What does it look like for ability checks to be more "complex?" What's the ultimate goal?
Offer more choice in build and action in regards to the ability check side of gameplay. A little board because I don't want to narrow in on an answer before I get the question, but DnD doesn't have a lot of mechanical hooks if you want to invest in skills.
Yep, both of these. I always try to incorporate the degree of suggest at least on narrative level and on functional level too whenever it makes sense (which is often.)I do two things (behind the scenes): degrees of success and bonuses for being proficient.
Degrees of success means a higher roll may give you additional information (like from a knowledge) or a generally better result. When disarming a trap, perhaps you can reset it without indicating it was tampered with.
Also, I sometimes give additional info or options if someone is proficient in a skill, above and beyond their roll. Again, this usually applies to knowledge checks but can come up in other situations.
I know what you mean. I just got a copy of "Adventures in Oz", and it has something called a "skill roll" or "roll against skill", but skills in that system are really more analogous to abilities in 5E.I think most games have skill checks. DnD wise I think it was in 3-4, but a ton of games have skills you use to make some kind of check.
Yes. And 'skill check' is hella faster to say and type than 'an ability check with a possible proficiency bonus from a relevant skill'. Everyone knows what 'a skill check' means.In 5E a skill is an aspect of an ability that you're particularly good at, so you get to add a bonus to your ability check.
I recently went looking on youtube for discussions on skill challenges. I run mine as you suggest here -- fiction first -- but I found a lot of the big name DM's offer advice on skill challenges that looks a lot like scripted ability checks. They suggest coming up with a list of appropriate skills to use for the challenge, for instance, and for basically scripting out the individual challenges from start to finish. Most suggest allowing some creative leeway, but, ultimately, the advice I see on youtube by the big names is still very curtailed and stodgy. I couldn't find a single video (granted, I only spent about an hour searching, so, with watching enough to get a feel for the advice, I didn't get super far) by a big name that suggested any kind of fiction first framing for skill challenges. It struck me as so, well, weird given how easy and fun the fiction first approach is. I couldn't make a skill challenge work worth a darn the structured way -- it always felt artificial. But, using fiction first framing and having every action change the fiction, it's just that much better. I've been kicking a thread on fiction first skill challenges around in the back of my head for a few days now, need to sit down and write it.I've adopted 4th edition style skill challenges to 5e and I've been pleased with them. The idea is you use a series of skill checks as a group to accomplish a larger goal. The way it works is the group must succeed on X skill checks before failing Y times. If they succeed the group accomplishes their goal, if not then consequences apply. The number of successes, failures and DC of the checks can all be configured independently to increase difficulty or increase the amount of effort needed. I also play it pretty fast and loose, allowing spells and class features to replace checks if they are appropriate. I even allow attack rolls against enemies or objects to count when it makes sense.
The biggest complaint this system received was that it just devolves into the players taking turns rolling dice in order to proceed. However, this can be avoided as long as the DM puts the fiction first over the mechanics. Narrate the situation as it unfolds and most importantly have the situation evolve as it unfolds. New obstacles that crop up give the players things to spring off of with new ideas so that they are engaged with the story rather than just the dice.
My go to example is a chase scene. Playing a chase out in combat turns is slow and often very predictable based on base speeds when it should be a fast paced and full of tension. Possible actions could include creating obstacles for enemies, working out a short cut, trying to blend in with a crowd, or baiting a distraction by going in an unexpected direction. Basically describe the scene as an action sequence instead of just a taking turns until someone runs off the map.