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5E Climbing and falling

pukunui

Hero
Just curious: when an adventure presents a DC to climb a wall, how do you adjudicate failure?

Let’s say a PC has ended up at the bottom of a 20-foot deep pit with rough stone/earth walls. The DC to climb out is set at 10.

What happens if the PC fails the check? Are they just stuck at the bottom, unable to climb at all? Or do they make it partway up but not all the way? Or do they make it partway up and then fall?

If you rule that a failure equals a fall, how do you determine how far they’ve made it before they fall?

I have my own methods but I’m curious to know how other DMs handle climbing and potentially falling.
 

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dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
We play you have to make a check for each move or dash action used (even a partial distance).
If you fail, you make no progress instead of moving up.
If you fail by 5 or more (or a natural 1 in any case), you may fall. You make a DEX save (DC same as the climb) to catch yourself, otherwise you fall.
If the walls are slippery, etc. the check is made with disadvantage.

So, if you are in a 20-foot deep pit with easy DC 10, you would climb 15' using your move (assuming speed 30). If you make the check, you would make one more check to finish the climb

FWIW, this means a climb of 15 feet or less (assuming speed 30) would only require 1 check.

For falling damage, we use 1d10 per 10 feet instead of 1d6. You can make a DEX save (DC = 5+number of dice) to take half damage.
 

Saelorn

Hero
If you rule that a failure equals a fall, how do you determine how far they’ve made it before they fall?
Basically, I go proportional to the check result. If it requires a DC 20 climb check to climb 20 feet up a particular surface, and they roll a 14, then they get 14 feet up before falling. If it requires a DC 12 check to climb 60 feet, and they get a 9, then they get 45 feet up before falling.
 

Strange, I go the other way around. The farther from the DC you roll, the higher you were when you fell. A roll of 1 means you were almost at the top (or almost your maximum climb capacity), a roll of only 6 below the DC means you only climbed 10 feet before falling (and thus only 1d6dmg). A roll within 5 of the DC means you did not even climbed 10 feet and thus suffered no damage. In the case that you were already midway through the climb, it also means that you did not move as you failed to see safe hand holes to use to climb.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Strange, I go the other way around. The farther from the DC you roll, the higher you were when you fell. A roll of 1 means you were almost at the top (or almost your maximum climb capacity), a roll of only 6 below the DC means you only climbed 10 feet before falling (and thus only 1d6dmg). A roll within 5 of the DC means you did not even climbed 10 feet and thus suffered no damage. In the case that you were already midway through the climb, it also means that you did not move as you failed to see safe hand holes to use to climb.
That also makes sense, if you look at the roll as measuring "how well you accomplished your goal" rather than "how well you climbed". It's a nice way to look at it, because it means that a low roll is always worse than a high roll, regardless of whether or not you rolled high enough to actually succeed.

It just doesn't sit well with me, because it makes the outcome reliant on qualitative things like "your goal" rather than quantitative things like "actual distance involved". It feels cheese-able, by a player who carefully declares their goals in such a way that they further their actual goal by failing at their declared goal, or something like that. And I really don't want to encourage that sort of thinking.
 

That also makes sense, if you look at the roll as measuring "how well you accomplished your goal" rather than "how well you climbed". It's a nice way to look at it, because it means that a low roll is always worse than a high roll, regardless of whether or not you rolled high enough to actually succeed.

It just doesn't sit well with me, because it makes the outcome reliant on qualitative things like "your goal" rather than quantitative things like "actual distance involved". It feels cheese-able, by a player who carefully declares their goals in such a way that they further their actual goal by failing at their declared goal, or something like that. And I really don't want to encourage that sort of thinking.
I am not sure that I fully understand your second paragraph. How could someone further his goal by failing? If they don't want to climb, why would they attempt it in the first place????
 

Saelorn

Hero
I am not sure that I fully understand your second paragraph. How could someone further his goal by failing? If they don't want to climb, why would they attempt it in the first place????
Maybe their real goal is to get high enough up the wall that someone would be able to see them from a distance, but they're incredibly unlikely to get high enough because they're really bad at climbing. If they can't reliably reach the top, though, then your method would allow them to nearly reach the top by simply failing their check with a low result, after declaring that their goal was to reach the top. Moreover, they could actually improve their average outcome by stacking as many penalties as possible to hinder their attempt.

It isn't the sort of thing that could possibly work in any realistic or believable setting (although it might make sense if you're playing in Discworld), but if that's how their world actually works, then they'd be insane to pretend otherwise.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

I use the 1e method (er, I think it's the 1e method; been doing it for 40 years regardless! :) : You fall from half way up. Simple and the higher the climb, the greater the risk. Sometimes I'd toss in some random factorial amount (e.g., "half way +/- 1d4-1x10'; roll a d6, Odd, fall sooner/lower...Even, fall later/higher"; ex, if fall of half way was going to be 30', I'd roll a d6, get a 1, meaning sooner/lower...then roll 1d4-1x10, roll a 2, -1 is 1 times 10'; PC falls from 20' height; and yes, this does mean that in this situation the PC could get ALMOST all the way up to the top of 60' and STILL fall at the last second [maybe the ledge gives way and crumbles as he puts his knee on it to crest, for example].

But yeah, mostly...you fall from half way.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Why does a 20' deep pit with 'rough stone walls' a DC 10 check?

With that DC your average healthy adult human can't climb out 50 percent of the time.

I would think success would be all but automatic. DC 5 if you must give it a DC.
 

We play you have to make a check for each move or dash action used (even a partial distance).
If you fail, you make no progress instead of moving up.
If you fail by 5 or more (or a natural 1 in any case), you may fall. You make a DEX save (DC same as the climb) to catch yourself, otherwise you fall.
If the walls are slippery, etc. the check is made with disadvantage.

So, if you are in a 20-foot deep pit with easy DC 10, you would climb 15' using your move (assuming speed 30). If you make the check, you would make one more check to finish the climb

FWIW, this means a climb of 15 feet or less (assuming speed 30) would only require 1 check.

For falling damage, we use 1d10 per 10 feet instead of 1d6. You can make a DEX save (DC = 5+number of dice) to take half damage.
I really hate compound checks like this.

With an 'easy' DC 10 climb on a 50' high wall (fall if you fail by 5 or more), your average healthy adult human can only climb that wall around 6 percent of the time, and falls off it more often than not (4 x 1/4 chances to fall).
 


Isn't the point of a pit trap to make it hard to get out of?
Depends on who built it and why. Humans (being primates) are actually pretty good at climbing.

Rough hewn stone walls with sufficient handholds shoildnt he more than a DC 5 check. If using a rope it should be automatic.

Most healthy adult humans with no climbing experience could climb a 20 feet pit with rough stone walls and hand holds every time they tried.

Maybe DC 5 at worst (meaning a trained and strong climber does it automatically, an untrained average climber might get stuck, and a weak climber with a low strength might even fall on the way up).
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
Climbing and falling:
Does the story progress when the DM tells the PC, "you fall and take 5 damage. Roll again?"
If the PC has comrades (usually the case), why not just wait for a rope?
Wasn't the initial fall into the 20-foot pit the real penalty?
When I fail a climbing check, it means I stopped climbing because I can't find a decent handhold, not that I fell.
If goblins were shooting arrows at me while I'm climbing, THEN I might fall.

It might be worthwhile to look at a PC's bonuses. A low-Dex PC with no Athletics might fall, sure. But a proficient one with decent Dex doesn't fall. He just gets stuck.

It just doesn't sit well with me, because it makes the outcome reliant on qualitative things like "your goal" rather than quantitative things like "actual distance involved". It feels cheese-able, by a player who carefully declares their goals in such a way that they further their actual goal by failing at their declared goal, or something like that. And I really don't want to encourage that sort of thinking.
Like trying to fly by throwing yourself at the ground - and failing?

It's a highly-engaged player who not only has a goal in mind, but also has plans for the contingencies. It might be cheesing, but it's better than the player who would rather check her Facebook likes than stay engaged.

Really though, if you have a prescribed outcome for whatever the dice turn up, you're wandering away from the role-playing part of RPG.
 

Just curious: when an adventure presents a DC to climb a wall, how do you adjudicate failure?

Let’s say a PC has ended up at the bottom of a 20-foot deep pit with rough stone/earth walls. The DC to climb out is set at 10.

What happens if the PC fails the check? Are they just stuck at the bottom, unable to climb at all? Or do they make it partway up but not all the way? Or do they make it partway up and then fall?

If you rule that a failure equals a fall, how do you determine how far they’ve made it before they fall?

I have my own methods but I’m curious to know how other DMs handle climbing and potentially falling.
A climbing failure equals a fall. But if you are falling, you can roll a balance check to try catch your fall as a reaction.
 



dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I really hate compound checks like this.
LOL good thing you don't have to play with us then, huh? ;)

Before I critique your math (which seems off), what assumptions were you making? +0 total modifier?
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think there are several ways of doing this.

Getting close to a success and then failing means you almost made it as far as you can. On the other hand, that puts the whole "higher is better" on it's head. It makes sense that the guy who's really good at climbing is going to get the highest, but it's also penalizing them for it.

Missing the target DC by a significant amount kind of makes sense from a game standpoint because "missing by a greater amount is worse" is consistent with other rules/rulings. But that means that the wizard with no athletics skill actually made it further up the wall than the guy who's really good at climbing.

So for simplicity I do one check per turn, fall at the halfway point of the total amount ascended that turn. I modify that if the PCs were climbing a very tall cliff, but that's probably going to be a different kind of challenge.
 

LOL good thing you don't have to play with us then, huh? ;)

Before I critique your math (which seems off), what assumptions were you making? +0 total modifier?
Well yes. Assume an average adult in good health with no specialised training (Str 10) with a movement of 30'.

He has a 25 percent chance of falling on a DC 10 every 15' he travels and a 50/50 chance of getting a further 15' up.

To climb 50' he needs to make 4 such checks without failing 1 or he falls. On average it takes him 8 checks to get those 4 successes and he would fall off rhe wall more often than not in getting those 4 successes.

Compound checks are a bad idea and should be avoided where possible.

A rough hewn wall like a climbing wall at a gym shouldn't be more than DC5. With ropes it shouldnt even be a check af all. An adult himan in good health (Str 10) can climb such a wall every time he tries.
 


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