D&D 5E Rolling Without a Chance of Failure (I love it)

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Player: "Can I look for a secret door?"
Dad: "I don't know, CAN YOU?"

I can't actually adjudicate a question. By narrating "You look there is no secret door" I have taken from the player their ability to declare for themselves what their character is doing. That is not the role of the DM. Further, I don't know anything about how they are looking for secret doors, so I can't decide if the action succeeds, fails, or has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure (and therefore an ability check is needed).

If the character declares a goal and approach sufficient to search the area thoroughly, I can tell them they find no secret doors if no secret doors are to be found, no roll.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In any case, if you require that I examine the spot of the trap(specific pixel), however I get there, and auto fail me if I examine all the other pixels and miss that one, then your method involves pixel hunting.
That isn’t what they’re describing. They’re saying that you don’t find anything by declaring an approach with no chance of success. You don’t have to go step by step, though. You could just say, and @Charlaquin can correct me if I’m wrong, “I use my tools to test potential hidden catches or other mechanism while carefully examining the drawer for visual signs of traps or other devices.”

It’s really not complicated to come up with a simple goal and approach, but that’s also why I advise using “I try to __ by __” when in doubt.

Obviously.

Sure it is. It includes both a goal (get potions) and an approach (buy them at a shop).

None of that is necessary, as long as goal and approach are clear, which they are in the potion shop example.

Would they? News to me.

No need to play out a conversation if you don’t want to. Just say what you want out of the guards and what you do to try and get it.
Yeah I definitely don’t do this nearly as much as it sounds like you do, but I definitely also want a goal and approach, even in combat most of the time. I’d rather the fight take most of the session because players are describing how they fight than have efficient fights.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Hmmm... I was basically agreeing with you there. But whatever.
Were you? Sorry, didn’t mean to come off as terse. Seemed like you were coming from a place of trying to prevent metagaming, which is not something I care about, but maybe I misunderstood you.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You could just say, and @Charlaquin can correct me if I’m wrong, “I use my tools to test potential hidden catches or other mechanism while carefully examining the drawer for visual signs of traps or other devices.”
That's just flowery language for, "I search the dresser for traps." There's no difference other than word count.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That isn’t what they’re describing. They’re saying that you don’t find anything by declaring an approach with no chance of success. You don’t have to go step by step, though. You could just say, and @Charlaquin can correct me if I’m wrong, “I use my tools to test potential hidden catches or other mechanism while carefully examining the drawer for visual signs of traps or other devices.”
Yeah, that would absolutely be a valid approach to take. As a very general approach it would be very unlikely to eliminate the possibility of failure, but by the same token it will pretty much always have a chance of success as long as there’s something to be found. So this might be a good way to go if you can’t think of anything that you think would eliminate the chance of failure but you still want to try and rely on your stats to get you there. Though it would also take time to do thoroughly, which would mean moving closer to the next check for random encounters, whereas a more specific approach might be able to be done faster.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There is a difference. Unlike “I search the dresser for traps,” it allows me to know what your character is actually doing in the fiction without having to make assumptions.
Assume what? That the PC is using the tools he has for that job? Of course he is. Searching for traps with his eyes open? Of course he is. The only difference is word count.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Assume what?
Whether the character is only inspecting visually, or making contact. Whether they’re touching it with their hands, or a knife, or a set of thieves’ tools, or a 10-foot pole, or anything else they may have with them. What the character is actually doing in the fiction, like I keep telling you.
That the PC is using the tools he has for that job? Of course he is.
That’s an assumption you’re making. Two, actually - what tools the player may think are appropriate for the job, and that the character is using them. Maybe you’re comfortable making those assumptions and your players are fine with it, and that’s great. I am not.
Searching for traps with his eyes open? Of course he is.
Generally unless a character’s perception is hindered in some way, such as the blinded condition, the game assumes they are aware of their surroundings, so this is a non-issue.
The only difference is word count.
That’s not the only difference, the two declarations convey different information.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I guess I just trust my players to do the math right unless it's really out in left field. If the group don't all have magic weapons or occasionally use nonmagical ones I may clarify. That's where my 1% of the time I care comes from. 🤷‍♂️
I'm thinking more of situations where an enchanted weapon - or a certain degree of enchantment - is required to hit the foe at all; and-or where a certain type of weapon is materially better or worse than it usually is.

I don't remember all the various tinker toys the characters have; nor what they might recently have lost or sold or traded. That's what character sheets, with players attached, are for. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Generally unless a character’s perception is hindered in some way, such as the blinded condition, the game assumes they are aware of their surroundings, so this is a non-issue.
Given that capital-p Perception, be it passive or active, can and do fail even when all the PC's senses are working;,and given that characters can be surprised or caught off guard by things, I'm not sure I'd want to take the bolded as being an absolute.

"The game assumes a reasonable degree of awareness of surroundings", sure. No absolute there, so no problem. :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Given that capital-p Perception, be it passive or active, can and do fail even when all the PC's senses are working;,and given that characters can be surprised or caught off guard by things, I'm not sure I'd want to take the bolded as being an absolute.

"The game assumes a reasonable degree of awareness of surroundings", sure. No absolute there, so no problem. :)
A good point, well-stated.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Any action can require a skill check to succeed, if the DM determines the outcome is uncertain. What you describe is one reasonable way to rule on various attempts to get NPCs to do what you want, but it is not the only valid way.
Exactly! Despite that I was just making fun of the debate, it is all a matter of personal interpretation. Because 5e (and D&D in general) puts most of the rules focused on combat up front, and then leaves everything else (i.e. skills, roleplaying, exploration, etc.) up to the individuals running the game.

Now, granted, there is an expectation that most rpgs, regardless of system, require some level of interpretation and allows for personal style and preferences. But there are games that do a much better job of using dice results to inform the narrative.

A d20 vs DC can only give you a binary "yes" or "no"/"pass" or "fail" option. Anything else is extrapolated without any ssolid guidelines or consistency between individuals or instances. A failure by 1 point is narratively and mechanically the same as a failure by 2, 3, 10, or 16 points.

This is why I love the mechanics of Genesys/Star Wars games. The dice results help to inform the narrative on many levels. You don't just succeed or fail on a roll. You achieve levels of success and failure, as well as mixed complications of advantage or threats.

Ex. You succeed at opening the lock, but activate the alarms. You miss the target and your weapon's battery cell fails. You convince the Hutt to forgive your failures by offering to perform at his party, and the Hutt is so excited about having a celebrity at his event that he decides to "keep" the character around as a permanent "employee". (That last one really happened in my campaign as a result of a negotiation check with mixed results: success + triumph + despair. That one roll inspired the entire next session in the campaign!)

If I were making a point here, it would be this: a lot of the debates and arguments in this thread seem to dance around the real problem, which is a lack of clear transparency and guidance in the rules or from the creators. This idea of "there is no wrong way to play" is great, until one person's way to play doesn't agree with someone else's way to play.

Which is why I find comments like "if I were playing at your table" a little silly. I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to play at a table ran by someone who had such a different and opposing perspective in the first place. And yet, people will feel attacked by the potential prospect of finding their way to play being challenged or threatened if they took a seat at a random table ran by random people.

Maybe that affects convention goers, or people who show up randomly and decide to start campaigns with other random people. I don't know. But in my experience, finding the people I want to play and have fun with is more important than just getting my game on. Yeah, I play less than I would like, and run fewer long-term games than others. But I prefer to enjoy those games that flourish with friends and players than quibble and bicker over obscure rules and varying interpretations. (And yes, I would be happy to sit at your table, if you would have me. 😁)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
A d20 vs DC can only give you a binary "yes" or "no"/"pass" or "fail" option. Anything else is extrapolated without any ssolid guidelines or consistency between individuals or instances. A failure by 1 point is narratively and mechanically the same as a failure by 2, 3, 10, or 16 points.
Just to put it out there: D&D 5e has some options here. First, in the rules for Ability Checks, it goes success, failure, or progress combined with a setback, so while it's still binary in the sense that it's success or one of the two failure options, there's some wiggle room there. The DMG (page 242) also mentions some additional flourishes: Success at a Cost (different from "progress combined with a setback"), Degrees of Failure, and Critical Success or Failure.

To your larger point, who uses what of these options is going to vary. I don't use the DMG 242 options, for example, but I do frequently use "progress combined with a setback." Others may use them all or some subset of all options that is different from me.

But one thing we can all agree on is that those Star Wars dice are weird and shouldn't exist.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
It’s exactly the same thing - judging that the approach has no reasonable chance of succeeding at the goal and accordingly ruling that it fails without a roll.
If you think trying to pick a lock with a sandwich or sticking your tongue out at a goblin is the same thing as earnestly trying to pick a lock or attack a goblin, then I think your analysis is off - or you're not really discussing this in good faith.
The description isn’t at issue. The approach is.

And that’s fine, you can run your game any way you want. My point is simply that ruling an action can’t succeed based on the approach not matching the goal is not pixel hunting.
From where I'm sitting, it is pixel hunting - the fact that you have a set of pixels that you will declare 'not it' despite the PC's earnest attempt at taking action is pixel hunting. You may not have an exact expectation that a player has to declare, but you have indicated a willingness to say "but not that" and that's just hunting for the right subset of pixels.
"I will allow anything for trap hunting.... but I won't allow that." - with apologies to Meatloaf
 

Oofta

Legend
If my PC knows that touching a chest could potentially kill them, they won't touch the chest when checking for traps because they're trained in how to check for traps. What techniques do they use? Heck if I know.

It's like expecting someone in a modern setting describing how to defuse a bomb. In reality you don't start cutting wires based on some magic template you can find with a quick google search. Most of the time you just detonate the bomb safely after moving it somewhere remote, containing or redirecting the blast. If you can't do that you remove the blasting caps or detach the trigger before blowing it up safely.

It really comes down to training and expertise. Training and expertise neither I nor the DM has so it's really the player trying to figure out what the DM wants to hear.
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
That's just flowery language for, "I search the dresser for traps." There's no difference other than word count.
Player: "Utilizing my thieves' tools, I delicately probe the interior of the drawers, seeking all manner of obfuscated caches, concealed compartments, or mechanistic devices whilst scrutinizing the drawer for evidence that would signify the existence of boobytraps or similar devices designed to dissuade seekers such as myself."

GM: nods off
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
But one thing we can all agree on is that those Star Wars dice are weird and shouldn't exist.
1635862469232.png
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Player: "Utilizing my thieves' tools, I delicately probe the interior of the drawers, seeking all manner of obfuscated caches, concealed compartments, or mechanistic devices whilst scrutinizing the drawer for evidence that would signify the existence of boobytraps or similar devices designed to dissuade seekers such as myself."

GM: nods off
DM: You could have said that with a lot fewer words, but you earn Inspiration for playing to your Scholar personality trait of "I use polysyllabic words that convey the impression of great erudition." Let's see a DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check.

Player: Yikes, DC 20 - I'll go ahead and spend that Inspiration!
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
DM: You could have said that with a lot fewer words, but you earn Inspiration for playing to your Scholar personality trait of "I use polysyllabic words that convey the impression of great erudition." Let's see a DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check.

Player: Yikes, DC 20 - I'll go ahead and spend that Inspiration!
This unintentionally highlights why the inspiration system is bad, but that's another conversation entirely.
 

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