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I have been using the D&D Insider character builder recently to help my group streamline leveling up and keep their powers better organized. I noticed that a carefully statted-out character at level 5 had a +14 to stealth checks. When I referenced my D&D DM Screen today for skill check DCs level 5 was "Easy:10, Moderate:15, Hard:22". This meant that this particular character had a 60% chance of succeeding on a "hard" skill check.

Looking at another character who wasn't as "Min/Maxed" they still had +9-11 in their trained skills. which is better but still seems too easy. +9 to +11 is still a 35%-45% chance to succeed a 22DC.

The +14 was a Vrykola Vampire (trained in stealth and has a +3 in the "misc" column of the break down, maybe racial bonus and item bonus from gloaming armor +1?) his other trained skills are +11. the other less min maxed character was a Minotaur Shaman of the same level that only had +9s and +11s in its trained skills

Are these numbers on my Screen wrong or, are these characters over powered?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Your DM screen is right.

Current DCs are here, Rules Compendium p. 126, and in DDI:

Hard: These checks are designed to test characters who are even more focused on the particular skill, though there might still be some chance of failure even for these expert characters. Without additional assistance (such as a power bonus or another character’s aid), the expert PC will succeed against these DCs around two out of three times. The expert PC typically has training in the skill, and his or her primary ability score is the skill’s key ability (or secondary ability score along with a skill focus feat or racial bonus). As the character increases in level, we expect feat and item selection to provide an extra boost along the way, as well as ability score increases. This DC is a good choice to really challenge a focused PC, though it’s also a good DC to use for repeated successes with a single skill in a skill challenge (once the first, moderate attempt is successful).

At Level 5, a Hard check is 22, which indeed provides an expert character a chance to fail.

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I think it's good to note why this is right. A character that is trained in Stealth needs to actually BE good at it. But at level 5 your Paladins and Fighters will still really struggle with even easy Stealth checks. If the only one being sneaky is your Vampire then yeah, it seems too easy, but it's balanced across ALL characters without assuming everyone is trained in everything. For this reason I wouldn't recommend increasing it like @Ravn recommends except in rare circumstances. –  aherocalledFrog May 20 at 18:54

Yes, those numbers on your DM screen are accurate according to the Rules Compendium, as Brian pointed out in his answer, and yes they're supposed to provide roughly that chance of success. I'd like to tell you why and what to do about it.

Due to their heroic and epic nature, characters in 4th Edition are supposed to be able to automatically beat easy and moderate skill checks, even on a roll of 1, if they've spent effort and resources on it. They've trained so much and are so good at it, that there's just no chance of ever failing.

What this means is that instead of rolling whenever they attempt the relevant skill, you're supposed to just narrate how awesomely they accomplish it.

This is completely fine, if that's what you want in your game. However, if you think it's a bit boring and want to roll more dice, or feel like it's just too easy and that there should be some chance of failure, here are two house rules you could introduce. I'm not sure how common they both are, but I've used them both with success.

  1. Fumble on a 1. With this rule, a 1 always results in a failure, even if the roll actually beats the DC. This risk can provide more interesting gameplay and excitement, however, it could also be frustrating for a player who went all out to maximize a certain skill. It could also be argued that such a character would find the skill trivial to use when the task is easy or moderate, and that an inherit 5% chance of failure would be unacceptable.

  2. Introduce a Very Hard DC. I made a new DC chart with two additional columns: Very Easy and Very Hard. While I've never really used the Very Easy column past the heroic tier, because the tasks where it would've been relevant were too trivial to roll ever for, I still occasionally (maybe once a session) use the Very Hard column when the players attempt something that's a huge challenge. It's 3-4 points higher than the Hard column, so the players still have about a 20-25% chance of success, before using any powers or consumables that give bonuses.

If you're starting a campaign, you should of course talk to the players and DM to find out what they want, before you use any of these rules.

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Very good info and big thanks for what amounts to very hard DC= Hard+3. I will definitely be using that!! And yes, I have talked to my players :D they have actually been begging me to make things harder (a few are more used to 3.5 and, having never played that version, I assume is harder than 4e) –  MC_Hambone May 18 at 8:06

Without additional assistance (such as a power bonus or another character’s aid), the expert PC will succeed against [hard] DCs around two out of three times.

(Dragon #291)

So, officially, "hard" skill check is meant to pass with a chance of about 60-67%.

Keep in mind that the feeling of some odds being "high" or "low" depend very much on what happens if you fail.

If "you can just retry" even 5% is quite high, since you could basically try again until you succeed, just wasting a bit of time (both in game and IRL).

On the opposite side of the spectrum if "you die", even 95% could be considered a bit low.

Since in D&D4 most actions are neither fatal nor too powerful, a 65% success rate seems just fine.

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