D&D 5E Using social skills on other PCs

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Honestly, I’m not a fan of this whole “looking for signs that he is lying” thing. It’s nearly impossible to play that out such that a successful roll isn’t equivalent to a Detect Truth spell.

And the reality is that if you are looking for signs of lying you are going to find them. Even if all you can come up with is that his act is so perfect it must be an act.

I haven’t succeeded much at this in practice, but what I’d like to see is players trying to come up with schemes to actually catch them in a lie. Like my comments in the secret door thread, instead of just making a dice roll in passing, the whole session could consist of springing a trap to catch the NPC in a lie.
Yeah, I don’t care for “looking out for signs that he’s lying” either. What the Player’s Handbook says about the Insight skill is that it “decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. Doing so involves gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms.” My interpretation is that when a player wants to determine a creature’s true intentions, they can attempt to glean clues about its intentions by paying attention to its body language, speech patterns, and mannerisms, and if a Wisdom check is needed to find such clues, they can add their proficiency bonus to it if they’re proficient in the Insight skill.

To put it another way, an action with the goal of gaining a clue as to the creature’s intentions by an approach that involves paying attention to their body language, etc. will generally have at least a chance of success. But what you’re looking for (and what you will get) is clues as to the creature’s intentions, not confirmation of whether or not it’s lying.
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
In 5th edition, they’re there to allow you to add your proficiency bonus to a subset of ability checks when the DM calls for them.
I understand what you mean, but in the vernacular players regularly use "skill" as shorthand for a defined aspect of an ability: a set of ways they can ordinarily expect to be able to use that ability, that have been defined to a greater or lesser extent, often with examples, by the game designers. So when a player says they use their medicine skill on a downed friend, I see no reason to not understand that they are seeking to apply their proficiency with medicine to stabilizing them. (And I realise that you are very careful with your language, and like to avoid or hedge on anything that could erode one of your existing commitments.)

When @Lanefan asks what the skills are there for - why do we choose X of Y with our class, and why our background gives us some additional skills. It is a reasonable question: what are they there for if their possessor cannot use that ability in the ways defined as its facets, and with which they are justified in supposing they are proficient, or even expert?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Further efforts to settle the legal arguments are likely fruitless unless someone introduces new thinking.
You never did respond to my post explaining that I view ability checks as part of the general action resolution process and all other action resolution processes being more general. Shall I take it that’s because you didn’t feel it added anything new to our back and forth?
 

One of the advantages of using background proficiencies is you don't have to worry about whether you are giving players a fair chance to use certain skills they've invested in like Insight.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I understand what you mean, but in the vernacular players regularly use "skill" as shorthand for a defined aspect of an ability: a set of ways they can ordinarily expect to be able to use that ability, that have been defined to a greater or lesser extent, often with examples, by the game designers. So when a player says they use their medicine skill on a downed friend, I see no reason to not understand that they are seeking to apply their proficiency with medicine to stabilizing them. (And I realise that you are very careful with your language, and like to avoid or hedge on anything that could erode one of your existing commitments.)

When @Lanefan asks what the skills are there for - why do we choose X of Y with our class, and why our background gives us some additional skills. It is a reasonable question: what are they there for if their possessor cannot use that ability in the ways defined as its facets, and with which we are justified in supposing our character proficient, or even expert?
They're there as backup in case your declared action does not automatically succeed. They may also suggest some detail about your character. But they aren't there to be "used" like pushing a button to do a thing. It's certainly smart play to engage in tasks that may relate to a character's good ability scores and/or skill and tool proficiencies in case you have to roll. But going for automatic success, not rolling ability checks, is the best approach, if succeeding more often than not is the goal.
 

If there is no threat, a DM might decide not to call for a check. Right?

Generally though, to my reading everyone is okay with there being game mechanics that do decide what a player character thinks, says, or does. All or almost all are okay with PC ability checks deciding what NPCs think, say or do. Many though are not okay with NPC ability checks deciding what a PC thinks, says, or does. And analysis of RAW diverges on that score.

I think the social skills are deception, intimidation, persuasion, possibly performance, and by implication insight. Deception seems to get a pass for NPCs to use it, because it can be looked at as not changing what a character thinks. I don't share that view, but perhaps it doesn't matter. Insight also gets a pass. I think it likely that many cases involving performance by an NPC will also get a pass.

So we are concerned only about intimidation and persuasion. There are I think valid concerns about the balance of permitting them to be used to override what characters think. Here I intentionally say characters because - thinking of @Lanefan - the power they might confer NPCs is a mirror of the power they might confer to PCs. In fact, I would say that power risks far less disruption in the hands of an NPC! In play, I have seen the social interaction structure in the DMG prove very poorly balanced, so I have a strong sympathy with concerns around the balance of these skills.

Further efforts to settle the legal arguments are likely fruitless unless someone introduces new thinking. Therefore I want to focus more on what happens if - for the sake of argument - intimidation and persuasion were something NPCs can use. That has speedily turned up worthwhile considerations.
Good post. I’ll have to respond later tonight when I have more time, though.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
You never did respond to my post explaining that I view ability checks as part of the general action resolution process and all other action resolution processes being more general. Shall I take it that’s because you didn’t feel it added anything new to our back and forth?
It has merit, but doesn't settle the specificity and circularity arguments. There's no formal test for specific enough. Even if there were, your arguments remain circular in my view. That's unfortunate, I know :(
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I understand what you mean, but in the vernacular players regularly use "skill" as shorthand for a defined aspect of an ability: a set of ways they can ordinarily expect to be able to use that ability, that have been defined to a greater or lesser extent, often with examples, by the game designers.
Yes, and look how many pages it took for me to get across to you that I don’t see skills or ability checks as actions. I think that’s because of this vernacular usage that treats skills as if they were actions in and of themselves - itself a holdover from previous editions where they functionally were actions. They don’t work that way in 5e and the fact that we (even the developers, as you note) still talk about them that way contributes to widespread misunderstandings of the rules.
So when a player says they use their medicine skill on a downed friend, I see no reason to not understand that they are seeking to apply their proficiency with medicine to stabilizing them. (And I realise that you are very careful with your language, and like to avoid or hedge on anything that could erode one of your existing commitments.)
Sure, and if a player did that at the table, I would acknowledge that I understand they are seeking to apply their medicine proficiency to any roll that might be required to resolve the action, and then request more information about the action itself so that I can properly adjudicate it.
When @Lanefan asks what the skills are there for - why do we choose X of Y with our class, and why our background gives us some additional skills. It is a reasonable question: what are they there for if their possessor cannot use that ability in the ways defined as its facets, and with which they are justified in supposing they are proficient, or even expert?
Literally they are there to allow the player to apply their proficiency bonus to checks with the ability they are defined as facets of, when the DM calls for them, so as to make those checks less likely to fail.

In my view, the smart play is to aim for automatic success, and failing that, to insure that the ability that must be checked to avoid failure is one you have a decent bonus in, and ideally have proficiency and/or expertise in facets of. So, if I’m playing a rogue for example, I’m going to expect to do a lot of looking for traps and secret doors, disabling mechanical devices, and picking locks. Since I know I won’t be able to eliminate the possibility of failure in all such situations, I want to make sure I have decent modifiers in Dexterity, Wisdom, and Intelligence, and proficiencies or expertise in Perception, Investigation, Thieves’ Tools, and maybe Sleight of Hand. I might want to take Feats like Observant and Dungeon Delver. But even if I’m totally stacked with high modifiers, expertise, reliable talent, all that good stuff, I still want to avoid having to make checks with them if possible, because succeeding automatically is always a safer bet than risking even a small chance of failure. It’s like insurance; ideally you don’t want to need it, but if you do need it, you’d rather have it be good insurance.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
They're there as backup in case your declared action does not automatically succeed. They may also suggest some detail about your character. But they aren't there to be "used" like pushing a button to do a thing. It's certainly smart play to engage in tasks that may relate to a character's good ability scores and/or skill and tool proficiencies in case you have to roll.
I get the feeling from a few posters that they would like to downplay skills as any kind of defined game mechanic as much as possible. I hope you can see why from my side of things that could appear to be constructive. To make your position clear then, are you saying that say an expert in History shouldn't think of themselves as skilled (natural language) in History and able to apply that skill in the ways defined in the History skill (game element).

But going for automatic success, not rolling ability checks, is the best approach, if succeeding more often than not is the goal.
You've repeated this a few times. I don't think it salient to this argument. It has been worthwhile to talk about elsewhere.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I swear, I got no notification you had responded.

This is literally you in the post I responded to.

"When combined with the actual charmed condition (advantage on ability checks to interact socially with the charmed creature), it means that not only is the target forced to see the caster as a friendly person, they will be easily led into believing anything the target says." I'm not psychic. I can't know that anything the caster says doesn't mean anything the caster says. :p
And I responded to what you said. Bob the merchant will likely believe that Maria the caster is being honest when she says she will return the item. The reason that he will likely believe her is that she will have advantage on her Deception or Persuasion roll made to convince him.

And as I also said, that doesn't mean he will give her the item. But...

Maybe. If I were a merchant and someone I met a few times at a party(friendly acquaintance) asked me to borrow something for a bit, I'm going to say no. I don't know him well and there is no chance I'm going to trust someone I only met a few times at a party, especially if he's using salesman voice on me to try and get me to do it.
If Bob is an NPC, then friendly means that the DM gets to roll on the Friendly column in the "Conversation Reaction" table under "Resolving Interactions," in the DMG, assuming the DM remembered that this section existed in the first place. This is described as "A friendly creature wants to help the adventurers and wishes for them to succeed. For tasks or actions that require no particular risk, effort, or cost, friendly creatures usually help without question. If an element of personal risk is involved, a successful Charisma check might be required to convince a friendly creature to take that risk."

There are then three simple tables (far too simple, IMO), one for Friendly, one for Indifferent, one for Hostile. Maria's Persuasion or Deception check (I'd say that Intimidation counts as doing something harmful, thus ending the charm person spell) is compared to the table, as follows:

DC 0: The creature does as asked without taking risks or making sacrifices.
DC 10: The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.
DC 20: The creature accepts a significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

So, with advantage on the roll and hopefully a decent Charisma and proficiency bonus, then going by the books there's a decent chance that Bob the merchant will be willing to at least consider handing over the item. Especially if the item isn't that expensive or rare.

And it should be noted that the above is assuming nonmagical interactions. A completely mundane individual can, by RAW, sweet-talk an NPC into taking a significant risk or making a significant sacrifice. That's without adding magic to the mix.

If Bob is a PC, then, of course, all bets are off. But a decent player will at least try to RP the discussion rather than outright refuse and say they just aren't affected.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It has merit, but doesn't settle the specificity and circularity arguments. There's no formal test for specific enough. Even if there were, your arguments remain circular in my view. That's unfortunate, I know :(
Eh, it’s cool. Going around and around on it was just getting frustrating for both of us, so I don’t blame you for deciding not to continue engaging with it.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Yes, and look how many pages it took for me to get across to you that I don’t see skills or ability checks as actions. I think that’s because of this vernacular usage that treats skills as if they were actions in and of themselves - itself a holdover from previous editions where they functionally were actions. They don’t work that way in 5e and the fact that we (even the developers, as you note) still talk about them that way contributes to widespread misunderstandings of the rules.
The line as I see it could be developed to dismiss persuasion (say) as a distinct game mechanic. If so, that's cunning.

As you suspected, I didn't feel it added anything. On the one hand it leaves the circularity argument untouched, and on the other hand all that's required is that persuasion is a game element (so we're back to looking for where RAW supplies a definition of specific-enough.)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I get the feeling from a few posters that they would like to downplay skills as any kind of defined game mechanic as much as possible. I hope you can see why from my side of things that could appear to be constructive. To make your position clear then, are you saying that say an expert in History shouldn't think of themselves as skilled (natural language) in History and able to apply that skill in the ways defined in the History skill (game element).
I'm not downplaying anything. That's their role in the game. They are mechanics, but they are for the DM to use when they determine an action declaration has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. As I said in the post you're quoting, "They may also suggest some detail about your character." Thus, a player is free to think of and portray their character as skilled in history if they think that's what taking the History proficiency indicates. I would expect a player who has taken the History proficiency to try to recall lore about legends, past events, and the like when it will be useful to them. They would have a higher chance of success, generally speaking, than someone who does not have this skill proficiency, when the DM calls for an ability check.

You've repeated this a few times. I don't think it salient to this argument. It has been worthwhile to talk about elsewhere.
I think it's relevant. In order to get the whole concept down, as I see it one needs to understand all sides of it both from the rules perspective along with the DM's and the players'. It all works together.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The line as I see it could be developed to dismiss persuasion (say) as a distinct game mechanic. If so, that's cunning.
Unless I’m misunderstanding what you mean by persuasion, that’s not what I’m trying to do. Persuasion is a game mechanic. Its game mechanical function is to allow the player whose character has proficiency in it to add their proficiency bonus to any Charisma checks the DM calls for to resolve “attempt(s) to influence someone or a group of people with tact, social graces, or good nature,” (PHB, don’t have the page number because I’m away from book and copy-pasting from D&D Beyond instead). Or, if the Skills With Different Abilities optional rule is in play, checks with any ability that the DM calls for to resolve the same actions.

As you suspected, I didn't feel it added anything. On the one hand it leaves the circularity argument untouched, and on the other hand all that's required is that persuasion is a game element (so we're back to looking for where RAW supplies a definition of specific-enough.)
I’m not sure what you mean about leaving the circularity argument untouched. To me what appears circular is using the results of a successful ability check to justify calling for an ability check in the first place. You’re reversing the order of operations in order to arrive at uncertainty you’ve already assumed.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If Bob is an NPC, then friendly means that the DM gets to roll on the Friendly column in the "Conversation Reaction" table under "Resolving Interactions," in the DMG, assuming the DM remembered that this section existed in the first place. This is described as "A friendly creature wants to help the adventurers and wishes for them to succeed. For tasks or actions that require no particular risk, effort, or cost, friendly creatures usually help without question. If an element of personal risk is involved, a successful Charisma check might be required to convince a friendly creature to take that risk."

There are then three simple tables (far too simple, IMO), one for Friendly, one for Indifferent, one for Hostile. Maria's Persuasion or Deception check (I'd say that Intimidation counts as doing something harmful, thus ending the charm person spell) is compared to the table, as follows:

DC 0: The creature does as asked without taking risks or making sacrifices.
DC 10: The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.
DC 20: The creature accepts a significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

So, with advantage on the roll and hopefully a decent Charisma and proficiency bonus, then going by the books there's a decent chance that Bob the merchant will be willing to at least consider handing over the item. Especially if the item isn't that expensive or rare.

And it should be noted that the above is assuming nonmagical interactions. A completely mundane individual can, by RAW, sweet-talk an NPC into taking a significant risk or making a significant sacrifice. That's without adding magic to the mix.

If Bob is a PC, then, of course, all bets are off. But a decent player will at least try to RP the discussion rather than outright refuse and say they just aren't affected.
That's one way to run it.

But with the merchant, there is cost involved. AND there the "A successful charisma check MIGHT be required..." So an equally valid way to run it is if the outcome is not in doubt, no amount of friendly or charisma is going to make a difference.

That means that even if your wizard comes up to Ebenezer Scrooge(pre-ghosts) and casts Charm Person on him, Scrooge isn't going to give him free money, friendly or not. He would still want you to succeed in getting the money you are asking for, and would very helpfully give you directions to a different money lender, but would not give it to you himself. The outcome is not in doubt. You wouldn't be getting free money from Scrooge, no matter what your persuasion ability.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Unless I’m misunderstanding what you mean by persuasion, that’s not what I’m trying to do. Persuasion is a game mechanic. Its game mechanical function is to allow the player whose character has proficiency in it to add their proficiency bonus to any Charisma checks the DM calls for to resolve “attempt(s) to influence someone or a group of people with tact, social graces, or good nature,” (PHB, don’t have the page number because I’m away from book and copy-pasting from D&D Beyond instead). Or, if the Skills With Different Abilities optional rule is in play, checks with any ability that the DM calls for to resolve the same actions.


I’m not sure what you mean about leaving the circularity argument untouched. To me what appears circular is using the results of a successful ability check to justify calling for an ability check in the first place. You’re reversing the order of operations in order to arrive at uncertainty you’ve already assumed.
Yeah. I've noticed a number of posters here who are looking for the roll to represent the uncertainty, but if that was the case then nothing could be certain before the roll. That idea flies directly in the face of RAW which says to determine certainty or uncertainty prior to the roll and only call for a roll if the act is both uncertain and has a meaningful consequence for failure.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Yeah. I've noticed a number of posters here who are looking for the roll to represent the uncertainty, but if that was the case then nothing could be certain before the roll. That idea flies directly in the face of RAW which says to determine certainty or uncertainty prior to the roll and only call for a roll if the act is both uncertain and has a meaningful consequence for failure.
Maxperson, did your account get hacked or something? I’m not used to agreeing with you so much, it’s weird 😅
 

I get the feeling from a few posters that they would like to downplay skills as any kind of defined game mechanic as much as possible. I hope you can see why from my side of things that could appear to be constructive. To make your position clear then, are you saying that say an expert in History shouldn't think of themselves as skilled (natural language) in History and able to apply that skill in the ways defined in the History skill (game element).

That's a great example. You don't "use History" when trying to recall some information. You...try to recall some information. Your proficiency in History does (or can) in fact mark you as "an Historian", and therefore you get a bonus when taking those actions.

I was going to save some of this for later tonight when I had more time, but...

1. You (where "you" could be a PC or NPC) can attempt things without proficiency. You don't need proficiency in Intimidate, for example, to try to intimidate somebody. So if the Intimidate is a button you can press, what button is the person without proficiency pressing?

2. The goal...such as intimidating somebody...doesn't even have to correlate to a skill with a similar name. You might try to intimidate somebody with raw Strength. Or intimidate them intellectually with Arcana and History. Or deceive them with Sleight-of-Hand. Or persuade them with Religion. The Cha skill names happen to correlate to several categories of manipulation that are extremely common, but we shouldn't mistake those four skills with the acts of persuading, intimidating, deceiving, etc.

3. There are other forms of mental manipulation which don't correlate well to any skill, but which a character might well attempt. "Seduce" is the obvious one. Befuddle/confuse? Sow doubt in oneself? Bait into anger? Bore (to sleep)? If a character attempts something like this, the DM might decide that an existing skill applies, but they might decide that it's a raw Charisma roll, or even another attribute entirely.

The point of all of this is that skills are not abilities. They serve two roles:
1) To add some color to "what your character is good at"
2) To add a bonus to your attribute check when attempting a task for which the DM asks for a dice roll to resolve uncertainty.

Ok, more later. I am summoned.
 



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