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5E Are there actions not covered under a skill?

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Barrel/cistern toe-may-toe toe-mah-toe. It's still one object of many in the entire keep. It doesn't stand out, it's not special. It's just set dressing.
One of the perceived advantages of the style being argued is that it encourages paying attention to the DM’s description of the environment. Nothing is just set dressing, everything is an intractable feature of the environment, and may contain valuable context clues.

If you're using one of the prepared maps, the DM may not even mention it.
Yeah, over reliance on maps can be a problem in this way. As a DM, it is important not to let maps become a replacement for sufficient description of the environment.

I don't want my players second-guessing that every time there's a desk in a room they have to carefully search the desk or miss out on treasure.
And again, this is why proper use of telegraphing is important.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
One of the perceived advantages of the style being argued is that it encourages paying attention to the DM’s description of the environment. Nothing is just set dressing, everything is an intractable feature of the environment, and may contain valuable context clues.

[snip]

And again, this is why proper use of telegraphing is important.
There's also a presumption that the players will remember every thing in every description, no matter how long ago in the real-world it was. Not every player is so astute. And if everything is potentially important that seems to impose quite a load on everyone.

There can be a lot going on at the table, and things can slip in one person's mind or another. I'm fine presuming that the characters have a better picture of what's going on than the players do, and giving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to needing to mention specific things. Tell me what you want to do, and how you want to do it; I'll make a good-faith effort to be fair about deciding it. You don't need to hit some magic combination of keywords like a Sovereign Citizen filling out a government form.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
There's also a presumption that the players will remember every thing in every description, no matter how long ago in the real-world it was. Not every player is so astute. And if everything is potentially important that seems to impose quite a load on everyone.

There can be a lot going on at the table, and things can slip in one person's mind or another. I'm fine presuming that the characters have a better picture of what's going on than the players do, and giving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to needing to mention specific things.
Well, there’s a reason we do session recaps, and if a player wishes to take notes, they’re welcome to. Also, sometimes the party will miss stuff, and that’s fine. Still, I would rather the description of the environment be meaningful and contain information that will help the players succeed than have it “just be set-dressing.”

Tell me what you want to do, and how you want to do it; I'll make a good-faith effort to be fair about deciding it.
Agreed. That is also my policy.

You don't need to hit some magic combination of keywords like a Sovereign Citizen filling out a government form.
This is an infuriatingly common mischaracterization of my preferred adjudication style. I can assure you, I do not require “magic words” for my players to be successful.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
This is an infuriatingly common mischaracterization of my preferred adjudication style. I can assure you, I do not require “magic words” for my players to be successful.
Sincere apologies. It's an oversimplification, I do not doubt, but it was not aimed personally at you--or, really anyone in this thread. It does feel that way as a player, though, when the GM calls for more in the way of specifics than seems necessary to me.
 

Reynard

Legend
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.
A secret door you're guaranteed to find is not really secret, is it?

Also, I gather that some folks in this thread have never lost their keys. If you are one of those people, let me explain it: You were in the kitchen. You had your keys. You know both of these things to be true. But now you don't have your keys. WTF? How is that possible? You search the kitchen. No keys. You go to the living room. No keys. You go to the bedroom. Nope. You check the damn bathroom even though there's no goddamn reason they would be there. Nada. Frustrated, you go back into the kitchen. There they are. Right next to your wallet. What?

So, the idea that there is "no roll necessary" even when a player says "I search the room" or "I search the dresser" or even "I check every drawer" doesn't make sense. Maybe you just don't find it because you failed to see what was right in front of your face.

Now, someone is going to say, "That's not fun! Now the PCs can't move forward" or something similar that emphasizes the gameplay aspect of the key. Well, here's the thing: if the PCs can't fail to find the key because it is necessary, there is no minimum level of the much touted "reasonable specificity" because they MUST find it. Otherwise we are back to -- you guessed it -- pixelbitching. Which, if you don't know, is technically defined as The Worst Way To Play D&D Ever.

Now, all of this ignore context, of course. Where are we? What is the party doing? Is it a dungeon? IS it an active residence? Who hid the key? Why? What does it open? Who knows the key is there? Do the PCs know they are looking for a key? Can they at least guess? Context is everything and none of the other arguments happening in this thread can be answered until the context is taken into account.

For what it is worth, I think there are two broad categories involving the hidden key: it is a macguffin, or it's not. If it is, the PCs are going to find it, so it isn't really hidden. "Searching" for it is mostly about contextualizing the transition from one adventure stage (looking for the key) to the next (using the key). If it isn't, then it is entirely possible the PCs never find it and that's fine, even if they miss out on whatever treasure, encounter, story and/or "flavor text" it opened.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Sincere apologies. It's an oversimplification, I do not doubt, but it was not aimed personally at you--or, really anyone in this thread. It does feel that way as a player, though, when the GM calls for more in the way of specifics than seems necessary to me.
Indeed, it can be a problem, particularly when the DM demands an excessive degree of specificity in action declarations and/or fails to provide reasonable specificity and effective telegraphing in their description of the environment.

Interestingly, I’ve also seen the opposite: in one game I was in, I recall a challenge involving a sealed door with a bunch of pipes and valves that we deduced we would need to use to open the door. I spent probably 10 whole minutes describing my character’s actions in the fiction, examining the system to try to figure out how it worked and what to do with it, to no effect whatsoever, before the DM finally said “why don’t you try investigating it?” Which is what I thought had been doing the whole time. Apparently he was looking for the magic words “I make an Investigation check” - he wasn’t about to give me any information about how this stupid door worked without a successful check, and he was apparently not going to call for a check to resolve uncertainty in the outcome of any of the actions I was describing my character taking either.

I don’t play with that guy any more.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So, the idea that there is "no roll necessary" even when a player says "I search the room" or "I search the dresser" or even "I check every drawer" doesn't make sense. Maybe you just don't find it because you failed to see what was right in front of your face.
The adjudication process laid out in the rules of the game says there's no roll if the task is trivially easy or impossible. Anything in between there might have a check, but only if there's a meaningful consequence for failure. These are the guidelines by which we're tasked with judging what the players describe their characters doing. It's up to the DM decide what is trivially easy or impossible and what constitutes a meaningful consequence for failure in context. But if they don't say they're searching through the drawers, then the task of finding the key is impossible (no roll). If they say they open the drawers and rifle through the clothes, then the task of finding the key is trivially easy (no roll). If they say they toss the room in general including searching the drawers, but provide no further specificity, then I may ask for an ability check.

Same deal with a trap door hidden under a rug. If you're searching the walls for whatever reason, you aren't going to find the trap door in the floor (no roll). If you're searching the walls and floor for whatever reason, maybe I ask you to roll an ability check. If you say you move the rug aside to see what's underneath, bam, there's the trap door (no roll).

A little engagement with the environment pays dividends for the player and the opportunity for success without relying on a d20 incentivizes them to pay attention and interact with the world.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Indeed, it can be a problem, particularly when the DM demands an excessive degree of specificity in action declarations and/or fails to provide reasonable specificity and effective telegraphing in their description of the environment.

Interestingly, I’ve also seen the opposite: in one game I was in, I recall a challenge involving a sealed door with a bunch of pipes and valves that we deduced we would need to use to open the door. I spent probably 10 whole minutes describing my character’s actions in the fiction, examining the system to try to figure out how it worked and what to do with it, to no effect whatsoever, before the DM finally said “why don’t you try investigating it?” Which is what I thought had been doing the whole time. Apparently he was looking for the magic words “I make an Investigation check” - he wasn’t about to give me any information about how this stupid door worked without a successful check, and he was apparently not going to call for a check to resolve uncertainty in the outcome of any of the actions I was describing my character taking either.

I don’t play with that guy any more.
That does sound frustrating. Communication is important, and lapses are both easy and easy to miss; hence, my feelings about benefit of the doubt. As a player, I try to extend that courtesy to whoever is GMing, but that can be hard if they run as counter to my preferences and expectations as you describe.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Interestingly, I’ve also seen the opposite: in one game I was in, I recall a challenge involving a sealed door with a bunch of pipes and valves that we deduced we would need to use to open the door. I spent probably 10 whole minutes describing my character’s actions in the fiction, examining the system to try to figure out how it worked and what to do with it, to no effect whatsoever, before the DM finally said “why don’t you try investigating it?” Which is what I thought had been doing the whole time. Apparently he was looking for the magic words “I make an Investigation check” - he wasn’t about to give me any information about how this stupid door worked without a successful check, and he was apparently not going to call for a check to resolve uncertainty in the outcome of any of the actions I was describing my character taking either.
Wow. Just wow.
 

Reynard

Legend
The adjudication process laid out in the rules of the game says there's no roll if the task is trivially easy or impossible. Anything in between there might have a check, but only if there's a meaningful consequence for failure. These are the guidelines by which we're tasked with judging what the players describe their characters doing. It's up to the DM decide what is trivially easy or impossible and what constitutes a meaningful consequence for failure in context. But if they don't say they're searching through the drawers, then the task of finding the key is impossible (no roll). If they say they open the drawers and rifle through the clothes, then the task of finding the key is trivially easy (no roll). If they say they toss the room in general including searching the drawers, but provide no further specificity, then I may ask for an ability check.

Same deal with a trap door hidden under a rug. If you're searching the walls for whatever reason, you aren't going to find the trap door in the floor (no roll). If you're searching the walls and floor for whatever reason, maybe I ask you to roll an ability check. If you say you move the rug aside to see what's underneath, bam, there's the trap door (no roll).

A little engagement with the environment pays dividends for the player and the opportunity for success without relying on a d20 incentivizes them to pay attention and interact with the world.
This is what I refer to when I say pixelbitching. It isn't fun and doesn't have a positive effect on the game.
 

Reynard

Legend
That does sound frustrating. Communication is important, and lapses are both easy and easy to miss; hence, my feelings about benefit of the doubt. As a player, I try to extend that courtesy to whoever is GMing, but that can be hard if they run as counter to my preferences and expectations as you describe.
It definitely sounds like a communication issue. Each person in that scenario was making assumptions about the other person's play style. That was the source of the problem, not that either of them preferred the style they did.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
One of the perceived advantages of the style being argued is that it encourages paying attention to the DM’s description of the environment. Nothing is just set dressing, everything is an intractable feature of the environment, and may contain valuable context clues.


Yeah, over reliance on maps can be a problem in this way. As a DM, it is important not to let maps become a replacement for sufficient description of the environment.


And again, this is why proper use of telegraphing is important.
It's the whole "telegraphing" thing that I just don't get.

But let's say I'm describing someone's living quarters/small apartment. What we would consider a studio apartment would be pretty typical living arrangement for many people in my campaign world.

So if I'm describing it, it's going to have what I would consider standard set dressing. Bed, maybe a dresser, wardrobe along with a small desk and chair. Maybe another couple of pieces of furniture and a small stove. Couple of pictures on the wall, probably a cupboard. Likely even a little storage cubby up high. I probably forget to mention the chamber pot but it's probably in there too.

Why all that? Because it's what I would think would be reasonable for the person living there. I'm describing someone with a fair number of possessions but not fabulously wealthy. It's set dressing that sets the mood.

It's never just going to be a bureau with a single drawer (which, yes, is an exaggeration).

I can't think of any logical reason for any particular piece of furniture or location to stand out short of just putting a big neon sign saying "search here" pointed at the futon.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This is what I refer to when I say pixelbitching. It isn't fun and doesn't have a positive effect on the game.
"Pixelbitching" is taking the reasonable specificity outlined in the rules, which ultimately makes it easier for the DM to adjudicate not harder, to an unreasonable place. It's not the same thing.

"By balancing the use of dice against deciding on success, you can encourage your players to strike a balance between relying on their bonuses and abilities and paying attention to the game and immersing themselves in its world." - DMG, p. 236-237. Add to this the PHB, p. 178 sidebar on "Finding a Hidden Object," plus "How to Play" (PHB, p. 6) and "Using Ability Scores" (DMG, p. 237). These sections taken as a whole tell us what to do and it isn't "pixelbitching."
 

Reynard

Legend
I can't think of any logical reason for any particular piece of furniture or location to stand out short of just putting a big neon sign saying "search here" pointed at the futon.
I think this is important. Generally speaking, I try and use broad description and then drill down in response to questions.
"You walk into what looks like a bedroom. Or it was. Now the furniture is all moldering and there are cobwebs obscuring the walls." From there, players can ask questions about exact furnishings. What I want to avoid is glossing over everything EXCEPT the one dresser where the treasure is hidden.
 

Reynard

Legend
"Pixelbitching" is taking the reasonable specificity outlined in the rules, which ultimately makes it easier for the DM to adjudicate not harder, to an unreasonable place. It's not the same thing.

"By balancing the use of dice against deciding on success, you can encourage your players to strike a balance between relying on their bonuses and abilities and paying attention to the game and immersing themselves in its world." - DMG, p. 236-237. Add to this the PHB, p. 178 sidebar on "Finding a Hidden Object," plus "How to Play" (PHB, p. 6) and "Using Ability Scores" (DMG, p. 237). These sections taken as a whole tell us what to do and it isn't "pixelbitching."
Why are you quoting the rule book? It's not relevant. You keep acting like the things written in there are sacrosanct. They are not. The book actually tells you they are not. You can't use them as a cudgel to prove you are doing it right. There is no right.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Why are you quoting the rule book? It's not relevant. You keep acting like the things written in there are sacrosanct. They are not. The book actually tells you they are not. You can't use them as a cudgel to prove you are doing it right. There is no right.
What makes you think I am using them as a "cudgel?" I'm showing that the game doesn't support the "pixelbitching" you say you don't find fun, if the DM is following the standard adjudication process. Which I do.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
.....

Also, I gather that some folks in this thread have never lost their keys. If you are one of those people, let me explain it: You were in the kitchen. You had your keys. You know both of these things to be true. But now you don't have your keys. WTF? How is that possible? You search the kitchen. No keys. You go to the living room. No keys. You go to the bedroom. Nope. You check the damn bathroom even though there's no goddamn reason they would be there. Nada. Frustrated, you go back into the kitchen. There they are. Right next to your wallet. What?

.....
See what happens when you tick off the car key gnomes!
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It definitely sounds like a communication issue. Each person in that scenario was making assumptions about the other person's play style. That was the source of the problem, not that either of them preferred the style they did.
Actually, we discussed play styles before I joined the game. I had told him up-front that I prefer to describe what my character does in in-fiction terms and make checks when asked to do so by the DM, and he agreed that was fine, but that he was also fine with players simply saying they want to make a check. I didn’t think he meant “sometimes simply saying you want to make a check will be the only way to make progress.”

I had also been playing in this game for like 6 months with no such problems, maybe it was just an off day for him or something.
 

Reynard

Legend
What makes you think I am using them as a "cudgel?" I'm showing that the game doesn't support the "pixelbitching" you say you don't find fun, if the DM is following the standard adjudication process. Which I do.
Emphasis mine.
This. This right here. That's the cudgel You are explicitly stating there is a "right way to play" and implicitly stating that playing that way make your game superior.

It's weird you can't see it.
 

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