log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E Are there actions not covered under a skill?

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So, something like this has come up recently, I think, and it seems to boil down to whether the players know there's a sock drawer to mention specifically and whether the DM will treat any action description that doesn't specifically mention the sock drawer as having no chance of success (and I suppose whether the DM will treat any action description that mentions the sock drawer as having no chance of failure).

I guess I figure that reasonably competent and determined characters with adequate time are going to open every visible drawer that opens, so if they take enough time--which will depend on the size of the room and how much is in it--they'll search the sock drawer, even if the players don't specifically mention doing so. Even a quicker check might do the job--automatically if the players mention the drawers, on a die roll if they don't.
Sure, but if as a player you want to try to avoid making a check, then being reasonably specific to the standards laid out in the PHB seems like a better strategy for success than relying on a d20, however good the character's related ability score and skill proficiency may be.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You can stop responding at any time. But note that I didn't say your players weren't being specific, just that they might not be as specific as the example I pulled from the PHB which you said was "boring" and "lame."
So, something like this has come up recently, I think, and it seems to boil down to whether the players know there's a sock drawer to mention specifically and whether the DM will treat any action description that doesn't specifically mention the sock drawer to have no chance of success (and I suppose whether the DM will treat any action description that mentions the sock drawer as having no chance of failure).

I guess I figure that reasonably competent and determined characters with adequate time are going to open every visible drawer that opens, so if they take enough time--which will depend on the size of the room and how much is in it--they'll search the sock drawer, even if the players don't specifically mention doing so. Even a quicker check might do the job--automatically if the players mention the drawers, on a die roll if they don't.
in that precise example, I doubt I’d want to have the players spend the time describing sock drawers being opened unless they want to do that. If they just say, I thoroughly search the room, that’s also fine. Generally my players describe more than that, but sometimes doing so is pointless because it’s obvious to any reasonable person that a thorough search doesn’t leave a visible drawer unopened.

But, what I don’t enjoy at all is when the specificity regularly goes way beyond reasonable. It’s awesome when the rogue goes into detail every once in a while in a tense moment about how exactly they search the door for traps. It’s lame and boring when they describe every inch of the process in exacting detail every time because they are either a spotlight hog or learned D&D in The “player skill with a 10 foot pole” era, or read the phb and didn’t have a proper sense of context and perspective while doing so.

“I investigate the desk, checking each drawer for hidden mechanisms before opening them, and checking to too-shallow interiorsor hidden latches while being careful to avoid any pinpricks or accidentally activists any hidden triggers. Investigate check, right?” Is great, if a bit redundant. It’s fun, so the redundancy isn’t a problem. Describing the process for each drawer, describing the angle of the hand as it gently tap dances around the inside of each drawer, etc, is fun once or twice in a tense moment.

The fact they reference a skill check has no impact whatsoever on the success or failure of the check, and if the desk isn’t trapped then even the specificity isn’t really important it’s just nice.

I can’t find anything in the phb that suggests that without that specificity the check has no chance to succeed, of course.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
If the maguffin in the the sock drawer is an important piece of info, I'm not going to gate it behind a skill check without a really good reason. If the PCs came looking for the key, and the key is in the sock drawer, they PCs will find they key if they search the room, barring any other sort of complication, no roll required. You could hide the key in a secret compartment that requires a skill check to find, but ask yourself why you're doing that. Why add that obstacle and potential failure? I think a possible, and probably popular, answer there is that rolling imparts a sense of discovery or achievement. I'd prefer to impart that via the obstacles required to get to the room, rather than as some sort of last chance to fail once you're there.

Caveat 1: If we were talking about a treasure, or something else that isn't essential to the plot, then sure, hide it like a soccer mom hiding Christmas presents.

Caveat 2: If the roll is to represent something other than just finding the key, that's different. For example, if the PCs have a minute until the guards arrive, then I might ask them to roll. Not to find the key, but to find it before the guards arrive, which is a very different narrative decision. The consequence there is about time, not about finding the key.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
in that precise example, I doubt I’d want to have the players spend the time describing sock drawers being opened unless they want to do that. If they just say, I thoroughly search the room, that’s also fine. Generally my players describe more than that, but sometimes doing so is pointless because it’s obvious to any reasonable person that a thorough search doesn’t leave a visible drawer unopened.

But, what I don’t enjoy at all is when the specificity regularly goes way beyond reasonable. It’s awesome when the rogue goes into detail every once in a while in a tense moment about how exactly they search the door for traps. It’s lame and boring when they describe every inch of the process in exacting detail every time because they are either a spotlight hog or learned D&D in The “player skill with a 10 foot pole” era, or read the phb and didn’t have a proper sense of context and perspective while doing so.

“I investigate the desk, checking each drawer for hidden mechanisms before opening them, and checking to too-shallow interiorsor hidden latches while being careful to avoid any pinpricks or accidentally activists any hidden triggers. Investigate check, right?” Is great, if a bit redundant. It’s fun, so the redundancy isn’t a problem. Describing the process for each drawer, describing the angle of the hand as it gently tap dances around the inside of each drawer, etc, is fun once or twice in a tense moment.

The fact they reference a skill check has no impact whatsoever on the success or failure of the check, and if the desk isn’t trapped then even the specificity isn’t really important it’s just nice.
Some people do play games that take the standard of reasonable specificity into unreasonable territory, relative to what the game suggests. (It might not be unreasonable to those people.) I don't think you're talking to any of those people right now, however much some posters may want to imply that it is the case.

I can’t find anything in the phb that suggests that without that specificity the check has no chance to succeed, of course.
It's in the sidebar for finding hidden objects in the chapter on using ability scores. I paraphrased that section in the example upthread. The lame and boring one, according to what you said. PHB: "You would have to specify that you were opening the drawers or searching the bureau in order to have any chance of success."
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Caveat 2: If the roll is to represent something other than just finding the key, that's different. For example, if the PCs have a minute until the guards arrive, then I might ask them to roll. Not to find the key, but to find it before the guards arrive, which is a very different narrative decision. The consequence there is about time, not about finding the key.
My thought about the "quick check" above was mostly related to Caveat the Second. Time constraints can be a thing. I might put something important behind a check, if the characters will inevitably find that another way--let them shortcut something, in other words.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Caveat 2: If the roll is to represent something other than just finding the key, that's different. For example, if the PCs have a minute until the guards arrive, then I might ask them to roll. Not to find the key, but to find it before the guards arrive, which is a very different narrative decision. The consequence there is about time, not about finding the key.
That is effectively "progress combined with a setback," which the rules say is a potential failure condition after a failed check (PHB, p. 174). In other words, "you find the key, but it took long enough for guards to show up."
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Some people do play games that take the standard of reasonable specificity into unreasonable territory, relative to what the game suggests. (It might not be unreasonable to those people.) I don't think you're talking to any of those people right now, however much some posters may want to imply that it is the case.
I haven't seen anything in this thread that implies that anyone is DMing unreasonably. I've seen some differences in preferences--and probably some misunderstandings--but nothing more than that.

PHB: "You would have to specify that you were opening the drawers or searching the bureau in order to have any chance of success."
I guess I worry a little that the players aren't as clear as the characters about what's in the room. Maybe I wasn't as clear as I could/should have been, or maybe they just didn't process something--I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt. In a way, that's what calling for a check is about, if they fail to mention any of the magic words (bureau, drawer/s).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I guess I worry a little that the players aren't as clear as the characters about what's in the room. Maybe I wasn't as clear as I could/should have been, or maybe they just didn't process something--I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt. In a way, that's what calling for a check is about, if they fail to mention any of the magic words (bureau, drawer/s).
That may be what you make the checks about, but that's not what checks are about according to the rules. However much you care about that is up to you, of course.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That is effectively "progress combined with a setback," which the rules say is a potential failure condition after a failed check (PHB, p. 174). In other words, "you find the key, but it took long enough for guards to show up."
It is indeed , but I imagine I'm applying it a little differently than some DMs. I'm only rolling in the first place because of the guards, whereas I think some folks are calling for the roll, and then figuring out what the failure state is once the roll fails. That approach works, I just don't care for it as a core approach to adjudicating actions. Even in that case, I'm probably more likely to just have them find the key, and then announce You hear running footsteps and the clanking of mail in the hall, coming toward the Chancellor's study, what do you do? I'd more likely call for a roll if they heard the running footsteps before they started looking for the key. In the second case the need for a roll, and the consequences of failure, are already established in the fiction.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It is indeed , but I imagine I'm applying it a little differently than some DMs. I'm only rolling in the first place because of the guards, whereas I think some folks are calling for the roll, and then figuring out what the failure state is once the roll fails. That approach works, I just don't care for it as a core approach to adjudicating actions. Even in that case, I'm probably more likely to just have them find the key, and then announce You hear running footsteps and the clanking of mail in the hall, coming toward the Chancellor's study, what do you do? I'd more likely call for a roll if they heard the running footsteps before they started looking for the key. In the second case the need for a roll, and the consequences of failure, are already established in the fiction.
Certainly I would say that if a DM is following the standard adjudication process, which requires some amount of thought about whether the player's stated approach to the goal of their character has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, then he or she is necessarily thinking about what happens on a failure before calling for the ability check.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Do folks generally have things hidden in rooms that the players have ample time to thoroughly search? Cause, like, sure, hypothetically if there was a scenario in my game where there was no time pressure and the players said “we thoroughly search this whole room, taking as much time as we need to make sure we don’t miss anything,” then yeah, they’d find anything hidden in that room without a roll, on account of no consequences for time spent looking in parts of the room where nothing is hidden. But, like, that wouldn’t happen in my games? If I’m setting up a challenge where the players need to find a hidden thing, there’s gonna be time pressure. At least periodic random encounter checks if nothing else.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Certainly I would say that if a DM is following the standard adjudication process, which requires some amount of thought about whether the player's stated approach to the goal of their character has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, then he or she is necessarily thinking about what happens on a failure before calling for the ability check.
My point was more that the more often a given DM calls for checks as a default first step the more likely that same DM is to not have given significant thought to the consequences other than success/failure. That same DM probably might not even give much thought to consequences other than success/failure as the outcome of an ability check in a general way. For that DM the call for an ability check is more like an auto-response to player declarations than it is a tool specifically used to generate consequences from meaningful choices. I know I'm painting with a broad brush here, but in my experience this isn't an uncommon DMing style.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
My point was more that the more often a given DM calls for checks as a default first step the more likely that same DM is to not have given significant thought to the consequences other than success/failure. That same DM probably might not even give much thought to consequences other than success/failure as the outcome of an ability check in a general way. For that DM the call for an ability check is more like an auto-response to player declarations than it is a tool specifically used to generate consequences from meaningful choices. I know I'm painting with a broad brush here, but in my experience this isn't an uncommon DMing style.
Agreed. It is very common in my experience. If something smells like it could be related to a skill, some DMs are super eager to call for that "skill check." (And some players, too.) That's often the case in games that employ the "Roll With It" method.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Do folks generally have things hidden in rooms that the players have ample time to thoroughly search? Cause, like, sure, hypothetically if there was a scenario in my game where there was no time pressure and the players said “we thoroughly search this whole room, taking as much time as we need to make sure we don’t miss anything,” then yeah, they’d find anything hidden in that room without a roll, on account of no consequences for time spent looking in parts of the room where nothing is hidden. But, like, that wouldn’t happen in my games? If I’m setting up a challenge where the players need to find a hidden thing, there’s gonna be time pressure. At least periodic random encounter checks if nothing else.
In some instances, the thing is hidden because it's what the NPC who hid it would do. In other instances, it's possible for the PCs to have a time constraint, or to not have a time constraint. In still others, succeeding at the check gives them information or a path they otherwise wouldn't have, but which isn't strictly necessary for them to attain their goal/s (and because there's some uncertainty, it goes to the dice).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Do folks generally have things hidden in rooms that the players have ample time to thoroughly search? Cause, like, sure, hypothetically if there was a scenario in my game where there was no time pressure and the players said “we thoroughly search this whole room, taking as much time as we need to make sure we don’t miss anything,” then yeah, they’d find anything hidden in that room without a roll, on account of no consequences for time spent looking in parts of the room where nothing is hidden. But, like, that wouldn’t happen in my games? If I’m setting up a challenge where the players need to find a hidden thing, there’s gonna be time pressure. At least periodic random encounter checks if nothing else.
Generally speaking, a thorough search is going to take about 10 minutes which is a trigger for me to make a wandering monster check. Alternatively, or perhaps in addition to this, there may be a clock the PCs are racing against and they'll have to decide if it's worth it or not.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
My point was more that the more often a given DM calls for checks as a default first step the more likely that same DM is to not have given significant thought to the consequences other than success/failure. That same DM probably might not even give much thought to consequences other than success/failure as the outcome of an ability check in a general way. For that DM the call for an ability check is more like an auto-response to player declarations than it is a tool specifically used to generate consequences from meaningful choices. I know I'm painting with a broad brush here, but in my experience this isn't an uncommon DMing style.
Yeah, I used to be That DM.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
In some instances, the thing is hidden because it's what the NPC who hid it would do.
Sure, but then it’s flavor text rather than part of a challenge.

In other instances, it's possible for the PCs to have a time constraint, or to not have a time constraint.
But as the person designing the challenge, why would I choose to design it in such a way as to not have a time constraint? It’s not really very challenging without one, since the players can just declare that they take as much time as they need and thoroughly search the room.

In still others, succeeding at the check gives them information or a path they otherwise wouldn't have, but which isn't strictly necessary for them to attain their goal/s (and because there's some uncertainty, it goes to the dice).
Succeeding at what check? Checks don’t exist independently of actions, and if the declared action is “keep looking until we find it” when there’s no time constraint, then there’s no chance of failure, so no check.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Generally speaking, a thorough search is going to take about 10 minutes which is a trigger for me to make a wandering monster check. Alternatively, or perhaps in addition to this, there may be a clock the PCs are racing against and they'll have to decide if it's worth it or not.
Yeah, that’s about how I handle such things too.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top