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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

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Interesting point: if the player's score is lower than the character's score, asking for a specific approach borders on unfair.
Yah. If a 15 year old city kid decides to play a ranger, you shouldn't expect the *player* to know proper approaches to how to acquire food or shelter, or follow tracks. The game very explicitly works to help you play characters who know and do things you, the player, cannot. Expecting player understanding of the character's domains of knowledge is not fair.

While I wouldn't accept "I'm rolling Survival to find out more about the tracks," I would accept "I look at the tracks to get more information."
People are so... unforgiving. Really.

Take that 15 year old kid. How is it *really* different to say, "My sheet says I know about Survival, and I'd like to use that knowledge to acquire shelter in these woods," and "I'd like to roll Survival to find out more about the tracks"?

I mean, yeah, asking for a skill check is more metagamey. We can encourage description of in-game approach, sure. But to outright not accept a basic, relevant request seems... a bit dogmatic, doesn't it?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Interesting point: if the player's score is lower than the character's score, asking for a specific approach borders on unfair.
This is an age-old disagreement, and not one likely to be settled here and now, but very likely to lead to over a hundred pages of argument if we continue to pursue it.

While I wouldn't accept "I'm rolling Survival to find out more about the tracks," I would accept "I look at the tracks to get more information."
Agreed.

I was thinking that it's clearly an Intelligence check to use tracking training to learn about tracks, and then I saw the discussion about what actions are involved. So I'm picturing two characters looking at the same tracks:

The Genius gathers all the data he can about the tracks, with actions, before making an educated guess - Intelligence.

The Wise Woman uses some folk tales to guess what local creatures meet the general appearance of the tracks, more glancing around than acting, and probably notices something not available through induction, due to sheer - Wisdom.
So, this analysis seems to be based on interpreting the abilities by the English meanings of their names. However, if we look at what D&D 5e has to say about what the abilities are each used for, we might come to different conclusions about which check to call for to resolve which approach.

Under “Using Each Ability,” the PHB says this about Intelligence:
dndbeyond said:
Intelligence measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall, and the ability to reason. (...) An Intelligence check comes into play when you need to draw on logic, education, memory, or deductive reasoning.


And this about Wisdom:
dndbeyond said:
Wisdom reflects how attuned you are to the world around you and represents perceptiveness and intuition. (...) A Wisdom check might reflect an effort to read body language, understand someone’s feelings, notice things about The Environment, or care for an injured person.


I would say that gathering data about the tracks would fall under “noticing things about the environment”, and comparing the tracks to your memory of folk tales would fall under “accuracy of recall.” So, personally, I would adjudicate these two approaches the exact opposite way you would.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Yah. If a 15 year old city kid decides to play a ranger, you shouldn't expect the *player* to know proper approaches to how to acquire food or shelter, or follow tracks. The game very explicitly works to help you play characters who know and do things you, the player, cannot. Expecting player understanding of the character's domains of knowledge is not fair.



People are so... unforgiving. Really.

Take that 15 year old kid. How is it *really* different to say, "My sheet says I know about Survival, and I'd like to use that knowledge to acquire shelter in these woods," and "I'd like to roll Survival to find out more about the tracks"?

I mean, yeah, asking for a skill check is more metagamey. We can encourage description of in-game approach, sure. But to outright not accept a basic, relevant request seems... a bit dogmatic, doesn't it?
The post wherein [MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] decides to continue to rely on his assumptions rather than what people actually say about hiw they play.

I play with people that have no idea how to do many of the things their characters do, and yet we don't have your fears as problems when coming up with approaches. Maybe you should actually think it through trying to see how it could work well rarher than assume you know it sucks?
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
The action is the character recalling their knowledge and experience for help in interpreting the tracks. Yes, they're not moving their body, but that doesn't mean they're not doing something. And by describing their examination in such terms, connecting their characters experience to the task at hand, it clearly communicates to the DM that their character knows what they're doing and should either get the information they need, or at least get some boost to any check that might be called.
Thanks. I have 5ekyu on ignore, so I can't respond. You got it in one.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The post wherein [MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] decides to continue to rely on his assumptions rather than what people actually say about hiw they play.
Um, no.

I was responding directly to what DM Mike said. In the first bit we are agreeing (and I am merely elucidating with an example). In the second, I am directly responding to how he says he plays.

So, really, you are 100% dead wrong - I am having a discussion with someone that seems to me 100% grounded in our play experiences.

Please don't come to me 100% dead wrong, proclaiming I am making assumptions when I'm not. It is... really rude.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
If you want to stick to "actual rules", then only the Ranger class has any mention of being able to do anything remotely like what the OP wants. No one else could even do it, even with the Survival skill since that only allows a character to track in the PHB. Of course, anything else the DM wants a skill to do is entirely up to the DM, but that makes it a house-ruling either way, not an "actual rule." ;)
This kind of position generally irritates me. 5e is designed to facilitate rulings rather than fuss too much about RAW vs house rules. That may make for a lot of table variation, but that's fine as far as I'm concerned. As long as the DM isn't giving away a benefit that's reliably better than the ranger's, everything should be fine.

For the OP, I'd rely on a Wisdom (Survival) check for most of it. If multiple PCs are looking into it and have complimentary skills here - such as one with a good Wisdom (Survival) and one with good Intelligence (Nature), I'd have them make a check for both. I'd be setting the DCs based on the type of creature, how common it is, how big it is, what kind of injury, and what sort of numbers are involved. If it's reasonably common, type will be Easy, bleeding or significant mobility injury Moderate, number of creatures (if more than just 1 or 2) Hard. The ranger - he's going to auto-succeed at most of that in his home terrain type.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
People are so... unforgiving. Really.

Take that 15 year old kid. How is it *really* different to say, "My sheet says I know about Survival, and I'd like to use that knowledge to acquire shelter in these woods," and "I'd like to roll Survival to find out more about the tracks"?

I mean, yeah, asking for a skill check is more metagamey. We can encourage description of in-game approach, sure. But to outright not accept a basic, relevant request seems... a bit dogmatic, doesn't it?
I would accept either, but I would encourage a new player in particular to not talk about the sheet and talk about their character instead. So instead of, "My sheet says..." I'd encourage them to say "I've got decent survival skills, and I'd like to use those to acquire shelter..."

But yeah, different people play with different levels of comfort in their role personification. And none of that is going to disqualify them from doing stuff.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Um, no.

I was responding directly to what DM Mike said. In the first bit we are agreeing (and I am merely elucidating with an example). In the second, I am directly responding to how he says he plays.
Sorry, but how is this a defense against mischaracterizing a playstyle? I mean, if this is generally applicable, all manner of things can be said to other people while avoiding the actual content being dismissive if others (and incorrect).
[Quite]
So, really, you are 100% dead wrong - I am having a discussion with someone that seems to me 100% grounded in our play experiences. [/quote]
I don't doubt you have play experiences. You don't have play experiences using goal and approach constructively, though, yet you're making claims against that method. I can say thus because there are criticisms you can make, but they aren't the one your naking. You've subbed in bad DMs, pixel bitching, and degenerate play and are criticizing that but calling it goal and approach. If anyone is wrong here, it's your assumptions. Which have been directly refuted already in this thread. Those refutations getting no response until you found another poster to let you reiterate your refuted statements and claim it's a different conversation.
Please don't come to me 100% dead wrong, proclaiming I am making assumptions when I'm not. It is... really rude.
Is it as rude as you blatant mischaracterizations of my playstyle? Your specific assumptions have already been addressed by more than me, yet you repeated them. Now you're setting up using the mod hat to shut down conversation because I point out your bad assumptions again. Seen it before.

Here's the your core oroblem assumption:

That you need to have any expertuse in the subject to properly form an approach.

This is false because the ask is for what your character does in the fiction, not a real procedure. "I recall my training" is usually sufficient for the OP, although what training would be relevant.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
The reality is I don't know what I would call for until I'm in the moment, but here is my thought process on reading about it right now.

Multiple checks to determine multiple things.

If the player states something like "I examine the tracks and try to determine type of creature made them" that to me implies that the character is comparing the tracks to some learned knowledge so Intelligence (Nature) check.

I examine the tracks and try to determine how many there are: This seems to me comparing them to each other in the moment looking for differences rather than recalling info so Wisdom (Survival). Though determining type of creature like the above example could give this role advantage by knowing something like the average herd size for the known creature.

I examine the tracks and try to determine if any are injured: This seems like a basic survival skill. Knowing which is injured is hugely important to being successful in primitive hunting (though less so in modern hunting). Wisdom (Survival) I might let medicine apply, and would probably grant advantage again, if creature type was determined like in the first example.
 

Jer

Explorer
The reality is I don't know what I would call for until I'm in the moment, but here is my thought process on reading about it right now.
Honestly this is my answer. There isn't enough information for me to know what I would do.

For example - is this a "clue" that the adventure needs the players to have in order to keep moving? Will the game grind to a dead stop if someone doesn't figure this out? Then they're going to figure it out and we'll need to work out a justification for it. (My usual tactic on this would be to find out what the "investigating" PC has for proficiencies, have them roll the most applicable one that they're proficient in, and on a failure they just get the minimum amount of info needed to keep the game going. On a success they get some extra info on top of that, more or less depending on how much they had to stretch to find a relevant proficiency - and yeah, I will let them pull a "hey Bob, come over here and look at these tracks" to pull in a character with a more relevant proficiency instead of making the roll themselves if that's how they want to play it.)

On the flip side - is this something that makes no difference at all to the adventure and the player is just scrounging for clues? Then I'll let them roll either Survival or Nature (whichever they think benefits them more) and give them some info on a success and nothing on a failure. (Typically I know which players at my table play the "amazing detective" archetype regardless of what game we play and are going to want to search every single nook and cranny and/or investigate every bit of color I throw into a scene, so I'll throw some things in to make sure they get their fun out of Batmanning up the scene because it makes it fun for them).

In between - if it's information that it doesn't matter if they know it or not but that will put them in some kind of better strategic or tactical position or potentially open up a new avenue for investigation if they know it, then I'll make a judgment call on the skill check based on how the narrative is going at the time. In this case it would probably be one of Survival, Nature or Investigate, but a lot will depend on the context leading up to the check and the background of the character making the ask. A character with a background as an wilderness type is going to maybe get to choose which one would be best for them to use, while a character who has always been played as a city-kid who only knows about the wilderness from the books they've read is probably going to get a strict Survival check to figure it out, maybe with disadvantage.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The reality is I don't know what I would call for until I'm in the moment...
Honestly this is my answer. There isn't enough information for me to know what I would do.
Agreed. Arriving at an answer requires adding assumptions to both the context of the situation and the player's action declaration which are outside the scope of the original post. I think what a lot of DMs do in play is they jump to the mechanics before considering the situation and the character's efforts in relation to that situation and, based on that, whether the mechanics are even needed to narrate the result of the adventurers' actions.

In the original post, we're essentially asked to assume that the player has made an action declaration that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure (otherwise there wouldn't be an ability check in the first place). Fair enough, that's workable as a frame for the question. But then, though we know what he or she wants to achieve, we don't actually know what the character is doing. Without that, even if we take it as a given that whatever it is calls for a check to resolve, we don't know what ability score to use or what skill proficiency. Thus, we need more information to avoid the DM making assumptions and effectively establishing for the player what the character is doing. For some DMs like me, that's a no-no. I want the need for assumptions like that to be minimized or eliminated and that's just a matter of the player adequately performing his or her role.
 

Satyrn

Villager
Interesting point: if the player's score is lower than the character's score, asking for a specific approach borders on unfair. While I wouldn't accept "I'm rolling Survival to find out more about the tracks," I would accept "I look at the tracks to get more information."

I was thinking that it's clearly an Intelligence check to use tracking training to learn about tracks, and then I saw the discussion about what actions are involved. So I'm picturing two characters looking at the same tracks:

The Genius gathers all the data he can about the tracks, with actions, before making an educated guess - Intelligence.

The Wise Woman uses some folk tales to guess what local creatures meet the general appearance of the tracks, more glancing around than acting, and probably notices something not available through induction, due to sheer - Wisdom.
While the Fool pulls out the Big Book of Wilde Beasts from his bag of holding and leafs through the pages until he finds an illustration that matches the tracks - automatic success.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
While the Fool pulls out the Big Book of Wilde Beasts from his bag of holding and leafs through the pages until he finds an illustration that matches the tracks - automatic success.
"Gronk like pretty pictures. Hey, ground look like pictures!"
 

5ekyu

Explorer
Honestly this is my answer. There isn't enough information for me to know what I would do.

For example - is this a "clue" that the adventure needs the players to have in order to keep moving? Will the game grind to a dead stop if someone doesn't figure this out? Then they're going to figure it out and we'll need to work out a justification for it. (My usual tactic on this would be to find out what the "investigating" PC has for proficiencies, have them roll the most applicable one that they're proficient in, and on a failure they just get the minimum amount of info needed to keep the game going. On a success they get some extra info on top of that, more or less depending on how much they had to stretch to find a relevant proficiency - and yeah, I will let them pull a "hey Bob, come over here and look at these tracks" to pull in a character with a more relevant proficiency instead of making the roll themselves if that's how they want to play it.)

On the flip side - is this something that makes no difference at all to the adventure and the player is just scrounging for clues? Then I'll let them roll either Survival or Nature (whichever they think benefits them more) and give them some info on a success and nothing on a failure. (Typically I know which players at my table play the "amazing detective" archetype regardless of what game we play and are going to want to search every single nook and cranny and/or investigate every bit of color I throw into a scene, so I'll throw some things in to make sure they get their fun out of Batmanning up the scene because it makes it fun for them).

In between - if it's information that it doesn't matter if they know it or not but that will put them in some kind of better strategic or tactical position or potentially open up a new avenue for investigation if they know it, then I'll make a judgment call on the skill check based on how the narrative is going at the time. In this case it would probably be one of Survival, Nature or Investigate, but a lot will depend on the context leading up to the check and the background of the character making the ask. A character with a background as an wilderness type is going to maybe get to choose which one would be best for them to use, while a character who has always been played as a city-kid who only knows about the wilderness from the books they've read is probably going to get a strict Survival check to figure it out, maybe with disadvantage.
Script driven resolution is definitely an approach with a lot of basis in the source material fictions, lore and movies. Or can lead to oddball cases - like not being able to use shuttlecraft if the script is about transporter accidents- but it is common across the fiction.

There are even games where that is the core mechanic. The "roll for..." is more determinative or authoring not explorative. The "investigation" check is not a roll to search for a clue that *is* there, but a roll to determine that there *is* a clue there.

Others boil it down even more, with even more explicit tokens to spend to make clues.

The downsides of SDR (to some) are its potential continuity issues and basically a lack of portability. Saying "depends on script" gives little to go on collaboratively.

Then again, I knew a d20 content guy who justified ignoring the actual show provided combat info by saying "really, that says nothing more than where they put the squib" when his game mechanics actually did not match the source.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
While the Fool pulls out the Big Book of Wilde Beasts from his bag of holding and leafs through the pages until he finds an illustration that matches the tracks - automatic success.
Sometimes the "Peterson's Field Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors" comes in handy. I still have my copy...
 

jgsugden

Explorer
I'd let the player tell me what skill they want to use and then set a DC based upon the suitability. My answer would also change based upon the skill used.

Survival (Widsom): 15 - "You are able to identify the tracks as canine. There are quite a few - less than 10 animals, but more than 5. One appears to be much larger than the other. They look like they were moving swiftly."

Perception: (Wisdom): 15 - "The tracks are small and have four pads each. It looks like the creatures walked on four legs. One is larger than the others. There are more than a few of them."

Investigation: (Intelligence): 15 - "The tracks you spotted were made in soft mud and show evidence of the mud being flun far and wide ... these creatures were moving fast. You identify 7 different distinct sets of quadruped tracks, meaning there were 7 creatures. One of them was decidedly larger, roughly double the length, height and width of the others."

Nature: (Intelligence): 15 = "The tracks are wolf tracks. The wolves of this region are often led by a larger dire wolf that assumes the Alpha role in the pack. That appears to be the case here."

Survival: (Intelligence): 15 = "You see that they're wolf tracks and think back upon the tracking lessons you were given as a youth. Wolves often hunt in packs, and that is what it seems you're tracking. When a wolf flings mud, it usually means it was moving fast, and these wolves flung mud far and wide. The size of the paw prints is indicative of size of the animal, and amongst the normal size wolf paws you find a paw print that belongs to a much larger wolf."

My goal is to allow players to suggest any reasonable skill and then to flavor the inforation they obtain by the skill they use.

I also allow Athletics or Acrobatics to be used alternatively in a lot of situations. For example, if you're chasing someone and they leap across a narrow river, I might allow Athletics to hurl the river or acrobatics to take many small jumps across slippery rocks to reach the far side.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Take that 15 year old kid. How is it *really* different to say, "My sheet says I know about Survival, and I'd like to use that knowledge to acquire shelter in these woods," and "I'd like to roll Survival to find out more about the tracks"?

I mean, yeah, asking for a skill check is more metagamey. We can encourage description of in-game approach, sure. But to outright not accept a basic, relevant request seems... a bit dogmatic, doesn't it?
Thanks...for answering for me? Correctly, as it happens (it's more metagamey). I don't believe that I said I'd reject the request "outright" though...

Right, these are two different approaches to achieve the same goal and both can be described by the players as they say what they want to do which makes it easier for the DM to determine whether there's an ability check and which ability and skill proficiency applies. Neither of these approaches is the "one true solution" in a way that promotes the "pixel bitching" that some posters insist is going on. A DM like me does not want to guess what the character is actually doing, perhaps getting both the imagined task and desired ability check and skill proficiency wrong, because the player failed to adequately describe what he or she wanted to do. We can ask more of our players in this regard by setting the expectation that we need to know what they hope to accomplish and what they're doing to achieve it through a reasonably specific action declaration.
If all this boils down to, "hey player, role-play a little," then I would use it to follow my player's effective request: "I'm going to roll a die and you're going to give me what I want."

Honestly this is my answer. There isn't enough information for me to know what I would do.
While the Fool pulls out the Big Book of Wilde Beasts from his bag of holding and leafs through the pages until he finds an illustration that matches the tracks - automatic success.
I was going to mention the information problem, but I thought I'd roll with it. Satyrn - good snark, but given the information we have ("some tracks"), the Fool's book had better be pretty dog-gone big!
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Honestly, I'd allow any of these checks, possibly with slightly different results on a success. It's much more important to me to keep the game moving than to dither about which ability/skill to use. Just use whichever skill makes your character look coolest and let's get on with the game.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If all this boils down to, "hey player, role-play a little," then I would use it to follow my player's effective request: "I'm going to roll a die and you're going to give me what I want."
I'm not entirely sure what you mean here and I'm taking a stab at it, so please let me know if what I say below doesn't follow and I'll amend.

I think that roleplaying is just playing a role by determining what the character does, thinks, and says, as per the rules regarding the same. But in the process of that roleplaying, the player has a responsibility in the game itself to describe what he or she wants to do. If the player does not adequately describe what he or she wants to do, this makes the DM's responsibility of adjudication and narration harder or even impossible (at least without the DM making assumptions about the character and effectively establishing for the player what the character is doing).

This appears to be in evidence in the example proposed in this thread: Many people reach different conclusions as to what ability check and skill proficiency to call for because they have to fill in the blanks on what the player declared. If the player is reasonably specific, we might all be in more agreement about how to resolve the proposed tasks via the rules, barring different rules interpretations. This is, in part, why I think it's important to ask more of players who are lacking in this department. Just as I as DM have the responsibility to describe the environment by laying out the basic scope of options that present themselves and faithfully narrating the results of the adventurers' actions based on what they decide they want to do in the context of that environment, the players have a responsibility to be reasonably specific when describing what they want to do and I'm going to hold them to it. It's not about "roleplay better" per se.
 

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