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5E Are there actions not covered under a skill?


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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
That First part makes no sense, to me.
Could you be more specific? It doesn’t make sense to you that I differentiate between content that presents a challenge and content that exists primarily to enrich the setting and story?

The rest, I get but just strongly disagree in terms of creating good gameplay. I think the game loses soemthing extremely good and important when only those things which “challenge” the PCs have any chance of failure, or of meaningful differentiation as to warrant mechanical resolution. The world and people and things in it matters more than how many HP the kobold shaman has. Who the Duke of Vagarsal is as a person is more important than how many of his guards we have to knock out without getting caught in order to find the needed clues as to what he was up to before he disappeared.
You seem here to be conflating “challenge” with “combat.” Many things can be challenging. Also, content does not need to be challenging to be valuable, and I don’t know what I said that gave you the impression that I think otherwise.

The “flavor text” is quite often the most important thing by an immense margin.
I don’t disagree.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Worth pointing out that LMoP seems to be written specifically with this approach in mind.
And it’s often held up as one of the best published adventures for 5th edition to date. Correlation is not causation, but in this instance I think the adventure being designed this way is directly responsible for its perceived quality.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Let me suggest a 2nd example where the different styles described would yield different results.

Scene: the battle has ended, the heroes having victoriously prevailed over 5 kobolds.

Style 1:

Player 1: I search the bodies. I rolled a 16 Investigation.
DM 1 (improvising): Well, in addition to a short sword, light crossbow and leather armor, one the the kobolds has a secret compartment in its boot. It holds a small agate wirth 20 gp.

Style 2:
Player 2: I search the kobolds’ bodies.
DM2: They each have a short sword, light crossbow and leather armor.

On the plus side, on a high roll, Player 1 could find something that the DM1 improvised. Conversely, on a low roll, Player 1 could miss something that DM2 would have let Player2 find automatically.
Solid analysis.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Could you be more specific? It doesn’t make sense to you that I differentiate between content that presents a challenge and content that exists to enrich the setting and story?


You seem here to be conflating “challenge” with “combat.” Many things can be challenging. Also, content does not need to be challenging to be valuable, and I don’t know what I said that gave you the impression that I think otherwise.


I don’t disagree.
I seem to be what now? I didn't mention combat, or allude to it in any way. Its possible we draw the line between "challenge" and "flavor" differently, but so far as I can tell it isn't at combat.

edit: Okay, my examples both involved the threat of combat, but general in the type of example we have all been using, guards coming upon the room and attacking is the most likely random encounter or challenge oriented time constraint.

A challenge is just something that either threatens the players in some meaningful way, or something which they must overcome and which has some potential meaningful cost to overcome it.

What I disagree with is the idea that such things are the only things that ever (or even just generally) need or benefit from mechanical resolution, particularly in reference to dice rolls. I mean, don't roll for stuff your group won't enjoy rolling for, by all means. But there certainly isn't anything wrong with resolving "flavor" elements with dice and other mechanics.

The books advise using checks when the stakes matter. Doesn't need to be a challenge for the stakes to matter. But beyond that, the specifics of when a roll is worth calling for is down to "does it matter to you and the players and have multiple possible outcomes?"
 

Let me suggest a 2nd example where the different styles described would yield different results.

Scene: the battle has ended, the heroes having victoriously prevailed over 5 kobolds.

Style 1:

Player 1: I search the bodies. I rolled a 16 Investigation.
DM 1 (improvising): Well, in addition to a short sword, light crossbow and leather armor, one the the kobolds has a secret compartment in its boot. It holds a small agate wirth 20 gp.

Style 2:
Player 2: I search the kobolds’ bodies.
DM2: They each have a short sword, light crossbow and leather armor.

On the plus side, on a high roll, Player 1 could find something that the DM1 improvised. Conversely, on a low roll, Player 1 could miss something that DM2 would have let Player2 find automatically.
If the DM had already decided that one of the kobolds had the gem in the secret compartment, I can see a definite issue with style 2. - It would seem to require that the player specify that their character is searching the kobold's boots.
If they specify searching boots of the kobolds, then presumably the compartment is obvious and they will automatically see it and get the gem.
If the player does not specify searching boots on the kobolds, then the character will not find the gem, despite having access to knowledge that the player does not.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Smart play in my view is opening the bureau and rifling through the folded clothes to find the key. There might be no roll here at all - you just succeed because the key is, in fact, hidden beneath a set of folded clothes. Less smart play is doing none of that and just saying "Can I make a Perception check to pace around the room and search the walls and furniture for clues?" The PHB suggests that, in this example, you don't even get a check. You just fail due to a lack of reasonable specificity in engaging with the environment.
I'm fairly confident that this claim is false, or at least strongly open to interpretation, and I have time tonight and tomorrow to dig into this. Do you think that you could provide what passages in the PHB seem to suggest this to you?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Let me suggest a 2nd example where the different styles described would yield different results.

Scene: the battle has ended, the heroes having victoriously prevailed over 5 kobolds.

Style 1:

Player 1: I search the bodies. I rolled a 16 Investigation.
DM 1 (improvising): Well, in addition to a short sword, light crossbow and leather armor, one the the kobolds has a secret compartment in its boot. It holds a small agate wirth 20 gp.

Style 2:
Player 2: I search the kobolds’ bodies.
DM2: They each have a short sword, light crossbow and leather armor.

On the plus side, on a high roll, Player 1 could find something that the DM1 improvised. Conversely, on a low roll, Player 1 could miss something that DM2 would have let Player2 find automatically.
What is missing here is Style 3, which is the style I use and most GMs I know use.

Player 3: I search the kobolds bodies. <rolls> 18 Investigate.
DM3: They each have a short sword, light crossbow, and leather armor. No particular effort is required to find that, but [because you were so thorough and focused on the examination, you also notice some things about the kobolds themselves][you complete the search in a few quick moments, and are alert and ready. I'll let that roll ride for the Perception check you need to make now.][some other insight or opportunity that either moves things forward, adds character to the world in some way, or makes something about what comes next easier, or gives the players an opportunity to just decide something about the world in a quick no time for deep thought improv moment]

Style 3 takes dramatically less time and effort to actually do than it does to describe, of course.
 

Yeah it is a suggestion. I’m away from the book atm but I don’t think it’s even presented as an optional rule or anything, it is just straight up a suggestion to solve a potential problem of players wanting to make check after check until they win.

Not sure why it’s being presented as if it is “the rules”.
I think that looking for something that the characters don't know is there is a situation where it isn't obvious whether the multiple ability checks are applicable or not. If the characters spend 10 minutes searching a room on the offchance that there might be a secret door, but don't find one (fail the roll), would they automatically find it if they look for another hour and a half?

The book talks about how sometimes taking extra time will automatically succeed, and sometimes it won't, but I believe that the decision as to which category a specific situation falls into is a DM decision.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm fairly confident that this claim is false, or at least strongly open to interpretation, and I have time tonight and tomorrow to dig into this. Do you think that you could provide what passages in the PHB seem to suggest this to you?
As I mentioned upthread, it's in the section on Using Ability Scores in the PHB in the sidebar on Finding a Hidden Object, p. 178. "In most cases, you need to describe where you are looking in order for the DM to determine your chance of success... [hidden key in the bureau example]... You would have to specify that you were opening the drawers or searching the bureau in order to have any chance of success." If you don't, you have no chance of finding the key. What's also notable is that in the example, the player doesn't ask to make an ability check. The player just describes what he or she wants to do.

The only objection that could be made in my view is that "my game isn't 'most cases.'" And that would be hilarious.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think that looking for something that the characters don't know is there is a situation where it isn't obvious whether the multiple ability checks are applicable or not. If the characters spend 10 minutes searching a room on the offchance that there might be a secret door, but don't find one (fail the roll), would they automatically find it if they look for another hour and a half?

The book talks about how sometimes taking extra time will automatically succeed, and sometimes it won't, but I believe that the decision as to which category a specific situation falls into is a DM decision.
Yeah, sure. It's advice on running the game without making the game bog down. My objection was to a suggestion that the rules state that if they spend to minutes searching a room it just succeeds. Because the rules don't state that.
As I mentioned upthread, it's in the section on Using Ability Scores in the PHB in the sidebar on Finding a Hidden Object, p. 178. "In most cases, you need to describe where you are looking in order for the DM to determine your chance of success... [hidden key in the bureau example]... You would have to specify that you were opening the drawers or searching the bureau in order to have any chance of success." If you don't, you have no chance of finding the key. What's also notable is that in the example, the player doesn't ask to make an ability check. The player just describes what he or she wants to do.

The only objection that could be made in my view is that "my game isn't 'most cases.'" And that would be hilarious.
That...doesn't suggest that, though. "I search the furniture" is the same as "I search the bureau" unless the DM is being a gotcha-GM in the vein of "you didn't specify that you stepped around the plate (that the PC already found and IDd as a trap trigger) so you didn't step around it so the trap is sprung" type examples. If the DM described what furniture is in the room, then "the furniture" includes all the furniture the DM described.

Especially in my example wherein the player references investigating the room thoroughly. It would be completely unreasonable for the DM to reply "you don't find anything" because they didn't explicitly specificy each and every potentially searchable object in the room.


But what's more...an advise sidebar about a particular type of situation isn't...the rules? It's advice. For handling a type of situation that can sometimes become a roadblock for a lot of groups. Acting like it's The Rules, much less extrapolating what it suggests (to you) to all action resolution in the game, is...wild.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I seem to be what now? I didn't mention combat, or allude to it in any way. Its possible we draw the line between "challenge" and "flavor" differently, but so far as I can tell it isn't at combat.
As you noticed in your edit, I was picking up on the fact that your examples both involved combat. Apologies if I misunderstood you.

edit: Okay, my examples both involved the threat of combat, but general in the type of example we have all been using, guards coming upon the room and attacking is the most likely random encounter or challenge oriented time constraint.
I was using the threat of a randomly-triggered complication (shorthanded as “random encounter”) as one possible example of a way to introduce a cost for failure, and therefore challenge, to the “searching the room” scenario. Such a complication does not need to be combat, and randomly rolled complications need not be the only way to introduce a cost of failure and make the scenario challenging. Alternatively, if the scenario isn’t meant to be challenging, then I don’t see any need to call for a roll to find what’s being searched for in the room. If the thing is hidden only because it makes sense in the fiction for it to be so and not with the intent of challenging the PCs, then... Why not just have them find it when they search for it?

A challenge is just something that either threatens the players in some meaningful way, or something which they must overcome and which has some potential meaningful cost to overcome it.
Agreed.

What I disagree with is the idea that such things are the only things that ever (or even just generally) need or benefit from mechanical resolution, particularly in reference to dice rolls. I mean, don't roll for stuff your group won't enjoy rolling for, by all means. But there certainly isn't anything wrong with resolving "flavor" elements with dice and other mechanics.
I would argue that if the object is hidden only because it makes sense in the fiction for it to be so and not as part of a challenge (IOW, as a flavor element), then the only thing requiring a roll to find it does is introduce the possibility for the players to fail to find it, thereby causing them to miss that flavor element. The players can’t know the thing is hidden unless they find it, so if they can fail to find it, then who is that bit of worldbuilding actually serving? Not the players.

The books advise using checks when the stakes matter. Doesn't need to be a challenge for the stakes to matter.
Wh... what? I don’t understand how the stakes could matter if they aren’t a challenge... meaningful stakes are precisely what makes something challenging. I don’t... This statement makes no sense to me.

But beyond that, the specifics of when a roll is worth calling for is down to "does it matter to you and the players and have multiple possible outcomes?"
I agree. And if the reason for the thing being hidden is not to challenge the players, then what is the benefit of those possible outcomes? In my evaluation, if the thing is hidden to make the game world feel alive, that goal is actually harmed by making failure to find it a possible outcome. Maybe success at a cost might be a more desirable outcome, but in that case you’ve introduced meaningful stakes and now it’s a challenge.
 

I'm fairly confident that this claim is false, or at least strongly open to interpretation, and I have time tonight and tomorrow to dig into this. Do you think that you could provide what passages in the PHB seem to suggest this to you?
You're right, it is false, but only because Iserith misquoted the example.
If you say your character paces around looking at the walls and furniture for clues, you have no chance because to find it would require opening drawers.
If you search the furniture, you get a check to see whether you find it because looking under the folded clothes in the top drawer of the bureau is something that your character might do as part of a search.

Of course if you specify that your character is checking under the clothes in all the drawers of the bureau, they will automatically find the key, no roll required.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, sure. It's advice on running the game without making the game bog down. My objection was to a suggestion that the rules state that if they spend to minutes searching a room it just succeeds. Because the rules don't state that.

That...doesn't suggest that, though. "I search the furniture" is the same as "I search the bureau" unless the DM is being a gotcha-GM in the vein of "you didn't specify that you stepped around the plate (that the PC already found and IDd as a trap trigger) so you didn't step around it so the trap is sprung" type examples. If the DM described what furniture is in the room, then "the furniture" includes all the furniture the DM described.

Especially in my example wherein the player references investigating the room thoroughly. It would be completely unreasonable for the DM to reply "you don't find anything" because they didn't explicitly specificy each and every potentially searchable object in the room.
As @Cap'n Kobold says, I paraphrased and got the player's action declaration wrong in what you quoted above. But the point stands: The game expects players to be reasonably specific when describing what they want to do. This is so the DM can determine the character's chance at success.

But what's more...an advise sidebar about a particular type of situation isn't...the rules? It's advice. For handling a type of situation that can sometimes become a roadblock for a lot of groups. Acting like it's The Rules, much less extrapolating what it suggests (to you) to all action resolution in the game, is...wild.
Here we go again: It's a suggestion if it supports my argument. It's a rule if it supports yours. I see what you're doing there. So I guess the rules on Hiding, also in a sidebar in that same chapter, aren't actually rules?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
If the DM had already decided that one of the kobolds had the gem in the secret compartment, I can see a definite issue with style 2. - It would seem to require that the player specify that their character is searching the kobold's boots.
If they specify searching boots of the kobolds, then presumably the compartment is obvious and they will automatically see it and get the gem.
If the player does not specify searching boots on the kobolds, then the character will not find the gem, despite having access to knowledge that the player does not.
In such a case, it would be on DM 2 to provide some sort of telegraph that there is reason to search the boots. Maybe it has been previously established that Kobolds love making boots with secret compartments in them. Or maybe in the DM’s description of the kobold they called attention to the kobold’s custom-made boots in comparison to the rope sandals the other Kobolds were wearing. Or maybe during combat the DM described the kobold as particularly protective of its feet.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
As you noticed in your edit, I was picking up on the fact that your examples both involved combat. Apologies if I misunderstood you.
No worries, I just think I put much less importance on the specifics of a given example than you and some others in this thread do.

I was using the threat of a randomly-triggered complication (shorthanded as “random encounter”) as one possible example of a way to introduce a cost for failure, and therefore challenge, to the “searching the room” scenario. Such a complication does not need to be combat, and randomly rolled complications need not be the only way to introduce a cost of failure and make the scenario challenging. Alternatively, if the scenario isn’t meant to be challenging, then I don’t see any need to call for a roll to find what’s being searched for in the room. If the thing is hidden only because it makes sense in the fiction for it to be so and not with the intent of challenging the PCs, then... Why not just have them find it when they search for it?




I would argue that if the object is hidden only because it makes sense in the fiction for it to be so and not as part of a challenge (IOW, as a flavor element), then the only thing requiring a roll to find it does is introduce the possibility for the players to fail to find it, thereby causing them to miss that flavor element. The players can’t know the thing is hidden unless they find it, so if they can fail to find it, then who is that bit of worldbuilding actually serving? Not the players.
The players won't see every part of the world. That's a good thing. And the hidden gem or whatever can also just be a bonus. You roll well, or search very thoroughly, or both, and you find a cool extra. I genuinely don't understand how that could be controversial. Like...i guess it's like an easter egg? Do you really not include anything in your games that is just...extra cool stuff that the players might not ever see?


Wh... what? I don’t understand how the stakes could matter if they aren’t a challenge... meaningful stakes are precisely what makes something challenging. I don’t... This statement makes no sense to me.
I am equally confused. I don't even know how to explain that a thing that doesn't matter can be challenging? Like it's...the two aren't...what?
If it must be overcome through effort...it's a challenge. It may be a challenge that you can just ignore without any negative consequence, but it's still a challenge. Climbing a cliff face is a challenge, regardless of whether you need to get to the top. Even if you're secured and totally safe, it's still hard to do. It's...literally...challenging?

I agree. And if the reason for the thing being hidden is not to challenge the players, then what is the benefit of those possible outcomes? In my evaluation, if the thing is hidden to make the game world feel alive, that goal is actually harmed by making failure to find it a possible outcome. Maybe success at a cost might be a more desirable outcome, but in that case you’ve introduced meaningful stakes and now it’s a challenge.
The goal is actively helped by a chance of failure, because the game isn't just one scene. The item itself isn't important, but knowing that they will miss things in their adventures, that the world is bigger than what they see, enhances the world. Sometimes, you turn left, and you just don't get another chance to go down the other passage, and you never meet the weirdo pairing of a djinn green knight and her dryad artificer wife.

But, again, a lot of the time it isn't about a chance of failure, as such, but instead about adjudicating what type of success occurs, or what happens alongside the action.

You're right, it is false, but only because Iserith misquoted the example.
If you say your character paces around looking at the walls and furniture for clues, you have no chance because to find it would require opening drawers.
If you search the furniture, you get a check to see whether you find it because looking under the folded clothes in the top drawer of the bureau is something that your character might do as part of a search.

Of course if you specify that your character is checking under the clothes in all the drawers of the bureau, they will automatically find the key, no roll required.
Sure, if the player says that they are just kinda standing there looking at the room, they aren't searching it. A reasonable DM would ask for clarification at such a bland declaration.

As @Cap'n Kobold says, I paraphrased and got the player's action declaration wrong in what you quoted above. But the point stands: The game expects players to be reasonably specific when describing what they want to do. This is so the DM can determine the character's chance at success.


Here we go again: It's a suggestion if it supports my argument. It's a rule if it supports yours. I see what you're doing there. So I guess the rules on Hiding, also in a sidebar in that same chapter, aren't actually rules?
Well, no. The rules are the rules, and advice on how to use the rules isn't. The stealth sidebar is written pretty explicitly as rules.

The sidebar you used just doesn't support the idea that anything I ever described in this thread would have no chance of success. Saying "I search the entire room thoroughly" would suffice, even if we treated that sidebar as rules.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Well, no. The rules are the rules, and advice on how to use the rules isn't. The stealth sidebar is written pretty explicitly as rules.
That's adorable.

The sidebar you used just doesn't support the idea that anything I ever described in this thread would have no chance of success. Saying "I search the entire room thoroughly" would suffice, even if we treated that sidebar as rules.
I don't dispute that, depending on the situation, and even alluded to this by referencing the rules in DMG, p. 237. My position, backed up by the rules that I originally paraphrased and you later quoted, is that reasonable specificity allows a player to avoid making ability checks by removing uncertainty as to the outcome and/or the meaningful consequence for failure. And that engaging with the game in this manner is smart play because it means a higher chance of success, if the DM is adjudicating according to the rules.

Now find the rule that says players ask to make ability checks in D&D 5e.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The players won't see every part of the world. That's a good thing. And the hidden gem or whatever can also just be a bonus. You roll well, or search very thoroughly, or both, and you find a cool extra. I genuinely don't understand how that could be controversial. Like...i guess it's like an easter egg? Do you really not include anything in your games that is just...extra cool stuff that the players might not ever see?
Oh, sure, but I’d then consider it a challenge. The hidden thing is optional, and finding it is like a reward for completing that challenge.

I am equally confused. I don't even know how to explain that a thing that doesn't matter can be challenging? Like it's...the two aren't...what?

If it must be overcome through effort...it's a challenge. It may be a challenge that you can just ignore without any negative consequence, but it's still a challenge. Climbing a cliff face is a challenge, regardless of whether you need to get to the top. Even if you're secured and totally safe, it's still hard to do. It's...literally...challenging?
This is the opposite of the statement to which I was responding with confusion. In your previous post you said it doesn’t need to be a challenge for the stakes to matter, now you’re saying the stakes don’t need to matter for it to be a challenge. I understand the latter, but not the former.

The goal is actively helped by a chance of failure, because the game isn't just one scene. The item itself isn't important, but knowing that they will miss things in their adventures, that the world is bigger than what they see, enhances the world.

Sometimes, you turn left, and you just don't get another chance to go down the other passage, and you never meet the weirdo pairing of a djinn green knight and her dryad artificer wife.
I think we’ve lost the plot a bit here. I’m not advocating for never including missable content in the game. I’m saying, as the person designing the scenario where the key is hidden, I’m either hiding the key as part of a challenge, in which case I’m going to build some kind of time constraint or other consequence for failure into the scenario, or I’m just having it be hidden because it makes sense to be hidden, but it’s not really important. In the former case, the PCs don’t have the luxury of “taking all the time they need to search the room,” so of course I’m gonna call for a check. On a failure they search for 10 minutes, find nothing, and we get one sixth of the way closer to the next time I roll for complications. In the latter case, I’ll just narrate them eventually finding it because how long it takes is immaterial and the game isn’t served by the possibility of them failing to find it.

But, again, a lot of the time it isn't about a chance of failure, as such, but instead about adjudicating what type of success occurs, or what happens alongside the action.
Sure, fine, success at a cost is a useful tool. Again I think we’ve gone way off track from where we started. This particular line of discussion sprung from folks talking about keys hidden in sock drawers and whether or not “thoroughly searching the room” would be a valid path to success, and I took a step back to ask if scenarios where an object is hidden in a room and players have ample time to do a thorough search is actually a regular occurrence in anyone’s games. Cause I don’t see myself designing such a scenario basically ever.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
No worries, I just think I put much less importance on the specifics of a given example than you and some others in this thread do.
Oh, as an aside, I think this may be why you and I frequently have trouble understanding each other in these discussions. You seem to be thinking of these things much more broadly, where I tend to be speaking very concretely. I tend to favor specific, actionable DMing advice and find more broad, conceptual discussion unhelpful.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
And if the reason for the thing being hidden is not to challenge the players, then what is the benefit of those possible outcomes? In my evaluation, if the thing is hidden to make the game world feel alive, that goal is actually harmed by making failure to find it a possible outcome. Maybe success at a cost might be a more desirable outcome, but in that case you’ve introduced meaningful stakes and now it’s a challenge.
Maybe the hidden thing is intended as another non-guaranteed path. If they don't find the secret door, they might figure out that the books are all the same age; likewise the other way around. Multiple paths to get to a goal, none guaranteed. If those things make the world and/or the NPCs seem more real or more realistic, that's at least a bonus.
 

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