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Author Topic: [D&D 3.0/3.5] Spells and swords - fight!  (Read 39621 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #45 on: May 20, 2006, 12:14:58 PM »

There were two questions in that post. I failed when I stopped at the first (though I would like more detail on that first one). The second question:

In D&D, searching is often left as a player called for skill (well, usually the player declares their seaching and the GM calls for a skill roll (or just tells us what we find)). Other skills like religion checks, for example, have been GM called but almost in a 'Did you put points in this?' sort of test of skill point distribution. In actual play, when there was a call for my clerics religion check and he had low ranks, there were some derisory comments. As in, he hasn't got it where he should have it...he's inneffective at what he should be as a cleric (I'm pretty sure it was feedback based on effectiveness). Which is a bit of a conflict, because when you roll religion once in a blue moon and roll spot multiple times per session, effectiveness is putting them into spot. Anyway, I'm ranting on. The point is that the call could come as a test of character skill point distribution...calls for spot rolls always feel like this.

I don't think we had any 'GM says something along the lines of diplomacy but doesn't roll, player picks up dice to contest it' stuff at all. I don't think weve had much history of picking up the dice without being told, let alone picking up the dice to interfear with something the GM said, as in calling for a diplomacy roll rather than just being influenced. Although when the player did want to contest it, it was usually thought trying to slip around it. For example, I was GM'ing once and the palladin had just rescued a woman from an attacking monster. The woman was a succubus, actually. Yeh, yeh, the old prisoner is a monster thang. Anyway, when I describe her about to hug the palladin, he goes all dodgey and weavy. No dice rolls, just talk between us. If I'd introduced dice, he'd have accepted it, I think. But talk would have continued about bonuses or such.

I have to say one thing about dice rolls, is that our group doesn't stop play for any considerable amount of time for look up. You don't know how to do the rolls for a power (like rage), you can't do it. Look it up while it's not your turn (in my mind, that's part of our game - so your still active on when it's not your turn). The annoyances you have about look ups shock me a bit. Why's that your responsiblity or anyone elses apart from the player? This is a personal preference of mine of course, but the look up is part of the skill of the game. You don't do that for him (unless your another player and it's not your turn). It's babying them around to actually grind play to a halt for this. Again - I can see this is just my preference.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #46 on: May 20, 2006, 12:50:14 PM »

Right on.  Those are questions I can answer.

I've used formal Morale rules in one and only one session.  That was the Red Box session that I posted about earlier.  It was interesting but there was only one part of it that I'd enjoy applying to a non-hack&slash session.  That's the part where it's implied that once the monsters cut & run, then the players win & get the XP.  For some reason, in my D&D games over the past few years, that idea kinda got lost somewhere.  When the villians would turn tail, the players would usually get upset over loosing their victims.  Which I think, but I'm not sure, stemmed from some old ruling about how they wouldn't get XP because they didn't kill the suckers.  Whiiichhh... turned into a downward spiral of No-Fun. 

Starting with the first session of our new campaign tomorrow, I intend to have the baddies surrender or cut & run just about every time I know that the fight is already in the bag for the PCs.  You know that point in a long D&D fight where you can just see the tide turn against the monsters & NPCs?  Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.  Once that happens, I don't want to drag out the thing longer than it's fun.  And the players will totally get their XP. 

The skills thing.  I think that we've always gone with a kind of mix where sometimes the player calls for it and sometimes the GM calls for it, but the GM always gets that final say about what skill gets rolled and when.  I imagine that we'll probably stick with that pattern in the new campaign, but I indend to be a little more cool about letting the skills go how the players want them to go.  In the past I was kinda overbearing about deciding what skill gets used under what situation, but that was mostly 'cuz I was under the impression that I was supposed to be overbearing about it. 

Quote from: Ron
And in the latter case, what was the shared "ding ding roll" signal that everyone seemed to abide by?

Not quite 100% sure what you mean by this.  What was the signal that it was time to roll the dice?  Or what was the signal that determined who got to choose?

In the former case, it was um... well, it was kinda anytime the players tried to do anything that could be covered by one of the skills and invloved a possible risk.  In the latter case... well, there was no signal.  At least none in the vein of knowing that it was time to roll dice and not quite yet knowing who got to decide which skill got used.  If the GM heard a player narrate an action that might fail and have consequences he might call for a roll.  If a player wanted to get something done and was quite certain that it fell under a skill or ability that they wanted to showcase then they'd say something like "I wanna roll my Diplomacy skill to convince him to sell me the carrot."

I imagine we'll keep that pattern tomorrow, only replacing "consequences" with "important consequences". 

What I'd like to know is what is it about the Morale/surrender/escape thing that's leaving a bad taste in your mouth?  Is it the feeling of cutting the challenge out from under the players, making it too easy?  Or the opposite, making it too hard by having the baddies fight to the bitter end, trying to kill off a PC at any cost?  Or something else maybe?

Oh, know what?  I've got one more thing to share about NPCs escaping.  A bit of an anecdote that might just be interesting here.  It was a few years back and we were playing L5R in a great little group.  I was a player and was in the role of the tough and uncouth guy in the group.  We had done a bunch of clue-hunting for the session and had tracked down the Bad Guy to where he was hiding.  There were words spoken that lead to an immediate fight.  From my pov, this was the climax.  Everything lead to killing this guy.  At some point in the fight it became apparent that we had him.  We had won.  So, the GM pulled out some special escape-ability of the NPC and declared that he ran away and dissapeared into the night.  Poof!  I was totally pissed.  And now I can articulate why.  See, I felt like we had won the conflict fair and square, and the conflict was about putting an evil dude to death.  But, because of some obscure special ability that win got snatched right out of our hands.  We came away with nothing to show for it.  No consequences at all.  Zip.  The dude dissapeard back into the same shadowy orginization that he came from and we had nothing to show for all our efforts.

Is there some connection between that anecdote and the bad taste in your mouth?  Cuz... non-pc-death consequences for the players winning a fight could totally solve that.  Like, if the badguy in my story had been driven out of the city and his crime orginization had crumbled... that would have been totally cool.  Or something like that.

-Eric
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #47 on: May 20, 2006, 01:11:10 PM »

Wow! I almost want to stop this thread and start new ones for the other topics, because this whole "who calls for skill" thing, and associated issues like the lookup stuff Callan mentioned, are turning into a great database.

I think it's fair to say that a game which includes skills, effectiveness-values for those skills, and a point-buy (often strategic) assignment basis for having skills ... really ought to be more explicit about when and how skills are used. But that's no unique criticism of D&D, now is it? I think we just discovered one of those crucial issues regarding how-to-play which simply isn't explained. It's only assumed, absorbed, intuited, and above all enforced within a given group.

Talk about a crucial Techniques topic, eh? Wow again. I'd like to call for anyone who's interested to look over the posts so far and see if you can come up with a suitable generalization for the "state of the art" regarding skills (who calls for them, how, and why). Here's mine so far, which is probably pretty primitive.

The skill list on the D&D character sheets we're using (standard from the TSR website) can be divided into three things.

1. Color. Just raw Color, meaning that a ranger probably picks up some Wilderness Lore, a cleric picks up some Religious Lore, and so on. I'm betting that these are practically never rolled, and when they are, the DM probably called for it - and calls the result a success unless it's a 1, or even says "reroll" if it's a failure (no lie!). Such a roll/event involves information the DM would like to impart and is pretending that the overt resolution system is involved when it's patently not.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all groups use Lore in this fashion. I'm describing the category and pointing out that Lore may well be used as that category by many groups.)

2. A crucial tactical element of play, usually highly customized to the group. Spot checks are the obvious examples, and groups will differ radically about who calls for them and how much meat-and-potatoes you get from succeeding at them, just as with any Perception rolls in any games. (Note that in some games and groups, Perception is utilized as #1 above, though.) I imagine that Sense Motive and Intimidation are either used in this category, as in my current game, or (if the group can't figure out a way to interpret success/failure) deemed "broken" and discarded.

3. Important hooks or contexts for setting up scenarios, such as languages (again, these are candidates for this category, not hard-and-fast must-bes). Who knows which language, and what NPCs say to one another in different languages, may be used as an information-brokering or even crucial-misunderstanding context for scenarios and conflicts that are being developed. As I recall, a great deal of debate over what the hell an "alignment language" was often had to be ironed out for a given group or risk being a source of phenomenal contention during play, because some folks would then use them strategically in this context.

Great feedback on morale, too, guys, and thanks. Here are my thoughts on it, to be clear what I meant earlier.

Basically, I want a rule that determines whether, at the point when the tide turns against my monsters or NPCs, they cut and run. I don't like deciding it by myself, and going by the two fights so far, apparently I am too sympathetic to my baddies and basically assume they'll try to stay alive. That's the "bad taste," and I associate that particular flavor with the niggling desire not really to kill player-characters. A desire, incidentally, which I have trained out of my system for many other games, so I'm suspicious when anything even looks like it, especially in D&D. (Yet in each case I don't think I was too off-base; I just don't like the implication of two-for-two.)

I want a deterministic roll. If they make it, they stand and fight, and who knows, maybe a few more HPs will go down the drain, or a lucky crit will show up, or  whatever. I'd be happy to play them either way, depending on what the roll says. Maybe I'll look it up in my 1978-80 books and see what those rules suggest.

And yeah, I agree that if they do cut and run, the PCs get the experience points.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #48 on: May 20, 2006, 01:57:44 PM »

Quote
I think it's fair to say that a game which includes skills, effectiveness-values for those skills, and a point-buy (often strategic) assignment basis for having skills ... really ought to be more explicit about when and how skills are used. But that's no unique criticism of D&D, now is it? I think we just discovered one of those crucial issues regarding how-to-play which simply isn't explained. It's only assumed, absorbed, intuited, and above all enforced within a given group
I hadn't actually thought about that before, in terms of our groups play. Not at all, really. I'm sure I've contributed to our groups development of it. But actual, wilful thought? I guess it's the way it's written 'Skill X opposes Skill Y' and you buy into that as an answer. But really, which player opposes which player? That's the unanswered question.

On state of the art: I think you've nailed it, too hard to top.

On morale - this is what comes to my mind (so clearly it's something that I dig and not inherantly D&D) and it's to just say something like "Some monsters/foes run at half HP" or "Some run at one quarter HP". No dice rolls, just a fixed fraction. You don't even have to tell them which do what...they'll see the results in combat (though I really recommend deciding for each NPC before the combat). That way the players can judge just how much risk there was "Oh, this guy will run at half, so it's not as great a win if we beat him". I like that because it's a nice, hard number. If there's a morale roll - well, you might not be deciding when they run, but your still deciding when there's a chance that they run. For my own preferences, that's not so much a hard number and harder to judge exactly what risk I was facing.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Larry L.
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« Reply #49 on: May 20, 2006, 02:36:33 PM »

I'll mention this here rather than wait for a new thread because it's a neat intersection of two issues Ron mentions.

Back in the old high-school AD&D2 game, I was like the only player who knew the rules as well as the DM. The DM would always forget about morale checks during combats. So from time to time, if we had whomped on the monsters pretty good but ourselves were in peril, it would be something like

"The Black Captain charges at the wounded mage... and hits! causing..."
"Hey wait! Shouldn't they have to make some kind of morale check after that fireball?"
"Huh? Oh, uh, yeah! Let's see... yup! Okay, so instead... the legion of evil scrambles to flee!"
"Do I get a bonus if I attack him as he flees?"

and so forth.

Which is funny, because morale checks are spelled out as a "DM remembers" item, and I'm using it here as a "player remembers" item.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #50 on: May 20, 2006, 05:40:36 PM »

Now I come to think about it, it seems to me that the skill issue divides into two categories: 1) who calls for a roll at all, and 2) who decides on relevant skills/abilities to use in the roll. That is, there is a responsibility for declaring when something needs a roll to resolve, rather than deciding the result by fiat, and there is also a responsibility for knowing what character resources are relevant, and applying them. I'm inclined to think the most functional distribution of this power is the GM calling for rolls, and the players applying abilities.

What we have instead in my game is, as I said, sometimes the GM calls for it, and sometimes he doesn't, and you're left wondering just what is expected of you.

I realized this while thinking of some recent play, in the Big Eyes Small Mouth system, where my character had this Unique Attribute to reach out to people, and I was playing out all kinds of conversational situations where I was trying earnestly to do just that, and the GM was just "letting the conversation play out" instead of giving me a roll to influence. I talked to her about this, and her answer was, "You need to tell me when you're using the attribute because I've got too much to keep track of to be responsible for that." Which seemed a reasonable enough response at the time, but then I realized, it wasn't just not getting to use that specific ability, but just not getting a roll at all, when obviously I'm trying to have a real, palpable effect on the world with my character, and should get to roll Soul or something whether I've got "Aura of Compassion" to bump it up or not.



Also, I'm not sure if this is getting off topic, but I've noted as well in my games that there is a harsh attitude toward failure, such that results of a failed roll, especially a 1, are likely to be treated as a comical level of incompetence. This falls into your category of skills as color, but it's absulutely vital Color, like "is my guy the cool and collected badass I envision him to be, or not?" So when that Ranger turns up a 1 on his wilderness lore, rather than still being assumed to be a competent Ranger, he suddenly forgets that birds have wings or something. Thus a failed spot check practically means sudden blindness, A failed bluff and you sound like a used car salesman, and so forth. I think this goes a long way toward explaining the squeamishness about skill use in some players, or at least me.

Peace,
-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
buzz
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« Reply #51 on: May 20, 2006, 07:44:16 PM »

1. Color. Just raw Color, meaning that a ranger probably picks up some Wilderness Lore, a cleric picks up some Religious Lore, and so on. I'm betting that these are practically never rolled, and when they are, the DM probably called for it - and calls the result a success unless it's a 1, or even says "reroll" if it's a failure (no lie!). Such a roll/event involves information the DM would like to impart and is pretending that the overt resolution system is involved when it's patently not.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all groups use Lore in this fashion. I'm describing the category and pointing out that Lore may well be used as that category by many groups.)

Wilderness Lore (Survival in 3.5) gets used a lot if you have the Track feat, as it's the skill you check when tracking. Rangers will generally max this skill. The Knowledge skills, in our games, get whipped out mostly for identifying monsters. In 3.5, there is a specific, finite list of which Knowledge skill are available and what they cover. Monsters of various types are divided amongst a bunch of them. I.e., if you want to know what kind of undead you're fighting, you ask the cleric (Knowledge: religion). What type of dragon, you ask the wizard (Knowledge: arcana).
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A.k.a., Mark Delsing
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« Reply #52 on: May 21, 2006, 12:19:36 AM »

Hey, :)

Also, regarding whether a skill is color or not, almost all skills have some sort of non-irrelevant effect on effectiveness. Knowledge skills, for instance, give a synergy bonus of +2 in relevant "active" skill rolls, provided you have at least five ranks. Because there is a maximum number of ranks you can purchase in those active skills, if you really want to be top dog in one, you pretty much have to go for the knowledges.

Plus, some of these bonuses are totally tactical. Knowledge (Religion), for instance, gives a bonus to Turn Undead checks.

(The above does not apply to things like Profession, which, I think, are there mostly for the sake of completeness in describing NPCs. Or at least, I've never seen them taken by anyone, for color purposes or otherwise, as they never seem to fit with any idea of any type of PC that I have ever seen in real play.)

All this is to say, category 2 is pretty much universal for the game, but, I would speculate many groups might be playing without category 3, and I can assure you some groups (strive to) play without category 1 at all. (Actual Play example: I have, as GM, withheld information that I reeeeaaallly wanted to give out, on account of a failed Knowledge roll, because it was information that I felt was quite helpful with regards to overcoming challenges, but not crucial to continued fun.)

I hope I have contributed to the picture being painted.

Cheers,
J.
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url=http://lisbongamer.mc-two.com/]Lisbon Gamer[/urlLisbon Gamer
Storn
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« Reply #53 on: May 21, 2006, 06:08:23 AM »

Quote
This falls into your category of skills as color, but it's absulutely vital Color, like "is my guy the cool and collected badass I envision him to be, or not?" So when that Ranger turns up a 1 on his wilderness lore, rather than still being assumed to be a competent Ranger, he suddenly forgets that birds have wings or something. Thus a failed spot check practically means sudden blindness, A failed bluff and you sound like a used car salesman, and so forth. I think this goes a long way toward explaining the squeamishness about skill use in some players, or at least me.

I agree.  I think when my characters, who are supposed to be competent, get belittled... then I wince a bit.

I think it was Feng Shui that started me thinking that "Failure" could be cool.  A couple of other games have reinforced it.  So as a GM, sometimes a skill failure, I'll even say 'oh, you even succeed at the task... but this consequence X rears its head".  Burning Wheel has some examples like that.

 Like there is no doubt the thief should pick the lock from the tenor of the game so far.  And rolls the dice and gets a afailure.  But I rule he still does pick the lock.  But while doing so, the guard around the corner drops his tin dinner plate with a loud crash.  Probably startling the crap outta the poor thief.  Other guards come over to see what the ruckus is.  Thief has picked the door, but there are bunch of buffons just around the corner (who have no idea that uber cool thief is SOOO close) yelling for a mop!  The job of getting out is going to be trickier.

This is a classic James Bond scene.  And who is cooler than Bond.  We haven't made our example Thief character less cool for failure...we've almost made him cooler, as there is now more challenge.

But it was Stake setting where often I find myself hoping to fail... and in certain games, like L5R or Weapons of the Gods dice pools, I've even picked the lower dice to fail on purpose, because the Failure stake was so much fun!

Now to dovetail back to d20.  This unexpected consequences of failure that do not deprotagonize the protagonist *might* be a bit harder to do.  Just in this thread, we've seen Skill vs. Skill pairings.  Ex: Intimidation vs. Sense Motive.  These pairings focuses tightly the consequences of failure.  Armando the suave, but dangerous courtier fails his Intimidation vs. the Capt of the Guard's Sense MOtive.  There is a GM tendency, I believe, to go "NOPE!  The Capt sees right through your bluster!  His spine is stiff as steel.  He isn't intimidated at all".  In the heat of the moment, at the table, it is harder to think of "yes...but!"  As in "Oh, Armando, the Capt totally buys your social status as higher, and is trying to ingratiate and help you.  Unfortunately, he wants to escort you as is your due for being such a scary badass."

d20 is not the only game that I think channels thinking.  And channeled thinking is not necessarily a bad thing.  But since d20 is the thread origin and what not...

Also, as side note, if the players never outright fail.  Does it take away the drama of the dice?  Does it make it seem like the PC always succeeds? (an actual complaint by one of my more competitive players of my GM style).  In other words, why roll?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #54 on: May 21, 2006, 07:59:06 AM »

Hey guys,

One thing that's getting missed in a couple of posts above is that I'm not classifying the D&D skills into those categories. It's crucial to my point that in one group, all of the skills might be used as Color, whereas in another, how you distribute your skill points is a deadly serious tactical prep choice, and any of the skills might be crucial at some moment.

See what I mean? There's no point in saying "Wilderness Lore is too important because when you use it with Track then blah-de-blah," because in that group two doors down, they don't do that. They don't use the skills remotely like you do. Maybe they use them like you'd use a Crayola crayon set to solidify the characters' visual images in one another's minds, and that's all.

That's my point and I hope it's clear.

Also, those three categories are, as I said, primitive, or at least only one angle of attack on the issue. We should really focus on the whole "who calls for a skill, and which skill, and how deadly/crucial is doing so" angle. The posts so far are interesting - there's a lot of pain and unrealized commitment being expressed even with reflecting on the answers to the questions I asked about it. Look at how much status during play is being invoked in people's histories.

Right now, for the present game, it's interesting to be playing D&D with no teenagers involved, nor with anyone who's resurrecting his or her own teenage memories of D&D either. The result? Personal status is simply not on the line. Dan, Christopher, and I are not interested in "who sucks" or "who's baaaad," in our game. Rolls don't make you cool, they're a source of commitment to the situation and a source of some combination of relief, triumph, or apprehension.

So my current perspective on that issue really makes the emotional knots underlying and entwining with the comments so far jump out at me.

Best, Ron
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Roger
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« Reply #55 on: May 21, 2006, 09:31:48 AM »

The purpose of this message is to examine how the D&D 3.5 game, as written, treats skills.

Skills are the Game

"The whole game can be boiled down to the characters trying to accomplish various tasks, the DM determining how difficult those tasks are to accomplish, and the dice determining success or failure."

-- DMG 3.5, "Skill and Ability Checks", pg 30.

"Characters accomplish tasks by making skill checks, ability checks, or attack rolls, using the core mechanic."

-- PHB 3.5, "What Characters Can Do", pg 5

"A task is anything that requires a die roll."

-- DMG 3.5, "Delineating Tasks", pg 30.

"While combat and spellcasting have their own rules for how difficult tasks are, skill checks and ability checks handle just about everything else."

-- DMG 3.5, "Skill and Ability Checks", pg 30.


Thus, we can conclude that D&D itself consists of skill checks, closely-related ability checks, and the special cases of combat and spellcasting.


Objections to the Aforementioned

* "As written, the game requires the player to roll dice virtually every time he opens his mouth!  No one plays like that -- indeed, the game is unplayable as written, if that is required."

The rules as written do not require a player to roll for mundane, routine tasks, such as walking down the sidewalk, drinking an ale, or saying hello.

"For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful."

-- PHB 3.5, "Checks without Rolls", pg 65

"Unlike with attack rolls and saving throws, a natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success, and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure."

-- PHB 3.5, "Skill Checks", pg 63

In effect, these routine tasks have such a low difficulty that no character would ever fail, even if he rolled a natural 1.  As rolling would serve no purpose, it is omitted.  However, in the purest theoretical sense, one might consider those skill checks to have been passed.

* "There are more possible character actions than there are skills!  If the character tries a task to which no skill applies, the whole system must necessarily fall apart."

"Sometimes a character tries to do something to which no specific skill really applies.  In these cases, you make an ability check."

-- PHB 3.5, "Ability Checks", pg 66

An ability check is essentially a special sort of skill check, so everything mentioned so far still applies.


Who Calls For Skill Checks

"Sometimes a player will say, "I look around the room.  Do I see anything?" and sometimes she'll say, "I look into the room, knowing that I just saw a kobold dart inside.  I look behind the chair and the table, and in all the dark corners."  In both cases, the DM replies, "Make a Spot Check.""

-- DMG 3.5, "General Versus Specific", pg 32.

The above passage should clarify what the rules say on this subject.  There are, however, a couple of situations on which the rules seem to be silent.

* "The player says, "I make a Spot Check to try to spot the kobold."" 

My personal inclination is to treat this case as non-problematic, although the rules don't seem to handle it explicitly.

* "The player says, "I try to convince the guard to let me pass.""

In this case, it's not explicitly clear whether the player is intending to use Bluff, or Diplomacy, or Intimidate, or some other skill.

My personal inclination is that the DM has a discussion with the player to determine his real intent here, and then decide on the most applicable skill.  But the rules do not explicitly describe it, to the best of my knowledge.

Try and Try Again

"In general, you can try a skill check again if you fail, and you can keep trying indefinitly.  Some skills, however, have consequences of failure that must be taken into account."

-- PHB 3.5, "Trying Again", pg 64

"If this [Try Again] paragraph is omitted, the skill can be retried without any inherent penalty, other than the additional time required."

-- PHB 3.5, "Skill Descriptions", pg 66.

Whether a skill can be retried or not may be a twisty maze of special cases.  However, it is fair to say that it's a well-defined maze.  Some restrictions on certain skills may seem more arbitrary than others, or rely more on GM fiat than not, but the rules as written certainly provide guidance for each skill.

Karma?

"In some cases, an action is a straight test of one's ability with no luck involved.  Just as you wouldn't make a height check to see who is taller, you don't make a Strength check to see who is stronger.  When two characters arm wrestle, for example, the stronger character simply wins."

-- PHB 3.5, "Ability Checks", pg 66

I merely mention this as an odd little corner of the D&D rules, in which fortune plays no part. 

In Conclusion

Hopefully this sheds some light on how skills are treated by the rules as written.  It intentionally does not address the nature of skills in the game-as-played, other than to conclude that it is not inherently impossible to play the game as written.



Cheers,
Roger
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #56 on: May 21, 2006, 11:17:44 AM »

That's an extremely generous reading, Roger.

I think that the "objections to the aforementioned" section you wrote is pretty much composed of non-objections. The issue is not whether to roll when contributing something to the SIS is (a) non-problematic and (b) non-conflict oriented. Obviously, you simply don't roll in those cases. And I mean, obviously.

But there is a basic objection that simply isn't met by these rules or by few if any others. It is: under what SIS conditions does the non-DM have the right to demand a skill check?

Look at it this way. We're in a fight scene, and my fighter/sorcerer character is in a hot spot. The hobgoblins in front of him just took their attacks, one hit, and my guy has 9 hit points remaining. Everyone else in the fight is about one turn away from being able to help, as they are all in pickles too. It's my turn! .... and the DM says, you know, I think you aren't going to get an attack this turn.

Whaddaya mean, I say? Is there some spell or effect that's preventing me? No, says the DM. It's not anything like that, it's my personal decision. Huh, I say. Is the footing or physical situation of my character making it too hard to attack? No, you're not understanding, says the DM. It's got nothing to do with the imagined situation, he continues, it's just that I think the rules for attacking aren't necessary at this moment, and that if you attack, it's a miss.

I strongly suspect that every person reading this thinks either (a) Ron is trying to make some extend-to-absurdity point that I the reader am not seeing, or (b) the DM I'm describing is obviously insane and doesn't understand the game. Of course I get to attack when it's my turn to attack, of course I'll roll this D20 I'm holding, and of course its result will be consulted to see how the SIS is affected (i.e. whether I damage a hobgoblin).

But here's my point: there is no such "of course" when it comes to rolling a skill check, even in situations which are potentially problematic (made easier or harder) for the characters based on the results of such a check.

I mean, here I am, playing that fighter/sorcerer, and let's say he has a bitchin' Intimidate skill. We're being confronted by Ugly Pig the Bandit and his men. We aren't in combat, but we're playing the dialogue, and I have my guy say, "Stand aside, Ugly Pig. I won't lie to you. That's Paladin George the Good over there, who killed eighteen heathen orcs single-handedly just yesterday, and he doesn't like lawbreakers like you. And this is Black Allazar, who studied under Nerribenzar the Cruel, whose magics give George the willies. I'm giving your men this one chance to get back to your wretched little bandit stronghold in the woods. Stand aside."

The DM says, ehhhh, they attack.

Whoa. Wait. He does what? I confronted Ugly Pig and said intimidating stuff, and I don't get to roll? What the fuck?

See, the book says that can happen. Or does it? According to the book, the DM "just knows" when such an action should warrant a roll of some kind. And in "just knowing," clearly his word is (a) to be obeyed and (b) to be tuned to the maximum fun potential for everyone. That's a whooooole lot of assumptions we just made about the DM, isn't it? Because the question how does he know? is left entirely silent, and in practice, groups arrive at some uneasy accord about it and internalize that accord as "playing by the rules."

I already stated my own rules-approach, which apparently was quite the lightning bolt for many of you: when there's a conflct of interest among imaginary characters, then a roll is warranted. Period. It doesn't matter if I had all kinds of plans about how Ugly Pig was going to get the upper hand, then given them some sort of clue about what rock to look under in the troll's lair. In fact, using my approach means that all such plans & prep are to be discarded in favor of a different kind of prep.

But you won't catch me claiming that I'm playing "by the rules" in doing so. What I'm doing is ... well, at most consistent with the rules, or at least with the body text of the actual rules as opposed to all the little except/if/but bits crusted in there. But "by the rules?" I don't think so. We had to arrive at the real rules (the conflict-of-interest one) in order to utilize the textual rules at all.

As does everyone else.

Best, Ron
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Roger
Member

Posts: 168


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« Reply #57 on: May 21, 2006, 04:19:27 PM »

I think that the "objections to the aforementioned" section you wrote is pretty much composed of non-objections.

Well, yes.  I thought there was an outside chance they might come up; I should have more faith in Forge members.

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But there is a basic objection that simply isn't met by these rules or by few if any others. It is: under what SIS conditions does the non-DM have the right to demand a skill check?

Let's look at that one rule again:

"The whole game can be boiled down to the characters trying to accomplish various tasks, the DM determining how difficult those tasks are to accomplish, and the dice determining success or failure."

There's nothing in there about the DM determining success or failure.

By the rules, if a player says "My character tries to Intimidate the Bad Guy," the DM's job at that point is to determine how difficult that is to accomplish -- nothing more or less.

Now, the DM might try to weasel out of this by determining that the difficulty of the task is "Impossible."  The PHB addresses this point directly:

"Sometimes you want to do something that seems practically impossible.  [...]  They're the accomplishments that represent incredible, almost logic-defying skill and luck.  Picking a lock by giving it a single, swift kick might entail a +20 modifier to the DC; swimming up a waterfall could require a Swim check against DC 80; and balancing on a fragile tree branch might have a DC of 90."

-- PHB 3.5, "Practically Impossible Tasks", pg 65.

Unless the DM decides that what you're trying to do is more difficult than swimming up a frickin' waterfall, he should not rule it a completely impossible task.  He should let you roll.

Both the PHB and DMG have pages and pages (literally) of advice for the DM on how to set the Difficulty for various checks.  One of the more telling examples might be:

"DC 43: Track a goblin that passed over hard rocks a week ago, and it snowed yesterday."

--  DMG 3.5, "Table 2-5: Difficulty Class Examples", pg 31

If a player is attempting something easier than that, the DM should see a roll.

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I confronted Ugly Pig and said intimidating stuff, and I don't get to roll?

See, the book says that can happen. Or does it?

In my opinion, based on my reading of the rules as written, this is not allowed.  I won't comment on its frequency of occurence in instances of the game as played.



Cheers,
Roger
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #58 on: May 21, 2006, 05:31:25 PM »

Late to the party, but:

1. Morale. No official procedure any more. I forgot sometimes things don't fight to the death. Um, so I guess that means I use GM fiat: they can fight to the death unless I feel they shouldn't, as GM. So, I can roll the dice to the bitter end, or I can Give.

That's the way I've done it since time immemorial, except when I wanted to dramatize the possiblity of 'uncle,' when I drew out the old morale tables, tried to figure them out, and rolled some dice.

2. Skills. Who calls for them being rolled is open, according to the rules, with the caveat that the Big Dick of the GM seems to be able to swat them off the table with some impunity, albeit less in 3.x. In my 3.x play I found that I called for most of them: this relates to my preferred D&D GMing style, which is the player fantasizing out loud about what they want their guy to do, and me deciding if that's a point for dice-generated adversity or not. Which is sort of like Say Yes or Roll, I think.

Important: the historical conjecture in this thread about CRPGs being the source of retries/click it again mentality is wrong. This is a plain and simple product of the near-nonexistent IIEE advice in all early editions of D&D and AD&D. I remember people rolling over and over to open doors before Asteroids and Pac-Man were at the pizza parlor. Different DMs dealt with this differently.

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T&T's Saving Throws, so-called, look better and better to me all the time.

In my current D&D homebrew I use a 'stunt' system based on the Greyhawk/AD&D 'Open Doors' and 'Bend Bars' percentages, the former for easy stunts and the latter for hard stunts, as judged by the DM, by most relevant attribute. In other words, I wholeheartedly agree.

Quote
(Aside: the Barbarian Rage rules make for pretty limp-dicked berserker scenes, in my view. In real old-skool play, Forin would then have ravened after Joshua for his next attack.)

Yeah - sigh. The reply about it 'just being a tactical option' was right, but that's both a good and a bad thing. Someday someone will figure out berserker rules with the entertaining sense of danger and insanity we got back in 1980 without the stupid party-degenerates-into-bloodbath side effects. I nominate Clinton.
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ffilz
Member

Posts: 468


WWW
« Reply #59 on: May 21, 2006, 06:26:31 PM »

Ron,

As usual, you cut to the chase...

One thing this got me thinking about is that I'm pretty sure in the past I've said "You can't attack him." Hmm, and thinking about it, in that disastrous Fudge game I played in a couple summers ago, I had the GM essentially tell me "You can't make an attack."

But skills are a mine field. When I was fumbling through trying to spell out the system used in my Cold Iron games, I was definitely struggling with this. One aspect of the problem is when skill rolls aren't attached to any sort of conflict resolution (the old endless tracking rolls being a prime example of this). But as you note, even when there is a clear conflict, it's still possible to disallow the skill rolls.

This general unease about skills is something that I'm giving a lot of thought to since playing Dogs in the Vinyard.

Oh, and back to that Fudge game, I don't think a single thing of relevance was determined by die rolls, and I'm not sure the character sheets were relevant at all.

I'm definitely all ears for solutions, especially solutions that still allow wargamey/miniatures style round by round combat on a grid, yet provide good mechanisms for resolving social conflicts and other non-combat stuff.

Frank
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Frank Filz
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