Then yeah, it's a playstyle difference - so stop running mysteries for them.The feeling was that it was a play style difference and we then started the Dungeon of the Mad Mage campaign. And things haven't really gotten any better. They'll search when something is really suspicious, but not otherwise. I am frequently cluing them in to bits they forgot (like you've been looking for a mask of Halaster for the hall of mirrors. Now you have one.)
Edit: sorry, the mask is hidden in the hall of mirrors, it's for another location. But they didn't find it in the hall of mirrors, I just put it in a random empty room so they could have it.
Do they take any initiative at all? What do you see them respond positively to or gravitate toward? It's starting to sound like they view the game as mostly passive entertainment like a movie, to be honest.Combats are not a big thing. They're really just four casual players, except one guy who is a little bit of an optimizer. I don't have any real butt kickers or tacticians. When some time frees up I'm working on another campaign for a new group, but I don't want to just dump these guys. They're nice people, and I've enjoyed hanging out with them the past few years.
You don't even need to roll. Just calculate a passive perception/spot/whatever for the characters and keep it aside. If they don't explicitly search for things if their passive value doesn't beat the difficulty, they don't see the thing. If their inattention misses stuff, tough.This may be a, you problem. Work on your descriptive adjectives and how you are presenting things to them. It could also be they just are not interested in games of this type, and you will need to try other activities.
Bring out the hands-on aids. Puzzle boxes, coded letters. etc., all can get them to start thinking about hidden items.
Taking the choice from them, do a roll for them behind the screen and let them know something is wrong with the room or a box looks strange.
Or 'successful' mission after successful mission, for patrons like:I'm a bit crueler, perhaps, than some of you here: I'd just let them keep on missing stuff, and if it meant they failed on mission after mission...
Maybe if you'd made him the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor instead, they'd've caught on?professor of alchemy at their university sending them out to find magical spiders, which he used to concoct potions to kill off other professors and become the head of the university
Can you articulate for us what the players do enjoy doing?The thread about the player who loves evil characters reminded me of my problem players. I've been playing with them since I got back into D&D at the start of the pandemic. But they are oblivious. The first thing we did was go through the Yawning Portal adventures in a home brew world I threw together in a weekend, and I didn't really notice the problem. By the time that was done, I had redone my home brew world from 3.5E, and we started a home brew campaign in that. In that one they drove me up the wall. They wouldn't search for secret doors most of the time, and often wouldn't open obvious containers. I started being more obvious and they would walk right past treasure. One time I said "You see a skeleton covered in the webbing, and you see something shiny on it." They didn't clear out the webs or search the skeleton or anything. Another time I said "The room has a sarcophagus and a shield hanging on the wall." The did not look at the shield, which was a +1 shield.
They also were horrible with clues. The plan was that some ancient kings always buried themselves at the site of their first victory in battle. They could figure that out, do some research on the kings and the battles, and find all the tombs. They never researched anything. One of them was a warlock, and I had his patron wake him up in the middle of the night and do some of the research, and the character never did anything with it, much less tell the other characters about it. There was another plot about a professor of alchemy at their university sending them out to find magical spiders, which he used to concoct potions to kill off other professors and become the head of the university. They never noticed that the deaths were related to the spiders they were collecting, they never searched for clues in the murders (which would have pointed at the professor), they swallowed whole the professor's story of a former student being the killer, they ignored evidence contrary to this theory, and they killed the former student.
I ended that campaign in frustration after the villain became head of the university. I like running campaigns were you get a bunch of clues and piece them together to figure things out. And I'm aware of the general rules about not hiding clues and giving out multiple clues. I'm currently running them through the Dungeon of the Mad Mage, which is working because I house ruled PF2-style exploration activities so I can automatically roll search checks for them. But they seem to be tiring of the endless dungeon. Any ideas on a more interesting campaign I could create that wouldn't run foul of their searching and puzzling out clues?