An idea for Ability checks

I am sure this is far from a new idea. It is one I have based on how I used to play the Star Wars WEG system.

As the rules are played you tell a DM what you want to do and he tells you what check to make and you roll. I had an alternate idea for this. What if the player decided what check to use. Climbing a tree could be strength based as you just muscle straight up one branch to the next or dexterity based as you nimbly swing and jump from one to another.

This is how I would do it. DM describes situation, players explains what ability or skill he wants to use with a general description of how he is doing it. This obviously works much better for physical stats vs mental stats but can work in mental ones as well. The DM then decides on the DC of the challenge based on how viable the player solution is. Obviously if the player is being foolish the DM may set a DC of 50 (in his head of course, I never tell players the DC), basically saying the task is impossible the way the player is trying to do it.

Any opinions? Any obvious flaws?
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I am sure this is far from a new idea. It is one I have based on how I used to play the Star Wars WEG system.

As the rules are played you tell a DM what you want to do and he tells you what check to make and you roll. I had an alternate idea for this. What if the player decided what check to use. Climbing a tree could be strength based as you just muscle straight up one branch to the next or dexterity based as you nimbly swing and jump from one to another.

This is how I would do it. DM describes situation, players explains what ability or skill he wants to use with a general description of how he is doing it. This obviously works much better for physical stats vs mental stats but can work in mental ones as well. The DM then decides on the DC of the challenge based on how viable the player solution is. Obviously if the player is being foolish the DM may set a DC of 50 (in his head of course, I never tell players the DC), basically saying the task is impossible the way the player is trying to do it.

Any opinions? Any obvious flaws?
Isn't this a bit backward? The player tells the DM what the character is doing, and then the DM determine the roll. We had a steep incline of rubble in one dungeon. One player described carefully climbing down while another did a tumble/parkour down. The DM from there determines the ability check (and DC, and anything else) based on the approach the player was taking.

(If I recall from that particular case, the DM ruled the first was a STR (Athletics) check at their normal climb speed (1/2 normal) which their second was a DEX (Acrobatics) check with a higher DC, but at normal speed.)

Reversing it sounds very mechanic-y, not very roleplay-y.

This gets even better if you are using the variant rule from the PHB that uncouples skills from their ability scores. So two character at a dance. One is trying to fit in at the big formal step dances to get a chance to talk to the target, and ends up with DEX (Perform), while another at a different point is trying to make up an attention-grabbing spinning dance solo as a distraction that ends up being CHR (Acrobatics).
 

aco175

Adventurer
I tend to have a skill in my mind when setting something up, but allow other skills in at a higher DC. I can see how this sometimes leads to wanting to Athletics with Intelligence saying the PC is using the most logical way to jump or climb. This pushes it too far like attacking in 4e. I generally let Acrobatics count for some of the Athletics skills but with a 2-4 DC higher.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Opinion time!

It seems to me that if the player is already describing their action, the ability that controls if the outcome is uncertain is already pretty well established by the action declaration. This seems like it makes action declarations more button-pushy, which I don't prefer, but shouldn't break anything.

Blades in the Dark uses this as it's core mechanic. Player declares action and what attribute they'll use, then the GM establishes the risk level and effect level (or, how bad a failure will be and how good a success will be). 5e lacks the explicit stake setting mechanic of Blades, but you could announce the DC and what consequence a failure would have and you'd be close to this. Of course, Blades has a wealth of player-side mitigation tools so the GM is encouraged to not pull punches, and this difference from 5e as well. Still, it can work.
 

lotuseater

Visitor
This is similar to how I handle ability checks. In general, if a roll is called for, I'll give general instructions, like make a strength check, and then leave it up to the player to tell me if they want to use a specific skill. They also know they have the option to use a skill based in a different ability score as long as they make a good case for doing so. The example I always give is if they say they want to climb a wall, I'll say make a strength check, and then leave it up to them to incorporate a skill, such as athletics or acrobatics. But maybe they could convince me it's a history check, because they have studied the history of rock climbing or a survival check, because they are from a very rocky environment where they got used to climbing up cliffs to get sea bird eggs for food. I try to balance allowing for player creativity with common sense.

Obviously, in many cases, the player initiates the roll by saying they want to use a particular skill to do something, but in cases where I need to prompt them for a roll, I rarely say specifically what skill they can use (the primary exception being perception checks).
 

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