Checks follow the core system outlined before (3d6 + modifiers), but every check has an associated ability, and uses that ability modifier. The GM determines which ability is relevant to the action you want to perform.
Like other rolls, if you beat the DC, your action will work as intended. When you fail, you either make no progress or suffer a setback as determined by the GM.
You may or may not know the DC for a check. You roll the die, add the relevant modifiers and announce the results. The GM then describes the result of your action accordingly.
Contests happen when two characters are somehow competing against each other.
Either both characters are attempting the same task and only one can succeed (like racing to see who gets to the door first), or one of them is attempting an action that the other character actively opposes (for example, you push a door that someone is holding shut from the other side).
Instead of rolling against a DC, both characters make a check and the results are compared. The character with the highest check result wins the contest. Either he succeeds at his proposed action or prevents his opponent from succeeding.
In the case of a tie, neither character succeeds and the situation remains the same as it was before the contest. This might allow one of them to win by default (in the last example, the door is still shut after the tie).
In general, you can try a check again if you fail, and keep trying indefinitely. Some tasks, however, have consequences for failure that might make it difficult or even impossible to try again. Some tasks can’t be attempted again once a check has failed.
For most tasks, once you’ve succeeded, additional successes are meaningless.
If you meet the requirements, you can attempt the check as normal. If you can’t meet them, the check automatically fails.
You might be able to improvise something to replace a requirement. If you do so (and your GM agrees with your reasoning), you get to make the check, but with disadvantage.
Some tasks specifically state that you can try without the requirement and tell you which penalty do you incur in doing so.
Some actions entail risks greater than simply failure. If you perform very poorly at the task, you suffer a hazard.
Usually, the hazard is triggered when you fail the DC by two categories (by 6 or more).
The hazard is assigned by the GM, and you may or may not be aware of it. Common hazards include falling when you are climbing or trying to keep your balance, activating a trap you’re trying to disarm, or attracting unwanted attention when asking around for information.
Achievements are the result of a great performance, and enhance your success in a meaningful way.
Most times, the achievement is triggered when you beat the DC by two categories (by 6 or more).
The exact nature of the achievement is up to the GM, who may or may not inform you of it before you make the check. Some examples include finding a bypass mechanism when searching for a trap, making an acquaintance when asking around for information, or speeding someone’s recovery while providing medical care.
Unlike challenges, you don’t declare you’re trying to get an achievement: it’s just the unexpected consequence of a particularly good roll.
Challenges reflect your ability to perform some tasks with superior efficiency. They allow you to achieve greater results by making already difficult checks harder.
To take a challenge, you roll your check with disadvantage. In return, you gain an extra benefit in addition to the normal effects of a successful check. If you fail, you suffer the normal results of failure (and you can trigger hazards).
The most common examples include:
- Reducing the duration of a long task by half;
- Ignoring reduced movement for tasks that require you to move slowly;
- Avoid leaving clues or drawing attention to your actions;
- Avoid opportunity attacks and other ill consequences of attempting difficult tasks during a dangerous situation.
Most skills have specific challenges associated with them. These are given in the skill’s description.
Some challenges have similar results to achievements. The difference is that challenges are calculated risks: you accept the chance of catastrophic failure while trying to attain a greater success.
You can accept more than one challenge to a check, stacking the disadvantage. In some rare cases, you can take a challenge more than once to gain its benefits multiple times.
Time and Checks
Performing a particular task may take a round, several rounds, or even no real time at all.
Most checks are move actions, standard actions, or full-round actions. Some checks are instant and represent reactions to an event, or are included as part of another action. Other checks represent part of movement.
Some checks take more than a round to use, and the rules specify how long these tasks require.
Checks Without Rolls
A check represents performing a task under a certain amount of pressure, with uncertain results. When the situation is less demanding, you can perform with more reliable results.
Applying these rules can speed up checks under routine circumstances, cutting down the number of die rolls.
Rather than rolling a check, you can choose to take 7. Calculate your result as if you had rolled a 7 on the die.
Usually taking 7 is enough to automatically succeed on Trivial tasks (DC 7). Experienced characters with good ability scores can be successful at Easy (DC 10) or even Moderate (DC 13) tasks.
If you have disadvantage on a check, you can still take 7, but you get a -2 penalty to your result.
Most of the time the GM won’t ask you to make checks he knows you can succeed by taking 7 (unless there is the possibility of a greater success). He’ll just assume you were successful and move on.
When you are not in a rush and not threatened or distracted, you can choose to take 10. Instead of rolling for the check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 10.
For easy tasks (DC 10), taking 10 allows almost anyone to succeed automatically. Unlike taking 7, you cannot take 10 if distracted or under pressure (such as in a combat or action situation, in a tense negotiation or if you have disadvantage on your check). The GM decides when this is the case.
The GM may choose to assume you take 10 in routine situations if he knows that’s good enough to complete the task, assuming the above conditions apply.
When you have plenty of time, and when the task carries no penalty for failure, you can take 18. Instead of rolling the check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 18.
Taking 18 means you keep trying until you get it right, so it requires about 100 times as long as making a single check (5 minutes for a task requiring a round or less). If the task requires you to spend some resource (be it material or otherwise), you must spend 100 times the normal amount.
If there are potential consequences for failing the check, you cannot take 20 on it. Any condition that prevents you from taking 10 also prevents you from taking 20.
In cases where a “check” is actually a simple test of one character’s capabilities against another, with no luck involved, the one with the higher modifier or score wins.
Just as you wouldn’t make a “height check” to see who’s taller, you don’t need to make a Strength check to see who’s stronger. The ability scores tell you that. When two characters arm wrestle, for example, the stronger character wins. In the case of identical bonuses or scores, just roll the die, with the highest roll winning.
Sometimes characters work together in the same task to boost the chances of success.
There are three possible situations:
- One person is performing a task that can benefit from assistance (like tending to a patient);
- The whole task can be made as a team effort, with no clear distinction on who is performing the task and who is helping (like pushing a heavy boulder);
- The task is and individual challenge, but someone with enough experience can assist one other person at the same time he performs the task (like traversing a slippery surface);
In the first case, the person making the check is considered the leader. Each helper makes the same check against the help DC, which is one category lower than the DC of the task. Each successful check grants advantage to the leader’s check. The helpers can trigger a hazard if they fail the help DC by two categories.
If the task is a team effort, all participants roll normally. Whoever gets the best total result is the leader. Each other participant that beat the help DC (as defined above), provides advantage to the leader’s check. Since the leader already rolled, roll an appropriate number of additional d6 and take the best 3 between those and the original roll.
In the last case, both the helper and the person being helped attempt their task simultaneously. The helper rolls first, with disadvantage on his check. If he beats the task DC, the person being helped makes is check with advantage. Otherwise, both fail (or trigger a hazard, if appropriate), without the person being helped making a check.
You can’t provide help if the task has some requirements that you don’t meet, unless the task only requires the leader to meet them (at the GM’s discretion).
In many cases, outside help isn’t beneficial, or only a limited number of helpers can aid someone at once. The GM limits help as appropriate for the task and conditions.
You can take 7 on help checks, but not 10 or 18.
Some tasks benefit from specialized knowledge or training, which comes in the form of skills.
A skill check is modified by one ability, and also by a bonus that represents the degree of training you have attained in the skill. If you are trying to attempt a task covered by a skill you do not have training in, you may still get to make a check, but the only modifier comes from the relevant ability.
Many skills encompass tasks that are otherwise impossible to accomplish without the proper training.
Each skill description tells you the relevant ability and the various tasks that benefit from the skill (including contests), and for each of the tasks some or all of the following:
- Which requirements you must meet;
- If and when you can retry the check;
- Circumstances that grant advantage or impose disadvantage;
- Common hazards associated with the task;
- Possible achievements;
- Predetermined challenges;
- How long does it take to make the check;
- If you can take 7, 10 or 18;
- If and how many people can help you with the task.
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