D&D 5E At Your 5E Table, How Is It Agreed upon That the PCs Do Stuff Other than Attack?

How Do You Agree the PCs Do Stuff in the Fiction Other than Attack?

  • Player describes action and intention, states ability and/or skill used, and rolls check to resolve

    Votes: 6 5.4%
  • Player describes action and intention, and DM decides whether an ability check is needed to resolve

    Votes: 100 90.1%
  • Player describes action only, states ability and/or skill used, and rolls a check to resolve

    Votes: 6 5.4%
  • Player describes action only, and the DM decides whether an ability check is needed to resolve

    Votes: 33 29.7%
  • Player describes intention only, states ability and/or skill used, and rolls a check to resolve

    Votes: 9 8.1%
  • Player describes intention only, and the DM decides whether an ability check is needed to resolve

    Votes: 36 32.4%
  • Player states ability and/or skill used, and rolls a check to resolve

    Votes: 8 7.2%
  • Player asks a question, and DM assumes an action and decides whether an ability check is needed

    Votes: 17 15.3%
  • Other

    Votes: 12 10.8%

Oofta

Legend
Please don’t tell me what I’m likely to do. If you think I’ve been overly critical or misinterpreted (or misrepresented) something you said, feel free to point out the particular instance or instances.


I could be wrong, but this seems to posit a set of games in which players are rewarded with success for describing things well: doing things like using precise language, correct grammar, and descriptive adjectives and adverbs, and including sensory information in their descriptions. Such games might exist, but I don’t believe I’ve ever played in one, and I think whether or not a game rewards a high level of descriptive language skill is mostly orthogonal to the topic of this thread and poll except insofar as players and DMs describing things allows them to utilize such skill.
There has been a lot of discussion on this thread that veered far from the original poll.

Some people have stated that the player must describe what they are doing along with what they are trying to achieve. That description may be required to qualify for a check or may mean that they automatically succeed. An example given was for a trap door. The player had to describe how they searched the door for traps adequately before they got a roll to find the trap. Once the trap was discovered another player (not the rogue) described how they disabled the trap. No check was required.

I make no claim as to grammatical correctness or anything else, but some people are adamant that you cannot use game terms to describe actions. Some people have stated repeatedly that PCs must declare "goal and approach" and if the player does not they're kicked out of the game.

I've never actually seen it in real life or any streams I've watched either.

The poll doesn’t touch upon whether quality of description plays any part in the adjudication of what is described. The poll is only concerned with the actual matter being described, not how it’s described beyond what information about the character’s action the description contains. For a player with a low level of descriptive language skill, a clear expectation to describe both the character’s action and intention may in fact be helpful in providing a template of sorts which the player can use to ensure they are giving a complete description, focusing on the two important elements, without needing to add unnecessary details. I realize, given what you’ve written below, that what I’m calling “descriptive language skill” is probably not what you mean here, but I wanted to address this because I believe statements like this are one of the reasons discussions of this topic tend to go around in circles with people talking past each other.


This, on the other hand, sounds like a preference about what is being described rather than how it’s described. If I understand, your preference is for players to describe only their character’s intentions (e.g. to find traps) and not what the character does to realize their desired outcome. This would be consistent with the fifth and sixth options on the poll. This has the effect of minimizing what’s commonly called “player skill” because it doesn’t allow the player to describe their character doing things that would affect whether or not they achieve their goal.

When I DM, checking for a trap is as simple as declaring you want to find a trap and rolling a die. Same with disabling any trap found, although you can always potentially bypass it completely by finding a different route. I encourage or add descriptive flavor if it makes the game more interesting but never require it.

I don't care how the action is declared or what language is used. If I describe a chest that the players are interested in a simple "Check for traps?" is all they need. If they're at a locked door an experienced player can roll a D20 and state "18 to unlock?" They've adequately told me what their PC is doing. Sometimes it's just faster, sometimes it's just what a player is comfortable with.

Got it, and, for the record, I didn’t think you were making a statement about “one true way” to play the game. The issue I had with your statement was that it seemed to imply that other posters had an impaired ability to discern reality. I think if I’m understanding you correctly, there’s functionally no difference between a player making a “descriptive action declaration” and announcing an intention to roll an ability check at your table because of the way you choose to adjudicate outcomes.

I never require goal or intent because I don't judge success or failure based on those factors. If a chicken is crossing a road, I don't really care why. As a DM all I care about whether or not there's a truck coming that will require a check to see if the chicken can avoid becoming roadkill. The why will be revealed as part of the ongoing play if it's important.

This is all covered in the DMG under "The role of the dice", different people have different approaches. Some people roll for everything, some people never touch dice outside of combat. Which I think is kind of cool, even if never touching the dice outside of combat is not my preference because I want out-of-combat activities to be a consideration when building a character.
 

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There has been a lot of discussion on this thread that veered far from the original poll.

Some people have stated that the player must describe what they are doing along with what they are trying to achieve.
That's option 2 in the poll.

(change the "must" to a "may" for those who selected Option 2 along with one or more other Options.)
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When I DM, checking for a trap is as simple as declaring you want to find a trap and rolling a die. Same with disabling any trap found, although you can always potentially bypass it completely by finding a different route. I encourage or add descriptive flavor if it makes the game more interesting but never require it.

I don't care how the action is declared or what language is used. If I describe a chest that the players are interested in a simple "Check for traps?" is all they need. If they're at a locked door an experienced player can roll a D20 and state "18 to unlock?" They've adequately told me what their PC is doing. Sometimes it's just faster, sometimes it's just what a player is comfortable with.
After the character's been around long enough (which isn't very) to have developed an SOP for such things, that's fine with me as well.

But the first few times through I want these things done in detail, the more detailed the better, so I-as-DM know what this character tends to focus on and what it might sometimes miss.
This is all covered in the DMG under "The role of the dice", different people have different approaches. Some people roll for everything, some people never touch dice outside of combat. Which I think is kind of cool, even if never touching the dice outside of combat is not my preference because I want out-of-combat activities to be a consideration when building a character.
I don't altogether see the two bolded pieces here as necessarily being connected.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If I never touch a D20 outside of combat, why would I have any reason to invest in anything other than things that will aid me in combat?
Because not everything is decided by dice. If you-as-player and I-as-DM are engaged in an in-character discussion, I'm going to be taking your character's Cha score etc. into account when thinking how my NPC might be dealing with you and-or what it thinks of you. No need for dice for that. And ideally, I'll be describing and roleplaying the NPC well enough that you've got some idea of what it has or hasn't got going for it in terms of Charisma and social graces.

Whcih means, if you dump-stat Charisma your social dealings with the other inhabitants of the game world might be on average more difficult than had you put something decent in there.
 

Oofta

Legend
Because not everything is decided by dice. If you-as-player and I-as-DM are engaged in an in-character discussion, I'm going to be taking your character's Cha score etc. into account when thinking how my NPC might be dealing with you and-or what it thinks of you. No need for dice for that. And ideally, I'll be describing and roleplaying the NPC well enough that you've got some idea of what it has or hasn't got going for it in terms of Charisma and social graces.

Whcih means, if you dump-stat Charisma your social dealings with the other inhabitants of the game world might be on average more difficult than had you put something decent in there.
Which is fine for that one attribute. Also assumes you remember what people's ability scores are, which I'm sometimes terrible at. :)

In 5E I can have a PC with a fairly low charisma that has taken training in the form of proficiency and expertise so youwouldhaveto takethat intoaccountas well. But there are so many things that this would not cover for me. I don't know how I would cover things that are uncertain like knowledge of some obscure facts. How do you determine if someone can open that difficult lock in a few seconds, etc..

If it works for you, great. If having a high charisma makes that big of a difference, I would just always let the bard or sorcerer do the talking as a player.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Which is fine for that one attribute. Also assumes you remember what people's ability scores are, which I'm sometimes terrible at. :)
A wise one knows its weaknesses. Also, you can always just ask what the relevant score is.

. . . But there are so many things that this would not cover for me. I don't know how I would cover things that are uncertain like knowledge of some obscure facts. How do you determine if someone can open that difficult lock in a few seconds, etc..
Obscure facts: ask the player, "why would your character know this?" If you get a decent, character-focused response, then it's a Yes.

Difficult lock: some games use ranks instead of points. A "difficult" lock might be a piece of cake for a "difficult-rank" picker (or an "expert?"). D&D 3 used ranks in name, but I don't think that WotC went as far as to assign qualitative titles to the ranks. Still, you could take the 5e difficulty table and compare it to a PC's total proficiency and ability bonuses. And add 10 to that, because, why should an "easy" task have a DC 10, anyway? Nevermind, at this point it's just faster to ask the PC to roll. So THAT'S why you have to roll for everything in D&D...
 

Oofta

Legend
A wise one knows its weaknesses. Also, you can always just ask what the relevant score is.


Obscure facts: ask the player, "why would your character know this?" If you get a decent, character-focused response, then it's a Yes.

Which is great if the player is good at extemporaneous improvisational responses. Also subject to DM bias, whether conscious or not. Not so much otherwise.

I just prefer dice as a neutral arbiter and to minimize focus on player skill over PC skills.
 

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