How to Use Checks and Saves to Advance the Story

Many parts of Dungeons & Dragons can take a long time. Parties sometimes travel long distances in search of their next adventure or spend exorbitant amounts of time and gold in towns buying magic items and material components for spells. Each of these tasks can be very fun and interesting to play scene by scene. However, some parties may seek to spend time at the table in adventures rather than intermediate travel, shopping, and other tedious tasks. This is where skill checks and saving throws come in handy.


Skill checks use the randomness of dice and consider character abilities to determine how choices are played. These skill checks are the primary focus outside of combat to progress the game. Players use Investigate checks to search for clues or gold in a dungeon room and use Perception checks to keep a eye on enemies while their party members are asleep. These controls, along with saving throws, can also be used to cover large parts of the game that don’t need as much detail.

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The way parties skip long periods of time is important. Understanding how to proceed depends on what the DM or players want to accomplish in a particular area. Some DMs settle on a simple mount for things like travel, giving players a general idea of ​​the topography and scenery of the area they are traveling. Alternatively, a roll can randomly determine the type of weather, terrain, and events that will take place on a particular day.

How to skip parts of the story depends on the consequences and rewards in the area or for a certain activity. Maybe the group is shopping and wants to move on to the next adventure but doesn’t want to interact with all the shopkeepers. If finding the items they need is a difficult task or if the consequences of asking the wrong people can be disastrous, the number and different types of checks should increase so that the consequence is not the result of a single bad roll . Otherwise, an Investigation or Persuasion test will suffice.


Another way to relieve the pressure of a single roll without acting out the scene is to give group skill checks. The result can be based on the average score of the group. This works great when the whole group is doing the same task. Another way to solve this situation is to let the players decide what they would like to do and have everyone test to see how it goes. This will help give players choice while not diving too deep into the scene and bogging down the story.

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Saving throws can also be great tools for covering large parts of the story. The main difference between skill checks and saving throws is that players generally call for skill checks based on their decisions, while outside forces determine when players make saving throws. When using saving throws for story progression, first determine how players interact with the world and how the world would interact with them.


For example, the party can walk through a forest influenced by Fey. To cross the forest, the party can have one or two players make Survival Tests, or they can make a Group Test. However, if the Fey intentionally make it difficult to traverse their forest, the party may need to make Wisdom saving throws to avoid disorienting effects. Using game mechanics in creative ways like these can keep the story interesting, even skipping large parts to get to the heart of the adventure. DMs shouldn’t be afraid to shake things up and try new ideas.


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