Help with skill checks in campaigns / modules


Hello! Im' a fresh GM with a question. In every campaign or module there are plenty of opportunities to make a skill check. But, I have a question. The PC need to do exactly what is written in the book to do the check? If so, should I, dunno, give them a tip that they could do that?

For example, checking the camp. Quote from the book (crypt of the everflame): "A DC 15 Survival check reveals that the camp
has not been used in months.". Okay, so the PC's finds the camp, I describe it to them (not revealing this information) and now. Could I say to them something like: "You think, that you can determine when this camp was used for last time".

This is just example, but mainly I ask because of various Knowledge check. I doubt that someone could suddenly say, that "I check clothing of this body, to find out, from which city he bought them." Don't you think?

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With your example, I'd run it like this:

A theoretical trip down a trail wrote:

"You come across a camp...three crooked and stained tents." Or whatever the book's description is. "Roll a Survival check."

Dice rattle across table. One person gets a 19, which beats the DC of 15.

"Strangely, it looks like this camp hasn't been used in months."

Or, say, a knowledge check about an art piece they've found.

A theoretical cache of treasure wrote:

"You find an ornately decorated brooch with the symbol of a dragon and a rose vine intertwined. Anyone have Knowledge (nobility)?"

Dice rattle across table. One person gets a 23, which beats the DC of 20.

"When you see the brooch, you recognize the symbol of the Kellan family, one of the noble families of the city of Westmount."

It's not a perfect solution; for example, if no one makes the DC, you've tipped them off that there's something unusual about what's happened without them being able to know what that something is. But it's the most basic way to deal with the issue without having to count on your players to think of asking about every tiny detail every single time, and it's sort of the basic assumption about how skill checks are handled, at least until you and your players grow accustomed to each other and find a way that works better for you.

Hi Lathelus,

As you more or less pointed out yourself: you never know what exactly your players will do or ask during a session.
THe question you should ask yourself is "Is it absolutely necessary for the plot that they discover this information?"
If not, go with the flow.
If so, ask your players suggestive questionslike "So what do you do? Move on, check the camp for tracks, what?"

But even so, letting them go with their own choices and finding out later they might have had an easier encounter if they knew something more about their foes beforehand is all about the freedom RPGs grant their players.

Don't force your players, but reward their ingenuity with info (and maybe some stray material rewards).

Have fun!

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Since the players are not actually able to see the seen they are relying on the GM description for everything. No matter how well you describe the scene you cannot convey every detail. This is why you should generally give the player the benefit of the doubt. If the information from the skill check is something that is not hidden or concealed you should generally ask for the appropriate skill roll.

A good rule of thumb is that if a character with the appropriate skill can make a check without having to move or having to do anything give them the roll. If the skill check involves any kind of action then wait until they actually take the appropriate action. Most knowledge skills and other informational skills will usually get a roll.

If the player specifically states they are ignoring something then I would not give them a roll. So if you tell the players they found a camp and they interact with it in any way they would probably get a roll. If on the other hand they we ignore it and move on then they don’t get a roll.

I usually use Rennaivx's solution. An alternative is to just have a chart of what everyone's skill checks are and then roll them yourself secretly and then give the info or not.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

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Rennaivx's version is also close to what I do. I'll also point out to my players things like "You can roll a Knowledge(history) check to know more," and so forth.

Basically I decide if the skill is reflexive - in other words, something that the character would just notice on their own or just know, or active - a skill they have to deliberately use. Reflexive skills get automatically rolled, active one shave to be declared by the players.

Some examples:
Come upon the abandoned camp - I'd allow the Survival check to get the extra info if the PCs spend any time there.
Enemies sneak up on the group - everyone gets a Perception roll to notice them.
Players find some odd runes - the Knowledge roll to recognize the kind of runes is automatic; a Linguistics check to decode them would be at the player's request.
Players want to track the enemies back to their lair - player would request the Survival check.

Hope that helps!

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For me, it's a case by case basis.

For example, to address the OP's case, I would have described that the camp seems to have been vacant for a while (even cursory examination by someone without Survival can tell that the campfire is dead cold and fallen leaves are all over the place). If someone wanted to get an idea to find out who long it has been, they could roll a Survival check for more information.

So, in other words, in this type of situation, I will hint that there is additional information available if the party deems it important enough to look for it.

OK, got it now. Thank you!

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