has a shot, provided the DC isn't through the roof.
 

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