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

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Yeah, I get that.

If a player has their character act because I asked them to roll a die, I immediately tell them "Nope. You can't use your own paranoia to justify what your character is doing." I don't allow it and if a player insists on pulling that crap I ask them to leave.
.

Yeah…no. Not at any table I play at.

I said it was dissatisfying, not that I would overrule a player declaration. That’s Thought Policing players, and I don’t do it. Especially when the bind they’ve been put in (whether to act on that information) is entirely my fault for DMing badly.
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I disagree with the latter assertion about there being no player declaration. There actually is declaration as I laid out upthread. It'll just tend to happen, say, when the PCs enter the dungeon and remains so until they stop to explore something in more detail, if they say they want to change the task they are undertaking while traveling the adventure location, or if combat breaks out.
Interesting. I missed your post but if I’m understanding correctly I agree.

If the player just says, “I’m searching for traps while we travel” and there’s no cost for that, then it’s not a very interesting declaration. But if the second part is, “…instead of doing X” then it gets more interesting.

Is that what you mean?
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
That’s Thought Policing players, and I don’t do it. Especially when the bind they’ve been put in (whether to act on that information) is entirely my fault for DMing badly.
I hardly consider it bad DMing. It is the same as a player acting on player knowledge about a monster's weakness, abilities, etc. which their PC has no way of really knowing. I don't see this as any different, the player is acting on metagame knowledge to decide what their PC will do in game.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
I'm trying to think of something more distracting than, say, a life or death struggle with regards to noticing things...
Right, and, by the hiding rules, the DM would be well supported in deciding a creature in combat is distracted, allowing another creature to approach and attack from hiding. The default in combat, however, is that a creature that leaves hiding is noticed because the participants are assumed to be alert unless the DM rules otherwise. This assumption doesn't quite hold up outside of combat where a creature is assumed to be alert unless its player states its attention is engaged in some other task.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Interesting. I missed your post but if I’m understanding correctly I agree.

If the player just says, “I’m searching for traps while we travel” and there’s no cost for that, then it’s not a very interesting declaration. But if the second part is, “…instead of doing X” then it gets more interesting.

Is that what you mean?
Yes, exactly. Or, in addition, to do something, I may need to put myself at some risk (e.g. being in the front rank of the marching order or chancing automatic surprise). The decision is meaningful and it's all baked into the rules albeit in a disorganized fashion.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I hardly consider it bad DMing. It is the same as a player acting on player knowledge about a monster's weakness, abilities, etc. which their PC has no way of really knowing. I don't see this as any different, the player is acting on metagame knowledge to decide what their PC will do in game.

I meant that it's bad DMing to give players information (e.g. by asking for a perception roll when they haven't declared an action) but then expect them to pretend they don't know it when making decisions. If I don't want players to use information I try to avoid giving it to them in the first place.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Well, before I continue, do you accept the premise that there is a difference between a PC trying to listen (active) and a PC who happens to hear something (passive)? If you can't accept that, there's no point in continuing.
Sure. I just don't accept that that difference means 10 is a bad number to use.

Active searching can be inefficient or wrongheaded. Active listening is easily affected by unintentional bias (consider the great many "ghost hunter" shows where they filter every video for any sound no matter how incidental) or coincidence. Passive listening is just...what you happened to hear.

The earlier analogy to AC is quite apt IMO. Passive Perception is your defense against being deceived or missing out on a piece of sensory information you didn't know you were looking for. The passiveness is in your inability to control the process (for good or for ill.) "Routine" perception does not fit this as it is in fact actually active and engaged, and you should be able to affect the outcome.

More or less, my problem is that I think you're setting the bar wrong. The things you (seem to) think should be detected by Passive Perception are things I think should just be automatic. A routine, meanwhile, IS an active and engaged action, it should follow the rules of active things, which means making a roll and taking a risk of failure. Perception, unlike most other skills, can easily be rerolled (or rolled by everyone in the party), so the odds of failure are usually low unless the players are playing risky (e.g. one person in the lead and moving quickly without pausing to let other eyes help with spotting stuff.)
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Sure. I just don't accept that that difference means 10 is a bad number to use.
So, you think 10 is a good number to use for both active and passive use of Perception?

To be clear, you think someone's capability to see something or hear something, for example, is the same on average when they are actually trying to see/hear compared to when they aren't really paying attention, and just happen to see/hear?
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So, you think 10 is a good number to use for both active and passive use of Perception?

To be clear, you think someone's capability to see something or hear something, for example, is the same on average when they are actually trying to see/hear compared to when they aren't really paying attention, and just happen to see/hear?
I think the difference is too small to matter enough to deserve further attention or added rules bloat.

Like, people complain about rules bloat all the time. That is exactly what this is. More rules for no reason other than because the existing rule has a disliked name.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I think the difference is too small to matter enough to deserve further attention or added rules bloat.

Like, people complain about rules bloat all the time. That is exactly what this is. More rules for no reason other than because the existing rule has a disliked name.
Changing the name has really nothing to do with this point. Changing the section title in the book to "Routine and Secret Checks" takes care of the mistaken "passive" issue IMO.

This is about the difference between when someone is trying to notice something and when they simply happen to notice it. When you aren't trying to do something, the effort typically results in less "success".

Truly "passive" (always on in the background) perception should have a lower base value than the 10 given to Routine and Secret Checks score.

In summary:

Routine and Secret Checks (RAW "Passive Checks") default 10 is fine if you want to use it.
(New) Passive Checks default 5 makes a lot more sense as a background use of a skill, something that is innately always on but you aren't trying to use it necessarily. When you try to use it, you are very likely to do better.

Anyway, you feel active perception versus passive should be close enough to the same to not bother, so I won't bother further.

Frankly, I don't know of anyone who complains of "rules bloat" in 5E!!! Quite the opposite IME. Most people want clearer, more defined rules to avoid confusion. Now, "hit point bloat" and "feature bloat" I have heard about. Perhaps the rules bloat I've missed because I never paid attention to those threads (entirely possible...).
 

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