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Creating my adventure as GM, what's good fallback DC's?


Beginner Box


Such as, what dc's should I place on tasks for my players?

When it comes to opening rusted shut doors, what's a good strength check to rely on for it being, easy, difficult, to only warriors being capable of such tasks?

When picking locks, what should I use to make locks range form trivial to a commoner, to difficult, to something only one with a theives kit should attempt?

When making leaps, what should I do?

For knowledge checks, what shoudl be easy, medium, to masters knowing. Etc.

Star Voter 2014

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Good question. Look at the DCs of your fighter and thieves. Are they 1st level? 10th?

A hard DC should be around the top 5 possible rolls of the character. For example, if Pylas the elven thief has a disable device of +20, then the DC of a hard lock should be around 35, require a 15+ on the roll.

A moderate DC should be around the top 10, an easy, around the top 15.

I use this as a rule of thumb, feel free to adjust, but its a good way to tailor your games to the characters you are playing.

Nick


See the skill DCs chart from 3.5 and remember to maybe subtract 3 to compensate for PFs altered skill ranks. Or maybe not.

For many athletic skills the check is an open check the with the resulting distance, height etc. being calculated from the check result. See the skill descriptions here

This 3.5 article is a variant on knowledge skill checks and contains some examples.

Some monster listings have knowledge skill dc results tables, see monster lore. for a collection from 3.5. Or you can use PFs general description of the knowledge skill.


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See page 35 of the Hero's Handbook for jumping. It is an Acrobatics Skill Check and gives some general DCs.

For the most part PFBB goes with DCs like so:

DC05 - Why bother, super simple. Everyone has a chance to do it.
DC10 - Really easy. Figure anyone (Taking 10) can do it with time.
DC15 - Basic. Most trained people can do this regularly
DC20 - Tough. You better have some skill at whatever it is to do it reliably.
DC30 - Really tough. Might need some assistance to accomplish.

IMHO, sliding scale DCs (DCs based on character levels) make leveling pointless. What I mean by this is if I find a Tough lock (DC20-25) and I just can't get it at first level, I should figure that Tough locks will always be that DC range. Consistency is better, again IMHO, than making Tough locks DC30-35 once I am level 6. Why did I grind to level 6 if I am just going to encounter, and have the same chance of cracking, the same difficulty of lock?!

Hope that makes sense and helps a bit.

TB


The Bane wrote:
Why did I grind to level 6 if I am just going to encounter, and have the same chance of cracking, the same difficulty of lock?!

While I agree that having every DC scale with a party's level strains plausibility, neither should having a comparatively higher level mean that the challenge of adventuring should be limited to higher monster CRs.

Using your example of a lock, from a DM/design perspective there are a couple of things to consider:
A) Range. Not every lock should or will scale in difficulty. Higher skill levels should reward players in dealing with routine/everyday challenges. At the same time, new and more difficult challenges become doable.
B) Common sense. If I'm a BBEG you can bet I'll put a higher-quality lock on the treasure room where I keep my collection of fist-sized rubies than I would on the treasure room where I keep my pouch of 47 gp, 23 sp and a masterwork backscratcher.
C) Expectations. If I'm the aforementioned BBEG stowing treasure in my dungeon full of greater shadows, using a lower-quality lock would be stupid because I'd expect that any adventuring party skilful enough to get past my minions would have the ability to crack a DC 20 lock like an egg.


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Lava Child wrote:

Good question. Look at the DCs of your fighter and thieves. Are they 1st level? 10th?

A hard DC should be around the top 5 possible rolls of the character. For example, if Pylas the elven thief has a disable device of +20, then the DC of a hard lock should be around 35, require a 15+ on the roll.

A moderate DC should be around the top 10, an easy, around the top 15.

I use this as a rule of thumb, feel free to adjust, but its a good way to tailor your games to the characters you are playing.

Nick

Absolutely not.

DCs should not be based off of the numbers a PC actually has. They should be based off the difficulty of the task (as the rules have it), else 1) there's no point in having modifiers in the first place, and 2) skills are useless, because no matter what, your odds of success don't change.

Now, the PCs may be expected to face more difficult tasks as they become more capable, but the tasks themselves should never increase in difficulty just because they increased their skill.

Now, on setting DCs. Keep in mind that, the way Pathfinder is designed, as your skills go up, there are more and more things that you can just do as a routine action, probably without even needing to roll. You get better. Things that were once hard, you don't even roll for now. And that's a good thing.

A Rogue with a +20 Disable Device score and a couple minutes undo even the world's best-made locks (no mundane lock in the core rules can stop her), and that's fine; the character invested in having a character who is very good at getting past locks, and deserves the reward for that foresight. If you have that character in your party, just don't expect locks to be an obstacle.

Now, for normal skill checks (roll once, check the result), the DCs are generally as follows:

DC5: So easy anyone can do it routinely and rarely if ever fail. You shouldn't have PCs roll these except under extreme circumstances, like the PC's taking massive penalties. (Ex: A low-strength Gun Tank in full plate, heavily encumbered, trying to climb that DC knotted rope while being pursued. It's still DC5, but there's a serious question as to whether that character can make a DC5 right now.)

DC10: Anything a completely average person can reasonably be expected to do without much effort on a consistent basis (taking 10 with a +0 modifier). These should rarely be rolled, unless the party is under stress or the PC is taking substantial penalties. Many, many actions fall under this category, and you can just let such actions pass without needing to roll.

DC15: Things that are difficult but doable for an average person (they'd need a few tries), but that someone with a modicum of training could do easily enough (a good student or amateur professional). This is the lowest tier you should really ask PCs to roll on a consistent basis, though PCs with training probably won't need to roll, and simply take 10. Ex: Climbing a rough natural rock wall. It's not hard if you know how, but if you don't, it's gonna be rough.

DC20: Now, we're getting into the hard stuff. Master-level stuff. Things the untrained are highly unlikely to be able to do or know, which it takes a true master (by which I mean highly experienced professional) to be able to do on a consistent basis. Making masterwork items is DC20; these objects recognized as prime quality world-wide, by mundane standards. Respected tradesmen. This is the level a PC is at if they have a +10 on a skill, and by level four or five, you can expect PCs to have several skills at this level, so keep in mind there should be a great deal they can do without much difficulty.

DC25-30: This is getting into the range of things that would be difficult for a master to do. Exceptional tasks, utterly impossible for the ordinary untrained human. Even these, many PCs will be able to make reliably at some point.

DC35+: Do not make these normal, no matter how high the PCs' levels are, no matter how high their skills. With few exceptions that can go into this range, at this point, we're talking superhuman feats, or opposed checks against the world-class. Or doing something hard, in a hurricane, during an earthquake, while being gnawed on by a swarm of angry kittens. Rabid kittens. That are on fire. And smell bad.

If you can take 20, the DCs for tasks of the same difficulty is 10 higher, so 20 for something an average untrained human can do with time if not under stress. Like, I don't know thing one about my bathroom door, but when I had to, I could take a couple minutes and a little nail file and get in there and pick that thing because it was so simple. That was me taking 20 with a +0 modifier.

The Exploration and Movement section of the SRD has some sample break DCs. Good for reference. Keep in mind that ability checks (such as raw strength checks for break DCs) don't increase like skills. That means a DC30 is much more difficult, even at higher levels. However, since you can take 20 on strength checks, in that case, if you treat them like skill checks you can't take 20 on, it tends to balance out. Most other things you'd need to break through a strength check like certain spells or alchemical items and manacles have a listed break DC in their descriptions.


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A table of DC Difficulty by Level.


Viletta and Lincoln gave excellent advice already. All I can offer you at this point a bit of experience.

Most of the Pathfinder skills can be classified as:
1. Everyone's favorite (Perception, Stealth, Spellcraft, Diplomacy).
2. Strong suits of specialists (most Knowledges, Climb, Bluff, Survival).
3. Seldom used (Profession, Craft, Perform).
4. Someone else's problem.

Category #1 skills user have usually +(level+3+3) bonus or higher (a wizard in my party has 15th level, and boasts handy +28 to important skills).

Category #2 skills reach similar level, but there is usually only a single person per group to have such skills.

Category #3 skills usually stay around 3rd or 4th level with regard to competence.

Category #4 skills seldom exceed a single rank and ability bonus.

Tips

When assigning a DC to a task, classify the skill first - you do not want to set high DCs to skills nobody acquires, and you do not want to have autopass situations.

Assign higher DCs to popular skills, keep a lot of less popular DCs at basic level and always remember that the same task cannot become harder with levels - this goes against the spirit of adventure, fair play and sense of achievement.

The happy medium is usually 30% chance to pass for an important task which may be retried, and 75% chance to pass for a critically task with drastic failure consequences.

The tasks, where characters can help each other should have a decreasing difficulty - the first to pass must score the highest, the last one, with the help of everyone else, can be allowed to enjoy low DC.

If you want your characters feel like heroes, set difficulties to ensure that NPCs have low chance of succeeding, while the PCs should succeed around 60% of the time.

To encourage creative thinking you may also assign two or three different DCs to the same task - a default for those who just want to roll dice, a hard DC for those who use inappropriate skill or just try to brute force a challenge, and an easier DC for those who plan or roleplay.

Examples

Scaling an obstacle: standard climb check DC, DC+5 who want to rush things and DC-5 for those, who get help or use tools.

Searching rubbish heap for treasure: Perception check, +5 DC for every treasure found after the first.

Intimidate a local tough to release a hostage: Standard DC for city watch, DC+5 for no-name bystanders, DC-5 for famous heroes.

Building a close relationship with an attractive NPC: (various skills may apply), DC+5 to become an acquaintance, DC+0 (and probably being nice) to become a closer friend, DC-5 (if your GM is merciful, and the NPC is likely to respond well to your advances) to become intimate.
If you're an evil spirit (demon, devil), you may also use this progression to slowly corrupt someone.

Regards,
Ruemere


If it's not specified, my general rule of thumb is:


  • Easy: DC 10 + character's level
  • Moderate: DC 15 + character's level
  • Hard: DC 20 + character's level
  • Really Hard: DC 15 + double character's level

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ms. Vadim,

If all the locks for my 15th level party were standard DCs, the game would be pretty boring. . . I think absolutely not is a little strong.

I stand by what I said, because in many cases, it adds to the fun. Everybody has different preferences, of course.


Lava Child wrote:

Ms. Vadim,

If all the locks for my 15th level party were standard DCs, the game would be pretty boring. . . I think absolutely not is a little strong.

I stand by what I said, because in many cases, it adds to the fun. Everybody has different preferences, of course.

Conversely, if the opposition for a 15th level party is securing their fortress and treasure with locks, something is wrong.

But if they do use locks, they should at the very least be magical, intelligent, deathlocks.

There isn't really a disagreement between you two. Ms. Vadim says the DCs should be higher because the challenge is greater, not because the characters are higher level. You're both agreeing that the DC should be higher.

She's just scared of scaling DCs, where two different rogues roll against two different numbers for the same lock. And that is silly, isn't it?


Well, it is a slippery slope. The lock to the local inn's back room shouldn't change DC based on party level. It is meant to keep out the normal thieves, but not some level 18 rogue that can basically pick it with a glance and a twitch of fingers.

However, level 18 parties aren't usually breaking into the back room of an inn; they are breaking into ancient vaults sealed against intrusion by a great lich or a god's avatar-on-earth. These locks will have a very high DC by the nature of the design, not simply because the party is a high level.


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Lava Child wrote:

Ms. Vadim,

If all the locks for my 15th level party were standard DCs, the game would be pretty boring. . . I think absolutely not is a little strong.

I stand by what I said, because in many cases, it adds to the fun. Everybody has different preferences, of course.

The point is scaling DCs based on character level rather than worldly factors is silly. By all means locks shouldn't get harder because you get better. In the same vein, locks shouldn't stay the same difficulty as you get higher. In many cases, players would like to feel validated that they are achieving something.

That being said, here are some ways I think it should be done as far as difficulty is concerned.

1) I use mundane locks (DC 20-30) for most things.
2) Mundane protections can be enhanced with hold portal and/or arcane lock as needed.
3) PCs will not always find locks they can open, and will also find locks that are pretty effortless (assuming they are high level).

At higher levels, locks are only a first line of defense (arguably so at low levels too vs an expert locksmith). Players will be able to attempt a wide variety of tactics for getting inside a locked location, so generally they'll need to deal with locks, magical traps (some of which may be Intelligent), guardians, and so forth. At high levels, if I wanted to guard my treasure troves from annoying adventurers, I'd craft a trap of stinking cloud or cloudkill (or both) and put them in my treasure vault with undead or constructs guarding them. Getting INTO the vault might be a DC 50 Disable Device check (DC 40 mundane lock + 10 for arcane lock). Once you're in, then you deal with the other obstacles.

However, even at high levels, the most common sort of locks will be the DC 20-30 sort. PCs will be able to rest assured that their investment into Disable Device and their +20 modifier means they can comfortably take 10 and disarm most locks.

I typically enjoy keeping DCs pretty reasonable instead of scaling them based on level. I also feel this encourages more diversified characters. Droping a few points into some off-skills to achieve some basic proficiencies in those skills is a very plausible tactic in my games (and I believe games as they were intended in the d20 system, given that we have example DCs that do not become harder) and produces (at least for me) more interesting characters. A rogue with a few ranks in Ride (so he can always make the DC 5-10 checks while mounted), or a paladin who has a few ranks in Survival; etc.

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