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Passive vs Active Perception...

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That, or just don't sweat the players knowing there's something to be found that they didn't find.
Yeah, or only ask for the check when the result determines the next thing that happens in the scene. It avoids players looking at a low die result and a "nothing happens" result from the DM and suspecting something is up.
 

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Satyrn

First Post
A big issue here is that every time you ask for a perception check, the players will know something is up even if they roll badly. To fix that, you have to request perception checks all the time, even when there is nothing to see. If that sounds fine, then go for it.
When I ask for Perception checks because "something is up," that something is a trap, ambush or other something that will become obvious very quickly. Succeeding on that Perception check either lets only those players react in some way, or gives those players an advantage the other players don't get.

Every other Perception check I ask for only comes when a player "asks" for it by looking around or declaring some other action that makes me decide a Perception check is the way to go.
 

jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
So if the players walk by a secret door and don’t think to make a check, they have no chance to notice it?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So if the players walk by a secret door and don’t think to make a check, they have no chance to notice it?
A player doesn't "make checks." He or she describes actions. If the player wants a shot at his or her character noticing secret doors, he or she must describe a goal and approach for the character to that end. That may or may not come at the cost of not performing some other useful task, such as keeping watch for hidden dangers.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
So if the players walk by a secret door and don’t think to make a check, they have no chance to notice it?
I hate the static number vs static number. A much better idea IMHO is to have the door (or trap, or whatever) roll a stealth check (adding a bonus for how skiiled the creator/installer was).
 

reelo

Explorer
I'm not sure if this has been said yet but here's my 2ct: PP is exclusively a DM tool. I use PP as a default UNLESS a player asks for a roll. A DM should never ASK for a Perception roll, the player has to.

Players forget to ask for a Perception roll? DM just uses PP. Players don't explicitly mention they are actively searching/guarding/scouting? PP gets used. This might seem punishing for players with low PP, but after a while they wil learn to ask for rolls.


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Satyrn

First Post
So if the players walk by a secret door and don’t think to make a check, they have no chance to notice it?
Right. Someone not trying to look for secret doors isn't gonna find them . . .unless they're a 3e elf.

But let me add, I do it this way to make secret doors more interesting. When I include secret doors, I do so in 2 general ways:

I might provide clues to their existence in advance ("There's a hidden trap door in the Temple of the Frog") so when the players reach a location that matches the clue they can act on the clue if they want to.

Or, when describing a location with a secret door, I'll describe the area so there's a clue to the secret door. Like, I'll say there's a faint stink in a room, but not explain where the smell originates. If they choose to investigate the stink, they get the opportunity to find the secret door that leads to where a serial killer keeps his trophies.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
So if the players walk by a secret door and don’t think to make a check, they have no chance to notice it?
Unlike the others who have responded above... for me, absolutely they can notice it.

It seems to me that I treat the definition of "Perception" differently than other people (and probably how the game treats it too for the most part.) To me, Perception is noticing things. NOT "looking" for things, or "searching" for things-- in my games, that's why we have Investigation as a skill. Perception is what your senses do continuously through no real effort. You see stuff. You hear stuff. You smell stuff. No one goes "searching" for an odor... they just perhaps notice the odor as it wafts by. Which is what I use Passive Perception for... how good you are at just "picking stuff up" as you wander around. That goblin on the other side of the door that tried to be quiet (and how well it did it I figured out by rolling a Stealth check for it?) If your Passive Perception was high enough, you heard it. Not because you were "trying really hard to hear things"... but because your ears just picked up on it. And that's the whole reason why I use Passive scores (Perception and Investigation)... because sometimes you just notice things through no real effort, but only because the person or creature or item that was TRYING to hide itself did a really crappy job.

I don't go along with the other people who commented that if a PC didn't say they were searching for a secret door that they had no chance to notice it. To me, that's ridiculous. What if the secret was just hidden really badly? There's a doorway that someone hung a curtain in front of, but the curtain keeps billowing from the draft? Or an ogre tried to hide in bushes that were just barely able to cover him? Hidden situations so badly done that you might only assign or roll a DC 8 to find them? To NOT let the most obvious of hidden objects not be found because the player didn't SAY they were "looking" for them to me misses the point. Now yes, you as the DM could ask the player to roll a Perception check because they obviously would have had a pretty chance to actually see the thing had the PC actually been in that situation... but what's the point? Just so the player has the chance to roll a 1 and thereby miss the most obvious of clues due to a crappy roll? No thanks. If I want PCs to possibly miss hidden things, the DCs to find them just happen to be higher than 10. If the DC is 15... many PCs might miss it, and some might find it. And if I want to make it even more variable or a given... I'll roll a die to determine the DC for a hidden object the same way I'd roll a die to determine the DC for a Stealthed individual. That way the DC might be so high that nobody notices it using their Passive score, and then they HAVE to state they are making an Active search to find it (at which time they roll the dice and have a chance of getting a higher score if they roll 11 or higher on that d20.)

Obviously everyone wants to and does run their games differently, which again is why the Stealth rules are so generic-- because almost no one would agree on WotC's decision had they made rules more concrete and the people would just ignore them and make up their own. Same goes for spotting things.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Unlike the others who have responded above... for me, absolutely they can notice it.

It seems to me that I treat the definition of "Perception" differently than other people (and probably how the game treats it too for the most part.) To me, Perception is noticing things. NOT "looking" for things, or "searching" for things-- in my games, that's why we have Investigation as a skill.
In my games, Investigation is used for deduction based on information you already have. For example, you know where the secret door or trap is and now you're trying to figure out how it works so you can open it or, in the case of traps, avoid or disarm it safely. It might also be used to deduce a monster's abilities, strengths, or weaknesses based on observing it. There are many other applications, but essentially it boils down to the character deducing something.

I don't go along with the other people who commented that if a PC didn't say they were searching for a secret door that they had no chance to notice it. To me, that's ridiculous. What if the secret was just hidden really badly?
I believe a secret door that is hidden really badly is just called a "door."

Here's an example of how I handle things from a one-shot that I'm running Wednesday night:

Capture2.PNG

So as they move through the dungeon, each character is undertaking a particular task of their choice. Each of these tasks has by default an uncertain outcome. If you're doing any given task, you're not doing another task, so there's a meaningful choice to be made there. Your pace also determines the DC. The slower you go, the lower the DC, and the higher the chance of a wandering monster happening upon you. The faster you go, the higher the DC, and the lower the chance of a wandering monster happening upon you.

If you want to find all the secret doors, for example, you have to dedicate at least one party member to that task who has a passive Perception of at least 15 and move at a Slow pace. Or put someone with a PP 10 in there and have another PC Work Together with him or her. Or you can move at a Normal pace if someone has PP 15 and someone Working Together with him or her. The PC tasked with finding the secret doors is automatically surprised if monsters are being stealthy as is the person Working Together. That's the risk for finding all those secret doors.
 

So if the players walk by a secret door and don’t think to make a check, they have no chance to notice it?
It depends on what the character is doing.

Are they walking fast? No chance to detect it.
Are they making a map? No chance to detect it.
Are they tracking something? No chance to detect it.
Are they walking normally? A chance to detect it (GM either asks for a roll or uses a passive number).
Are they walking slowly, paying careful attention? A better chance to detect it (in D&D 5E, this probably means a check with advantage).

Remember the basic process of gaming:
1. The player describes a goal and approach.
2. The GM determines if the outcome is success, failure, or uncertain.
2a. If uncertain then the GM calls for a check (which may or may not involve one or more people rolling dice).
3. The GM and player narrate the outcome.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Is it passive perception or "active" perception that allows you to notice the same exact thread was started by someone else less than 24 hours earlier? :p

I know, I know... I'll probably do the same thing one of these days. Feel free to call me on it!
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
For real, though, PP is to avoid the 10' pole check for traps every square OR to allow for a particularly perceptive character to foil the goblins' ambush attempt (goblins stealth must beat the PC's PP), etc. Perception rolls OTOH are called for when a PC declares a search-like action and the outcome is uncertain (or the DM, once in a while, wants it to APPEAR that an outcome is uncertain... keep 'em on their toes, right?).
 

Li Shenron

Legend
A big issue here is that every time you ask for a perception check, the players will know something is up even if they roll badly. To fix that, you have to request perception checks all the time, even when there is nothing to see.
You're overreacting... if you have the issue of your players metagaming on a failed perception check, it's enough that you roll their perception check behind the screen.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You're overreacting... if you have the issue of your players metagaming on a failed perception check, it's enough that you roll their perception check behind the screen.
I think this concern is an artifact of a very specific style of play, one in which it's likely the players make checks unprompted and/or the DM calls for a check any time the players describe wanting to do something that sounds like it lines up with a proficiency. It's also something that comes up if the DM describes a null result after such checks instead of waiting to call for the check before something could happen on a failure. If those issues aren't a thing at the table, then there's no need to make checks for the players to combat "metagaming."
 

jgsugden

Legend
D&D is a role playing game. Players play characters in the story. Tell the story, and apply the rules to the story. Don't let the rules tell your story.

My suggestions above do a pretty good job of supporting most stories, but I always ask whether the rules 'make sense' in the story as I apply them.

If the heroes are highly distracted, it should be much harder than normal to notice a trap or secret door. If they're moving slowly and being attentive, it should be more likely that they find it than if they're moving at a causal pace. If the heroes devoted resources (taking the observant feat) focused on being attentive, they should get some bang out of it by finding things people normally miss (like Sherlock). We want the rules to facilitate that, but if they accidentally contradict it - rule against the rules to tell the good story.

And then, if the DM and players disagree on something, the DM should rethink and ask if he is telling the best story - and the players should trust his or her final decision.

It really is that simple.
 

Satyrn

First Post
I don't go along with the other people who commented that if a PC didn't say they were searching for a secret door that they had no chance to notice it. To me, that's ridiculous. What if the secret was just hidden really badly? There's a doorway that someone hung a curtain in front of, but the curtain keeps billowing from the draft? Or an ogre tried to hide in bushes that were just barely able to cover him? Hidden situations so badly done that you might only assign or roll a DC 8 to find them?
Let me start by saying that like you, I'm pretty sure I'm not "going by the book" either.

For me, I'd handle all those examples of poorly hidden secrets that you gave differently. Like, the sort of thing you'd assign a DC 10 or lower to would be the sort of thing I'd simply rule isn't hidden, even if it was meant to be a secret door. So the players would outright see them.
 

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