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I'm currently playing in a 5th edition game that's centered on investigation and social encounters rather than combat. My DM and I have both played 3.5 and were familiar with the Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) check from that edition.

For some reason, our party keeps coming up with questions that would have required a Knowledge (Engineering) check in 3.5 but my DM and I are both at a loss for which skill to replicate this in 5e. So far we have been using either Intelligence (History) or Intelligence (Investigation) depending on whether or not a History check is reasonable.

Some examples:

  • Find weak points in a bank wall to break in.
  • Determine how sturdy a dam was/if it would burst.
  • Looking at columns in an old building to see if we could knock the roof down.
  • Identifying the style of architecture of a ruin to determine what we might expect.

Is this the correct course of action? Or is there a better skill that encompasses Knowledge (Engineering) per RAW?

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Use an ordinary intelligence check.

PHB 178 states,

Other Intelligence Checks. The DM might call for an Intelligence check when you try to accomplish tasks like the following:

...

• Recall lore about a craft or trade

It seems to me that engineering knowledge would fall under this category. If you, as the DM, should decide that a character should be proficient in engineering, you can allow the player to add his/her proficiency bonus to the check as well.

Consider combined checks.

Some of the examples you gave could potentially fall under multiple skills--Johnathan Gross pointed out that one could use investigation or history instead. In cases like those, I like to use multiple, sequential checks.

For example, for finding weak points in a wall or a dam, one could roll Intelligence to know what kinds of weak points to look for, and then roll Investigation to actually find them. Of course, if the relevant feature is obvious, like in the columns example, a single Intelligence check would suffice.

If you choose to require multiple rolls, don't forget that it will significantly reduce the probability of success if the DCs are too high, so you should adjust your DCs appropriately.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like that--it also settles the debate about whether our character who's proficient in mason's tools should get a bonus for checks like this. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – wzbillings
    Aug 12, 2017 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, Icy, but I side with Johnathan Gross on his answer. Investigation covers the first three bullet points, the fourth is History (and dwarves have advantage due to stonecunning). I can't know if your answer was posted before or after the edit with the bullet points (both show 5hours for me). - - - - - P.S: there's a five minute gap, but i know the answer took more than that to write. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2017 at 23:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin, I think those are valid points--I'll address them in my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    Aug 12, 2017 at 23:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Give credit where it is due. It is Johnathan Gross's answer's points. See this meta \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2017 at 23:54
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The closest equivalent would be various intelligence checks, usually investigation. All of your examples except the last would be covered. Your last example would be a history check. This is reinforced by the fact that Dwarves get advantage on history checks to determine origin of stonework.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That was the answer I would give, kudos for posting it. If the character can gather evidence and then infer something, that's investigation. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 12, 2017 at 23:43
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The closest would probably be a tool proficiency - stonemason's tools might be an appropriate proficiency for most of the examples you give. The last one, though, I'd have be a History check.

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