Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

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Shadowslayer
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Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Shadowslayer »

On the heels of the "RPGnet has Prime Questions" thread, it arose in me a curiosity.

Aside from Saving Throws, how often, or under what game circumstances, do you actually call for a dice roll to perform a non-combat task?

I've read some advice on the interwebs that suggests to never even bother calling for a roll unless success/ failure actually means something...that there is a real consequence if you don't complete the task. Basically meaning, for example, that if the high STR fighter decides to break down a normal wooden door, you just assume he'll succeed eventually and don't bother rolling it....unless there's a monster on the other side of the door that would be either A: surprised with the PCs success or B: now alerted as a result of the PCs failure.

I don't really have a horse in the race here....I'm just interested in the discussion. As a DM/CK, when do you call for a roll and when do you just handwave it?

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ThrorII
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by ThrorII »

Exactly!!

Unless it is important to the story, or a significant chance of failure, I don't require a roll. Either it is do-able, or not.

Now, under stress, combat, etc., rolls are required.

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thenorthman
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by thenorthman »

I once read that if you make the players only roll when it means something....well they know it's important.

What I mean by that if you have them do it every time or at least randomly they might become alert and not sure if it's an important plot point or not....basically keeping them engaged the whole time.....

Of course I don't have experience with C&C so maybe not as important.

Kind of like doing a detailed description of something.....sometimes it's just good to do that otherwise the players know to become cautious because your doing a "detailed" description. Kind of preventing players knowledge from interfering with character knowledge.....

Of course I could be way off..... :P

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Snoring Rock »

Secret door searches; I always have them roll that way the PC's have no idea if that door is there or not. Room searches? I always let them roll away. Many times it is part of the story line for them to find the hidden key, but unless they search I don't give it them.

Jumping across chasms, reading ancient runes, opening containers and sometimes doors...

There was a time when I made the jump from 3e to C&C. I needed to know every time a die roll was needed. After some time I have come to understand that if the dice do not get in the way of a great story and the telling of that story, where the narrative is not interrupted, then leave the dice on the table. When the PC's are excited and the story is thick and the they forget about numbers and the reality around them, then roll dice IF it make a difference and IF it makes sense.

If the party can role play better than roll dice, then I allow it.

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by serleran »

Rarely.

I am not a fan of attribute-dependency. There must be a real hesitation in my game to call for a check. Or, if I think it might cause some humor.

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Omote »

Fairly often. I use a skill system in my game that relies on attribute checks. It comes into play when the characters are crafting arrows, building boats, or trying to tell the CK how much they know about eldritch script. I use my skills much like the AD&D 2E proficiency system.

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Shadowslayer
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Shadowslayer »

What about using an ability check to indicate something besides absolute success or failure?

In my last game I came up with a small scenario as a wilderness obstacle. The PCs came across a steep muddy and rocky ravine with a creek at the bottom of it. They had the option to try and find away around, or to just climb down, ford the creek, and climb back up again. I had determined that there was a lone gnoll lairing nearby with his pet hyenas.

Success in climbing down and back up again was a foregone conclusion. But I called for easy Dex checks anyway....failure meant a slip, no damage, but causing some rocks bouncing down the side, splooshing into the water, and attracting roaming hyenas in search of breakfast. (Which happened) It was a fun encounter.

I'm not actually convinced that telegraphing when something is at risk is such a bad thing. I've played in games by other DMs that seem to get off on using checks frivolously. ("Haha - you fell off your horse") It seems to me that if you cultivate the idea that somethings on the line whenever they roll a die, then it can actually make the die rolls a little more exciting. Maybe its just a stylistic thing.

And basing success and failure on pure table acting...not sure about that. For example, if a point in an adventure requires something like bluffing/intimidating/diplomacy-ing past a guard...I think at some point the dice have to get some say in the matter. If only that it keeps the DM honest too, one step removed and impartial, rather than a one man judge and jury. That's the way I see it anyway.

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Arduin »

thenorthman wrote:
What I mean by that if you have them do it every time or at least randomly they might become alert and not sure if it's an important plot point or not....basically keeping them engaged the whole time.....

Of course I don't have experience with C&C so maybe not as important.
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This is not a C&C thing. It's the way I've run games since AD&D was released.
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by jdizzy001 »

Since my background is saturated in skill rpg's (dnd 3e, tri stat, ova, d6) i call for checks often. However, i use the alternate cb of 12/15/18 and i use pretty low cl's. Usually, 0-2 (difficulty permitting of course).
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Fiffergrund »

I try to avoid calling for rolls, but there is a large player base now conditioned to ask for rolls whenever they want to do something.

"Can I roll to see if I climb the tree?"

Sometimes it's hard to remember to say, "No, you just climb the tree."

I think I still prefer the guideline that rolls are for when there are useful narrative consequences for success or failure.
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by ArgoForg »

Kinda depends. When I was regularly running I might have had the players do it fairly often, but when I started playing C&C with my former group, we were all 3.X refugees and the SIEGE checks largely took the place of our usual perception and skill checks, so almost every major action required a roll. Now that I'm a little more familiar with the game and a little more narrative in my gameplay, I tend to make them a little less than I did... but I still use them a lot to keep people "into" the game by rolling the dice every so often for things other than combat.
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Shadowslayer »

I wonder though...by the book, C&C doesn't seem to set itself up as needing skill checks until something tough comes up. At 1st level, an easy check, if its prime, you still have to roll an 11 or better (give or take depending on stats) just to succeed at something. And if its not prime, then you need a 17 or thereabouts. That'd leave me to think that ability checks aren't meant to get tossed around willy nilly. Or am I off base on my thinking?

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Captain_K »

Abilities that fit with characters should be "a grade" easier. Like thieves moving silently, that's a check to move SILENTLY. To make little noise, that is a give-me for thieves and rangers in the woods but a check for all others with penalties if in noisy armor. Its that kind of thing, does it matter? Is it fun, does it make a challenge for the table or just delay the game. How fast do you want things to be... If you declare things are made regularly then you should declare occasional "oops".. rolling each time makes that slow and tedious. Get your basic chance down. prime makes things on a 12 with primes typically having plusses that's like 50% for "tough" things and 90%+ for easy things (running loose with stats here, correct me when I error). Thus easy stuff should work 9 times out of 10, easy stuff for skill PCs in their area 5 in 10 and anything harder than that, get out the dice... riding your horse, no big deal, you will fall off once each year, so what.. do we need to play it? Could be..

Throw some curses and blesses in there for fun to switch the odds?

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by alcyone »

I was running a Goodman Games module yesterday that has all of the CLs thoughtfully called out for everything, and was dutifully rolling them. It gets a little excessive, maybe more than I'd do if I was writing my own. As easy as it is to convert other D&Dish modules though, it's really nice to have modules written expressly for C&C.
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by jdizzy001 »

Shadowslayer wrote:I wonder though...by the book, C&C doesn't seem to set itself up as needing skill checks until something tough comes up. At 1st level, an easy check, if its prime, you still have to roll an 11 or better (give or take depending on stats) just to succeed at something. And if its not prime, then you need a 17 or thereabouts. That'd leave me to think that ability checks aren't meant to get tossed around willy nilly. Or am I off base on my thinking?
You're dead on. Both ck sections of the phb and ckg talk about that very thing. The point of cnc is to keep the story moving, and not bog yourself/party down in meaningless dice rolling.
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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Rigon »

I only have my players roll when I think there is a chance for failure. An example, if a PC wanted to try to climb a tree and was not being pursued, attacked, or in any way hindered, then they climb the tree. If, however, the PC is being disrupted somehow in climbing, then I'd have them roll. Also, I sometimes like to make them roll randomly. It keeps them on their toes.

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Re: Ability checks - How often to you call for them?

Post by Treebore »

Yeah, I like to only have them roll when the outcome can have an in play effect, for good or bad, usually both. Otherwise I like to assume it gets done so easily no roll is needed.
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