D&D 5E Thievery in 5e - still relevant?

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Rather, the game is designed so that the players can't assert control over how a situation is presented to them. Stealth is just a particularly salient example.
I suppose you see that as a feature. Perhaps I'm alone in thinking otherwise in this case. If I want to climb a tree, all I need is the DM to either say "yes" or give me a DC. They might add complications, but the default is "you make check, you climb tree".

If you want to recall some bit of trivia about the magus Quimby (say, for example, that he was an infamous epicurean), you ask the DM to say if you can, and they either say "sure" or give you a DC. The default here is the same, "you make check, you know stuff".

And this is how most every other ability check works. But with Stealth, we have a bunch of additional hoops to jump through. Do you have adequate cover/concealment? Does the enemy have stealth resistance (ala special senses)? How fast are you moving? How far away from your party are you? You can't have a light source, so how do you see?

This strikes me as all very counterproductive. I understand that most people don't want players just entering "stealth mode" (as I recall there was a playtest package which had a set DC to start hiding, which could then be challenged by others, and a lot of people griped that it made stealth "too easy") and lurking about. But there reaches a point where we are demanding far more to perform this task than other tasks, and is the juice worth the squeeze?

I mean, by default, the rules don't ask the Fighter if he's maintained his sword lately, how well balanced his sword is, the length of the hilt, whether the pommel is wrapped in wire or sharkskin, if he has appropriate hand gear (gauntlets, gloves), what stance he's taking, and whether or not his sword is appropriate for his surroundings (is the tunnel too narrow to swing effectively? Will he have to thrust? Can he thrust if his weapon only does slashing damage? Is his opponent left handed? Is the sun to his back?).

No, the character (assuming they are in range) makes a check to see if they hit or not.

Some might say "well, the DM can always grant advantage/disadvantage if they care about such things" but I'm simply pointing out, by default, the game doesn't care about it- it's assumed the Fighter knows his business.

But with a Rogue (or anyone else) trying to use Stealth, suddenly now the game says "hold up, buddy" and is very cautious about whether or not the character can even attempt the task, and has several additional built-in complications beyond simply setting a DC and ruling if the circumstances are advantageous or not.
 

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Larnievc

Hero
And again, ask yourself how many standard D&D monsters who lurk in dungeons have infravision (or some other stealth-foiling sense). So here you have an ability in a game called "Dungeons & Dragons" that typically neither works in Dungeons or against Dragons, lol.
In 5e Dark Vision doesn't spoil stealth. It's not thermographic vision like in previous editions where body heat shines out like a light bulb.
 

Larnievc

Hero
Now I know some people are going to say "well in my campaign, I allow Rogues to..." and that's great. I'm sure there are many sane DM's have long since made rulings about stealth that actually allow it to work. But of all the skills in the game, there is none more restrictive than the ability to creep up on someone unseen.
Totally disagree. If the DM nerfs a skill it's not the fault of the skill.
 

Larnievc

Hero
I recently started playing Baldur's Gate 3, and I was surprised at how easy sneaking about is. All you need to do is stay out of the enemy perception range and you're hidden. The game only makes you roll if you actually blunder into said range. And there are several ways to distract enemies to make sneaking about easier. It functions so simply that I'm stunned that it's always been so complicated at the table
The DM decides the complexity. Like I said up thread. Slap a DC on it, make the roll, if they succeed boom- job done. Just like in BG3.
 

Larnievc

Hero
I then pointed out that there is a domain of play, in D&D, in which the GM does not simply interpret the result of the player's roll having regard to "common sense". Namely, combat. You said (post 200) that combat needs to be structured, but my point is that it doesn't need to be. It is. Whereas most non-combat activity, like distracting guards, is not. Rather, it's up to the GM's decision-making. Which was my point in posts 146 and 176, to which you responded:
Sorry, you've lost me. I guess I just don't understand the point you are making.
 

Larnievc

Hero
And this is how most every other ability check works. But with Stealth, we have a bunch of additional hoops to jump through. Do you have adequate cover/concealment? Does the enemy have stealth resistance (ala special senses)? How fast are you moving? How far away from your party are you? You can't have a light source, so how do you see?
I just set a DC and if they roll they are in stealth mode. Modelling all the minutia is too much of a faff for me.

For example: one of my players wanted to scout a werewolf lair in the woods. They wanted to circle it and do a count of how many people we in the lair.

I thought about it for about two seconds, set the DC at 20 and the player rolled. They happened to pass so I gave them the details they were after and said it took about 30 mins of mobile lurking. Then they rejoined the party.

Had they failed they would have had to roll a perception check to avoid being surprised by a werewolf guard.

Doing it that way took less than 15 seconds real time and made the player feel like the Predator. What's not to like?
 
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pemerton

Legend
If I want to climb a tree, all I need is the DM to either say "yes" or give me a DC. They might add complications, but the default is "you make check, you climb tree".

If you want to recall some bit of trivia about the magus Quimby (say, for example, that he was an infamous epicurean), you ask the DM to say if you can, and they either say "sure" or give you a DC. The default here is the same, "you make check, you know stuff".

<snip>

I mean, by default, the rules don't ask the Fighter if he's maintained his sword lately, how well balanced his sword is, the length of the hilt, whether the pommel is wrapped in wire or sharkskin, if he has appropriate hand gear (gauntlets, gloves), what stance he's taking, and whether or not his sword is appropriate for his surroundings (is the tunnel too narrow to swing effectively? Will he have to thrust? Can he thrust if his weapon only does slashing damage? Is his opponent left handed? Is the sun to his back?).

No, the character (assuming they are in range) makes a check to see if they hit or not.
Notice how, in these examples, the GM is maintaining control over how the situation is presented to the players. The PC successfully performing the declared action doesn't actually change the situation in any significant way.

I suppose you see that as a feature.
Not really. There are reasons I don't play 5e D&D. The fact that, by default, it has no resolution mechanic for most things beyond "GM decides" is one of them.
 

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