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D&D General Skilled Play, or Role Play: How Do You Approach Playing D&D?

Zsong

Explorer
I like and use puzzles and riddles in games. And I never let an ability check solve them. But I don’t let them bottle neck the adventure (unless the players just refuse to move on). For example solving the puzzle or riddle give something like a shorter time at through the dungeon or reveals a hidden room or chamber where there is something that may help the adventure later on. If they don’t get it then keep going the long time way. The solving of a riddle or puzzle may lead to another adventure in the sandbox. That’s my use for them. The thing I always include is to not let them bottleneck them adventure.
 

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More like "Roll to see if your character is smart enough to say that"
In our 5e games, the player decides what the PC says and the DM only calls for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence of failure. The DM doesn't call for a roll to determine what the PC can or can't try/say/think. If the situation is such that a roll is appropriate and it is an ability where the PC is below average, well, that PC is going to be less likely to succeed. Not a smart play if there are serious consequences on the line. The mechanics and flow of gameplay therefore discourage the unintelligent barbarian from trying to sound smart in contentious situations (although, that certainly can sometimes be fun, too) and instead encourage the barbarian to play to their... er... strength. A DM needn't invoke "your PC wouldn't say that" either verbally or through a forced die roll - the choice of what a PC says is ultimately up to the player.
 

I like and use puzzles and riddles in games. And I never let an ability check solve them. But I don’t let them bottle neck the adventure (unless the players just refuse to move on). For example solving the puzzle or riddle give something like a shorter time at through the dungeon or reveals a hidden room or chamber where there is something that may help the adventure later on. If they don’t get it then keep going the long time way. The solving of a riddle or puzzle may lead to another adventure in the sandbox. That’s my use for them. The thing I always include is to not let them bottleneck them adventure.
I do similar, the extra benefit of this kinda thing is thatmost of the group can get involved. I as a gm can describe the big bad's safe as radiating enough magic to make the wizards hair on the neck stand up & be palpably felt at a distance if he moves closer while my notes say "bug nasty safe, let players spend a few min figuring it out" only to result in the wizard/rogue/barbarian/druid interact with a bunch of knowledge checks that are ultimately part of the players dismantling the wards by....
  • Disabling a divination ward that checks to make sure the other wards are in tact & triggers the patyload if it notces them being mucked with
    • you aren't sure how well it's gonna work if at all & there's a ton o power in that safe... yea you aren't sure the spell but your syure it's enough to power a disintegration field.
  • corrupting the divination check to make the part looking for a specific arcane marked item to accept a different arcane marked item to be present when the safe is opened
    • Your pretty sure it will still go off maybe 50/50
  • The druid casts plant growth or something to ground the payload into the foundaton of the basement where the safe is with help from the wizard & rogue to make sure that vine grows into the right spot
  • everyone runs far away... The barbarian rages, makes a save, & pulls open the door while holding the marked item as directed
    • Boom everyone hears a huge explosion & cloud of dust streaming out of the room
    • barbarian sits on pins and needles waiting to hear the outcome while everyone rushes in to help rescue him
    • barbarian is a little rattled & gets a description of the explosion with the vine taking the brunt of things but he took... roll dice not too bad damage & is okish
The party spent about 15-20 minutes there
edit: the solution was their own design. My yardstick as a gm was "is this plausible" and "would it prepare for that"
 
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Minigiant

Legend
In our 5e games, the player decides what the PC says and the DM only calls for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence of failure. The DM doesn't call for a roll to determine what the PC can or can't try/say/think. If the situation is such that a roll is appropriate and it is an ability where the PC is below average, well, that PC is going to be less likely to succeed. Not a smart play if there are serious consequences on the line. The mechanics and flow of gameplay therefore discourage the unintelligent barbarian from trying to sound smart in contentious situations (although, that certainly can sometimes be fun, too) and instead encourage the barbarian to play to their... er... strength. A DM needn't invoke "your PC wouldn't say that" either verbally or through a forced die roll - the choice of what a PC says is ultimately up to the player.

Well I do. But only in times that are very important and have drastic effects on pass on fail.

I'm sorry. Ragnar the dumb abrasive barbarian cannot think of a brilliant excuse to keep the party from being arrested without rolling his bad INT.
 

Zsong

Explorer
I do similar, the extra benefit of this kinda thing is thatmost of the group can get involved. I as a gm can describe the big bad's safe as radiating enough magic to make the wizards hair on the neck stand up & be palpably felt at a distance if he moves closer while my notes say "bug nasty safe, let players spend a few min figuring it out" only to result in the wizard/rogue/barbarian/druid interact with a bunch of knowledge checks that are ultimately part of the players dismantling the wards by....
  • Disabling a divination ward that checks to make sure the other wards are in tact & triggers the patyload if it notces them being mucked with
    • you aren't sure how well it's gonna work if at all & there's a ton o power in that safe... yea you aren't sure the spell but your syure it's enough to power a disintegration field.
  • corrupting the divination check to make the part looking for a specific arcane marked item to accept a different arcane marked item to be present when the safe is opened
    • Your pretty sure it will still go off maybe 50/50
  • The druid casts plant growth or something to ground the payload into the foundaton of the basement where the safe is with help from the wizard & rogue to make sure that vine grows into the right spot
  • everyone runs far away... The barbarian rages, makes a save, & pulls open the door while holding the marked item as directed
    • Boom everyone hears a huge explosion & cloud of dust streaming out of the room
    • barbarian sits on pins and needles waiting to hear the outcome while everyone rushes in to help rescue him
    • barbarian is a little rattled & gets a description of the explosion with the vine taking the brunt of things but he took... roll dice not too bad damage & is okish
The party spent about 15-20 minutes there
I want to play at your table lol
 

I want to play at your table lol
fate style aspects are a lot of use for that sort of thing when gm'ing. You can run the world like that too but dfrpg might be a better place to look because the city creation is fluffed in a way more useful to running the world as a GM.
 

Zsong

Explorer
fate style aspects are a lot of use for that sort of thing when gm'ing. You can run the world like that too but dfrpg might be a better place to look because the city creation is fluffed in a way more useful to running the world as a GM.
I have read it. Own several. Can’t DM it. And can’t find anyone where I live that plays it.
 

Remember that a roll is only called for when there is a possibility of success.

If the DM decides "There is absolutely zero chance that Thrud the Meaty Wurrier and his 6 Int and 4 Cha can trick Brainiavelli the Vizier into revealing his plan. " then the player can converse and roleplay all they want; no die roll is made, the attempt just fails.

Don't allow the die roll unless you are willing to accept the possibility of success. If you believe the situation and the stats make success impossible, then there is no roll, period. But the fact that you do or do not allow the die roll, is no reason to deprive the player of the fun of roleplaying.

Players can try whatever they want. That doesn't mean there should always be a chance of success.

Now, whether you should tell the players there is no chance of success in advance is a separate debate. And (close the loop) one that very much ties into the two different approaches/motivations spelled out at the start of this thread.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Remember that a roll is only called for when there is a possibility of success.

If the DM decides "There is absolutely zero chance that Thrud the Meaty Wurrier and his 6 Int and 4 Cha can trick Brainiavelli the Vizier into revealing his plan. " then the player can converse and roleplay all they want; no die roll is made, the attempt just fails.

Don't allow the die roll unless you are willing to accept the possibility of success. If you believe the situation and the stats make success impossible, then there is no roll, period. But the fact that you do or do not allow the die roll, is no reason to deprive the player of the fun of roleplaying.

Players can try whatever they want. That doesn't mean there should always be a chance of success.

Now, whether you should tell the players there is no chance of success in advance is a separate debate. And (close the loop) one that very much ties into the two different approaches/motivations spelled out at the start of this thread.

The problem is that if you don't ask (or allow for, depending on how you run it) a roll, you effectively are telling someone that it's impossible. If someone suspects a shopkeeper is lying and there's no insight check, players will then know that the shopkeeper is telling the truth.

It doesn't come up often, and I would never allow/ask for a roll for something that is obviously impossible. No matter how good your athletics score is, you can't jump over the moon. Unless you're a female minotaur because the cow ... well nah. Not even then.
 

"If someone suspects a shopkeeper is lying and there's no insight check, players will then know that the shopkeeper is telling the truth."

Or that it is impossible to determine they are lying by non-magical means.

(Addendum: when rolls will be asked for and what the absence of rolls means, is an important topic to cover in session zero. Whichever way you are going to play it.)
 
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The problem is that if you don't ask (or allow for, depending on how you run it) a roll, you effectively are telling someone that it's impossible. If someone suspects a shopkeeper is lying and there's no insight check, players will then know that the shopkeeper is telling the truth.

It doesn't come up often, and I would never allow/ask for a roll for something that is obviously impossible. No matter how good your athletics score is, you can't jump over the moon. Unless you're a female minotaur because the cow ... well nah. Not even then.
For D&D 5e, I disagree. If a DM doesn't ask for a roll, the implication is that there is no meaningful consequence of failure. Could be that the shopkeeper is obviously telling the truth OR that it is impossible to tell that the shopkeeper is lying. If players wish to metagame that into meaning that the shopkeeper is telling the truth well.... they might be right or they might be wrong. They proceed from there at their PC's own risk.

That said, perhaps a more interesting resolution, IMO, is to come up with a meaningful consequence of failure. If the player declares an action with the goal of determining if the shopkeeper is telling the truth, the DM might then ask for a DC whatever# Wisdom ability check (with player choosing the appropriate skill, if they like). If the roll is a success, the DM will tell the player if the shopkeeper is telling the truth. If the roll is a failure, the DM perhaps will tell the player that it is not possible to determine if the shopkeeper is telling the truth AND the shopkeeper's attitude will also shift towards the hostile end of the spectrum.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I like players that skillfully and creatively engage with the fiction, so I guess I’m a both. I hate when players try to game theory the story and get stuck in analysis. I love players that are willing to take risks and be adventurous.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
@DemoMonkey, @DM Dave1, I'm just relaying how I run my game. There are times I will call for a check there will be times where a player will say something like "Can I tell if they're lying" or "Can I get an insight check". If the player is indicating an insight check I let them roll. If it fails or if the shopkeeper is telling the truth or the check isn't good enough (a 20 isn't auto success) they get a "As far as you can tell they are telling the truth."

I think the "rule" that people rely on is shaky reading of the text at best, but I also don't really care. I'm not a stickler for rules and everybody has their own style. As the text states, don't ask for an acrobatics check to walk across the floor but there are times when I find asking (or allowing for) checks makes for a better game. Even if success or failure is not in question.

Run your games differently, it's a free country, but I'm not going to argue about it. Skill checks* are just one of the tools in the box that I use now and then.

*And yes, I'm well aware that it's an ability check with appropriate proficiency modifier applied. I don't give a fig about that either because it's just way too finicky and wordy for me. It's confusing to new players to ask for a Wisdom (insight) check when I can just ask for an Insight check and point them to the list of skills on their character sheet.
 

jgsugden

Legend
This is a role playing game. Players run characters, and the characters are the ones experiencing the world. It is the ability of the characters that should, in the end, govern, but only in the end. Players can participate along the path.

Letting the players figure out a riddle is fun. However, at the end of the day, whether the players get it or not, the PCs must determine if they can get it, and that is usually controlled by an ability check. Otherwise, the guy that once ate paste will never get to enjoy playing the smart wizard to the fullest.

This also allows you to incorporate game elements that the players do not understand, but characters do.

For example, "The Gynosphinx begins to recite something in a different language. What languages do you all speak .... OK. Galen speaks Elven. Galen, roll me an Intelligence check. 16? Great. As you're listening to the riddle, you realize that the Gyonsphinx's poem is a series of puns. The poem keeps making use of words with dual meanings. For each of these dual meaning words, one has something to do with the sea. The other meaning are not sea related, but they are the meaning that makes contextual sense in the poem. The poem ends with a line that means, "My brother would speak like me, but in a different sense, and catch all the clues, for catching is the thing he likes. What does my brother do?" Any ideas? No? Well, Galen does. The brother speaks like the riddle giver, meaning they use the same words, and catches those things that come from the seas. That makes them a fisherman. Galen feels confident that is the answer. What does Galen wish to do with that belief?

That is how I have run it for a long time - Player's get a chance to get it to see if they understand, but in the end the abilities of the PC are determined by the character sheet. After all, this is just another situation in which player knowledge and character knowledge need to be differentiated.
 

That is most certainly not skilled play. That's being a jerk.

Players not participating in good faith to achieve the goals of play (having fun and creating an exciting, memorable story together) will soon find themselves without an invite to the next session.
The two are not mutually exclusive.

But you can either police character actions that you feel do not match the character's abilities (by restricting what a character can say, making them roll, or, as you say, dropping them from the game for repeat offences) or you don't. If you don't, you have to accept that if the player says the character comes up with correct knowledge or an intricate and cunning plan without needing to roll anything, than that is what the character comes up with. Outside of rewriting enough of the adventure that the knowledge is no longer correct your options are limited.



Well, I do use skills in the game the dice are a part of the game. I even mentioned in a previous post that a Charisma roll is often used as a Reaction indicator to determine initial disposition (if not otherwise known). So it is not like a player can completely cancel the negative of having a 3 Charisma all the time. A 3 Charisma character can expect to have a lot of interactions start hostile or unfriendly.

I just intend that a character with 3 Charisma doesn't force that player at the table to sit out and be quiet during all NPC role-playing interactions.
Why would they have to sit out? A common facet of a low charisma is not knowing when to stay quiet.
I mean the skilled play approach would be to stay quiet in a situation where you might have to roll on your 3 Charisma, until you can come up with an argument that the NPC played by the DM cannot refute.

It is not talking your DM into your character succeeding. It is thinking through the situation presented to you. Approaching the situation as if you were your character doing so and presenting a course of action that, in the judgement of the DM, solves the situation.
I think the distinction lies in the bolded text. Approaching the situation as if you were your low-Wis, low-Int character doing so (the role-playing approach), is a different attitude to approaching it as a player to find the optimal solution to the situation (the skilled play approach).

But you do make a good point. Knowledge whether from experience from the game, good guesswork, or even reading the manual/module is a part of Skilled Play.

A player who has played D&D for 20-30 years has every right to put that accumulated experience to bear on being successful at the game.

D&D is a game. Practice and experience makes you better at it.

Reading the manual/module might be cheating, but sometimes it can't be helped. Sometimes you run for someone who is a DM. Sometimes that player who is a DM may know more about the game than you do. They may have ran the module you are running already. They may have ran a campaign that used all the same monsters you used.

But you present this in the context of this someone manipulating or getting one over on the DM by dumping Int and Cha and then using their knowledge to make up for it as a way to 'game the system'. You seem to present this in the worst possible light. I doubt that this really happens all that much.
Indeed, but as you can see from some of the other responses, you are very much not at the extreme end of the skilled play aficionados. The "game the DM, not the system" attitude has been actively promoted.

In my groups, and quite possibly yours as well, that attitude may well fall afoul of the social contract. In others it seems to be accepted. As with extreme character min/maxing, both are valid playstyles; the only issue is when people with different attitudes/preferences end up in the same group.
 

@DemoMonkey, @DM Dave1, I'm just relaying how I run my game. There are times I will call for a check there will be times where a player will say something like "Can I tell if they're lying" or "Can I get an insight check". If the player is indicating an insight check I let them roll. If it fails or if the shopkeeper is telling the truth or the check isn't good enough (a 20 isn't auto success) they get a "As far as you can tell they are telling the truth."

I think the "rule" that people rely on is shaky reading of the text at best, but I also don't really care. I'm not a stickler for rules and everybody has their own style. As the text states, don't ask for an acrobatics check to walk across the floor but there are times when I find asking (or allowing for) checks makes for a better game. Even if success or failure is not in question.

Run your games differently, it's a free country, but I'm not going to argue about it. Skill checks* are just one of the tools in the box that I use now and then.

*And yes, I'm well aware that it's an ability check with appropriate proficiency modifier applied. I don't give a fig about that either because it's just way too finicky and wordy for me. It's confusing to new players to ask for a Wisdom (insight) check when I can just ask for an Insight check and point them to the list of skills on their character sheet.
Whoa. No need to go on the defensive. You indicated a problem (players will know x if DM doesn't do y) and I gave a solution to the problem per how we run the games at our tables. I hadn't always played that way and it was clunky. Now I do, and things run more smoothly. Obviously, everyone can choose to play however they like.
 

The two are not mutually exclusive.

But you can either police character actions that you feel do not match the character's abilities (by restricting what a character can say, making them roll, or, as you say, dropping them from the game for repeat offences) or you don't. If you don't, you have to accept that if the player says the character comes up with correct knowledge or an intricate and cunning plan without needing to roll anything, than that is what the character comes up with. Outside of rewriting enough of the adventure that the knowledge is no longer correct your options are limited.
Again, a player trying to hoodwink the DM is not skilled play. I've already explained how we mechanically deal with low scores in my response above to @Minigiant. A player can come up with whatever knowledge they want and play that as what the character thinks. But just because a character thinks something does not mean that knowledge is correct in the game world. If the player then wants their PC to act upon that player knowledge without testing the assumptions in the game world first, well, that could lead to problems for said PC. Players learn quickly not to lean too heavily on "metagaming" knowledge and instead choose to explore the game world through their PC. As for "rewriting enough of the adventure", it's hardly necessary.
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
Sometimes I think that D&D would work better if we used concrete stats for the 3 physical attributes, but then had mental stats and personality be more abstract. Maybe pick 3 descriptors to describe your character's personality.

Then you have formal checks for the physical side, but handwave the mental side, and let the players roleplay more freely.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, collapsible equipment (whether metal or wood) would likely require a greater level of "tech" (metal working, precision tools, etc.) than is present in the D&D world.
Not really.

First, make the pole square instead of round.
Second, chop it into four 2.5' lengths.
Third, take the hinges off your small treasure chest and attach them to the four pieces of pole such that it folds into two stacked Zs.

Bingo. Collapsible pole.

Examples will be on sale in the lobby as you leave.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Sometimes I think that D&D would work better if we used concrete stats for the 3 physical attributes, but then had mental stats and personality be more abstract. Maybe pick 3 descriptors to describe your character's personality.

Then you have formal checks for the physical side, but handwave the mental side, and let the players roleplay more freely.
With the caviat that there still be a Magic stat, I agree.
 

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