One skill check or "Please sir, may I roll some more..."


Rules Questions


Situation: I had a character who had to roll climb skill checks to climb a cliff. With a skill of 8 and a DC of 15 in 10 foot increments (Barbarian with 20 ft/rnd movement on double move), I'm reaching the point of near statistical certainty of failure.

This is the reverse of the "Everyone rolls perception = mathematical certainty of success" problem.

In these kinds of instances, it seems unfair to penalize the player with near auto-failure, yet at the same time, I'm also conflicted with a 'them's the breaks' attitude.

I haven't found any guidance for when one (or more) skill check(s) should be done in place many.

Thoughts?

(Please address the question. I don't want to see "the PC could take 10" or "do x to increase the difficulty", okay? I'm more interested in the 'one or many' skill checks since this seems to be a recurring issue. Thanks. :])

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

You can take 10 if you aren't under attack or there isn't a something that distract you:

PRD wrote:
Taking 10: When your character is not in immediate danger or distracted, you may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 10. For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful. Distractions or threats (such as combat) make it impossible for a character to take 10. In most cases, taking 10 is purely a safety measure—you know (or expect) that an average roll will succeed but fear that a poor roll might fail, so you elect to settle for the average roll (a 10). Taking 10 is especially useful in situations where a particularly high roll wouldn't help.

8+10= 18 vs Dc 15. Automatic success.

"When your character is not in immediate danger" don't mean that you can't use the skill if failing will put you in danger, it mean "if something is actively menacing you now", like a enemy attacking you.

Why you don't want a reply of "take 10"? That is the simplest way to avoid multiple checks and represent a effort over a long period of time.

That request contradict "In these kinds of instances, it seems unfair to penalize the player with near auto-failure, ...". The game has a way to avoid auto failure, but you don't want to hear about it.
At that point I don't know what you want. Some kind of home rule?


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But this is exactly what take 10 is for! what is the issue with taking 10 that you don't want to see it?

There are no rules or guidance for rolling up many skill checks into a single check.


dragonhunterq wrote:
But this is exactly what take 10 is for! what is the issue with taking 10 that you don't want to see it?

Okay what if the DC was 20?

dragonhunterq wrote:
There are no rules or guidance for rolling up many skill checks into a single check.

Just like there's no rules for 'many checks (perception is the most common skill I've seen discussed) = eventual success,' but that seems to generate plenty of discussion. This is the reverse of that problem. 'Many checks = eventual failure.'

I curious if/how anyone has addressed the issue.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I would resolve it (in character and and out of character) as a realization that the cliff is just too hard to climb and a different solution is going to have to be found. It's the sort of thing that happens in real life. I'm not a strong swimmer, so I'm not going to try to swim the English Channel. I'll fail too many checks and die :)


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MasterBuilder wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:
But this is exactly what take 10 is for! what is the issue with taking 10 that you don't want to see it?
Okay what if the DC was 20?

Then the player needs to weigh his odds. If he climbs 10 feet per check and he needs to climb 30 feet, he has a ~20% chance of making it without failing a check. He has to fail it by 5 or more to actually fall down, so he still has a decent chance of making it up there.

As a trained climber he should likely be made aware that after surveying the wall he thinks it's not impossible but likely a challenge for his skill. He could try it (but with the risk of falling) or he could try to find some other way to ascend it - buy a climbing kit, look for vines or a more favorable cliff facing, or get a buff spell to improve his climb skill.

Ultimate Intrigue has some optional rules to help solve the "the 150 orcs in the tribe all roll perception checks. 21 of them got a natural 20, spotting you" -problem, it's called "Replacing Opposed Rolls" and can be found on p. 189. It doesn't help with the climb example but it may be worth taking a look at anyway.

Edit: Come to think of it, maybe Ultimate Wilderness has something on climb rules? I never bought it so I wouldn't know, just glanced over a friend's copy.


Without the threat of failure being an option, why have them roll at all?

If you don't want him to fall off the cliff, just let them say they climb the cliff without rolling for it.

If you are going to have a climb check DC, then let them roll. Let them take 10 if the situation allows. Let them fail and fall if that's what happens.

The dice can be a devious and deadly god, but that's the Lord of this land.

The answer is either play by the rules in place, or as GM, Rule ZERO past whatever is in the way.

It is a bummer way to lose a character, but it's true to the rules and the story if someone falls to their death trying to climb a cliff. That is a distinct possibility when climbing cliffs. The person will probably find a means to fly with his or her next character. Lessons learned.

Sometimes tragedy is life's best tutor.


This is a teamwork problem. My usual solution is that the first PC who climbs the cliff secures a knotted rope and lowers it down for everyone else. A knotted rope with the cliff face to brace against has climb DC 0.

Jumping over a crevasse is a similar problem that also uses rope. The party ties a rope around the shoulders of the first jumper in case he fails the jump and latter the group can crawl across the rope instead of jump.

Sneaking as a group is another situation where the lowest skill is the one that matters. Unfortunately, I have no solution for that one short of the Stealth Synergy teamwork feat.

While rope serves to switch change the DC of the skill check or switch to a different skill, for other difficult skill checks, clever ideas can give a circumstance bonus. These are highly subjective so receiving a circumstance bonus depends entirely on the GM, but it usually follows common sense. Dressing in better clothes could improve a Diplomacy check. Knowing a similar language could improve a Linguistics check. Giving an animal a treat could improve a Handle Animal check. And so on. The typical circumstance bonus is +2.

Also, don't forget Aid Another. Suppose another climber says that he is nearby advising the weak climber on good handholds. I would allow an Aid Another roll of that skill check. Successful aid gives a +2 bonus.

The Exchange

MasterBuilder wrote:
dragonhunterq wrote:
But this is exactly what take 10 is for! what is the issue with taking 10 that you don't want to see it?

Okay what if the DC was 20?

dragonhunterq wrote:
There are no rules or guidance for rolling up many skill checks into a single check.

Just like there's no rules for 'many checks (perception is the most common skill I've seen discussed) = eventual success,' but that seems to generate plenty of discussion. This is the reverse of that problem. 'Many checks = eventual failure.'

I curious if/how anyone has addressed the issue.

If the DC were 20, you'd have a chance to fail... because... here's the rub... the difficulty of what you are trying to do exceeds your capacity to do it! Shocking, I know, that a +8 doesn't let you scale the slickest slopes in all of Golarion, but thems the breaks!


MasterBuilder wrote:

Okay what if the DC was 20? ...

I curious if/how anyone has addressed the issue.

Like the other's have said, Take 10 will work in most cases if they're not in a stressful situation. If you now make it a DC 20, then the barbarian can't make it by Taking 10, but they wouldn't fall, they would just fail to make progress if they tried (since it's not a failure by 5 or more).

At that point, as pointed out, the player either needs to make a little effort (they still have about a 40% chance of success roughly) or have someone else lower a rope or you have the barbarian take off any armor or encumbrance that's giving them a penalty or they rage and increase their Strength. It's not an insurmountable obstacle and there's a huge area between auto-success with no risk and complete and abject failure. Even if he does fall from the highest point (2 successful climbs and then a failure by 5 or more) that's about 2d6 damage or so.


The character is trained in the skill. They should be able to adequately assess whether or not it is in their capacity to accomplish with their level of skill.

Describe the cliff in such detail that the overall difficulties of the climb are impossible to ignore.

Does a +8 climb give you the confidence to climb an inverted slope? Can you dyno that 2 foot protruding lip at the top of the cliff? Does your confidence falter when you feel moisture or moss on the cliff that may be slippery?

I literally only use the climb skill check when I'm told to, as a character, I always look for alternative methods and rely on teamwork for such situations.

Or send the party rogue/monk, because nobody misses either of them if they fall.


VoodistMonk wrote:


Or send the party rogue/monk, because nobody misses either of them if they fall.

Sounds like the party should be sending you.


Volkard Abendroth wrote:
VoodistMonk wrote:


Or send the party rogue/monk, because nobody misses either of them if they fall.
Sounds like the party should be sending you.

It's all in good fun. Sending the monk is actually a good idea because they have access to slow fall. Rogues are meh, sorry if we disagree on their usefulness in the party.

Can't send me, I'm the fool that tries to catch whomever falls. Not a whole lot in the way of rules for catching falling characters, so we just always gave half the damage to the person breaking the fall, or whatever amount keeps the person falling alive. Because it's an obvious sacrifice meant to save the person falling, otherwise why try catch them at all?

My character has been reduced to 0hp catching falling characters who had far less health to spare, but we didn't have time for me to mess with my full plate armor to be the one climbing. We had heal spells, but no flight or rope tricks, so this was what we chose to do with what we had.

So yes, send the party rogue or monk. Both of which have less armor, usually, and are generally easier for someone to safely catch without being crushed.


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I NEED to climb this cliff, no other way around it. My PC has a Climb +8 and this is hewn stone (DC 20 Climb check) so it's likely I'm going to fail, even if I take 10. This means that this is gonna be a real challenge for my character.

Time to get... creative!

1. Check my inventory: what do I have that can help? Rope; daggers or spikes; hand axes; even pick axes. All of these, with GM's approval on some, can be helpful getting up this wall

2. Look at other skills: I run a game where the party includes a barbarian. She has put no points in Climb relying on pure Strength to get her over/through most obstacles. When she was presented by this very problem in a mite dungeon way back at 2nd level however she reminded me - "I have Profession: Woodcutter." What followed was a 1 hour detour in the dungeon during which the PCs exited, guarding or helping the barbarian who in turn used her profession skill to fashion a very crude but useful 10' ladder. Using this and a couple spears stolen off of some mites as climbing spikes, the PCs climbed a 25' high section of rough-hewn dungeon wall to get onto a balcony.

3. Spells and Aid Another; involve your party: are you a Small barbarian? Then stand on the Medium sized PC's shoulders. Does the arcane spell caster have a flying/climbing familiar? Perhaps they can move with you and point out hand/foot holds. At low level you've got Guidance for a +1 on a skill check or Monkey Fish for a Climb/Swim speed; a potion of Spider Climb is expensive but useful for everyone in the party to have; by the time PCs reach about 5th/6th level, climbing places starts to become irrelevant.

In the broader sense, beyond Climb specifically to skill use in general, my anecdotal experience has been that beyond about 7th level only certain key skills only see marginal use anymore: Appraise, Craft, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Knowledge, Heal, Intimidate, Perception, Profession, Spellcraft, Stealth, Survival. You can make an argument for Bluff, Perform or Sense Motive for specific builds, but I haven't seen those show up in my games.

Your experience may differ from mine and that's a good thing; no 2 gaming tables should be the same. But from a RAW standpoint, looking at skills with set DCs like Climb vs surfaces or Swim vs types of water, by level 7 with buffs, some investment in skill ranks and specialized equipment to boost the skill's bonus, even without magical flight/levitation or other spells to circumvent the obstacle you should be able to safely traverse said obstacles without much fear.

Barbarian 7 built for Str could easily manage a standard Climb of +17. That's a Str of 25 (+7), 7 skill ranks (+7) and Class Skill (+3). Add in a very mundane Climber's Kit(+2 Circumstance) and you're guaranteed of scaling any surface with a DC 20 or less since you can't auto-fail on a roll of 1 with Skill checks.

Looking at the Climb skill this means the typical dungeon wall or less is an auto success for this Barbarian 7. If they're able to take 10 this same barbarian could scale nearly any surface, up to and including city walls or a sheer ceiling.

So I suppose my advice, based on RAW to all of my players has always been: be creative and use all of your gear/resources well until between level 5 (some arcane spellcasters get spells to circumvent the battlefield altogether) and level 7 (most fixed DC skills of 20 or less become "gimmies") and you'll be fine.

As for multiple rolls? Well that doesn't sound like take 10 to me, that sounds like take 20. That rule suggests that your PC will eventually succeed at a 20 on their skill check, given a significant amount of time and potential failures along the way. This has only seen use at my tables out of combat and outside the realm of potentially harmful results.

No PC would be able to take 20 on a Climb check per se in my game because they'd fall from a height and take damage on a failure. They might however take 20 on Craft checks to making a new Climber's Kit; the first 19 were tossed in the trash but the 20th one was a work of art!


MasterBuilder wrote:
Situation: I had a character who had to roll climb skill checks to climb a cliff. With a skill of 8 and a DC of 15 in 10 foot increments (Barbarian with 20 ft/rnd movement on double move), I'm reaching the point of near statistical certainty of failure.

Why does this look like near statistical certainty of failure to MasterBuilder?

Core Rulebook, Skills chepter, Climb wrote:
A Climb check that fails by 4 or less means that you make no progress, and one that fails by 5 or more means that you fall from whatever height you have already attained.

The barbarian makes progress on a roll of 7 or more (70% chance), stays still for a round on a roll of 3 to 6 (20% chance), and falls on a roll of 1 or 2 (10% chance). Thus, the math tells me:

12.5% falls from near ground level. 87.5% chance of climbing 10 feet.
10.9% falls from 10 feet up. 76.6% chance climbing 20 feet.
9.6% falls from 20 feet up. 67.0% chance of climbing 30 feet.
8.4% falls from 30 feet up. 58.6% chance of climbing 40 feet.
7.3% falls from 40 feet up. 51.3% chance of climbing 50 feet.
6.4% falls from 50 feet up. 44.9% chance of climbing 60 feet.
5.6% falls from 60 feet up. 39.3% chance of climbing 70 feet.
4.9% falls from 70 feet up. 34.4% chance of climbing 80 feet.
4.3% falls from 80 feet up. 30.1% chance of climbing 90 feet.

The barbarian isn't trying to climb a 100-foot cliff, is he?


The probability to fall on 1 out of 10 climb checks would be:
1-(0.9)^(10)

Which is roughly 65%, even though you have a 90% chance to not fall on each individual attempt.The more rolls you make the more likely you are to fail at some point.

At 5 climb checks you still have a 41% chance to fall on one of those 5 checks. Even on 3 checks

Even though the chance to fail on any given check is low, the chance to fail any one of the checks after several becomes higher and higher. Which makes sense, because if you make an infinite number of checks you basically guarantee you would fail at some point.


What's the issue here? Retry rules are listed in each skill description, and there's nothing preventing a player from rolling Climb repeatedly until they succeed--provided they don't die from falling damage and provided that a 20 is enough to succeed.


That said, Climb checks are not fun in Pathfinder. Having to make 10 skill checks to climb a single surface is both cumbersome and unrealistic. I generally just have a character make one Climb check and keep it unless they switch to doing something else or conditions otherwise change. (The Alexandrian has an article on this somewhere--probably in the Art of Rulings series.)


MasterBuilder, how high is the cliff in question?

8 points in Climb, so at least level 8, that's 100+HP for the Barbarian. He has to fall, what, 80 feet to take half his health?

What is he afraid of, exactly?


Having to start over, probably.

Silver Crusade

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For what it is worth, PFS scenarios (so, semi official at least) constantly change the rules to avoid the character making multiple checks (apparently, the rules often don't support the stories that they're trying to tell).

Usually they just bundle a seemingly arbitrary number of checks into a single check with a seemingly arbitrary increase to the DC.

Often something like 3 - 5 checks become a single check with a +5 to the DC


VoodistMonk wrote:
Volkard Abendroth wrote:
VoodistMonk wrote:


Or send the party rogue/monk, because nobody misses either of them if they fall.
Sounds like the party should be sending you.

It's all in good fun. Sending the monk is actually a good idea because they have access to slow fall. Rogues are meh, sorry if we disagree on their usefulness in the party.

Can't send me, I'm the fool that tries to catch whomever falls. Not a whole lot in the way of rules for catching falling characters, so we just always gave half the damage to the person breaking the fall, or whatever amount keeps the person falling alive. Because it's an obvious sacrifice meant to save the person falling, otherwise why try catch them at all?

My character has been reduced to 0hp catching falling characters who had far less health to spare, but we didn't have time for me to mess with my full plate armor to be the one climbing. We had heal spells, but no flight or rope tricks, so this was what we chose to do with what we had.

So yes, send the party rogue or monk. Both of which have less armor, usually, and are generally easier for someone to safely catch without being crushed.

Psst. I think he meant you the person, not your character. You seem to know a bit about climbing.


Why did you have to keep making separate checks? Once to cover the "climb" should have been enough. That is, unless your PC was stopping to do something in-between.


Brother Fen wrote:
Why did you have to keep making separate checks? Once to cover the "climb" should have been enough. That is, unless your PC was stopping to do something in-between.
Climb wrote:

Action

Climbing is part of movement, so it’s generally part of a move action (and may be combined with other types of movement in a move action). Each move action that includes any climbing requires a separate Climb check. Catching yourself or another falling character doesn’t take an action.

If you're trying to climb more than you can cover with one move action (usually 1/4 your normal speed), the text dictates that you make a Climb check for each move action required.

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