When is the skill check made?

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
For tasks that take time, when is the skill check made? Is it made over that whole duration? Or at the end? Or...?
As a rule, I would not sweat the details to this level. The timing of the check is not related to the event. The check merely represents the outcome of the event.

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.
Again, my instincts say, "This is too much level of detail and is not something you should be concerning yourself with." I legitimately do not believe the designers put this much thought into either of these abilities, primarily because the only timing concern in D&D is with reaction abilities and initiative. You certainly can run your game such that 1 minutes is the cap for guidance, and 10 minutes is the cap for Bardic Inspiration, but I don't think that's necessary nor do I think it's what's intended. I suppose there is ludo-narrative dissonance if you want everything to be hyper-literal or extremely specific, but I don't see why the game should or would necessarily be that way. It's a very gamist style of DMing rather than narrative, and I'm much more narratively focused.

I would rule that as long as the task begins, continues or ends within the time limit of the spell or inspiration, then the player may chose to use the spell effect or ability effect with that check.

As DM, I would examine what the likely design intent of the time limit rule is. IMO, the primary design intent is to prevent casting the spell or granting inspiration and then having it around for hours of the game day, effectively making it a permanent effect until used.

Narratively, the cantrip is directly asking your deity for aid with a particular task that another is doing, and whether the deity is affecting the target of the spell from beginning to end or changing the world in your favor at the end, it does not particularly matter. As such, to me the design intent of the cantrip is that it should be useful when the cleric is immediately available to request their deity for aid. In other words, the cleric must be present for the encounter and must also spend an action. It's really a spell equivalent of the Help action, with a very small bit of extra time for practicality purposes. Still, the spell's duration implicitly says, "Something that happens during this encounter while the cleric and his subject are present." The limitation also makes it fairly impractical for use during combat (or, at least, no more practical than the Help action itself is). It's also of fairly limited use during social encounters because it's a little aggressive to start casting spells -- even blessings -- when one of your party members is just asking questions (remember, it's verbal, somatic, and range touch). To say it looks sketchy to cast in the middle of a Diplomatic check would be putting it mildly. Not that you couldn't use social skills with the cantrip, just that it's much harder to set up.

The design intent of Bardic Inspiration allows more leeway, simply because an inspiration die is a much higher cost than a cantrip action. Otherwise, it's largely the same idea. You might be able to activate it in one encounter and not use it until the next encounter if your party doesn't stop to search. You're also much more reasonably able to use it before a social encounter and still have it be useful for quite some time.

Bottom line, though, it doesn't really matter either way as long as you're consistent. Though, if you rule that guidance only works on tasks that take less than a minute and then arbitrarily rule that most tasks take more than 1 minute, you're just soft banning the spell. It would be better to alter the spell or outright ban it.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Right, the spell and the task both have a duration which exists in the game world. But the ability check doesn't and isn't connected to any specific time in the game world. To me, that means the tasks needs to be accomplished during the duration of the spell. The side effect is that guidance is still useful, but on a smaller range of tasks, and spamming goes away. In a pragmatic sense, this looks to me as evidence this is the correct call. (Notably, I didn't make this call because I had a spamming issue either. It was just how I understood the rules to work and so I never had the issue. I have seen plenty of it in other games though and it's reported on the internet regularly as an issue.)



I would say that's presentation, yes. But let's say a character undertakes a task that will take 2 hours. As long as someone comes along and casts guidance on that character at some point in the undertaking of that task, even if the spell only lasts for 1 minute, that character's player gets to add a d4 to the ability check? Is that your position?
No, it isn’t. My position is that as long as the fictional state at the table, either when a check is called for or immediately after, is that guidance has been cast within the last minute in the fiction, then the player gets to add a d4 to the check.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
No, it isn’t. My position is that as long as the fictional state at the table, either when a check is called for or immediately after, is that guidance has been cast within the last minute in the fiction, then the player gets to add a d4 to the check.
I'm having a hard time picturing what this looks like for the two-hour task I mentioned. Can you provide some details?
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
I'm having a hard time picturing what this looks like for the two-hour task I mentioned. Can you provide some details?
He's talking about the state of play at the table, not the state of the narrative.

He's saying the state of play at the table is like this:

Dwarf: I'm going to draw up plans for the castle. I want to be able to replicate some of the designs.
DM: Okay, that will take a couple hours, some paper, some ink, and a length of rope to draw up something usable.
Dwarf: Okay. I've got all that.
DM: Make an Intelligence check. Everyone else can short rest.
Dwarf: I get a 14. Wait, do I get Stonecunning?
DM: Hm. Sure.
Dwarf: Then I get a 17 because of double proficiency.
DM: (Makes a note.) You have plans of the castle. You think they're pretty good.
At any point during this exchange, or shortly before or after, the Cleric or Bard can say:

Cleric: I cast guidance on the Dwarf.
Bard: I give the Dwarf an inspiration die.
Conversely, the state of the narrative is like this:

Tordek the Dwarf looks over the castle, and nods to himself.

"I need a minute or two to look over this mighty keep. Though it is nought but ruins now, it's historical significance is legendary. The tales say that barely 20 men -- green and with little food -- held these walls against a thousand orcs for a fortnight before they were relived by our Stone Mountain clans," he says. "What humans lack in experience they make up for with ingenuity and bravery."

His companions agree to wait, and they stretch out to relax. As Tordek works, Devis the Bard begins playing his Song of Rest. Jozan the Cleric soon notices Tordek intends to produce plans. Jozan stands and walks over to Tordek.

Jozan touches Tordek on the shoulder and makes the sign of his god, saying, "May Pelor's light bring insight to this undertaking, my friend. Pelor's light be with you and aid you and bring you comfort." Though it lasts only a few moments, the effects seem to endure and Tordek moves more resolve.

Devis finishes his song of healing, and notices Tordek still hard at work. Devis begins chanting an old Dwarven masonic work song. Soveliss's elven ears twitch at the somewhat plain rhythmic melody, but he says nothing. Tordek looks up and smiles at Devis, falls into the rhythm of his people. He begins humming the melody the common Dwarven melody as a musical round accompaniment -- and only slightly off tune. Soveliss's ears twitch again.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
There's a point in worrying about RAW, where you just say, "Darn it, let's just do something reasonable."
I call this the, "Okay, let's just shut up and roll dice," moment. The game is about the roleplaying, not about navigating the rules. I used to find both of those things fun, but now that my job involves a fair amount of interpreting and following requirements defined by state and federal law I have much less interest in doing what the rules say as opposed to just deciding what the rules mean and moving on. The game is far more robust than the rules are, anyways.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I call this the, "Okay, let's just shut up and roll dice," moment. The game is about the roleplaying, not about navigating the rules. I used to find both of those things fun, but now that my job involves a fair amount of interpreting and following requirements defined by state and federal law I have much less interest in doing what the rules say as opposed to just deciding what the rules mean and moving on. The game is far more robust than the rules are, anyways.
I don't think the game is playable RAW since it's not precise enough in its language. At the same time, we are tasked by the DMG to mediate between the players and the rules and set limits from time to time. Though my game is anything but serious in tone, I do take the roles of DM and player very seriously because in my experience this avoids a lot of common problems.

My reading of the rules as a whole would say that if the task takes longer than a minute, guidance isn't going to help. Tordek in your example will not benefit from bardic inspiration either. There will be plenty of times when Tordek may benefit from these spells or class features, just not when he's drawing up that map over the course of two hours. For that, he might want to have Soveliss work together with him so that the player can get advantage on the check. Working together has no time limitation and only requires that Soveliss be able to do the same task on his own. This seems reasonable to me and does not have any serious impact on the narrative.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
You certainly can run your game such that 1 minutes is the cap for guidance, and 10 minutes is the cap for Bardic Inspiration, but I don't think that's necessary nor do I think it's what's intended.
I don't think it is intended either. For one thing, the option to roll the die prior to the check seems to make most sense if it is imagined the check might occur after the 1 minute.

I would rule that as long as the task begins, continues or ends within the time limit of the spell or inspiration, then the player may chose to use the spell effect or ability effect with that check.
That is how I have ruled, but it leads to the cantrip being applied more than feels good.

Narratively, the cantrip is directly asking your deity for aid with a particular task that another is doing, and whether the deity is affecting the target of the spell from beginning to end or changing the world in your favor at the end, it does not particularly matter. As such, to me the design intent of the cantrip is that it should be useful when the cleric is immediately available to request their deity for aid. In other words, the cleric must be present for the encounter and must also spend an action. It's really a spell equivalent of the Help action, with a very small bit of extra time for practicality purposes. Still, the spell's duration implicitly says, "Something that happens during this encounter while the cleric and his subject are present." The limitation also makes it fairly impractical for use during combat (or, at least, no more practical than the Help action itself is). It's also of fairly limited use during social encounters because it's a little aggressive to start casting spells -- even blessings -- when one of your party members is just asking questions (remember, it's verbal, somatic, and range touch). To say it looks sketchy to cast in the middle of a Diplomatic check would be putting it mildly. Not that you couldn't use social skills with the cantrip, just that it's much harder to set up.
I think that the creature the cantrip is cast on, and not the caster, decides what check to apply it to. For example - rogue "can I have guidance to help, um, search for secret doors", cleric "sure", rogue sotto voce "I add the d4 to my sleight of hand, pick pockets check".
 

Hriston

Adventurer
I'm having a hard time picturing what this looks like for the two-hour task I mentioned. Can you provide some details?
For a two-hour task, I think it would go something like this:

Player 1: Drom mans the oars and rows the party across the Boiling Lake.

DM: It’s three miles across the lake, so it’s going to take about two hours. Also the heat and fumes are going to make it difficult to propel the boat forward through the turbulent, bubbling waters. Make a DC 20 Constitution check. If you succeed, you make to the other side. If you fail, you’ll be stranded half way across the lake until you all figure something else out.

Player 1: Aw jeez, I rolled an 18.

Player 2: Seeing Drom beginning to falter, Elye puts a hand on the warrior’s back and casts guidance, entreating Marduk to grant him strength!

Player 1: Thanks, I’m going to use that. Alright, I rolled a 3!
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't think it is intended either. For one thing, the option to roll the die prior to the check seems to make most sense if it is imagined the check might occur after the 1 minute.
That is how I have ruled, but it leads to the cantrip being applied more than feels good.
The question I would ask myself is: Is guidance spamming, which is a perfectly natural result of how you've been ruling, an intended outcome of the design?

If you don't think so, then maybe the ruling isn't the right one. I mean, this may be giving the designers too much credit, but at the very least, it's not the right ruling in your game if you don't like the result. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that the designers did not intend for players to spam guidance.

I think that the creature the cantrip is cast on, and not the caster, decides what check to apply it to. For example - rogue "can I have guidance to help, um, search for secret doors", cleric "sure", rogue sotto voce "I add the d4 to my sleight of hand, pick pockets check".
That is my understanding as well. A character under the effect of a guidance spell might perform more than one task during that minute (a thief with fast hands comes to mind) and choose any one of those tasks to benefit from the spell.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
The question I would ask myself is: Is guidance spamming, which is a perfectly natural result of how you've been ruling, an intended outcome of the design?

If you don't think so, then maybe the ruling isn't the right one. I mean, this may be giving the designers too much credit, but at the very least, it's not the right ruling in your game if you don't like the result. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that the designers did not intend for players to spam guidance.
Indeed, that is the catch: if this conundrum was straightforward, I might have already found a solution :D
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
For a two-hour task, I think it would go something like this:

Player 1: Drom mans the oars and rows the party across the Boiling Lake.

DM: It’s three miles across the lake, so it’s going to take about two hours. Also the heat and fumes are going to make it difficult to propel the boat forward through the turbulent, bubbling waters. Make a DC 20 Constitution check. If you succeed, you make to the other side. If you fail, you’ll be stranded half way across the lake until you all figure something else out.

Player 1: Aw jeez, I rolled an 18.

Player 2: Seeing Drom beginning to falter, Elye puts a hand on the warrior’s back and casts guidance, entreating Marduk to grant him strength!

Player 1: Thanks, I’m going to use that. Alright, I rolled a 3!
It's not clear to me how one goes from the words on the page to that ruling, but if it works for you, I got nothing.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
I don't think the game is playable RAW since it's not precise enough in its language.
Then I think we fundamentally disagree on the nature and purpose of the rules.


That is how I have ruled, but it leads to the cantrip being applied more than feels good.
Then change the spell. Limit it. Change it to +1d2 or +1. Change it so it can't affect the same person doing the task more than once. Change it so that it can't be cast on the same cast more than once every 10 minutes. The rules exist as a framework for the game. The framework should support your campaign. The same rules that define the spell explicitly empower you to change and alter them as you see fit. Make the rules create the framework you want to support. You win no prizes for following the rules as written. Figure out what goal you want to achieve with your change, and then change it. But if it's "I don't want them to use guidance all the time" then you should probably just ban it. If for no other reason than wasting table time every time someone does something.

Look, it's one thing to come to the Internet and say, "Is this too good? I think we're having a problem," and to seek feedback and discussion from others. But it's only useful if you act on it. If you're not going to act on it, then it's not the game's problem anymore. No, I'm not saying "the game isn't broken because you can house rule it," I'm saying, "identifying a rule as needing to change for your table and choosing not to change it is your fault, not the game's."

Here's my take on guidance:

Personally, I have found that reminding players that it's a touch spell, and that it's got verbal and somatic components and therefore is just as obvious as casting any spell is enough. It's is a significant disincentive in a dungeon or social setting. Most NPCs find characters randomly casting spells deeply concerning and moderately aggressive, just like the players do. (What kind of honorable person needs magic in a conversation, after all?) Furthermore, I never put skill checks in place that the players aren't allowed to overcome (supposed to overcome, even). If I don't want the players to overcome something, I don't let them roll at all. Why would I let you roll if I know you can't get past something? So it doesn't bother me all that much if they overcome skill tests. They're not meant to really be that challenging anyways. At the end of the day, anything that guidance works on wasn't a big deal in the first place. It was put there for the players to get past. If the players succeed because they remember what's on their character sheet and they work together, for God's sake let them. That's the whole point.

More and more as I run the game, I don't allow rerolls of most skills. The first die roll determines the outcome. That means the players get one roll. If they succeed, then they pass. If they fail, then it didn't work and the players should move on. If they fail, and the adventure requires them to succeed, then they still will pass but something unfortunate happens or the process involves additional difficulties. Either way, they get one roll. That one roll is enough to create the equitable uncertainty required for the game to progress. I don't need 10 die rolls as an exercise in random number generation. That's just a waste of time.

Finally, make players describe what they're doing before letting them roll the die. For knowledge checks it's obviously not possible, but the reality is that this is the most difficult part of making skill checks. Yes, great, god is helping you. What are you doing? How are you going to do it? What is your approach? How long are you going to try? I still need to know all that. Anybody can roll high on a d20. The difficulty and challenge of the game shouldn't be about that except when it has to be (i.e., attack rolls). So don't make the players feel like they're getting a major bonus by rolling an extra +1d4.

Besides, mathematically, the spell only does something meaningful roughly 12% of the time.

I think that the creature the cantrip is cast on, and not the caster, decides what check to apply it to. For example - rogue "can I have guidance to help, um, search for secret doors", cleric "sure", rogue sotto voce "I add the d4 to my sleight of hand, pick pockets check".
Simply put -- and this was the point of the way I wrote the narrative in this post -- the narrative doesn't have to directly follow the game mechanics. Close enough is good enough. Remember, "character" choices are really player choices. The game just says "character" because continually saying "the player or DM in control of the character" is cumbersome. The narrative doesn't need to include a conscious choice by the character. That choice can easily be considered as an event of the game and not the narrative. The player makes the choice. The character accepts their fate.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
@Hriston Is the above in accordance with how you see it?
No, not very much. You could probably tell from the example I posted earlier that I’m thinking of a game in which the resulting narrative is more closely aligned with and arises directly from the action at the table. I’m actually not sure I understand how the narrative given in @Bacon Bits‘s example is arrived at through the instance of play they describe. It seems like between the two a lot of embellishment has been added, and it’s unclear whether they were added through gameplay or through some other process.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The spell's duration is 1 minute. You can't roll the d4 after that minute is up. It's gone, done, expired. To roll the d4 inside of a minute for a 2-minute task, you must effectively establish that the ability check takes place at a certain point in time in the fiction when the ability check does not actually exist in the game world.
I can trigger it on the task at hand and if I never get a check, it's wasted. Like aiming a magic missile at an object. If I do get a check, I get to add d4. There is no requirement to wait for a check or complete the task.

The task being started and completed within the duration of the spell satisfies all of the requirements and limits and does away with guidance spamming (the OP's issue).
There's no issue. Just use it the way I'm suggesting, which is perfectly within RAW and it's one cast per task.



No, I'm not arguing no skill is being used in the game world. I'm arguing no ability check is being rolled in the game world and that is true. You're suggesting more language games.
It's not a language game. The check is nothing more than the mechanical representation of the skill being used. They are the same thing.
 

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