D&D 5E Soulknife Knack problems (Is it incredibly powerful?)

Trying to find an objective RAW is pointless

throw your precious RAW in the dumpster.
Both of these summarize my opinion nicely. RAW is only useful for rules lawyers seeking an edge, which can include DMs. In the case of Organized Play (currently AL), either the DM will make a call at the table or the organizer already has a listing of specifics, such as Sage Advice.

This is antithetical to the 5e rules around ability checks. If something is impossible, there is no roll. The stated action just fails, Knack or not. (PHB p174 and DMG p237)
An alternative option, which I lost from an earlier draft, is a certainty check. The character makes the check to be absolutely certain there isn't a trap/door/creature. It's not a very useful check for the characters, but it's legitimate under RAW while keeping the players uncertain unless they succeed on that check. As using a resource on this kind of check feels bad for the player, I'm loathe to use it, but it's RAW as opposed to my earlier option (which the player would likely prefer).

If the players see their roll (some DMs choose to keep it secret) and know they rolled high, they may have a good idea that there are no traps, but they do not know for certain.

Last week, our rogue rolled a 16 when checking for traps. Knowing that most traps are DC 15, he strode confidently forward. This, particularly well concealed trap, happened to be DC 20...
And:
To give an example of what I'm talking about, you telegraph a trap several rooms before the trap itself. The players declare they are searching the room, you tell them there is no trap. They declare they are searching the next room, you tell them there is no trap, they declare they are searching the next room... you tell them to roll.

Immediately, before they even pick up the dice, they know the trap is in this room. If they fail, and you tell them they don't find any traps, they know the trap is in the room.
This is why DMs should use Passive checks more often. When the party is moving down the hallway in a dungeon, I make rolls against their passive perception by traps, secret doors, hidden monsters, etc. This prevents the players from being aware, especially before it's too late in the case of traps and monsters. Only if a player specifically mentions a location they want to check do I call for an active roll.

Since I'm bringing it up, and usually people ask why I'm rolling on Passive checks, there are no actual rules in the PHB and DMG about how to use Passive skills, except in the use of Hiding. The default assumption is that the passive is the lowest you can get (a carryover from 4E considered "official" by Crawford), which is why no one likes to use it. It creates a static number check, with either an automatic pass or fail, which is boring and stupid. Mearls once suggested that the things opposing the Passive score should roll instead, just like attempting to Hide. This keeps the players from meta-gaming the results.
 

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I think the issue here is that you need to move the common failure state of "don't know there is a trap" and get rid of it, under this sort of system.
I feel that "don't know there is a trap" is not a very interesting failure state all by itself. One might argue that "don't know there is a trap" is the baseline state for the adventurers before they even do anything. A stated action and goal might or might not reveal a trap, but I like to avoid the "nothing happens" result of a failed roll in our games.

To give an example of what I'm talking about, you telegraph a trap several rooms before the trap itself. The players declare they are searching the room, you tell them there is no trap. They declare they are searching the next room, you tell them there is no trap, they declare they are searching the next room... you tell them to roll.

Immediately, before they even pick up the dice, they know the trap is in this room. If they fail, and you tell them they don't find any traps, they know the trap is in the room.

Now, you can offer alternate failure conditions, but this is highlighting the situation that other DMs often face. They don't want to just declare success, and therefore make uncertainty a signal that something is wrong. So, they allow additional rolls. And sometimes, when they do so, I give them other details because they are searching the room.
Examples are tricky. I don't think anyone here, regardless of playstyle, is spending precious game time on several mundane rooms in a row with no other pressures.

That aside, phantom rolls are not something our table is interested in. If there is no meaningful consequence of failure for a stated action, the capable PCs succeed without a roll and we move on to the more exciting parts of the adventure.

If there is some other detail about the room that is important, I'd do my best to hit on that when I describe the environment. I'm curious what "other details" you as DM provide in your games when someone succeeds on their roll for a "search for traps" action when there are no traps? And what happens if that roll fails at your table?
 

Since I'm bringing it up, and usually people ask why I'm rolling on Passive checks, there are no actual rules in the PHB and DMG about how to use Passive skills, except in the use of Hiding. The default assumption is that the passive is the lowest you can get (a carryover from 4E considered "official" by Crawford), which is why no one likes to use it. It creates a static number check, with either an automatic pass or fail, which is boring and stupid. Mearls once suggested that the things opposing the Passive score should roll instead, just like attempting to Hide. This keeps the players from meta-gaming the results.
I agree: If you want to keep something secret, use passives.

If a character declares they are the one searching for traps, I try not to make them roll in every room, I just assume that they are the one searching and I use their passive Investigation to locate traps on the way. The rest of the group doesn't get a check and I assume they automatically trigger any trap they walk into unless they specifically declare they are searching a specific area. Then I let them roll.

I kind of like the idea of having traps roll against a passive check...neat.

In any case, this kind of adjudication will prevent anyone with psi Knack(or whatever it's called)from getting to add their dice since they aren't rolling. shrug I'm not sure if that's an issue or not. I think it would be an easy fix to to say, "Hey, you trigger a trap. Do you want to use your psi dice to see if you can boost your passive perception enough to spot it before you trigger it?"

In that case, since there is an evident consequence for failure, it's fine to tell the player.

If it's a secret door, on the other hand, you can't use that method without alerting to the player the presence of a secret door. I'm not sure what the solution would be there. As I said, I play a rogue with the psychic knack ability. It's never been an issue.

I make a roll and, if I want make sure I succeed, I roll my knack die and the DM describes the outcome. Later on, he lets me know if I spent the dice.
 

If it's a secret door, on the other hand, you can't use that method without alerting to the player the presence of a secret door. I'm not sure what the solution would be there.
If you wanted to give them a chance to use it, the easiest solution would be to subtract the die from the check. If the die makes a difference, tell the player they sense something is amiss, and that they failed a [ability; not skill) check. Let them decide if they want to use it or not, and if they do, they get the beneficial result at the cost of the resource. Since they don't know what the check was for, only the ability involved, they can only guess what it was for if they don't spend the resource. I'm guessing most of the time the player will spend the resource, assuming it was important.
 

Both of these summarize my opinion nicely. RAW is only useful for rules lawyers seeking an edge, which can include DMs. In the case of Organized Play (currently AL), either the DM will make a call at the table or the organizer already has a listing of specifics, such as Sage Advice.
I think a lot of people follow RAW to maintain structure to their games. Dubbing someone a "rules lawyer" just because they try to follow RAW as best as possible is... not an accurate use of the term.

An alternative option, which I lost from an earlier draft, is a certainty check. The character makes the check to be absolutely certain there isn't a trap/door/creature. It's not a very useful check for the characters, but it's legitimate under RAW while keeping the players uncertain unless they succeed on that check. As using a resource on this kind of check feels bad for the player, I'm loathe to use it, but it's RAW as opposed to my earlier option (which the player would likely prefer).
We need something more exciting than "you still don't know" to be the result of a failed check at our table.

And:

This is why DMs should use Passive checks more often. When the party is moving down the hallway in a dungeon, I make rolls against their passive perception by traps, secret doors, hidden monsters, etc. This prevents the players from being aware, especially before it's too late in the case of traps and monsters. Only if a player specifically mentions a location they want to check do I call for an active roll.

Since I'm bringing it up, and usually people ask why I'm rolling on Passive checks, there are no actual rules in the PHB and DMG about how to use Passive skills, except in the use of Hiding. The default assumption is that the passive is the lowest you can get (a carryover from 4E considered "official" by Crawford), which is why no one likes to use it. It creates a static number check, with either an automatic pass or fail, which is boring and stupid. Mearls once suggested that the things opposing the Passive score should roll instead, just like attempting to Hide. This keeps the players from meta-gaming the results.
Yeah, Passive checks actually seem kludgey to me except for the case of trying to determine surprise at the outset of a combat with an opposed Dexterity (Stealth) roll for the monsters against the Passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the PCs (or vice versa).

As a DM, I can always know the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of the PCs. I can then set my secret door discovery DC above the party's highest score if I don't want them to find it or below that if I do or right at it if I want that player to feel special. Neither the secret door nor the trap get rolls (unless, perhaps, the secret door is also a mimic...) These checks seem very gamey and predetermined to me. Maybe I'm thinking about Passive checks the wrong way - I'm open to hearing more about your take on them.
 

As a DM, I can always know the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of the PCs. I can then set my secret door discovery DC above the party's highest score if I don't want them to find it or below that if I do or right at it if I want that player to feel special. Neither the secret door nor the trap get rolls (unless, perhaps, the secret door is also a mimic...) These checks seem very gamey and predetermined to me. Maybe I'm thinking about Passive checks the wrong way - I'm open to hearing more about your take on them.
I don't use them in that way. I just make the DCs of stuff based on how I think it would be in-world. PCs either discover stuff or they don't. If they are being creative about how they search, I give them the +5 for advantage. I'm especially picky about giving -5 for poor lighting and, as a result, the group uses lights, even though they might all have darkvision.

I find it the most useful in dungeons - especially with online gaming - because I find dungeon exploration can be really clunky. Everyone tells me their rolls (Who is searching traps, who is looking out for danger etc..) and that is what I compare my rolls to. I can just describe the dungeon and tell them what they see without having to stop the narration every two minutes to interrupt it with a roll. And for online gaming, like roll20, people don't have to worry about where they're moving their characters. They say, I search down the hallway. I describe what they see and then they all move their token to the end of the hallway...instead of the annoying moving 5 feet squares and telling me, "I search this square." then, "I search this corner."

So, yeah. It moves the game faster, makes it smoother and lets us concentrate on more interesting things.

I also use it for insight checks because that's always difficult to adjudicate.
 

Double-post: mostly unrelated to anything - Also, what I've started doing for 'Investigation' checks. If I know where something is hidden (Like, a published adventure says there's some gold under the bed or in some blankets), and a player specifically says, "I look under the bed." I ignore whatever the Ability DC is and just tell them they found something without the roll. I like the immersion and flavour it provides when a player says, "I check under the cot" vs "I search the room".
 

I don't use them in that way. I just make the DCs of stuff based on how I think it would be in-world. PCs either discover stuff or they don't. If they are being creative about how they search, I give them the +5 for advantage. I'm especially picky about giving -5 for poor lighting and, as a result, the group uses lights, even though they might all have darkvision.
So it sounds like you have made the active searching take on the passive score... is that right?

I find it the most useful in dungeons - especially with online gaming - because I find dungeon exploration can be really clunky. Everyone tells me their rolls (Who is searching traps, who is looking out for danger etc..) and that is what I compare my rolls to. I can just describe the dungeon and tell them what they see without having to stop the narration every two minutes to interrupt it with a roll. And for online gaming, like roll20, people don't have to worry about where they're moving their characters. They say, I search down the hallway. I describe what they see and then they all move their token to the end of the hallway...instead of the annoying moving 5 feet squares and telling me, "I search this square." then, "I search this corner."

So, yeah. It moves the game faster, makes it smoother and lets us concentrate on more interesting things.
Cool - I'm a fan of anything that moves the game action quickly and smoothly on to more interesting things.

I also use it for insight checks because that's always difficult to adjudicate.
Say more on this... whose insight? Is something being rolled against it?
 

I think a lot of people follow RAW to maintain structure to their games. Dubbing someone a "rules lawyer" just because they try to follow RAW as best as possible is... not an accurate use of the term.
To-may-to, To-mah-to. 5E really isn't useful with RAW, since it's designed to be based on DM ruling. Because of this, the only people I've found that focus heavily on RAW are those who want to find an exploit to argue. YMMV.
We need something more exciting than "you still don't know" to be the result of a failed check at our table.
If you read my statement, it's not "you still don't know" it's "you're positive there is no [X]." I'm not a fan of it, but it solves the issue presented while using RAW.
Yeah, Passive checks actually seem kludgey to me except for the case of trying to determine surprise at the outset of a combat with an opposed Dexterity (Stealth) roll for the monsters against the Passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the PCs (or vice versa).

As a DM, I can always know the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of the PCs. I can then set my secret door discovery DC above the party's highest score if I don't want them to find it or below that if I do or right at it if I want that player to feel special. Neither the secret door nor the trap get rolls (unless, perhaps, the secret door is also a mimic...) These checks seem very gamey and predetermined to me. Maybe I'm thinking about Passive checks the wrong way - I'm open to hearing more about your take on them.
Mathematically, if you take the DC the PC would roll against and subtract 12 to create the modifier, the odds are the same if the roll is made against the passive score. If the PC has a +5 Wis/Perception, they'd succeed on a 10 DC 80% of the time (roll of 5+). Their Passive Perception would be a 15, which sets the DC for the trap/door/whatever. The DC: 10 would have a -2 modifier that would succeed against the 15 Passive DC only 20% of the time (roll of 17+), which is the percentage the PC would fail.
 

To-may-to, To-mah-to. 5E really isn't useful with RAW, since it's designed to be based on DM ruling. Because of this, the only people I've found that focus heavily on RAW are those who want to find an exploit to argue. YMMV.

If you read my statement, it's not "you still don't know" it's "you're positive there is no [X]." I'm not a fan of it, but it solves the issue presented while using RAW.
Yes, I did read your statement. To be clear, either way the result is that nothing has changed in the scenario. Not an exciting outcome for a success or a failure, IMO. In our game, the dice are not used to hide things from the players. The dice are used to resolve actions that happen to have a meaningful consequence of failure. If that is too RAW for you, I get why you needed to come up with some other mechanic under the rubric of "DM ruling".

As an aside, I try my best to not tell the players what their PCs think. So, really, both of these statements - "you still don't know" and "you're positive there is no [X]" - are phrases I try to avoid in our games. My adjudication of a roll describes the new state of the scene. How the player decides the character interprets that result is up to them. I find our games flow more smoothly with the DM sticking to environment and NPC/monster description and the players determining what their PC thinks, feels, and does in the context of that environment/NPC/monster.

Mathematically, if you take the DC the PC would roll against and subtract 12 to create the modifier, the odds are the same if the roll is made against the passive score. If the PC has a +5 Wis/Perception, they'd succeed on a 10 DC 80% of the time (roll of 5+). Their Passive Perception would be a 15, which sets the DC for the trap/door/whatever. The DC: 10 would have a -2 modifier that would succeed against the 15 Passive DC only 20% of the time (roll of 17+), which is the percentage the PC would fail.

Based on your playstyle of using the dice to add mystery, I'm now understanding why you'd need to inject this math into the game. I'm sure it has become second nature for you and works well at your table. Something like that is unnecessary in our games, though.

So I'm still curious why you would decide to roll a die during play for the "hiddenness" of a trap or secret door, which are inanimate objects. Can you say more about that?
 

NotAYakk

Legend
When we do stealth, we often have the player roll first, then roll to see if any guards notice them, in essentially a multiple contested check (this isn't always, but it does happen). Now... do you let the player roll their knack before the perceptions if they rolled poorly? If they rolled well enough to beat some of the enemies with the knack die, but not all of them do they expend the die? They failed overall, so my gut says no.
So, when you roll stealth, "failure" is determined by the passive perception of creatures who could otherwise see you at that moment.

The check also sets a DC. That DC later is used by other creature's rolls.

So having a moderately observant person trying to spot you when you start hiding can be of use. Of course this is already true -- if you have someone with a passive perception of 20, and you hide from them successfully, you know your check was at least a 20. ;) This just lets you knack it over the limit.
Or, here is an even trickier question. Xanathar's allows you to use thieves tools to make a trap, the trap's DC is equal to your roll. Do you allow the knack die to be added to it? You have no idea if your result "succeeded or failed" because it is a future opposed check, it could be a week from now that someone stumbles upon it.
By RAW, a roll of a 3 is a "success" at setting the trap. As the knack can only be used on a failure... you can't knack it.

OTOH, maybe your implicit goal in both cases is to be undetectable, which has an infinitely high DC. In which case, everything is a failure (or rather, partial failure). So knack use applies.

Which makes more sense in-game fiction depends on how you feel the knack works. It is a bit of short-term precognition? Or is it something else?

As short-term precognition, if the failure isn't immediate, you don't get the ability to "adjust".
 

1. So it sounds like you have made the active searching take on the passive score... is that right?


2. Cool - I'm a fan of anything that moves the game action quickly and smoothly on to more interesting things.


3. Say more on this... whose insight? Is something being rolled against it?

I added numbers to your quote to make it easier to organize:

1. For the most part, yes. If there is secret information, I rely on passive skills.
For Knowledge checks, I use their passive knowledge skill (History, for instance) to give them the basic information their character would know. Research and rolls could provide more information.

For secret doors and exploration, I primarily use the Passive Investigation of the person searching. I might use the Passive Perception of someone to give them clues about stuff (you notice a breeze in this alcove) if it's high enough.

Anyone else who isn't actively searching is assumed to walk into a trap but I make the assumption that they are alert for danger (passive perception).

Example (This might not be a complete example, but I'll try)

"You enter a room that appears to be a bunk room for the orcs. There are several messy beds and cots along one wall a pile of barrels, boxes and supplies in the far corner and a beat-up desk along the north wall. The brick work in the room is crumbling. There are several stuffed heads, mostly big game animals, that line the west wall, placed there as trophies."

So, let's say this is an orcs bunk-room. Treasure:


  • A pouch with 20gp under the blankets of one of the cots (DC 10)
  • A potion behind a loose brick. on the wall by the beds(DC 15)
  • 50 gp and a Healing Kit and a potion of Healing in a barrel in the corner amongst the barrels and boxes (DC 12)
  • A set of lock picks in the mouth of one of the heads. On the west wall, Put there, just in case. (DC 15)
-There's a secret door on the South Wall. (DC 20)
-There's some information on the desk about an enemy in the complex. There's a secret drawer with gems.(DC 12)

Lots to find.

The party comes in to this room. They want to search the room so I ask them how long they want to spend. I figure, a thorough search of the room will take 20 minutes. Two members have active spells and they say, "We only spend 5 minutes."

I tell them, to search the room thoroughly, it's going to take more time than that, do you want to focus your search?

One person says, I'll search the boxes in the corner.
One person says, I'll just search as much as I can starting from the North Wall.
One person says, I'll ransack the beds.
I rummage through the desk looking for a secret drawer.

"Ok, 5 minutes has passed"
-The person searching the room gets disadvantage. There isn't time to find anything with a cursory glance. "You don't find anything" (they could have found the lock picks but they were too rushed)
-The person searching the boxes fails to find the Healing potion in the barrel because their PP isn't high enough. They haven't gotten around to that barrel.
- The person who ransacks the beds auto-succeeds and find the coins
-The person rummaging through the desk auto-finds the papers and locates the secret drawer. If their PP isn't high enough, I'd give them a roll to see if they can roll higher and locate the drawer (because they were specifically trying to locate it). If they fail the roll, I tell them about the papers so they think their roll located the information.

"You have yet to open the drawer. Do you want to spend more time searching? How long?" If the answer is yes.


  • I give advantage to the guy searching the barrels, he's taking more time. He locates the potion and healing kit
  • The person doing a general search might locate one of the secrets.
-Nobody finds the secret door. (but given more time, they might note a draftiness in the room which might make them want to spend more time - and burn more duration on their spells)

If they take the full allotted time to search the whole room, they will come across all the treasure and might, possibly, get advantage for people who declared they were looking for specific things (20 minutes looking through the desk, for instance or 20 minutes to someone specifically searching for secret doors.)


So that's an imperfect example because a lot of the time I'm just making it up as I go, trying my best to adjudicate fairly. In that example, I can just tell everyone what they find and they can choose to spend as much or as little time as they want searching. If there is no time crunch and they are just resting, then there's less need for all the specifics. I can just compare it to the highest passive perception. Anyone specifically looking for secret doors might get advantage and I may even ask for a roll to see if they get a lucky high roll(assuming no-one has a PP high enough to detect the door.

2. I'm finding dungeon crawls, both as a player and as a DM, very frustrating and slow when playing online. I'm experimenting with ways to make things smoother and limit excessive dice rolls. It seems to be working well and it still awards players who are creative and are listening to the scene description.

3. If I feel there is information to be garnered (like someone is lying or the PCs might benefit from trying to figure out an NPCs motives, I will use deception vs Passive Insight. I have a character with expertise in Insight and it's annoying when I forget to tell the DM that I'm trying to suss out or read an NPC - and it's hard to find creative, narrative ways to describe it. Therefore, as a DM, when it's important, I leave it up to passives. Example: they beat a bunch of orcs and found the leader. They are trying to avoid a fight and intimidate the leader (they'd already killed the leader's Ogre Master). They tell the leader that they've already killed 5 of his men. At that point, my NPC was taking a tally of how many men he had left to see if retreating, then mustering the survivors would give him a shot at defeating them. This fact seemed important enough that I'd want to see if the players could notice.

I decided what the DC would be to determine that and then compared it to the passsive Insight of people who were paying attention. Someone succeeded.

"You can see his eyes stare out and up to one corner and then he looks down at his finger - like he's counting or tallying up something."

PC: "Does it seem like, if we let him go, he'll come and attack us later."


"You're not sure, but it makes sense that, since you told him how many you killed, that he's doing the math. He might, if he has the numbers but you don't know how many orcs are left in the complex"
 
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Wolfram stout

Adventurer
So let me make sure I understand correctly. The player, who, can only roll, if they knowingly fail a roll (because that is exactly what it says), doesn't have the right to know, if they fail, even though, it's required for them to use it?

I think that is perfectly workable and RAW. You can only use it when you know you have failed. So, jumping over a pit, you know....detecting secret doors, you don't. If you feel the Knack is overpowered, this curtails it by a strict reading of the wording.

But, remember, 5th edition has some rules that (is my understanding) are vague on purpose, that requires DMs and groups to come to a consensus.

I may be influenced by my 2nd edition experiences. I had a great, but brutal DM, that would only say "You didn't find anything" but rolled all detect rolls for the characters behind the screen. So, you had no idea if you rolled really high (and could deduce nothing was there) or really low (and was about to get waylaid).
 

So I'm still curious why you would decide to roll a die during play for the "hiddenness" of a trap or secret door, which are inanimate objects. Can you say more about that?
The same reason you have players roll against the "hiddenness" of an innanimate trap or secret door? If the notion of an inanimate object making a roll offends your sensibilities, think of it as a check made by the trap/door's designer against the Passive check of the PCs, similar to rolling to Hide.

By Crawford's view, Passives skills don't work. Comparing a static number against a static number means that the DM is determining success/failure during the adventure writing phase, not in play. This isn't fun for anyone, which is the reason I think many DM's don't bother with Passive skills. By using a die roll, you create the exact same dynamic but keep the mystery intact from the players (i.e. the players don't know something is hidden because they failed a check).
 

Thanks for the in-depth answers @TaranTheWanderer. Helps me better understand how things operate at your table, even if the example is incomplete. Honestly, I don't think any example of play at the table (physical or online) is easy to translate perfectly into text here on the forums.

I'm going to pick out just a few quotes to shorten this response (EDIT: well that failed... my response is getting longer by the moment!) - hope I'm not taking things out of context too much:

For secret doors and exploration, I primarily use the Passive Investigation of the person searching.
If someone is actively searching/investigating, why would you not have them roll Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation)? I mean, passive ability scores are intended to tell you what they notice without trying, right?

... "You don't find anything" ...
As I've mentioned upthread, this type of adjudication seems to be a consequence of failure that is non-meaningful. Preserving the status quo feels uninteresting and not worthy of dice rolls, IMO.

So that's an imperfect example because a lot of the time I'm just making it up as I go, trying my best to adjudicate fairly.
Yes! So much making it up as we go, right? Part the of the fun, really. :)

2. I'm finding dungeon crawls, both as a player and as a DM, very frustrating and slow when playing online. I'm experimenting with ways to make things smoother and limit excessive dice rolls. It seems to be working well and it still awards players who are creative and are listening to the scene description.
I'd love to see a thread started that talks about tips for helping run online games more smoothly. We've all had so much experience at this point, there are definitely ideas to share that have been very successful (or utter failures) at our respective virtual tables.

3. If I feel there is information to be garnered (like someone is lying or the PCs might benefit from trying to figure out an NPCs motives, I will use deception vs Passive Insight.
If you are rolling for the NPC, though, don't the players know something is up? This seems to be invoking the need for phantom rolling that we just don't employ at our tables.

I decided what the DC would be to determine that and then compared it to the passsive Insight of people who were paying attention. Someone succeeded.
Here's the rub for me with Passive checks: to me they are very gamey and easy to manipulate (outside of surprise). I know what the Passive numbers are for the players, so I can set the DC to whatever I want to let them succeed or make them fail. I'd rather award auto-success or invoke auto-failure than fall back on Passive checks. Now, in this situation, if the players are declaring actions for their PCs that indicate they are paying attention, I might call for one or more of them to make a Wisdom check (they can apply whatever skill they feel is appropriate) opposed by the NPC's Charisma check (and I might apply an ability if I feel it appropriate). If they succeed, I let them know if the NPC is lying. If they fail, I still might let them know if the NPC is lying, but something bad will accompany it ("progress combined with a setback" PHB p174)

"You can see his eyes stare out and up to one corner and then he looks down at his finger - like he's counting or tallying up something."

PC: "Does it seem like, if we let him go, he'll come and attack us later."


"You're not sure, but it makes sense that, since you told him how many you killed, that he's doing the math. He might, if he has the numbers but you don't know how many orcs are left in the complex"
This is a fun example, by the way. I really like the idea of an enemy trying to weasel his way out of the party's clutches and then struggling to do math while under scrutiny to figure out his odds.
 

The same reason you have players roll against the "hiddenness" of an innanimate trap or secret door? If the notion of an inanimate object making a roll offends your sensibilities, think of it as a check made by the trap/door's designer against the Passive check of the PCs, similar to rolling to Hide.

By Crawford's view, Passives skills don't work. Comparing a static number against a static number means that the DM is determining success/failure during the adventure writing phase, not in play. This isn't fun for anyone, which is the reason I think many DM's don't bother with Passive skills. By using a die roll, you create the exact same dynamic but keep the mystery intact from the players (i.e. the players don't know something is hidden because they failed a check).
Ah - thanks for this explanation. The roll might also represent the random degradation/improvement of the trap's (or door's) concealment as it has been triggered (or used) recently and reset prior to the adventurers arriving on the scene.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I feel that "don't know there is a trap" is not a very interesting failure state all by itself. One might argue that "don't know there is a trap" is the baseline state for the adventurers before they even do anything. A stated action and goal might or might not reveal a trap, but I like to avoid the "nothing happens" result of a failed roll in our games.

Fair enough, but it is a situation at other tables.

If there is some other detail about the room that is important, I'd do my best to hit on that when I describe the environment. I'm curious what "other details" you as DM provide in your games when someone succeeds on their roll for a "search for traps" action when there are no traps? And what happens if that roll fails at your table?

Well, usually what has happened is that I have described the room, and the players get excited or misunderstand and start looking around and poking things.

First example I can think of involved a magical castle, they had snuck in and were convinced that every room had a secret door. So they wanted to roll for traps and doors to investigate every room.

The first time they rolled incredibly well (23?) and so I had them find a magical wine bottle, it worked like an alchemical jug, but only with different types of wine and spirits.

The failure... I think the order of events had gone that I described the room as having a blue fire in the fireplace for mood lighting, and when they failed I decided it was a "soul fire" and was potentially dangerous. It would have been relatively harmless, but interesting.... then they decided to poke it with their hand, and bad things started happening.

So, it was a little "trap that wasn't there before" but I gave them an opportunity to back out and not deal with it.

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So, when you roll stealth, "failure" is determined by the passive perception of creatures who could otherwise see you at that moment.

The check also sets a DC. That DC later is used by other creature's rolls.

So having a moderately observant person trying to spot you when you start hiding can be of use. Of course this is already true -- if you have someone with a passive perception of 20, and you hide from them successfully, you know your check was at least a 20. ;) This just lets you knack it over the limit.

See, this seems entirely too.... kludgey for my tastes. Requiring there to be a fellow creature whose passive perception you roll against to be able to boost your roll. Not saying it doesn't work, but it feels a lot like the "I drop my sword, cast my spell, and use my item interaction to pick up my sword" style of work arounds.

And the real question is, on a multiple contested skill check, do you expend it when you are in the middle.

To give a different example, let us say you give an impasssioned speech to foment rebellion. The firebrands have a DC 10, the common people DC 15, and the guards have a DC 20.

You roll a 14, and you your knack to get a 17. You have succeeded under one set of DCs, but failed another. Do we expend the dice or not? I think in this scenario people would say yes, but in a stealth mission,you have to beat multiple DCs, but failing one fails the stealth, so maybe it is a no in that instance.


By RAW, a roll of a 3 is a "success" at setting the trap. As the knack can only be used on a failure... you can't knack it.

OTOH, maybe your implicit goal in both cases is to be undetectable, which has an infinitely high DC. In which case, everything is a failure (or rather, partial failure). So knack use applies.

Which makes more sense in-game fiction depends on how you feel the knack works. It is a bit of short-term precognition? Or is it something else?

As short-term precognition, if the failure isn't immediate, you don't get the ability to "adjust".
Yeah, I don't think I'd have it as a precognition, that doesn't work quite well for adjusting certain things. I think of it more as a psychic push, which allows you to just go beyond your body for the moment.

And if the knack applies to setting the DC, does it then get expended or not?

I'm not sure how to rule that one.
 

If someone is actively searching/investigating, why would you not have them roll Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation)? I mean, passive ability scores are intended to tell you what they notice without trying, right?
You don't use Passive skills when people aren't actively looking for it. The term 'Passive' refers to the mechanics and not in-game character actions. In fact, if a player doesn't tell me they are looking for traps, I DON'T use their passive perception. I assume they are focusing on something else and just walk into any traps that are in their way. A player who tells me they ARE looking for traps gets to use their passive perception to spot traps before they walk into it. Passive just means the Players don't need to roll. It, literally, has nothing to do with character actions.

If the players want to search a specific thing and there is something to find, I'll let them roll. Like, in the example where they search the desk for hidden drawers. If the player asks to do something, I'll let them roll. I usually let the passive skill be the default, though.

As I've mentioned upthread, this type of adjudication seems to be a consequence of failure that is non-meaningful. Preserving the status quo feels uninteresting and not worthy of dice rolls, IMO.
Well, in the example I used, I'm just indicating to them that, in the time they allowed themselves, they have yet to find something. It gives them the option to spend more precious time. It doesn't mean there's something there to find. It could be that there is nothing to find but how are you going to know without spending time? In a situation where there are no time constraints, I can just hand-waive it: "You spend 30minutes searching and find This room doesn't have anything interesting." But, for me, because I'm tracking things like wandering monsters and players might have hour-long spell durations going, time matters. I always determine the amount of time something takes and I have them make rolls after the time passes.

I'd love to see a thread started that talks about tips for helping run online games more smoothly. We've all had so much experience at this point, there are definitely ideas to share that have been very successful (or utter failures) at our respective virtual tables.
Yeah, that'd be nice. Maybe one of us should start one.

If you are rolling for the NPC, though, don't the players know something is up? This seems to be invoking the need for phantom rolling that we just don't employ at our tables.


Here's the rub for me with Passive checks: to me they are very gamey and easy to manipulate (outside of surprise). I know what the Passive numbers are for the players, so I can set the DC to whatever I want to let them succeed or make them fail. I'd rather award auto-success or invoke auto-failure than fall back on Passive checks. Now, in this situation, if the players are declaring actions for their PCs that indicate they are paying attention, I might call for one or more of them to make a Wisdom check (they can apply whatever skill they feel is appropriate) opposed by the NPC's Charisma check (and I might apply an ability if I feel it appropriate). If they succeed, I let them know if the NPC is lying. If they fail, I still might let them know if the NPC is lying, but something bad will accompany it ("progress combined with a setback" PHB p174)
I usually roll physical dice when playing online. It's faster than using a dice roller when I'm tracking multiple open windows on my computer so I can roll any time I want and no-one knows I'm doing it. Or I just set a DC. Like, in the situation where a PC wants to know if someone is lying but NPC is not (and therefore Deception is inappropriate, I might just set the DC to 10+CHA modifier of the NPC and compare it to the passive Insight of the player. If their Passive is higher than the DC they get a good feeling that the NPC is being sincere. I'd only do this if there was a consequence for failure: Maybe the PCs really hate/distrust the NPC and 'not knowing' if they're being sincere will affect their decisions in a way that will bring them down some interesting rabbit hole. Otherwise, I just tell them.

In your example above, I'd only use Passive Insight for any player that declare they are paying attention. I assume the rest are not and they don't get a check. You can't discover something if you're not searching. Although, that's not 100% true all the time for me. Ambushes, times of high danger, stressful situations etc...

Or at least, they might get it at disadvantage because they are focusing on something else. Like, if you are picking a lock, you are going to have disadvantage to notice the assassin sneaking up on you.
 
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double post:

I think it's fair to say that for Psi knack, you need to know what your are striving for. It's an active use of your psychic talents. So, when you want to jump or climb a wall, you know what the goal is and what failure is so you actively add a telekinetic spring to your step to get you over the wall.

For things like insight and investigation, it's hard to activate your talent because you don't really know in what way you are going to be able to leverage it because you don't have a clear idea what the problem is. So, you might not be able to use it to find a trap but, once you discover the trap, you can leverage your psychic abilities to overcome it because you are able to analyze the problem. I'd be perfectly happy if the DM ruled that way in my game.
 

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