D&D 5E How difficult should Difficulty be?

Nephilim00

Explorer
Remember how 4e had challenges. Instead of a single roll of the dice, you had to make several rolls and reach a target number. More suspenseful. Try that.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
A mythical-level hero who is at maximum ability potential and skilled in the task at hand is not "anyone".
But they are someone, which means their ability to do it makes it merely nearly impossible instead of completely impossible.
They can achieve feats that the average person with their +0 bonus would regard as nearly impossible on a regular basis.
Yes, as reflected by the fact that they have a 65% chance of succeeding at a task a character with no bonus would only have a 10% chance of succeeding at.
 

It's only an 81% chance of failure. Not sure where 96% is coming from...
DC 30. +7 bonus. You need to roll 23+ on the dice.
To succeed, the wizard needed to either roll a 20 on the d20 and a 3 or 4 on the d4, or 19 on the d20 and a 4 on the d4.
Chance of getting a 20 is 5%, but even with a 20, half the time the guidance d4 won't be high enough. So 2.5% chance.
Chance of getting a 19 is 5%, but only a quarter of the time the guidance d4 is going to be 4, so 1.25%.
2.5+1.25 is 3.75%

Your wizard had a 3.75% chance of making that check. and a 96.25% chance of failing.
Without the spell, the chance of rolling 23+ on a d20 is zero.

So: In summary, the task was actually impossible, and the wizard only succeeded through divine guidance.
 

But they are someone, which means their ability to do it makes it merely nearly impossible instead of completely impossible.
Nearly impossible was the description that you were objecting to, yes.

Yes, as reflected by the fact that they have a 65% chance of succeeding at a task a character with no bonus would only have a 10% chance of succeeding at.
OK. What sort of person's capability do you believe should be used to set the difficulty descriptions?
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
DC 30. +7 bonus. You need to roll 23+ on the dice.
To succeed, the wizard needed to either roll a 20 on the d20 and a 3 or 4 on the d4, or 19 on the d20 and a 4 on the d4.
Chance of getting a 20 is 5%, but even with a 20, half the time the guidance d4 won't be high enough. So 2.5% chance.
Chance of getting a 19 is 5%, but only a quarter of the time the guidance d4 is going to be 4, so 1.25%.
2.5+1.25 is 3.75%

Your wizard had a 3.75% chance of making that check. and a 96.25% chance of failing.
Without the spell, the chance of rolling 23+ on a d20 is zero.

So: In summary, the task was actually impossible, and the wizard only succeeded through divine guidance.
I didn't realize you were doing it with the roll for guidance since @Stalker0 said it was a 4.

Also, the wizard had advantage, so with that factored in the chance increases to 7.19% over all.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, I think the names are off by one level each.
  • Very easy should be 0. So simply you can't really fail unless you have penalties and roll badly.
The term I would use for such a task is “trivial.”
  • Easy at 5 makes more sense IMO. With proficiency and/or a decent ability score, failure is very unlikely (if at all).
With proficiency and a decent ability score, you have a +5, which means you can’t fail. With only one or the other, you are still very unlikely to fail. Even with no bonus, you are three times more likely to succeed than to fail. That’s very easy in my book.
  • Medium at 10 is a bit challenging at lower levels, but at higher levels or with help/magic/expertise is not too bad.
DC 10 is not challenging for any level. Even with a -1 penalty you are as likely to succeed as to fail. Anyome with any degree of talent or training (let alone both) is most likely to succeed. That’s basically the definition of easy.
  • Hard at 15 is starting to actually be hard. Lower levels have a reasonable chance to fail, and even higher level PCs can fail with a bad roll.
A 1st level character with a decent ability mod and proficiency succeeds at a DC 15 half the time. With any additional bonus, be that from expertise, inspiration, working together, guidance, or just being a slightly higher level, you’re in the 60-70% success rate sweet spot. Marking that as medium encourages PCs to play to their strengths and seek out advantage or other situational bonuses when possible.
  • Very Hard at 20 means even someone with +0 has a 1 in 20 chance to succeed. It is a statistical anolomoly if such a creature does it and a lot of luck was involved. Lower levels have a chance, but aren't likely, and even high level PCs will find it challenging more often than not.
A character with literally no talent, no training, and no assistance or situational advantage still being able to succeed 5% of the time does not sound “very hard” to me.
  • Nearly Impossible at 25 requires a high ability or expertise to even have a chance, and both to have a decent chance.
If anyone can achieve a decent chance, “nearly impossible” is not an accurate description.
  • "Impossible" could be at 30 still, if it ever comes up... I've never seen it in use personally.
But DC 30 absolutely is possible to succeed at, so impossible would likewise be an inaccurate name for it.
Doing the 5-point reduction or level-shift for the task titles is simple and helps IMO. I also like this because those levels of 10,15, and 20 compared to AC values make sense to me. At AC 20+ creatures (such as older, larger dragons) approach "nearly impossible".
Larger dragons aren’t nearly impossible to hit though. And it would make for very boring gameplay if they were.

Again, at the end of the day, what you names you give to these DCs doesn’t really matter. But, given that they are meant to describe how difficult these tasks are for PCs of any level (rather than being relative to level, or based on a specific level), the names are about as accurate as I think one could reasonably expect.
 


Stalker0

Legend
Sigh, definately regretting providing an example to a side question in this thread, apparantely I should have only providing the scenarios where my players are really trying with their big bonuses.

But to confirm the math:
Two scenarios that work

19 on a d20 roll (with advantage), 4 on guidance roll. That’s 9.75 % / 4

20 on a d20 roll (with advantage), 3 or 4 on guidance roll. That’s 9.75 % / 2

Or 7.31% total.
 

Stalker0

Legend
My rule is proficiency. If you have proficiency in a skill or tool or whatever, you can help whether you could succeed or not.

I find it is a nice logical middle ground between stingy and to open readings. :)
Ok sounds like we are on the same page. I thought you meant the helper had to be able to make a 30 dc themselves in order to help on a dc 30 check
 

Stalker0

Legend
Remember how 4e had challenges. Instead of a single roll of the dice, you had to make several rolls and reach a target number. More suspenseful. Try that.
Hehe I also remember that wotcs messed up the math so badly on their first version that they had to errata the system. If you followed their guidelines, PCs had almost no chance to pass even basic challenges!
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
@Charlaquin:

I quoted you in my prior post expressly to give you props for suggesting a 5-point shift would not be unreasonable:

If you are finding the DCs are generally too high in your games, lowering them by 5 across the board seems like a reasonable solution

... which is all I am doing when I changed the names:

1658617338892.png


See, a 5-point shift moves the names. So DC 0 is now "Very Easy".

So, you said a 5-point shift would be reasonable, but then challenge the resulting shift in names.

You say trivial, I say very easy, etc. Tomayto-tomahto. I disagree with your assessment at every level and there can be no further point in discussing it with you. See you around.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Ok sounds like we are on the same page. I thought you meant the helper had to be able to make a 30 dc themselves in order to help on a dc 30 check
I did mean that, but in general I have found that if someone has proficiency, they generally have a chance to make the check assuming other factors (such as guidance, inspiration, etc.).

So, the way I play it, they don't need those augments to help, as long as with those augments they COULD succeed with a 20.

In your example, let's say the Wizard had advantage because he was being helped by a Cleric. The two discussed it, etc.

The Wizard is +7 and with guidance could make the check, it is possible. The Cleric is perhaps +5, so guidance alone couldn't do it. BUT perhaps you have another feature in the party, such as a Bard with Inspiration or something else. With THAT +1d8, it would be possible for the Cleric to do it as well.

As long as the possibility with the current features is there, they can Help. In general, proficiency along with available features assures it, so I just assume if a PC has proficiency, they can Help.

Frankly, I think that is an easy rule to use and makes sense (Bob's had training in such things, he can help.)...

Or 7.31% total.
Close to what I got, but not the same... I wonder where the difference lies? :unsure:
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
@Charlaquin:

I quoted you in my prior post expressly to give you props for suggesting a 5-point shift would not be unreasonable:



... which is all I am doing when I changed the names:

View attachment 255009

See, a 5-point shift moves the names. So DC 0 is now "Very Easy".

So, you said a 5-point shift would be reasonable, but then challenge the resulting shift in names.

You say trivial, I say very easy, etc. Tomayto-tomahto. I disagree with your assessment at every level and there can be no further point in discussing it with you. See you around.
Sorry, you’re correct, I do think a 5-point shift is a reasonable ruling if you find that DCs are consistently higher than you mean for them to be. And I stand by what I said about the names not really mattering. If calling 10 “medium,” 15 “hard,” and 20 “very hard” is what makes that being the most typical range of DCs make sense to you, more power to you. I was merely expressing why I personally think the default names are perfectly fitting.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Sorry, you’re correct, I do think a 5-point shift is a reasonable ruling if you find that DCs are consistently higher than you mean for them to be. And I stand by what I said about the names not really mattering. If calling 10 “medium,” 15 “hard,” and 20 “very hard” is what makes that being the most typical range of DCs make sense to you, more power to you. I was merely expressing why I personally think the default names are perfectly fitting.
Fair enough. Thanks for your input.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You're PC is in tier 4 with a lovely +11 to a Strength ability check (your considerate DM is allowing your +6 Athletics proficiency bonus to apply to lifting that fallen 20' statue off of your ally! Such a nice DM... :D ).

The task is DC 30, Nearly Impossible (horrible DM! Why a 30!? :mad: ), as the statue weighs several tons.

You need a 19 or 20 to succeed, allowing you just a 10% chance of pulling it off.

But, you're the best you can be! Only those pesky rogues or bards can typically be better (darn expertise!). How can YOU have just a 10% chance. You're a hero, master of the realm, a "superhero" even, if you will...

Disappointed, you roll the d20 and get a 15, missed it by quite a bit. The DM tells you the ally fails a death save automatically (being crushed by a 20-foot statue can do that...).

You try again, an 11! It is getting worse! Another failed death save...

Last chance! An 18!?!? Oh, missed it BY ONE POINT! "Come on, DM, give me a break," you cry out, "I was just one point away!"

The DM grins, "Well, ok, you succeed but with a setback," as he rolls on the Lingering Injury table, "You've suffered internal injuries from the strain, oh, and a level of exhaustion."

So, the above scenario... Even with three attempts, your chances of getting that 19 or 20 is a bit over 27%, or about 73% you will fail. Sure, it is nearly impossible, but you are what you are and it seems a bit harsh.

At lower levels, you really have no chance whatsoever. Now, it might not bother you, personally, that the DCs are so high. But I'm trying to think of any DCs in the game really that high. I mean, off the top of my head, DC 24 or 26 maybe is the highest I think I can remember seeing.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum... a very easy task is DC 5, which barring bonuses means you have a 20% chance of failing it. Again, the DM has the "no progress" and "progress with a setback" instead of "failure", but still...

Does anyone else feel the DCs in some ways are a bit too high? I'm considering a blanket lowering by 5 or something.
I think the DCs are right where they need to be. Difficult doesn't scale by level, so the doors that are DC 15 to get through at level 1 are DC 15 at level 20.

Where I think things go wrong is when DMs 1) give rolls for everything, rather than just saying yes or no, and 2) having a tendency to set DCs too high because players are successfully making more and more rolls as they get higher in level.

An example of giving rolls for everything, rather than just saying yes or no is the one in this OP. I don't care who you are, you aren't lifting several tons. That feat of strength isn't nearly impossible. It's impossible and I'd just tell the player no. That ally the several ton statue fell on? Well, that just did tons of damage to him. :p

For number 2, I've seen many DMs try and scale DCs with level, which is a mistake in 5e. 5e is bounded, so DCs don't do that. A DC of 20 is hard. Most things are not going to even be hard to accomplish. Right now the group I'm DMing for just hit 10th level in this last session. Probably 85%-90% of the DCs they are rolling for, when they have to even roll, are 10-15. Occasionally a DC is 20. Very, very rarely they will hit something really obscure knowledge wise and it will take a 25 to get that info. I've never used 30.

A DC of 30 represents a nearly impossible action. That a level 20 person has a 10% chance of success with something that is nearly impossible is really good. For 99.999% of the population, there would be no chance of success at all.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
LOL, well at least I'm not alone. :)

FWIW, I was thinking about revising the table like this if I don't go with the blanket 5 point reduction:

View attachment 254976

So, in the above example, you would need an 11 or better (50%) to succeed in the nearly impossible task. Someone with expertise would be able to do such things nearly routinely, or like you say:
Keep the official table the way it is. There is much game engine math that informs it.

At the same time, feel free to dial everything up to Hard. This is completely workable.

Personally, I dole out a mix of Easy and Hard, and occasionally something impossible that the party really needs to flee or obviate.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Such methods have never been my favorite. It means the DC adjust according to who is trying the task. That isn't how the world works IMO, but if it works for you, good enough I suppose.
Yeah. The only time I have variable DCs is if it's some sort of knowledge roll and someone who is trained would be significantly more likely to know than someone who isn't trained at all. This happens rarely, since most of the time the piece of knowledge in question is either common knowledge(same DC for everyone) or rare trained knowledge(only proficient PCs get to roll). There's aren't too many things that are on the cusp of those two things.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Sure, your "range" is effectively from -1 to +17 (barring magic)

But, do you really want the dump stat-no proficiency (DSNP) guy to be able to accomplish nearly impossible tasks?
At 20th level with both proficiency AND expertise? Yes. I don't have a problem with that. What I do have an issue with is any old CR 0 shlub villager with a 14 in a stat being able to hit that "nearly impossible" DC 22 once out of 20 tries. A 1st level PC with a 16 in the stat will hit that number 20% of the time. That's the opposite of nearly impossible.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
See, here's the thing:

Nearly impossible is a task. If it is Nearly Impossible for a level 1 PC, it shouldn't be as hard for a level 20 PC.
Nearly impossible isn't for level 1 PCs, as evidenced by no level 1 PC having any chance at all of hitting a DC 30 without magical aid. It's impossible. If you have a 20 in the right stat, have proficiency and expertise AND have something like bardic inspiration or guidance, you have a small chance of success at level 1, which is as it should be.
At DC 30, Nearly Impossible isn't Nearly Impossible for the vast majority of creatures in the world, it is IMPOSSIBLE. Even rolling a 20 would be a failure and you can't do any better.
That's what nearly impossible means. It means that only 1 in 100,000 people are going to have a chance to succeed. It's not impossible, or else nobody could do it no matter what. But it's nearly impossible, so it requires super high level people or moderately high level people with expertise. By lowering the DC you are changing nearly impossible into somewhat difficult.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Most recent example. Players found a mural of an ancient battle on a world they had never been able to. Wizard wanted to make a history check to see if he knew anything about it. Now this was a world not only had they never seen, but really had no connection to the world they had come from. So I ruled it a 30, nearly impossible, would have had to have been some crazy circumstance to fall upon this knowledge.

Wizard got his 30.
That was amazingly generous. If a PC in my game was on a world he had never been to and had no connection to, there would be a zero chance of success. You only roll if the outcome is in doubt. I would have simply told him no he doesn't know.
 

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