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TL;DR: It would be realistic for a PC to be able to evaluate how mechanically strong their opponent is, but I couldn’t find any RAW for this. Am I missing something?

Certain skill checks in DnD, like Nature or Religion, allow PCs to learn bits of lore or narrative information about their opponents. Depending on the check result, you can learn about their position in the world, strengths and weaknesses, common knowledge, even types of attack.

However, from what I understand (correct me if I’m wrong), such a check can’t tell the players any mechanical information about the creature - their HP, AC, CR, etc. But in a game as combat-oriented as DnD, knowing an opponent’s stats, or at least how they relate to yours, is vital to make an informed decision on how to proceed with this interaction - behave recklessly, cautiously, etc.

Imo, it’s not unreasonable to wish to be able to evaluate your opponent. After all, IRL by looking at someone you can get a general understanding of how dangerous they’d be in a fight. In some marginal cases looks can be deceiving, but on average - you’d know who can kick whose ass.

In DnD, however, where we have CR5 trolls and CR16 snake-girls (Marilith), PCs can’t base their decisions on the looks of the opponent. But, realistically speaking, living in this world they should know how to evaluate someone’s relative strength.

So, how can I let my players know the power gap between them and the other creatures?

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Know Your Enemy

The "Know Your Enemy" Battle Master Fighter feature (PHB, pp. 73-74) does exactly that:

The DM tells you if the creature is your equal, superior, or inferior in regard to two of the following characteristics of your choice:

  • Strength score
  • Dexterity score
  • Constitution score
  • Armor Class
  • Current hit points
  • Total class levels (if any)
  • Fighter class levels (if any)

However, the question premise is a bit flawed

Certain skill checks in DnD, like Nature or Religion, allow PCs to learn bits of lore or narrative information

That is not exactly true. There are no skill checks in 5th edition. Using particular skills in order to achieve some expected goal was the 3.x thing. It is not the way how 5e is supposed to work.

Instead, players describe, what do their characters do. So a player just asks you "I observe a monster for a while. Do I understand, how dangerous it is?" As a DM you might (or might not) ask a player for an ability check before resolving the outcome. Revealing a particular creature's stats is a decision that is completely up to the DM.

how can I let my players know the power gap between them and the other creatures?

If you are the DM, it's your concern to give players information that is relevant, reasonable and accessible. Read a couple of relevant questions:

Mechanics knowledge is table-dependent

in a game as combat-oriented as DnD, knowing an opponent’s stats, or at least how they relate to yours, is vital to make an informed decision

That's true. This is the reason, why some DMs explicitly reveals monsters stats. There is nothing wrong with it. While DMG suggests a few ways of conveying remaining hit points, it also mentions that a DM can say the number explicitly. The same is true for other stats, and table-dependent as well, see Are enemies' combat statistics and current HP public or hidden?

See also Does D&D 5e have a rule for character knowledge about monsters?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just wondering but where does the DMG suggest the ways to convey remaining HP etc.? I can't find it. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Nov 13 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eternallord66 DMG, page 247 "Tracking Monster Hit Points" rpg.stackexchange.com/a/95005/27377 \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Nov 13 at 15:23
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Aside from a few class features, it is very table-dependent

A Battlemaster Fighter, at level 7, can

spend at least 1 minute observing or interacting with another creature outside combat [to] learn certain information about its capabilities compared to your own.

A Mastermind Rogue, at level 9, can

spend at least 1 minute observing or interacting with another creature outside combat [to] learn certain information about its capabilities compared to your own.

That being said, I agree with you, PCs living in this world should know how to evaluate someone's relative strength. There are many ways of doing this, and they can vary wildly at each table. Here are some of my uses.

  • HP information. I tend to describe HP loss to my players. The DMG lists a few examples.

    When you drop below half your hit point maximum, you show signs of wear, such as cuts and bruises. An attack that reduces you to O hit points strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.

  • Description. Sometimes, just narrating the effect a monster has on the party is sufficient.

    As this creature moves, each step shakes the ground. Even Kalluz, the Barbarian, is feeling his heart's accelerating rhythm. When it finally emerges from the mist, you see a gigantic lizard. The Wizard recalls this ancient creature's name, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Standing 3 or 4 times larger than you, it roars at you, and the very trees around you seem to bend slightly.

  • Looks. I show my players the MM images of monsters. This instantly provides some obvious information, such as whether the monster hovers or not, how effective could a Blind effect be, etc.

  • Intelligence checks. Players ask if their PCs have ever heard about some creature. Religion checks provide information of Celestials, Fiends, Demons, etc; Nature checks for beasts and humanoids; History for legendary creatures; Arcana for inhabitants of magical planes.

  • Investigation checks. Players can use their action to learn basic information about the creature. Whether it looks like it attacks with Strength or Dexterity. Whether it attacks at a range or within melee. Whether it looks fast or not. Whether it looks like a standard challenge or a deadly one for the party. I avoid giving information that would overshadow the "Know Your Enemy" feature.

  • Passive intelligence checks. I'm aware my Wizard has +8 in all Intelligence checks apart from History, so I offer him some information even if he doesn't request it. On his turn, he often shares advice with the party:

    Don't go near him, he is weak at a distance!

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    \$\begingroup\$ As per your first bullet point, at my local store, the D&D players there all agree on this practice of describing any enemy between 25% and 50% HP as "bloodied" and anything less than 25% HP as "broken". Not sure if this is a wider known thing, but that bullet just reminded me of what we do... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 13 at 11:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Never heard of "broken", but the "bloodied" concept was introduced in 4th edition as a mechanical rule (features and abilities would sometimes trigger when a PC or monster became "bloodied"). The concept was dropped again in 5th edition. \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Nov 13 at 11:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ Ah, given that at least two of my DMs use the Dawn War Pantheon, I imagine they have, if not played 4e in the past, then at least picked up some habits from it somehow... There are also a few people two have played 3.Xe, so they also may have either played 4e or at least been into D&D generally during the 4e "era" and thus heard of it and picked it up... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 13 at 11:17
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Insightful Manipulator

Depending what you want to know, a Mastermind Rogue obtains a feature at level 9 called Insightful Manipulator (XGtE, p. 46):

Starting at 9th level, if you spend at least 1 minute observing or interacting with another creature outside combat, you can learn certain information about its capabilities compared to your own. The DM tells you if the creature is your equal, superior, or inferior in regard to two of the following characteristics of your choice:

  • Intelligence score
  • Wisdom score
  • Charisma score
  • Class levels (if any)

At the DM's option, you might also realize you know a piece of the creature's history or one of its personality traits, if it has any.

This might be very useful information in combat, e.g. for spellcasters. It requires interaction outside combat though, which tends to make the Mastermind Rogue quite the... talkative type.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I knew there was something else in XGtE, but I was looking in the wrong direction, focusing on the Monster Slayer ranger's feature "Hunter's Sense", which isn't quite right. The Mastermind is a better fit (essentially the rogue version of the Battle Master fighter's "Know Your Enemy", albeit slightly weaker). \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 13 at 11:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS got lucky, playing one right now, knew where to look :) thanks for adding the page number! \$\endgroup\$ – Easymode44 Nov 13 at 11:54

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