Abilities....Which check would you use?

Which check would you use?

  • Wisdom (Survival)

    Votes: 18 40.0%
  • Wisdom (Perception)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Intelligence (Investigation)

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Intelligence (Nature)

    Votes: 10 22.2%
  • A combination of the above

    Votes: 16 35.6%
  • None of the above

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    45

Springheel

Visitor
A character (not a ranger) has found some animal tracks and wants to try and determine information from them, including what type of creature made them, how many there are, and whether any are injured. What kind of check would you have them make?

1. Wisdom (Survival)

2. Wisdom (Perception)

3. Intelligence (Investigation)

4. Intelligence (Nature)

5. Some other combination, like Intelligence (Survival) or Wisdom (Investigation)?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What I see here are goals (what the PC hopes to achieve) but not approaches (how the PC tries to achieve the goal). The approaches will determine the uncertainty as to the outcome, whether there's a meaningful consequence for failure and, if both of those elements are present, what ability check and skill proficiency is called for and the DC for the roll.

So my vote is "DM needs more information."
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What I see here are goals (what the PC hopes to achieve) but not approaches (how the PC tries to achieve the goal).
It isn't like this is a modern forensics game, where the PC can choose to take pictures of image processing, or take samples to the lab for analysis for approaches. Nor are players likely to be forensic scientists, or even people who actually have the skills in question, that would be able to name approaches would actually be fruitful. This is, honestly, a major problem with the "goal and approach" way of dealing with things - if the *player* doesn't have domain knowledge, they can't always guess what approaches are reasonable. This can lead to, "I beat the ground with my club until the very Earth itself tells me what I want to know to avoid the pain," frustration approach.

I think we can presume, "I examine the tracks," to be the basic approach, and all those skills are applicable to that approach.

So, in answer to that - you could determine which skill the PC is best at, use that one, and give them information that's appropriate to that skill. Perception and Investigation, for example, probably won't tell you specifically what kind of animal it is.
 

Mistwell

Hero
what type of creature made them
Intelligence (Nature). This is firmly in the "recalling specific information" which is an intelligence check, the Nature skill specifically says, "ability to recall lore about...animals."

How many there are
Wisdom (Survival) - Survival skill specifically lists detecting the track, and if you're counting creatures, you're basically asking the PC to detect each set of tracks, which is all survival.

whether any are injured
Wisdom (Medicine) - one of the few actual listed uses of medicine concerns determining injury, so it seems like this would be applicable to the tracks itself. However, if the question is "do you spot blood" it might instead be covered by Survival or investigation.
 
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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I'd have Survival give the most information at the lowest DC possible. If Survival isn't good at reading tracks, it really doesn't deserve a place on the skill list.

I'd let Nature tell you what kind of animal it is, but not really follow the tracks. Investigation could give some clues as to how old they are and a general sense of what kind of creature it is, but would be a much higher DC to follow them.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It isn't like this is a modern forensics game, where the PC can choose to take pictures of image processing, or take samples to the lab for analysis for approaches. Nor are players likely to be forensic scientists, or even people who actually have the skills in question, that would be able to name approaches would actually be fruitful. This is, honestly, a major problem with the "goal and approach" way of dealing with things - if the *player* doesn't have domain knowledge, they can't always guess what approaches are reasonable. This can lead to, "I beat the ground with my club until the very Earth itself tells me what I want to know to avoid the pain," frustration approach.

I think we can presume, "I examine the tracks," to be the basic approach, and all those skills are applicable to that approach.

So, in answer to that - you could determine which skill the PC is best at, use that one, and give them information that's appropriate to that skill. Perception and Investigation, for example, probably won't
tell you specifically what kind of animal it is.
While it's commonly put forward as a "major problem with the 'goal and approach' way," precise knowledge of how to perform the task isn't and has never been required of players to state an approach to the goal, at least at my table. I definitely need something more than what's been offered in this example to even determine if a check is needed, leave alone what ability score and skill proficiency applies or what the DC may be. That information comes from the player who is solely in charge of what the character tries to achieve and how the character sets about that effort.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
It isn't like this is a modern forensics game, where the PC can choose to take pictures of image processing, or take samples to the lab for analysis for approaches. Nor are players likely to be forensic scientists, or even people who actually have the skills in question, that would be able to name approaches would actually be fruitful. This is, honestly, a major problem with the "goal and approach" way of dealing with things - if the *player* doesn't have domain knowledge, they can't always guess what approaches are reasonable. This can lead to, "I beat the ground with my club until the very Earth itself tells me what I want to know to avoid the pain," frustration approach.

I think we can presume, "I examine the tracks," to be the basic approach, and all those skills are applicable to that approach.

So, in answer to that - you could determine which skill the PC is best at, use that one, and give them information that's appropriate to that skill. Perception and Investigation, for example, probably won't tell you specifically what kind of animal it is.
While I agree that “examination” is a sufficient approach, I’ve never yet had a player try to beat the ground with a club to force a confession out of it.

I’m trying to write a joke response about Internet forums and beating dead horses, but you can all just presume it’s funny.

—————-
But in response to the OP - I would not ask for a check if the character had training in Nature. Some questions (whether any of the passing creatures were infirmed) might also qualify for automatic answers if the character were trained in the specific field they’re asking about (medicine, in this example).

Moreover, if time were not a factor and there were no other costs or consequences, that would be another very good reason for a “No check” ruling to apply.

So overall, my vote is leaning toward N/A. If there are costs, consequences, and uncertainties, the check I’d ask for would be dependent on the approach (and “I examine the tracks and I’m looking for x, y, and z” would be sufficiently descriptive - no need to call in CSI or try to intimidate the nearby foliage).
 

Springheel

Visitor
What I see here are goals (what the PC hopes to achieve) but not approaches (how the PC tries to achieve the goal).
If I asked my players, "HOW do you try to figure out how many creatures there are," I assume I'd get a blank look and something like, "I look closely at the tracks...?" What else would you expect from yours?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
If I asked my players, "HOW do you try to figure out how many creatures there are," I assume I'd get a blank look and something like, "I look closely at the tracks...?" What else would you expect from yours?
And would that be sufficient to identify the tracks?

The point, if oblique, is that if the player says how they might identify the tracks, the question of what ability should resolve itself. I don't see past relying on knowledge of tracks or experience with tracking, both of which go to Intelligence for me. But mabye they want to beat the ground with a club? Why should I guess?
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
While I agree that “examination” is a sufficient approach, I’ve never yet had a player try to beat the ground with a club to force a confession out of it.
That's because Comprehension Through Pugilation isn't a listed skill in 5E. It should be.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If I asked my players, "HOW do you try to figure out how many creatures there are," I assume I'd get a blank look and something like, "I look closely at the tracks...?" What else would you expect from yours?
As a DM, I'd expect them to make an action declaration that minimizes the amount of assumptions the DM has to make to adjudicate to a result. I don't have a particular solution in mind or magic words the player has to say in my notes. But I'm going to need more than "I look at them closely..." All that suggests to me as DM is that it's probably a Wisdom check, assuming there's a check at all, since Wisdom checks are used to resolve uncertainty as to the outcome of tasks related to noticing things about the environment when there's a meaningful consequence for failure. What skill proficiency applies is not clear to me. We're left to assume. Some DMs are just fine with that, but I'm not. I'm going to ask for a bit more of the players here.

As a player with a higher-Int character like a wizard, I might say something about counting the tracks that I can find in the area and doing some mental math to come up with a range of possibilities. And I have no special knowledge of tracking creatures. That's just what I think could work and sounds like something a wizard might do.

Just as the DM describing the environment by laying out the basic scope of options that present themselves makes it easier for the players to act, players being reasonably specific about how they set about tasks makes it easier for the DM to adjudicate fairly without making too many assumptions about what the character is doing. Or at least that's been my experience.
 

aco175

Adventurer
I would go with Survival. This is what the ranger would use, so the others should use it. The players may be able to come up with some other ideas that I may go with, but generally this is Survival with a DC around 14. This would give some basic info like how many and where they are heading. Now if the PC beat a DC of something higher like 20 I would give more info and if there was a ranger, I may give the basic for free and more info with the normal check.
 
Intelligence.

The character has already found the tracks, so Wisdom is not appropriate.

For an appropriate skill, I'd allow Nature or Investigation. I'm not sure about Survival (the idea is that Survival is focused more on techniques and practices to stay alive than lore about the outdoors).
 

TiwazTyrsfist

Adventurer
A character (not a ranger) has found some animal tracks and wants to try and determine information from them, including what type of creature made them, how many there are, and whether any are injured. What kind of check would you have them make?
I feel like this is requesting TOO MUCH information for one check, so I went choice 5, a combo.

Specifically, Nature(int) would tell you what Type of Animal (or other nature relevant creature) the tracks are from.
Survival(wis) would tell you how many creatures, and might on a high enough check tell you if any are injured.

I would allow other skills (like investigate or perception) to determine parts as well with decent justification, but I just feel like these THREE questions is to much to get on a single roll with a single skill.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I agree with Iserith in principle, though for me personally, “looking closely at them” is enough information about the approach for me to make a call. I’d say looking closely at the tracks has a reasonable chance of succeeding at determining what kind of creature left them and how many there were had a reasonable chance of failing to. Assuming time is a limited resource, I’d call for a Wisdom check, and if the player asked if their Survival or Nature proficiency was applicable, I’d say yes. Depending on what creature actually did leave them, I might also say yes to Animal Handling, if it was an animal the character has experience handling.

As for whether any of the creatures that left the tracks are injured, that’s a bit more complicated. If there are clear visible signs of injury among the tracks, such as blood, there’s no reasonable chance of failure. Looking at the tracks closely would tell them that the creature(s) that left them was/were injured. If there are visible signs that are not obvious, such as one of the sets of tracks having a limping gait, then I’d probably ask for a separate check for that. Still wisdom, probably with a higher DC, and I would probably say yes to Medicine or Survival proficiency, possibly Animal Handling if the injured creature is an animal the character has handled, and no to Nature.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The point, if oblique, is that if the player says how they might identify the tracks, the question of what ability should resolve itself.
In cases where the character needs to take a physical action, yes. In cases like this, where what's called for is largely happening in the character's head, the result is apt to be ambiguous. If we are too picky about naming approaches, we risk the, "Well, *how* do you search the room? What *exactly* do you look at?" that was a hallmark of previous editions, and more recently replaced with just "I search" without need for any particularly stated approach.

The character is really scouring the inside of their head for anything they know that applies. So, give them the benefit of the doubt, and apply the best option. If that gives them something that bears closer examination with one particular skill, they can follow on with that.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
A character (not a ranger) has found some animal tracks and wants to try and determine information from them, including what type of creature made them, how many there are, and whether any are injured. What kind of check would you have them make?

1. Wisdom (Survival)

2. Wisdom (Perception)

3. Intelligence (Investigation)

4. Intelligence (Nature)

5. Some other combination, like Intelligence (Survival) or Wisdom (Investigation)?
Wisdom survival for most.

For do the tracks and trail show signs of injury, Int Investigation.

If there was an effort made to hide the tracks, Wisdom Perception.

Any of these could reach " no roll needed" if they were easy enough and the PC skilled enough.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
In cases where the character needs to take a physical action, yes. In cases like this, where what's called for is largely happening in the character's head, the result is apt to be ambiguous. If we are too picky about naming approaches, we risk the, "Well, *how* do you search the room? What *exactly* do you look at?" that was a hallmark of previous editions, and more recently replaced with just "I search" without need for any particularly stated approach.

The character is really scouring the inside of their head for anything they know that applies. So, give them the benefit of the doubt, and apply the best option. If that gives them something that bears closer examination with one particular skill, they can follow on with that.
Careful, "scouring" could imply a strength based check.

:)
 
And would that be sufficient to identify the tracks?
Probably, but not definitely. After all, we are looking at character knowledge, not player knowledge. I never penalize a player for having no clue how to do something that their character may not even have to think about before doing. So unless the player happens to also be a hunter or a boy/girl scout, you are not going to get a detailed answer from them. This is where the player making a good background for their character comes into play also. This kind of thing can give modifiers or advantage or disadvantage on the skill check too.
 

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