Unsatisfied with the D&D 5e skill system

dnd4vr

Adventurer
And yet there seems to be lots of confusion for some people. Certainly WotC doesn’t encourage that interpretation in their adventures when practically every suggested ability check is qualified with a skill...

The biggest problem WotC has is that while there’s plenty of good and useful information in the core books it is generally presented in such a way as to make that information confusing at best or buried under a bunch of unrelated stuff at worst.
I guess I've just never seen any confusion about it, and it surprises me when others seem to say theres "lots of confusion" about it. Although the skill list is hardly exhaustive, most tasks do have a skill that is applicable IMO (forcing open a door or something similar being the most common offender). I think the most useful thing to learn from his article is to be flexible about ability scores and skills, choosing the best combination applicable to the task.

But, I certainly agree that the presentation of the information if very faulty in many parts.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
Actually, after reading his article, I didn't feel like there was much there not already covered in the PHB. Ability scores are "key", skills are added if they apply to the task.
Of course the AngryDM cannot be wrong, but I do think he underestimates the tenacity of players. So if everytime a player jumps a pit I say "make a strength check" they will inevitably follow up with "can I use my athletics?"

After the 5th time its just easier to say "make an athletics check"....and that is when the slippery slope of ability checks -> skills begins.
 

Satyrn

Villager
I pushed back on Satyrn a bit at that idea, but you’re both probably right. If there’s trust then it should be fine, and, of course, if there’s not trust then there are going to much bigger issues than a skill proficiency battle :)
Aye. And even at my table, ultimately there's still the opportunity to veto the decision.

I find that letting the decision be theirs - but one that I can veto - means when the grey areas pop up, the decision is far more likely to lean toward the player's perspective than if I'm actively deciding yes/no everytime. And hopefully this means the player is confident that things are gonna go the way they imagine when they're describing their action, and that confidence let's them focus on the action itself rather than trying to focus on making sure I choose the skill they're aiming for.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I have to agree. While some group do use it easily enough, I have found plenty of confusion, as have my players.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I guess I've just never seen any confusion about it, and it surprises me when others seem to say theres "lots of confusion" about it. Although the skill list is hardly exhaustive, most tasks do have a skill that is applicable IMO (forcing open a door or something similar being the most common offender). I think the most useful thing to learn from his article is to be flexible about ability scores and skills, choosing the best combination applicable to the task.

But, I certainly agree that the presentation of the information if very faulty in many parts.
Yes, I think a lot of it is presentation, maybe being a little too open ended with DM fiat, and lacking enough concrete examples in the book.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Yes, I think a lot of it is presentation, maybe being a little too open ended with DM fiat, and lacking enough concrete examples in the book.
When I read Iserith’s guide to adjudicating actions (if you haven’t you should) it was a revelation and i remember exclaiming at the time that it should be in the DMG’s section on running the game.
 
After the 5th time its just easier to say "make an athletics check"....and that is when the slippery slope of ability checks -> skills begins.
Well, stop saying "athletics check". :)

Seriously, though, if you consistently use the phrase "Strength (Athletics) check", it will help everyone at the table remember what is going on.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
When I read Iserith’s guide to adjudicating actions (if you haven’t you should) it was a revelation and i remember exclaiming at the time that it should be in the DMG’s section on running the game.
Oh, where would I find that?
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
If you, Saeviomagy, were somehow teleported into your D&D game (Tron style) and directly onto the side of a cliff you were in the middle of free climbing and had to choose a body for the ascent would you choose....
Because you have pre-supposed that I'm forced to be climbing, obviously the one with a lesser chance of failure... however the reality is that if free climbing was as dangerous as 5th ed makes it, neither they nor I would have chosen to commence the climb in the first place.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
'Tenacious' players can get out of my living room. Any RPG relies on some good faith communication back and forth between the GM and players. If, as the GM, I set expectations about how to approach stating and adjudicating actions and a player is willfully and continually ignoring those instructions and expectations then he's going to find another game. GMs need to remember that they set the expectations for game play, not the players. Ideally the conversation about how things were going to work would have been handled in session zero so that misunderstandings were few and far between, and everyone got to say their piece, but if things have deteriorated or gotten out of hand it's on the GM to may down the expectations and the players to do their best to comply.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
you were in the middle of free climbing and had to choose a body for the ascent would you choose....

A) 1st level weakling with no Athletics Proficiency
B) 20th level max-STR barbarian

Obviously B, because you would have a way less chance of falling to your death.
My copy of the PHB says that a failure means you make no progress or you make progress with a setback. That's hardly "falling to your death."

the reality is that if free climbing was as dangerous as 5th ed makes it, neither they nor I would have chosen to commence the climb in the first place.
You are now safe to resume climbing, Saev.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
My copy of the PHB says that a failure means you make no progress or you make progress with a setback. That's hardly "falling to your death."
So it's now not actually possible to fall while climbing, is that what you're saying? That doesn't seem satisfactory either!
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
So it's now not actually possible to fall while climbing, is that what you're saying? That doesn't seem satisfactory either!
Good question. I suppose that the answer is that falling is one interpretation of "no progress." I don't think that free-climbing is a very good example though, because who looks at a climb-or-die cliff and says "hmm, the only solution must be to start climbing!"

For what it's worth: in the Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate Roberts gets stuck on a climb-or-die cliff face. He doesn't fall, but he loses a LOT of distance between himself and Buttercup. I'd say he failed his climb roll, there.
 

aco175

Explorer
I tend to use the old methods I have seen where if you fail by 5 or more you have a problem, like falling. If you fail by less than 5 you make no progress or suffer a problem making other checks more difficult. For climbing I may have a DC of 15 and if someone fails by rolling a 8 they may fall, but I allow a Dex or Str check to grab something on the way down and only take 1d6 damage. If you fail a lot of checks you may have problems, but generally you get a couple checks to not fail completely. I may even have some monsters come if you keep not making progress. I had skeletons climbing behind the PCs once and they needed to assist the others. I think the thief was using his bonus action to grant advantage to the mages climb check by setting pins in the wall. This also made the skeletons have advantage until the thief went to take them out.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I tend to use the old methods I have seen where if you fail by 5 or more you have a problem, like falling. If you fail by less than 5 you make no progress or suffer a problem making other checks more difficult. For climbing I may have a DC of 15 and if someone fails by rolling a 8 they may fall, but I allow a Dex or Str check to grab something on the way down and only take 1d6 damage. If you fail a lot of checks you may have problems, but generally you get a couple checks to not fail completely. I may even have some monsters come if you keep not making progress. I had skeletons climbing behind the PCs once and they needed to assist the others. I think the thief was using his bonus action to grant advantage to the mages climb check by setting pins in the wall. This also made the skeletons have advantage until the thief went to take them out.
This is supported by the "Degrees of Failure" rules in the DMG, page 242. What is old is new again!
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Good question. I suppose that the answer is that falling is one interpretation of "no progress." I don't think that free-climbing is a very good example though, because who looks at a climb-or-die cliff and says "hmm, the only solution must be to start climbing!"

For what it's worth: in the Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate Roberts gets stuck on a climb-or-die cliff face. He doesn't fall, but he loses a LOT of distance between himself and Buttercup. I'd say he failed his climb roll, there.
Yup, "you make it a bit farther but then..." some degree of problems arise. I tend to go with a few escalating style problems before I get to free fall. Slip down a distance, drop gear, get to bad spot with disadvantage to continue or you can backtrack to new line, etc.

Things like free falling I tend to hold back until they have disadvantage and then continue anyway. I have tended to show early on to my players that disadvantaged checks is asking for not just failure but bad to worst setbacks and outcomes too.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
This is supported by the "Degrees of Failure" rules in the DMG, page 242. What is old is new again!
Right... and in this case, our max-level, max-strength, trained in climbing figher (edit - argh, barbarian succeeds automatically!) can feel confident that he can attempt a moderate climb and not risk death! Effectively reducing DCs by 5 feels better than where DCs are currently, because it brings results into the 'cannot possibly fail' region more often, but it's still an across the board change that requires the DM to do a lot more than is written into typical skill checks, and will still often be invisible.
 
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GreyLord

Adventurer
The Climb would also depend on how hard it is to scale that particular cliff.

Perhaps a portion of the cliff would be relatively easy for a climber so the DC is 5.

Then a portion is still relatively easy for a climber so that would have a roll of a DC 10. This means that max level max STR barbarian would still basically not even need to roll if we hold it in that fashion.

Then a DC 15 would be something that was particularly challenging...and a DC20 is the one that no reasonable free climber would actually risk as it's too risky.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Right... and in this case, our max-level, max-strength, trained in climbing barbarian can feel confident that he can attempt a moderate climb and not risk death! Effectively reducing DCs by 5 feels better than where DCs are currently, because it brings results into the 'cannot possibly fail' region more often, but it's still an across the board change that requires the DM to do a lot more than is written into typical skill checks, and will still often be invisible.
Well, the good news is that climbing in D&D 5e is a factor of speed and ability checks are only necessary if there's something about the climb that makes it uncertain, such as a slippery vertical surface or few handholds.
 

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