# Missing Rules

#### Reynard

##### Legend
Um, no. in [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]'s game the player of Bob looks for a boulder strewn along the edge of the chasm and let's Iserith know that he's using the boulder to jump off of to gain some extra distance. Now Iserith makes a decision about the success probability, and if the outcome is in doubt he assigns a DC. Or perhaps he has some other idea he describes. Iserith has said this to you multiple times, so why the misportrayal of his position?

But Bob's player did describe what he was doing. He said he was taking a deep breath and giving it all Bob's got so he could make the jump. I am not sure why that isn't enough, why Bob's player is forced to guess which precise class of actions are considered acceptable when the rules clearly state this is an intended use of an Athletics check. Simply repeating the assertion that the rules demand some particular granularity of description does not make it true.

Look at it this way: Bob's player really wants to make this jump so as not to let poor Bob get eaten by a ravening hoard of zombies. She says, "Can I use my Athletics skill proficiency to try and make the jump." In this case, the DM says, "Yes." (because the DM saying yes is almost always better than saying no). If the play fails the roll, the DM says, "Bob steels himself, takes a breath and runs for it. When his fingertips scrape on the opposite ledge before Bob plummets into unending darkness..." Alternatively if Bob succeeds on the roll, the DM says, "As Bob goes to make the jump, he finds a boulder jutting out from this edge of the chasm and using it as a launching point Bob is able to get a couple extra feet and land safely on the other side."

What's the difference? The DM said "Yes" to begin with and let the player use the things on the PC's character sheet to engage the game. Some players will automatically do what you are talking about, coming up with ideas and details all the time. Many will not, however. There is nothing wrong with engaging the game by way of the mechanics, and the DM should recognize and facilitate that player's fun just as much as the DM does with the one writing an epic by way of the table.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
I think you are ascribing meaning to the word "describe" in this context. Moreover, you aren't quoting a rule, you are quoting an explanation of how the game works. Further, the following paragraph after "The Player describes what his character is doing," says absolutely nothing about how descriptive a player must be or whether the DM has to consider any factors at all beyond her own judgement. In other words you are telling other people they are running their games wrong based on a pretty narrow interpretation of the text in the book.

Seriously? Something telling you how the game works isn't a rule? There are rules that don't deal with mechanics and these are some of them. They tell you how the game is played.

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
I don't know, I think it's pretty cut and dried. My benchmark is, "can the character just keep trying this until they succeed?" If the answer is yes, then there's no meaningful consequence, and I just narrate their eventual success. If the answer is no, then whatever is preventing them from doing so is the consequence.

Sure. I just know that what is considered to be a meaningful consequence of failure is very much up to specific context (even for the same task) and personal preference, so much so that it's not worth debating. But it is an important step in the adjudication process, however it may be interpreted.

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen (She/They)
I'm not even sure what you're trying to say any more.
I'm saying you can't just make a check because you feel like it. You have to describe an action in terms of what your character is doing in the fiction, and if the outcome of that action is uncertain, the DM will ask for a check to resolve that uncertainty.

All I can say is that if someone has their PC jump further than they normally can, I'll decide on a DC and have them roll a check.
Whereas at my table, if a player says "I want to try to jump further than I normally can," I will ask them "How?" If they can tell me what they are doing that might allow them to jump further than they normally can, I too will decide on a DC and have them roll a check.

Trying to jump farther is a goal, but I can't assess the difficulty of achieving that goal without some idea of the character's method.

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen (She/They)
Sure. I just know that what is considered to be a meaningful consequence of failure is very much up to specific context (even for the same task) and personal preference, so much so that it's not worth debating. But it is an important step in the adjudication process, however it may be interpreted.

I don't really see personal preference playing a role. I feel like the presence or absence of consequences is a pretty objective thing. But, you're right that it's probably not worth debating.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
Not in yours. You've stated many times that the situation doesn't need to change for the failure to have meaning, but you have yet to demonstrate how that is possible.

Except that I have, multiple times. Take of the blinders at take a look.

If the failure doesn't add meaning, then any meaning in the scenario didn't come from the failure. Ergo, the failure was not meaningful.

This is simply untrue. Failure can and does often have the same meaning as the position that you were in before making the attempt. There is no requirement for added meaning. Only that there be meaning.

What I said in response to you: It won't always be meaningful, but simple failure can be meaningful.

But hey, what does the truth matter, right?

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
I don't really see personal preference playing a role. I feel like the presence or absence of consequences is a pretty objective thing. But, you're right that it's probably not worth debating.

Yeah. Folks will DIG to come up with a reason to say a consequence of failure is meaningful even though you and I might think it's a complete waste of time. The common example is trying to unlock a door and require a check even though there is no outside pressure (monsters, time, or otherwise). You or I would probably think no check is necessary - the PC just succeeds if he or she has the proficiency and tools, eventually. Others would want the check because reasons.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
But Bob's player did describe what he was doing. He said he was taking a deep breath and giving it all Bob's got so he could make the jump.

As a description, all that gives me is that Bob is taking a deep breath and giving me a goal. It describes nothing about how the jump is being done that is anything other than a normal jump. Unless of course Bob somehow thinks that taking a deep breath will add distance. It won't.

I am not sure why that isn't enough, why Bob's player is forced to guess which precise class of actions are considered acceptable when the rules clearly state this is an intended use of an Athletics check. Simply repeating the assertion that the rules demand some particular granularity of description does not make it true.

It's not enough because it tells me nothing about how Bob is going to get those extra feet. Anyone can "give it all he's got" with every single jump, so there's nothing there that would be unusual in a jump.

Look at it this way: Bob's player really wants to make this jump so as not to let poor Bob get eaten by a ravening hoard of zombies. She says, "Can I use my Athletics skill proficiency to try and make the jump." In this case, the DM says, "Yes." (because the DM saying yes is almost always better than saying no). If the play fails the roll, the DM says, "Bob steels himself, takes a breath and runs for it. When his fingertips scrape on the opposite ledge before Bob plummets into unending darkness..." Alternatively if Bob succeeds on the roll, the DM says, "As Bob goes to make the jump, he finds a boulder jutting out from this edge of the chasm and using it as a launching point Bob is able to get a couple extra feet and land safely on the other side."

There are almost always reasons why a PC's player is trying to make every jump. Jumps rarely happen for fun and without some consequence for failure. Players are going to have their PCs try for extra distance every single time. There will be nothing unusual about going for extra distance.

In my case, I would not say yes, as there is nothing to say yes to. Like @iserith, I would ask HOW the PC is going to gain that extra distance, and taking a deep breath isn't going to cut it.

Some players will automatically do what you are talking about, coming up with ideas and details all the time. Many will not,

That's why I prompt it with a question about how they are going to do it.

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#### Reynard

##### Legend
.In my case, I would not say yes, as there is nothing to say yes to. Like [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION], I would ask HOW the PC is going to gain that extra distance, and taking a deep breath isn't going to cut it.

That's why I prompt it with a question about how they are going to do it.

You're still playing mother-may-I when you already know the player's intent is to make the jump across the chasm. If for whatever reason the player isn't capable of giving you a satisfactory answer, you punish them by denying them access to one of their character's abilities. It is tantamount to not letting the wizard use his Magic Missile spell because the player couldn't adequately describe the somatic components. One has nothing to do with the other.

Is it neat when you have players at the table who are skilled with verbal description and narrative flourishes? Sure, I guess. But it isn't a requirement for playing D&D.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
You're still playing mother-may-I when you already know the player's intent is to make the jump across the chasm. If for whatever reason the player isn't capable of giving you a satisfactory answer, you punish them by denying them access to one of their character's abilities. It is tantamount to not letting the wizard use his Magic Missile spell because the player couldn't adequately describe the somatic components. One has nothing to do with the other.

Is it neat when you have players at the table who are skilled with verbal description and narrative flourishes? Sure, I guess. But it isn't a requirement for playing D&D.

You're pretty free with the insults, aren't you? First false accusations of one-true-wayism, and now false accusations of mother-may-I and punishments. It's not mother may I to ask how someone's PC is going to do something when the player doesn't present anything for the DM to work with, and it's not a punishment to rule an attempt at something an auto failure if it should fail.

How about you stop with the unnecessary insults and just respond to the discussion?

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
But Bob's player did describe what he was doing. He said he was taking a deep breath and giving it all Bob's got so he could make the jump. I am not sure why that isn't enough, why Bob's player is forced to guess which precise class of actions are considered acceptable when the rules clearly state this is an intended use of an Athletics check. Simply repeating the assertion that the rules demand some particular granularity of description does not make it true.

Look at it this way: Bob's player really wants to make this jump so as not to let poor Bob get eaten by a ravening hoard of zombies. She says, "Can I use my Athletics skill proficiency to try and make the jump." In this case, the DM says, "Yes." (because the DM saying yes is almost always better than saying no). If the play fails the roll, the DM says, "Bob steels himself, takes a breath and runs for it. When his fingertips scrape on the opposite ledge before Bob plummets into unending darkness..." Alternatively if Bob succeeds on the roll, the DM says, "As Bob goes to make the jump, he finds a boulder jutting out from this edge of the chasm and using it as a launching point Bob is able to get a couple extra feet and land safely on the other side."

What's the difference? The DM said "Yes" to begin with and let the player use the things on the PC's character sheet to engage the game. Some players will automatically do what you are talking about, coming up with ideas and details all the time. Many will not, however. There is nothing wrong with engaging the game by way of the mechanics, and the DM should recognize and facilitate that player's fun just as much as the DM does with the one writing an epic by way of the table.

I thought we were done discussing, but since you brought me up, let's do this.

As an expert of what happens at my own table, I can remark on a few things going on here that wouldn't fly:

1. The player asked a question instead of declaring a goal and approach.
2. The player asked to make an ability check.
3. The DM described what the character was doing, which is the player's role.

If Bob's player offers up a reasonably specific and plausible approach by which to achieve the goal, then I can determine whether it succeeds, fails, or whether I need to see an ability check at which point I can set a DC and perhaps set the stakes. Bob's player doesn't get to say "I want to make an Athletics check to jump across," then leave it to me to describe how Bob does that. That is a complete reversal of the roles of player and DM as described in the rules. A common approach, to be sure, but better suited to previous editions of the game than this one in my view. In D&D 5e, the player describes what he or she wants to do. The DM calls for checks and narrates the results.

If Bob's player can't come up with an approach to jumping that gap and none is suggested by the other players, then perhaps there isn't one. Bob dies a horrible flesh-tearing death. No big deal. It certainly isn't the first time an adventurer was devoured by undead and it won't be the last. Next time, be more careful, Bob's player!

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
Trying to jump farther is a goal, but I can't assess the difficulty of achieving that goal without some idea of the character's method.

^ Very well said!

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
You're still playing mother-may-I when you already know the player's intent is to make the jump across the chasm. If for whatever reason the player isn't capable of giving you a satisfactory answer, you punish them by denying them access to one of their character's abilities. It is tantamount to not letting the wizard use his Magic Missile spell because the player couldn't adequately describe the somatic components. One has nothing to do with the other.

"I try to clear the chasm (goal) by jumping over it (approach)." DM knows the chasm is 15-feet wide. Character has an 18 Strength. Outcome is certain - no roll. The character succeeds. DM narrates.

"I try to clear the chasm (goal) by jumping over it (approach)." DM knows the chasm is 18-feet wide. Character has a 15 Strength. Outcome is certain - no roll. The character fails. Maybe the DM needs to check with the player on his or her understanding of the environment before narrating the character's fall just to make sure the player isn't under some kind of misapprehension.

"I try to damage the ghost (goal) by casting magic missile (approach)." DM knows the character has that spell as a resource and has spell slots. Outcome is certain - no roll. The character succeeds. Player rolls damage. DM narrates.

"I try to damage the beholder (goal) by casting magic missile (approach)." DM knows the character has that spell as a resource and has spell slots. DM also knows that the beholder is aiming an anti-magic cone at the character. Outcome is certain - no roll. The character fails. DM narrates.

This isn't Mother May I.

Is it neat when you have players at the table who are skilled with verbal description and narrative flourishes? Sure, I guess. But it isn't a requirement for playing D&D.

One doesn't need to be "skilled with verbal description" or "narrative flourishes" to state a simple goal and approach to achieving said goal. And if one can't, unless there is some sort of disability at play, one can learn. And, in my view, one should for more reasons than just performing the player's role in D&D.

#### pemerton

##### Legend
I'm with [MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] - taking a deep breath and giving it all you've got is an approach to jumping across a chasm. Because it takes time to take a deep breath, the GM might reasonably advance any "clocks" that are ticking in the situation.

#### robus

##### Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
To, perhaps foolishly, come to Reynard’s aid, i do feel like Bob’s player offered a bit more than just “i jump the gap”. The player described their character pausing at the gap, contemplating their fate and trying for a desperate leap. To me that’s enough to adjudicate. I would probably put the DC at around 18 as it is hard to push ones self beyond limits but desperate times can produce amazing results.

If Bob’s player had just said “I jump the gap” then sure, they fail, because there was no engagement with the situation.

Edit: and [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] pipped me to the post

#### pemerton

##### Legend
I would certainly allow a PC to exceed their normal jump distance with a successful Strength (Athletics) check. I just don't consider "I try to jump further than I can normally jump by jumping normally" an action with an uncertain outcome, and therefore wouldn't call for a Strength (Athletics) check to resolve it. If, on the other hand, the player offers a method of jumping further than they can normally, that may or may not require a check to resolve, and as per the rules, I would call for Strength (Athletics) to resolve it.
Can you give an example of a method of jumping further than they can normally? I mean, are you envisaging the player describing the use of a pogo stick, or spring board? Or a ramp to gain extra height? It's not clear to me why those sorts of things would involve STR checks (using acrobatic equipment looks like DEX check territory to me). A STR check smacks to me of trying harder, which is what [MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] described.

If a character tries harder, I also think it's fair game to impose costs eg in this sort of case, hp loss for strained/torn muscles. That works very well in 4e (in my experience), but may be it doesn't translate into 4e where hp are perhaps governed by tighter expectations for their loss and recovery?

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen (She/They)
Except that I have, multiple times. Take of the blinders at take a look.
You really haven't, but whatever. If you're not going to bother supporting your assertions, then I don't see any point debating them.

This is simply untrue. Failure can and does often have the same meaning as the position that you were in before making the attempt. There is no requirement for added meaning. Only that there be meaning.
Ok. Let's give the situation's meaning a value, M. Let's give the failure's meaning a value, X.

If M+X=M, then X=...?

What I said in response to you: It won't always be meaningful, but simple failure can be meaningful.
Yes, but you have yet to give an example of a case where this is true. The only example you've given me was one in which the players are trying to climb to get away from ogres who are throwing spears at them. And as I demonstrated, the failure in this example does have a cost - time and hit points, and that cost is what gives the failure meaning. If you can give an example of a situation where failure to achieve a goal has meaning in and of itself, I will concede your point.

But hey, what does the truth matter, right?
I have not at any point misrepresented your argument, so I don't see where you think I'm distorting the truth.

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen (She/They)
Can you give an example of a method of jumping further than they can normally? I mean, are you envisaging the player describing the use of a pogo stick, or spring board? Or a ramp to gain extra height?
Sure, any of those would be valid.

It's not clear to me why those sorts of things would involve STR checks (using acrobatic equipment looks like DEX check territory to me).
I would certaintly think Dexterity would be appropriate for using a pogo stick. I think running on a ramp or jumping from a springboard would still be fundamentally the same muscle function, just with mechanical assistance, so should still be Strength-based in my opinion. I could see an argument for Acrobatics over Athletics though.

A STR check smacks to me of trying harder, which is what [MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] described.
I generally assume PCs are trying the hardest they can at all times, unless the player specifically state otherwise.

If a character tries harder, I also think it's fair game to impose costs eg in this sort of case, hp loss for strained/torn muscles. That works very well in 4e (in my experience), but may be it doesn't translate into 4e where hp are perhaps governed by tighter expectations for their loss and recovery?
Ok, so this sounds like you're attempting to strain your muscles beyond their normal limit (insert Plus Ultra joke here). That's a method, that's something I can work with. I imagine a scenario maybe something like this:

Player: I try to jump across the gap.
DM: It's 20 feet across, what's your strength?
Player: Damn, only 18.
DM: That's rough.
Player: Can I try to make the jump anyway?
DM: I'm hearing that your goal is to jump further than you normally can. What's your character doing to try to accomplish that goal?
Player: Err... I guess I strain myself beyond my limit?
DM: I assume you're already pushing as hard as you can. Any other plan?
Player: Well, this is a pretty stressful situation, what with the zombies chasing me. You know how people can like... lift cars and stuff, like to save a kid? Something about adrenaline?
DM: Ok, I'll buy that. That takes a toll on the body, though. I'd say you can make a DC 15 Strength check to jump the extra couple feet, but pass or fail you'll take a level of exhaustion.
Player: (Either accepts and rolls, or proposes a different action).

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
To, perhaps foolishly, come to Reynard’s aid, i do feel like Bob’s player offered a bit more than just “i jump the gap”. The player described their character pausing at the gap, contemplating their fate and trying for a desperate leap. To me that’s enough to adjudicate.

It's enough for me to adjudicate too: No ability check. The rules for jumping normally apply. Bob doesn't make it.

It's not about offering up "a bit more." It's about offering up a viable approach to a goal. Thinking about jumping, then taking a deep breath before doing it, just sounds like regular ol' jumping to me.

#### Charlaquin

##### Goblin Queen (She/They)
I'm with [MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] - taking a deep breath and giving it all you've got is an approach to jumping across a chasm. Because it takes time to take a deep breath, the GM might reasonably advance any "clocks" that are ticking in the situation.

Do you not assume the PC is already giving it their all? If you do, how do you envision taking a deep breath helping them jump further?

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