What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

Celebrim

Legend
This is an excellent point, I too would like to delve deeper into social challenges vs. physical ones.

For example: In a recent game, the party had to get into the High Quarter of the city - populated near exclusively by nobles. It's walled and the guards are disinclined to let "rabble" in.

One of the characters was of noble background. He just prominently displayed his family crest and the group strolled right in.
I don't think there is anything wrong with that approach. After all, the guard appears to have the instructions, "Let anyone in who is a noble.", and this doesn't need to be a situation that requires a lot of time to be spent on it. It's not an exciting moment, so handwaving past it is fine.

I also don't think there is anything wrong with alternative approaches. For example...

1) How prominent is the family crest in the community? Is it one that would be immediately recognized? I might require the guard to make an intelligence or skill check of the appropriate sort to recognize the device. If not, then the guard might stop the PC and ask for further proof, such a identification papers of some sort or perhaps a check with his superior to see if the superior has heard of this family.

2) How likely is the guard to be suspicious in this circumstances? Are false nobles a common problem? Is the PC's family respectable and universally liked, or do they have a reputation. Does the PC and his 'servants' appear to be reputable folks by the standards of the community, or do they look like a heavily armed band of ruffians and sellswords? If the guard is suspicious or just takes a dislike to the PC (hello reaction check!), he may give the PC some difficulty even if he believes the PC is a noble - insisting on papers, being disagreeable, and making passive aggressive comments.

3) How much noble bearing does the character really have? It's not an automatic that just because the character has a noble background, that he paid attention to his dancing master and has good posture, good diction, and a proper noble bearing. A low charisma noble might be assumed to in fact not have paid particular attention to these fine points, and have wiped his snotty nose on his sleeve, forgot to wash his face this morning, smell of sweaty horseflesh, and generally giving the impression of not being what the guard expects to see in a noble. He might behave like "rabble" no matter how high his lineage, and so provoke suspicion and perhaps dislike from the guard on those grounds. That after all is one reasonable expression of what having low charisma means.

I'd typically allow some chance that the player was refused admittance even though he had every right to be there. Maybe the DC to get past the guard is 0 if you are really a noble, and 20 if you are not. If you have a -8 on your social check, which is not at all impossible in my game, that would still mean you had a 35% chance of having a hassle even if you were a noble. In fact, you might find that the party rogue, with +12 bluff check and appropriate insight that the guard was corrupt and open to a bribe (thus getting a circumstance bonus) actually has a better chance of getting you in that you have.

The other thing that differs in my approach is that "noble background" or anything else in your background that can be a tangible advantage has to be paid for at character generation. There is literally a trait in my game called "Noble Rank" that lets you start the game as a noble, among the many advantages of which is that you are presumed to have reason to move in noble circles, and have a effectively +3 bonus on social checks in any situation where the NPC recognizes and respects your rank. And if you also want to be "wealthy" there is a trait for that. Heck, you can start play as the king's third son if you are willing to pay for all the advantages that you want to start with like wealthy, patron, high noble rank.

Where I've seen your example go wrong is when a player tries to leverage all sorts of advantages out of his background, or particularly out of the absence of his background, by browbeating the DM into accepting that he could in fact have this in his background, and if he did, then he shouldn't have to roll. That can get to be a problem, with people treating color in their background as if it was an advantage on their character sheet. Hence, the reason for assigning typical background claims to mechanical advantages is not only do I not have to say "no" to such things, but if someone tries to leverage their background, I can point out that they didn't pay for the advantage they are trying to have.

Likewise, one potential problem with this approach is that if all the PC did was display a device on his shield or tunic, I can foresee a PC arguing that all he needs to do is by a fake shield and display that without needing a roll and that being an argument.

How exactly I would approach this depends a lot on what I would think is good for the game at the moment. Is it worthwhile to highlight the noble PC's low charisma and the parties mercenary appearance? Or, is it better to just ignore any minor problems and role-play opportunities highlighting that might bring and get to the good stuff? That's a pure judgment call with no right answer.

I can relate that about 1/3rd of the way into my campaign, the PC's moved their base from their home capital city to a foreign capital city, and had to move through customs and get papers, and I made the call to RP that out because it was also an opportunity to info-dump and get important information about the new city (and its laws) into the hands of the players. One of the players had a pet grizzly bear. "No problem." asserts the customs officer. "Plenty of animals in the city. We have a strong elven community. Just don't leave your pets unattended where they might cause a disturbance." (Naturally, one of the first things the PC did was leave the animal unattended.) One of the characters was a hobgoblin. THAT required a bunch of social rolls by a PC in the party with noble rank, including some name dropping, to even get the hobgoblin into the city - despite the fact that the hobgoblin was dressed appropriately for a gentlemen's man-servant (which he in fact was). The refused to even talk to the hobgoblin, and if the hobgoblin had insisted on talking to them, given the xenophobia penalites involved and the hobgoblins lack of social skills it's highly likely they would have imprisoned or killed the hobgoblin on the spot. One of the PC's commented to the hobgoblin, "It appears that they consider you a lower form of life than the bear." Yes, precisely.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I enjoy that style of mechanic but to a limited degree. PF has a halfling feat called Well Prepared that goes about as far as I'd like with it. It's a nice little benefit that cannot be overused because, from a narrative sense, you can only use it once a day to have just the right item on hand. I build a lot of halfling adventurers with it because it's fun and gives you a very good reason to have a pack mule.
I agree. I don't like it as a generic way of handling things, but I very much do like it as a particular benefit you can buy for your character. For one thing, feats like that allow you to actually play a character with mental attributes you yourself don't have. I have one that goes even further than "Well Prepared" in my homebrew called "Mastermind" that lets you retroactively declare actions that you took in the past (including for example, buying a crowbar). So long as there are reasonable limits on that, and they are trading that advantage for some other potential advantage, I don't mind it.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I’ll acknowledge nothing of the sort. It’s as good an analogy as any. Sure, more serious stakes in freedom of speech than in roleplaying games, but that doesn’t invalidate the analogy.

This thread and others are full of bad-faith debate, willful misunderstanding, disingenuous rhetorical tricks, and denigrating/dismissive language.

Yet you seem more bothered by me pointing out the obvious than by the behavior itself. What gives?
Since the real world issues surrounding the legal and political hot potato of freedom of speech, including life and death stakes - some playing out right now on the news , are so very polarizing, I wont have anything to do with that attempt to link this gaming playstyle to that set of IRL issues.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Sure! Happy to. And, yes, I get it, physical challenges somehow seem different than social/intellectual challenges.




Sure, just like you may not have the key and have no other choice but to break it down (if there's no keyhole, either) or pick the lock (if it can't be broken down), sometimes you won't have the 'key' to a social encounter and might not be able to come up with any other plan than good old-fashioned fast-talking. In which case the DM may very well ask for a roll (or not, if the NPC is looking for an excuse to cooperate.)

Maybe one of the misunderstandings here is that that you (and others) are assuming there is ALWAYS an alternative plan with guaranteed success? Not at all. All we are saying is that the DM should listen to what the players propose.

By the way, you giving advantage, or a reduced DC, is logically no different than iserith and I giving automatic success: you are also modifying the difficulty based on the approach, you just are more reluctant to reduce it all the way to zero. (And I also sometimes give advantage instead of making it an automatic success.)

Anyway, on to examples. Yes, you cover a lot of the bases with the categories of "bribery" and "blackmail/threats":
- Offer gold. Maybe a lot of gold.
- Offer something else you know the NPC really wants (information, captives, magic items, perform a task, etc.)
- Threaten to expose 'dirt' on the NPC
- Threaten to kill the NPCs family members. (Does the DM ask for an Intimidation check? Kill a hostage instead. Another Intimidation check? Kill another hostage. Etc.)
- Instead of offering a trade, just do something to get in the NPC's good favor, and then ask. "Here, I rescued your daughter. No, no, no...no payment necessary. Although, now that you mention it..."

And, again, none of those are necessarily going to reduce the difficulty, or make it zero. But they might. It's up to the DM, depending on the circumstances.

(If I understand correctly what Hussar is saying, in each one of those cases the player would still have to make the same Charisma check, with the same DC, that he would if he had done none of those things and just said, "I'll roll Persuade.")

Now, the players, for reasons of personal values, or because they are roleplaying characters with personal values, may balk at some of these options. Again, there won't always be an alternative solution available. Those player might just have to make a Charisma roll. (Or give up, not wanting to face the consequences of a failed dice roll.)



Yeah, there seems to be an ongoing reluctance/inability/unwillingness to distinguish between "proposing something sensible" and "hustling the DM."



Yeah, sure. In fact, all the better. "Try a Charisma roll you will likely fail, with the consequence that you get thrown out, or use Blackmail which will likely succeed, in which case even with success you'll have gained an enemy, not to mention a stain on your soul." That's awesome. I love trade-offs.
"Maybe one of the misunderstandings here is that that you (and others) are assuming there is ALWAYS an alternative plan with guaranteed success? Not at all. "

Nah. Well some may but I and others have talked about it being the frequency, how often there are shown auto-success with no reference to skills of character.

"By the way, you giving advantage, or a reduced DC, is logically no different than iserith and I giving automatic success: you are also modifying the difficulty based on the approach, you just are more reluctant to reduce it all the way to zero. (And I also sometimes give advantage instead of making it an automatic success.)"

There is a huge logical difference between advsntage snd auto-succesd, especially if auto-success is taken to the no-skill-needed level. That difference is the crux of the debate - whether the character matters to the resolution.

A test I proposed and some others as well was "could we substitute in every other character or even a commoner and still get auto-success with the approach."

Giving advantage is reflecting both the character and the player - even if that results in auto-success by the numbers (passive checks).

Deciding it's an auto-success for anyone with no reference to character and mechanics is a whole different thing.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Sure! Happy to. And, yes, I get it, physical challenges somehow seem different than social/intellectual challenges.




Sure, just like you may not have the key and have no other choice but to break it down (if there's no keyhole, either) or pick the lock (if it can't be broken down), sometimes you won't have the 'key' to a social encounter and might not be able to come up with any other plan than good old-fashioned fast-talking. In which case the DM may very well ask for a roll (or not, if the NPC is looking for an excuse to cooperate.)

Maybe one of the misunderstandings here is that that you (and others) are assuming there is ALWAYS an alternative plan with guaranteed success? Not at all. All we are saying is that the DM should listen to what the players propose.

By the way, you giving advantage, or a reduced DC, is logically no different than iserith and I giving automatic success: you are also modifying the difficulty based on the approach, you just are more reluctant to reduce it all the way to zero. (And I also sometimes give advantage instead of making it an automatic success.)

Anyway, on to examples. Yes, you cover a lot of the bases with the categories of "bribery" and "blackmail/threats":
- Offer gold. Maybe a lot of gold.
- Offer something else you know the NPC really wants (information, captives, magic items, perform a task, etc.)
- Threaten to expose 'dirt' on the NPC
- Threaten to kill the NPCs family members. (Does the DM ask for an Intimidation check? Kill a hostage instead. Another Intimidation check? Kill another hostage. Etc.)
- Instead of offering a trade, just do something to get in the NPC's good favor, and then ask. "Here, I rescued your daughter. No, no, no...no payment necessary. Although, now that you mention it..."

And, again, none of those are necessarily going to reduce the difficulty, or make it zero. But they might. It's up to the DM, depending on the circumstances.

(If I understand correctly what Hussar is saying, in each one of those cases the player would still have to make the same Charisma check, with the same DC, that he would if he had done none of those things and just said, "I'll roll Persuade.")

Now, the players, for reasons of personal values, or because they are roleplaying characters with personal values, may balk at some of these options. Again, there won't always be an alternative solution available. Those player might just have to make a Charisma roll. (Or give up, not wanting to face the consequences of a failed dice roll.)



Yeah, there seems to be an ongoing reluctance/inability/unwillingness to distinguish between "proposing something sensible" and "hustling the DM."



Yeah, sure. In fact, all the better. "Try a Charisma roll you will likely fail, with the consequence that you get thrown out, or use Blackmail which will likely succeed, in which case even with success you'll have gained an enemy, not to mention a stain on your soul." That's awesome. I love trade-offs.
"Anyway, on to examples. Yes, you cover a lot of the bases with the categories of "bribery" and "blackmail/threats":

- Offer gold. Maybe a lot of gold.

- Offer something else you know the NPC really wants (information, captives, magic items, perform a task, etc.)

- Threaten to expose 'dirt' on the NPC

- Threaten to kill the NPCs family members. (Does the DM ask for an Intimidation check? Kill a hostage instead. Another Intimidation check? Kill another hostage. Etc.)

- Instead of offering a trade, just do something to get in the NPC's good favor, and then ask. "Here, I rescued your daughter. No, no, no...no payment necessary. Although, now that you mention it...""

I recall the movie Ransom, where at the end the kidnapper asks why Mel Gibdon wouldn't pay up.

Mel said in essence that he would have paid ten times that no problem, but the way the guy came off, the tone etc, led Mel to not believe him. He did not think that even if he complied the guy would honor his deal. So, one dollar or ten million - no difference.

When I look at the above list and add in "how convincing is the PC" and think "are any of these so automatic that an NPC would ignore his doubts even if he thought the other guy wasnt good for his word/promise" I come away with "nope, not certain.
"
The last one, that describes a PC working with a friendly target, and the rules already provide good setup for that in the sections on social outcomes. If it's no risk, no problem. If its moderate risk, it's like DC 10, etc... and advantage plays a huge role. There's no roll even needed then, unless its risky.

Ut the rules provide different DCs gor different cases, so i doubt Hussar would be, as portrayed) a signing the same DC for a guard who idps friendly as a guard you dont know - anymore than the rules do. I dont think that's an accurate representation of his position.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I enjoy that style of mechanic but to a limited degree. PF has a halfling feat called Well Prepared that goes about as far as I'd like with it. It's a nice little benefit that cannot be overused because, from a narrative sense, you can only use it once a day to have just the right item on hand. I build a lot of halfling adventurers with it because it's fun and gives you a very good reason to have a pack mule.
There are a lot of games built with those sort of things in mind. I remember Stargate having expendable gear points for gizmo on demand".

Often they are tied in with gimmick points like hero points, plot points, momentum, inspiration and even sometimes to the point of scene editing. "Plot point - I bet the backdoor is blocked by old crates and stuff."

We have played a lot of those, each with their own takes on it and how far how fast they should play out "let the plot points flow like rain" to one per session or whatever.

Maybe supporting the idea of a link between the styles, we never found a balance we liked. We were much happier having "do I have" and "does the building have" type questions be things we answer by character play instead of by meta-game gimmick points. "Was there a back door" was more fun to us whrn it was answered by characters coming the joint beforehand thsn "does anyone have a gimmick point left."

The more we used them, the more the system integrated them into routine play and resolution, the less the feel of playing a character there was. The more it seemed playing a character.

Watching streams of STA 2d20 play, that drove us away from it as it seemed the most used word was "momentum"and the gain/loss of momentum seemed to be more important that the task.

So, scenes like those or ganesxwhere everyone dumping CHA cuz thry know they can resolve those without checks to CHA enough (and use gimmick points to help if the get stuck with a check) are definitely not our cup of tea.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
I don't think there is anything wrong with that approach. After all, the guard appears to have the instructions, "Let anyone in who is a noble.", and this doesn't need to be a situation that requires a lot of time to be spent on it. It's not an exciting moment, so handwaving past it is fine.

I also don't think there is anything wrong with alternative approaches...
I'm always up for alternative approaches depending on the situation. For example, I let the whole group in - I could have made it more challenging by only automatically allowing the actual noble in. At the time it was mostly a time/convenience issue and wanting to move forward to the meat of the adventure.


The other thing that differs in my approach is that "noble background" or anything else in your background that can be a tangible advantage has to be paid for at character generation. There is literally a trait in my game called "Noble Rank" that lets you start the game as a noble, among the many advantages of which is that you are presumed to have reason to move in noble circles, and have a effectively +3 bonus on social checks in any situation where the NPC recognizes and respects your rank. And if you also want to be "wealthy" there is a trait for that. Heck, you can start play as the king's third son if you are willing to pay for all the advantages that you want to start with like wealthy, patron, high noble rank.
In this case it's a 5e game and "Noble" background is exactly that: among the benefits is "position of privilege" which essentially does what your benefit does.


Where I've seen your example go wrong is when a player tries to leverage all sorts of advantages out of his background, or particularly out of the absence of his background, by browbeating the DM into accepting that he could in fact have this in his background, and if he did, then he shouldn't have to roll. That can get to be a problem, with people treating color in their background as if it was an advantage on their character sheet. Hence, the reason for assigning typical background claims to mechanical advantages is not only do I not have to say "no" to such things, but if someone tries to leverage their background, I can point out that they didn't pay for the advantage they are trying to have.
In this case the player did actually "pay" for the advantage (that's the background he picked over other 5e choices. Also, I have a stable group of players and trust has been established both ways - so shenanigans (browbeating etc.) tend to not come up.

Likewise, one potential problem with this approach is that if all the PC did was display a device on his shield or tunic, I can foresee a PC arguing that all he needs to do is by a fake shield and display that without needing a roll and that being an argument.
Here, unless he has the noble background that's almost certainly going to require a check.

Just like the Urchin character can get to anywhere in the city twice as fast as any non-urchin character thanks to city secrets.

How exactly I would approach this depends a lot on what I would think is good for the game at the moment. Is it worthwhile to highlight the noble PC's low charisma and the parties mercenary appearance? Or, is it better to just ignore any minor problems and role-play opportunities highlighting that might bring and get to the good stuff? That's a pure judgment call with no right answer.
That seems about right.


I can relate that about 1/3rd of the way into my campaign, the PC's moved their base from their home capital city to a foreign capital city, and had to move through customs and get papers, and I made the call to RP that out because it was also an opportunity to info-dump and get important information about the new city (and its laws) into the hands of the players. One of the players had a pet grizzly bear. "No problem." asserts the customs officer. "Plenty of animals in the city. We have a strong elven community. Just don't leave your pets unattended where they might cause a disturbance." (Naturally, one of the first things the PC did was leave the animal unattended.) One of the characters was a hobgoblin. THAT required a bunch of social rolls by a PC in the party with noble rank, including some name dropping, to even get the hobgoblin into the city - despite the fact that the hobgoblin was dressed appropriately for a gentlemen's man-servant (which he in fact was). The refused to even talk to the hobgoblin, and if the hobgoblin had insisted on talking to them, given the xenophobia penalites involved and the hobgoblins lack of social skills it's highly likely they would have imprisoned or killed the hobgoblin on the spot. One of the PC's commented to the hobgoblin, "It appears that they consider you a lower form of life than the bear." Yes, precisely.
good example.
 
While the rules (and here I'm referencing D&D 5e) do say that the character's ability scores and race are taken into account when imagining the character's appearance and personality, there is no particular prohibition on action declarations for a given ability score. Further, the DM is told that it's "when a player wants to do something, it's often appropriate to let the attempt succeed without a roll or a reference to the character's ability scores."
Well, sure, something like walking across a room, or ordering a drink at a bar, or getting out of bed in the morning.

Resolving a social interaction with meaningful consequences to success/failure, OTOH, maybe not what it was talking about.

So far as I can tell, some posters are adding an additional requirement about who can propose what based on some idea of what, for example, an 8 Intelligence or Charisma means.
No additional requirement, no. Though I do know what you're getting at, it's an old stereotype, really: 'That Guy' who would, back in the day, tell you "you can't do that, your character isn't smart enough!"
That was before there was any kind of skill system to help model what your character might know how to do.

5e has a skill system, so you can define your character as being quite good (18 CHA bard, w/Expertise) or pretty bad (8 CHA Barbarian w/o Proficiency) with a selection of social skills. Whether those skills ever see use is prettymuch a matter of the DM's play style. Many a DM has long experience with skill-deficient versions of the game, and is in the habit of resolving most social challenges by simply talking it through in character. In such an instance, there's no point investing in such skills: they're entries on your character sheet, but they don't actually do anything. If you're a Bard CHA is just something you use to cast, it might as well be MOJO or POW or something, since it has nothing to do with how persuasive you are, that's you talking in character to the DM.
Of course, in 5e, that DM is ignoring the rules, because he /never/ calls for social checks, no matter how uncertain or significant an action might be, it's resolved in his preferred way. You can't blame his players for adapting to that.
But, if a DM is scrupulously following the advice/guidelines of 5e, and calls for checks only when he sees both a chance of failure, and a consequence for same, then a player who feels confident he can avoid making checks when declaring certain sorts of actions is only acting rationally when he chooses to devote character-build resources to other checks he expects to make more, or even any, of. And, if he's mistaken about his ability to avoid checks, well, too bad, he'll kinda suck at those things.

It's all perfectly reasonable, really.


I guess the question (assertion) isn't whether a player should be unable to declare certain actions because his character is poorly suited to doing them, but whether the action should be judged based solely on the declaration, or take the character ability into account (in deciding whether he rolls and/or by simply calling for a roll). In another thread we have questions about why an NPC who is only a little better at some day-to-day skill than a PC might still be an 'expert', and doesn't he need a bigger bonus? The answer, that he just doesn't need to make checks /because he's an expert/ doing something routine that he's good at, isn't exactly uncontroversial, but it is related to this objection, too.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Well, sure, something like walking across a room, or ordering a drink at a bar, or getting out of bed in the morning.

Resolving a social interaction with meaningful consequences to success/failure, OTOH, maybe not what it was talking about.
It should be noted that if the task is trivially easy or impossible, there is no ability check even if there is a meaningful consequence for failure. So in those cases there's no reference to ability scores either.

No additional requirement, no. Though I do know what you're getting at, it's an old stereotype, really: 'That Guy' who would, back in the day, tell you "you can't do that, your character isn't smart enough!"
That was before there was any kind of skill system to help model what your character might know how to do.

5e has a skill system, so you can define your character as being quite good (18 CHA bard, w/Expertise) or pretty bad (8 CHA Barbarian w/o Proficiency) with a selection of social skills. Whether those skills ever see use is prettymuch a matter of the DM's play style. Many a DM has long experience with skill-deficient versions of the game, and is in the habit of resolving most social challenges by simply talking it through in character. In such an instance, there's no point investing in such skills: they're entries on your character sheet, but they don't actually do anything. If you're a Bard CHA is just something you use to cast, it might as well be MOJO or POW or something, since it has nothing to do with how persuasive you are, that's you talking in character to the DM.
Of course, in 5e, that DM is ignoring the rules, because he /never/ calls for social checks, no matter how uncertain or significant an action might be, it's resolved in his preferred way. You can't blame his players for adapting to that.
But, if a DM is scrupulously following the advice/guidelines of 5e, and calls for checks only when he sees both a chance of failure, and a consequence for same, then a player who feels confident he can avoid making checks when declaring certain sorts of actions is only acting rationally when he chooses to devote character-build resources to other checks he expects to make more, or even any, of. And, if he's mistaken about his ability to avoid checks, well, too bad, he'll kinda suck at those things.

It's all perfectly reasonable, really.
And the DM who is scrupulously following the rules for D&D 5e may notice that the "middle path" sorts this out.

I guess the question (assertion) isn't whether a player should be unable to declare certain actions because his character is poorly suited to doing them, but whether the action should be judged based solely on the declaration, or take the character ability into account (in deciding whether he rolls and/or by simply calling for a roll). In another thread we have questions about why an NPC who is only a little better at some day-to-day skill than a PC might still be an 'expert', and doesn't he need a bigger bonus? The answer, that he just doesn't need to make checks /because he's an expert/ doing something routine that he's good at, isn't exactly uncontroversial, but it is related to this objection, too.
That whole NPC expert bonus thread is steeped in a fundamental misunderstanding of how tasks are resolved in D&D 5e. As are a lot of the issues in this thread and others in my view. People commonly view and treat a given game as some other game they played in the past and that sometimes leads to undesirable outcomes.
 
It should be noted that if the task is trivially easy or impossible, there is no ability check even if there is a meaningful consequence for failure. So in those cases there's no reference to ability scores either
Weeelll… what's trivially easy for an 18 stat/Expertise character might be impossible for an 8/non-proficient, and call for a check from anyone in between. (Or not, it's all the DMs judgement, there). That is, the DM can choose to consider the character when judging the declared action. (Some of the disagreement here might over whether he should or shouldn't?)

That whole NPC expert bonus thread is steeped in a fundamental misunderstanding of how tasks are resolved in D&D 5e. As are a lot of the issues in this thread and others in my view. People commonly view and treat a given game as some other game they played in the past and that sometimes leads to undesirable outcomes.
It's not like it isn't spelled out in a simple step-by-step-by-step (there are only three steps, how hard is that?) basis, on page 3 of the basic PDF, right?

But, OTOH, in a lot of cases, D&D /is/ that 'other game' they played in the past. A lot. So viewing and treating D&D like D&D seems perfectly reasonable, and, if that's (5e)D&D and (B/X/1e/2eA)D&D, you don't even go far wrong - at least so long as you stay on the DM side of the screen.

The Blacksmith Paradox, OTOH, is a problem you see when that other D&D is 3.x/PF. ;P

If a -1 modifier counts as “really bad” at something, what’s “average”?
Hey, it's as bad as you're allowed to be (y'can't all be Denis Rodman), and, under BA, a small numeric difference has to cover a lot, conceptually.

Proficiency, at 1st level, is +2, that's probably 'bout "average" - a competent, mediocre practitioner.


Really, the 5e way is to make up for that lack of numeric differentiation by calling for checks less often, the more invested a character is in the ability*. The blacksmith (per another thread), who works metal all day may only have a +6 roll, while an adventurer might have a +4, but the former can take a lot of blacksmithing 'actions' with no check, while the adventurer, perhaps trying to impersonate a blacksmith, might have to make a blacksmithing (excuse me, tool-use) check or two now and then to keep from screwing up in any too obvious a way.








* ironically, that'll make a certain player type feel like said investment was 'wasted.' So it's one of those cases where you might want to make it clear he's getting to succeed automatically /because/ he's got such a high check.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's not like it isn't spelled out in a simple step-by-step-by-step (there are only three steps, how hard is that?) basis, on page 3 of the basic PDF, right?
Nobody seems to read that section. And if they do, many just ignore it and say it's "advice" and not a statement on how to play THIS game.

But, OTOH, in a lot of cases, D&D /is/ a game they played in the past. A lot. So viewing and treating D&D like D&D seems perfectly reasonable, and, if that's (5e)D&D and (B/X/1e/2eA)D&D, you don't even go far wrong - at least so long as you stay on the DM side of the screen.
It's a mistake in my view, one I've made myself when transitioning from D&D 3.Xe to D&D 4e and won't make again.

The Blacksmith Paradox, OTOH, is a problem you see when that other D&D is 3.x/PF. ;P
Quelle surprise.
 

Satyrn

Villager
Agreed!

Honestly meta-gaming isn't really something I particularly care about. I look at it like this: I run D&D for people who've been playing for 30+ years, I also run D&D for people who have never played before. I'm not going to look a 30 year veteran of D&D in the eye with a straight face and tell them that their 1st level character wouldn't use fire against the troll they're fighting. I mean how many times has this person fought trolls before?

If you want to avoid meta-gaming then bring some new :):):):):). If your players are metagaming then push the boundaries and do something new. Have your orcs burst tentacles from their chests... they won't see that coming no matter how many monster manuals they read.

You can't admonish you players for studying the game... hell... you want people who are that committed at your table. You just got to 'bring it'. Show them something new that they can't prepare for. Don't worry about the obvious... how many times do you want to 'pretend to be surprised when the troll gets up'?
Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout! I just gotta figure out if those tentacles belong to the orc, or a creature bursting out of the orc's chest.

*Yoink*
 
Nobody seems to read that section. And if they do, many just ignore it and say it's "advice" and not a statement on how to play THIS game.
It's hard to miss. And repeated. And elaborated upon.

::sigh:: you can lead a horse to water, but it's a lot of work to drown it...

It's a mistake in my view, one I've made myself when transitioning from D&D 3.Xe to D&D 4e and won't make again.
Sure, running 5e like it's 3.x or 4e would be a problem - because they're player-centric editions, and 5e is DM-Empowering. But running 5e like it's AD&D or another TSR edition (or, really, many another RPG of that era), it's not so bad, because those past eds had similar expectations for the DM. If you ran them, you're used to making judgements about the player's actions throughout the game. 5e just makes the judgement simpler, because you can always just call for a check if you're uncertain.

Quelle surprise.
… it was a shocker, I know, I should've said "brace yourselves … "
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure, running 5e like it's 3.x or 4e would be a problem - because they're player-centric editions, and 5e is DM-Empowering. But running 5e like it's AD&D or another TSR edition (or, really, many another RPG of that era), it's not so bad, because those past eds had similar expectations for the DM. If you ran them, you're used to making judgements about the player's actions throughout the game. 5e just makes the judgement simpler, because you can always just call for a check if you're uncertain.
I'd have to go back and read those ancient tomes before I could agree with that assessment. I've not even looked at them since the 90s.

Either way, I think the safest bet is to run the game as its rules say to do, then assess that game experience before making changes.
 
I'd have to go back and read those ancient tomes before I could agree with that assessment. I've not even looked at them since the 90s.

Either way, I think the safest bet is to run the game as its rules say to do, then assess that game experience before making changes.
Oh, you probably don't want to actually dig them up and read them. ;) SAN is so hard to come by (he said, mixing classic RPG systems). But, the way 5e spells out you should run it - DM describes the sitch, players declare actions, DM judges how to resolve those actions & describes what happens, leading players to declare new actions...
That's pretty close to the 1e expectations (no 'caller,' but I hardly ever saw anyone do that, anyway) - and it was how I always ran the classic game, personally. It's the flow of play of a DM-centric system.

It's a mistake in my view, one I've made myself when transitioning from D&D 3.Xe to D&D 4e and won't make again.
Sorry to repeat that quote, but something else occurred to me: the mistake I made when I first ran 5e was that I kept running it like the Next playtest. Like it was still a shake-down cruise and we /wanted/ to find the problems.
As soon as I got into the swing of running it like it was 1e, it went a LOT better.
 
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Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I'd have to go back and read those ancient tomes before I could agree with that assessment. I've not even looked at them since the 90s.

Either way, I think the safest bet is to run the game as its rules say to do, then assess that game experience before making changes.
Or maybe find a game more suited to your preferences, even.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip


I guess the question (assertion) isn't whether a player should be unable to declare certain actions because his character is poorly suited to doing them, but whether the action should be judged based solely on the declaration, or take the character ability into account (in deciding whether he rolls and/or by simply calling for a roll). In another thread we have questions about why an NPC who is only a little better at some day-to-day skill than a PC might still be an 'expert', and doesn't he need a bigger bonus? The answer, that he just doesn't need to make checks /because he's an expert/ doing something routine that he's good at, isn't exactly uncontroversial, but it is related to this objection, too.
This, all about this.

The whole goal:method approach is all about the declaration. Whether or not you need to make a roll is based on the declaration. Whether you have advantage/disadvantage on the roll is based on the declaration. It makes the declaration very, very important.

The actual skill of the character only comes up after the declaration, and, even then, only if the declaration triggers a skill roll called for by the DM.

Who judges that declaration? The DM, of course. Which places the DM front and center of all player facing actions. Which means that since the character's abilities don't come up until after that judgment, the character's abilities are less important than the player's ability to make declarations. They have to be.

So, the player uses his Noble background to get past the gate guards. To me, that's not goal:method. That's pretty much purely a character challenge. The player looked at his character sheet which tells him that, as a Noble, he can do this. It's no different than the player casting a spell or making an attack. It's based on the character's abilities, not on the player's abilities.

IOW, there was no "method" being declared here. Any player decisions were made at chargen and not during the challenge.
 

Hussar

Legend
I'd have to go back and read those ancient tomes before I could agree with that assessment. I've not even looked at them since the 90s.

Either way, I think the safest bet is to run the game as its rules say to do, then assess that game experience before making changes.
Or... and this is just spitballing here... have enough experience running games to know what you like and play the way you like. And, again, shocking I know, realize that the game runs perfectly fine this way and that folks can be perfectly happy playing 5e with a tad less DM entitl... err ... empowerment and with players who are on board, have a rocking good time.

I know, it's almost like the game is robust enough to encompass more than one play style. Totally shocking.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Or... and this is just spitballing here... have enough experience running games to know what you like and play the way you like. And, again, shocking I know, realize that the game runs perfectly fine this way and that folks can be perfectly happy playing 5e with a tad less DM entitl... err ... empowerment and with players who are on board, have a rocking good time.

I know, it's almost like the game is robust enough to encompass more than one play style. Totally shocking.
I agree with all that.
 

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