Don't Make People Roll for a DC 10 or Less Checks, You Dicks.

A check with a Difficulty Class (DC) of 10 or less is not something that you should be making your players roll. The DC 10 represents an activity that is done regularly that poses no real challenge to your average person conducted under normal circumstances. A DC that is set at less than 10 represents something that an average person could do with little to no trouble, like changing the channel on the remote or picking up a glass of coke.  

Now I know that to some of my regular readers that this probably shouldn't have needed addressing but you would be amazed at how many comments I've read today while I was researching wilderness survival where people kept championing the "Roll every DC, no matter how low," line of thought. And I get it, they've got no one who will play in their boring ass games so they want us to have the same experience. 

Don't make people roll for things they should automatically succeed at doing. It slows down the game. It makes you a boring, unimaginative Dungeon Master. Forget that noise and keep the game moving.



Comments

  1. "It's a sheer cliff sixty feet in height - that means each of you six players will have to roll your PCs' climbing skill about five times."

    Are we supposed to be excited, and anxious the whole time? Fraught with anticipation on whether, or not we'll make it? Any one with any knowledge of probability says at least one PC is very likely to fail at least once. Duh. It's not exciting - it's waiting on line until it's your turn to fall. Stupid.

    Sure this can happen in any game, but boy if it doesn't seem to happen very often in any game I play other than old school medieval fantasy. What is it with you guys and shooting fish in a barrel?

    BTW, nice to see you back posting regularly Charles. Happy New Year!

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    1. On the cliff example, I hate the multi-check bull that some people engage in. It's not exciting in the least bit.

      Also, I like shooting fish in a barrel, much easier than dynamiting them in the lake and less likely to get me arrested.

      Glad to be back!

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    2. I think the DC system in general is just poorly understood by GMs.. The cliff example is one of the worst.. In reality, we don't really attempt tasks unless we know its going to work 9+/10 times, yet in gaming, heroes will try to attempt tasks even when they have a 1 in 20 chance...

      Many situations, such as the first hunt, the first few creatures, even the first cliff climb, can be done properly and can 'create tension', but like the 'nightmare reality' or the 'the NPC is the evil bad guy' or the 'this village of goblins isn't really evil' tropes.. you do it a once, players enjoy it, and you never do it again.

      I do the same for battles, if your group of players has shown the ability to dispatch half as many creatures of a given level, then it'd be likely they'll most likely do so every time, so encounter rolls can be quickly dispatched with some descriptive text from the DM too.

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    3. "I do the same for battles, if your group of players has shown the ability to dispatch half as many creatures of a given level, then it'd be likely they'll most likely do so every time, so encounter rolls can be quickly dispatched with some descriptive text from the DM too."

      I like that.

      Usually I just tell them that the weaker things they might encounter in the world have learned of them and are actively avoiding them with everything they have.

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  2. I've always followed this train of thought on everyday average regular actions. Don't roll unless you are under duress. Riding a horse from town to town, no roll. Jumping your horse over a hedge while being pursued by orcs firing arrows at you? Now you roll.

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    1. If you have set something at DC 10 that a PC should succeed at most of the time, then you do not understand DCs.

      A DC 10 means an UNTRAINED PC has a 45% chance of failure. That is NOT an automatic success.

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    2. In AD&D,if a Thief has "Climb Walls" of 55%, did you make him roll? Same thing.

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    3. First, Hi Marty!

      Second, I never played AD&D so I can't answer your question. I would like to though I haven't met a local group still running.

      Third, if every player I have looks at me like a damned moron for asking them to beat a 10 then it isn't a challenge and is nothing more than an annoyance. Now to your other comments!

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    4. You didn't play AD&D? How did I not know this about you? You've always been such a big Greyhawk fan I guess I just assumed.

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    5. Oh I love reading the AD&D books and adventures. They're lots of fun and converting them to D&D 3.5e and D&D 5e has always been enjoyable for me. But, yeah, never got a chance to play it.

      My Wife played 2nd Ed and she likes to tell me that it makes her old school and me . . . well, just old. She's a keeper that wife of mine.

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  4. Strongly disagree. Your premise is incorrect.

    DC 10 **does not** represents an activity that is done regularly. In 3rd or 4th edition maybe, but not in 5e. The lower skill checks represent the new math in 5e... Especially when a character *does not have proficiency* in the particular skill, a DC 10 is NOT an automatic success by any standard.

    You need to rethink what DC 10 actually means. It is not walking up stairs and chewing gum.

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    1. To elaborate further, if I am not trained in a skill and I only have a +1 in that attribute, a DC 10 represents something that I should only succeed at 40 PERCENT OF THE TIME.

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    2. Whoops. I meant FAIL AT 40 PERCENT OF THE TIME... but you should get the idea. It's not a "gimme".

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    3. "Strongly disagree."

      I can tell.

      :D


      Onward!

      In 3e DC 10 represents the baseline. A common, easily accomplished task which all your bonuses and penalties are applied to in order to ascertain the task's actually difficulty. At one time either Tweet or Cook (had it saved on my old computer but when it died it ate it) said something to the effect that you shouldn't have players rolling for DCs 10 or less because those aren't situations where your characters are being challenged to succeed but rather opportunities for the DM to force "roll" playing on the group.

      Also, on the "gimmie" thing. In golf you can choose to actually putt the ball in when it's within a yard or pick it up and count the stroke. Yes a lot of times you can miss the hole, but you're more likely to make it than not. The DC 10 (and less) is the same thing to me. I'm not going to have anyone roll for it because it isn't something that they should find challenging and, as I mentioned earlier, it's something they look at me funny over.

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    4. Ok... third edition. Yes, I was very much in the 5e mindset, which has slightly different skill bonuses.

      Now, also, in terms of assigning a DC, I take Peter Amtor's approach. I'm not going to make a PC roll to ride a horse. I'm not going to make a PC roll to climb a ladder or swim (unless wearing armor)...

      On the other hand, if you are being chased by a troll, well, things go wrong when you are hastily trying to beat a retreat and may be in that duress situation.

      But I also tend toward the "fail forward" rule. If you miss a low DC check, that doesn't necessarily mean a complete failure (like falling off the horse), but it could mean you got away but took a few points of damage from the low handing branches and thorny brush you had to duck under/burst through... or the horse has thrown a show and though you got away, you are still in dangerous country with a potentially lame horse.

      Etc...

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    5. Thing is that when you're talking about situations such as being chased by a troll you're not going to have a DC10 check. It's going to have modifiers that make it higher than that.

      Also, I'm a fan of fail forward as well though I tend to do it more in the style of you failed but this thing happened that keeps it interesting than you failed but still succeeded (if I understood what you were saying there. It's been a really long day).

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    6. Yeah, I'm totally there. The troll thing probably wasn't the best example. But anyway, for me "DC 10" represents things where if you are totally taking the time, being careful, planning, not under duress, etc... yeah, don't bother rolling. But in combat or another stressy situation, your mind might not be totally focused, and that 40% failure chance is there... and it's coming for you.

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    7. And see, here's where I can't justify any DC 10 challenge under those circumstances. The 10 is the baseline that all bonuses and penalties are applied towards, so if you're in combat you automatically add +2. There should never be a time where you see a DC 10 roll.

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  5. So no AC 10 NPCs or monsters?

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    1. Not the same thing, Holmes. AC and DC are completely different.

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  6. So no AC 10 NPCs or monsters?

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    1. You know, like batteries? Only this time we're talking about armor class and difficulty class. Similar but different.

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  7. Past me would completely agree.

    Present me has players who complain that they don’t get to roll often enough.

    Although a better answer that I use is to have them make a check “against a higher DC” to determine whether they just barely succeeded or succeeded with style.

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    1. "a better answer that I use is to have them make a check “against a higher DC” to determine whether they just barely succeeded or succeeded with style."

      I like that!

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    2. I should probably credit The Risus Companion, which is where I think I first came across this idea.

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    3. Man, I have found so much cool stuff from Risus over the years. I really need to do a deep dive.

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    4. I do think that the companion is one of the best RPG books I’ve read. I found lots of good advice in it that I find applicable beyond Risus.

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