D&D 5E D&D is a drag race, think of climbing as a cantrip, and the rogue would be better at lock picking if it could only pick a few locks per day.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
3 Thoughts:

•That sounds like 4th Edition.
•Wizards can learn how to pick locks
•In your mind, what is going on in the fiction when someone needs to swing a sword or pick a lock but they have no more uses that day?
Yeah. Those objections make this idea a dealbreaker for me.
 

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Oofta

Legend
I think the main conflict here is do we want a system that is a (very crude overly simplified) simulation of an fantasy world with action movie heroes or do we want, for lack of a better term, a board game+?

With versions of D&D outside of 4E, we had the former. After all, D&D grew out of wargames which try to simulate real world combat. It may not be a very good simulation, but it attempts to start with the fantasy fiction and then figure out how to simplify that into something that can be played at a game table. So a fighter can swing their sword for long enough without exhaustion that we don't need to track it. After all, most fights are over in a minute or less. Rogues can pick locks for several hours per day just like a professional locksmith. Magic is a different issue altogether, but in most fantasy powerful magic is a limited that comes at some kind of cost. With D&D for better or worse they happened to base it on the ideas of Jack Vance.

Meanwhile, with board game+, which is not meant as derogatory in any way it's just the best label I can think of, you start with rules and balance considerations and then add descriptive extras to fit the fiction you're targeting.

Neither approach is right or wrong and both have advantages and disadvantages. I just want to play the simulation, not the board game+. Obviously both approaches have to be concerned about balance and presentation, but the approaches are fundamentally different.
 

Yes, and the cost is considerable.
But the cost only matters if it actively hampers you.

D&D is a drag race. It doesn't really matter how many times you can do X, because you can in general just long rest whenever you want and get all limited abilities back.

There's no point in having an ultra-endurance engine that can race for twenty hours without stopping if the race is over in minutes.
 

Longer version of "nope"? :cautious:

Okay. I disagree with your basic premise. There is absolutely no reason a rogue could not open multiple locks per day, it defies all real world logic. Call a locksmith because you lost your keys? Sorry, call back tomorrow I already did that for the day.

You want to put some hypothetical game "balance" ahead of the rules representation of the fiction that the characters can achieve. This was one of my biggest issues with 4E, that rules designed for balance mattered more than implementing game rules for people living in a fantasy world. I know that if I were a trained locksmith that I could easily open one lock right after another. Perhaps I couldn't do a complex lock in a few seconds, there may be extremely advanced locks I couldn't get through at all. But even in that latter case there's no justification for me being able to only open that lock once per day. At a certain point either I can achieve a task with the tools and training that I have or I can't.

Personally I generally handle lock picking as "can you open this lock quickly" and if the PC fails it just takes additional time to open it because it's more difficult than expected. Spells work differently because they are part of a limited resource. If there's an issue with martials being underpowered compared to casters (something I don't agree with) the solution is not to make martials into casters by another name.

You're putting the cart before the horse. Then shooting the horse.
I think that you may have gotten the wrong end of the stick here.
I believe the point that the OP was making is that in actual, practical terms, a Rogue is unlikely to have to try to unlock more than maybe three important locks in any given day.
Therefore giving the rogue a limited resource to spend to unlock those locks automatically isn't significantly worse than giving them a higher bonus on all lock unlocking since a: Its a more interesting play decision, and b: the rogue is unlikely to have to unlock enough locks in any given day for the improved at-will ability to become better than the limited resources.

I an certain that a hypothetical situation can be posited, where there are many more locks that need to be unlocked that day. But this would a: be rare and/or artificial, and b: be more interesting play, since the rogue player would have to decide which locks to spend resources on, and which to handle as just an ability check like any other class can.

It is similar to the argument about fighters being able to make attacks all day, when the actual situation is almost always that the number of attacks they can make is limited by how long their hitpoints last, rather than being truly unlimited. In practical terms, many "at will" abilities are limited by having fewer than the theoretical opportunities to use them.
 

Yeah. Those objections make this idea a dealbreaker for me.
It's worth noting that I'm not saying that those things I discuss in the opening post actually should be implemented. I'm lifting it as a possible solution to the problem at hand. A much better solution is to nerf spells in general and consider their utility without caring too much about them costing a resource.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
But the cost only matters if it actively hampers you.

D&D is a drag race. It doesn't really matter how many times you can do X, because you can in general just long rest whenever you want and get all limited abilities back.

There's no point in having an ultra-endurance engine that can race for twenty hours without stopping if the race is over in minutes.
No, it really isn't: D&D is a long distance marathon. It is a game of reaource management and attrition, not a drag race. Outside of a cheezy video game treatment, Long rests are nit as easy to get as all that. The 5 minute work day is a DM table issue, not a rules issue. The rules are there for the resource attrition,and the DM has all the tools needed to make that felt.
 

Oofta

Legend
I think that you may have gotten the wrong end of the stick here.
I believe the point that the OP was making is that in actual, practical terms, a Rogue is unlikely to have to try to unlock more than maybe three important locks in any given day.

One lock per long rest is not a safe assumption in the games I've played or run. It just depends on the scenario.

Therefore giving the rogue a limited resource to spend to unlock those locks automatically isn't significantly worse than giving them a higher bonus on all lock unlocking since a: Its a more interesting play decision, and b: the rogue is unlikely to have to unlock enough locks in any given day for the improved at-will ability to become better than the limited resources.

Which is a completely different approach to game design as I explained above.

I an certain that a hypothetical situation can be posited, where there are many more locks that need to be unlocked that day. But this would a: be rare and/or artificial, and b: be more interesting play, since the rogue player would have to decide which locks to spend resources on, and which to handle as just an ability check like any other class can.

It is similar to the argument about fighters being able to make attacks all day, when the actual situation is almost always that the number of attacks they can make is limited by how long their hitpoints last, rather than being truly unlimited. In practical terms, many "at will" abilities are limited by having fewer than the theoretical opportunities to use them.

For all practical purposes, the number of attacks a fighter makes in a day is not relevant because in-world people aren't fighting literally for hours. If they are, there are exhaustion rules.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
For all practical purposes, the number of attacks a fighter makes in a day is not relevant because in-world people aren't fighting literally for hours. If they are, there are exhaustion rules.
Yeah, a full Adventure Day per the DMG guidelines means at most about 2 minutes of fighting in a 24 hour period within the narrative (6-8 combats, each lasting no more than 2-3 Rounds, so about 144 seconds max).
 


So much nope. I'm with you.

Classes in D&D (and lots of other games) have different mechanics to achieve the same/similar goals, with different chances of success, different costs of failure, different types and amount of resource management, access to abilities and different levels, and different narratives to describe all of the above.

If you don't like that, it's a perfectly valid opinion. There's lots of other ways to make a game; some people even prefer systems that have no classes at all. But you'll never address the roots of what you want from an RPG if you dress that up as a complaint about class balance with a little edition warring mixed in for flavor.
 

Longer version of "nope"? :cautious:
I'm going to add that I greatly appreciate this reply. Let's see if I agree with it ;)
Okay. I disagree with your basic premise. There is absolutely no reason a rogue could not open multiple locks per day, it defies all real world logic. Call a locksmith because you lost your keys? Sorry, call back tomorrow I already did that for the day.
I want to point out that I intended the whole scenario as entirely hypothetical. It does not really make sense for there being a limit on it, but at the same time...
  • There are already things that do not make sense in the same way (spells, martial abilities like Action Surge, Superiority Dice, Second Wind, Hit Dice)
  • You can also reframe it as, for example, mental focus or something like that. There are other systems that do similar things, like D&D 3.5, PF1 and PF2.
You want to put some hypothetical game "balance" ahead of the rules representation of the fiction that the characters can achieve. This was one of my biggest issues with 4E, that rules designed for balance mattered more than implementing game rules for people living in a fantasy world. I know that if I were a trained locksmith that I could easily open one lock right after another. Perhaps I couldn't do a complex lock in a few seconds, there may be extremely advanced locks I couldn't get through at all. But even in that latter case there's no justification for me being able to only open that lock once per day. At a certain point either I can achieve a task with the tools and training that I have or I can't.
But D&D doesn't even really have rules for lock picking in the first place. This is part of the problem for me. D&D has vaguely defined skills that say things like "You can attempt to do X" but it says nothing about how long it takes or anything relevant. D&D doesn't attempt to simulate this aspect at all, since it has no rules for it.

Also note again that my example rogue has infinite uses of the basic lock picking skill, but has a few limited uses of "success with no risk of failure, instantly".

It's hard to say that my system is less realistic than whatever is already in D&D 5E (since there is basically nothing to compare my system to in the first place)
I've made the same point before, though with a somewhat different conclusion. The usual point here is "we should run spells through the skill system somehow, so everyone is on a similar playing field," which I think is exactly backwards. There's two things that are at play here.

Spells are a better game: Assigning limited resources to overcome obstacles is a more interesting gameplay loop than rolling dice for a chance the problem is resolved. Spells are proactive, in that you have to decide to use them and consistent. They let players set the terms of an engagement, both by deciding what problems their resources are best spent on, and by allowing players to shape the board before a given obstacle even arises.

If your goal was just to build an exploration game from scratch and you could only have a spell or skill system, your game would be more engaging if you went for spells. Skills aren't generally a player deployed mechanic, they're a reactive defaulting system. You're not using a Stealth check or a Persuasion check, you're trying an action, and if you don't have a resource you can expend to make it happen, you default to rolling against a % chance of success.

Mundanity is defined by interaction with default systems: Here you get to the aesthetic problem. We've come to define magic as exceptions to the defaulting system, and mundanity as using the defaulting system, and the association is incredibly hard to break. Normal "skill" has to be slotted into the same portion of your rules that defines actions taken without expenditure, and use the same % chance to activate resolution, or it is no longer perceived as a function of skill.

With that in mind, I think the best way to express mundane skill while allowing access to the more engaging resource expenditure game is a two-pronged design. You start by putting more abilities into the defaulting system explicitly. Make it clear what a character can climb with what check results, and then ensure you have more powerful options at the higher end outside the RNG for the range in which they're level appropriate. That is, when characters are expected to have +3-5 mods, set a DC 25 ability to move full speed while climbing, or sense emotions so well you get surface thoughts or whatever.

Then provide your mundane characters with skill modifying abilities in their character class. Rogues can use a pool of focus points to modify their checks, or fighters can exert themselves X/times per day, etc. You can also add in character class specific abilities you want, as additional skill uses you unlock with a class ability (the classic example being a rogue specific ability to open magical locks, perhaps taken to the more useful "dispel magic through interaction") or perhaps through allowing skill swaps, so actions can be taken with a different skill than normal.

Fundamentally, the game is better off if players have abilities that do things and those abilities have an associated cost. The game then becomes about deploying those resources at the right times, to greatest effect. Then, when characters don't use resources and to differentiate characters with exceptional abilities (which I would argue, should be all of them) you do want the default resolution system provided by skills to tell you what happens when they aren't spending resources to conqueror obstacles.

Edit: Here's something I wrote about this a few years ago elsewhere that I think neatly summarizes the point.

The tl;dr is that we should probably demote skills to the thing you only use when you're not spending class abilities, and if the rogue/fighter can't survive that, we should cheat and put some portion of their class abilities in the skill system.
Exactly!
 

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