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5E A Reliable Talent for Expert Stealth

DM Dave1

Adventurer
The high-level rogue doesn't have to sneak through a dark dungeon past a sleepy guard. The high-level rogue has to sneak past a dragon, in broad daylight, at a full tilt run.

I was actually just thinking about starting a post about whether or not expertise ruins the game. Higher numbers just become auto success, without pushing the DCs past the point that non-specialists can't make it. Other systems have features that let you take a penalty to your check, or voluntarily raise the difficulty to do something they couldn't otherwise do before. Taking a -5 penalty to stealth at full speed, or a -10 penalty to stealth while dashing and moving. A penalty to stealth in light obscurement/dim light. An even higher penalty to stealth in bright light. This would push the specialist to have to try hard, don't put them up against things a non-specialist can achieve.
While you can certainly house rule the -5/-10 situational penalties to stealth, the game does have mechanics to handle these situations at the discretion of the DM. Want to try to be stealthy while moving at full speed or while only lightly obscured? The DM can choose to impose disadvantage on the roll. Want to try to be stealthy while dashing or in bright light? The DM might deem that an auto-fail. Of course, this is all within the context of letting the player know the consequences of their action before resolving it (their PC does have Expertise in Stealth after all so they would likely have a good idea about the odds). In any case, the DM can also choose to set a higher DC if the circumstances warrant it.


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.
Exactly.
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
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)
so the unique perk of having expertise (basically rogue/bard or feat) is the same or worse until level 17? that does not seem like a good solution to me whatsoever
I am not sure why are some people so bent of denying unique perks of classes, especially the martial ones, that already need all the help they can get outside of combat pillars
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
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.
No, no they don't.:p The problem is that 'ok for D&D standards' is still pretty abysmal generally. What we have is a group of unevenly turn out ideas that are kinda sorta loosely connected because they are about the same thing (social interaction). What we don't have is any kind of actual system with rules that are designed to work together, and that's what I'd like, so I'm going to bang it out myself. I don't think there's any reason that D&D can't have a useful and serviceable system for social interaction either - just saying "the game isn't designed for it" is lazy thinking IMO (replying to someone else upstream). The basic tools are there for sure, and the rules in the DMG are where I'm starting too - there are some good ideas there buried under the dreck.

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.
Combat is different precisely because everyone does get a turn and the system supports the participation of the whole party. Even if you didn't land the mortal blow, you got your licks in. Social interaction doesn't currently work like that, but I think it should. Part of what I'm working on is ways to do that, both in smaller scale encounters and especially is larger scale social encounters (the Dukes ball etc), and also to spread some of the love outside the bounds of skills controlled by CHA.

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.
Yeah, that's a a solid idea. I really don't like the Inspiration system as written, but there are versions of it, especially ones where players are leveraging backgrounds and character traits for a bonus specifically related to that thing, that could be very useful. The rogue could do that too of course, but happily his mod is already so high that it almost doesn't matter.

Also, to be index some of my earlier posts, I'm really not worried about being fair to the character who isn't good at social interaction. That character has other skills and no expectation of great social interaction success. In an intrigue campaign though, most of the characters will have been purposely designed to have some SIP functionality via skills and spells. The spell thing still works fine, but things get dicey with the skills. When the rogue drops expertise on his the SIP skills his skill level outmatches the rest of the classes (except the Bard, obviously) in a way that isn't, for example, reflected in the combat system. The rogue in combat, compared to the fighter, is not the equivalent of the fighter compared to the rogue in social interaction - and that example encapsulates the core of my issues with D&Ds SIP rules.
 
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WaterRabbit

Villager
<snip>The basic tools are there for sure, and the rules in the DMG are where I'm starting too - there are some good ideas there buried under the dreck.<snip>
While overly engineered for a 5e game, you might look at Pathfinder Ultimate Intrigue which has rules for verbal dueling and the like. You might get some inspiration from those.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I am currently reading through a very long list of other systems looking for inspiration, but I'll add that to the list, as pathfinder wasn't something I was going to look at. A lot of my current inspiration comes from BitD and PbtA, with some other bits and bobs from all over. I am aiming for 'not overly engineered' and I have found that the trick isn't coming up with rules, but in making those rules light, fast and functional as a 5E overlay.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
[MENTION=6993955]Fenris-77[/MENTION]
"Combat is different precisely because everyone does get a turn and the system supports the participation of the whole party. Even if you didn't land the mortal blow, you got your licks in. Social interaction doesn't currently work like that, but I think it should. Part of what I'm working on is ways to do that, both in smaller scale encounters and especially is larger scale social encounters (the Dukes ball etc), and also to spread some of the love outside the bounds of skills controlled by CHA."

While the social systems dont force round by round operation character by character, they * do* work to involve everyone or at least most.

But, first, the social challenge/pillar needs the GM to provide a more than big simple challenge. Not unlike a simple wolf-at-door combat might not require any significant contribution except for the slugger, a social encounter thst only needs a good Charisma check is just as likely to have some "sit this out."

But if you look at the social challenge as a multi-fsceted thing you wind up needing

Charisma strength for influencing others.
Wisdom strength for penetrating deceptions and getting clues about others
Intelligence strength for investigations to gain keys for influencing others.

For typical game PC design, that's often two to three of your PCs playing major roles, getting "their loicks in" - more if any of these lead to more direct challenges.

Like a combat encounter, a GM can make it out as something where everybody matters, or not. Without encounter dedign at all, either might be leading to cases where only one or two matter.

But game system-wise no one character is driven to design being good at all three of those and its likely they are spread across three PCs.

That's even ignoring the working together help options.
 

Xeviat

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.
I actually find it to be bad design that the social skills aren't "mind control". We accept a saving throw against a mind control spell, but we won't accept an insight check against a deception or persuasion check?

I actually had this discussion with my players a while back, and they agreed to play along with NPC social skills checks. We only used it a little (because one of the players was playing a court advisor wizard), but it did create some fun situations where the players out of character had good reason to suspect one of the advisors, but the advisor was so charming that they were convinced to back off for the time being. They then had to pursue different avenues.

You wouldn't tell the Enchanter, no I don't have to roll a will save for this NPC because reasons, would you?
 

Xeviat

Explorer

I made this suggestion in my other thread. I'm super in love with it. A barbarian with expertise in Intimidation, or a rogue with expertise on Athletics, allows them to have a skill without having the related high ability score. It's genius!
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
No, no they don't.:p The problem is that 'ok for D&D standards' is still pretty abysmal generally. What we have is a group of unevenly turn out ideas that are kinda sorta loosely connected because they are about the same thing (social interaction). What we don't have is any kind of actual system with rules that are designed to work together, and that's what I'd like, so I'm going to bang it out myself. I don't think there's any reason that D&D can't have a useful and serviceable system for social interaction either - just saying "the game isn't designed for it" is lazy thinking IMO (replying to someone else upstream). The basic tools are there for sure, and the rules in the DMG are where I'm starting too - there are some good ideas there buried under the dreck.
I use it and it works well enough. For those unfamiliar with it, it basically splits the challenge into what I call "The 'Tude," "The Chat," and "The Ask." In "The 'Tude," the DM frames the NPC's disposition toward the PCs and establishes the context of the challenge (what's at stake). This is also when players might try to have their characters recall lore about the NPC to garner useful information ahead of the interaction. Once that is clear, we move forward to "The Chat." This is when the NPC presents objections or obstacles to the PCs that they overcome as they move toward what they ultimately want from the NPC. Some PCs talk with the NPC and other PCs try to suss out agenda, ideal, bond, and flaw to give the talkers an advantage. The efficacy of "The Chat" temporarily adjusts the attitude of the NPC for better or worse. Once that is determined, we finally resolve "The Ask," when the PCs get to the point of what they want. The DC, if there is a roll, is set according to the risk to the NPC relative to their attitude.

Combat is different precisely because everyone does get a turn and the system supports the participation of the whole party. Even if you didn't land the mortal blow, you got your licks in. Social interaction doesn't currently work like that, but I think it should. Part of what I'm working on is ways to do that, both in smaller scale encounters and especially is larger scale social encounters (the Dukes ball etc), and also to spread some of the love outside the bounds of skills controlled by CHA.
Initiative is just formal spotlight control. The DM controls spotlight to ensure everyone participates more or less equally over the course of a session, adventure, or campaign. The DM need only have the NPC direct an objection or question to a specific PC rather than to nobody in particular.

Yeah, that's a a solid idea. I really don't like the Inspiration system as written, but there are versions of it, especially ones where players are leveraging backgrounds and character traits for a bonus specifically related to that thing, that could be very useful. The rogue could do that too of course, but happily his mod is already so high that it almost doesn't matter.
Yeah, the rogue is more likely to use Inspiration on an ability check with no skill proficiency or to offset disadvantage on an attack roll so as to get sneak attack. Also, here: The Case for Inspiration.

Also, to be index some of my earlier posts, I'm really not worried about being fair to the character who isn't good at social interaction. That character has other skills and no expectation of great social interaction success. In an intrigue campaign though, most of the characters will have been purposely designed to have some SIP functionality via skills and spells. The spell thing still works fine, but things get dicey with the skills. When the rogue drops expertise on his the SIP skills his skill level outmatches the rest of the classes (except the Bard, obviously) in a way that isn't, for example, reflected in the combat system. The rogue in combat, compared to the fighter, is not the equivalent of the fighter compared to the rogue in social interaction - and that example encapsulates the core of my issues with D&Ds SIP rules.
As I may have mentioned in our other conversation in the similar thread, I think this is less a mechanics problem and more a DM and player choice problem - the DM for focusing on one pillar more than another and the players for not collaborating on their character builds accordingly. Add to that poor spotlight management and not using the social interaction challenge structure provided and, sure, things may not work as well as one would hope. But I don't see this as the game's fault, though it doesn't appear you're necessarily asserting that anyway.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I actually find it to be bad design that the social skills aren't "mind control". We accept a saving throw against a mind control spell, but we won't accept an insight check against a deception or persuasion check?
Magic is the difference.

I actually had this discussion with my players a while back, and they agreed to play along with NPC social skills checks. We only used it a little (because one of the players was playing a court advisor wizard), but it did create some fun situations where the players out of character had good reason to suspect one of the advisors, but the advisor was so charming that they were convinced to back off for the time being. They then had to pursue different avenues.
House rules are fine, but the issue in this situation for me is that the players always determine how their characters think and what they do and say. That means there is never uncertainty as to the outcome of the NPC's attempt to persuade and thus no ability check. The outcome is whatever the player says it is.

You wouldn't tell the Enchanter, no I don't have to roll a will save for this NPC because reasons, would you?
I might, in some circumstances.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
House rules are fine, but the issue in this situation for me is that the players always determine how their characters think and what they do and say. That means there is never uncertainty as to the outcome of the NPC's attempt to persuade and thus no ability check.
What if there IS uncertainty, on the part of the player, as to what their character thinks and does and says?

In that situation, shouldn't the DM call for an ability check of some sort? It might be analogous to knowledge checks:
"I try to recall the lore about grungs..." = roll Intelligence (History or Nature) against a static DC
"I struggle with whether or not to take the grung's offer..." = roll Wisdom (Insight) against the grung's Charisma check


This is certainly how I run NPCs when I DM. If I'm certain what the NPC is going to do, then the PCs can't make a Charisma check to determine the outcome (this is how I interpret "Charisma is not mind control"). It's only when I'm uncertain what this particular NPC is going to do that I allow the check.

Why can't players be allowed to enjoy the same uncertainty as DMs, and let the dice decide?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What if there IS uncertainty, on the part of the player, as to what their character thinks and does and says?

In that situation, shouldn't the DM call for an ability check of some sort? It might be analogous to knowledge checks:
"I try to recall the lore about grungs..." = roll Intelligence (History or Nature) against a static DC
"I struggle with whether or not to take the grung's offer..." = roll Wisdom (Insight) against the grung's Charisma check


This is certainly how I run NPCs when I DM. If I'm certain what the NPC is going to do, then the PCs can't make a Charisma check to determine the outcome (this is how I interpret "Charisma is not mind control"). It's only when I'm uncertain what this particular NPC is going to do that I allow the check.

Why can't players be allowed to enjoy the same uncertainty as DMs, and let the dice decide?
Like I said, house rules are fine. Personally, I don't actually care how the player makes the decision in the face of the NPC's attempt to persuade (to continue with that example), but I'm not calling for a roll here as DM. That breaks the rule of players determining what their characters do. The player is free to roll a die to figure out what the character does if he or she wants. Or flip a coin. Or whatever. But leave me out of it.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
[MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] - if you think the social interaction rules in the DMG are fine and sufficient we'll just have to agree to disagree. You're going to put it down to issues of spotlight management and DM control, which, I'll admit, I find just a wee bit insulting given that you have no idea who I am or how I run my table, but again, fine, that's something else I will put down to differences in style and taste.

I have reasonable-to-good game design skills, and a more than passing familiarity with both 5E and other systems. The 5E SIP rules are under-written for what I want, and cause balance issues for the party in the kind of game I want to run. That's more in the way of fact than opinion. It's only fact for my game of course, not the system in general, nor anyone else's game necessarily. That said, if anyone else wants to suggest that it's my lack of rules knowledge or lack of table control that are the problem, feel free to message me, but's let not clutter up the thread with it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
@iserith - if you think the social interaction rules in the DMG are fine and sufficient we'll just have to agree to disagree. You're going to put it down to issues of spotlight management and DM control, which, I'll admit, I find just a wee bit insulting given that you have no idea who I am or how I run my table, but again, fine, that's something else I will put down to differences in style and taste.

I have reasonable-to-good game design skills, and a more than passing familiarity with both 5E and other systems. The 5E SIP rules are under-written for what I want, and cause balance issues for the party in the kind of game I want to run. That's more in the way of fact than opinion. It's only fact for my game of course, not the system in general, nor anyone else's game necessarily. That said, if anyone else wants to suggest that it's my lack of rules knowledge or lack of table control that are the problem, feel free to message me, but's let not clutter up the thread with it.
No insult is intended. Certain of your specific objections seem rooted in issues of spotlight management and other issues that are not the fault of the game. I make no judgment as to what you should or shouldn't do in your own game, only that some of your objections are easily solved without modifying the rules.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
No insult is intended. Certain of your specific objections seem rooted in issues of spotlight management and other issues that are not the fault of the game. I make no judgment as to what you should or shouldn't do in your own game, only that some of your objections are easily solved without modifying the rules.
Ok, cool. Lets call it some but not all of my problems then. That leaves us broadly on the same page and no one is upset. I can live with that.:cool:
 

tglassy

Explorer
Didn’t read this all.

Do you try to nerf the Paladin’s damage output when they use 2 Divine Smites after getting two Crits (Not impossible, my brothers Paladin has done it) in the same round against a fiend? That’s 40d8’s+10 if using a long sword. Anywhere from 50-250 damage.

Do you nerf the Assassin’s double critical, which can do the same amount of damage as the Paladin in one hit as long as it attacks first in a surprise round?

Do you nerf the Moon Druid who can Wild Shape every round as a bonus action and still cast spells?

Do you nerf the Wizard/Sorcerer/Bard/Arcane Cleric for getting access to Wish and only use it to cast ANY 8th lvl spell in the game?

Do you nerf the Fighter who gets 4 attacks with a +11 Attack at least, more with magic weapons, which can apply a magical weapon’s ability 4 times?

Higher lvl characters get amazing abilities, why is it that DMs feel they need to nerf skill checks? If they were a magic user, they could just cast any number of spells rather than hiding with an ungodly stealth check. Give them better challenges and let them shine at what they’re good at.
 

Sabathius42

Villager
Didn’t read this all.

Do you nerf the Fighter who gets 4 attacks with a +11 Attack at least, more with magic weapons, which can apply a magical weapon’s ability 4 times?
I'd flip your question back at you. Do you think it would be out-of-line-powerful if a 9th level fighter gained the ability to "treat every attack roll less than a 10 as a 10?" or if sorcerers gained a power that said "Treat opponents saving throw rolls of 10+ as if they rolled a 9 instead"?

If you had read the entire thread...the OP isn't complaining about high level rogues being too sneaky....the OP is saying that the mechanic of EXPERTISE allows character to break the BOUNDED ACCURACY design principle by reliably getting 20+ skill checks without expending some sort of resource to do so. There is a difference between saying high level characters can do some crazy things and saying high level characters can never fail at a basic class ability regardless of who they use it against.

DS
 

jgsugden

Explorer
Folks, the math is not hard. It is basic addition an subtraction. It was obvious to the designers that there a high level rogue with expertise would have a minimum check above 25...

It is an intentional design decision.

It is NOT a problem. It is not something you need to battle. It is one of the things that makes rogues (and bards) shine. It is one of the things that makes them special. They just win at their skills....
 

Flamestrike

Explorer
I'm curious to hear from other D&D5 dungeon masters how you challenge high-level rogues in terms of going about undetected.

Shorthand: With Reliable Talent and Expertise, an 11th level rogue can easily have a Stealth check result range of 23-33, which is far beyond the capacity of any passive Perception in the Monster Manual and really beyond the capacity of most Perception checks -- if the dungeon master permits a roll -- representing a 'nearly impossible' DC /on average/.

To be clear, /negating/ this advantage would be easy. Denying the rogue a place to hide is not a solution. I'm specifically interested in hearing about scenarios where palatable, credible circumstances were engineered to challenge a rogue with a Stealth check result in the high 20s.
I havent had an issue with it.

Even presuming a Dex 20/ Expertise/ +4 Prof Rogue, you're looking at DC 23.

They still need something to Hide behind (at this Level, most creatures have darkvision, tremorsense, truesight etc) AND the DM has to agree that the circumstances are appropriate for Hiding.

Example (Combat scenario):

DM: OK Rogue, you did 55 damage to the Balor. It screams in rage and stares right at you, intent on cutting you to ribbons! Do you want to do anything with your Bonus action?
Player: I move to the nearby pillar, and then I'll Hide behind it as a Bonus action using my Cunning action class feature.
DM: The Balor is watching you pretty closely. Your attempt fails/ You cant hide there.

That's a bit of an outlier (normally in the chaos of combat, hiding is totally appropriate as long as a creature isnt watching you closely... and watching you closely is hard to do when your Barbarian friend is trying to smash it's face in with an axe) but it's an important rule to remember.

'Hiding' isnt just button mashing in 5E. It requires a little bit of set up and/or context to be even possible in the first place.
 

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