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Pure Chaos - Letting players determine Ability Check DCs in Limbo

OB1

Jedi Master
As I was prepping my next session this morning, which will take place in Limbo, I was working on setting DCs for some of the potential tasks the PCs may try, when I was struck with a strange idea that I can't get out of my head.

While in Limbo, why not let the player tell me what the DC of a task is?

Crazy right?

There would be a few rules. I would still determine when a result is uncertain and therefore need a check in the first place. As such, a player can't set a DC so low as to automatically succeed, nor so high so as to automatically fail. If multiple party members make the check, the person with the highest bonus makes the determination. And I would still let them know what the consequences of success or failure would be before they determine the DC. I would still describe the task as easy, medium, hard, etc., but they would be free to determine the number, unless the other players unanimously decide it is to high or to low, in which case the DC gets set to the PHB definition of my description.

The goal for this is to get bigger buy in from the players on the way the dice roll, since they had a say in determining the outcome, and to allow for more extreme consequences from task failure.

And while I definitely will constrain this to Limbo as a rule test, I'm wondering if it might actually work on a full time basis.

Have I lost my mind, or could this actually produce interesting results? Is there anything I should consider changing about this before the session next weekend?
 

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Quartz

Adventurer
Sounds fun and cool. This looks like a variation on "it's as difficult as you think it is" and the PC imposing her will on the chaos of Limbo.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don’t understand what the goal of this house rule is. What specifically are you trying to accomplish with it?

I find it always helps me, when considering a house rule, to ask myself what my desired outcome is with this change - if it goes over exactly as well as I could hope, what will it change for the better? Once I have the answer to that, I ask myself if the house rule I’m considering is the best way to achieve that outcome. Sometimes the answer is yes, but often I find that I could accomplish the thing I want the house rule to do in an easier and/or less obtrusive way.
 

Gardens & Goblins

First Post
If the DM is deciding if a DC is 'ok' - so as to avoid automatically succeeding, as you state, then aren't they actually deciding the DC anyway?

I mean, if its not 'too low' then there's going to be a consensus of what is ok - and some wiggle room either side. You're arbitrating the consensus... so..

Yeah. Seems like a novel spin but underneath, more style than substance.


Anyway, to give the feel of fighting for control, you could instead have your players bid for actions, in say increments of 2 or 5 (both?). Limbo in its natural state, if I recall correctly, is a chaotic mass of matter that just does its thing. Along comes some sapient being and imposes their will on it. And if there's another sapient being, then the wills can collide. In this case have the player who offers the to make the check at the higher DC have the chance of winning control. For example, my character wants the ground beneath their feet to become jelly. My fellow player's character want the ground to become tofu. I bid 10 for the DC, they call 12 DC. I raise to 15. They let me win the bid, hoping I'll fail the roll. I do, my character fails to turn the ground into jelly. They make the check at the next lowest DC bid, 12. And fail. Neither of us turn the ground into our desired stuff.

:eek: Eh. Or not.
 

jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
Make more sense to me to make dc’s random. Like every check is a d20 vs d20 contest against nature of the plane. Pick a fixed bonus for the plane.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
If you want to "game it" more, give the players a few "easy" tokens each session. Tell them that they can decide if any particular DC is easy, medium or hard. If they chose easy they need to either spend a toekn or there will bea consequence even if succeed ("Yes, BUT ..."). If they decide something is hard, if it'a a meaningful test (not like cooking for dinner, something with a real consequence), then they get an easy token regardless of succeed/fail.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
It does seem kind of weirdly limbo-esque to me. I'd keep playing with the notion.

I think the math nerds would want some clear scale for the decision making. Make it direct and obvious that the risk/reward balance is at stake - failing at a near-certain success is more disastrous than a difficult check, and that sometimes making the odds one-in-a-million are the only way to get the level of success you need.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Maybe setting the DC at 1d10+10, 1d20 + 5, 1d20 + 10, or something similar would make the DCs more realistic but still random? Rolling a bunch of 1s when setting the DC with an unmodified d20 roll would be a bit ridiculous.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
And while I definitely will constrain this to Limbo as a rule test, I'm wondering if it might actually work on a full time basis.

Whenever we ask if a thing would work, there's an implied question of "Would work at what?" Define "woudl work." Do you mean, "Would produce results you'd produce without their input?" Do you mean "Would make the GM's life easier?" Or what?

Have I lost my mind, or could this actually produce interesting results? Is there anything I should consider changing about this before the session next weekend?

I think this could produce interesting results if implemented slightly differently.

If you are already giving a difficulty and the stakes, and are planning to reject the player input if it doesn't match that, then really you don't need the player input anyway, to be honest. If you say, "that's hard" You cold largely supstitute a static chart at that point.

However, if you instead allow the players to set the difficulty they want, an dyou make the stakes match, that's a totally different story - they get to set how big a risk they are wiling to take, you respond with commensurate reward/consequences, that'd be interesting. It might also require you to shift your game into a much more improvisational mode.

Alternatively, you might get interesting results turning this into a bidding system. Off the top of my head - give the players three stacks of different colored chips, some (possibly different) number of chips n each stack. If they spend a chip, they can set an Eash, Medium, or Hard DC (or, say, +5, +0, and -5 bonus on the check). Overall, there is balance - the GM gets to determine in general how hard things are to do throughout the adventure. But the players now get control of when those happen. If you don't put all the tasks that matter at the end, they have some tactical thoughts to make.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
If you are already giving a difficulty and the stakes, and are planning to reject the player input if it doesn't match that, then really you don't need the player input anyway, to be honest. If you say, "that's hard" You cold largely supstitute a static chart at that point.

The idea here wasn't that I would reject player input, but that the other players could as a way to keep them honest. Quite frankly, I wasn't supper thrilled with this idea and probably would have just gone with letting them set whatever they wanted and let the other players use social pressure to keep them honest.


However, if you instead allow the players to set the difficulty they want, an dyou make the stakes match, that's a totally different story - they get to set how big a risk they are wiling to take, you respond with commensurate reward/consequences, that'd be interesting. It might also require you to shift your game into a much more improvisational mode.

This is awesome, and I think I could definitely test this out in Limbo. Gonna think on it a bit.

Side note - Advice like this is exactly why I come to these boards. Such great inspiration!
 

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