D&D General "I make a perception check."

Mallus

Legend
I see this a puzzle/challenge design issue.

Is the challenge in finding the THING (valuable, clue, etc.) or in what the what to DO with the THING once it's found?

The older I get, the less interested or perhaps able I am to describe the physical details in an imaginary space. At least with the particular rigor required to make them a kind of puzzle to solve.

Or perhaps I've spent too much time doing this in media better suited to the task, ie the dreaded 'video game', where exploring complex 3D spaces is more interesting & rewarding.

But when the 3D space and objects therein are rendered using language... eh... that's tough. And not especially fun to run, especially in a long-running campaign. Even when playing old school-style my groups eventually stopped checking inch of flooring with our trusty 10 ft. poles and resorted to scripts of 'standard' procedures.

More power to people who can keep that interesting. But for me, skill checks are fine for most things until the players encounter a special environment or object they need to figure out by hand.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In D&D 4e, the game fully supports players asking to make skill checks. The DM is encouraged to almost always say "Yes."

In D&D 5e, there is no such support for that and I tell players not to, since I won't have enough context to give them what they want without assuming, perhaps incorrectly, what their character is doing. Or worse saying what their character is doing for them. It's also bad strategy to want to roll dice since failure must be meaningful. It's better to automatically succeed by removing uncertainty or any consequence of failure, if you can. That requires reasonable specificity in the action declaration.
 

Tutara

Adventurer
yeah that is a whole can of worms about what skill means what... investigate/perception/tool kit and acrobatics/athletics are the go to example of "don't you mean ____" but even something like 'knowing about the saint' is that history or religon or arcana... I can make an argument for each
If you want to 'know about the saint' and want to know about her life and what she did, that is probably history. If you want to know what tenets of faith she espoused, that is probably religion. If you want to determine what magical abilities that she had access to, maybe arcana? I'd accept any of those, but you'd learn only what was relevant to that skill. You could use Nature to determine the weak point of a boulder, but it isn't going to break the boulder too!

I tend to play Blades in the Dark, so the conversation (rather than the argument) about how a skill applies is a natural part of play for me. I don't see it as a can of worms, per se, so long as I'm not castigated for doing it wrong and so long as that conversation occurs.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I find that if someone understands what the speaker means in context it should not need to break the flow of game. If in the context you don't know what they want or what they mean it is better to ask for additional context then it is to rephrase...

if all night we have been seeking the mystic cup... and we get to a room with a bunch of stuff in it and someone says "I look through the room carefully, examining anything that is cup like, to see if anything close to or similar to the mystic cup is here" that's great... but if they say "Can I perception for the cup?" I get what they want, and how they want to accomplish it.
I agree with this. Usually my players who like to scan their skill list for options to use won't say "I make a Perception check" - what they'll say is either "I want to make a Perception check to search for the cup" or they'll say "I use Search to find the cup - whoops, this game doesn't have Search, what's that skill called?" Players who are doing this are engaging with the game so I'm happy - much better than players who are asked "what are you doing" and they respond with a dumb look because they weren't engaged.

If they're using the wrong skill I'll say "no, that's an Insight check, not Perception" or whatever. But I get what they mean - I actually blame the 5e design for not doing a better job of making the skill names some kind of active verb because games that do give players like that better prompts for how to talk about their skill use in game.
 

Reynard

Legend
if all night we have been seeking the mystic cup... and we get to a room with a bunch of stuff in it and someone says "I look through the room carefully, examining anything that is cup like, to see if anything close to or similar to the mystic cup is here" that's great... but if they say "Can I perception for the cup?" I get what they want, and how they want to accomplish it.
What if there is a false cup? What if one is trapped? What if the trap is contact poison versus a pressure plate that flips the table? What if the table is a mimic?

My point is that specificity matters, and if you require some arbitrary level of specificity all the time, you avoid the issue of telegraphing the trap/trick by asking for more detail than usual only when there is something amiss.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Two points from my table:

1. Players don't call for checks.
2. The character lives in the world, the DM is the window. "I look around" lets us know that the character is doing just that - exactly what should trigger a perception check. Not an investigation check - that would be a different action. But yeah, looking around is the ur-definition of perceiving around you to see anything of interest.
 


If you want to 'know about the saint' and want to know about her life and what she did, that is probably history. If you want to know what tenets of faith she espoused, that is probably religion. If you want to determine what magical abilities that she had access to, maybe arcana? I'd accept any of those, but you'd learn only what was relevant to that skill. You could use Nature to determine the weak point of a boulder, but it isn't going to break the boulder too!
my thing is that there is alot of overlap...

so with history I know about her past... would not her past include both her tenets of faith she is known for and what abilities she is known for
so with religion I know about her tenets of faith... but not what she did to prove them (aka her history?)

also I would hate to know all of that info requiring 3 skills and/or 3 checks... that is just too much time at table.
 

Reynard

Legend
Two points from my table:

1. Players don't call for checks.
2. The character lives in the world, the DM is the window. "I look around" lets us know that the character is doing just that - exactly what should trigger a perception check. Not an investigation check - that would be a different action. But yeah, looking around is the ur-definition of perceiving around you to see anything of interest.
Emphasis mine.

Not to quibble, but "I look around" shouldn't trigger a perception check. it should provide all the information someone would gain from looking around, without a roll.
 

they'll say "I use Search to find the cup - whoops, this game doesn't have Search, what's that skill called?"

I remember a moment at the table (i think it was white wolf not even D&D) where a player asked if they could roll search, er perception...you know what the skill for looking for naughty word...
 

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