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

I don’t know, and I don’t really care. My job is to adjudicate actions, not judge why the player is doing them.
So do your players also need to specify that they stick the sharp end of the sword at the enemy? I am absolutely certain that you assume certain level basic competence and sanity from the characters all the time.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Default, assumption; tomato, tomahto.
No. A default is not an assumption. It's a fact. The default rule for PC stats is rolling or array. That's a fact, not an assumption.
You rule that the character uses whatever contact and tools are necessary to find what they’re searching for unless the player states otherwise, which is perfectly fine and reasonable, but not to my preference. I rule that the character does only what the player declares they do.
That's fine, but it assumes incompetence on the part of the PC. The player is not going to have the expertise and skills of the PC, so the PC is being gimped.
 

Have you consider that comparing the way someone else enjoys the game to the worst-designed examples of point-and-click adventure games I might be prone to cause conflict?
I am sure it does. But at the point you say that player having to describe examining the correct part of the chest or face an auto failure, there really isn't other way to describe it. My benefit of doubt lies in assuming that it wouldn't in practice go like that in your game; but what you said certainly did fit the definition.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I sometimes write backstories for my PCs and one was the grandson of a rogue (a retired PC). One of the stories was his grandfather training him on how to find and disable traps, including a lock that sprayed stink bug infused water into his face when he didn't take the time to check for traps first.
Cool!
So I assume competence in the PC because they were trained to do this, unlike the player.
Right, and in my game that training is reflected by the proficiency bonus, which helps greatly in the (usually quite frequent) cases where your action requires a roll to be resolved.
I'm not objecting because I feel "threatened", it's because of the hyperbole that someone could make an attack with their tongue.
No one could make an attack with their tongue (unless they’re like a chameleon-person race with a tongue attack feature, but I digress), that’s the point of the example. It’s a point of comparison we can all agree would obviously not require a roll to resolve, because clearly it could not possibly result in progress towards killing the target. I’m saying that, to me, sliding your knife under a drawer is no more likely to result in finding a trap that, according to Maxperson, can’t be found by sliding a knife under the drawer. I don’t understand what about that is the slightest bit objectionable.
That, and I still think it diminishes any need to actually invest significantly in non-combat skills if you're good enough to talk your way out of needing to actually make a roll.
That has not been my experience. Players who have played with me for a long time still frequently need to make checks to resolve their actions, and when they do, having invested in the appropriate abilities and proficiencies for the task helps them quite a bit. At a certain point you either believe me when I say that, or you don’t.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So do your players also need to specify that they stick the sharp end of the sword at the enemy? I am absolutely certain that you assume certain level basic competence and sanity from the characters all the time.
A sword does slashing (or piercing in the case of a short sword) damage by default, so the rules themselves establish that a character making an attack with one is using the sharp portion unless the player specifically declares otherwise.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
No. A default is not an assumption. It's a fact. The default rule for PC stats is rolling or array. That's a fact, not an assumption.
I don’t care to argue semantics with you.
That's fine, but it assumes incompetence on the part of the PC. The player is not going to have the expertise and skills of the PC, so the PC is being gimped.
Player skill and avatar strength are both important the way I run the game. The player can attempt to avoid having to risk failure by declaring actions that they think are likely to eliminate the possibility of or consequences for failure, or to declare more generalized actions that are unlikely to fail outright but will likely require a check to resolve. Many examples of each have been given throughout the thread at this point. In any case, if failure and success are both possible and failure is consequential, avatar strength will help insure against failure.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Yes, I think some of us are doing it only when it actually matters and others are doing that plus sometimes for color. For me, I don't do it for color because it, in part, it lessens the impact of player resources spent to improve chances of success. Like if I know a roll is just for color, I'd rather not spend my Inspiration on it. I'll save that for when I'm two failed death saves in and about to make another!
I often use rolls for filling in the color of the narrative. If I have a player spend a resource on something they didn't really need to do then I usually do one of two things.

1. (Let them have it back) As you approach the rock wall and begin the words to your spider climb spell you notice that this wall looks elementary to climb up and over, even for your small build. Are you SURE you want to use that spell?

2. (Give them extra, even if it's just some spotlight) You gleefully scurry up and over the rock wall taking a moment to taunt the Goliath ranger on the way past. With your secure position at the apex helping everyone across the party passes effortlessly. Nobody else has to roll and everyone crosses safe and sound.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I am sure it does. But at the point you say that player having to describe examining the correct part of the chest or face an auto failure, there really isn't other way to describe it. My benefit of doubt lies in assuming that it wouldn't in practice go like that in your game; but what you said certainly did fit the definition.
The example was a rhetorical trap set up by Maxperson. He specifically asked, if there was a trap you needed to check the handle to find, and you declared that you slid your knife under the drawer, if that could result in finding the trap. Obviously the answer is no, as surely as the answer to “could you pick a lock with a sandwich?” would be no. If answering no to that question means my game is pixel-hunting, I don’t know what game with any semblance of internal consistency would not be pixel-hunting. If you want an example that might actually occur in a game of mine, read my reply to @Umbran ’s request for such an example. I’ve pointed it out like three times now, and it continues to go completely unacknowledged, seemingly because it doesn’t suit the narrative that my game is pixel-hunting.

More importantly though, there are perfectly valid, non-insulting ways to express that one doesn’t like the notion that I ask my players to state a goal and approach and that some approaches would result in failure without a roll. So I can only imagine that people are continuing to use the pixel-hunting epithet despite my repeatedly saying it offends me and politely asking them to stop, because they are actively trying to offend or goad me.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don’t care to argue semantics with you.
It's not semantics. A default is not an assumption at all. This is not a definitional argument. You're declaring apples to be oranges and I disagree.
Player skill and avatar strength are both important the way I run the game. The player can attempt to avoid having to risk failure by declaring actions that they think are likely to eliminate the possibility of or consequences for failure, or to declare more generalized actions that are unlikely to fail outright but will likely require a check to resolve. Many examples of each have been given throughout the thread at this point. In any case, if failure and success are both possible and failure is consequential, avatar strength will help insure against failure.
That's how I run it and you're disagreeing with me.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
As I've read through all the back-and-forth regarding this... there's something about @Charlaquin and what they are saying about their traps that is making me wonder something. And it could very well be that I might have missed it, so I'm just looking for clarity.

The way they have been talking, and stating that there are infinite ways to approach finding the trap, and that it doesn't necessarily require doing any exact action to do it... I'm actually curious if the traps they are using are actual specific things, or if they are thinking that there's just a trap in the abstract?

What I mean by this is that some DMs very specifically spell out all the parts of what a trap is-- what it does-- how it physically reacts to any kind of stimulus-- the mechanics or magic behind it that require deactivation-- etc. etc. I'm getting the impression that this is how @Maxperson is reading the situation (with all their talk of pixel hunting.) That the trap is an actual thing that can be described, found, and disabled-- "The handle of the third drawer of the desk looks to be metal but is actually fragile putty shaped as a hollow handle... inside which is a toxic poison. Any physical pressure placed on the handle will snap the putty and the poison will ooze out onto whatever broke the handle." @Maxperson would then state that to "find" this trap, the person doing so would need to indicate that they are looking specifically at the third desk drawer's handle, and then somehow figure out without touching it that the handle is actually different than the other handles of the drawer, and then to disable it the person would need to break the handle in such a way as to not get the poison that is inside the handle onto their hand. And any descriptions that did not involve just those bits (the handle and the pressure on said handle) would result in the trap not being discovered. If the person said they grabbed the handles of the first or second drawers, they wouldn't find the trap. If they said they slid a knife in between the drawers and the desk frame, they wouldn't find the trap. If they said they looked at all three handles but didn't specify any method for determining how the three of them weren't exactly the same, they wouldn't find the trap. And so on and so forth. This is what I think Max is referring to when they say pixel hunting.

But from what I think I've been getting from @Charlaquin (and I could be completely misinterpreting what they've been saying, I freely admit) is that they don't have that actual specificity of the trap in their head. They know the drawer is trapped... but they don't necessarily know what the trap does, nor the specific methodology for how it works and what has to happen to disarm it. But to find it, the player has to state an actual action to take that might be a method to find * a * trap, should one of that type have been there. "I go over to the desk and I examine the three drawers, trying to see if I can notice anything different about one of them-- maybe it sticks out too much, maybe it's a bit discolored, something like that." Now since there hasn't been a specific type of trap indicated, they can't say the person got the approach right on the money. But the approach was a very reasonable one for finding a trap of that sort had there been one specifically decided on... so they tell the person to make a check.

That's been my impression of what @Charlaquin has been saying-- state an action that reasonably could find a specific type of trap on the desk. Once you do that, then they will allow for a roll. But because you cannot divine from the general statement "I check for traps" what kind of trap might be found via that statement (you merely are stating "trap" in the general sense, but not the description needed to find a "pressure plate trap" or "needle trap" or "exploding run trap") they don't allow that general statement to work. Some specificity of action needs to be stated, even though what is specifically stated doesn't have to align to anything concrete (since they haven't actually decided on the concrete specificity of the trap to begin with.)

Again... I could be completely off on this-- and @Charlaquin please correct me if my impression that you don't have a specific trap in mind when you state something is trapped is completely off-base here. But if I'm right... then that could explain why everyone is talking past each other. @Maxperson is thinking a player has to make a statement regarding the discovery or action of a specific trap, whereas @Charlaquin merely expects a player to make a statement regarding the approach to find any type of trap and that is good enough for them.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I don’t care to argue semantics with you.

Player skill and avatar strength are both important the way I run the game. The player can attempt to avoid having to risk failure by declaring actions that they think are likely to eliminate the possibility of or consequences for failure, or to declare more generalized actions that are unlikely to fail outright but will likely require a check to resolve. Many examples of each have been given throughout the thread at this point. In any case, if failure and success are both possible and failure is consequential, avatar strength will help insure against failure.
This is really getting into a tangent...but a genuine curious question from someone who avoids emphasizing player versus character in my games...

Do you limit player actions when they are at odds with their character? Would you allow a player controlling a backwoods raging barbarian to gain a bonus researching vampires in a library because the player came up with a good plan?

We tend to self-censor our characters from such scenes but there are some players that have to be involved in every scene, even if they characterwise have no business being there. This is doubly aggregious when they start mixing in real world knowledge.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
As I've read through all the back-and-forth regarding this... there's something about @Charlaquin and what they are saying about their traps that is making me wonder something. And it could very well be that I might have missed it, so I'm just looking for clarity.

The way they have been talking, and stating that there are infinite ways to approach finding the trap, and that it doesn't necessarily require doing any exact action to do it... I'm actually curious if the traps they are using are actual specific things, or if they are thinking that there's just a trap in the abstract?

What I mean by this is that some DMs very specifically spell out all the parts of what a trap is-- what it does-- how it physically reacts to any kind of stimulus-- the mechanics or magic behind it that require deactivation-- etc. etc. I'm getting the impression that this is how @Maxperson is reading the situation (with all their talk of pixel hunting.) That the trap is an actual thing that can be described, found, and disabled-- "The handle of the third drawer of the desk looks to be metal but is actually fragile putty shaped as a hollow handle... inside which is a toxic poison. Any physical pressure placed on the handle will snap the putty and the poison will ooze out onto whatever broke the handle." @Maxperson would then state that to "find" this trap, the person doing so would need to indicate that they are looking specifically at the third desk drawer's handle, and then somehow figure out without touching it that the handle is actually different than the other handles of the drawer, and then to disable it the person would need to break the handle in such a way as to not get the poison that is inside the handle onto their hand. And any descriptions that did not involve just those bits (the handle and the pressure on said handle) would result in the trap not being discovered. If the person said they grabbed the handles of the first or second drawers, they wouldn't find the trap. If they said they slid a knife in between the drawers and the desk frame, they wouldn't find the trap. If they said they looked at all three handles but didn't specify any method for determining how the three of them weren't exactly the same, they wouldn't find the trap. And so on and so forth. This is what I think Max is referring to when they say pixel hunting.

But from what I think I've been getting from @Charlaquin (and I could be completely misinterpreting what they've been saying, I freely admit) is that they don't have that actual specificity of the trap in their head. They know the drawer is trapped... but they don't necessarily know what the trap does, nor the specific methodology for how it works and what has to happen to disarm it. But to find it, the player has to state an actual action to take that might be a method to find * a * trap, should one of that type have been there. "I go over to the desk and I examine the three drawers, trying to see if I can notice anything different about one of them-- maybe it sticks out too much, maybe it's a bit discolored, something like that." Now since there hasn't been a specific type of trap indicated, they can't say the person got the approach right on the money. But the approach was a very reasonable one for finding a trap of that sort had there been one specifically decided on... so they tell the person to make a check.

That's been my impression of what @Charlaquin has been saying-- state an action that reasonably could find a specific type of trap on the desk. Once you do that, then they will allow for a roll. But because you cannot divine from the general statement "I check for traps" what kind of trap might be found via that statement (you merely are stating "trap" in the general sense, but not the description needed to find a "pressure plate trap" or "needle trap" or "exploding run trap") they don't allow that general statement to work. Some specificity of action needs to be stated, even though what is specifically stated doesn't have to align to anything concrete (since they haven't actually decided on the concrete specificity of the trap to begin with.)

Again... I could be completely off on this-- and @Charlaquin please correct me if my impression that you don't have a specific trap in mind when you state something is trapped is completely off-base here. But if I'm right... then that could explain why everyone is talking past each other. @Maxperson is thinking a player has to make a statement regarding the discovery or action of a specific trap, whereas @Charlaquin merely expects a player to make a statement regarding the approach to find any type of trap and that is good enough for them.
I appreciate the attempt to bring some clarity to the conversation! I think the impression you got is… not quite accurate, but it may be onto something. I do have some degree of specificity to traps - take, for example, the exchange I recounted with the player at my table who was taken aback by being asked to state an approach with more specificity than “I check the door for traps,” where the door in question would hit a lever and ring a bell when opened. That trap was a specific object in the game world, not just an abstract trap. But, part of the point of that example was the point I made that I know my players aren’t engineers and neither am I. There is a certain degree of abstraction in my traps. The clay drawer handle thing is WAY more specificity than I would put into designing a trap. First, because I’m just not that inventive, but second because I wouldn’t want to put the expectation on my players to just know how to find and deal with that situation.

I would say the balance of specificity/abstraction I aim for in traps is about the same as that found in the example traps in the core rules. I don’t know exactly how the mechanism of a needle trap would actually work, and I don’t think my game would benefit from that degree of mechanical precision. It’s enough to know that there’s some sort of mechanism in the lock that, when the wrong key (or a set of lock picking tools) is used, a poisoned needle springs out. That’s enough for me to judge if a reasonably specific approach to trying to detect this trap could succeed at doing so, if it could fail at doing so, and if failing at doing so would have consequences.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Do you limit player actions when they are at odds with their character? Would you allow a player controlling a backwoods raging barbarian to gain a bonus researching vampires in a library because the player came up with a good plan?

I just wanted to answer that in my groups, we use a little troupe play to get around this. Even if the barbarian with a 6 INT's player came up with the idea, they can jus discuss it with the player of the 18 INT wizard and say the latter came up with it, if the latter player okay with that. The barbarian's player may not have a 6 INT, but neither does the Wizard's player have an 18 INT, so a little group discussion and vetting ideas can represent that super-intelligence.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
This is really getting into a tangent...but a genuine curious question from someone who avoids emphasizing player versus character in my games...

Do you limit player actions when they are at odds with their character?
Oh, gods no! What the character does is 100% up to the player in my games. I actually have a specific table rule to that effect; at my table, the only person who’s allowed to tell you what your own character “would” or “wouldn’t” do is you.
Would you allow a player controlling a backwoods raging barbarian to gain a bonus researching vampires in a library because the player came up with a good plan?
So, I don’t really give bonuses based on coming up with good plans. If an approach would have no reasonable chance of failing to achieve its goal, or if failing would not have a meaningful consequence (which due to the way I structure challenges is a pretty rare occurrence, but it does happen), then they will succeed. And I’ll grant advantage for beneficial circumstances (or disadvantage for detrimental circumstances). But I’m not listening for if I think a plan is clever or well-described and lowering the DC for that or anything. A backwoods barbarian could certainly use the Research downtime activity to try and learn something about vampires though, and wouldn’t suffer any penalty for doing so. Unless I was using some kind of house rule about illiteracy in that particular campaign - like maybe if I was running Primeval Thule or something.
We tend to self-censor our characters from such scenes but there are some players that have to be involved in every scene, even if they characterwise have no business being there. This is doubly aggregious when they start mixing in real world knowledge.
I have no objection to players utilizing real-world knowledge, though I do caution the players that I make a lot of use of custom material and change things from published material, so acting on what they as players think they know without first taking steps in-character to verify that the knowledge in question holds true in the game world is risky.
 
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The example was a rhetorical trap set up by Maxperson. He specifically asked, if there was a trap you needed to check the handle to find, and you declared that you slid your knife under the drawer, if that could result in finding the trap. Obviously the answer is no, as surely as the answer to “could you pick a lock with a sandwich?” would be no. If answering no to that question means my game is pixel-hunting, I don’t know what game with any semblance of internal consistency would not be pixel-hunting. If you want an example that might actually occur in a game of mine, read my reply to @Umbran ’s request for such an example. I’ve pointed it out like three times now, and it continues to go completely unacknowledged, seemingly because it doesn’t suit the narrative that my game is pixel-hunting.

This one? Took a while to find it.

This feels like a setup to poke holes in any specific example I give, but sure.

Let’s assume a poison needle trap. If I planned to use poison needle traps in a dungeon, I would probably first introduce the concept early on by describing an open, empty chest with a needle jutting out of the lock and a skeleton (the regular, dead kind, not an undead creature) next to it. I would also have some descriptive detail that differentiate chests with needle traps from un-trapped chests. Maybe trapped chests are iron-banded and un-trapped ones or not. Let’s go with that.

I don’t plan out solutions, just challenges, so there are infinitely many approaches players might take that could detect the presence of a needle trap in the lock of an iron-banded chest. Earlier @iserith described their players shining a light through the keyhole and looking inside for anything unusual. That would certainly work in my game as well. Another approach might be to use a tool of some sort to carefully probe for a mechanism inside the lock - that would probably require a Dexterity check, with failure resulting in setting it off. Feel free to suggest an approach you might take, after having seen an iron-banded chest with a sprung needle trap in a dungeon and later coming across another iron-banded chest in the same dungeon, and I’ll let you know how I would adjudicate it.

Let the hole poking commence! Or at least some questions:

That dead body telegraph certainly is super clear. It is something I might do. But just might. It would strain credulity if traps, which by their very nature are things that people try to conceal, would without a fail come with a clear telegraphs.

Also, I have to wonder the iron-banded thing. (Or any such consistent telegraph.) Why would such a thing exist? Do all these needle-trapped chests come from one needle-trapped-chest factory, and they always make them look the same and no one ever just happen to make regular chest that look the similar? :unsure:

As for looking in the lock, I would simply assume that this is among the things a skilled trap detector does when they examine the chest for traps.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Nice reference, but I’ll allow anything- including trying to pick a lock with a sandwich or kill a goblin by sticking your tongue out at it. It’s just that some things won’t work.
Agreed.

One of my own basic philosophies as DM is that a PC is free to try absolutely anything. Sure, that 'anything' might have exactly zero chance of succeeding but that alone doesn't and shouldn't disallow the attempt from being stated (the trope example here is "I jump to the moon") and it then becomes my job to figure out what - if anything - happens as a result or if there's any knock-on effects.

So, wanna try picking a lock with a peanut butter sandwich? Go ahead - I'm not gonna stop you - and you can roll to see how much of a mess you make of the lock and-or how much more difficult you're making it for the next person who tries to pick it. (and maybe, if you're really (un)lucky, you'll even make such a mess that the key will no longer work reliably!)

And while sticking your tongue out at a Goblin during combat isn't going to achieve your stated goal of killing it*, there could still be other knock-on effects: maybe your action enrages the Goblin, or inflames its lust, or scares it away; though - let's face it - the odds are high you'll have no effect at all.

* - unless you're playing one of those poison-tongued frogs as your PC, in which case success might be very much in play. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Nothing about what I said implied that players could not search how they like. There's just a default to the competence of the PC unless they tell me otherwise.

Again, competent default. The PC knows better than you, me or the player whether the tools should be used in a given situation. I don't assume incompetence and default to the player to guess at it.

It's not an assumption. It's defaulting to the competence of the PC, rather than requiring that the player guess at whether it's safe to touch or not. If the player wants to override the default, he's welcome to do so.
You give a lot of weight to PC competence, which is fine; but going overboard on this risks ignoring the fact that even the most competent person can and will mess up sometimes, particularly under duress. (with rare exceptions I generally assume adventurers in the field to be under constant duress simply due to all the inherent risks involved in the lifestyle)

Further, allowing "PC competence" to paper over a lack of player-side detail can (and IME probably would) quickly lead to a "I search the room. Roll is 15, plus 2 for skill." style of play, which - while admittedly fast and efficient at the table - sure isn't very exciting. :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
This one? Took a while to find it.

Let the hole poking commence! Or at least some questions:
👍
That dead body telegraph certainly is super clear. It is something I might do. But just might. It would strain credulity if traps, which by their very nature are things that people try to conceal, would without a fail come with a clear telegraphs.
Yeah, I get this a lot. I definitely wouldn’t use the skeleton in front of a sprung trap trick every time, but it’s a good example because it demonstrates that I’m not just telegraphing the individual trap, but actually using a combination of telegraphing, tutorializing, and level design to teach the players about traps in the dungeon generally. The sprung trap is just there to teach the players what to expect in the dungeon. Later examples of the trap will be less blatantly telegraphed, and the further into the dungeon you get, the more subtle I can get with the telegraphs. But always with the goal that if you do fall for the trap, you’ll be able to think back to the description of the environment and recognize the clue that you missed that would have given it away. I’m more concerned about creating this sort of gameplay experience than I am with the worldbuilding logic behind the traps and their placement and design.
Also, I have to wonder the iron-banded thing. (Or any such consistent telegraph.) Why would such a thing exist? Do all these needle-trapped chests come from one needle-trapped-chest factory, and they always make them look the same and no one ever just happen to make regular chest that look the similar? :unsure:
Like I said, the worldbuilding logic of it, for me, is secondary to the gameplay function. The “real” reason, or at least the Doylist one, is that the needle-trapped chests are all iron-banded so that players who pay attention to the description of the environment can pick up on the pattern. But I do put some thought into the in-universe logic of these things, and the Wattsonian reason is that these traps were built by someone, to protect their treasure. Whoever that someone was, they would have wanted to be able to access the treasure the traps were protecting, without being harmed by the traps themselves. So, they included a tell that they would know how to recognize. A sort of note-to-self so they don’t accidentally fall into their own traps. Remember, iron-banded chests need the special key that doesn’t set off the needle trap.
As for looking in the lock, I would simply assume that this is among the things a skilled trap detector does when they examine the chest for traps.
Right, which is perfectly fine and reasonable. I would not make that assumption, because I don’t like to make assumptions about the PCs’ actions. Nothing wrong with it if you do, it’s just not to my taste.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
As I've read through all the back-and-forth regarding this... there's something about @Charlaquin and what they are saying about their traps that is making me wonder something. And it could very well be that I might have missed it, so I'm just looking for clarity.

The way they have been talking, and stating that there are infinite ways to approach finding the trap, and that it doesn't necessarily require doing any exact action to do it... I'm actually curious if the traps they are using are actual specific things, or if they are thinking that there's just a trap in the abstract?

What I mean by this is that some DMs very specifically spell out all the parts of what a trap is-- what it does-- how it physically reacts to any kind of stimulus-- the mechanics or magic behind it that require deactivation-- etc. etc. I'm getting the impression that this is how @Maxperson is reading the situation (with all their talk of pixel hunting.) That the trap is an actual thing that can be described, found, and disabled-- "The handle of the third drawer of the desk looks to be metal but is actually fragile putty shaped as a hollow handle... inside which is a toxic poison. Any physical pressure placed on the handle will snap the putty and the poison will ooze out onto whatever broke the handle." @Maxperson would then state that to "find" this trap, the person doing so would need to indicate that they are looking specifically at the third desk drawer's handle, and then somehow figure out without touching it that the handle is actually different than the other handles of the drawer, and then to disable it the person would need to break the handle in such a way as to not get the poison that is inside the handle onto their hand. And any descriptions that did not involve just those bits (the handle and the pressure on said handle) would result in the trap not being discovered. If the person said they grabbed the handles of the first or second drawers, they wouldn't find the trap. If they said they slid a knife in between the drawers and the desk frame, they wouldn't find the trap. If they said they looked at all three handles but didn't specify any method for determining how the three of them weren't exactly the same, they wouldn't find the trap. And so on and so forth. This is what I think Max is referring to when they say pixel hunting.

But from what I think I've been getting from @Charlaquin (and I could be completely misinterpreting what they've been saying, I freely admit) is that they don't have that actual specificity of the trap in their head. They know the drawer is trapped... but they don't necessarily know what the trap does, nor the specific methodology for how it works and what has to happen to disarm it. But to find it, the player has to state an actual action to take that might be a method to find * a * trap, should one of that type have been there. "I go over to the desk and I examine the three drawers, trying to see if I can notice anything different about one of them-- maybe it sticks out too much, maybe it's a bit discolored, something like that." Now since there hasn't been a specific type of trap indicated, they can't say the person got the approach right on the money. But the approach was a very reasonable one for finding a trap of that sort had there been one specifically decided on... so they tell the person to make a check.

That's been my impression of what @Charlaquin has been saying-- state an action that reasonably could find a specific type of trap on the desk. Once you do that, then they will allow for a roll. But because you cannot divine from the general statement "I check for traps" what kind of trap might be found via that statement (you merely are stating "trap" in the general sense, but not the description needed to find a "pressure plate trap" or "needle trap" or "exploding run trap") they don't allow that general statement to work. Some specificity of action needs to be stated, even though what is specifically stated doesn't have to align to anything concrete (since they haven't actually decided on the concrete specificity of the trap to begin with.)

Again... I could be completely off on this-- and @Charlaquin please correct me if my impression that you don't have a specific trap in mind when you state something is trapped is completely off-base here. But if I'm right... then that could explain why everyone is talking past each other. @Maxperson is thinking a player has to make a statement regarding the discovery or action of a specific trap, whereas @Charlaquin merely expects a player to make a statement regarding the approach to find any type of trap and that is good enough for them.
That was a good post, but I don't think the bolded portion is entirely accurate. @Charlaquin gave me an example where if I search under the drawer, but don't check the trapped drawer handle, I auto-fail and get no roll.
 

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