5E How to skill check (and why 5e got stealth wrong)

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Picking a lock is an approach to the goal of opening a locked door. Breaking it down is another.
It's amazing how "pick a lock to open a locked door" satisfies the goal and approach but, "I quickly consider my life experiences to recall any thing about the enemy I'm facing that can be used for an advantage in fighting it", does not, and I would be asked to specific my approach.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It's amazing how "pick a lock to open a locked door" satisfies the goal and approach but, "I quickly consider my life experiences to recall any thing about the enemy I'm facing that can be used for an advantage in fighting it", does not, and I would be asked to specific my approach.
By whom? Not me, that’s not how I handle lore recall.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
By whom? Not me, that’s not how I handle lore recall.
Other's with a similar playstyle to you. I assumed you shared that quirk but since you don't, does that mean you would count that as a valid goal and approach? If so, what would the meaningful consequence of failure be?
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
By the way, what is the meaningful consequence of failure to trying to pick a lock and failing?

There wasn't a consequence as far as I can see, before you attempted the check the door was locked. After you attempted the check the door was still locked.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Other's with a similar playstyle to you. I assumed you shared that quirk but since you don't, does that mean you would count that as a valid goal and approach? If so, what would the meaningful consequence of failure be?
I don’t view recalling lore as an action the PC performs. That’s not how memory works. If there is a relevant piece of lore that the PCs might or might not know off the top of their heads, I tell it to them if anyone has a relevant proficiency. If a player asks me if their character knows something specific, I generally say it’s up to them what their character knows. If a player wants their character to learn something they don’t already know, then they have to take action, such as examination, experimentation, or research, and I will resolve that action as I would any other.
 

Krachek

Explorer
The skills system ask some common sense from Dm and players.
I never been in a game where a player ask for a persuade check without describing or telling first person what he do.
How a Dm run a persuade encounter depends on its experience. He can make a memorable moment from a check failure.
The Dm have all liberty to ask more information about players intent or argument.
He has also all liberty to ask or not for an roll, assign dc, give advantage or disadvantage.
It’s job is to make the story go forward in an entertainment way.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
For Stealth I'm pretty sure the implication of the rules, if not the outright rules, are roll once and compare to passive Preception until something about being stealthy changes dramatically enough to need a new roll. That isn't that different than your suggestion of one roll vs the entire camp, since at a practical level probably every single orc is going to have the same score, so if the rogue can beat one they can beat them all.
It's still at the 1pc vs multiple npc level. Just because I beat one orc shouldn't mean they all should fail to see me. Just because I fail to beat one orc doesn't mean they all should fail to see me. That's the flaw with the book prescribed 5e method as you and I understand it.

The solution is to not worry about which individual orcs you beat and to have the mechanics work out what happens in the scene (in a broad general sense) and let the DM fill in the specifics. The current 5e approach doesn't do that. Instead it attempts to fill in details about who spotted you and fails at doing that in any meaningful way, (either they all spot you are none do).

My approach differs because I'm setting a DC based on the scene (not based on the NPC). Failure simply means you are spotted. The DM could have all the orcs spot you, only a handful, only 1. The book method fails to deliver that kind of detail. You either beat all or none. (Barring advantage or disadvantage).
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
It's still at the 1pc vs multiple npc level. Just because I beat one orc shouldn't mean they all should fail to see me. Just because I fail to beat one orc doesn't mean they all should fail to see me. That's the flaw with the book prescribed 5e method as you and I understand it.

The solution is to not worry about which individual orcs you beat and to have the mechanics work out what happens in the scene (in a broad general sense) and let the DM fill in the specifics. The current 5e approach doesn't do that. Instead it attempts to fill in details about who spotted you and fails at doing that in any meaningful way, (either they all spot you are none do).

My approach differs because I'm setting a DC based on the scene (not based on the NPC). Failure simply means you are spotted. The DM could have all the orcs spot you, only a handful, only 1. The book method fails to deliver that kind of detail. You either beat all or none. (Barring advantage or disadvantage).
But if I beat the first vigilant orc guard, nothing else changes, then I beat all of them. So I roll once against a fixed number, and assume that I beat everything until something changes. Like I narrate walking into the light of the camp fire, or now I'm sneaking into the chieftain's tent or something else.

Its the exact same method, although a slightly different rationale for where our target number comes from. In effect, we're saying to the sneaking character, "You're roll wasn't good enough, first group spotted you, lets deal with that." They deal with the fallout and roll again and get a better result so now you're much better hidden via X,Y,Z means and you make as far as you described. You're at the back of the chieftain's tent, what not?
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
But if I beat the first vigilant orc guard, nothing else changes, then I beat all of them. So I roll once against a fixed number, and assume that I beat everything until something changes. Like I narrate walking into the light of the camp fire, or now I'm sneaking into the chieftain's tent or something else.

Its the exact same method, although a slightly different rationale for where our target number comes from. In effect, we're saying to the sneaking character, "You're roll wasn't good enough, first group spotted you, lets deal with that." They deal with the fallout and roll again and get a better result so now you're much better hidden via X,Y,Z means and you make as far as you described. You're at the back of the chieftain's tent, what not?
It's not the same method because it doesn't yield the same outcome. That method allows you to either sneak past all orcs or none. My method determines whether you successfully sneaked up to the encampment. You could sneak past all orcs on success or on failure any number of orcs might see you, 1, some or all.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
It's not the same method because it doesn't yield the same outcome. That method allows you to either sneak past all orcs or none. My method determines whether you successfully sneaked up to the encampment. You could sneak past all orcs on success or on failure any number of orcs might see you, 1, some or all.
I'm perhaps misunderstanding.

I'm just suggesting the target number is derived from something to do with the orcs statblock rather than a number selected for whatever reasons the DM feels is appropriate. Success or failure on said check determines what happens. I'd operate on the basis that failure means the first group of orcs spots the sneaking character, however that isn't necessarily how it should go with my suggestion.

On a success we do the same thing you're doing, you get to the next stage of whatever you want to be happening. On failure at least one orc has spotted you. What happens? No where that happens is going to depend on how as a group we want to handle that.

I'm curious to get more detail about how you would handle your process and where it differs. Lets assume in your scenario we have a target number of 20. Our erstwhile PC, lets call them Pat Chaperone, get a total of 19 on their relevant check. What happens? Clearly Pat has failed to be sneaky, but what would you do to determine what happens? What would be different if Pat instead got a total of say 4 instead?
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
I'm perhaps misunderstanding.

I'm just suggesting the target number is derived from something to do with the orcs statblock rather than a number selected for whatever reasons the DM feels is appropriate. Success or failure on said check determines what happens. I'd operate on the basis that failure means the first group of orcs spots the sneaking character, however that isn't necessarily how it should go with my suggestion.
I'm suggesting that basing it on an NPC statblock is incorrect. When you aren't being challenged by an NPC but instead by the scenario then the DC is set for the scenario.

On a success we do the same thing you're doing, you get to the next stage of whatever you want to be happening. On failure at least one orc has spotted you. What happens? No where that happens is going to depend on how as a group we want to handle that.
Then you are using scenario based DC, but incorrectly equating it to the orc passive perception every time. The scenario presented could be much harder than an Orc's passive perception dc, in which case using the passive perception of an orc for the DC makes success easier than it ought to be. That's the problem with how you specifically are doing it.

I'm curious to get more detail about how you would handle your process and where it differs. Lets assume in your scenario we have a target number of 20. Our erstwhile PC, lets call them Pat Chaperone, get a total of 19 on their relevant check. What happens? Clearly Pat has failed to be sneaky, but what would you do to determine what happens? What would be different if Pat instead got a total of say 4 instead?
Sure. There's no set answer to what to do. It's a failure and obviously he's spotted. I might have it be by a random patrol, in which case he gets chased by them without the whole camp being alerted. I might have it be by a single guard in the tower, who leaves his post to discretely tell his superiors about the approacher without ringing alarm bells so as to not spook him away (goal of capturing PC). Or maybe 3-4 see him and one of them sounds an alarm.

In terms of a close success and low roll failure, there doesn't have to be a difference. If I wanted to give the PC an extra chance on the close success, maybe the guard thought he seen something but wasn't sure and is staring out there. I'd probably give the rogue a chance to notice this, which would allow him an opportunity to back off or to take cover and wait for the guard to be distracted again, or to be oblivious and continue on till he is surely spotted.
 

MarkB

Hero
One mechanic that might work well for a long-term task such as sneaking into a camp is the Engagement Roll from Blades in the Dark. Essentially, this check takes into account your stated approach, your skill level, and the relative strength of the opposition, and its outcome determines how far into your plan you get before something goes wrong. So, on a very good roll, you might have sneaked right up to the back of the cheiftan's tent before anything untoward happens, and on a bad roll you may only reach the perimeter before encountering some more-alert-than-usual sentries.

Note that "something goes wrong" doesn't necessarily mean "somebody spots you". It just means that you've reached a point where you need to start taking proactive actions in order to avoid a bad outcome.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
One mechanic that might work well for a long-term task such as sneaking into a camp is the Engagement Roll from Blades in the Dark. Essentially, this check takes into account your stated approach, your skill level, and the relative strength of the opposition, and its outcome determines how far into your plan you get before something goes wrong. So, on a very good roll, you might have sneaked right up to the back of the cheiftan's tent before anything untoward happens, and on a bad roll you may only reach the perimeter before encountering some more-alert-than-usual sentries.

Note that "something goes wrong" doesn't necessarily mean "somebody spots you". It just means that you've reached a point where you need to start taking proactive actions in order to avoid a bad outcome.
Possibly, there's lots methods to determine how far you got, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure how far you got really matters unless you can get additional information the closer you get.
 

MarkB

Hero
Possibly, there's lots methods to determine how far you got, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure how far you got really matters unless you can get additional information the closer you get.
Which it may do. There are many reasons why someone might want to sneak into a camp.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I'm suggesting that basing it on an NPC statblock is incorrect. When you aren't being challenged by an NPC but instead by the scenario then the DC is set for the scenario.



Then you are using scenario based DC, but incorrectly equating it to the orc passive perception every time. The scenario presented could be much harder than an Orc's passive perception dc, in which case using the passive perception of an orc for the DC makes success easier than it ought to be. That's the problem with how you specifically are doing it.
Sure, I see where you're going here. I'd be included to start using advantage and disadvantage to modify targets, but it the goal is sneak to the chieftain tent through a camp of armed orcs is going to be derived from something about orcs themselves. Maybe treat the whole thing like the orcs all using the Help action.

In the end though I really think we have the same process, we just pick our numbers from different places.

Sure. There's no set answer to what to do. It's a failure and obviously he's spotted. I might have it be by a random patrol, in which case he gets chased by them without the whole camp being alerted. I might have it be by a single guard in the tower, who leaves his post to discretely tell his superiors about the approacher without ringing alarm bells so as to not spook him away (goal of capturing PC). Or maybe 3-4 see him and one of them sounds an alarm.

In terms of a close success and low roll failure, there doesn't have to be a difference. If I wanted to give the PC an extra chance on the close success, maybe the guard thought he seen something but wasn't sure and is staring out there. I'd probably give the rogue a chance to notice this, which would allow him an opportunity to back off or to take cover and wait for the guard to be distracted again, or to be oblivious and continue on till he is surely spotted.
Fair. I'm was mostly curious if you had some metric you used to determine results. I like to see the thought process that goes into making decisions, I feel it helps me learn things about how to be a better DM.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Sure, I see where you're going here. I'd be included to start using advantage and disadvantage to modify targets, but it the goal is sneak to the chieftain tent through a camp of armed orcs is going to be derived from something about orcs themselves. Maybe treat the whole thing like the orcs all using the Help action.

In the end though I really think we have the same process, we just pick our numbers from different places.
You are trivializing that difference though and it is a huge difference. I don't start with the orcs passive perception and then give it advantage or disadvantage. That's not how to determine the DC for sneaking up to an encampment. I start saying how well organized is the camp, do they have towers, what kind of terrain surrounds the place, how many lookouts are there etc. It's only after I look at that and say this kind of encampment would be really hard to sneak up on that I factor in whether the Orc's passive perception is more average or more exceptional or really lacking.

The important factors in this scenario isn't the orcs per se, and definitely not an individual orc, but their discipline, the terrain and the encampment features. That's what makes an encampment hard to sneak up on. That's why starting at the orcs passive perception will never allow you to appropriately set the DC for camp sneaking (especially in 5e's paradigm of using advantage and disadvantage instead of 10 different circumstance bonuses).

So in your method of play, after the DC is set it will play out the same. I don't think that's how 5e RAW has you do it but it's good you are at least doing that. It's still important how the DC gets set though. It says a lot about the world and provides the PC's with appropriate challenges for what they are actually facing.



Fair. I'm was mostly curious if you had some metric you used to determine results. I like to see the thought process that goes into making decisions, I feel it helps me learn things about how to be a better DM.
NP. I'd need alot more context in order to really tell you which way I would go.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
By the way, what is the meaningful consequence of failure to trying to pick a lock and failing?

There wasn't a consequence as far as I can see, before you attempted the check the door was locked. After you attempted the check the door was still locked.
The consequence could be that you messed up the lock. Now, not even the key will open it, or maybe you could have another check with disadvantage? Maybe you were discovered? Who knows--there are a few other options as well depending on the scenario.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
On the other hand, I've never really liked the "multiple stealth rolls" approach to sneaking either, because - barring something like Reliable Talent - once you're requiring more than 2-3 rolls, the player's luck will almost inevitably run out at some point. It's basically imposing super-disadvantage on the check.
I think a lot of people call for too many ability checks in 5e.

I would never dream of asking for more than 1 roll for any given attempt at something.

I think every roll should be exciting.

Most of the time when a player says my character does X I say okay they do X.?

It's just not fun to roll something high and have it not doing something great.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
By the way, what is the meaningful consequence of failure to trying to pick a lock and failing?

There wasn't a consequence as far as I can see, before you attempted the check the door was locked. After you attempted the check the door was still locked.
Yeah, the pick a lock is a great example of the need for consequences aspect of ability checks.

Most of the time I just say 'okay you pick the lock'.

A check is only involved if something bad can happen. Maybe on a failure a trap is sprung. Maybe they make a lot of noise and alert someone nearby. Maybe they're trying to leave no trace and they break off the lock showing clear tampering. Etc.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Yeah, the pick a lock is a great example of the need for consequences aspect of ability checks.

Most of the time I just say 'okay you pick the lock'.

A check is only involved if something bad can happen. Maybe on a failure a trap is sprung. Maybe they make a lot of noise and alert someone nearby. Maybe they're trying to leave no trace and they break off the lock showing clear tampering. Etc.
I wouldn't typically, unless going through that door was important to the story. Then no check needed. Clearly failing the check means you try another approach to opening that door or find a different door. Or don't check out this location.
 

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