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%

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth (He/him)
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 don't know what point this paragraph is attempting to make, but it seems like somewhat of a mischaracterization of someone else's playstyle, particularly where you state "That description may be required to qualify for a check", and "The player had to describe how they searched the door for traps adequately before they got a roll to find the trap." It seems to presume the player's goal is "to qualify for" or "to get" a roll, whereas what's truly desired is the auto-success you also mention.

When I DM, checking for a trap is as simple as declaring you want to find a trap and rolling a die.
I think that would fit in with the fifth option on the poll: the player states their character's goal/intention (i.e. finding a trap) and rolls without being asked by the DM.

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.
Again, this would be poll option 5 (and maybe 6 or 8 in the case of the player who merely asks "Check for traps?"), the stated or implied goals being "to detect traps" and "to unlock the door".

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.
Okay, then you might also choose the options that don't require the player to state an intent.
 

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Oofta

Legend
I don't know what point this paragraph is attempting to make, but it seems like somewhat of a mischaracterization of someone else's playstyle, particularly where you state "That description may be required to qualify for a check", and "The player had to describe how they searched the door for traps adequately before they got a roll to find the trap." It seems to presume the player's goal is "to qualify for" or "to get" a roll, whereas what's truly desired is the auto-success you also mention.

It's pretty much a direct quote from this post. It wasn't on this thread, this topic had been trending for a while.

And, as always, there's nothing wrong with this. It's just not something I would do and have never cared for in any edition. The basic concepts go pretty much back to the beginning of the game.


One time I had a player declare that she wanted to check a door for traps. I responded “I’m hearing that you want to find out if the door is trapped; what does your character do to try and find that out?” She initially said “something my character who’s trained in perception and investigation would think of that I can’t?” to which I said, “I understand you’re not an expert in trapfinding; neither am I. I just need to know what your character is doing in the world of the game so I can determine if it could succeed, if it could fail, and if there are any potential consequences for failing. Just go with something that seems reasonable to you, and I will do my best to interpret that generously.” She said she gave the door and the seams around it a thorough visual inspection, and I determined that this would have a chance of resulting in her seeing through the seam at the top that there was a lever, which would trigger a bell to ring when the door opened. I called for a check, she passed, and saw the lever. The party then went on to try to disarm this trap by wedging something (I no longer remember what, maybe it was a dagger or something) through the seam to hold the lever in place while they opened the door, which I determined would succeed without need of a roll. From that point on, the player in this exchange has consistently been one of the most creative players at my table when it comes to coming up with novel approaches to actions that often result in her succeeding at things without needing to roll.

I think that would fit in with the fifth option on the poll: the player states their character's goal/intention (i.e. finding a trap) and rolls without being asked by the DM.


Again, this would be poll option 5 (and maybe 6 or 8 in the case of the player who merely asks "Check for traps?"), the stated or implied goals being "to detect traps" and "to unlock the door".

Did I say the options were not represented on the poll?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It's pretty much a direct quote from this post. It wasn't on this thread, this topic had been trending for a while.

And, as always, there's nothing wrong with this. It's just not something I would do and have never cared for in any edition. The basic concepts go pretty much back to the beginning of the game.


One time I had a player declare that she wanted to check a door for traps. I responded “I’m hearing that you want to find out if the door is trapped; what does your character do to try and find that out?” She initially said “something my character who’s trained in perception and investigation would think of that I can’t?” to which I said, “I understand you’re not an expert in trapfinding; neither am I. I just need to know what your character is doing in the world of the game so I can determine if it could succeed, if it could fail, and if there are any potential consequences for failing. Just go with something that seems reasonable to you, and I will do my best to interpret that generously.” She said she gave the door and the seams around it a thorough visual inspection, and I determined that this would have a chance of resulting in her seeing through the seam at the top that there was a lever, which would trigger a bell to ring when the door opened. I called for a check, she passed, and saw the lever. The party then went on to try to disarm this trap by wedging something (I no longer remember what, maybe it was a dagger or something) through the seam to hold the lever in place while they opened the door, which I determined would succeed without need of a roll. From that point on, the player in this exchange has consistently been one of the most creative players at my table when it comes to coming up with novel approaches to actions that often result in her succeeding at things without needing to roll.
Did I say the options were not represented on the poll?
@Hriston is correct; saying that an “adequate description” is a requirement to “qualify for a check” is a mischaracterization of the way I run the game. For pretty much exactly the reasons they state - checks are not desirable things in my games. An ability check is kind of a soft failure state in my games, a last-chance to avoid potential consequences. A player at my table should be aiming for success without having to make a check, which is achieved not through quality of description, but by choosing an approach that is well-suited to your goals, with well-suited here meaning that it involves little to no uncertainty in the potential outcome. I only call for checks when there is both a reasonable chance of failure and a meaningful cost for the attempt or consequence for failure, so the best strategy is to try to come up with an approach that minimizes or eliminates one of those two things, and preferably that involves one of your proficiencies in the case that neither can be eliminated.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Which is fine for that one attribute. Also assumes you remember what people's ability scores are, which I'm sometimes terrible at. :)
Fair enough. I usually only worry about remembering the very high or very low, and most characters are in the mushy middle somewhere.
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..
Physical things like opening locks use dice. Social things use, well, socializing - in-character conversation between the player and DM.
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.
Nah - if those characters can join my dumb brute of a Fighter in combat then my dumb brute of a Fighter can join them in the talky bits. :)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
@Hriston is correct; saying that an “adequate description” is a requirement to “qualify for a check” is a mischaracterization of the way I run the game. For pretty much exactly the reasons they state - checks are not desirable things in my games. An ability check is kind of a soft failure state in my games, a last-chance to avoid potential consequences. A player at my table should be aiming for success without having to make a check, which is achieved not through quality of description, but by choosing an approach that is well-suited to your goals, with well-suited here meaning that it involves little to no uncertainty in the potential outcome. I only call for checks when there is both a reasonable chance of failure and a meaningful cost for the attempt or consequence for failure, so the best strategy is to try to come up with an approach that minimizes or eliminates one of those two things, and preferably that involves one of your proficiencies in the case that neither can be eliminated.
Right. You don't need checks to do stuff. You need them to resolve when doing stuff is in doubt. Remove the doubt in your favor, and you just succeed. No magic words required either. Just a clear statement of goal and approach, where the approach is particularly suited to the goal. Sometimes you succeed with no roll. Sometimes you roll.

DMG pages 236-237:

"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."

"Some DMs rely on die rolls for almost anything. When a character attempts a task, the DM calls for a check and picks a DC... A drawback of this approach is that roleplaying can diminish if players feel that their die rolls, rather than their decisions and characterizations, always determine success."
 

Dausuul

Legend
In principle, #2.

In practice, steps are often skipped when
there's no need for them. A player about to sneak past a guard might go ahead and roll Stealth without being asked, because they know I'm almost certain to call for a Stealth check and why not save time? If for whatever reason I decide that Stealth is not the appropriate skill, I'll ignore it and call for whatever check (if any) does apply. Otherwise I'll just take the result and carry on.

Declaring intention is unusual, but comes up now and then.
 

Oofta

Legend
@Hriston is correct; saying that an “adequate description” is a requirement to “qualify for a check” is a mischaracterization of the way I run the game. For pretty much exactly the reasons they state - checks are not desirable things in my games. An ability check is kind of a soft failure state in my games, a last-chance to avoid potential consequences. A player at my table should be aiming for success without having to make a check, which is achieved not through quality of description, but by choosing an approach that is well-suited to your goals, with well-suited here meaning that it involves little to no uncertainty in the potential outcome. I only call for checks when there is both a reasonable chance of failure and a meaningful cost for the attempt or consequence for failure, so the best strategy is to try to come up with an approach that minimizes or eliminates one of those two things, and preferably that involves one of your proficiencies in the case that neither can be eliminated.
You literally stated that you asked for and received a description of how she was checking for a trap "... I determined that this would have a chance of resulting in her seeing through the seam at the top that there was a lever, which would trigger a bell to ring when the door opened. I called for a check"

I don't know how else to read it other that in order to have a chance she had to give an a description that satisfied you. 🤷‍♂️

That approach is neither right nor wrong, but I have not misrepresented anything as far as I can tell. I literally paraphrased what you stated.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
You literally stated that you asked for and received a description of how she was checking for a trap "... I determined that this would have a chance of resulting in her seeing through the seam at the top that there was a lever, which would trigger a bell to ring when the door opened. I called for a check"

I don't know how else to read it other that in order to have a chance she had to give an a description that satisfied you. 🤷‍♂️
Your framing implies that “a chance” is a desirable thing, which is being gated behind the requirement of “giving a description that satisfies me.” This is misrepresenting the reality of the gameplay at my table, in which “a chance” is an undesirable thing, which you might have to risk taking, if you can’t devise a way of trying to accomplish your goals that could circumvent it.
That approach is neither right nor wrong, but I have not misrepresented anything as far as I can tell. I literally paraphrased what you stated.
You didn’t just paraphrase, you’ve reframed the check as a thing the player wants to do and needs to describe things in a certain way to earn. That’s simply not how it works in my games. A check in my games is a scary thing the player wants to avoid if they can help it. Furthermore, the way to avoid a check is not to describe your action in any particular way, but to devise an action that achieves what you want to happen without significant risk. How exactly you describe that action is immaterial.
 

Oofta

Legend
Your framing implies that “a chance” is a desirable thing, which is being gated behind the requirement of “giving a description that satisfies me.” This is misrepresenting the reality of the gameplay at my table, in which “a chance” is an undesirable thing, which you might have to risk taking, if you can’t devise a way of trying to accomplish your goals that could circumvent it.

You didn’t just paraphrase, you’ve reframed the check as a thing the player wants to do and needs to describe things in a certain way to earn. That’s simply not how it works in my games. A check in my games is a scary thing the player wants to avoid if they can help it.
But if the player hadn't given a description they wouldn't even have gotten a chance, correct? Then, if the description is judged adequate it automatically succeeds?

So I'm confused. You have a minimum requirement - a description that gives a chance to succeed. On top of that if the description is judged adequate it automatically succeeds. I'm just trying to phrase it in a way that can be done in a sentence or two, it's not criticism.
 

Clint_L

Legend
Physical things like opening locks use dice. Social things use, well, socializing - in-character conversation between the player and DM.
What if the player is not that great at being a charming con artist or a silver-tongued bard, and yet they are playing a character who is? How do you handle that?

I have trouble on this issue, because I agree that real life interaction between the player and DM should be rewarded. So even if the character is a monk with an 8 charisma, if the player comes up with a super convincing piece of roleplay or whatever, I generally go with it.

The problem is the reverse - some players, and especially new players, really struggle with that aspect of the game, and I don't want to punish them because they aren't great at it IRL, any more than I would punish them for not being great at fighting or casting spells IRL.

So a new player might say something like, "I try to convince the guard to let me into the room by being charming." I'll ask them to elaborate, but if it is obviously painful for them and comes off totally wooden, I'll just ask for a die role and build out the situation myself. On the other hand, if a great role-player is trying to do the same, I'll still ask for the dice roll, but it'll be considered in the context of their brilliant roleplaying.

In short, I don't have a consistent method here because each player and context is different. It's something I think I could improve upon.
 

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