When is the skill check made?

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
For tasks that take time, when is the skill check made? Is it made over that whole duration? Or at the end? Or...?

One reason I ask is that in another thread, a few posters suggested that a spell like guidance should not work on a task that takes longer than one minute. Implying that the check is made over the duration of the task, rather than at the end. (Because, were it at the end, then couldn't the guidance caster wait until just before the end?)

I think this interpretation leads to imagining that guidance is in operation over the whole 1 minute; but how about bardic inspiration? With inspiration, one has 10 minutes to use the die. I think this interpretation means something like - the task would need to start and resolve completely inside that 10 minutes. Looking then at Lucky, I think this interpretation means that the feat is used at the last possible moment - the instant of task completion. Because, to be consistent, I think we want all the buffs and re-rolls to be occurring inside the task duration.

A residual question is, is it that only one cast of guidance and one inspiration die can be used for a given task? What I mean is, could a magical initiate cast guidance at the start of a 2 minute task, and then recast it 30 seconds in, and then again after another 30 seconds, and then again. Thus with four casts spanning the whole 2 minutes.
 

MarkB

Hero
I don't think there's an official ruling on this, because it's a bit metaphysical. When you undertake a task, your ability check determines how well you perform that task, so it applies to the entirety of that task - but that doesn't dictate when, in in-game terms, the skill check takes place, because the character in game isn't making a skill check - they're simply performing a task.

Personally, I'd rule generously and say that, providing the character begins their task before the duration of the guidance cantrip or inspiration die runs out, they can be considered to be guided and/or inspired for the full duration of that task.

For the Lucky feat the timing is irrelevant - you are essentially rewriting history on that check, expending you luck to declare that it went differently than it would otherwise have done.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
An ability check (note that skills are aspects of abilities, but that, often, no specific skill is being tested and a more general test of the ability is called for) is made at the table when it’s being resolved whether a task was successful in the fiction. Reading guidance in that light, I think it can apply retroactively to an ability check that has already been made.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
I think Bardic Inspiration works the same way. At the table, it looks like this:

1. Player A declares his/her character is performing some task.
2. The DM calls for an ability check.
3. Player A rolls the check and the result of the die roll is seen.
4. Player B declares his/her character is giving Bardic Inspiration to Player A’s character.
5. Player A rolls his/her Bardic Inspiration die and adds it to the result.
6. The DM says whether or not the task is a success or a failure.

As long as Bardic Inspiration is given or guidance is cast before 6., it applies to the check.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
An ability check (note that skills are aspects of abilities, but that, often, no specific skill is being tested and a more general test of the ability is called for) is made at the table when it’s being resolved whether a task was successful in the fiction. Reading guidance in that light, I think it can apply retroactively to an ability check that has already been made.
No, because you are eliding from what's happening in the fiction, to what happens in the rules.

Rules-wise, the spell/ability would need to be applied before the die roll to resolve the action.

Fiction-wise, you can describe this as the cleric coming along and giving their blessing after the character has started the action, but before we know whether it was successful.

Either way, the spell is applied before we know what the result will be.
 

Ganders

Explorer
I believe your implication isn't quite correct. It isn't a matter of requiring guidance to be up for the full duration of the task. It's more a matter of some people wanting to restrict guidance, to make it useless in at least half of all tasks. 'Duration' is merely a palatable excuse and explanation.
Let's face it, Guidance is a really useful, really powerful cantrip. There are many ways it could be nerfed and still be useful. If it were useful five times a day instead of fifteen times a day, many characters would still take it.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
No, because you are eliding from what's happening in the fiction, to what happens in the rules.
I am? How so?

Rules-wise, the spell/ability would need to be applied before the die roll to resolve the action.
No, both the spell and the ability state that the additional die roll can be applied after the d20 has been rolled.

Fiction-wise, you can describe this as the cleric coming along and giving their blessing after the character has started the action, but before we know whether it was successful.

Either way, the spell is applied before we know what the result will be.
I don’t think we disagree on this. What you seem to be missing is that there’s a design space between the die roll and the DM’s narration of success or failure that these rules exploit.
 

aco175

Adventurer
I tend to allow the check at the start of the act. Something like guidance may do something to your senses like open your eyes more or increase blood flow to allow you to be a bit sharper for your check.

After the roll abilities are a bit harder to explain, but I go with it saying things like A diving burst of knowledge boosts what you were just looking at, or the great shout startles you and you notice something you did not see before. A bit of a stretch, but I may have said something like- oh, you just missed the roll.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Lucky works the same way, i.e. after the roll but before the outcome. All three of these features are written so they can “interrupt” resolution.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't think there's an official ruling on this, because it's a bit metaphysical. When you undertake a task, your ability check determines how well you perform that task, so it applies to the entirety of that task - but that doesn't dictate when, in in-game terms, the skill check takes place, because the character in game isn't making a skill check - they're simply performing a task.
Right, this is the key thing to remember that resolves a lot of these issues.

A check is not a task. The check does not exist in the game world. It exists only at the table as @Hriston goes on to say. The spell (and the bard's inspiration) and the task do exist in the game world. Therefore to gain the benefit of either, the task must be resolved within the spell or feature's duration. But the check doesn't actually occur at any specific point during the task since it's not a thing in the fiction.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think Bardic Inspiration works the same way. At the table, it looks like this:

1. Player A declares his/her character is performing some task.
2. The DM calls for an ability check.
3. Player A rolls the check and the result of the die roll is seen.
4. Player B declares his/her character is giving Bardic Inspiration to Player A’s character.
5. Player A rolls his/her Bardic Inspiration die and adds it to the result.
6. The DM says whether or not the task is a success or a failure.

As long as Bardic Inspiration is given or guidance is cast before 6., it applies to the check.
I would say that the player declares an intent to perform a task with a known duration (ask the DM if not sure). Spells or class features that will aid in the task with the same duration can be applied before the attempt. The ability check is made. The player applies the bonus dice from the spell (if desired). The DM narrates the result of the adventurer's action.

So basically, if you want the benefit of these spells, you have to front load their use. Or, I also think it's fine for Player A to say "I'm doing X" and Player B jump in to say "Before Player A does X, I cast (or use) Y to help." But again, the players need to know the duration of the task here ahead of time. If the task takes one hour, bardic inspiration isn't going to help you. If the task takes 2 minutes, guidance won't help you, but bardic inspiration will. If the task take 1 minutes or less, both guidance and bardic inspiration will help you.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I believe your implication isn't quite correct. It isn't a matter of requiring guidance to be up for the full duration of the task. It's more a matter of some people wanting to restrict guidance, to make it useless in at least half of all tasks. 'Duration' is merely a palatable excuse and explanation.
For me, it's not really about wanting to restrict guidance (I couldn't care less if players regularly add a d4 to every ability check) but rather just using the spell in the context of how the game actually works per the rules. Ability checks aren't tasks and don't exist in the game world, so there's no way for the caster or recipient of the spell to know when the d4 affects the d20 - this happens at the table. Thus, the duration of the spell must meet or exceed the duration of the task to affect the outcome of the task. A happy coincidence of following these rules means guidance spamming is significantly reduced.
 
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ccs

39th lv DM
It's the last step in whatever you were attempting.
It answers the question "Was your attempt attempt at __ successful?".
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As a few people have pointed out, tasks and the time they take exist and occur in the fiction, but checks do not, so the only answer to “at what point of a task does the check occur” would be “N/A.” But I think the intent of your question is, can a task benefit from the effects of Guidance, Bardic Inspiration, etc. if the takes longer to complete than the duration of the spell or feature? I don’t think there is one right answer to this question. RAW isn’t clear on the matter from my reading, so it is best to ask your DM how they would rule on it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
For me, it's not really about wanting to restrict guidance (I couldn't care less if players regularly add a d4 to every ability check) but rather just using the spell in the context of how the game actually works per the rules. Ability checks aren't tasks and don't exist in the game world, so there's no way for the caster or recipient of the spell to know when the d4 affects the d20 - this happens at the table. Thus, the duration of the spell must meet or exceed the duration of the task to affect the outcome of the task. A happy coincidence of following these rules means guidance spamming is significantly reduced.
Hmm... I had never thought of it this way before, but I like it.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
If this ever comes up (which it shouldn't very often), an easy way to address this might be to ask the player how long they intend to spend on the task. Are they trying to take their time, get input from others, and carefully attempt it? or are they trying to brute-force it or rush it, to get the job done as quickly as possible? Then depending on the action they are attempting and the response they give, determine if guidance would be helpful or not, or if (Dis)Advantage might apply.

Again, this shouldn't come up very often. I would only use this in pivotal encounters and grand finales and the like, when it's important to keep the tension and suspense built up. For everyday, run-of-the-mill skill challenges, it likely won't matter. As long as you have a healthy rapport with your players, and nobody is trying to "game the system" for weird advantages, it'll all shake out.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
I would say that the player declares an intent to perform a task with a known duration (ask the DM if not sure). Spells or class features that will aid in the task with the same duration can be applied before the attempt. The ability check is made. The player applies the bonus dice from the spell (if desired). The DM narrates the result of the adventurer's action.

So basically, if you want the benefit of these spells, you have to front load their use. Or, I also think it's fine for Player A to say "I'm doing X" and Player B jump in to say "Before Player A does X, I cast (or use) Y to help." But again, the players need to know the duration of the task here ahead of time. If the task takes one hour, bardic inspiration isn't going to help you. If the task takes 2 minutes, guidance won't help you, but bardic inspiration will. If the task take 1 minutes or less, both guidance and bardic inspiration will help you.
Except Bardic Inspiration, guidance, and the Lucky feat (I'm sure there are many others) don't reference tasks, as such. They reference ability checks, and (in the case of Bardic Inspiration and Lucky) attack rolls and saving throws. Also, there is no restriction in Bardic Inspiration or guidance that the "casting" must take place before the ability check is made, only that the additional die must be used before the outcome is determined. The duration of the task doesn't come into it at all and is an additional restriction being placed on these features without any textual basis. Of course, the DM is free to adjudicate their use in his/her game as s/he sees fit, but I don't think it's a straightforward reading of the rules in question.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Except Bardic Inspiration, guidance, and the Lucky feat (I'm sure there are many others) don't reference tasks, as such. They reference ability checks, and (in the case of Bardic Inspiration and Lucky) attack rolls and saving throws. Also, there is no restriction in Bardic Inspiration or guidance that the "casting" must take place before the ability check is made, only that the additional die must be used before the outcome is determined. The duration of the task doesn't come into it at all and is an additional restriction being placed on these features without any textual basis. Of course, the DM is free to adjudicate their use in his/her game as s/he sees fit, but I don't think it's a straightforward reading of the rules in question.
I would say that this is implicit in the way the game treats tasks the core resolution mechanic. A task isn't a check and the check is divorced from the fiction. The existence of a check means there is a task being performed that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. You can have a task without a check, but not a check without a task.

Though those spells, feats, and features do affect the check and thereby possibly the outcome of the task, there is no way for a character to know at what point in the task the check is being made (since, again, a check doesn't exist in the game world). What's going on in the game world is that a cleric is offering guidance on a task, a bard is offering inspiration in general which may be applied to a task, and lucky is just the natural state of the character which has the benefit of affecting checks. Therefore, it makes sense that these things must be in effect at the start of and by the end of the task to affect the outcome.

When handling it like this, which I believe is perfectly in line with the core game mechanics, the problems commonly reported with spells like guidance simply go away without a need to change the spell at all. If the task takes longer than a minute, for example, guidance just isn't going to help and it needs to be cast before the task is undertaken. This immediately reduces the number of tasks for which guidance will be useful.
 
If guidance is cast and they roll a skill check within 1 minute of the cast they get the benefit. If not they don't. It has nothing to do with whether they just started their action or just finished it. It solely has to do with when I call for the check.
 

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