D&D General Describing Actions


Do you play 3e?

The way 5e is designed players should just be describing what they do.

Ability checks are called for from the DM and only if there is a meaningful consequence for failure and it is interesting to do so.

In my games players don't roll for 90%+ of the things they do.

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Do you play 3e?

The way 5e is designed players should just be describing what they do.

Ability checks are called for from the DM and only if there is a meaningful consequence for failure and it is interesting to do so.

In my games players don't roll for 90%+ of the things they do.
It's 5E for this.

The problem is players just saying what a character does, not any description. The player just says "my character does it".

And, yea, I only bother with rolls if it is meaningful.

I like the game to be about characters doing things and completing tasks, not endless mindless combat.


Guide of Modos
I will never understand why "My character has X skill, I don't, I want to have my character do an action that is related to X skill, but I don't know how to in real life so can I roll X skill to attempt this" isn't enough... and with that it can be shortened to "I use X skill"
For me, it's because "I use x skill" isn't role-playing. Skills are character sheet items, not things you want your character to do.


I would never want to be at a table where someone added narration to each and every action they took in the game. I'd find it monotonous.

I like narration being the spice, not the main course.

Gimme a cool description of that 130 damage crit, sure, but I don't need to hear you describe how you bob and weave and look for an opening (only to roll a 3 and miss) every round of combat.

And super shame on you if you make me listen to you haggle with the shopkeep over 10gp of provisions when wer just looted a red dragon hoarde.


I don't expect a player to know how to do what their character does. It doesn't matter if that's starting a fire or casting fireball. I simply don't care about that level of detail and a DM that did probably wouldn't be the DM for me.

Unless it's extraordinary circumstances, if someone says they start a fire the do so. If it's particularly wet and rainy, in theory I might ask for a survival check to see if they can and how long it takes.

As far as declaring actions, I'm not the one to tell people how to play their character. I encourage people to be descriptive, again it's not my PC. As long as the intent and desired action is clear, it's fine.

I don't expect people to declare that they're swinging their sword in an upward arc while aiming for a specific body part, they can just tell me what AC they hit. If it's unclear, tell me who they're targeting or I'll ask. Why would I expect details outside of combat?

Meanwhile we do have a lot of fluff and description. It gets laced in all the time by me (I try to lead by example) or my players. I just don't require it even if I do give people a gentle nudge now and then. Some people simply aren't good at impromptu description and I'm not going to put them on the spot.

As far as not interacting with or taking advantage of the environment, I'll drop gentle hints and reminders but it's always up to the player whether they pick up that sword on the wall or go in fists flying.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I have to say I'm a little confused by this one here. I'm 50+ and didn't ever have this experience of either being locked out of the house or know parents who made their kids cook their own food (though because of the situation in my household, I certainly had to do a lot of the cooking for the family) , even with being in the scouts for a year or so. We did ride bikes everywhere and went "hiking" in the local woods all the time though - but I spent plenty of days in bedroom on the floor with Star Wars/GI Joe/Transformers or playing the 2600.

There is definitely a difference in experience between age groups, and I see it a lot as most of the folks I game with now are now in their 20's. Back in the 80's & 90's, I used to play a lot of D&D with "your character knows what you know" and would reward players when they would display real-world skills that'd help them in the game. I've much backed off from that, and more rely on the skills on the character's sheet than in their head. The question "how would you build a fire" has become a Survival skill check at worst, or just assumed that an adventurer in the game world knows how to do those sort of things as it would be ordinary to them.

In some rare cases, when I'm feeling a bit chuffed at the generational divide and I get blank stares, I'll tell them to pull out their phones (or point them to one of my books in my personal library) and look it up. "How would you build a fire?" and give XP to the person who finds the information first and shares it with the group. We then move on, and maybe they've learned a little something or it at least got them thinking.

It's a situation I think you just have to decide for yourself (and your group) how in-depth do you want to go. A lot of the older generation, I feel, approaches D&D as a sort of fantasy simulator. Younger generations seem to approach it more from the angle as a game first, with freeform elements. There's plenty of in-between and you'll have to find the level of compromise that works for both sides of the screen.
I've definitely always seen D&D as a fantasy simulator. The idea pretty much informs all my feelings about TTRPGs.


I just need my players to give me actions, not behavior. If they're in a room and want to search it, I don't need or want them where or how exactly they are searching.* Their characters, in-world, have more perfect information than I could provide to the players. If there's a hidden item in there, it has a DC to find it, and as long as the players tell me they are searching the room, I'm content to have them roll, I describe the result, and we keep the game moving.

IMXP, new players can get somewhat intimidated by the abundancy of choice in a TRPG, which manifests itself in two ways: 1) asking "Can I...?" questions, and 2) trying to engage with the game by pushing "buttons" on their character sheet. The first tends to resolve itself with experience, and seeing other players simply declare their actions. I also try to be encouraging by answering, "Yes!" as much as possible. For the second, I just explain to the player that they can just tell me what they want to do, and I'll determine if they need to roll or not. Then, I ask for rolls only if I think failure is meaningful. I find that eventually they pick up on that more often than not I'm not going to require a roll, and the initial impulse to engage with the game mechanically is replaced with natural adverseness to bringing probability into the interaction.

*Of course, in B/X there are no skills, and aside from traps and secret doors, no search rolls. In that case, I seek to break the searchable areas into manageable chunks. If I say there's a bed, and they say, "I search the bed," I assume they give a thorough search. I'm not going to hold out for the magic words, "I search under the bed," or even, "I cut the mattress open to look inside." A little more attention to detail is required than with 5e, because B/X foregrounds the exploration aspect, but I try to make those expectations clear to the players.

Voidrunner's Codex

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