D&D 5E "Make a Strength (History) roll."

One of the tools available to GMs and players in 5E is non-standard combinations of ability scores and proficiencies. It doesn't come up very often in my experience, but sometimes odd pairings make for interesting moments in play -- or, rather, interesting moments in play call for the odd pairings. I remember having PCs make Charisma (Athletics) checks to entertain a crowd in the arena, and have sometimes let them make things like Intelligence (Stealth) to try and surmise how an assassin or thief infiltrated a crime scene.

Relatedly, I sometimes let players make checks with proficiency based on their backgrounds or their class (and choosing an appropriate ability score). The 5E proficiency list is narrow and specific and sometimes it is easier to lean on "secondary skills" from the AD&D days.

What are your thoughts on non-standard proficiency and ability scores?
We are pretty free to use any ability that is related to the task and we get proficiency as normal and if it relates to our background
 

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Reynard

Legend
Instead of thinking "how does Strength help my History" think "how does History help my Strength".
This is the thing. In 5E you don't make Stealth or History checks. You say what you are doing and then (if necessary) make an Ability check, and then you determine if a proficiency applies. Doing that, it is a lot easier to figure out how a non-standard combination might come about.
"I want to move the statue of Dwarrofater aside and see if anything is hidden behind it."
"Okay, make a Strength check."
"Can I apply History?"
"To a Strength Check?"
"Yeah. I'm a dwarf and these are my ancestral halls. These massive statues we built to be moved if you knew the trick."
"Sure, that makes sense."
 

This is the thing. In 5E you don't make Stealth or History checks. You say what you are doing and then (if necessary) make an Ability check, and then you determine if a proficiency applies. Doing that, it is a lot easier to figure out how a non-standard combination might come about.
"I want to move the statue of Dwarrofater aside and see if anything is hidden behind it."
"Okay, make a Strength check."
"Can I apply History?"
"To a Strength Check?"
"Yeah. I'm a dwarf and these are my ancestral halls. These massive statues we built to be moved if you knew the trick."
"Sure, that makes sense."
I was just coming back to this thread to say, despite the fact we do this I couldn’t think of a way to apply history to a strength check. You have just broadened my horizon good person. Next stop - confounding my DM with creative applications of skills!
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This is the thing. In 5E you don't make Stealth or History checks. You say what you are doing and then (if necessary) make an Ability check, and then you determine if a proficiency applies. Doing that, it is a lot easier to figure out how a non-standard combination might come about.
"I want to move the statue of Dwarrofater aside and see if anything is hidden behind it."
"Okay, make a Strength check."
"Can I apply History?"
"To a Strength Check?"
"Yeah. I'm a dwarf and these are my ancestral halls. These massive statues we built to be moved if you knew the trick."
"Sure, that makes sense."
I would say the player's statement as to why history is applicable needs to accompany the description to move the statue and prior to the DM calling for a check. Once the check is called for, there's no adding to it since the determination of whether a check was needed at all was based on the player's initial description. Otherwise you get into these situations where players start fishing for a proficiency to apply after the roll is called for which isn't ideal in my view.
 

Reynard

Legend
I would say the player's statement as to why history is applicable needs to accompany the description to move the statue and prior to the DM calling for a check. Once the check is called for, there's no adding to it since the determination of whether a check was needed at all was based on the player's initial description. Otherwise you get into these situations where players start fishing for a proficiency to apply after the roll is called for which isn't ideal in my view.
That isn't how the rules work, at least. The GM calls for the ability check but the players are explicitly "allowed" to lobby for the use of proficiency to increase their chances of success.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I like the idea of it, but I think that it would be better in practice if 1) the skill list was shorter (17 + tools is too much, and yet somehow also feels like it's missing some); 2) there was less focus on the "standard" ability combo; and 3) they weren't all listed on the standard character sheet.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That isn't how the rules work, at least. The GM calls for the ability check but the players are explicitly "allowed" to lobby for the use of proficiency to increase their chances of success.
Yes, per the rules, the player can ask the DM if a proficiency applies to a check, but whether it does or doesn't is based on what the player described. Players describing what they want to do precedes the call for an ability check by the DM.
 

Reynard

Legend
Yes, per the rules, the player can ask the DM if a proficiency applies to a check, but whether it does or doesn't is based on what the player described. Players describing what they want to do precedes the call for an ability check by the DM.
In my example the player wasn't describing what they wanted to do after the check was called for. the player was explaining why they should be allowed to use History on their Strength check.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In my example the player wasn't describing what they wanted to do after the check was called for. the player was explaining why they should be allowed to use History on their Strength check.
Right, which I would find to be out of order. Drawing upon historical knowledge to make moving the statue easier than just brute strength should be part of what the player initially described prior to the DM asking for the check. DM then calls for the Strength check and the player declares they are adding History, based on what they already described. Otherwise you can get into situations where the player starts tacking stuff on after the call for a roll just to get a bonus. Whether or not someone finds that acceptable will be up to them, of course, but it's too little, too late in my view according to the process of play.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Right, which I would find to be out of order. Drawing upon historical knowledge to make moving the statue easier than just brute strength should be part of what the player initially described prior to the DM asking for the check. DM then calls for the Strength check and the player declares they are adding History, based on what they already described. Otherwise you can get into situations where the player starts tacking stuff on after the call for a roll just to get a bonus. Whether or not someone finds that acceptable will be up to them, of course, but it's too little, too late in my view according to the process of play.
I don't disagree with your point, but isn't "the player declares they are adding History" the same thing as "tacking stuff on after the call for a roll just to get a bonus"? I'm not seeing a difference.
 

Reynard

Legend
Right, which I would find to be out of order. Drawing upon historical knowledge to make moving the statue easier than just brute strength should be part of what the player initially described prior to the DM asking for the check. DM then calls for the Strength check and the player declares they are adding History, based on what they already described. Otherwise you can get into situations where the player starts tacking stuff on after the call for a roll just to get a bonus. Whether or not someone finds that acceptable will be up to them, of course, but it's too little, too late in my view according to the process of play.
I disagree. The game is a conversation, and in this case the conversation includes talking about appropriate use of proficiencies. i do not believe that ANY GM is a good enough to feel confident enough that they explained every possible element sufficiently to demand the player get it complete and right in one go.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't disagree with your point, but isn't "the player declares they are adding History" the same thing as "tacking stuff on after the call for a roll just to get a bonus"? I'm not seeing a difference.
No, because you can't add the History proficiency bonus unless you've described drawing upon history in some way during your description which precedes the DM's call for a check. Compare to Reynard's example where the player gets asked for a check and only then starts talking about how they want to draw upon history for that bonus.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I disagree. The game is a conversation, and in this case the conversation includes talking about appropriate use of proficiencies. i do not believe that ANY GM is a good enough to feel confident enough that they explained every possible element sufficiently to demand the player get it complete and right in one go.
I'm not sure how this is a DM confidence thing and not the player adequately describing what they want to do prior to the DM adjudicating the action. Can you explain?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I greatly prefer mix-and-match ability and skill, this is also how 13th Age does it, but I unfortunately never get to use this rule. In my group I have a few players who exclusively use apps to make their character, and it just stops play and takes a couple of times explaining to get them to understand THIS ability score modifier, plus your PROFICIENCY if you are proficient int THAT skill. No, don't add that skill modifier to the ability, it already has a different ability modifier baked in. Your proficiency. No, I don't know where that is on your character sheet. Look, you're 7th level, it's the same for everyone. Okay, so as your as you are proficient in the skill, you can add that to this other ability. Just roll like normal.
 

Tutara

Adventurer
This is prevalent at the tables I play/DM D&D at. A lot of them get used with Charisma: Stealth for going under the radar at a soiree or in a crowd, Investigation to track down leads through questioning the locals, Religion to make a communal sacred ritual particularly impressive, and so on. Others do crop up from time to time, but not so frequently as Charisma.

Strength (History) sounds viable- could relate to muscle memory or reneacting a martial technique from the knowledge of ancient pamphlets or an oral tradition. It very much depends on the situation and what the table thinks works as a group.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
A way to encourage this play is for the character sheet to have an empty box for skills. Then only write down the skills that the character is proficient with.

These skills in this manner tend to flavor what a character is about. They apply whenever they would apply.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I disagree. The game is a conversation, and in this case the conversation includes talking about appropriate use of proficiencies. i do not believe that ANY GM is a good enough to feel confident enough that they explained every possible element sufficiently to demand the player get it complete and right in one go.
I'm with you. The game needs flexible back-and-forth or it becomes too rigid. I think I get what @iserith is going for, ideally, but I don't believe in expecting perfection.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
No, because you can't add the History proficiency bonus unless you've described drawing upon history in some way during your description which precedes the DM's call for a check. Compare to Reynard's example where the player gets asked for a check and only then starts talking about how they want to draw upon history for that bonus.
Ah, gotcha. Thanks for the clarification. The nuance is subtle, but it's there.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm with you. The game needs flexible back-and-forth or it becomes too rigid. I think I get what @iserith is going for, ideally, but I don't believe in expecting perfection.
Individual DMs will have to decide what their tolerance is for this, but having had long experience with this Variant rule in my games, players will absolutely try to add bonuses to the ability check the DM already called for if allowed to do so. It's effectively a retcon because you know you're now making a check and want to add to your description to mitigate the chance of failure.

This also creates something of an interruption of the flow of the conversation and should be the exception, not the rule, in my view. Compare Description-Call for Check-Check-Narrate to Description-Call for Check-Description-Q&A-Check-Narrate. It may seem like a minor thing, but this adds up quick to real time spent on back and forth hashing out whether something applies.
 

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