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Attacking defenseless NPCs

Saelorn

Explorer
Totally disagree. I consider whether the action is possible in the fiction first, then, if it seems uncertain, then determine the mechanic.
But how do you determine whether the outcome seems uncertain, if you don't even know which underlying mechanics apply? Do you just blindly guess? Do you use out-of-game knowledge?

If possessing 30hp is not criteria which proves a character is immune to being dropped from an attack for (1d8+5) damage, then what is the criteria? More importantly, how are the players supposed to know what criteria you're using, if you aren't using the criteria in the book?
Take walking across a room with no hazards. According to you, I have to determine the controlling mechanic, determine the difficulty, and then determine success/uncertainty status. My way, I just say yes. But, this is easy, so let's go harder.
Trivial examples resolve trivially at the table. I would adjudicate walking across an empty room is a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check at DC -2, so the outcome is certain unless your Dexterity modifier is worse than -3; and the only reason to roll, outside of combat, is to figure out whether you briefly stumble and look clumsy. In the vast majority of cases, it doesn't take me any longer to resolve with my method than it does with yours. The difference is that I'm actually using the rules in the book, instead of avoiding them.
Now the PC wants to pole vault across a dangerous stream (maybe acid, or a super-saturated mineral steam that causes immediate crystal growth, doesn't really matter) that they can't jump across. I consider if the pole is long enough then it's plausible. Seems risky, though, so both uncertain and has a consequence. Mechanics time! STR controls here, but it's not too hard, so DC 15 STR check is called for.

Your way you look at STR first, determine DC (not sure how, chart?), then look at PC stats and determine if a check is called for, for each PC? I have the one for any PC that uses that approach because it's based on the approach and not the character sheet.
My way is the same as yours. I look at the approach, and make a judgment call as to the DC. If the DC is 15, then anyone with a bonus between -5 and +13 has to make a Strength (Athletics) check, with failure indicating a fall. If your bonus is worse than -5, or greater than +13, then the outcome is definitionally certain and no roll is necessary.

So, no, the way you see the uncertainty determination part of the loop.dies not have to work the one way. I'd arguably say that you're doing way more work than me for no appreciable gain -- you onload PC skill calculations to the DM overhead. I don't see the advantage.
If you're bad at math, or at tracking numbers, then feel free to put the "burden" back onto the players - tell them that the DC is 15, and let them figure out whether or not they need to roll.
 

Ellsworth

Villager
My reasoning is, HP models a character’s ability to put up a fight. If you’re not fighting back then you’re not expending HP and thus it is not a factor here.
I haven't thought of HP as being conditional. Nice observation. However, the condition you propose may not be completely accurate per RAW.

"Your character’s hit points define how tough your character is in combat and other dangerous situations." (PHB 12)

The "dangerous situation" condition may apply to your scenario. Being an orc guard in an orc camp could be considered a dangerous situation.

I think this is the best solution:

It is an attack. The attacker is unseen by the target, so the attack is rolled with advantage. The PC is attacking with surprise.
Advantage is powerful.

If you're not convinced, arrow damage should be taken into consideration as well:

The ranger simply can't do enough damage in one shot to take out the orc except on a crit and even that's no guarantee.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
But how do you determine whether the outcome seems uncertain, if you don't even know which underlying mechanics apply? Do you just blindly guess? Do you use out-of-game knowledge?

If possessing 30hp is not criteria which proves a character is immune to being dropped from an attack for (1d8+5) damage, then what is the criteria? More importantly, how are the players supposed to know what criteria you're using, if you aren't using the criteria in the book?
Trivial examples resolve trivially at the table. I would adjudicate walking across an empty room is a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check at DC -2, so the outcome is certain unless your Dexterity modifier is worse than -3; and the only reason to roll, outside of combat, is to figure out whether you briefly stumble and look clumsy. In the vast majority of cases, it doesn't take me any longer to resolve with my method than it does with yours. The difference is that I'm actually using the rules in the book, instead of avoiding them.
My way is the same as yours. I look at the approach, and make a judgment call as to the DC. If the DC is 15, then anyone with a bonus between -5 and +13 has to make a Strength (Athletics) check, with failure indicating a fall. If your bonus is worse than -5, or greater than +13, then the outcome is definitionally certain and no roll is necessary.

If you're bad at math, or at tracking numbers, then feel free to put the "burden" back onto the players - tell them that the DC is 15, and let them figure out whether or not they need to roll.
This is so confused. You start by asking how I can tell if an action is uncertain, then repeat what I said I did as an example of how you do it. You even say you set DC based on approach! I have absolutely no idea what your question might be, as it appears the one you asked was answered by you.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
This is so confused. You start by asking how I can tell if an action is uncertain, then repeat what I said I did as an example of how you do it. You even say you set DC based on approach! I have absolutely no idea what your question might be, as it appears the one you asked was answered by you.
How do you decide whether an action is certain or uncertain, if you don't first figure out the DC, or which modifier applies?

It's trivial to figure out whether an action is certain or uncertain after you figure out the DC and the relevant modifier. The reverse should be impossible, since those two values are the only variables in the formula for certainty.
 

Sabathius42

Villager
You don't have any Assassin characters at your table because checkmate rules make them obsolete.....(big snip). ....The only reason I can see for having a "Checkmate" rule is if the group is so powerful, rolling is just a formality....(snip)
So you are saying you can see a case for an "instant death" rule in a game...and one that doesnt step on the Assassins toes. All that would be left to do in this case is for the GM to judge when thoae cases are in any given situation....which is exactly what pro-instant-kill posters are saying.

Just because you have a "checkmate" rule doesnt mean it applies in every situation. The Assassin is still useful because they can "force" the GM to use their own unique version of instant kill based on other qualifications.

DS
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
How do you decide whether an action is certain or uncertain, if you don't first figure out the DC, or which modifier applies?

It's trivial to figure out whether an action is certain or uncertain after you figure out the DC and the relevant modifier. The reverse should be impossible, since those two values are the only variables in the formula for certainty.
The same way you determine the DC? You consider the approach in regards to the fictional positioning?

I honestly don't understand this question, given you're doing the same thing only you've cloaked it inside a mechanics check and are pretending that makes it somehow more valid. I work at the level of the approach, not the specific PC. You seem to want to never ask for a roll that automatically succeeds, I don't care about it. If the approach is uncertain, a roll is asked for. I don't go through the extra step of assigning a DC and checking numbers. You seem to understand setting DCs according to the aporiach and the fiction, so just step back one step.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Not just D&D. Also GURPS, WoD (o and n), FATE, Cortex+. Loads of RPGs... probably *most* RPGs, have NPCs take actions independently. We could consider this a holdover from teh wargame root - every "unit" gets its move. The case is so common and traditional, it is a little weird to call it "odd".

Games that *don't* have this case (Powered by the Apocalypse, Forged in the Dark, f'rex) are relatively new to most folks, and (at least in my experience) when approaching them from the context of having been, say, a long time D&D player, the difference causes folks no end of cognitive dissonance. "What do you mean, the enemy doesn't roll an attack against me?"
D&D's shift is pretty sudden. There's a reason people have talked about the combat whoosh before. Otherwise, yes? Was there a point beside this extra qualification?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This is so confused.
It seems pretty straightforward, to me. It is the basic conflict between a GM's judgement, and resolution through an objective process.

Say my character wants to lift an object. In the GM's judgement, there is uncertainty in the result of this attempt. So, the GM says, "I will use the resolution mechanic the written rules have for lifting heavy objects." You then check these rules, and find that either the character cannot fail (if the object is light) or cannot succeed (if the object is heavy). So, it turns out there *wasn't* uncertainty.

Well, maybe we say there's no big deal. The GM gave you an even shot, at least.

The problematic case is when the GM determines there is no uncertainty, but a reasonable person looking at the rules thinks there ought to be. This goes south generally when the result goes against the player, and the typical mechanics you'd apply said there was a good chance for things to be different, but the GM decides to not use the rules.

This looks like an arbitrary (or worse, a purposeful, non-arbitrary) fiat on the part of the GM.

The core play loop you described is idealized, and does not include subtle factors relating to how both the GM and players are imperfect humans, with social dynamics and expectations, and major expectation failures are a failure mode for play.
 

robus

Explorer
I'm confused as to why we argue things based upon unreasonable DMing... shouldn't the assumption be that the DM is at least competent at their job?

I guess it could be argued that I was being unreasonable in my OP by adjudicating that the player had a chance of accomplishing their goal through their approach but there was some chance of failure with a cost. But I think that's taking unreasonable to an extreme... :)
 

Saelorn

Explorer
The same way you determine the DC? You consider the approach in regards to the fictional positioning?

I honestly don't understand this question, given you're doing the same thing only you've cloaked it inside a mechanics check and are pretending that makes it somehow more valid. I work at the level of the approach, not the specific PC. You seem to want to never ask for a roll that automatically succeeds, I don't care about it. If the approach is uncertain, a roll is asked for. I don't go through the extra step of assigning a DC and checking numbers. You seem to understand setting DCs according to the approach and the fiction, so just step back one step.
I also don't care about whether the roll I ask for has a guaranteed outcome or not. It's not super important, whether I know what everyone's modifier is. (The worst case scenario is just that they roll, and the guaranteed thing happens anyway; it's not a big deal.) The important part is in setting the DC.

Declaring the DC before ascertaining certainty is an important consistency check. It prevents you from accidentally saying something happens, when it isn't actually certain.
 

robus

Explorer
"Your character’s hit points define how tough your character is in combat and other dangerous situations." (PHB 12)
Good catch on "other dangerous situations" but to me that's allowing the PCs some cushion to survive falls, traps etc etc. For my NPCs it's all about their ability to put up a fight and evade the PCs attacks. I'm definitely not in the camp that the NPCs are exactly the same as the PCs. I definitely don't roll death saving throws for NPCs for example - but I would have to assume that others posting here do, or else it would be unfair to the NPCs?
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
I also don't care about whether the roll I ask for has a guaranteed outcome or not. It's not super important, whether I know what everyone's modifier is. (The worst case scenario is just that they roll, and the guaranteed thing happens anyway; it's not a big deal.) The important part is in setting the DC.

Declaring the DC before ascertaining certainty is an important consistency check. It prevents you from accidentally saying something happens, when it isn't actually certain.
This seems... odd? You use you understanding of the approach and fiction to set the DC to double check your understabding of the approach and fiction?

Let's say I think that a given approach is uncertain and seems moderately difficult. How is setting the DC to 15 a check on the above? What if I think it's super easy and set the DC at -5. How is this a check against my thinking the approach is super easy?
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I'm confused as to why we argue things based upon unreasonable DMing... shouldn't the assumption be that the DM is at least competent at their job?
I mean, if you want every discussion to go something like:

"What do you think of ______ variant where we resolve ________ by doing <something totally ridiculous and obviously broken>…?"

"Should be fine."
"Yup."
"Don't see any potential problems."

"Thanks, I already implemented and it was exactly as awesome as everything else I've ever run."
::thread ends::
 

robus

Explorer
I mean, if you want every discussion to go something like:

"What do you think of ______ variant where we resolve ________ by doing <something totally ridiculous and obviously broken>…?"

"Should be fine."
"Yup."
"Don't see any potential problems."

"Thanks, I already implemented and it was exactly as awesome as everything else I've ever run."
::thread ends::
Not sure that was quite the point I was making :)
 

robus

Explorer
I think we have a case where a number posters think that DMs generally cannot adequately adjudicate their games and thus must turn to the rules first to ensure fairness. I'm not saying that there aren't bad DMs out there, of course there are. But I don't think we can fix bad DMing by turning to the rules (or adding more rules).
 

Dausuul

Legend
So you are saying you can see a case for an "instant death" rule in a game...and one that doesnt step on the Assassins toes. All that would be left to do in this case is for the GM to judge when thoae cases are in any given situation....which is exactly what pro-instant-kill posters are saying.
The DM in tglassy's example is looking at the combat rules, seeing that the inevitable result is PC victory with negligible expenditure of resources, and deciding that it isn't worth bothering to go through the motions of rolling dice. The end result is the same as if the combat had been played out - you're just getting there faster.

That is quite different from deciding to deep-six the combat rules and impose a different result by fiat.

I don't have a problem with overriding the rules by fiat; but I feel it should be a last resort, used only when the outcome of the rules cannot be justified in the narrative. If the outcome of the rules can be justified but you don't like it, that's the time to sit down and work out a house rule. (House rules are quite different from DM fiat, by the way. A house rule is consistent, with defined mechanics, and players are aware of it before it comes into play. It's just like any other rule, except that it disappears from the rulebook when you go to a different table. DM fiat is the DM tossing the rules out the window and imposing a result.)
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
It seems pretty straightforward, to me. It is the basic conflict between a GM's judgement, and resolution through an objective process.

Say my character wants to lift an object. In the GM's judgement, there is uncertainty in the result of this attempt. So, the GM says, "I will use the resolution mechanic the written rules have for lifting heavy objects." You then check these rules, and find that either the character cannot fail (if the object is light) or cannot succeed (if the object is heavy). So, it turns out there *wasn't* uncertainty.
No. What turns out is that this PC is capable enough at that level of uncertainty.

Uncertainty does not append to the outcome of the check -- this presupposes a check -- but to the action -- is this action uncertain to be successful. What you're doing here is assuming a check and looking for uncertainty in the outcome of the check. This is not what I'm saying. I'm saying that you look at the action with regard to the fictional state and determine if it is uncertain, and if so, select mechanics to resolve the uncertainty. A check is not a given.
Well, maybe we say there's no big deal. The GM gave you an even shot, at least.

The problematic case is when the GM determines there is no uncertainty, but a reasonable person looking at the rules thinks there ought to be. This goes south generally when the result goes against the player, and the typical mechanics you'd apply said there was a good chance for things to be different, but the GM decides to not use the rules.

This looks like an arbitrary (or worse, a purposeful, non-arbitrary) fiat on the part of the GM.
Another ecampke of "but what if a jerk does it," as if this addresses the topic rather than just introduces a jerk. Here's a thing, someone can always imagine how you say you play with jerks instead and make a case for bad play. It's not your method, though, it's the jerks.

I use this method and don't have this problem. This is because I'm not a jerk, and I strive to engage my players and not gotcha them. Proposing play that is a gotcha, ir results from lack of effort to be clear on the situation, doesn't actualky address the method.

You say "at least I got a roll" as if this protects against jerks. It diesn't, it's weak, and I'd rather address the jerk involved as the problem.
[Quite]
The core play loop you described is idealized, and does not include subtle factors relating to how both the GM and players are imperfect humans, with social dynamics and expectations, and major expectation failures are a failure mode for play.[/QUOTE]

This is absolute hogwash. Fir one, tge play loop is as much rules as the combat section. It's right there in the front of the book as how to play the game. Two, it doesn't rely on mythical perfect people, nor is it more prone to degenerate play than your preferred more 3.x style of hard mechanics. If this was true, it would be impossible for those of us that report excellent results to be anything other than liars for no perceivable reason.

I used to play as you argue -- I got in some ugly arguments with [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION], refusing to believe he could possibly be honest in how he presents this playstyle. I can't say what started me listening, but everything I believed before - that you have to have strong codification of mechanics and that you go to mechanics first - is wrong. Not that it's wrong to play that way, or less fun, because that is 100% untrue, but that playing another way is just as good and still within the rules. And, I like this way better - I'm more attentive, more productive, my games move faster and have more player engagement. YMMV, and probably does; what works for me works for me, it's by no means universal. But, by golly, does it chap my backside when someone spouts ignorance like this. Which is probably karma for me doing it years ago.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
This seems... odd? You use your understanding of the approach and fiction to set the DC to double check your understanding of the approach and fiction?
I mainly use my understanding of the situation to double check its interaction with outside factors. The inherent ability of the character performing the action is a factor outside of the the approach to action. Many DMs forget that. (I'm not saying that you have that problem. Just in general.)
Let's say I think that a given approach is uncertain and seems moderately difficult. How is setting the DC to 15 a check on the above?
It guarantees that the only ones who automatically fail are the ones with a modifier of -5 or worse, and the only ones to automatically succeed are the ones with +14 or more. It guarantees that the characters who should roll, do roll. It prevents you from accidentally narrating the feeble wizard into failure, when they actually should have had a chance to succeed. It prevents you from narrating the agile ranger into success, when they should have had a chance to fail.
What if I think it's super easy and set the DC at -5. How is this a check against my thinking the approach is super easy?
It prevents you from accidentally saying that anyone ever fails, under any circumstances whatsoever, even when it should be mathematically impossible.

There's a huge problem in 5E, where DCs rarely drop below 10, and yet a specialized PC may still only have +5 to the check. The problem is called Bounded Accuracy. Many DMs will see an easy task, look at the mighty barbarian, and just say that they succeed - even when the underlying math (Bounded Accuracy) tells us that they might fail.

You can get around that problem if, as you suggest, you don't consider who the character is when you evaluate their approach. Giving something a DC of -5 is literally equivalent to saying that the outcome is certain, regardless of who is trying it. You need to really mean it, though. A common pitfall of bad DMs is that they'll let a competent-seeming character slide by without a check (or without even checking the numbers), and then force the less-competent-seeming character to make a check, with a DC that the competent-seeming character could have failed at.
 

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