• NOW LIVE! -- One-Page Adventures for D&D 5th Edition on Kickstarter! A booklet of colourful one-page adventures for D&D 5th Edition ranging from levels 1-9 and designed for a single session of play.
log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Perception, Passive Perception, and Investigation

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I'm afraid I really don't understand the need or desire for a distinction like "Perception=creatures. Investigation = objects."

It just doesn't make any kind of sense. You can easily "perceive" objects. You can certainly "investigate" creatures. I am kind of at a loss over this entire conversation and/or the confusion about these skills.

They use different abilities. They discern things about the characters' surroundings via different means. It's really not rocket science.

What am I missing here?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm afraid I really don't understand the need or desire for a distinction like "Perception=creatures. Investigation = objects."

It just doesn't make any kind of sense. You can easily "perceive" objects. You can certainly "investigate" creatures. I am kind of at a loss over this entire conversation and/or the confusion about these skills.

They use different abilities. They discern things about the characters' surroundings via different means. It's really not rocket science.

What am I missing here?
Probably influence from other games. In D&D 3.Xe, the Search skill was Intelligence-based and used to find traps, secret doors, and hidden objects. Spot and Listen were generally used to detect hidden creatures. As well, if I remember correctly, the D&D 5e playtest documents made the distinction that Perception is creatures and Investigation is objects.

Never underestimate the influence of other games on how people interpret this game. It is very common.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I'm afraid I really don't understand the need or desire for a distinction like "Perception=creatures. Investigation = objects."

It just doesn't make any kind of sense. You can easily "perceive" objects. You can certainly "investigate" creatures. I am kind of at a loss over this entire conversation and/or the confusion about these skills.

They use different abilities. They discern things about the characters' surroundings via different means. It's really not rocket science.

What am I missing here?
I think it largely has to do with DM's wanting to give players at their table more certainty regarding how Perception and Investigation will be adjudicated. Doing so makes it easier for players to make informed choices at character creation. If, when asked ahead of time, the DM simply says that the boundary between the skills is context-dependent, or that Perception is observation and Investigation is deduction, that doesn't help the player much until they learn that DM's style, since the boundary between observation and deduction can itself be fuzzy when applied to in-game situations.

This particularly affects players of Rogues or Bards who intend for their character to be trapmonkeys, because they need to decide not only how to allocate their proficiencies, but also their choices for Expertise. If Investigation is going to have a role in protecting the party from traps (or even completely obviate Perception), then putting Expertise into Investigation to help make up for a low Int may be crucial to mechanically realizing the character concept. Conversely, if Perception is all that is needed at a particular table to spot traps (combined with Thieves Tools to disarm them) and Investigation is only needed if one wants to make deductions about traps, then putting Expertise in Perception is a lot more attractive, particularly since that skill has so many other uses even when not trap-finding.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
It's really not about a planned path. It's just a tool for adjudicating failure in ways that don't create other problems.
But isn't it that other problems just means stymied progress along the planned path? Or to put it another way, what are the other, other problems you are thinking of?
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Probably influence from other games. In D&D 3.Xe, the Search skill was Intelligence-based and used to find traps, secret doors, and hidden objects. Spot and Listen were generally used to detect hidden creatures. As well, if I remember correctly, the D&D 5e playtest documents made the distinction that Perception is creatures and Investigation is objects.

Never underestimate the influence of other games on how people interpret this game. It is very common.
My personal route to perception for creatures, investigation for designs, was entirely within published 5th edition. I went through a lot of permutations until I landed on an effectively simple definition. But it is interesting that the gap in play - the need to differentiate - is something that can still make sense. It speaks to a persistent problem worth solving.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
I think it largely has to do with DM's wanting to give players at their table more certainty regarding how Perception and Investigation will be adjudicated...

This particularly affects players of Rogues or Bards who intend for their character to be trapmonkeys, because they need to decide not only how to allocate their proficiencies, but also their choices for Expertise. If Investigation is going to have a role in protecting the party from traps (or even completely obviate Perception), then putting Expertise into Investigation to help make up for a low Int may be crucial to mechanically realizing the character concept. Conversely, if Perception is all that is needed at a particular table to spot traps (combined with Thieves Tools to disarm them) and Investigation is only needed if one wants to make deductions about traps, then putting Expertise in Perception is a lot more attractive, particularly since that skill has so many other uses even when not trap-finding.
This is very true. The rogue archetypes lean towards Int over Wis which is very strange as perception is the go-to skill for rogues. But if traps are located using Investigation, Int suddenly has utility for rogues, and thus there are synergies with the rogue archetypes.

<anecdote> I have't actually played 5E a lot, but one of my characters was a hill dwarf rogue with 16 wisdom. I also had expertise in Perception, giving me a passive perception of 17. That felt like a very valid investment, and I felt the game was lacking in wis-based rogue archetypes. Where was the cleric-rogue, and why would I want to be a mage-rogue? </anecdote>
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
I think it largely has to do with DM's wanting to give players at their table more certainty regarding how Perception and Investigation will be adjudicated. Doing so makes it easier for players to make informed choices at character creation. If, when asked ahead of time, the DM simply says that the boundary between the skills is context-dependent, or that Perception is observation and Investigation is deduction, that doesn't help the player much until they learn that DM's style, since the boundary between observation and deduction can itself be fuzzy when applied to in-game situations.
Exactly! The residual problem I experienced with more nuanced definitions of Perception versus Investigation, was communicating consistency in application. I felt that in the end, the player doubts weren't adding anything to play at the table. Whereas the clean separation and need for Int versus Wis does add something. For one thing, it lets an Arcane Trickster be good at finding traps and casting their spells.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
I'm afraid I really don't understand the need or desire for a distinction like "Perception=creatures. Investigation = objects."
I have moved to this formulation - Perception is to notice creatures while Investigation is to deduce the implications of designs.

The next step is probably to work on the "creatures" part of that.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I have moved to this formulation - Perception is to notice creatures while Investigation is to deduce the implications of designs.

The next step is probably to work on the "creatures" part of that.
Yes. I saw that. I don't see how that makes it any better/clearer/more useful...or any more necessary.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But isn't it that other problems just means stymied progress along the planned path? Or to put it another way, what are the other, other problems you are thinking of?
Another problem can be boring failure - nothing happens or changes. Then perhaps the DM has to use a kludge to say retries are impossible because reasons, even if spending more time on a problem might otherwise be feasible in context.

I don't have a "planned path" in my games. I don't generally run games that have a plot at all. What I do have is a lot of tension around dice rolls because something is going to happen. Sometimes that means progress combined with a setback. Sometimes it means time wasted in the face of time pressure. I also don't have a single care about valuing "simulation." Which is where I expect most disagreements are coming from.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This is very true. The rogue archetypes lean towards Int over Wis which is very strange as perception is the go-to skill for rogues. But if traps are located using Investigation, Int suddenly has utility for rogues, and thus there are synergies with the rogue archetypes.

<anecdote> I have't actually played 5E a lot, but one of my characters was a hill dwarf rogue with 16 wisdom. I also had expertise in Perception, giving me a passive perception of 17. That felt like a very valid investment, and I felt the game was lacking in wis-based rogue archetypes. Where was the cleric-rogue, and why would I want to be a mage-rogue? </anecdote>
The finding/noticing of many traps can be resolved via Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation). See the DMG. It's just a matter of whether there are clues in the environment pointing to it sufficient for a character to deduce its presence. For anyone who telegraphs traps (and I recommend DMs do this), either can apply if there's an ability check at all. I don't see the need for a firm delineation (e.g. creatures vs. objects) or even parity between these skills. There's nothing in the game that suggests to me one should be as useful as the other.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Yes. I saw that. I don't see how that makes it any better/clearer/more useful...or any more necessary.
I think it is better, because designs speaks generally to artifice, intent, contrivances and constructions. That could be things, but it can also be schemes etc. Quite a few posters discussed that sort of generality to what Investigation should cover.

As for necessity. That is the ongoing conversation. Some seem to find it necessary, some don't. My motives include leaning away from the fab-four skills i.e. creating more equally valid options. Such as a perception rogue versus an investigation rogue. Without this sort of ruling, a rogue might as well just have perception. Whether that matters at a given table depends on that table's wider context of course. I'm sure some groups like that a rogue can cover a lot of needs with one skill (although why that should be a Wisdom skill rather than Intelligence is less clear to me!)
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
The finding/noticing of many traps can be resolved via Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation). See the DMG. It's just a matter of whether there are clues in the environment pointing to it sufficient for a character to deduce its presence. For anyone who telegraphs traps (and I recommend DMs do this), either can apply if there's an ability check at all. I don't see the need for a firm delineation (e.g. creatures vs. objects) or even parity between these skills. There's nothing in the game that suggests to me one should be as useful as the other.
There is a design principle around game balance which is essentially - prefer more equally valid strategies over fewer equally valid strategies. And then again, there is the question of whether a given design space is worthwhile developing? Speculatively, groups that don't find the division worthwhile are likely utilising design space differently from groups that do find the division worthwhile. Thus, both can be right in their choice, for their local context.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There is a design principle around game balance which is essentially - prefer more equally valid strategies over fewer equally valid strategies. And then again, there is the question of whether a given design space is worthwhile developing? Speculatively, groups that don't find the division worthwhile are likely utilising design space differently from groups that do find the division worthwhile. Thus, both can be right in their choice, for their local context.
I would find it easier as DM to simply increase the content in a particular area than change the rules. Wisdom (Animal Handling) not coming up much and that's somehow an issue? No problem, I'll just put more beasts in the random encounter tables.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I'm afraid I really don't understand the need or desire for a distinction like "Perception=creatures. Investigation = objects."

It just doesn't make any kind of sense. You can easily "perceive" objects. You can certainly "investigate" creatures. I am kind of at a loss over this entire conversation and/or the confusion about these skills.

They use different abilities. They discern things about the characters' surroundings via different means. It's really not rocket science.

What am I missing here?
Do you care how often some skills are rolled and others aren't? Making proficiency in some skills have more impact than others?

If the answer is 'No', then your confusion is understandable.

I, however, do not like to see certain skills used proportionally much more often than others. I'd like all the skills to be on as much of an equal footing as possible-- realizing that depending on the location and adventure the party is on, certain skills might be more important at certain times (IE if the party is dealing with cultists of an evil god, Religion will get rolled more often for that one specific adventure over say Nature for example, but I'm okay with that.)

This is why in addition to splitting the uses of Perception and Investigation, I have also removed or merged other skills together, PLUS I use the "alternate ability score" variant rule. All in an effort to give all the skills more usefulness, more opportunity, and not have some that barely see use, nor skills that see use all the time.

So as part of my reworking of the skill list... I saw Perception as-is rolled way, way too many times, and Investigation barely rolled at all. So I could either have merged the two skills together... or I could change what Investigation was used for. I chose the latter.

But if you don't see the need, that's fine. These rules do not need to be for you.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
So if darkvision let's you treat darkness as dim light and dim light doesn't provide concealment without the skulker feat I suppose the -5 to passive perception only applies if you are hiding behind something because you will otherwise be seen automatically.

It wouldn't apply if you are moving either.

I'm not sure I want to apply disadvantage to hiding in heavy armour automatically either. Why would someone in platemail hiding behind a statue in the dark be easier to spot than anyone else?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It's not so much that the technique is inobvious, but I have other motives, and am concerned for relevance.

So far as motives go, I am not aiming to fail-forward. I'm happy to fail-think-of-another-approach, or fail-the-BBEG-wins-and-this-is-your-world-now. Fail-forward seems to imply that the characters must progress down the planned path. I'm not aiming for that.

Relevance is trickier. Our game system contains declarations of relevance, for example Strength (Athletics) is relevant to perpendicular climbs. What if I characterise a perpendicular obstacle as an ascent? I think we still say Strength (Athletics) is relevant because in language ascent might be a synonym of climb. We recently had a lengthy debate on what a Strength (Athletics) check would be relevant to, so evidently views can differ around the edges. But this is the set up - skill X is declared to be relevant to descriptions Y.

What about the consequence of the check? Is Strength (Athletics) relevant to "take 8d6 bludgeoning damage"? Relevance here is threaded through the falling mechanics. Is Strength (Athletics) relevant to "creatures notice you"? Again, around the edges, views are going to differ. One way of assessing relevance could be simply, the count of players who, once in possession of a rule and a description, believe that rule should give them leverage over that description. Leverage here means something like, ability to modify the narrative - to decide stochastically how it turns out. On that grounds, my premise is that many players (myself included) expect Strength (Athletics) to give them leverage in connection with a described perpendicular obstacle, and expect bludgeoning damage as a relevant consequence of failure in a describe ascent.

In fact your chain of skill checks might meet relevance quite well, without being justified on grounds of needing to fail forward for groups who aren't concerned to fail forward.
So, there's a difference between succes-at-a-cost and fail forward, although they are often mistaken for the same thing.

Success at cost is when the task succeeds, but with something unwanted. Fail forward just means that things don't stop on a failure. It might mean you can't continue on the same path, but merely that a path is open.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I'm not sure I want to apply disadvantage to hiding in heavy armour automatically either. Why would someone in platemail hiding behind a statue in the dark be easier to spot than anyone else?
I think the idea more is also they make more noise in getting there? I could see if you were hiding well in advance of your target approaching, and not really moving, the DM could waive the penalty.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top