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Listen/Spot: Is 10' not far enough

What should the distance be?

  • Less than ten feet.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Same as 3.x. Ten feet

    Votes: 13 22.4%
  • Twenty feet for sure

    Votes: 12 20.7%
  • More than that: Explain below

    Votes: 10 17.2%
  • I think 4E will have a totally different mechanic, so this is a moot poll

    Votes: 23 39.7%

  • Poll closed .


You can't really get any better at perception.

You are obviously not a birder. I can tell you from my own RW experience in birding that yes, you can indeed get better at perception - both visual & auditory. Learning where to look (most likely places for things to be), what to look for (pattern recognition), & how to look (a soft-focus scanning for movement vs. sharp-focusing on specific odjects), as well as what to listen for (pattern recognition again), have made a significant difference in my ability to notice what birds are around. I've been in situations where non-birders, untrained in these aspects of perception, would tell me there were 'no birds around', when I would then proceed to find several species.

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First Post
I use my own cludged scale, but I've never been happy with and would love to see some alternative suggestions since it doesn't seem I can depend on WotC to actually improve my game.
Try this out. It's a system I came up with earlier this year with a help of a few people in the House Rules forum.

You can't really get any better at perception.
Spend some time in a combat zone. Ask those guys who did tours in the SEALS, spec ops, or Airborne. They have VERY acute senses - they have to. They didn't start out that way; they aqcuired those skills over time, through training and real world experience. Like Celebrim said, it's not necessarily being able to see further or hear better so much as being able to process more information more quickly and accurately, sometimes unconsciously. That's how soldiers can sense the presence of enemies, or tripwires, or whatever.
Last edited:


First Post
I personally think it should be situational.

In an open field under clear skies? 50' might be appropriate.

In light woods on a grey day? 10' or 20'

In a smoke filled dungeon? 5'

And in almost all of those examples the listen and spot checks would be decoupled wrt the distance at which the modifier changes.

An open field under clear skies with even a light wind has a fair amount of white noise and might be a 20' listen check segment.

An nice quiet woods with no wind might be a 40' listen check.

The up side of using different modifier distances would be to differentiate the spot and listen skills and add verisimilitude.

The down side is that it adds to the GMs burden.

Of course in 4e it's likely that listen and spot will be rolled into a single skill, and likewise hide and move silent.


One thing about 10 feet is that it makes the math trivial. 40 feet away, -4, done.

So I propose 10 yards or meters. If you're 30 meters away, -3. Preserves the simple math, but extends the range three-fold.

Or if 4E is based on the 5ft square, -1 for every 10 squares.


Andor said:
The down side is that it adds to the GMs burden.

A good system, even one that requires slightly more calculation, in fact lessons the DM's burden compared to the current system.

The first time you take your game out of the 40'x50' or 20x30' room of 'default D&D', the limitations of the current system and the enormous burden it imposes on the DM should be apparant.

Try running a combat with the PC's vs. Gnoll snipers with longbows at a range of say 3-4 longbow range increments, and then you'll see just exactly what the burden of the current system really is. The problem is simply that the stealth rules are built around a game were 10' is a fairly long distance, but the rules for magic and missile fire are built around a game were 100' is not particularly far. Before the game plays well, one or both of these things has to change significantly.

I can handle this sort of thing with some serious on the fly fudging, but I doubt your average novice DM can, and I've known quite a few even experienced DM's that would be at such a loss about what to do about the limitations of the rules that they'd let the rules wreck thier campaign.


First Post
Definitely situational. I always wanted to houserule it, but never got around to it. I understand the value of making math easy though: but instead of having a set distance/penalty why not have just 2 or 3 ranges? Short range would be no penalty, Medium -4, and long -10. Something like that, you could always play with the numbers.

Then have some distances based on terrain: Open fields - short range within 50' medium within 200' etc. In a forest short range could be 10'

Now as a caveat, I'd really have to tinker with those numbers: on an open field you can easily see for at least 2 kilometers. And in a forest you hear someone 15' away and never see them.

Now that I think about it, didn't 2nd ed. have something similar to that? Or was that just encounter distances.


First Post
Celebrim said:
The problem is simply that the stealth rules are built around a game were 10' is a fairly long distance, but the rules for magic and missile fire are built around a game were 100' is not particularly far.

Yeah, that always bothered me that a longbow had such a long range at which it was accurate. Especially since in 20 modern, some of the sniper rifles didn't have that kind of range increment.

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