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Some friends and I are running a campaign and we are in a small town. I was wondering if I walked into a potion shop, what would I have to roll for, and how high would my roll roughly have to be, to steal a health potion without getting noticed/caught? It's 5th edition with some acceptance to other editions because for some reason people had character from other editions and liked those rules better so it was divided into some 4th some 5th edition. If you are stealing the potion and using stealth could you have a person distracting the clerk? and what would you roughly have to roll to steal successfully?

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A successful skill check is determined by your DM

However generally, to steal something they would ask you to roll Sleight of Hand or Stealth, possibly with Advantage if there is a distraction going on.

The success rate depends on the DC (Difficulty Class) your DM designates, so for example if it's a crowded shop and there's plenty of distractions, this could be fairly easy so the DC could only be 10. So if your roll plus your bonus to Sleight of Hand is 10 or greater, you manage to steal the item successfully.

If the shop is practically empty and the shopowner is watching you, the DM could even decide that it's impossible to do without being caught, or with an extremely high DC such as 25.

The real answer is that it depends on the circumstance and your DM, but to answer the first part: to steal something, you'd likely roll Stealth if you're trying to hide and then Sleight of Hand to swipe it without being noticed.

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The Difficulty Class is usually set by the GM. But if NPCs are there to obstruct you, it will probably be one or more skill contests instead.

In a magic shop, items are likely to be protected by one or more of a wide range of protective spells. Some reconnoitering may be required to work out what you are up against. You could try accidentally spilling something in the direction of the item, or nudging another customer into the area to see what is triggered!

If you need to get close to the item completely unnoticed, the GM might start with a contest between your Dexterity (Stealth) and the guard's/shopkeeper's Wisdom (Perception).

To get your hands on the item, they might decide that it is a contest between your Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) and the guard's/shopkeeper's Wisdom (Perception).

You might get advantage on either roll if the guard/shopkeeper is distracted.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a good answer because it provides some reasonable-to-expect background where other answers defer to the DM. Worth also bearing in mind the consequences of stealing from a place selling high value and rarely-purchased items. The shop-keeper may quite easily put 2+2 together (or use a simple divination spell) in order to discover who stole the goods. Unless the DM is feeling generous, this would not be a roll-get-and-forget crime, but could have serious consequences to the OP's party relationship with the settlement. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Upvote for mentioning this is a contested check. One of two answers on this page that include that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 18:23
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If the shopkeeper is watching you, you'll want an opposed check, your Sleight of Hand against their Perception. If not, then it'll be your Sleight of Hand or Stealth against the shopkeeper's Passive Perception.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Not a bad first answer. I gave you the upvote for being the most accurate answer, but I think your response could use citation and a bit more context. Though I believe this is the best answer in terms of rules, it is currently the weakest on the page due to lack of content. When you have a minute, be sure to check out the tour and the help center page. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 18:25
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Simple Answer (Player): The DM should decide on the diffuclty, then ask you to roll a skill check.

Simple Answer (DM): If you are the DM, here are some quick notes that might help guide you in deciding.

The DMG provides an estimate table for difficulty checks for most things. Here is the summarized version

1 - 5: Easy

6 - 10: Moderate

11 - 15: Hard

16+: Difficult

As for choosing the difficulty, typically set a base level for how difficult the action should be (e.g. stealing something should be minimum 10). This is a personal choice - I could not find any references in the DMG or PHB to set this.

Finally, raise or lower the difficulty based on other factors. Here is some things you might consider when deciding this.

  1. Is the item hard to steal (heavy, makes noise, can talk, etc)
  2. Is there a lot of people around (maybe someone else might catch or cover you?)
  3. Is someone distracting the shop keeper? (Probably considered an assist/help, so might give you advantage on your roll)
  4. Is the shop magically warded against theft?
  5. Is theft common, e.g. are they cautious of it?
  6. Are you a known thief?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sleight of Hand is a contest against an observer's Wis (Perception) or anyone else's Passive Perception. The general DC classes don't really apply here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 18:21
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With many of these things it's more about description first that dictates things. If he's distracting the shopkeeper and slipping the potion into a pack unnoticed we're probably talking deception combined with sleight of hand. The former to successfully get the shopkeeper looking away, then sleight of hand to palm it away.

If it's more flat-out going unnoticed probably stealth and sleight of hand or maybe performance and sleight of hand if he's acting almost dropping it, palming it and replacing it with a fake.

My recommendation is to get more information from your player. Fundamentally it's a sleight of hand, likely using some other skill to give himself Advantage on it.

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In 5e D&D, you know how good you are at killing orcs (your to-hit and damage stats), and how hard you are for orcs to kill (your AC and HP).

However, you don't know how good you are at stealing potions. You have skills and modifiers on them, but they don't provide enough information to answer this question.

How good you are at stealing potions depends almost entirely on DM decisions, and the base game gives very little framework.

The only practical way to figure out how good you are at stealing potions is to either ask the DM how hard it would be (some DM's don't like this kind of question), or to start off by stealing less risky things and see how hard the DM makes it.

Note that the DM might make your first attempt to pick a pocket nearly impossible, and the consequences lethal or large. So be prepared to throw away your character and create a new one. On the plus side, the things you (as a player) learned from the previous character about how hard things are to steal in this DM's world will carry over to the next character.

5e D&D explicitly decided to omit the information you need to know how good a thief your character is from the rulebooks. It is left up to the DM to determine.

You can know that you have a good chance of being able to hide from a shopkeeper given an obscured line of sight, you can know how well you climb walls, but anything as complex as "get something from a shop without being caught and get away without being noticed" is far beyond the guidelines the rulebook provides.

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