Are there are any official rules for imposing some form of penalty on skill checks whilst the character is distracted or interrupted in some way?

In another (Non-D&D) game I played recently there was a penalty imposed on the player attempting to pick a lock because there was a leaky pipe in the room.
In an upcoming D&D game I am running there will be a scenario where the party is required to perform a number of tasks, from searching, checking tracks, etc. and there is going to be a goat nearby just making noise.
I sort of want the party to be baited into attacking or chasing off the goat for reasons, but if they can go about their business without issue (Other than me randomly making goat noises) they wouldn't really have any reason to.

If there aren't any official rules I will probably just impose disadvantage, though I am open to creative suggestions (though having the goat charge attack them off the cliff is maybe a bit far).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Be careful with this kind of thing. A pro would not be easily distracted by something as minor as a leaky pipe, so if you are looking to impose a penalty for something make sure that thing is an actual distraction. The only thing distracting about goats is if they start to eat the players coin purse, or maybe cute baby goats. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


This is exactly what the advantage/disadvantage mechanic was made for.

Let’s consider the Help action:

Alternatively, you can aid a friendly reature in attacking a creature within 5 feet of you. You feint, distract the target, or in some other way team up to make your ally's attack more effective. If your ally attacks the target before your next turn, the first attack roll is made with advantage.

In combat you can distract a creature to give your ally advantage on their first attack roll. It makes sense that a distracted creature could also have disadvantage on a skill check if they are distracted.

Or you could simply increase the DC of the checks. If a task is normally easy with a typical DC of 10 then maybe the distraction bumps it up to a medium DC of 15. If the DC for the task is normally 15 then the distraction might bump it up to 20.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For cites, the major one is the last sentence under “Advantage and Disadvantage” on PHB p. 173. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2019 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I think I might go with the increased DC with subtle hints like "Under these conditions". \$\endgroup\$
    – JDM7
    Feb 23, 2019 at 13:48

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