log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Calibration of single character skill checks

Whom to calibrate common DCs for single-character skill checks, and assume party help or not?

  • Natural or skilled characters - either has a good ability score or is trained.

    Votes: 18 69.2%
  • Talented characters - assume the character would have a good ability score and must have proficiency

    Votes: 8 30.8%
  • Focused characters - assume character high ability score and expertise.

    Votes: 2 7.7%
  • No Team Support - base the DC just on the character.

    Votes: 16 61.5%
  • Team Support - should we assume the party will be able to provide +3-5 in other bonuses for checks

    Votes: 4 15.4%

  • Total voters
    26

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
You are writing the section in a DMG about difficulty for skill checks, and you need to write a recommendation for the "most common" DCs . For example, traps/hazards that will be a single character disarming or an arcana check.

For "most common" DC that the DM should put in adventures, is it calibrated that which of these has a good but not overwhelming chance to overcome:
  • Natural or skilled characters - either has a good ability score or is trained. Such as a cleric making a INT (Religion) check.
  • Talented characters - assume the character would have a good ability score and must have proficiency in appropriate skills. So for disarming traps a rogue without expertise in investigate or tools, a good-DEX character with a criminal background, etc.
  • Focused characters - assume character will be relentlessly pursuing that ability score and must have expertise in appropriate skills. The CHR-focused bard with expertise in CHR (Persuasion).
Plus pick one of:
  • No Team Support - base the DC just on the character.
  • Team Support - shoudl we always assume the party will be able to provide +3-5 in other bonuses (guidance, advantage, etc.)

Again, this is for "most common", so we'd expect to see an equal number under this as above.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

None of the above?

IMO, I think it would be a disservice to recommend "most common" DCs for ability checks in 5e. The DC should squarely be something the DM calibrates based on the approach and goal of the PC as presented by the player. That is, assuming there is an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure of said approach and goal. I do like the suggested DCs for using tools presented in Xanathar's - and I think those are examples that aligns nicely with the PC's approach and goal.

That said, I believe there should be some guidance in the DMG - by way of example - on how/why to set easy (10), medium (15), or hard (20) DCs. DMG pg 238 does a reasonable job of starting this but strangely abdicates ultimate authority to the adventures. So many of the DCs presented in the published adventures, meanwhile, are there to... facilitate rolling dice? That is to say that some (most?) of these DCs exist with no meaningful consequence of failure (i.e. nothing happens) which flies in the face of the rules presented on DMG pg 237. What's is really the point of rolling in those cases?

So, not trying to derail your poll, just coming at this from a completely different angle at our table.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
None of the above?

IMO, I think it would be a disservice to recommend "most common" DCs for ability checks in 5e. The DC should squarely be something the DM calibrates based on the approach and goal of the PC as presented by the player. That is, assuming there is an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure of said approach and goal. I do like the suggested DCs for using tools presented in Xanathar's - and I think those are examples that aligns nicely with the PC's approach and goal.

That said, I believe there should be some guidance in the DMG - by way of example - on how/why to set easy (10), medium (15), or hard (20) DCs. DMG pg 238 does a reasonable job of starting this but strangely abdicates ultimate authority to the adventures. So many of the DCs presented in the published adventures, meanwhile, are there to... facilitate rolling dice? That is to say that some (most?) of these DCs exist with no meaningful consequence of failure (i.e. nothing happens) which flies in the face of the rules presented on DMG pg 237. What's is really the point of rolling in those cases?

So, not trying to derail your poll, just coming at this from a completely different angle at our table.
I agree with you, but I think DMs who come at setting DCs like you and I do would do better to conceptualize the question as “to who’s skill should the difficulty of a given DC be relative?”

What I mean by that is, 5e treats DC 10 as easy, 15 as moderate, and 20 as hard, right? But easy/medium/hard to whom? To a character who specializes in a certain task, with help from other party members, “hard” might not be an especially accurate way to describe a DC20 check to perform that task. Yet 5e uses that term for it, so we can assume those DC categories are probably named relative to a character with a lesser degree of specialization than that. Who is it relative to then? And who ought it to be relative to?

For the record, I believe the answer is that in 5e it’s relative to a 1st-4th level character with either a 14-17 in the relevant ability and no relevant proficiency, or a 10-13 in the relevant ability and a relevant proficiency, acting alone. And I also think that is exactly who it ought to be relative to in 5e. So I would vote checking the first and fourth box in the poll.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I honestly think that you are missing the point of 5e and bounded accuracy here. The DCs are not for characters, and in particular not specifically for player characters. They are simply how hard it is for an average person in the fantasy world. Nothing in the game suggests that the DC needs to be adjusted when the PCs go up in level for example.

What makes PC heroes succeed when the average Joe fails at harder tasks is that the PCs have exceptional stats and training (expertise bonus) as well as their coordination in a team.

I think, considering bounded accuracy, that it's dangerous to inflate DCs for higher level characters, it will make them fail way too often for heroes. And if they succeed easily at harder tasks, it will be normal, it is their chosen domain of expertise, and they are heroes. I never have any problem setting "world DCs" at low values, but of course, when there is a contest, the NPC/Monster can have bonuses as high as the PCs and roll well (on Friday, the Duke of Hell had Deception of +13 and rolled well, and was only caught in a lie by a PC towards the end of the negotiation).
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
None?

Unless you are running a high level 5e campaign, "common" DCs shouldn't be calibrated to experts or talented.
I am running high level campaigns and I'm not calibrating "World" DCs for this. Yes, they are in more complicated situations, so the average Joe Farmer would probably be burnt to a crisp trying to soundlessly navigate a lava pit. But it's because it's something which is very hard to do. But if it's jumping across a simple stream, it's easy, the average joe might still slip and fall but it will almost never happen to a hero.

The difficulty goes up because the situations are heroic, not because simple situations suddenly become hard just because the PCs happen to have high bonuses.

That is a more 3e, PF, or 4e mentality because those games were built around rapid increases of PC capabilities.

Yes, exactly this. Bounded Accuracy is really an overarching principle for 5e, it's not only for combat and AC.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I agree with you, but I think DMs who come at setting DCs like you and I do would do better to conceptualize the question as “to who’s skill should the difficulty of a given DC be relative?”

What I mean by that is, 5e treats DC 10 as easy, 15 as moderate, and 20 as hard, right? But easy/medium/hard to whom? To a character who specializes in a certain task, with help from other party members, “hard” might not be an especially accurate way to describe a DC20 check to perform that task. Yet 5e uses that term for it, so we can assume those DC categories are probably named relative to a character with a lesser degree of specialization than that. Who is it relative to then? And who ought it to be relative to?

For the record, I believe the answer is that in 5e it’s relative to a 1st-4th level character with either a 14-17 in the relevant ability and no relevant proficiency, or a 10-13 in the relevant ability and a relevant proficiency, acting alone. And I also think that is exactly who it ought to be relative to in 5e. So I would vote checking the first and fourth box in the poll.

The DMG tells us on page 238.

The DCs are calibrated to a character with all 10s,

Easy lets them coin flip and succeed 50% of the time. Moderate require high roll. Hard a 20.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
The DMG tells us on page 238.
The DCs are calibrated to a character with all 10s,
Easy lets them coin flip and succeed 50% of the time. Moderate require high roll. Hard a 20.
Hmmm, I had read that section many times and I was surprised by your statement because I had never seen it formulated quite this way, although I agree that this corresponds to my perspective of the "average joe" calibration.

However, it is not exactly what is said: "Keep in mind that a character with a 10 in the associated ability and no proficiency will succeed at an easy task around 50 percent of the time. A moderate task requires a higher score or proficiency for success, whereas a hard task typically requires both. A big dose of luck with the d20 also doesn’t hurt."

This just says that if you use the table above and allocated a DC of 10 to an easy task, a character with 10 in a stat and no proficiency will succeed around 50% of the time (which, by the way, is false, it's 55%) at an easy task.

I think you can almost read it the other way around saying that "average joe" with 10 in his stats and no proficiency sets the DC at 10 when it is easy for him, and it's certainly the way I envision it, but I would be interested to see if it's everyone else's understanding as well...
 


ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
Did not vote, none really appropriate. The DC set versus ordinary people and does not chance except by circumstances. DC to climb the wall at the back of the Tavern yard under hot pursuit, first time DC 10, second time DC 0, you already figured out how to climb it. Some time later in a thunderstorm DC 15.
and so on.
 

Horwath

Hero
As skill bonuses are progressing slower than in 3.5e so should DCs

DC 10 is OK but DC 15 should be 13 and so on.
also use 3d6 on skills;

0 -> 0
5 -> 5
10 -> 10
15 -> 13
20 -> 16
25 -> 19
30 -> 22
35 -> 25(if used at all)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
As skill bonuses are progressing slower than in 3.5e so should DCs

DC should not progress at all in and of themselves. The exposure of PCs to more complex and dangerous situations might expose them to Higher DCs, but there is no reason for DCs themselves to change.

3e has its own table, there is no need to go back to 3e which uses a completely different paradigm, it would be very frustrating for the players.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That said, I believe there should be some guidance in the DMG - by way of example - on how/why to set easy (10), medium (15), or hard (20) DCs. DMG pg 238 does a reasonable job of starting this but strangely abdicates ultimate authority to the adventures. So many of the DCs presented in the published adventures, meanwhile, are there to... facilitate rolling dice? That is to say that some (most?) of these DCs exist with no meaningful cons
In a lot of cases, the published adventure will have enough context to at least suggest an approach to a goal and a corresponding DC. (I can't say all cases because I'm sure there are some without it.) I think often the DC is just a shorthand for the writer to communicate difficulty, which is why we sometimes see no meaningful consequence for failure spelled out in the description.
 

Horwath

Hero
DC should not progress at all in and of themselves. The exposure of PCs to more complex and dangerous situations might expose them to Higher DCs, but there is no reason for DCs themselves to change.

3e has its own table, there is no need to go back to 3e which uses a completely different paradigm, it would be very frustrating for the players.
problem is that, 5e skill DC table is written 90% as 3.5e table.

same as the weapons table(but that is another problem to solve)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
problem is that, 5e skill DC table is written 90% as 3.5e table.

How exactly is that a problem ? Just use the table appropriate to the game you are playing, not the other one who might have different characteristics due to the game being different. And don't be fooled, there are similarities, but 3e and 5e are really quite different as D&D versions go.

same as the weapons table(but that is another problem to solve)

Again, how is this a problem ?
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
I honestly think that you are missing the point of 5e and bounded accuracy here. The DCs are not for characters, and in particular not specifically for player characters. They are simply how hard it is for an average person in the fantasy world. Nothing in the game suggests that the DC needs to be adjusted when the PCs go up in level for example.

What makes PC heroes succeed when the average Joe fails at harder tasks is that the PCs have exceptional stats and training (expertise bonus) as well as their coordination in a team.

I think, considering bounded accuracy, that it's dangerous to inflate DCs for higher level characters, it will make them fail way too often for heroes. And if they succeed easily at harder tasks, it will be normal, it is their chosen domain of expertise, and they are heroes. I never have any problem setting "world DCs" at low values, but of course, when there is a contest, the NPC/Monster can have bonuses as high as the PCs and roll well (on Friday, the Duke of Hell had Deception of +13 and rolled well, and was only caught in a lie by a PC towards the end of the negotiation).
This! If you are 10th level and running around with a Bard, Wizard Sorcerer and Fighter and no one who has thieves tools proficiency a medium trap should be a big deal and a high risk for you (and it will).

If that same group included a Rogue instead, or if the Bard took prodigy and picked up Thieves tools it can and should be pretty easy. The balance is not in the DC, but in the other areas that are given up to have the high bonus.

This is especially relevant to me because I play a lot of Rogues and often take half Elf and/or multiclass to ranger to get even more proficiencies and expertise. I am playing a character right now (Rogue/Fey Wanderer) that has 10 proficiencies at 5th level and 5 of them are +8 or better. If you are scaling up the DC on the parts of the game I purposely build my character to be great at you are penalizing me unless you are also scaling up encounters and giving enemies resistance/immunity to weapon damage because the fighter dumped everything into combat.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
This! If you are 10th level and running around with a Bard, Wizard Sorcerer and Fighter and no one who has thieves tools proficiency a medium trap should be a big deal and a high risk for you (and it will).

If that same group included a Rogue instead, or if the Bard took prodigy and picked up Thieves tools it can and should be pretty easy. The balance is not in the DC, but in the other areas that are given up to have the high bonus.

Exactly, the intent is really to reward players for making the choices that they made in designing their characters, not punishing even them with higher and higher DCs for things which should be simple for heroes. If even the specialist of the group needs a 17+ on his dice to succeed, what's the point of being a specialist ? It should just be trivial for him and (very) hard for others.

Of course some things could be extremely hard even for specialists, but then we are speaking about legendary tasks which should only come in once in a while, not as an every day standard...
 

Horwath

Hero
How exactly is that a problem ? Just use the table appropriate to the game you are playing, not the other one who might have different characteristics due to the game being different. And don't be fooled, there are similarities, but 3e and 5e are really quite different as D&D versions go.



Again, how is this a problem ?
we are using 5e table, ofc.

I meant to say, difficulty category spread by 5 works for 3e but does not for 5e, as skill bonus growth is much slower.
In 3e you gain +5(so you have equal chance to succeed on a category higher DC) every 5 levels, and in 5e every 20 levels.(or 10 for expertise).

also they boosted "easy" from DC 0 to DC 5. If "average Joe" fails a task 1 in 5 times then it is not really easy.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Hmmm, I had read that section many times and I was surprised by your statement because I had never seen it formulated quite this way, although I agree that this corresponds to my perspective of the "average joe" calibration.

However, it is not exactly what is said: "Keep in mind that a character with a 10 in the associated ability and no proficiency will succeed at an easy task around 50 percent of the time. A moderate task requires a higher score or proficiency for success, whereas a hard task typically requires both. A big dose of luck with the d20 also doesn’t hurt."

This just says that if you use the table above and allocated a DC of 10 to an easy task, a character with 10 in a stat and no proficiency will succeed around 50% of the time (which, by the way, is false, it's 55%) at an easy task.
Exactly. A character with a 10 fails at a DC 10 check 45% of the time. The word Easy does not accurately describe something you have barely better than a coin flip’s chance of succeeding at. The DCs may be calibrated based on wanting a completely untrained person to have that success rate, but I believe their names are relative to a character with a bit more training than that.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I meant to say, difficulty category spread by 5 works for 3e but does not for 5e, as skill bonus growth is much slower.
In 3e you gain +5(so you have equal chance to succeed on a category higher DC) every 5 levels, and in 5e every 20 levels.(or 10 for expertise).

I still think you are not on the right paradigm here, the spread by 5 in 5e has nothing to do with skill bonus growth, it just represents the difficulty for an average person. If it's a hard task (and again, with a chance of failure, not hard because it's physically hard or would take a long task), someone who is not trained or gifted will succeed only by chance.

also they boosted "easy" from DC 0 to DC 5. If "average Joe" fails a task 1 in 5 times then it is not really easy.

Remember that it still is a task that can fail (otherwise it's automatic success, so what's the point in giving it a DC ?). So if the average joe succeeds 100 of the time, how can it fail, and how is it a task ?
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top