Posted by : David Guyll April 12, 2016

One of the few rules that I liked from 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons was the option to "take 10" and "take 20" on certain skill checks in certain situations.

Basically, if your character wasn't being rushed, threatened, distracted, etc, you could opt to simply take 10 on most skill checks, calculating your check result as if you'd rolled a 10, plus all of your usual modifiers.

This way, instead of rolling numerous times to see if you can make it up a cliff, you could just try to take 10 on your Climb check and, assuming 10+your mods was enough to meet-or-beat the Difficulty Class, get it over with.

Another, somewhat more restricted option, was take 20. This mechanic assumed that you kept trying to do something over and over until you "rolled" a natural 20, which meant that the task took twenty times as long, and you couldn't do it if there were consequences for failing.

For example, you could take 20 to search for traps (and secret doors), but you couldn't take 20 to disarm a trap because a poor roll meant that you'd set it off (other instances where you couldn't take 20 would be jumping over a pit or trying to sneak past some monsters). Assuming you weren't pressed for time, you could however take 10 on your Disable Device attempt.

While 4th and 5th Edition both retained take 10 (with 5th Edition referring to it as a Passive Check), they dropped take 20. Oddly, 5th Edition describes its Passive Check as trying something over and over again, similar to how 3rd Edition described take 20, but still only factors your result as 10+mods. There's a precedent for take 10, but what about take 20? Why is that rule in FrankenFourth when the previous two editions dropped it?

Because it speeds things up and avoids DM fiat.

In the current FrankenFourth public alpha, one of the commentators stated that he doesn't like take 20, because if there aren't any penalties for failure that the player shouldn't even have to roll; the DM should just tell them what happens (I'm unsure if the implication is that the players should just succeed or fail). I disagree, because it's possible that even if the player rolled a nat 20 that their character might still be unable to do whatever it is the player wants to do.

Since both 4th and 5th Edition allow you to retry certain skills why, if time/monsters/etc aren't factors, force the players to keep rolling for a particularly difficult task until they happen to roll a 20 (or even something less-but-still-high, like a 15)?

This rule doesn't unnecessarily complicate the game, and makes it really easy to determine what the characters are capable of given plenty of time. Searching for traps (or secret doors)? Assuming you aren't pressed for time, just play it safe and take 20. Trying to pick a lock? Take 10, and if you still can't do it, take 20, and if that doesn't work come up with something else (because it's perfectly fine if your character can't do something).

What do you think? Any reason I shouldn't include take 20?

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{ 7 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. God, I wish people took 10 more often, especially when I was DMing myself. But it seems like some players really love the idea of failing and having the game devolve into slapstick comedy :/ Others just think that's how the game is supposed to work...

    Anyway, the only issue I (and others I know) had with taking 20 is the idea that you're doing something 20 times until you do your best seems kinda silly. Like if I took 20 to pick a lock I'd imagine my character sitting down and taking their time with their tools to get the lock to open, not turning 20 times until they it right. Maybe if the rule were it takes the exact number of turns of the lowest possible roll to suceed, or double that to emphasize taking time. I had the idea once that maybe it would take 1d20 rounds, but... I dunno, 4e got rid of take 10/20, and it didn't come back in 5e so I haven't thought of it much since :I

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    1. @Panda: Almost everyone from my 3E group didn't even know take 10 was a thing, though they did take 20 all the time when looking for secret doors, opening locks, and checking for traps.

      "Like if I took 20 to pick a lock I'd imagine my character sitting down and taking their time with their tools to get the lock to open, not turning 20 times until they it right."

      That's actually how I interpret it: when you take 20 looking for secret doors, you're carefully examining every nook and cranny for something. When you take 20 picking a lock, you're doing the safe-cracking scene from the end of Bad Santa.

      I suppose one way of quickly randomizing the time is to just roll a d20, and the result is how many "attempts" it takes before you hit the 20 mark.

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  2. 4e actually does have "taking 20" it's not called Taking 20 in the rule books. Page 41 of the DMG describes how to handle it in the example of players searching a room. It puts the pressure on the DM to figure out when it's not really necessary to call for a roll instead of on the players to ask if they can take twenty on this check. The commentator you mentioned was right in that if there aren't any consequences for failing a check the DM should just move on to success as though someone would have eventually rolled a twenty without making the players ask specifically to do so. It doesn't mean would hurt to add that to your version, letting the players know explicitly that option is available. Whenever I've run 4e and was asked if taking twenty was an option for checks that had no negative consequences for failure, if the players could be taking a short rest I'd tell them yes, not "Sorry they took that option out of Fourth Ed. Roll a bunch of dice sucker."

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    1. @Joe: I disagree that if there aren't any consequences for failure, that the game should just proceed as if the players had succeeded, because it's entirely possible that even 20+mods STILL isn't enough to pick a lock, find a hidden door, etc.

      The DMG doesn't even tell you to just have the characters auto-succeed: it tells you to just assume that they'd roll a 20 at some point. That's basically why I'm using the take 20 rule: you assume the players roll a 20, and from there determine the results (which can STILL be failure).

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    2. I said "the DM should just move on to success as though someone would have eventually rolled a twenty..." That statement clearly assumes this should only be used in cases where 20+mods would ensure success. Clearly this wouldn't apply when a player wants to do the impossible. I think you're reading the wrong point into "if there aren't any consequences". It just adds an additional restriction on the use of the "taking 20" mechanism. Sure you can succeed eventually to jump up and reach the rope hanging just a few feet out of reach above your head, but not if it's forty feet above you, or hanging over spiked pit. Picking the lock of an unguarded cell, should be trivial for someone with the right skills, but a trapped treasure chest is a different story. Consequences for failure should mean you roll to see which of the interesting, possible outcomes result from the action. Whereas assured eventual success, or inevitable failure aren't worth taking the time to roll for at all. The GM should use the easily ascertained outcome to make pacing of the story smoother though, rather than rely on player driven mechanics that offer no narrative control.
      Thank you for reiterating my point though. By disagreeing with something I didn't say and I also disagree with, you've probably helped me clarify my position on this topic.

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    3. Joe: It would help next time if you added some commas, and DIDN'T post a giant wall of text or write like this:

      "It doesn't mean would hurt to add that to your version, letting the players know explicitly that option is available."

      Also, no need to get defensive.

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    4. I caught the missing "it" after I posted. There's no edit option.

      Delete

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