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The guidance cantrip is bothering me - not because it makes ability checks easier but because it does not have a relevant opportunity cost and because it disrupts the flow of the game. Any time a skill check is required that can be foreseen players can just use the cantrip. I find this very annoying, since it causes a lot of extra dice rolling and discussion without any meaningful decisions that would add anything to the game.

I do know that the spell requires concentration, that I can create opportunity costs through my content and that I could just ban the spell outright. This was extensively discussed in this question: Casting Guidance cantrip for every roll?

I could ban the spell but I would like to avoid that and creating additional complications specifically for this spell is a lot of work. Are there other, easier solutions?

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    \$\begingroup\$ How does this add extra dice-rolling to the game? In my games, Guidance usually just comes up as "Okay, roll an Athletics check for that." "Hang on, I cast guidance on him!" "Okay, add a d4 to that. Roll it." One extra die hitting the table really shouldn't be slowing you down at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jun 12 '20 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The part about dice rolling concerns the current digital games. With real dice, throwing a d4 in is not a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Jun 13 '20 at 6:40
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It sounds like you need a small conversation with the other players about why this cantrip is causing a problem for you

By the sounds of it, your problem isn't that everyone's ability checks are higher than they would have been had guidance not have been cast. Rather, it sounds like the problem is with the time it takes from the rest of the game, judging by these statements:

it does not have a relevant opportunity cost and because it disrupts the flow of the game.

and

it causes a lot of extra dice rolling and discussion without any meaningful decisions that would add anything to the game.

By the sounds of things, the main problem is how long it takes. At my table, when anyone says "I'm going to roll insert ability check here" or the DM says "Ok, roll insert ability check here", the party caster just shouts "Guidance!" and the DM either allows it or not depending on circumstances*, and the player rolling the ability check rolls a d4 as well. It doesn't take us any significant extra time at all, maybe a few seconds at most.

If this is not happening at your table, maybe try to identify with the other players why it is taking so long, after expressing your concerns about it taking time away from the game. If you can all work together to come up with a solution where you cut out this additional time or whatever other distractions may be happening, it may help to make this cantrip less painful to come up each time an ability check is rolled.


* For example, typically not for a History check to see if you recall something off the top of your head, because how would the caster of guidance know you were just about to potentially recall something? Consider that vs. an attempt at discussing History with someone, since the caster could actually see that happening and therefore could cast guidance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another excellent way to approach the issue and also showcase examples of how it works at your table. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 12 '20 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yup. As a player I have long taken the practice of rolling all the dice that might be needed to resolve something as one handful. I only actually look at the dice I need. Deciding which dice to roll and picking them out can be done when it's not my turn, the cost of doing it this way is basically zero unless I have to chase a wayward die. \$\endgroup\$ – Loren Pechtel Jun 13 '20 at 3:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have long tried to get my players to prepare their dice and roll attack+damage together and such -- The problem is that some of them still have trouble telling D10s from D12s (they use both for different things). They also roll certian ones (Like D4) so infrequently for their class that they typically pick it up and ask, "this one? Right?" Part of it is the infrequency with which we play, part of it is personality, but it does slow play down. That said, I still try to keep the narrative flow going through combat; and have patience with my player. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jul 10 '20 at 17:15
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The opportunity cost was in selecting the cantrip itself

Casters generally are very limited in their cantrip options (unless you're going for a big multiclass cantrip-focused character) and choosing guidance is it's own cost by not picking other either combat or utility cantrips.

Additionally, the ability check needs to be made within a minute. If the task is longer than that, then I don't think it would be unreasonable to rule that guidance wouldn't be helpful in that situation - but that is up to the DM and table to determine and discuss. The same goes for anything being asked of a character that is not happening visibly where someone with guidance would cast. If it's the same character, I see no issue with them doing it as a means to help them 'remember'.

I don't think guidance is overpowered, and it's doing it's exact role - the same with other cantrips whose cost remains an action to cast (which is also a cost.) And since a player opted to go for utility over combat, you generally should let that shine when it's time to shine. Otherwise, everyone just goes all-in on combat (which can be fine, depending on the table - but beware that you may inadvertently be 'teaching' them that combat is the solution to things.)

Disrupting game flow

I don't see casting spells as disrupting, but as part of whatever is going on. It is similar to the Help action in that another player/character must stop and say that they are helping or giving guidance. It also generally doesn't take very long and empowers the characters.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I do not agree with everything you say but the ruling you suggest concerning the duration of checks is very helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Jun 12 '20 at 14:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ For an ability check that covers hours of work (like a crafting proficiency, or survival), would you consider it reasonable for Guidance to work if the caster had re-cast it as necessary to keep it up for most of the duration? (This isn't always possible, e.g. caster isn't stealthing in somewhere with the target, or is going to sleep.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jun 12 '20 at 23:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Me personally, I don't think I would. I see guidance more like a quick help to overcome an immediate obstacle. But that's not in the rules anywhere. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 12 '20 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the fact that Guidance has, on average, less benefit to the roll than the Help action is a good reference point. One way you could look at it is as a Help action that can be separated in time from the action it's helping and can be used even if the helper isn't normally capable of helping with the action. That seems like a reasonably marginal benefit for the opportunity cost of picking a cantrip. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jun 14 '20 at 20:51
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It sounds to me like the problem you are having is that at every opportunity your spellcaster is preemptively loading up guidance on themselves while they are outside of initiative, and repeating the cantrip as soon as it expires. I am assuming this plays out something like this:

Player: I want to cast guidance on myself before entering this hallway.

DM: Okay you do that and then enter the hallway... [blah environment blah] you make your way to the end of the hallway and since a minute has passed your guidance has expired.

Player: I cast guidance on myself again and then continue down the hallway [blah story blah]

repeat

The first thing I would recommend would be having a discussion with the caster about the mechanics of the spell. Make sure that they are aware that they can choose to cast guidance after you ask them for an ability check in most situations where time is not a factor. As a DM, our job is to reward players for making decisions that align with their character, so I would advise against trying to add opportunity costs to guidance for your campaign and instead guide them towards using it in a way that better aligns with their character (a brilliant wizard would be far too cocky (and lazy) to need continuous guidance, a devout cleric would not bother their god for needless assistance). Hopefully your player will accommodate your request, but that might not always be the case.

If they do not change their characters behavior, my next advice is simply to stop giving notice for when the guidance effect has expired. I suspect you may be prompting them to spam their spells as a deterrent against threats in an effort to provide the most accurate information about the game. Outside of initiative time flows chaotically, and its not really your prerogative to remind the players of that unless you are asked by a player (or you want to, for story purposes, like long periods of travel or notable effects). When the player goes to make a check, you could then mention that their guidance has expired, at which point they could recast it if time allowed, or they would make the role without it they were surprised (traps, etc.). In most cases, they will find that they have time to cast the spell after you request them to make a check.

If it helps, think of it as a more complicated Pavlovian training exercise: where casting guidance is the bell and benefiting from it is the treat, but the treat is only available when a light or something is on (idk). Your player is ringing the bell nonstop, and every once in a while they are getting a treat. You want to get them to the point where they ring the bell (cast guidance) in response to seeing the light turn on (being queried for an ability check) and then get the treat (+1d4).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 13 '20 at 0:02
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Not sure if this applies to your situation, but often overlooked is, that the Guidance spell actually needs Verbal components. That means it is not so easy to use it in a conversation, because if you suddenly start muttering some arcane words for 3 seconds in conversation, your opposite may find that weird. So if they try use it in conversation or in any situation where someone is nearby that might find it weird that they cast a spell, you can use that and maybe they will think about using the spell.

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Use the average roll

The rules facilitates the use of average for cases like this and let it use the average of a roll. The average of a d4 is 2.5, thus I round it down to 2 rather than up (3), since it feels more balanced for me that way. I only let roll the d4 in cases where it really needs all the help they can have, but those occasion are rare.

Roll less

The difference between Online and a table is that, depending on the platform and skill of the player, is much slower rolling. Server lag, not having the roll in a macro, not having macros, etc. For that I use the rule number 2 in this guide that is resumed in the title: Rule #2: Only Roll When There is Chance of Success, A Chance of Failure, and A Risk or Cost of Failure. That has save me a lot of rolls and a bunch of time.

Roll even less

I do another little trick, I don't let my players roll when the chances of failing are around 15% (a 1,2 or 3 in a dice). This case comes very rarely, it usually comes when a player has expertise in the relevant skill. Why I do this? The odds are low enough and it gives the player with expertise a nice feeling of empowerment. I only do this online, on the table, I don't, since players seems to like the feeling of rolling the dice.

Players' satisfaction

One problem with using average is that they don't have the impact that wanting a 4 and getting a 3 does. However, I found (by personal experience) that this impact usually happens with combat and Bless, where you can calculate quickly what they need for their bless (they get a feeling on the AC of the enemy). However, this happen less for skills unless it is a do or die situations where they need any edge that they can get.

Now, for experience, the flow in online games breaks easily because things outside player control like lag (Internet or server), disconnections, and oddities (like the second roll always lagging). Other issues might be slow computers (I have one player like this), they don't do macros (or they hate them). Thus, my experience told me that they prefer when things keeps flowing without to much hassle, unless the hassle has worth in it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think from a player's perspective the difference between saying "Guidance, add 2" and "Guidance [rolls d4], add N" is going to seem trivial, and so making the cantrip objectively worse on average is going to seem like an unsatisfactory solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 15 '20 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rounding down is also in the general rules of 5e. There very few cases RAW (hit dice on leveling up) come to mind, where averages are rounded up. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Jun 15 '20 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you actually tried and done this? How did you/the players react? I think Thomas Markov has a very good point in the potentially underwhelming reaction to such a rule. Our table also loves rolling dice: both virtually and physically. I'm not sure I see the difference in finding the d4 vs typing "/roll d4". \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 15 '20 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I've used and currently using this online with my players. I find that they actually don't care as long as the game keeps flowing. A big difference, for example, is bless. In that case they like to see a 4 or cry for a 1 in battle... But for skills? They tend no to care unless the situation is critical (and I addressed that in my answer). Another difference is that our internet is not that good and sometimes lags too much, so, they don't mind if that speed up things. \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Jun 15 '20 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you can add how players have reacted, and in what ways it was positive and negative (as you did above), that would be a big improvement to the answer. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 15 '20 at 13:47

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