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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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."
That's semantics. What we have been describing in our examples are just shortcut versions of this. We're describing what sorts of things would qualify for history(str) and skipping the back and forth that led there.
 

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Reynard

Legend
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?
The GM is the sole window the players have into the game world. In order to expect the player to come out with the perfect statement of intent, the GM would have to simultaneously assume that the information they gave the player was perfect in both accuracy and completeness. obviously, that is impossible so the conversation occurs.
 

Reynard

Legend
That's semantics. What we have been describing in our examples are just shortcut versions of this. We're describing what sorts of things would qualify for history(str) and skipping the back and forth that led there.
I think it important to notes that it is a Strength (History) check -- that is, it is first and foremost a Strength check, and in this example the PC gets to apply their proficiency bonus because their proficiency in History proved useful. That is a different paradigm that the 3.x skill era, where the skill was the primary thing and ability scores were modifiers to those.
 

Reynard

Legend
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.
In my experience, the time spent on the conversation is not only well spent, but is miniscule compared to the time spend by the players arguing about moving the statue in the first place.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The GM is the sole window the players have into the game world. In order to expect the player to come out with the perfect statement of intent, the GM would have to simultaneously assume that the information they gave the player was perfect in both accuracy and completeness. obviously, that is impossible so the conversation occurs.
So in your example (which I find to be a reasonable portrait of actual play), the player knows - presumably from previous DM description of the environment - that they are in the character's ancestral halls.

The only new information the player gets is after their first action declaration which is that moving the statue has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, hence the call for the ability check. Now the player, knowing that failure and consequence is on the line, is seeking a bonus to that Strength check to mitigate those outcomes. Given that no new information was imparted about the environment, that player could easily have included the callback to the ancestral halls aspect as part of the initial description.
 

Reynard

Legend
So in your example (which I find to be a reasonable portrait of actual play), the player knows - presumably from previous DM description of the environment - that they are in the character's ancestral halls.

The only new information the player gets is after their first action declaration which is that moving the statue has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, hence the call for the ability check. Now the player, knowing that failure and consequence is on the line, is seeking a bonus to that Strength check to mitigate those outcomes. Given that no new information was imparted about the environment, that player could easily have included the callback to the ancestral halls aspect as part of the initial description.
I guess, but this is not a requirement per the rules, nor do I think it benefits play. I think this level of rigidity actually impedes play and your mostly likely consequence will be entirely too specific action declarations because without them the player will be denied their proficiency bonus.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
I've had the same experience.

Player: "Okay. I grab the statue and try to move it so that we can search beneath for a trap door."
DM: "Give me a strength check. The statue is heavy, but not so heavy that it is beyond your ability to push."
Player: "I'm a dwarf and the dwarves of this place had a trick to move statues. Can I add history?"
DM: "Some statues were, but I described earlier that this statue was carved here. It wasn't intended to ever be moved."
Player: "You also described arcane runes on it, and sometimes statues can be moved easier if you are holding the correct runes when you try to move them. Can I add arcana?"
DM: "The wizard detected magic to see if the statue was magical and no magic is on it, so the runes do not do that."
Player: "Okay. I back up and flip 5 times to get momentum before I move it. Can I add acrobatics?"
DM: "...."
 

Reynard

Legend
I've had the same experience.

Player: "Okay. I grab the statue and try to move it so that we can search beneath for a trap door."
DM: "Give me a strength check. The statue is heavy, but not so heavy that it is beyond your ability to push."
Player: "I'm a dwarf and the dwarves of this place had a trick to move statues. Can I add history?"
DM: "Some statues were, but I described earlier that this statue was carved here. It wasn't intended to ever be moved."
Player: "You also described arcane runes on it, and sometimes statues can be moved easier if you are holding the correct runes when you try to move them. Can I add arcana?"
DM: "The wizard detected magic to see if the statue was magical and no magic is on it, so the runes do not do that."
Player: "Okay. I back up and flip 5 times to get momentum before I move it. Can I add acrobatics?"
DM: "...."
Try saying "Yes" once. I bet it improves your game.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
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.

It had been a long time since I'd evaluated how I run games, why I do it the way I do, and if there could be a better mix to achieve the things I like and excise the things I don't.

Your perspective here (and others that I have been reading on ENWorld) of late has made me start to ponder, and relook at the big picture (and the little details) of how I play.

I am starting to come to the conclusion that in an attempt to be "all-inclusive" when it comes to playstyles and personal preferences (I often play with strangers, brand-new players, and friends who are, let's say, casual about their grasp of the rules) that I put up with A LOT.

While I often find myself "arguing" (usually as friendly as I can make it) against people here that "lay down the law", I've been thinking lately... maybe I go to far. In my efforts to be "inclusive" (and avoid "gate-keeping") do I allow myself to get "taken advantage" of as a DM? Do I put up with too much? Can I ask for more out of my players, without shutting any doors?

I've got some thinking to do.

Thanks for your input! (Even if it wasn't your intent).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In my experience, the time spent on the conversation is not only well spent, but is miniscule compared to the time spend by the players arguing about moving the statue in the first place.
That's rather a separate issue with its own solutions.

I guess, but this is not a requirement per the rules, nor do I think it benefits play. I think this level of rigidity actually impedes play and your mostly likely consequence will be entirely too specific action declarations because without them the player will be denied their proficiency bonus.
I would say that specificity in action declaration is desirable and, in the case of your example, "I try to push the statue using a technique my knowledge of these ancestral halls gives me" is a reasonably specific and succinct action declaration that is achievable by a player. As DM, I can now call for a Strength check and the player can add History. (Notably, players saying they are adding a skill proficiency bonus is a divergence from the rules which allow players to ask only. I skip that part in my games to reduce back and forth.)

The rules you appear to reference must be taken in the context of "How to Play" in which the player describes what they want to do before the DM calls for an ability check. The subsequent rules in the "Skills" section only say the player can ask if a proficiency applies to a check the DM already called for, but does not say the player can just add more description to make a skill relevant to the task. As with any other description by the player, that needs to be front-loaded. As I mention above, if the DM allows for it to be tacked on at the end, it's effectively a retcon and players would be well advised to always do this because it's to their advantage - start off vague, wait to see if DM calls for check, then add description to seek a bonus. Whether that's the game experience a given DM is going for is up to them, of course.
 


Reynard

Legend
That's rather a separate issue with its own solutions.


I would say that specificity in action declaration is desirable and, in the case of your example, "I try to push the statue using a technique my knowledge of these ancestral halls gives me" is a reasonably specific and succinct action declaration that is achievable by a player. As DM, I can now call for a Strength check and the player can add History. (Notably, players saying they are adding a skill proficiency bonus is a divergence from the rules which allow players to ask only. I skip that part in my games to reduce back and forth.)

The rules you appear to reference must be taken in the context of "How to Play" in which the player describes what they want to do before the DM calls for an ability check. The subsequent rules in the "Skills" section only say the player can ask if a proficiency applies to a check the DM already called for, but does not say the player can just add more description to make a skill relevant to the task. As with any other description by the player, that needs to be front-loaded. As I mention above, if the DM allows for it to be tacked on at the end, it's effectively a retcon and players would be well advised to always do this because it's to their advantage - start off vague, wait to see if DM calls for check, then add description to seek a bonus. Whether that's the game experience a given DM is going for is up to them, of course.
Again, your interpretation isn't RAW (which is fine; that's the beauty of games that rely on GMs) and I think it is overly strict and would impede play and make it less fun. Players coming up with interesting ways to apply things like their backgrounds and esoteric skills goes all the way back to the origins of the hobby (before their were "skills" in the game).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Again, your interpretation isn't RAW (which is fine; that's the beauty of games that rely on GMs) and I think it is overly strict and would impede play and make it less fun. Players coming up with interesting ways to apply things like their backgrounds and esoteric skills goes all the way back to the origins of the hobby (before their were "skills" in the game).
You may want to check the RAW again.

I agree that players coming up with ways to apply skills are great! But that happens before the call for the ability check, not after. There are other mechanics that apply after the call for a roll certainly - Inspiration, bardic inspiration, guidance, portent, etc. But to determine whether the action has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, the player must describe what they want to do. And this happens prior to the DM making the call for an ability check.

To do otherwise invites the sort of play I describe above: "...if the DM allows for it to be tacked on at the end, it's effectively a retcon and players would be well advised to always do this because it's to their advantage - start off vague, wait to see if DM calls for check, then add description to seek a bonus." But maybe that's what some DM's want so more power to them.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It had been a long time since I'd evaluated how I run games, why I do it the way I do, and if there could be a better mix to achieve the things I like and excise the things I don't.

Your perspective here (and others that I have been reading on ENWorld) of late has made me start to ponder, and relook at the big picture (and the little details) of how I play.

I am starting to come to the conclusion that in an attempt to be "all-inclusive" when it comes to playstyles and personal preferences (I often play with strangers, brand-new players, and friends who are, let's say, casual about their grasp of the rules) that I put up with A LOT.

While I often find myself "arguing" (usually as friendly as I can make it) against people here that "lay down the law", I've been thinking lately... maybe I go to far. In my efforts to be "inclusive" (and avoid "gate-keeping") do I allow myself to get "taken advantage" of as a DM? Do I put up with too much? Can I ask for more out of my players, without shutting any doors?

I've got some thinking to do.

Thanks for your input! (Even if it wasn't your intent).
That's great - ruthlessly interrogating one's own approach is a very good practice in my experience. I do it continually (and outsource it here on the forums for others to pick apart!).

Now here's one that'll really get you thinking: Questions. How many questions that players ask are actually clarifying the situation the DM left vague (or confusing) or just seeking tacit DM pre-approval on their actions before they take them, thereby using the "metagame" to mitigate failure instead of taking action in the setting? After all, questions aren't actions and they don't come with a chance of failure or a meaningful consequence, so peppering the DM with questions is rather a safe option compared to acting. A topic for another time, perhaps, but it's an example of the sort of thing that becomes quite glaring when the group really examines the fundamentals of play.
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've had the same experience.

Player: "Okay. I grab the statue and try to move it so that we can search beneath for a trap door."
DM: "Give me a strength check. The statue is heavy, but not so heavy that it is beyond your ability to push."
Player: "I'm a dwarf and the dwarves of this place had a trick to move statues. Can I add history?"
DM: "Some statues were, but I described earlier that this statue was carved here. It wasn't intended to ever be moved."
Player: "You also described arcane runes on it, and sometimes statues can be moved easier if you are holding the correct runes when you try to move them. Can I add arcana?"
DM: "The wizard detected magic to see if the statue was magical and no magic is on it, so the runes do not do that."
Player: "Okay. I back up and flip 5 times to get momentum before I move it. Can I add acrobatics?"
DM: "...."
I've never had to deal with this at my table. That sounds pretty annoying...

But hey, at least it's creative? More creative than the cleric just barking "I GIVE YOU GUIDANCE!" before every single roll, anyway. And someone else interrupting with "AND I USE THE HELP ACTION!"
 
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Reynard

Legend
You may want to check the RAW again.

I agree that players coming up with ways to apply skills are great! But that happens before the call for the ability check, not after. There are other mechanics that apply after the call for a roll certainly - Inspiration, bardic inspiration, guidance, portent, etc. But to determine whether the action has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, the player must describe what they want to do. And this happens prior to the DM making the call for an ability check.

To do otherwise invites the sort of play I describe above: "...if the DM allows for it to be tacked on at the end, it's effectively a retcon and players would be well advised to always do this because it's to their advantage - start off vague, wait to see if DM calls for check, then add description to seek a bonus." But maybe that's what some DM's want so more power to them.
There is no rule against continuing the conversation after the call for a roll has been made. I mean, what if there had been a miscommunication? It also doesn't make any sense for the GM to not interrogate the idea of using whatever proficiency the player is requesting. It's backwards.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I've never had to deal with this at my table. That sounds pretty annoying...

But hey, at least it's creative? At least more creative than the cleric just barking "I GIVE YOU GUIDANCE!" before every single roll. And someone else interrupting with "AND I USE THE HELP ACTION!"
That's true enough. My players have to describe how they help as they would any action. And guidance has to be done before I ask for a check, which limits its use.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There is no rule against continuing the conversation after the call for a roll has been made. I mean, what if there had been a miscommunication? It also doesn't make any sense for the GM to not interrogate the idea of using whatever proficiency the player is requesting. It's backwards.
Right, there is no rule about "continuing the conversation" after the call for a roll has been made, but there is a rule that description by the player precedes the call for a roll and a rule that the player can ask if a proficiency applies to the ability check the DM already called for. It says nothing about being able to add more description to be allowed to do so. The rules don't refer to the game as a conversation at all to my knowledge. That's a concept that comes from another game. A useful concept to be sure, but not "RAW."

I would say that if the player has been reasonably specific enough on their action declaration that there should be no need to interrogate the player on why they're using a particular proficiency on the roll. The DM hears the assertion, thinks back to what the player already described, and agrees or disagrees. (I side with agreeing by default on the assumption of good faith play by the player and to speed things along.) The ideal state in my game is DM Description - Player Description - Call For Ability Check - Player Adds Relevant Skill and Rolls - DM Narrates Result. Only if something has gone wrong will there need to be anything in between the player adding the relevant skill and the DM narrating the result.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
That's true enough. My players have to describe how they help as they would any action. And guidance has to be done before I ask for a check, which limits its use.
I've just rolled over and stopped fighting with the players about it. Since the assumption in my game has become "everyone always gets Advantage on all ability checks," and if Advantage is mathematically close to a +3 or +4 bonus, I just add 3 or 4 to all of the Suggested Target DCs in the Dungeon Master's Guide:

Very Easy: DC 9
Easy: DC 14
Medium: DC 19
Hard: 24
Very Hard: 29
Nearly Impossible: 34

Player: ...and I make that check at Advantage because (insert reason here), right?
Me, smugly: Sure, go for it.
 

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