D&D 5E Crawford on Stealth


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jgsugden

Legend
Passive perception is generally the floor of your perception rolls. I have been using that rule for a while, but I am surprised to see Crawford say it is the intended rule.
 

Volund

Explorer
Your perception checks can never be worse than your passive perception.

I am surprised that his comments on perception checks didn't light up the forum yet. At around 22:00 he starts talking about how passive perception is always working in the background to notice things. He goes on to say that your Passive Perception is always your floor for perception checks. If your passive perception is higher than the DC for noticing something, your passive perception always notices it. Perception checks are for noticing things that have a higher DC than your passive perception. He specifically says that if DM's are using passive perception correctly, then they will tell players about things that they would notice automatically, and use perception checks for a chance to roll higher than their passive perception. I have never played in a game that handled perception this way. It's always like this:

"I'm looking through the bookshelf for that book we were trying to find." [17 Passive Perception]
Give me a perception check.
"12"
You don't find it.

Then another character with a passive perception of 13 rolls a 15 and finds the book. What?

You know the general location of invisible creatures!

JC says that being invisible and being hidden are not the same thing. Invisible creatures give themselves away by making noise and interacting with the environment. Invisible creatures need to use stealth or have some other cover to be hidden. A monster or PC might be distracted or lose track of an invisible creature, but if you know someone is likely to be invisible and are trying to find it, you have a general idea where it is. He says that the game mechanics make invisibility awesome enough on their own - advantage on attacks, disadvantage on attacks against you, can't be targeted by spells that target "a creature you can see" - so invisibility does not need any additional benefits. I wish the DM who hammered away at us last weekend with the unseen, completely silent, unfindable shield guardian hadn't made us swing randomly at thin air until we got lucky and found it because he said invisibility made it impossible for us to know where it was.
 
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If passive scores are always the floor of rolls, rogue's reliable talent would be useless... trying to wrap my gead around that...
I am now thinking that I should maybe use passive perception only to notice general things and not specifically point out what exactly may be there.
 

Volund

Explorer
But the rogue with perception expertise and the observant feat could easily have a 26 passive perception at 10th level and notice everything. With a 16 Wis their passive perception would top out at 30, regularly noticing things that are "nearly impossible" to notice according to the DC scale.
 

This makes perfect sense to me. People who have an issue with using passive perception will probably not like the idea, but if your passive perception is higher then the perception dc needed for a perception check I don't see why you wouldn't gleam the information the perception check provides. It's kind of the whole purpose of passive perception.

I'm not saying people need to use passive perception in their games, or like it even. But unless I am misunderstanding something I don't see why it wouldn't work.
 

Staccat0

First Post
Passive Perception is a mess. It's always been a mess.

I understand how it makes the game make more "sense" but the DM sets the DCs so what is the point from a gameplay perspective? It's just an invisible switch I hit for the players. I just don't see how unlocking boxes text makes the game more fun.

Making it the "floor" of perception certainly adds an interesting dynamic. I would assume this also applies to Insight checks too...

But I dunno. It almost feels like a different system to me. I mean the "floor" of every other ability is the modifier you apply to a "2." What exactly makes smelling a zombie have a higher "floor" than say, what you can lift or how long you can run? That's a cool mechanic but it's a new one to me.

So anyway, I am gonna steal this idea, and use it for my new game FUNgeons and Dragons. It's basically D&D except Perception is an ability score like it should be and saves are replaced with defenses like 4e. These defenses are also the "floor" of your ability checks... speaking of checks, where should I post my mailing address for the first print run? Shipping is cheap since it's just a sticker that goes inside the 5e Player's Handbook.
 

RulesJD

First Post
I could see this being a decent rule, but now DMs MUST keep track of Lighting rules. Anything in darkness (underground etc) is an automatic -5 to Passive Perceptions because it's in Dim Light.

Way too many DMs confusion Perception with Investigation. Also, read the "Finding a Hidden Object" description in the PHB for extra guidance on why Perception, run completely RAW, isn't that big of an issue for DMs wanting to hide things from the party.
 

Too bad this isn't in written form. Stealth is like the most important Sage Advice topic.
But from the reply on forums, seems like it's nothing new for me. I always agreed with Jeremy on the stealth rules and still do. It's what I was always telling everyone here as well.

Regarding the passive perception, first you should realize the only reason it even exists is to prevent players from constantly saying "I check everything in the room". Of course that can also be achieved by the DM just rolling perception for every PC every time something noticable comes near, but that would be more of a hassle.

If you want to make active rolls matter, what I do is that there is no simple "success / fail" but there's actually different levels of information I can give to the player. Then I make passive perception always only give the first level of information on success, regardless on how high it is. This information is sufficient for figuring out the "puzzle", but still requires the players to use their brain. Only when active rolls are done and have a good result, I will include the extra information.

Also as DM I'm quite flexible with the DCs in the first place. So what I do is more or less see if someone in my group cares about having high passive perception. If everybody in my group has passive perception below 15, then it's still all active rolls pretty much except the general room description. If one of my PCs gets feats to get real high passive perception, then I want to reward that by giving him slightly more info than the other PCs. The actual score doesn't matter too much for me, it's more a decision on how much to tell additionally so that the group has the most fun.

Even on active rolls I'm like "Well, below 10 I won't tell them anything. 10-14, I'll point out things that were already in the room description, and give a slight hint and what of that could be relevant. 15-19, I'll give some additional info that is not in the general room description. 20+, I pretty much tell them anything they could possibly notice by just looking and listening."
So there's no real concrete DC for success.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
If passive scores are always the floor of rolls, rogue's reliable talent would be useless... trying to wrap my gead around that...
I am now thinking that I should maybe use passive perception only to notice general things and not specifically point out what exactly may be there.

useless for Perception maybe. By RAW, the other skills don't have "Passive" versions, so Reliable Talent still applies to those.
 

Actually, I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that generally checking a room might reveal less information than checking something specific in a room.

So what I think makes most sense is to apply passive perception to generally checking a room only.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
I like where he mentions that you only reveal yourself "when you hit or miss with an attack". I have seen a lot of people on here say that revealing yourself to attack automatically gets rid of hidden, so you get no benefit. I didn't even notice the passage he mentions in the Combat section.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
Not that I have ever been a fan of Passive Perception, but I think Crawford's advice it's one valid option (but definitely not the only one).

The way I've run perception so far is technically without using passive perception, but practically many times I just let the character succeed, if I think something is just impossible to miss, especially as a group.

I don't think there is only one "right" way to handle perception. These are just equally valid options:

a) Always roll, unless you notice that even a natural 20 would not beat the DC or a natural 1 would always do. Ignore Passive Perception.

b) Roll sometimes, grant autosuccess or autofailure some other times, based on narrative. Ignore Passive Perception.

c) Roll sometimes, use Passive Perception some other times, based on narrative.

d) Always use Passive Perception when it's enough, roll only when it's not enough (Crawford's method).

Crawford's method is quite simple and regular, so it will work well for gaming groups which don't like the DM to make subjective rulings.

You know the general location of invisible creatures!

JC says that being invisible and being hidden are not the same thing. Invisible creatures give themselves away by making noise and interacting with the environment. Invisible creatures need to use stealth or have some other cover to be hidden. A monster or PC might be distracted or lose track of an invisible creature, but if you know someone is likely to be invisible and are trying to find it, you have a general idea where it is. He says that the game mechanics make invisibility awesome enough on their own - advantage on attacks, disadvantage on attacks against you, can't be targeted by spells that target "a creature you can see" - so invisibility does not need any additional benefits. I wish the DM who hammered away at us last weekend with the unseen, completely silent, unfindable shield guardian hadn't made us swing randomly at thin air until we got lucky and found it because he said invisibility made it impossible for us to know where it was.

I don't think your DM did it wrong. It's true that invisible doesn't automatically mean you don't know where it is, but IMHO this is too much situational to be blanket-ruled like Crawford suggests. "Invisible creatures give themselves away by making noise and interacting with the environment" is simply false in the general case, since a creature doesn't have to make noise and interact with the environment all the time! You can of course decide that the creature needs a Stealth check to avoid making noise and interacting with the environment if you want, but for most creatures it's hard to believe that simply standing still would not be enough to avoid the (typically large) probability of failure of a Stealth check.

Even in combat, where it's more reasonable to say the creature can't avoid noise and environment interactions, it's totally fine to rule that an invisible creature is not automatically pinpointed. It just depends... probably easy to know where it is if you're on sand or mud, but if you're on a solid stone floor? What if the creature is flying or hovering? I don't think I'd even allow opportunity attacks against such an invisible opponent.

If passive scores are always the floor of rolls, rogue's reliable talent would be useless... trying to wrap my gead around that...

If really "your perception checks can never be worse than your passive perception" is meant literally, then you are right and Reliable Talent is useless for Perception.

If the above rule is intended for every ability check and not just Perception (considering that the PHB passive checks rules aren't limited to specific skills), then Reliable Talent is always useless.

On the other hand, the PHB says about passive checks: "Such a check can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly, such as searching for secret doors over and over again, or can be used when the DM wants to secretly determine whether the characters succeed at something without rolling dice, such as noticing a hidden monster." The focus here is on something repetitive/routine (like being alert for hidden monsters all the time), so at least it doesn't suggest to use passive checks always. At least not for a lot of skills! Disarming a trap, socially interacting with NPC, performing an athletic or acrobatic stunt and various other skills are practically never repetitive/routine, they are instead always ad-hoc with a specific current target.

Skills that are naturally repetitive (or "passive" as in "active all the time") are pretty much only Perception and Insight. You might arguably also advocate that knowledge-type skills are also active all the time, although knowledge skills have their own special implications when allowed to use passively (basically granting a potentially massive amount of knowledge to everyone, which is why I normally always require rolls for knowledge and often just declare an autofailure if non-proficient). All other skills are rarely if ever repetitive, so Reliable Talent should stay safely useful even when using Crawford's approach, just not for Perception and Insight.
 


daviddalbec

Explorer
Idk, he wasn't clear enough. If passive perception is a floor for your perception skill, and if passive checks can be used for any skill, then I guess in many situations, everyone has that 10th lvl rogue feature. The problem is that what he just said doesn't seem to be specifically written anywhere distinguishing this to be specifically about perception checks. "Hiding" on PHB 177 doesnt seem to suggest what he said either. "When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence."
Later
"When you hide, there’s a chance
someone will notice you even if they aren't searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the DM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score"
It says use passive when dealing with a creature that isn't actively searching, nothing about as a floor which you can default to when using the active check.

This is what it does say,
"Such a check can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly, such as searching for secret doors over and over again, or can be used when the DM wants to secretly determine whether the characters succeed at something without rolling dice, such as noticing a hidden monster."

Then about when to call for active perception checks, "When your character searches for a hidden object such as a secret door or a trap, the DM typically asks you to make a Wisdom (Perception) check. Such a check can be used to find hidden details or other information and clues that you might *otherwise overlook*.In most cases, you need to describe where you are looking in order for the DM to determine your chance of success. For example, a key is hidden beneath a set of folded clothes in the top drawer of a bureau. If you tell the DM that you pace around the room, looking at the walls and furniture for clues, you have no chance of finding the key, regardless of your Wisdom (Perception) check result. You would have to specify that you were opening the drawers or searching the bureau in order to have any chance of success."

Trying to justify Craeford - I guess, if you know there is an invisible creature in the room and try to find it every turn it'd be "a task done repeatedly", and you'd searching for it "over and over again" in accordance with the bit about Passive Checks in general. Even still, so is this applicable if I talk to someone and repeatedly try to persuade/decieve them that PC has a longdong, then I can just use 10+mods for the calculation and not roll? Or even better, roll and take the better of my roll or my passive persuade, I suppose for each occurence of my trying to convince someone of my longdong? It's really stepping on that rogue feature, or worse the 8th lvl Glibness spell.

"An ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training in an effort to overcome a challenge. The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an *action* (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results."

So here's what I'm seeing (and I don't know why by RAW and Crawford's input, this wouldn't apply to all checks/passives, not just perception). There are maybe 4 different cases?
1. A character's passive perception might find a creature, in which case you don't use your *action* to search for it, because you know it is there.
2. You do not find it with passive, and also never know it is there, which would mean you as a player would not know to use your action to search.
3. You know a creature is there, perhaps you saw it hide behind a stone, in a cabinet or cast invisibility, or you have insider info that it is around, but you (with passive) can't detect it. You'd likely use your *action* to search for it. In this case you can get up to 10 points higher (or 5 higher if you have Observant Feat) on perception than your passive, and maybe reveal the hidden thing. I guess that rogue feature of rounding up to 10 probably doesnt matter here?
4. Some situation, such as an specific item being hid in a desk as in the PHB example, you need to be specific about your actions and *actively* interact such that a passive skill doesn't apply. So something not "the average result of a task done repeatedly" and of course not something secret. It'd have to be something accute and novel. I think only in these case, by the rules, do you *have* to use an active check at all, and furthermore a passive cannot be used. Something like "Your passive doesnt find the gnome in this room - I roll active trying to look closer (nat 20) - you still don't find him (he isnt *detectable * from there) - I check inside the chest under the desk (roll 10) - you press your ear up to it and hear breathing" in this case the rogue feature and such do something and the passive does nothing.

Applies to insight?
1. You detect someone is lying/nervous/upset/etc. using passive.
2. You don't detect this using passive and don't use active because you're character has no reason to suspect so.
3. You don't detect this passively, but know that, maybe the person is claiming something contrary to what you think is reality (maybe lying), or you have heard that this person is known to lie. Even still, things like that rogue feature of taking 10 don't seem to matter, since it'd just be the same as your passive (unless there are other mods Im not thinking of).
4. You fail in all attempts to uncover whether he is lying, despite believing he is saying inconsistencies and attempt a Bugs Bunny "yes it is - no it's not - yes it is - no it's not - no it's not - yes it is" trick, then make out his reaction to his communicitive stumble.

According to Crawford, I believe my 1-3 examples are correct rulings. IMO my #4's are weak examples and pretty fringe. But, it's the best I could come up with to describe types of situations where one could NOT rely on passive checks at all...
 
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Wouldn't Reliable Talent nullify the -5 from Disadvantage from dim light or any other source of Disadvantage when using Passive Perception, or when using any other Skill Passively? So it should still be useful.
 

daviddalbec

Explorer
" In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight." Passive and active have disadvantage (equating to statistical -5). There are still a number of cases when Reliable Talent is useful by the rules, and that number depends a lot on the DM, and especially when you're in a stressful, unique, and/or time sensitive situation where passive skills are inappropriate. I supose that is what Crawford was pressing at when he was talking about hiding and vision.

Edit: Oh right, so it would negate some effects of disadvantage, but it is still like 25% chance of rolling above a 10 with DA and Reliable does nothing about that.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
If you want to make active rolls matter, what I do is that there is no simple "success / fail" but there's actually different levels of information I can give to the player. Then I make passive perception always only give the first level of information on success, regardless on how high it is. This information is sufficient for figuring out the "puzzle", but still requires the players to use their brain. Only when active rolls are done and have a good result, I will include the extra information.

I really like your approach, and I think that's the direction I lean as well. :)

Do you have a concrete example you could share?
 

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