5E Crafting Items - Expert Craftsman vs Adventurers

dnd4vr

Adventurer
For the sake of brevity, I'm just quoting this part of your post, because it allows me to address the entire topic more succinctly. It applies in equal measure to placing NPCs within the world.

One of the goals of the DM is to remain impartial in their adjudication. You're not supposed to care, whether or not they pick the lock. If you wanted them to pick the lock, then you have the power to make them succeed, by setting the DC to 1. If you wanted them to fail, then you have the power to make them fail, by setting the DC to 40. The DM literally has unlimited power within the game world, which is why it's important that they don't want anything; and if they can't help themselves from wanting something, then they'd better have the integrity to not abuse their power by simply making it happen. After all, this is a game about the players and their decisions, and those decisions would be meaningless if the DM just went around fulfilling their own preferences.

When the DM determines the DC of a lock, they don't set it based on any personal preferences for whether or not the party succeeds. The determination of the DC is a judgment call, about what the DM honestly believes is a fair value that describes the lock, based on everything they understand about the world and how it works, and their knowledge of how that reality is reflected in the game mechanics.

Think about it. The party infiltrates the vampire's castle, and stumbles across the treasure room. What's the DC on that lock? You could low-ball it, make it DC 12, and the party would probably succeed. Or you could set it at DC 30, even if that's unattainable by anyone in the group, so they would definitely fail. But either way, you're just telling the players that none of their decisions matter, because events will progress exactly as the DM wants them to progress. The only way that the players have any agency whatsoever is that the DM doesn't do that. A good DM will never take their personal preferences into account when determining a DC. Instead, they will evaluate what they know about the world, and make an honest determination based on their knowledge of how game mechanics reflect that world. The lock is DC 25, because the vampire is wealthy enough and motivated enough to afford the best lock, and our knowledge of how the game mechanics reflect that reality tells us that the best lock is DC 25. (Setting aside, for a moment, that the rules don't even tell us that; the DM is forced to make a judgment call about how good locks can possibly get in this world, which is compounded by the horrible flaws in the Bounded Accuracy system, but that's getting off topic.)
You're arguing semantics really. When I wrote "How challenging do you want that lock? Is it a DC 15, 18, 20, 25, or 30?" for example, you (or I) are deciding that on exactly the criteria for which you consider is making you unbiased and impartial. You HAVE to care because you as DM decide by making that judgment call, believing it is a fair value, etc., etc. By making that judgment call, you are deciding what you want to be considered fair. Honestly, you could just as easily have a "Lock DC rule" where any lock the party encounters will have a DC of 5 + 3d10, giving an average of about 20.

In your vampire's castle example, the lock, even as a good one, might be DC 20 to 25, or even higher. And this is where every DM will possibly differ. Given the parameters of the game world, another DM might think 20 is a good DC. Maybe it is rusted, so the DC is higher or the DM imposes disadvantage? Maybe he drops a clue about that fact, encouraging the players to think, "Hey, we should try oiling it more" or something. By examining the world and making those calls, you are getting what you want, which primarily IMO should be a challenging and fun game for the players.

Do I personally care whether they succeed or fail? Sure! Of course I do, and any good DM IMO would. There are times when I make things harder and more challenging to set them up to think about the situation or maybe even have to try again later on when they have discovered something new. There are times when I realized I made things too hard and what I thought should be a fair fight turned out horribly! I meant to be fair, but made a mistake. Do I let everything go anyway, even resulting in a possible TPK, just because I had everything "set" in the world and that is they way it is now when the encounter happens? No. And I hope you wouldn't either. I will not kill a party when I am DMing simply because I made a bad judgment call. Now, if I set an encounter appropriate to the world/setting that they obviously should shy away from and they soldier on anyway... well, sometimes bad decisions on the players' part will lead to their downfall and I will run out the encounter as it is to whatever end awaits them.

So do I want an encounter to be challenging? Sure. Why? Because it sets things up for the story. If the party plays it in a way I didn't foresee and it becomes easy... well, kudos to the players for doing something clever. Will I be upset? Not at all. Sometimes I want an easy encounter or moderate encounter for other reasons. DMs always want things because they have to create the adventures after all.

Any DM who feels the same is not impartial. I want the players to succeed because then it is fun, but not at the expense of making it too simply and unrewarding. So I make decisions about the game world to make it reasonable, believable, challenging, and most of all fun for the players.

Ultimately, it really does come down to what you want as a DM. If the players need an expert blacksmith, how good does he/she have to be? Where are they likely to find him/her? What IS reasonable in your world? It's, well, whatever you want that makes the game enjoyable for you and your players.

(Sorry if this rambles on too much, it is late at night and I really should probably have just replied in the morning! LOL :) )
 

bedir than

Explorer
I'm all for making the game your own, but as a baseline default until someone says otherwise, everyone at the table will have the most fun if the DM remains impartial. That's what you're signing up for, when you agree to play D&D rather than some other game. If that's not why you're playing, then you need to discuss that with your DM.
An impartial DM isn't helping tell a story. An impartial DM isn't setting up challenges. An impartial DM will never set goals. An impartial DM doesn't build a world. An impartial DM is a failure.

DM's must be partial to certain fundamentals in their world. That might mean Strahd is beyond the party's capabilities, at first.
It might be building a low magic world.
A DM may want to tell a story of the bond between animals and thinking peoples, a story about who gets to control knowledge. The party may add layers onto this, but never, not once was the DM impartial. Their we're problems and the party needed to figure out how to solve them.
 

S'mon

Legend
I don't want an impartial DM. I want a DM partial to fun.
Yes. Recently started running an adventure written for level 10-12, with level 3-5 PCs. Given
that I decided "this adventure happens", it's incumbent on me to make it a potentially fun
experience for the players. So I do some stat editing, some reduction in monster numbers, I look at ways the PCs can gain allies - without those allies totally overshadowing the PCs - and I consider alternatives to brute force (the adventure is already good about this) and how those might turn out.

Re Saelorn's posts, it's definitely not an abuse of GM power for me to say "the legendary master smith can craft X". Abusing my power would be violating the in-game reality to get a preconceived result, as in railroading. But I create the NPCs and what they're capable of. If a PC opposes an NPC in an ability/skill check, maybe we do an opposed check, but it's perfectly legitimate in 5e D&D to set a target DC such as "20 - Hard" for the PC to roll against vs a master smith. So eg a level 17 PC with Smith's Tools proficiency and WIS 20 might be rolling at +11, giving a 60% chance (roll of 9+) of crafting something superior to the NPC master smith. In reality they've probably come up with ways to get Advantage on the check, and possibly additional bonuses, improving the odds further. Or if the PC is a legendary master smith themselves they have Expertise in smith's tools, probably gained as a boon in play, for a +17 on the base check. At that point they hit a Very Hard DC 25 on an 8, a 65% chance of bettering a legendary master smith. Equalling a god of smithing IMC would be Nearly Impossible - DC 30 - they have a 40% chance of doing that well, sans Advantage.

[video=youtube;i_XGnxTi-fE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_XGnxTi-fE[/video]
 
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Saelorn

Adventurer
An impartial DM isn't helping tell a story. An impartial DM isn't setting up challenges. An impartial DM will never set goals. An impartial DM doesn't build a world. An impartial DM is a failure.
Don't conflate the DM with the world-builder. The world-builder is the one who sets up the world and populates it with interesting NPCs, such that the players have goals and challenges will arise in their pursuit of those goals. The DM is the one who actually role-plays those NPCs, and figures out the DC required for any task.

The DM is obligated to play fairly. The world-builder isn't even playing the game.
 

bedir than

Explorer
Don't conflate the DM with the world-builder. The world-builder is the one who sets up the world and populates it with interesting NPCs, such that the players have goals and challenges will arise in their pursuit of those goals. The DM is the one who actually role-plays those NPCs, and figures out the DC required for any task.

The DM is obligated to play fairly. The world-builder isn't even playing the game.
Since the majority of games played are homebrew would you like to explain how the majority of DMs don't build the world?
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Since the majority of games played are homebrew would you like to explain how the majority of DMs don't build the world?
The DM often wears multiple hats. Some DMs also build their own world, in which to run their adventures. They are still two very distinct jobs, though. Even though one person may be acting as both DM and world-builder, they have different rules to follow when they're acting as the DM than they do when they're acting as the world-builder. The world-builder's job is literally to set the stage, where the actual game will take place. The DM's job is to play the NPCs, and adjudicate uncertainty in action resolution.

The world-builder is responsible for saying whether the lock on the vampire's vault is cheap, average, or high-quality. The DM is responsible for saying what the DC is to bypass that lock, based on its quality.

The world-builder is expected to make an exciting world, where interesting things can happen. The DM is expected to remain impartial in their interpretations, because if they are biased, then it invalidates player agency.

The distinction might seem pedantic, especially when it's the same person acting as both world-builder and DM, but it's important from a conceptual level. If the world-builder is bad, because every possible encounter would lead to a TPK, then it's just a bad setting/world/adventure and you can try again with a different premise. If the DM is bad, because they go around invalidating player agency, then that's a different problem entirely.
 

the Jester

Legend
An impartial DM isn't helping tell a story. An impartial DM isn't setting up challenges. An impartial DM will never set goals. An impartial DM doesn't build a world. An impartial DM is a failure.
This is, on its face, nonsense. DM-as-impartial-arbiter is something that goes back to the very beginning of the game, yet early DMs built worlds, set challenges, etc. I'd say that you're doing two things in this passage here- arguing that your playstyle is the valid playstyle, and trying to shoe horn a square peg (your vision of what 'impartial' means) into a round hole (actual game play under an impartial DM, at least as I understand the term and strive to run my game).

So let me hit these things one by one.

'Telling a story' has been rather fetishized by many in the RPG community. But an impartial DM's game might well tell a story in the end, even if that DM runs a hardcore sandbox that lets the pcs guide the course of the campaign. It's just not as much of a story written in advance as in a more story-focused game. Instead, the story is emergent. It emerges from play. The DM didn't decide to tell a story about who controls knowledge; the actions of the pcs dictated that that was the topic, as well as how it all came out.

'Setting up challenges' is something that every DM does, with the corner-case exceptions of DMs who only run pre-written adventures and DMs who run games without challenges or whose challenges arise strictly from the interaction of pcs. Asserting that an impartial DM doesn't set up challenges is pretty absurd. I consider myself an impartial DM and I run a hardcore sandbox. That doesn't mean that there aren't challenges aplenty to be had. I would go so far as to say that the act of setting up challenges and whether the DM is impartial have nothing to do with each other; they're entirely separate.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'setting goals'. (Granted, I've skipped a large chunk of the middle of this thread, so maybe this has already been hashed out.) If you mean setting goals for the player characters, I certainly hope not! That's not the DM's role (in my playstyle)- that's entirely within the purview of the players. They decide what course to follow, what agenda to pursue, what adventures to go on. The impartial DM provides options rather than dictating goals.

As for world building, your assertion that impartial DMs don't is totally wrong. Greyhawk came from Gygax, the original impartial-and-adversarial DM, I run a homebrewed setting that I created whole cloth, and there are many more examples available if you look around a bit.

And then we come to this-

An impartial DM is a failure.
No. Just no. An impartial DM might not be to your taste, but your taste doesn't dictate what makes a good DM. And this broad brush you're painting with? It seems that you're missing a lot of the details and just slopping the same shade of brown over an entire intricately detailed mural.

DM's must be partial to certain fundamentals in their world. That might mean Strahd is beyond the party's capabilities, at first.
It might be building a low magic world.
A DM may want to tell a story of the bond between animals and thinking peoples, a story about who gets to control knowledge. The party may add layers onto this, but never, not once was the DM impartial.
Here you seem to be operating with a very weird idea of what impartial means.

"Partial to certain fundamentals in their world"? It sounds like you are redefining impartial to be impossible. An impartial DM is impartial in play. She doesn't fudge the dice, she doesn't adjust things to suit the party. That has nothing to do whatsoever with the world creation aspect of DMing.

Perhaps that is the issue- you're conflating creative with partial. They needn't be the same. That's like saying that the umpire of a baseball game can't be impartial because he paints portraits of baseball players at home. They have literally nothing to do with each other. The only commonality is that the same eye looks at the paintings and the game in progress.

That said, I do agree (partially) with one thing you said up there- that a DM who sets out to tell a specific story is less likely to be impartial. They are more likely to nudge things in the direction of the story. But that's why I would assert that it's easier to be an impartial DM if you're running a sandbox. By giving the choice of direction to the pcs, you put yourself in the position of adjudicating/refereeing. And that's what an impartial DM does- adjudicate, based on the rules of the game and the setting, the logical consequences of the actions of the pcs.


Their we're problems and the party needed to figure out how to solve them.
Can't parse this bit- I'm wondering if you maybe got autocorrected or something here?
 

bedir than

Explorer
yeah, it seems that there were became their we're.


When you say "An impartial DM is impartial in play. She doesn't fudge the dice, she doesn't adjust things to suit the party. That has nothing to do whatsoever with the world creation aspect of DMing."

It ignores that the discussion is what bonus should a master craftsman have. A master craftsman is a master craftsman no matter the skill level of the adventuring party. No bonus is necessary, if the story is that you meet the best craftsperson in the world that's it. No bonus needed. Saerlon's demands of impartiality are meaningless in this case.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
For the sake of brevity, I'm just quoting this part of your post, because it allows me to address the entire topic more succinctly. {snip}

..., which is compounded by the horrible flaws in the Bounded Accuracy system, but that's getting off topic.)
I am curious what horrible flaws you find in the Bounded Accuracy system? I have issues with it myself, so I am genuinely curious.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Any person assigning a DC higher than DC 15 for crafting a mundane object does not understand the 5E ruleset in my opinion.

In fact, assigning test DCs at all and not just saying "eventually you succeed" feels very dodgy in the context of 5E....
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I am curious what horrible flaws you find in the Bounded Accuracy system? I have issues with it myself, so I am genuinely curious.
So far my biggest issue is that 6th level characters are "too epic". Their saves and skill checks aren't that far off from what 15-20th level characters are capable of. My party regularly gets in the 30's on many skill checks with combinations of advantage, expertise, and guidance. In fact, I can't remember the last time my group didn't get a least one 30 in a session (granted we tend to use skills a fair amount).

While yes higher level character are more durable and more damaging (and of course higher level spells give a lot of new options) when it comes to the bread and butter of skill checks, I find by 6th level the party is doing "impossible things" very commonly.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
So far my biggest issue is that 6th level characters are "too epic". Their saves and skill checks aren't that far off from what 15-20th level characters are capable of. My party regularly gets in the 30's on many skill checks with combinations of advantage, expertise, and guidance. In fact, I can't remember the last time my group didn't get a least one 30 in a session (granted we tend to use skills a fair amount).

While yes higher level character are more durable and more damaging (and of course higher level spells give a lot of new options) when it comes to the bread and butter of skill checks, I find by 6th level the party is doing "impossible things" very commonly.
Ah, I see you struggle with the same thing our group does, but it sounds like it might be worse for your table. As one of the few experienced players at our table, I encouraged the others not to min/max at first level so they would have some appreciable room to grow and enjoy seeing the improvements. They listened a bit... but still most have at least an 18 or higher in a prime score and we're only 6th-level at this point. My character has nothing higher than a 15, but she is very well-rounded and also has no glaring flaws either! The DM is beginning to exploit some of those flaws in the others, and they are feeling their short-comings now. :)

While I understand the principle behind Bounded Accuracy, I agree with some others that they took it too far. You go from a +1 to +20 spread in 3E to a +2 to +6 spread in 5E! Crazy IMO! I know you replied in my "Proficiency vs Non-Proficiency" thread and thanks for your input!

The issue I've found in trying to change things is the ripple effect that I have to change so much (especially the monster stat blocks) that is doesn't seem worth it in the long run. I've played around with so many ideas at this point my head is swimming in them!

First off, we've removed guidance. It is a horrible spell and abused to a ridiculous amount. I suggest that first and foremost! If you keep it, just make it a flat +1 bonus and make it only last one round.

Another thing to create greater variance between lower and higher level characters is expanding the proficiency bonus progression. Here is an array of increasing proficiency bonus progressions I made. We are currently using the Max +8 option, and I am toying with pitching a higher version to our DM. I think you might be able to go as high as +10 without completely unbalancing everything too greatly. Either way, we use our greater/faster prof bonus with attacks, saves, and skills as usual.

AltProfBonProg.png

While this creates a nice difference between characters of varying levels, the issue remains how to curtail the skill abilities at lower levels?

One option I have right now is that Ability Score modifier is limited to +2 to skills you are not proficient in. If you are proficient, the ability score modifier is limited by your proficiency bonus. This does not apply to attacks, damage, and saves! So, at level 1 even if you have an STR 18 and proficiency in Athletics, your total maximum modifier will be +4 (+2 prof bonus, +2 STR).

I know some people will argue that the character with the STR 18 shouldn't have the same total modifier as a character with a STR 14. Well, there is a valid point there, but my solution at present is that at lower levels, even a proficient character has not yet learned how to harness all their potential into the skill yet. As soon as the STR 18 character makes 5th (RAW) and gets +3 prof bonus, their total modifier would increase to +6, while the STR 14 character would be +5. At 9th-level, the modifiers become + 8 and +6.

In comparing two STR 18 characters, one 1st-level and the other 9th-level, you would now have a +4 difference between their Athletics total modifiers, +4 and +8, respectively. I know it is a semi-artificial limitation and the reasoning is honesty weak, but it works to slightly mitigate the issue IMO.

The second option is changing how Expertise works. It no longer doubles your proficiency bonus, but grants advantage on the skill checks. Additionally, if the DC is so high you could not succeed on a natural 20, now you do (but ONLY if you have Expertise!!). For example, a 6th-level Rogue is attempting to pick a lock. In RAW, he has DEX 16 and +3 prof bonus with Expertise, so a total modifer of +9. But the DC is 30! In RAW, he automatically fails and has NO chance whatsoever of succeeding unless his DEX improves or his proficiency bonus. Sure, with Guidance he might, yadda yadda yadda, but we nerfed it so it doesn't apply to our table. Instead, with Expertise in our group, a nat 20 could still pick the lock and his total skill mod is only +6, not +9.

I'm curious if you think any of those ideas might help your table? Or if you have feedback on them, I'm open to that as well.

Also, how do you feel about the prof bonus as it applies to attacks and saves?
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
I like that in 5E a 6th level character can still do/accomplish most of what a 16th level character can and that their is not a wide discrepancy between them.

IMO, it's about your expectations. If you are set in playing a 3E mindset, where bonuses of 30 or 40 are possible and that's what you want in your D&D, that's fine, but that's not 5E. Either change your mindset, or make all the changes you want.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I like that in 5E a 6th level character can still do/accomplish most of what a 16th level character can and that their is not a wide discrepancy between them.
I would be okay if the rest of system supports this, but I find that it doesn't. In terms of skills, a 6th level and 20th level character are close. Yet the 20th level character is tremendously more durable. Further, the abilities of 20th level characters are very powerful. But nothing more so than with magic....as you get to the point where reality alteration becomes a norm.


So you have a disconnect where in some ways 20th level characters are leagues above a 6th....but in skills they are not.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Any person assigning a DC higher than DC 15 for crafting a mundane object does not understand the 5E ruleset in my opinion.

In fact, assigning test DCs at all and not just saying "eventually you succeed" feels very dodgy in the context of 5E....
Any person who declares success or failure without first determining the DC does not understand the 5E ruleset in my opinion. How could anyone possibly know that you would eventually succeed at something, unless they first figured out the DC of the check?

Just saying "eventually you succeed" is identical to assigning a DC that is within the functional range of the d20, as long as there is no meaningful consequence for failure. Literally, that's the entire reason why that rule exists. If you can possibly roll high enough to succeed, and there's nothing stopping you from trying forever, then you can cut to the chase. Invoking that rule is no different from not invoking that rule, except it's faster.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Any person who declares success or failure without first determining the DC does not understand the 5E ruleset in my opinion. How could anyone possibly know that you would eventually succeed at something, unless they first figured out the DC of the check?

Just saying "eventually you succeed" is identical to assigning a DC that is within the functional range of the d20, as long as there is no meaningful consequence for failure. Literally, that's the entire reason why that rule exists. If you can possibly roll high enough to succeed, and there's nothing stopping you from trying forever, then you can cut to the chase. Invoking that rule is no different from not invoking that rule, except it's faster.
Does this mean we agree then? (Some of your language indicates disagreement, but I'm not sure as to what)
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Any person assigning a DC higher than DC 15 for crafting a mundane object does not understand the 5E ruleset in my opinion.

In fact, assigning test DCs at all and not just saying "eventually you succeed" feels very dodgy in the context of 5E....
I use for crafting and any other ask that takes more than a minute the same house rule.

Take the std completion time and cost to make.
Divide it by four.
Require checks in a race to 3 (like death saves) with each check uding one of those quarters of time and goods.
This means you can finish ahead of schedule and under budget, behond schedule and over budget or on time on budget.

You can also fail.

Additionally, any fsilure results in a problem going forward by the same approach. It represents a circumstance than needs to be changed. Maybe you found bad materials and need to bring in more or refine it more. Maybe this library ran dry on info but its because materials have been loaned out and you need to find them.

Or you can just bull thru with disad.

Of course, i use the dmg rule that if proficient DC 10 checks are automatic unless you have disad.

So most routine tasks in normal siyuations are a cinch if you are proficient. More than that is a much more interactive series of choices and checks.

On the broader issue...

But, on the subject of NPCs and DCs 5e is pretty clear the design and intent of the rules is GM assigns what they feel appropriate - not bound by PC build rules but certainly with those considered.

In my games, the "gm decides dc" is made by the choice of the setting and scene.

An inn where the innkeep doesnt have experience or concern over security is likely DC 10 or 5 for most "locks" or other secutity checks. This can go up to DC 25 for a different inn where its a priority and enough skill, aptitude and gold hoes into it to keep it up to snuff. But those aspects are done in conjunction with the narrative and the description, so that the cases where there seems to be a skew are actually treated as clues.

So, to me, the focus on a theotized divide between GM deciding as world builder and gm deciding at table is (at my table) cosmetic at best - both derive their values from the same set of choices.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Does this mean we agree then? (Some of your language indicates disagreement, but I'm not sure as to what)
In retrospect, I think we are probably in agreement. I had initially read your condemnation of assigning DC 15 to mean that the DM should just arbitrate the outcome since it's not important, but now it seems more likely that you were condemning the act of going through the motions for a task whose outcome is inevitable.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I am curious what horrible flaws you find in the Bounded Accuracy system? I have issues with it myself, so I am genuinely curious.
The basic premise behind Bounded Accuracy is that anyone can attempt any task, and a bonus can only help you. (As contrasted with 3E, where you had a minimum bonus required before you could even participate.)

The fundamental flaw behind Bounded Accuracy is that a world where anyone can do anything would be silly. As an example, consider the manacles in the equipment section, which require a DC 20 check to slip or break. What good would manacles be if anyone with at-least-average Strength or Dexterity could escape them? The average person should have significantly less than 5% chance of escaping manacles, or else nobody would bother with them. Really, you should need significantly above-average ability in order to defeat them, if anyone is to consider them reliable enough to use. My chance of slipping manacles, or climbing a wall, or crafting a sword, really should be zero; I would need significant training before I could even begin to try.

The other major issue with Bounded Accuracy is that you can't represent the most common types of tasks - the ones that would be routine for a qualified person, but nearly impossible for an unqualified one. When it comes to picking a lock or identifying a spell or playing an instrument, you should have very close to a 100% chance of succeeding if you know what you're doing, and very close to a 0% chance of succeeding if you don't know what you're doing. If you know how to play the flute at all, then you should be able to play the simplest possible song (whether that's DC 5 or DC 10) whenever you try; but minimal training is only a +2 bonus, so even if you have an 85% chance of success, then someone who has never learned how to play the flute is still guaranteed a 75% chance of success. (Which is ridiculous.)

The difference between trained an untrained should be somewhere in the +10 to +20 range, in order for the world to make sense at all, but that's fundamentally at odds with the concept of Bounded Accuracy.
 

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