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D&D 5E How Do You Handle Group Skill Challenges?


Limit Break Dancing
I'm curious how you (or your DM) handle group skill challenges. You know, situations in the game where success or failure depends on the entire group contributing. Things like:
  • Everyone trying to sneak past a sleeping monster (Stealth).
  • The group trying to hunt and forage for nearby food and fresh water (Survival).
  • The party spending an afternoon at the market, listening for rumors (Investigation).
  • Everyone hanging out at the docks, on the lookout for a wanted criminal (Perception).
  • And so on and so forth. Basically, any situation where the entire group is using combined effort to overcome a singular challenge.
How does your table handle that?

Do you have everyone in the group make the same Skill check, and then average the results? take the highest/lowest?
Do you only ask characters who are proficient with that skill to make the roll?
Do you ask one player to make the check with Advantage (which assumes someone else in the party is using the Help action)?
Do you combine all of the results, against a higher DC?
Do you do something else entirely?

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Limit Break Dancing
At my table, I use the "weakest link" rule. Take the Stealth example above, where the entire party is trying to sneak past a monster. They aren't splitting up for whatever reason, maybe they all want to stay within the Paladin's aura or something--otherwise I'd make individual checks and roleplay out the whole scene, and the party might become separated. So I would rule that the entire group is only as stealthy as its loudest member: so I would ask everyone to make a Stealth check, and then take the lowest result.

Sometimes I'd use the inverse. Take the stakeout example, where the whole party is spread out at the docks, looking for the guy on the Wanted poster. I'd rule that the entire group is going to be as successful as the sharpest set of eyes, so I'd ask everyone to make a Perception check and take the highest result.

How 'bout you?


Solitary Role Playing
Perception (or any cumulative skill): Everyone rolls. Character with the highest skill is the focus. Every other success adds +1 to the score of the focus character.


It can be chaotic sometimes with the "I want to try too", but I tend to follow @CleverNickName - "weakest link" for cases when one party member could blow the whole operation, on the PC side everyone rolling when only one needs to succeed.

Bigger question might be, on the docks case, how do you handle the resulting chase through the crowd?


I'm similar to what @Plaguescarred just stated. I have everyone make a check against a lower DC to assume people are trying to work together. I have thought about allowing proficient people have advantage to the group check or count as 2 successes when determining if half the party makes the group check.

As a DM, I tell the players the DC of the group ability check based on their stated approach and goal. If they want to go through with it, I have them roll. If at least half succeed on the check, the party succeeds. If not, they fail and face the meaningful consequence. PHB p. 175, basically

Success can be explained any way you like in the fiction: the noisy plate mail wearing cleric is somehow being helped by the others to move quietly -or- the guards got distracted at just the right moment so they didn’t hear all the clanging about of said cleric -or- whatever.


Limit Break Dancing
This definitely falls into the rules for group checks (Chapter 7 PHB).

Pirates Of The Caribbean Code GIF by Brian Benns

Sometimes I use DMG group checks, sometimes I use 'weakest/strongest link', sometimes I don't lump the checks together. It's all very situational.

For examples: even with just stealth, I'd do a DMG group check for a long sneak where the stealthiest can scout a bit ahead, find the best path and guide others, etc. If they're too close to the enemy to communicate stealthily, they each roll and if anyone's spotted the enemy is alerted. (although they don't necessarily see everyone) But sometimes they're far enough apart form each other that each pc's success or failure stands independently, and I need to know who's seen and who's still hidden.

(Strongest link would be like a perception check when the party can communicate: if anyone sees it, we assume they point it out to the others.)

I do prefer to use DMG group checks when possible; it's the teamwork-iest version, gives the specialists a chance to shine a bit, and keeps one bad roll from ruining everything.


For the stealth check I'd use the standard group check rules. For the other examples I'd probably mix it up a bit.

Like, hanging out and listening for rumours, I'd have the players each describe what they're doing, and ask for an appropriate check - Perception if they're casually standing around listening to general chat, maybe Stealth if they want to get within earshot of a group who are trying to keep their conversation private, or Persuasion if they ask the barkeep what's been happening recently.

If more than one player want to try the same approach, I'll give them the option of using the Help action to allow the one with the best modifier to roll with advantage.


Limit Break Dancing
On a related note, I'd love to know more about Matt Mercer's group checks for the Raise Dead spell. It's obviously some kind of ritual, and some kind of challenge, but that's all that I can really say about it without seeing his notes.


Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It just depends on what the check is. It may be majority rules, it may just be handled individually or whatever else seems to fit the scene or would be most fun.

For the most part stealth checks are group, but can fail or require extra checks if someone rolls badly enough. But there is no hard and fast rule, it depends how difficult I envision the stealth check being. If they're trying to sneak down a hall and someone gets a 1 on their check, it may not matter if everyone else got above 20. On the other hand, I'll rarely set up that scenario without letting the players know how difficult it will be and giving them a reasonable if not quite as beneficial non-stealth alternative.

If gathering information or investigating, some PCs may get information, some may accidentally give away the fact that they're gathering information. I tend to do things like that in an unstructured fashion in any case.

For group ability check, i make everyone in the group makes the ability check. If at least half the group succeeds, the whole group succeeds. Otherwise, the group fails.
I instituted this for Stealth, which I know most DMs would not. I found that it works extremely well, since by RAW (everyone has to beat the DC) Stealth just doesn't work for a group. You basically have super disadvantage equal to the number of party members, since if your lowest roll misses, you all essentially fail (although you might benefit from hidden on round 1). Technically this would work for enemies too, so I'd have to roll 20 stealth checks for 20 goblins, using the lowest roll against the PCs. By using the group check, I only roll once for each group of monsters (which would be the average) and the party can have people in heavy armor without having to face every enemy in combat.

If I'm DMing and everyone yells at me what they're trying to do all at once they all fail automatically. But all of us at the table are chaotic idiotic so that rule only makes sense.

But seriously as others have said depending the situation in most cases I break it down to the player(s) with the lowest bonus and call for as few checks as makes sense. Sometimes I'll let a few players help adding bonuses or let the group just take 20.

Stealth just doesn't work for a group.
I think the skill system in and of itself just doesn't work in some cases. What I happen to see is, one player tries to intimidate an NPC, then after the first check fails every other player wants to try. If I weren't too lazy Id develop an initiative system of some sorts for skills but many times they're so spontaneous its hard to adjudicate.

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