D&D 5E Is "Passive" (for Passive Perception) really the right term??

nevin

Hero
Ok, so "passive", as in passive perception (or other "passive" scores) has always bothered me a bit because the mechanic is 10 + your total modifier.

Why 10?

Well, my understanding is that the designers chose 10 because it was supposed to represent your "typical" effort (roughly average on the d20).

Then they chose the term "passive" for it... And, yeah, that is what bugs me.

"Routine" would be better, because passive (to me) represents "non-active", as where doing a task over and over would be "active" or "routine".

I mean, think about it, something that is "passive" is better than nearly half of your active attempts?

So, someone is trying to stealth past you, against your Passive Perception. But, you aren't really trying to perceive---you're just there. But your score is based on your average result if you were trying to perceive. Now, to be clear, when you are trying to perceive you are actively looking for something/ listening/ searching/ etc. In this case, you aren't. But, still using the 10 + modifier...

Anyway, it seems to me if a passive perception score was actually passive, it should be 5 + modifier or something. Then we could also just have the whole "Take 10" for routine tasks or have a "Routine/ Typical/ Whatever? Score" of 10 + modifier.

Just throwing this out as I am working on other stuff...
no, it's your making coffee and there's a roll to see if you hear the sound of crunching leaves or look in the right direction and see the stone that moved 6 inches when the invisible creature bumped it. That's passive. Some people are really good at it some are not. Now I think there should be a perceptions Skill, and passive perception should just be a base 10 plus or minus your int and wis modifiers. t. that would be a better way to do it I think. then DM could roll that behind the screen and it would be truly passive.
 

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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
no, it's your making coffee and there's a roll to see if you hear the sound of crunching leaves or look in the right direction and see the stone that moved 6 inches when the invisible creature bumped it. That's passive.
Yes, that is the example of passive perceptions of the PCs in camp while the other was active while on watch. So, not sure why you said "no" when you just offered another perfect example of "passive (always on, not paying attention) perception".

Some people are really good at it some are not.
Sure, and those people are also the ones who are better then they try to look.

Now I think there should be a perceptions Skill, and passive perception should just be a base 10 plus or minus your int and wis modifiers. t. that would be a better way to do it I think. then DM could roll that behind the screen and it would be truly passive.
So, to be clear that I am understanding this statement, you are thinking passive (always on, background) perception should with proficiency bonus and then just add proficiency bonus to represent the "active" application of perception?

I could run with that, if so. :)
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Sure, but let's figure out which is the horse, and which is the cart. My character doesn't change behaviors based on what roll I make. My character changes behaviors based on what I say he's doing. I think we're in agreement on this, since you were equating the in-fiction effects of passive and active rolls. That's for "secret" rolls.

The other usage of passive checks is pointless: can the character do something if retries are allowed? Well, the PC has an ability score, skill proficiency, background, race (?), and class - which are all good clues as to whether the bandits are detectable by the PC (to take an earlier example). But, in theory, the DM still can't decide (in the lovely dichotomy of success/failure) so she's supposed to compare the passive score to the DC. But there is already a rule for what happens when the DM isn't sure about success: ask for an ability check.
I don't know what "retries" has to do with this. A passive check is an ability check.

Oh, yeah, no, there's probably no connection. I used a paragraph division to attempt to indicate that I was moving on. But the connecting theme in what my next thought was is this: confusion is a recurring theme in playing D&D. Which is a brilliant move by WotC; what better way to bring in the nostalgia of youth and novelty than to require a baseline level of confusion while playing the game?
I don't think they intended to make the rules confusing, but the confusion you cite may be the result of their stated intention to make a "big tent" version of D&D.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I don't know what "retries" has to do with this. A passive check is an ability check.


I don't think they intended to make the rules confusing, but the confusion you cite may be the result of their stated intention to make a "big tent" version of D&D.
To make the game "one size fits all...with adjustments" does mean that it might not be possible to run the game without some kind of adjudication and house ruling. The exact level required, however, can vary wildly.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
It would be used precisely what it says it would be used for: passive perception.

For example, your PC is walking down a street in a town. You aren't suspecting attack, you have no reason to think there is any danger. But, you are sill looking around, hearing noises, etc.

Now, using passive perception as it is, the DM gives you a 10+mods versus the assassin's Hide check result because the DM wants a secret roll to see if you notice the assassin or if you will end up being surprised. This means you chance of noticing the assassin is just as good (on average) as if you were trying to be wary of danger. But, you aren't...

“I walk down the street, scanning for danger..”

“Wait, what danger are you scanning for?”

“Dunno. But if there IS danger I’d rather roll d20 than take 5.”

“Ok, give me a perception check.”

“12”

“Nothing. Ok, you get to the corner and nothing happens, on the next street you…”

“I scan for danger.”

This was my experience with 1e and 2e. Ambushes, traps, secret doors, footprints, etc.

I love the passive perception rule. It eliminates a lot of unnecessary action declarations and dice rolling.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
“I walk down the street, scanning for danger..”

“Wait, what danger are you scanning for?”

“Dunno. But if there IS danger I’d rather roll d20 than take 5.”

“Ok, give me a perception check.”

“12”

“Nothing. Ok, you get to the corner and nothing happens, on the next street you…”

“I scan for danger.”
That wasn't the scenario, so changing it to make a point invalidates that point.

The scenario was you are in a place where you feel safe, you AREN'T "scanning for danger". PC's aren't doing this in every moment of their lives and to assume they are is ridiculous. Now, assuming it in combat or when they enter a scenario where they suspect danger makes sense, but in such cases it isn't hard for DMs to just have them roll when they begin "scanning for danger" actively.

This was my experience with 1e and 2e. Ambushes, traps, secret doors, footprints, etc.

I love the passive perception rule. It eliminates a lot of unnecessary action declarations and dice rolling.
Great for you, but doesn't work for me.

Instead of trying to convince me my view is wrong or something, try offering something helpful or don't bother. You've expressed your view and opinion, job done.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
That wasn't the scenario, so changing it to make a point invalidates that point.

The scenario was you are in a place where you feel safe, you AREN'T "scanning for danger". PC's aren't doing this in every moment of their lives and to assume they are is ridiculous. Now, assuming it in combat or when they enter a scenario where they suspect danger makes sense, but in such cases it isn't hard for DMs to just have them roll when they begin "scanning for danger" actively.

Right. And after the DM has done that to me twice I’m going to start declaring that I’m on high alert ALL THE TIME. And I suspect I’m not the only one. That’s what I’m trying to explain.

Or re-read what @iserith wrote and create some trade-offs. E.g. you can’t get short rests unless you go off high alert and take disadvantage on perception and 5+ on passive perception. Give players a mechanical reason to relax and lower their guard.

Great for you, but doesn't work for me.

Instead of trying to convince me my view is wrong or something, try offering something helpful or don't bother. You've expressed your view and opinion, job done.

Well, aren’t you trying to convince the rest of us that 10+ is wrong and it should be 5+?
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Now, using passive perception as it is, the DM gives you a 10+mods versus the assassin's Hide check result because the DM wants a secret roll to see if you notice the assassin or if you will end up being surprised. . .

So, my original point was the term passive here leads to confusion.
Allow me to clear up some of that confusion: this isn't a use for a passive check. The PC rolls a normal check. Success means the PC can react to the assassin. Failure means that the PC has to wait for the assassin's first move, which occurs immediately after the check.

My next question, if not yours, is: what if the assassin isn't in striking distance, and the DM just wants to know if the assassin gets spotted well before the PC is in striking range (which is an intended usage of the passive check rule, I believe)? Let's head back to one of the biggest general rules: the DM determines what happens, unless there's uncertainty, then she calls for a check. If the PC says, "I walk down the street," no check, not even passive, is needed here. As soon as the PC says something that might involve spotting a hidden assassin, then a normal check is warranted.

Is the DM announcing the presence of a hidden assassin by asking for a Wisdom ( perception) check? No; it's in reaction to the PC's announcement, and a WisPer check could be for sensing anything, good or bad.

no, it's your making coffee and there's a roll to see if you hear the sound of crunching leaves or look in the right direction and see the stone that moved 6 inches when the invisible creature bumped it. I
I'm going to fail any check that happens while I'm making coffee.

I don't know what "retries" has to do with this. A passive check is an ability check.
See the snip on page 1: a passive check is for doing something repeatedly, like searching for a secret door. Aside: I don't know about you, but when I fail to find a secret door, I stop looking!

I don't think they intended to make the rules confusing, but the confusion you cite may be the result of their stated intention to make a "big tent" version of D&D.
Probably not. It would be an interesting tactical move, though! I hear Dark Souls used a lot of confusion...
 
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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
“I walk down the street, scanning for danger..”

“Wait, what danger are you scanning for?”

“Dunno. But if there IS danger I’d rather roll d20 than take 5.”

“Ok, give me a perception check.”

“12”

“Nothing. Ok, you get to the corner and nothing happens, on the next street you…”

“I scan for danger.”

This was my experience with 1e and 2e. Ambushes, traps, secret doors, footprints, etc.

I love the passive perception rule. It eliminates a lot of unnecessary action declarations and dice rolling.
Busted! There were no perception checks or taking 5 in 1e and 2e! 🤓

By the way, PCs don't initiate checks. The DM does. So if there's unnecessary rolling going on, it's the DM's fault.

Beside the point? Yeah, probably.
 


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