DC Building

How do you decide on a DC?

  • Bottom Up

    Votes: 16 48.5%
  • Top Down

    Votes: 17 51.5%

Infiniti2000

First Post
My guess is that most people who choose bottom up are really using a form of top down. Otherwise, the game itself just won't really work (for these calculated DC's). Unless the DM has an eye towards a target DC, he'll never get it right and all his fancy calculations will mean squat in the long run. But, once he has his eye on that target, that's a top-down approach, pure and simple.

So, for bottom-up people do you just suck it up when your DC's simply don't work?
 

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Prism

Explorer
So, for bottom-up people do you just suck it up when your DC's simply don't work?

Pretty much yeah. If the party wants to leap between two buildings I'll decide how close those buildings are and set the DC. If they are high enough level that the DC is to low for them to create a challenge then they do it easy. I don't worry what level they are. If they can't do it because the DC is too high they find another way.

I'll treat a skill challenge differently though, top down - you get xp for that stuff!

I rarely scale basic stuff like breaking doors, finding secret doors, jumping, climbing. I'm not a believer that just because a paragon creature lairs in a dungeon, and the party is paragon level that all the doors in the dungeon are built to be of a superior quality and all the secrets are hard to find. Sometimes DCs are just easy and eventually we don't bother rolling
 

Nytmare

David Jose
I rarely scale basic stuff like breaking doors, finding secret doors, jumping, climbing. I'm not a believer that just because a paragon creature lairs in a dungeon, and the party is paragon level that all the doors in the dungeon are built to be of a superior quality and all the secrets are hard to find. Sometimes DCs are just easy and eventually we don't bother rolling

A Top Down approach doesn't preclude impossible and "so easy you don't need to bother rolling" DCs. It's not saying that simple and impossible things don't exist, just that if it's important enough for you to be rolling a die, you should match the dressing to what the die roll should be.
 

Ryujin

Legend
Top down. Determine if the challenge is a major story element and, if so, set the difficulty accordingly. Once that has been done, the conditions can be fleshed out to suit the numbers.
 

Infiniti2000

First Post
I don't worry what level they are. If they can't do it because the DC is too high they find another way.
Isn't it too late by then? Maybe that's another poll question, though: "Do you tell the players the DC before they attempt a skill check?" I don't. It really sucks the wind out of a tense situation when the player asks for DCs on, say, three different options, and then chooses the best one.
 

Prism

Explorer
Isn't it too late by then? Maybe that's another poll question, though: "Do you tell the players the DC before they attempt a skill check?" I don't. It really sucks the wind out of a tense situation when the player asks for DCs on, say, three different options, and then chooses the best one.

Sometimes. For stuff like jumping and climbing etc they can work out the DC's so I don't need to tell them though I would if they asked. I usually don't pre calculate that kind of stuff and just take it straight from the rulebooks. I don't mind this since you know how hard a jump would be before you tried. I don't for non standard stuff like traps but for those I'm more likely to adjust for the party level
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
When designing the adventure, you choose what it's hazards are. These hazards are designed top-down. There might still be things that used to be real hazards in there, but they'll just be handwaved: it's boring to cross a 10 foot pit when everyone can just take 10 and jump over.

If the players go off the beaten track and decide to do things that aren't covered by the designed adventure, the design for these hazards will usually be bottom-up. A 20 foot gap doesn't suddenly become 15+level/2 because someone's trying to jump across it. Some things will end up with effectively top-down design because they're dependant on other designed hazards (ie - if one wall in the dungeon is crumbly, slimy and otherwise difficult to climb, then it's likely that the others are too).
 

FireLance

Legend
Top down.

You can achieve internal self-consistency in top-down designing. As others have mentioned, the key is the next step after deciding on the DC: provide a plausible explanation for why that is the DC. This may involve a bottom-up selection of modifiers that combine to produce the desired final result. And if a wall that the PCs have encountered before has become harder to climb, the DM had better be able to describe what has changed.
 

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