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If an NPC is telling the truth, what's the Insight DC to know they're telling the truth?

Hussar

Legend
If a player has said they're scouting, I definitely give them Passive Perception vs stuff on the ceiling. If they say they're focused on the ceiling specifically then at least Advantage (or +5) to spot stuff on the ceiling, but Disadvantage (or -5) for stuff on walls & floor.

Re the cloakers though, if they are above the archway & drop the moment PCs enter the room, I can see why the WoTC adventure says auto Surprise unless PCs are specifically looking up. There are still ways to negate this, such as Alertness feat (can't be surprised) or Barbarian reflexes (rage & act while Surprised). And 5e Surprise doesn't necessarily give Advantage on its first attack, the cloaker still has to roll Stealth vs PC passive per. So it's not as unfair as it might appear IMO.

I once had a giant snake over a doorway drop on first PC entering - automatic Surprise - poor snake, the PC had Alertness, won Init, and killed the very surprised snake before it could even attack!
They weren't cloakers actually, they were darkmantles. Not sure why I felt OCD enough to correct that. :p Also, I'm not sure why WotC got brought into this. This was from the World's Largest Dungeon (3.5e) from AEG games. Totally 3rd party. Someone else mentioned WotC modules having the same sort of thing though.

Like I said, things like what you're describing are things that bug me in a game. I'm looking around. My character has a pretty high perception score (or spot or whatever your system uses). If you say X you get bonus Y but penalty Z is a losing bet, most of the time. I mean, using your examples, why would I do that unless there was some reason I knew there were monsters hanging on the ceiling beforehand? It's just as likely that something will come up from the floor, so, it's a wash.

Actually, thinking about it, in 5e, there really aren't any monsters that hide on the floor particularly, so, why wouldn't players just always look up? Odds are they are going to be right more often than wrong. And since there's no bonus or penalty horizontally, it's a free advantage that works most of the time.

Thinking about it, that's why it bugs me so much. It's just so easy to game the system. Or rather, game the DM. And, frankly, often, DM's are not very good at judging odds. Like I said, there are far, far more things that drop on you in ambush in a dungeon than hide on the floor. So, unless there's something wonky about the floor - pools, water, watnot - you're far better off looking at the ceiling. Judge your DM. How often does he/she drop a pit trap in a hallway? Never? Great! Keep your eyes on the ceilings boys, free bonuses for everyone.
 

S'mon

Hero
Thinking about it, that's why it bugs me so much.
Well you're renowned for being bugged. :D
Some of what bugs you seem reasonable IMO - excessive pixel-bitching GMs. Some of it looks more like regular playing the game - if you take out all player skill from the game you might as well play Progress Quest.

The case where I apply it is if the monsters are aware the PCs are entering the room (light, noise etc) and drop on them as they enter. I think the 5e Surprise mechanic handles this well - if the PCs win init they aren't actually 'surprised' by the time the creatures attack them. If the creatures fail Stealth check then they don't get advantage on the check. It's not like 1e Surprise with 1 attack routine per segment of Surprise.
 
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S'mon

Hero
Actually, thinking about it, in 5e, there really aren't any monsters that hide on the floor particularly, so, why wouldn't players just always look up? Odds are they are going to be right more often than wrong. And since there's no bonus or penalty horizontally, it's a free advantage that works most of the time.
If you read what I wrote, I said disad vs walls & floor.

This basically only happens if the PCs have reason to suspect stuff will drop on them from above as they enter the room. Which happened IMC recently - using 'detect evil' the PCs detected some zombies on a ledge over the entrance waiting to drop boulders on them, and negated the trap.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
If by that you mean that I'm more flexible on how my players let me know what they're trying to do, and that I don't expect them to utter some magic phrase or know how to accomplish a task their PC knows how to accomplish, then yes.
Let me try an example. There's a door that has a contact poison on the handle. For whatever reason, the players are suspicious of the door and are checking for traps.

The two methods you're contrasting here are asking for a roll vs stating an approach and goal. Let's start with asking for a roll.

"I search for traps. I got a __."

Firstly, this method requires a fixed DC fir the trap. This is a somewhat arbitrary DC based more on the needed challenge rather than anything hapoening on the fiction. That's not bad or wrong, just hiw it is. Many (most) published adventures set DCs this way.

So, a the check result is compared to the DC. I'm pretty sure we'll all agree what happens on a success -- the poisoned handle is discovered! But, what happens on a failure? That's murky. Some tabkes will offer "you find nothing" and wait for further actions that may engage the trap. Others might deckare that the poison was touched, which sets up the "I didn't say I touched that!" argument. The failure options are either 'nothing' or assuming actions on the PC's behalf that are harmful. And, this is perfectly fine if the table agrees the GM has this authority over PC actions. Not my preference, but perfectly fine.

Now, the goal and approach method. This method modifies DCs based on declared actions, so already a difference, and also generates different outcomes based on deckared actions. It is, however, not pixel bitching except in a very degenerate form. Let's look at two example approaches:

1) "I carefully examine the door visually to see if there are any traps."

With this action, the GM will probably determine the outcome is uncertain. A DC will generate based on what the GM thinks is a good representation of noticing the contact poison by visual inspection. A roll is then called for. On a success, the result is indistinguishable from above -- the trap is discovered! On a failure, though, the range is limited. The result is "you don't notice anything." Touching the poisoned handle is not a possible outcome. This is difference.

2) "I check for traps by carefully and slowly opening it, feeling for catches or triggers."

This plays out a bit differently. The GM could determine this directly engages the trap without a roll and move there. I'd, personally, set the DC as above and call for a roll, but I go with the assumption PCs are competent. A success would notice the poison before grasping the handle, so same as above. A failure, though, does not involve the GM assuming action from the PC -- tge handle has been grasped.

So, then, goal and approach work the same as asking fior a roll in success conditions (usually, there are corner cases), but in failure conditions they usually operate differently -- one establishes failure conditions from the approach declared, the other leaves it up to the GM. Neither is inherently superior.

Now, to address the complaint you make about pixel bitching more directly. Yes, goal and approach in a degenerate form is pretty much pixel bitching. If you, as GM, are looking only for the magic approach phrasing, you're doing the bad. But, as in all things, comparing how you play, with your principles and guidelines robust and intact, to a degenerate form of another's play, you will always look good by comparison.

Goal and approach is used in a principled manner not to create the need for specific approaches, but to reduce the need for GM assumptions. Done in a pricipled manner, goal and approach is very lenient on approaches, as I show above in the example where there's still a roll for an approach that appears to go straight at the trap. The priciples here is "don't be a dick" and "assume PCs are competent." I use goal and approach because I want to give the player the authority to say what their PC does -- I don't want to assume or narrate PC actions, I want to narrate outcomes. This doesn't make my method superior to yours, it just makes it superior for my table. I believe yours works for your table just as awesomely.

Also, both of the approaches above were lifted straight from my last session. No contact poison traps, though.
 

Hussar

Legend
If you read what I wrote, I said disad vs walls & floor.

This basically only happens if the PCs have reason to suspect stuff will drop on them from above as they enter the room. Which happened IMC recently - using 'detect evil' the PCs detected some zombies on a ledge over the entrance waiting to drop boulders on them, and negated the trap.
Ah, sorry, missed that. Reading to quickly.

Then, honestly, it really is a suckers bet. Again, unless the PC's know that there are enemies above them for some reason, there's no reason to specify looking up. Far, far more things are going to try to surprise you on your level (I mean altitude, flat plane, same elevation - grrr, English hard sometimes), so, again, unless you have a really specific reason, no one is going to do that.

In the World's Largest Dungeon example, there was no telegraphing and no real reason for the PC's to even think to ask about "looking up". Isn't, "I'm opening the door carefully and looking around, Perception 15" good enough? To me, the simple fact that you made a check means that you are looking up. That's part of "looking", isn't it?

Either way, whenever DM's start messing with the odds, most of the time, it's just not worth it. I'm taking disadvantage on a much more likely avenue of attack to gain advantage on a less likely one? Why would I do that, barring, as you say, flat out knowing that there's something above to be looked at in the first place? This sort of thing happens with skill checks all the time. The risks almost always outweigh the rewards. To the point where, given the option, I wouldn't take it. It's simply not worth the risk.

Again, barring knowing that there's something above us to watch for of course.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I just want to echo @Hussar on something. Describing exactly what my PC does is tedious, boring and frustrating in many situations. For example, I had a DM let slip that we missed a significant amount of treasure because we hadn't specifically stated that we searched under the mattress of the bad guy's bed when we searched his room.

I know some people say not going to that level of detail is "the DM telling the player what their PC does" but it's unnecessary in my games. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, a player telling me they search the room is enough. Depending on circumstances I might clarify how thoroughly the room is being searched. Do they care if they leave evidence or are they tossing it? Are they doing anything special before opening the the chest, etc. I'll even assume they're checking for traps unless they're in a hurry. So most of the time? Just searching the room is all I want so I can go on to the fun stuff.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
I just want to echo @Hussar on something. Describing exactly what my PC does is tedious, boring and frustrating in many situations. For example, I had a DM let slip that we missed a significant amount of treasure because we hadn't specifically stated that we searched under the mattress of the bad guy's bed when we searched his room.

I know some people say not going to that level of detail is "the DM telling the player what their PC does" but it's unnecessary in my games. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, a player telling me they search the room is enough. Depending on circumstances I might clarify how thoroughly the room is being searched. Do they care if they leave evidence or are they tossing it? Are they doing anything special before opening the the chest, etc. I'll even assume they're checking for traps unless they're in a hurry. So most of the time? Just searching the room is all I want so I can go on to the fun stuff.
Yup, that's crappy, and also you continuing to insist that goal and approach is pixel bitching.

If you say you're searching the room, then, yes, I'll ask how. But, you've already told me your goal, so why would I ignore that? If you say, "I move furniture and turn things ovet," tgen I don't ask for a roll, you find the treasure. If you say, "I do a quick visual once over," then I take that into account with treaure under the matress and your goal of searching the room, set a high DC (because a quick glace has a small chance of discovering matress money), and ask for a roll. But, I do NOT suddenly ignore the stated goal of the action.

You seem to be insisting that those asking for a goal and an approach then totally ignore the goal and focus on solely on the approach. Why do you assume we're asking for irrelevant things?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Let me try an example. There's a door that has a contact poison on the handle. For whatever reason, the players are suspicious of the door and are checking for traps.

The two methods you're contrasting here are asking for a roll vs stating an approach and goal. Let's start with asking for a roll.

"I search for traps. I got a __."

Firstly, this method requires a fixed DC fir the trap. This is a somewhat arbitrary DC based more on the needed challenge rather than anything hapoening on the fiction. That's not bad or wrong, just hiw it is. Many (most) published adventures set DCs this way.

So, a the check result is compared to the DC. I'm pretty sure we'll all agree what happens on a success -- the poisoned handle is discovered! But, what happens on a failure? That's murky. Some tabkes will offer "you find nothing" and wait for further actions that may engage the trap. Others might deckare that the poison was touched, which sets up the "I didn't say I touched that!" argument. The failure options are either 'nothing' or assuming actions on the PC's behalf that are harmful. And, this is perfectly fine if the table agrees the GM has this authority over PC actions. Not my preference, but perfectly fine.

Now, the goal and approach method. This method modifies DCs based on declared actions, so already a difference, and also generates different outcomes based on deckared actions. It is, however, not pixel bitching except in a very degenerate form. Let's look at two example approaches:

1) "I carefully examine the door visually to see if there are any traps."

With this action, the GM will probably determine the outcome is uncertain. A DC will generate based on what the GM thinks is a good representation of noticing the contact poison by visual inspection. A roll is then called for. On a success, the result is indistinguishable from above -- the trap is discovered! On a failure, though, the range is limited. The result is "you don't notice anything." Touching the poisoned handle is not a possible outcome. This is difference.

2) "I check for traps by carefully and slowly opening it, feeling for catches or triggers."

This plays out a bit differently. The GM could determine this directly engages the trap without a roll and move there. I'd, personally, set the DC as above and call for a roll, but I go with the assumption PCs are competent. A success would notice the poison before grasping the handle, so same as above. A failure, though, does not involve the GM assuming action from the PC -- tge handle has been grasped.

So, then, goal and approach work the same as asking fior a roll in success conditions (usually, there are corner cases), but in failure conditions they usually operate differently -- one establishes failure conditions from the approach declared, the other leaves it up to the GM. Neither is inherently superior.

Now, to address the complaint you make about pixel bitching more directly. Yes, goal and approach in a degenerate form is pretty much pixel bitching. If you, as GM, are looking only for the magic approach phrasing, you're doing the bad. But, as in all things, comparing how you play, with your principles and guidelines robust and intact, to a degenerate form of another's play, you will always look good by comparison.

Goal and approach is used in a principled manner not to create the need for specific approaches, but to reduce the need for GM assumptions. Done in a pricipled manner, goal and approach is very lenient on approaches, as I show above in the example where there's still a roll for an approach that appears to go straight at the trap. The priciples here is "don't be a dick" and "assume PCs are competent." I use goal and approach because I want to give the player the authority to say what their PC does -- I don't want to assume or narrate PC actions, I want to narrate outcomes. This doesn't make my method superior to yours, it just makes it superior for my table. I believe yours works for your table just as awesomely.

Also, both of the approaches above were lifted straight from my last session. No contact poison traps, though.
Whereas I just cover goal and approach based on "how quickly are you going through the area?" Describing what they're doing at every door, every opening, every hallway is boring. Even if I broadcast that a door is "different", a simple "I search for traps" is good enough because I assume the person doing the searching is trained in how to do the search safely.

So all they have to say is "I think this area could be trapped and dangerous so we move cautiously". For me, that's good enough to tell me that they're being careful. If the game centers around a killer who's setting up traps for their victims and I want to build tension I may call for it but that is far and away the exception.

Of course different people play for different reasons. I'm not much of a dungeon crawl guy, and I rarely use traps. I don't have enough time to play the way it is so I focus on what's fun for me and my group. What's fun for you may be different.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
This is just a minor pet peeve of mine and I may be the only one who has this problem, but I personally am not trained in removing traps. My PC is. Why should I go into details of how I'm disarming the trap any more than I would describe the methods I'm using to calm a horse with animal handling? I don't deal with horses on a regular basis. Ask me how to approach a skittish cat and I might have some possibilities, but a horse? Not so sure.

So when it comes to traps, how the **** would I know the best approach? As a DM, I may say something like "in order to disable the trap it looks like you need to insert your hand into this hole, do you do it?" As a DM, I try to avoid "gotchas" so I start with the assumption they're just looking and build a scene with the character if it's not clear. That doesn't change whether they're investigating a trap or looking at an old book.

Anyway, it's just a pet peeve and one I've had since my AD&D days. Carry on.
This is why I feel that it is my duty as a DM to provide my players with such knowledge, when appropriate. The players state their general approach, such as "I open the trapped chest while standing behind it and with a stick". And if the player misunderstands the mechanics of the trap, I clarify, and allow them change their mind as often as they wish, until of course I have made my final ruling on the outcome.

A player may try an approach to disarming the trap that their character would know to be fatally flawed, and then I tell them this and allow them to do something different. A player does not need to be extremely detailed in his description, and you don't need to be an actual trap expert. Just a general description of your approach will do, and where information is lacking, you are free to ask me for more info. I also often ask for further details myself as well, such as "Who is standing in the corridor when so-and-so tries to disable the trap?". Sometimes such a question may be irrelevant, but it is such an easy way to get players to panic (I can be a bit of a troll).

Honestly though, the way I make rulings on traps is very fair towards my players. I always make sure they are properly informed about the situation, and I take extra care to not presume what their character do.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Whereas I just cover goal and approach based on "how quickly are you going through the area?" Describing what they're doing at every door, every opening, every hallway is boring. Even if I broadcast that a door is "different", a simple "I search for traps" is good enough because I assume the person doing the searching is trained in how to do the search safely.

So all they have to say is "I think this area could be trapped and dangerous so we move cautiously". For me, that's good enough to tell me that they're being careful. If the game centers around a killer who's setting up traps for their victims and I want to build tension I may call for it but that is far and away the exception.

Of course different people play for different reasons. I'm not much of a dungeon crawl guy, and I rarely use traps. I don't have enough time to play the way it is so I focus on what's fun for me and my group. What's fun for you may be different.
So, you require a standard approach and then question why others ask for an appriach? I don't get it. If there wasn't a standard approach, what would you do?

There's some additional principles behind goal and approach that may help here. They are "don't ask for a roll if there are no consequences for failure" and "telegraph danger." The first quickly dispenses with no trap situations and prevents the dreaded "metagaming" when there is (because a failure will have a consequence). The second tells players ahead of the interaction that there's simething to interact with. Let me give you examples from my last session.

The scout is moving through a dungeon known to have traps, and so is being careful. He comes to a long corridor with two doors on the walls at the midpoint. Nothing special. As he approaches the doors, he does not notice either the scratches in the floor in front of the doors or the lip of a pressure plate just beyond due to using darkvision (his passive was below threshold but would not have been with bright light). He did not stop to examine the doors, but pressed on, stepping on the plate and causing the doors to snap into the hallway and seal it closed at the halfway point. This illustrates goal and approach in a natural play method. The goal was to scout for dangers, the approach was to move cautiously with no light source. The result was a failed perception test and the triggering of a trap. A different approach would have had different results. I use thus example because I'm pretty sure you'll recognize it from your own play.

The second instance was a staue of a man with a shark's head with an open mouth. A closer approach revealed the mouth had a cavity behind it that you could reach into, but, due to the height of the statue, you couldn't see into it. The statue blocked a secret door and the catch was a handle in the back of the staues throat. The "trap" was that the statue was unsteady and attempting to climb it would cause it to topple. The two PCs investigating declared one climbed on the other's shoulders for a better look, and so saw the catch clearly. They then reached in to feel if there was a mechanism that would cayse the mouth to close. There wasn't (no consequence for failure) , so I said so. The catch was pulled and the secret door revealed. They entirely bypassed the "trap" by approach.

My player felt confident that his PC reaching into the mouth of the statue was not going to be a gotcha because he knew I resoect both goal and approach. It was risky, yes, but I wasn't going to gotcha trap him without a roll that honored both his approach and his goal. Had there been a trap, I would have lowered his DC for finding it due to getting right in there where the mechanism would be, but that would have balanced with the trap going off on a failure.
 
I've been setting it as their 'Passive Deception' DC. What do you do?
If an NPC is telling the truth, I tell my player "It seems he's telling the truth". No DC needed. The player might still not be sure because if he was lying, there's a chance I'd say the same thing if their Insight was too low.

I think this is the best way to handle it. The higher their insight is, the more "sure" they are that I tell them is the truth which is a perfect reflection of what the skill means in the first place.
 

Hussar

Legend
This is why I feel that it is my duty as a DM to provide my players with such knowledge, when appropriate. The players state their general approach, such as "I open the trapped chest while standing behind it and with a stick". And if the player misunderstands the mechanics of the trap, I clarify, and allow them change their mind as often as they wish, until of course I have made my final ruling on the outcome.

A player may try an approach to disarming the trap that their character would know to be fatally flawed, and then I tell them this and allow them to do something different. A player does not need to be extremely detailed in his description, and you don't need to be an actual trap expert. Just a general description of your approach will do, and where information is lacking, you are free to ask me for more info. I also often ask for further details myself as well, such as "Who is standing in the corridor when so-and-so tries to disable the trap?". Sometimes such a question may be irrelevant, but it is such an easy way to get players to panic (I can be a bit of a troll).

Honestly though, the way I make rulings on traps is very fair towards my players. I always make sure they are properly informed about the situation, and I take extra care to not presume what their character do.
In my experience, this just leads to players using magic to overcome everything because magic, unlike skills, doesn't require any DM adjudication. They know what they are going to get if they use a mage hand to open a chest or whatever. And I really don't want that.

On a side note, if someone would like to quote this and ask why @Ovinomancer has me blocked. I honestly have zero idea where that came from and I wonder if he was experimenting with blocking in another thread and forgot to change it off.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
On a side note, if someone would like to quote this and ask why @Ovinomancer has me blocked. I honestly have zero idea where that came from and I wonder if he was experimenting with blocking in another thread and forgot to change it off.
You can message them, I believe. I did when someone else had blocked me (unbelievable right? ;) ) and they removed the block.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
Heh, thinking about it, how does that pedestal trap work? It sinks if there isn't the right amount of weight on it? Hang on, how exactly do you do that?

Which, in my mind, is why I generally don't futz too much on the details. Too much risk of making stuff that, under a bit of scrutiny, doesn't actually work. I remember running the World's Largest Dungeon years ago. One of the most egregious examples of what I see as "describe what you do" play was in a room description where it actually says something to the effect (it's been a number of years, I could get the exact quote if you really want me to), PC's who state they are looking at the ceiling have a chance of noticing the darkmantles hidden there (DC whatever). Those who don't are automatically surprised".

Yeah, I don't play that way. If you say you are looking around the room, that includes up. So, yeah, to me, simply saying, I look for traps in the room is perfectly fine. I'm not interested in any more detail than that.
Ye olde "you didn't say you looked up?" is a classic from certain old gaming days or styles.

Thst kind of thing I have seen lead to a page or pages long laundry list of "door procedures" to avoid all those kinds of things.

Heck, it's not even that old.. one of the opening 5e modules has charscters pursuing a troupe of raiders, finding out an smbudhbis set for them and then iirc has the line "if the players state they are watching for the ambush, they get advantage on the spot check " parsphrasebof course but its right back to "did you say you look up style of gaming.

Contrast to the assumption of competence (or just basic sentience) where you assume that after learning an ambush is ahead they are looking out for it.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
They weren't cloakers actually, they were darkmantles. Not sure why I felt OCD enough to correct that. Also, I'm not sure why WotC got brought into this. This was from the World's Largest Dungeon (3.5e) from AEG games. Totally 3rd party. Someone else mentioned WotC modules having the same sort of thing though.

Like I said, things like what you're describing are things that bug me in a game. I'm looking around. My character has a pretty high perception score (or spot or whatever your system uses). If you say X you get bonus Y but penalty Z is a losing bet, most of the time. I mean, using your examples, why would I do that unless there was some reason I knew there were monsters hanging on the ceiling beforehand? It's just as likely that something will come up from the floor, so, it's a wash.

Actually, thinking about it, in 5e, there really aren't any monsters that hide on the floor particularly, so, why wouldn't players just always look up? Odds are they are going to be right more often than wrong. And since there's no bonus or penalty horizontally, it's a free advantage that works most of the time.

Thinking about it, that's why it bugs me so much. It's just so easy to game the system. Or rather, game the DM. And, frankly, often, DM's are not very good at judging odds. Like I said, there are far, far more things that drop on you in ambush in a dungeon than hide on the floor. So, unless there's something wonky about the floor - pools, water, watnot - you're far better off looking at the ceiling. Judge your DM. How often does he/she drop a pit trap in a hallway? Never? Great! Keep your eyes on the ceilings boys, free bonuses for everyone.
Item 17 on door procedure checklist - before entering look up.

Check!
 

seebs

Explorer
This. If an NPC is telling the truth, they exhibit no signs that they are lying, therefore there is no uncertainty if a PC attempts to discern whether or not they are lying by observing their behavior.
This isn't how humans work. Most people exihibit some "signs that they are lying" if they're nervous, even when being 100% truthful. Also, people misread body language all the time. It's absolutely possible to mistakenly think someone is lying.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
Let me try an example. There's a door that has a contact poison on the handle. For whatever reason, the players are suspicious of the door and are checking for traps.

The two methods you're contrasting here are asking for a roll vs stating an approach and goal. Let's start with asking for a roll.

"I search for traps. I got a __."

Firstly, this method requires a fixed DC fir the trap. This is a somewhat arbitrary DC based more on the needed challenge rather than anything hapoening on the fiction. That's not bad or wrong, just hiw it is. Many (most) published adventures set DCs this way.

So, a the check result is compared to the DC. I'm pretty sure we'll all agree what happens on a success -- the poisoned handle is discovered! But, what happens on a failure? That's murky. Some tabkes will offer "you find nothing" and wait for further actions that may engage the trap. Others might deckare that the poison was touched, which sets up the "I didn't say I touched that!" argument. The failure options are either 'nothing' or assuming actions on the PC's behalf that are harmful. And, this is perfectly fine if the table agrees the GM has this authority over PC actions. Not my preference, but perfectly fine.

Now, the goal and approach method. This method modifies DCs based on declared actions, so already a difference, and also generates different outcomes based on deckared actions. It is, however, not pixel bitching except in a very degenerate form. Let's look at two example approaches:

1) "I carefully examine the door visually to see if there are any traps."

With this action, the GM will probably determine the outcome is uncertain. A DC will generate based on what the GM thinks is a good representation of noticing the contact poison by visual inspection. A roll is then called for. On a success, the result is indistinguishable from above -- the trap is discovered! On a failure, though, the range is limited. The result is "you don't notice anything." Touching the poisoned handle is not a possible outcome. This is difference.

2) "I check for traps by carefully and slowly opening it, feeling for catches or triggers."

This plays out a bit differently. The GM could determine this directly engages the trap without a roll and move there. I'd, personally, set the DC as above and call for a roll, but I go with the assumption PCs are competent. A success would notice the poison before grasping the handle, so same as above. A failure, though, does not involve the GM assuming action from the PC -- tge handle has been grasped.

So, then, goal and approach work the same as asking fior a roll in success conditions (usually, there are corner cases), but in failure conditions they usually operate differently -- one establishes failure conditions from the approach declared, the other leaves it up to the GM. Neither is inherently superior.

Now, to address the complaint you make about pixel bitching more directly. Yes, goal and approach in a degenerate form is pretty much pixel bitching. If you, as GM, are looking only for the magic approach phrasing, you're doing the bad. But, as in all things, comparing how you play, with your principles and guidelines robust and intact, to a degenerate form of another's play, you will always look good by comparison.

Goal and approach is used in a principled manner not to create the need for specific approaches, but to reduce the need for GM assumptions. Done in a pricipled manner, goal and approach is very lenient on approaches, as I show above in the example where there's still a roll for an approach that appears to go straight at the trap. The priciples here is "don't be a dick" and "assume PCs are competent." I use goal and approach because I want to give the player the authority to say what their PC does -- I don't want to assume or narrate PC actions, I want to narrate outcomes. This doesn't make my method superior to yours, it just makes it superior for my table. I believe yours works for your table just as awesomely.

Also, both of the approaches above were lifted straight from my last session. No contact poison traps, though.
Specifically regarding this...

"So, a the check result is compared to the DC. I'm pretty sure we'll all agree what happens on a success -- the poisoned handle is discovered! But, what happens on a failure? That's murky. Some tabkes will offer "you find nothing" and wait for further actions that may engage the trap. Others might deckare that the poison was touched, which sets up the "I didn't say I touched that!" argument. The failure options are either 'nothing' or assuming actions on the PC's behalf that are harmful. And, this is perfectly fine if the table agrees the GM has this authority over PC actions. Not my preference, but perfectly fine."

Those options sound a lot like declaring that a failure can have two outcomes, not just one.

It's almost like saying that a failure on an ability check can be either "making no progress" (you find no traps) or some progress with a setback determined by the GM (you found a trap but you tripped it.)

As such, I would say that in 5e, that "agreed authority" to make such a call by the GM is given in the PHB under ability checks where it specifically states that a failure on an ability check gives the GM both those options.

"Otherwise, it's a failure, which means the character or monster makes no progress toward the objective or makes progress combined with a setback determined by the DM." PHB Chapter 7 using Ability Scores

Now, if it's me, I might decide for some traps that trip while searching is still better than just walking into, grabbing the handle etc ("makes progress") and give the save advantage under the "actions that helped" category.

But, just saying that in explicit RAW the authority to have the different resolutions for a failed trap check is already there. It can be in the same game, same table not needing different tables.

Meanwhile, the describe it sure doesnt prevent table differences. One table might have some or all who know the grizzly vs brown bear aggression response. Another might.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
This is why I feel that it is my duty as a DM to provide my players with such knowledge, when appropriate. The players state their general approach, such as "I open the trapped chest while standing behind it and with a stick". And if the player misunderstands the mechanics of the trap, I clarify, and allow them change their mind as often as they wish, until of course I have made my final ruling on the outcome.

A player may try an approach to disarming the trap that their character would know to be fatally flawed, and then I tell them this and allow them to do something different. A player does not need to be extremely detailed in his description, and you don't need to be an actual trap expert. Just a general description of your approach will do, and where information is lacking, you are free to ask me for more info. I also often ask for further details myself as well, such as "Who is standing in the corridor when so-and-so tries to disable the trap?". Sometimes such a question may be irrelevant, but it is such an easy way to get players to panic (I can be a bit of a troll).

Honestly though, the way I make rulings on traps is very fair towards my players. I always make sure they are properly informed about the situation, and I take extra care to not presume what their character do.
Honestly, I cant remember the last time I saw someone posting about their GMing and saying anything like

"Honestly though, the way I make rulings on ABCD is very unfair towards my players."

Just sayin'
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So, you require a standard approach and then question why others ask for an appriach? I don't get it. If there wasn't a standard approach, what would you do?
General approach is something we discuss. What does the slow and cautious approach mean both in terms of time and effort. What the standard "default" approach is, clarify that even passive checks will be at disadvantage if they're rushing. I may go into more detail the first time or two for different environments, but it doesn't take long to establish a standard baseline.

So we, as a group, make that decision once and if there's ever any question or uncertainty about how the PC would approach the situation I ask for clarification. Same as any other skill based challenge. Like I said, I find constantly having to remind the DM that I'm checking for traps (much less specifically how I'm checking) to be boring. As I've said before if the player suspects something might be trapped, I assume their PC is suspicious and will take precautions whether or not there is a trap. If that includes a dice roll, I don't see why that would cause the world I've built to crumble it just means the PC acted on their suspicion.

I play the game to slay dragons, win the damsel's heart and get shiny bling. I'd simply rather spend my time on social interactions, discussing clues, fighting monsters than describing how I search a room so I'm sure to mention that I search under the mattress.
 

iserith

Explorer
This, I think, puts it about as well as can be put. There are definitely advantages to either way. And disadvantages too. For myself, obviously I prefer the former approach to the latter, and, I think @Elfcrusher nails it, precisely because of pacing issues. Does the DM from time to time take over the character? I suppose. But, to me, that's just bog standard narration. No different than what a DM does in combat when he says something like, "You swing your sword mightly and hack that orc's head off!" Does anyone have an issue with the DM doing that?
Yes, I do have an issue with the DM doing that. A player gets to do one thing in this game, broadly speaking: Describe what he or she wants to do. The DM should not be doing this for them in my view and that includes combat. So when I DM, I describe the impact of the attack on the orc, to use your example, but I will not describe the character swinging the sword in any particular way. That's the player's role and responsibility.

As for pacing, I see no impact on that with the approach the rules suggest, and as I stated my games run circles around others in terms of content covered over the course of a session. But that's due to a number of factors, not just how fast we're resolving tasks.
 

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