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I'm a relatively new player with D&D 5th Ed. and chose to play a druid. I'm still learning quite a bit about how the game mechanics and spells work. In one encounter so far, where I was wild-shaped into a goat (as bait to lure an enemy out (I'm a team player, what can I say?)) I was asked to roll a charisma check to determine if I was convincing.

Charisma is my lowest stat, favoring wisdom, intellect and dexterity to bolster nature, survival, animal, and archery related skills. I would expect that to be a convincing animal, one's knowledge of how those animals behave, rather than charisma, is more important.

I read through the post "How easy is it to make the distinction between a druid in beast form and a normal animal?" and it seems that charisma is typically used for deception, bluffing, and acting. I think Aviose put it well in their answer, that the check depends on the type of animal and type of deception.

While I understand it is ultimately up to my DM, is there any "official" guidance on passing scrutiny when Wild Shaped?

Context clarification:

Our party was tasked with dispatching some unknown attacker that had been killing farmers' livestock. Maybe wolves but possibly something more sinister. We surveyed the area and decided a farm animal that appeared to be lost and alone might have the best chance of drawing out the target. We positioned party members in various hidden locations in brush and trees while our putting-on-a-brave-front-but-actually-pretty-scared "goat" wandered out into the fields like a lost child.

The DM wanted charisma checks to determine whether this goat was convincing to the unknown nemesis or if it would suspect something strange. The first attempt failed (which became a point of humor), but a later attempt worked, and we managed to eradicate a few skellies.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that your question in the title doesn't match the body of your question. Your title asks esentially for role-playing advice "How to" and your body asks "What are the rules" - aside from that issue this is a great question. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 20 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu Yes I see your point. I am asking more about mechanics/rules than roleplay advice. But I'm perfectly happy to hear roleplay advice as well! \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Jul 20 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I've misunderstood the situation in the question-- could you expand a bit on how your character was intending to act as bait? Such as, could we expect that an ordinary goat wandering by would be enough to lure the NPC away? I think you have good information below either way, but my answer is being pilloried on the assumption that totally normal goat behavior is everything your party's plan required. I'd be interested to know if that's the case. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Jul 20 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case I'll add an edit. I'm sad to see your answer deleted, although it met with some opposition, I think it had useful points. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Jul 20 at 22:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it is asking about the rules, I do not see how it is not a duplicate of the question you linked, from PurpleMonkey (rpg.stackexchange.com/q/50966/43856). \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 21 at 0:19
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No checks are necessary unless you try to do something decisively non-goat-like.

There is some guidance in the Dungeon Master's Guide section Using Ability Scores:

When a player wants to do something, it’s often appropriate to let the attempt succeed without a roll or a reference to the character’s ability scores. For example, a character doesn’t normally need to make a Dexterity check to walk across an empty room or a Charisma check to order a mug of ale. Only call for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure.

When deciding whether to use a roll, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is a task so easy and so free of conflict and stress that there should be no chance of failure?
  • Is a task so inappropriate or impossible — such as hitting the moon with an arrow — that it can’t work?

If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind of roll is appropriate.

You have to ask yourself, "does my enemy have any reason to believe that this goat that is physically indistinguishable from a goat is not really a goat? Remember, your physical characteristics are exactly that of a goat, therefore unless you say you are doing something non-goat-like, there is a reasonable expectation that you are moving and acting as a goat would. Think about it this way: there's obviously no check required to see if you know how to use this totally unique musculo-skeletal system you now possess to walk around. The ability to move and use your body as a goat naturally would is part-and-parcel to Wildshape.

Therefore, the answer to the first question in the DMG guidance would be "yes, a goat acting like a goat is so easy and so free of stress there should be no chance of failure." It is when a goat starts acting like not-a-goat that checks need to be made: How well can I make this non-goat-like action appear to be goat-like?

To quote enkryptor from the comments:

It's a huge difference between seeing a sleeping goat and catching a goat reading a book.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how this answers the question. It answers the linked question, but this one is about a specific thing that the player tried to do, and how to improve it. Either you want to explicitly state that their behavior was obviously goat-like and therefore the DM was wrong in their call for a charisma check, or you want to address that specific problem in some other way. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 21 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think acting as a lure is free of consequence. Depending on how it was done that should be a roll, and the question is what should that roll be? \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jul 21 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint I think the answer is pretty clear from the header: dont do anything non-goat-like; I then go in to explain how the rules validate that strategy. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 21 at 0:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ My answer was made before the edit explaining the details of the situation, but either way, OP doesn’t make it clear that “acting as bait” is anything other than “being a goat in a particular place”. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 21 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ But I can work on adding a bit that addresses the explicit details of the edited in after my answer situation if you think they would improve my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 21 at 0:39
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Behave as the animal

The problem is that, unless you have a vet or someone similar in your group, it may be hard to know, as a player, how do such animals behave, and your opinion on the matter may be different from the opinion of the DM on the matter. Furthermore, it isn't even clear if animals in the world you are playing behave the same way as the animals in our world.

The Monsters Manual presents absolutely no information on the "personality" of most animals, thus, it is entirely up to the DM how each animal would naturally behave in their world. Which leads us to...

Ask your DM

However, your character, the Druid, certainly has that knowledge, and, therefore, you can certainly ask your DM in advance. Your DM may think that a Goat wandering around alone in the middle of nowhere is as suspicious as a goat reading a book or a bear 100 ft under water, and in that case, asking for a roll may be justified (and what roll is the subject of this question). But you can certainly ask if that is the case, and you certainly can ask if there is an animal that would behave like that and still look like an appetizing meal--and your Druid should have that information easily available to them, as it's pretty much their class concept. Maybe a Goat in that world doesn't behave like that, but a Cow or a Moose does.

What I am saying is that the following dialogue is entirely possible:

Druid: So, I want to Wildshape as a goat and act as a bait. In order to do that, I will wander (seemingly) alone in the forest. As a Druid, what do I know about goats behaving like that in this world?

DM: You know that goats are herd animals and no goat that has been raised in a farm would ever be outside the farm, much less in a forest. Anyone seeing a goat in the forest would be suspicious immediately.

Druid: Okay, is there another livestock animal that I could Wildshape as, wander the forest and would be seen like a regular animal?

DM: You remember seeing lots of pigs running around in the forest, and you know that pigs are erratic and often run away from the farms.

Druid: Sure then I will wildshape into a pig!

The pattern here is an even more general advice: be clear on what your expectations are, and try to use the knowledge your character has in order to accomplish such a plan. You, as a player, have no idea on how to do most of the things your character does, so the best you can do is state your intention, and the DM should be the one adjudicating what is the best plan your character can have in order to achieve that goal in that world and helping you out in order to achieve that.

Note, this does not hurt player agency in any way. You can always overrule the DM about what your character thinks, but then your character is probably going to be wrong about that information.

World Building: Players can take part

It is also fairly common (although not the norm) that DMs may allow the players to be part of the world building, so you could ask your DM to let goats in your world to behave like that. I have no idea if that's normal goat-behavior in real life (actually after reading the Wikipedia I kinda do, check below), but I would allow goats in my D&D world to behave like that if a player wanted for some reason that was not game breaking. The alternate ending for our dialogue is:

Druid: Aww but I really want to be a goat, not a pig. Can't goats behave like that in our world? Pretty please <3

DM: Well sure. Not going to break anything. Go on.

Real World Goats: According to Wikipedia

Fortunately, to get some basis, the Wikipedia has an entire section of their goat article dedicated to how goats behave. No, seriously. Check this out.

Goats are naturally curious. They are also agile and well known for their ability to climb and balance in precarious places. This makes them the only ruminant to regularly climb trees. Due to their agility and inquisitiveness, they are notorious for escaping their pens by testing fences and enclosures, either intentionally or simply because they are used to climbing. If any of the fencing can be overcome, goats will almost inevitably escape. Goats have been found to be as intelligent as dogs by some studies.

So, if the goats in your DM's world behave like real life goats, they are actually an excellent choice for an animal that escaped their farm and is wandering around climbing some trees and checking out what's up with their forest friends.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was going to say, goats may be herd animals, but they're notorious for wandering off, not at all like sheep. (I think this knowledge is in my brain 3rd hand, probably via Discworld novels which I think mention in passing something about what it's like to be a goatherd vs. a shepherd.) That raises a 3rd possibility - the DM tells you something about the game world which you're pretty sure isn't true in real life; if the DM wasn't sure about the real life details and just made something up, they might well be open to you supplying a worldbuilding "correction" if you're diplomatic. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jul 21 at 14:17
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The answer from @Thomas Markov gives a good explanation of why a check might not be necessary at all - but what if you did need to make a check? Say, if the plan were for you to be taken away by your target and they decide to examine you first?

To answer the more general question of 'how do I make use of my ability in one area if a DM asks me to roll for a different stat' - the simple answer is to just ask the DM.

DM: Okay, you're wild shaped into a goat now, roll a Charisma check to act like a goat.

You: [Oh boy, my Charisma isn't that good...] Could I use my knowledge of Animal Handling instead to behave the way a normal animal would act?

DM: Sure, I'll allow it - roll an Animal Handling check instead.

Just keep in mind that the DM is the final arbiter of what checks you need to make in a given situation - so if he says you can't use Animal Handling to act like a goat (for example, because he views it as an act of controlling animals rather than acting like them), then he has the final say - but it doesn't hurt to ask first.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can see an argument for a Charisma (Animal Handling) check to combine the behaviour knowledge and the performance aspects, if you were proficient in Animal Handling but not Performance. It's not clear how you'd justify Wisdom (Animal Handling). Doesn't hurt to ask, I guess, but asking for a check that isn't really appropriate is kind of bending the rules / begging for generosity. The DC should hopefully be lowish because you know have full goat anatomy, not just an illusion over a humanoid on all 4s or something. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jul 21 at 14:25

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