D&D 5E Ability Check origins at your table

How are Ability Checks handled at your 5e table?

  • The DM gives the players checks when they ask to make them for their PCs

    Votes: 20 26.7%
  • The DM asks the players to make checks when PCs attempt certain actions in the fiction

    Votes: 64 85.3%
  • The players, when they feel it makes sense, announce a skill and roll dice, unbidden by the DM

    Votes: 11 14.7%
  • Other (explain below)

    Votes: 7 9.3%

Sure, but "I check the chest for traps" will lead to different results than "I check the fireplace".

Both are more specific than "I make another perception check" in a room described as having a bed, a closet, a fireplace, and a chest.
off the top of my head things I have said when looking into rooms

"toss it"
"Wait, can I check it for more details"
"Can I make a perception or insight check here?"
"We know the key is here somewhere, can I roll to find it"
"Hu... oh I mean Is this perception or investigate to look?"
"Can someone trained in perception go take a look?"
"What do you want me to do to search for the item?"

splitting out to check individual places like the chest, the fireplace and the bed are pretty rare, and are normally telegraphed by the DM that there need to be multi people checking or a complex/group check involved.

In fact as I prep to DM I have been working on how to telegraph that more and more.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
See that is the thing, as long as both the DM and the player understand why should it matter what words they use?
Use whatever words you and your DM are comfortable with.

I thought the whole point of the game, and what I was taught day 1 was this was not supposed to be true unless there was no way to avoid it.
It's a game. Your skill in the game and application thereof affects your character's chances of success.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
arguments like this,

Also, to be clear I am not arguing that my expectation of detailed interaction is better than just announcing skill checks. I am arguing against the (often seemingly willful) mischaracterizations of that descriptive style of play from a couple of the usual suspects when all I’ve tried to do (and @Swarmkeeper too I think) is explain how it works at our tables.
 

Oofta

Legend
Sure, but "I check the chest for traps" will lead to different results than "I check the fireplace".

Both are more specific than "I make another perception check" in a room described as having a bed, a closet, a fireplace, and a chest.

But that assumes that the players pick up on the fact that there's a bed, closet, fireplace, chest, and that those are the only important things to take a look at. Or that the DM describes things in a way that make it clear.

Personally I do it more based on how much time the PCs want to spend and do linked skill challenges or rely on passive checks. So if they're doing a really quick check it's a perception check as they look around the room. Want to spend 15 minutes per 10 foot section? Are you being careful to not leave a trace or just trashing the room? For that matter it's the same if they're going through old school dungeons (which I rarely use); I'd rather use passive values with a -5 for going through quickly, no adjustment if going at normal speed, +5 if they're moving slowly.

Then I just zoom in on specifics. If someone is searching a room I'll give a description, there's a check and then I'll just start asking for more specific checks for the desk. The last thing I want to do is waste game time describing specifically checking every thing they could possibly interact with. After all, why is the dresser worth investigating if there's a loose floorboard or the hidden panel is opened by turning the wall sconce? How much information do I have to give as a DM and if they give a list of items why wouldn't I just go through each one like a checklist? If it's just a checklist, I have no way to make it interesting.

But again, physical interactions and searching rooms is not a major focus of my games.
 

Oofta

Legend
Also, to be clear I am not arguing that my expectation of detailed interaction is better than just announcing skill checks. I am arguing against the (often seemingly willful) mischaracterizations of that descriptive style of play from a couple of the usual suspects when all I’ve tried to do (and @Swarmkeeper too I think) is explain how it works at our tables.
There are some people who take very extreme views on the topic. That if you don't declare things a certain way that you will be kicked out of the group. That there is no way to possibly know what someone is doing if you don't follow a formal structure, that the game doesn't work well unless you use the pattern.

There have been different approaches to all of this pretty much since the inception of the game. None of this is new.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
There are some people who take very extreme views on the topic. That if you don't declare things a certain way that you will be kicked out of the group. That there is no way to possibly know what someone is doing if you don't follow a formal structure, that the game doesn't work well unless you use the pattern.

Are those people in this thread?
 

Voadam

Legend
oh wow, I hope you never DM for someone really shy then.
I have a regular player who has social anxiety to the point of requiring drugs if he needs to do public speaking. I have gamed with shy, socially awkward people.

Gaming with a small group of friends is generally a very safe place for shy people to engage socially. Roleplaying as a character in interactions in a D&D game has been a fun part of the game even for shy people in my experience.

My games have generally been among supportive friends though.
wait, so you don't have drawn out nights where everything is social interactions? You don't have to ever play court intrigue? I guess if you just skip 1/3 the game that makes sense.
I said that the majority of D&D social interactions are just social interactions and do not require social skill rolls. It would be an error to jump to the conclusion that I therefore never have drawn out social interactions and skip 1/3 of the game. :)

I have run whole nights of just a noble's party with social intrigue and plots going on and lots of politics, I would not say that is typical of the majority of social interactions in D&D though. :)

I also did not require a lot of skill rolls, it was mostly handled by narrations and descriptions and interacting directly talking with NPCs in character.

I played a merchant prince character for four years in a 1e D&D game. No applicable skill system, all direct roleplaying and description. Tons of politics and social interaction and intrigue. An absolute blast.

Court intrigue and such are things where the social skill system with persuasion and bluff and intuition could be used, but it is hardly necessary to use skill checks to run such a scene.
 

I have a regular player who has social anxiety to the point of requiring drugs if he needs to do public speaking. I have gamed with shy, socially awkward people.
okay, the first time I played a bard I was stuttering and tripping over my own words. IF I was told I couldn't default to character skill over my own speaking I don't think I would still be playing today.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Care and feeding of introverts: Some of us are good with an even need to be encouraged to come out of our shells. Some of us will allow ourselves to be pulled out of our shells, all the while resenting the one who keeps doing it.

I have a friend who insists on calling on the phone instead of texting like it's 2023. My anger flares every time the phone rings unnecessarily, but he'd certainly think it was all okay because I haven't reprimanded him on it lately.
 

okay, the first time I played a bard I was stuttering and tripping over my own words. IF I was told I couldn't default to character skill over my own speaking I don't think I would still be playing today.

Been there, too. Third person role-playing (e.g. "my bard recites a poem of bravery and honor to butter up the king") is a nice alternative to trying to be all "bardy" in the moment.
 

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