Skill and Knowledge Check Guidelines/Expectations.   Posted by Takmarin.Group: 0
 GM, 52 posts
Wed 15 Jul 2020
at 12:29
Skill and Knowledge Check Guidelines/Expectations
I think skills and skills challenges are an interesting and often underutilized element of D&D. I want skills to feel like an essential part of this game. Sometimes there will be encounters or challenges that require skill checks, other times they may be integrated with combat or an alternative to combat or a way to get bonuses in combat or a way to access additional treasure or other rewards. Consequently, I want you to know how I'll handle them, so that you can make appropriate in-game choices.

Roleplaying helps.
Creative and compelling descriptions of how you're going to Intimidate the guard or Persuade the farmer will earn you bonuses on your rolls, or may not even require a roll at all.

Each check must bring something new to the table.
If you’re just repeating what the first player said, then your Diplomacy check doesn’t get you any further ahead.

Mistakes make things worse.
This depends on context, but as a rule I think these rolls are more interesting if there's something at stake. If you roll poorly there is a chance that not only will fail to Persuade the farmer but you'll make it harder for someone else in your party to do so.

Helping is not automatic.
The Help action enables you to give another character Advantage on a skill check. To use this, you must at the very least describe/roleplay how exactly you are helping. In some cases you may need to roll (at a reduced DC) to determine whether you can be helpful, possibly with the risk of making things worse as described above. The more skilled character might be able to use his expertise to suggest ways for a less-skilled companion to help ("Hold him so he doesn't flinch when I yank the tooth.")

Group checks.
Sometimes a skill challenge calls for a group skill check. In this case, one character may be able to take the lead and make the actual check to gain a success or failure. The others make checks to help the lead character, rolling at a reduced DC (typically 10) for a chance to provide a +2 bonus to the lead character’s check. As above, poor rolls could make matters worse.

If all the characters are in the same boat, then navigating a river would be done with such a check. Climbing, however, might require individual checks, unless there were some way for a single character to take on the bulk of the task (by setting anchors and tying ropes in advance, for instance). As elsewhere, good roleplaying may make the difference here.

Convince me.
Doing this in character is ideal, but OOC is OK, too. When it comes to skills or really anything that calls for an element of creativity, I'm open to hearing arguments for why it should be possible, how difficult or easy it should be, etc. I'm always happy to hear you out, just don't keep arguing once I've made a ruling on your argument.

Knowledge Checks

I'll generally treat knowledge checks as passive skills, meaning that I'll determine what you'd know based on your rank in the relevant skill and your background. I'll try to give you information pre-emptively when it comes up, but you're always free to ask.

That doesn't mean you'll never roll Arcana or Religion. If you're trying to do something more active - maybe you're in a library trying to research the history of a particular cult - then I might ask for a Religion check. But if it's just a question of what knowledge is already in your character's head, that won't be random.