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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

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
Easy is DC 10, friend. Which is why I say it’s not named based on “average Joe,” even if it’s calibrated based on his chances of success.
 

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Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

It's a good point, and I think I see your perspective, but remember that these represent tasks which have a chance of actual failure, it's not a question of amount of effort and length of time for example. If a task is "hard' because it takes some effort but everyone can more or less succeed if they spend in the amount of time, then it's an autosuccess, it does not require a DC and a roll.

There is also the notion of stress in there, things might be very easy and people under stress might still fail because of uncontrolled emotion for example.

So I agree that the average joe still fails 1 in 5 at something "very easy", but it looks about right to me considering that these are stressful no-retry circumstances with consequences if you fail.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I would say that if a check has been called for then we’ve left “easy” behind. I agree that it‘s poor choice of words to describe the DC, but it’s not obvious what would be better. “good chance of success” is a bit clumsy :)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I would say that if a check has been called for then we’ve left “easy” behind. I agree that it‘s poor choice of words to describe the DC, but it’s not obvious what would be better. “good chance of success” is a bit clumsy :)

I'm not sure I follow you here. Just look at leaping across a chasm. If might be a short distance, but it's much more scary than jumping on flat ground, and you are being pursued by orcs. You only have one try, and there are dire consequences of failure. Technically, it might be a very easy jump, but because of the no-retry and consequences, you still need to roll...
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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.
Okay, you are writing a module. Where do you put the DCs?

Or better yet, please read the example and give one fo those recommendations to the DM to calibrate it - do they calibrate that their superstar can often get the DC but still fail regularly, or that someone focusing so much shoudl pass almost all the time?

Please contribute positively to the thread.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
Is bounded accuracy ever ecxplained in the 3 core books regarding concept and how it works? IDR seeing it.

No, but it does not need to, the game is self-explanatory when you take it at face value (bonusses rise very slowly, and lots of things don't stack, AC uses only one computation method at a time, etc.). The problem is mostly for people coming from previous editions where DCs where supposed to go up with level and trying to replicate this in 5e. So actually there is very good reason not to enter in explanations in the 5e books themselves, because it would just complicate them for no inherent reasons whatsoever.

It's true that people coming in from other editions should read a bit about it, and explanation is available all over the net.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
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.
I think you are right that the game designers used something like that yardstick. Based on scanty clues from the PHB and DMG, in my campaign I assume there are "skilled" and "untrained" levels or bands below 1st. Skilled creatures have proficiency +1 and +1 modifier in an ability relevant to their occupation. Untrained have +0 and no modifier, or worse.

For day-to-day checks, skilled and many untrained creatures can just take 10, so easy means they can't really fail. A sailor for instance, can't really fail to dock their boat - they just take 10. Medium they need to roll for. Hard is genuinely pretty hard. Some of them - with outstanding talent - can achieve very hard DCs.

Characters above 1st tier are then all quite far above that, dealing with the exceptional - DCs that might well start with hard and go up from there. For it to be worth rolling, a DC must be set with their most competent member, with all aid necessary, in mind.


[EDIT So DCs are described from a constant viewpoint, but the ones a DM should use have a different yardstick.]
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
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.
They take 10, if it is genuinely easy.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I would say that if a check has been called for then we’ve left “easy” behind. I agree that it‘s poor choice of words to describe the DC, but it’s not obvious what would be better. “good chance of success” is a bit clumsy :)
Is 55% really a good chance of success though? I don’t think it is. Now, if you have proficiency and/or a bit of a bonus to the ability, we get up around 65-70% chance of success. I think “easy” is a pretty decent descriptor for such a task.
 


So actually there is very good reason not to enter in explanations in the 5e books themselves
Thanks. If this is the paradigm on how the rules for the game were created, should be taken into account when creating adventures, and understanding how the mechanics are supposed to work I would like a little explanation to be included in the core books. But this isn't a topic for this thread.
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Low stakes usually means low fun with my gaming group, so I calibrate my DCs to the most effective member of the party. A common padlock could have a DC as low as 12 or as high as 18, depending on how highly-optimized the rogue is for burglary.
 
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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.
True enough.

For published adventures, I guess I'd rather see the DC be left up to the DM and, when an actual challenge is presented, some suggested meaningful consequences be spelled out to help DMs get their creative juices flowing. Since that's realistically not going to happen, we are left with DCs as shorthand for difficulty where, at least part of the time, context gives no real clue as to meaningful consequences.


Here is an example (honestly, just randomly picked out of Rime):

Characters who inspect the windows of Elva's cottage can make a DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check. On a success, they find wee tracks leading away from a snowy windowsill of the cottage toward a nearby thicket. A character who succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Survival) check can discern three individual sets of tiny footprints. Some of the footprints have a thin furrow in the snow alongside them, as if something was being dragged behind the creatures.

Playing House
By following the tracks, a character with a passive Wisdom (Perception) score of 13 or higher can pick up the sound of movement from behind the conifers, where three chwingas (see appendix C) are playing atop the snow in a clearing. A dinner plate with branches and pinecones arrayed on it is placed between them, and one chwinga is sitting at the edge of the plate while the two others are moving a fork and a knife as if to cut and eat the "food."



Maybe I'm just lacking some creativity here but here's what I see:

Failing the initial INT(Investigation) check creates a roadblock that effectively ends the sidequest. UNLESS, a DM is experienced enough and/or given some guidance with adjudication using success at a cost. The WIS(Survival) check success gives us the number of creatures while failure... just doesn't give us the number? The final WIS(Perception) passive check allows the PC to hear the non-hostile creatures behind the trees - but they've already been following the tracks so what is gained or lost either way?

TL;DR: More guidance, less shorthand.
 


Okay, you are writing a module. Where do you put the DCs?
See above. As per my previous answer, I think DCs on their own in published adventures can be misleading at best. If I were writing a module, I'd adjust the description to let the DM decide the DC but give them some advice on what might happen on failure.

Or better yet, please read the example and give one fo those recommendations to the DM to calibrate it - do they calibrate that their superstar can often get the DC but still fail regularly, or that someone focusing so much shoudl pass almost all the time?
FWIW, I do think @Charlaquin's answer is solid. DCs, as they exist, are most likely based on first tier individual PCs with middling scores and proficiency OR PCs with medium-high scores and no-proficiency (amounting to +2 to +3 modifiers). Good advice for DMs looking to calibrate DCs on the fly.

Please contribute positively to the thread.
I... am? Or at least I am trying to -- where "contributing positively" = "sharing my thoughts in hopes of learning something that will help our table... while possibly providing a viewpoint that might help others at their tables".
 

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