D&D 5E The Solution to Perception?

If anything needs to be broken up, it’s Perception. If CritRoleStats is anything to go by, Perception alone accounts for 31% of skill checks in the game. (The next highest is Stealth, at 19%.) That being said, having a single number for the Narrator to measure against for the purposes of stealth is probably preferable.
The above post in another thread got me thinking which I'm sure we've debated before on Enworld and other places.

Why not just remove Perception as skill? It is the 'must-have' skill of skills. I remember in 3.x it felt silly (to me) to spend skill points in Perception for something every adventurer should have. In 5e if you are proficient and have a decent wisdom it makes traps kinda meh. But that likely is an issue with the short-hand mechanic for traps (Separate topic me thinks).
Anyways going forward, I think I'm going to nix the skill and rather add some others. You can still roll for Perception you just won't need to spend a proficiency slot in it.
The issue then shifts to Stealthy characters being able to sneak up easily on Perceptionless PCs for that easy surprise attack. I have no problem with Stealthy monsters sneaking up on PCs. That is their fortè and we should give them that.

My thinking is, we just need to be more vigilant of the effects of armour, items carried and the environment (i.e. walking on old wooden floorboards...etc) have on one's Stealth.
To note, if Perception is not a skill you cannot have Expertise in it.

You can also homebrew the Alert Feat to be
  • You gain +5 bonus to initiative.
  • You can’t be surprised while you are conscious. (I dislike these kind of absolutes)
  • You gain your proficiency bonus on Perception checks.
  • Other creatures don’t gain advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being unseen by you.

Is it workable, what am I missing?
 
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DarkCrisis

Legend
One thing I like about old D&D is skills were tied to your class and/or race.

If a “perception” check needed to be done it was done by the keen eyed elf or the vigilant Paladin or Ranger.

Needed lore about underground kingdoms? The learned wizard might know. Or perhaps the Dwarf.

“Skills” were whatever sounded good for the class or race or background.
 

Reynard

Legend
The problem with Perception (as a skill or otherwise) is that it is over used. The GM's job is to be the eyes and ears of the PCs. GMs rely on Perception checks far too often to gate information that should otherwise be available. It doesn't do a good job of modeling the behaviour in the fiction through mechanics when GMs ask for a perception check at every turn.

I think the best solution would to be to use passive perception only, and even then only when highly relevant to the immediate fiction.
 

The problem with Perception (as a skill or otherwise) is that it is over used. The GM's job is to be the eyes and ears of the PCs. GMs rely on Perception checks far too often to gate information that should otherwise be available. It doesn't do a good job of modeling the behaviour in the fiction through mechanics when GMs ask for a perception check at every turn.

I think the best solution would to be to use passive perception only, and even then only when highly relevant to the immediate fiction.
Bold emphasis mine.
Same for Insight then, or not?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The problem with Perception (as a skill or otherwise) is that it is over used. The GM's job is to be the eyes and ears of the PCs. GMs rely on Perception checks far too often to gate information that should otherwise be available. It doesn't do a good job of modeling the behaviour in the fiction through mechanics when GMs ask for a perception check at every turn.
I agree that lots of DMs often call for too many Perception checks. Or too many checks in general instead of following the Middle Path of calling for checks and granting success (or failure) in a more balanced way.

Be generous with information. Gate the stuff that isn't absolutely necessary but that finding provides some kind of benefit (a hidden cache of gold, a secret door, a trap, a hidden monster, etc.) so as to incentivize the players to poke around and explore more thoroughly. And even then, if they are reasonably specific as to what they are doing, be prepared to grant success without a roll if what they are doing would reveal the thing with certainty.

Bold emphasis mine.
Same for Insight then, or not?
The reason players "Roll Insight on that guy" is because there's no cost or risk in most games I've seen. Introduce cost or risk and they'll be a little more careful about it. The better use of it is to sus out the NPC's agenda, ideal, bond, or flaw, so that you can manipulate them more easily. See social interaction rules in the DMG.
 

Bold emphasis mine.
Same for Insight then, or not?
Ironically, in my experience it's actually the reverse. Insight is used less often than it really should be, pretty much only for whether a living and physically present person is lying to the character's face. I think it's a combination of players believing they can suss out the truth of someone's motives purely through observation, and seeing Insight as really narrow (that is, exclusively for examining a person already interacting with you.) By comparison, Perception is seen as literally everything, all forms of sensation and detection, to the point that 5e's Investigation skill often gets overlooked in the process.
 

I don't think Perception checks are a problem. Some characters should be more perceptive than others, and the bonuses and randomness of a d20 model that well. It can be very useful for information to be "gated" through one character, for either roleplay or rollplay situations. My DM often gives us the option of "Do you want this information publicly or privately" to the players who got a sufficient roll, and it makes for a ton of exciting situations.

If anything, I'd love to see a more detailed breakdown of the Perception skill. Give me separate "Listen" and "Spot" checks. Give me more racial modifiers. Heck, give me "Focus" and/or "Distraction" checks along with it.

I remember in 3.x it felt silly (to me) to spend skill points in Perception for something every adventurer should have. In 5e if you are proficient and have a decent wisdom it makes traps kinda meh. But that likely is an issue with the short-hand mechanic for traps (Separate topic me thinks).

I think this is missing an important view of the math. In 3.x, it was possible to get a Spot bonus that was ludicrously high. It would not be uncommon to see bonuses in the +30 range with minimal optimization. Which means that a character with high Spot could see things on a roll of 1 that other characters could miss with a 20. The difference between the highs and lows was so ridiculous it removed the need to roll. In 5e, the numbers are all close enough that everyone still has a chance to find the trap, it's just that some are more likely than others. So, still fun. YMMV.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Give me separate "Listen" and "Spot" checks.
I think I would hate that as a solution. There's a point where granularity is good and a point where it breaks down. Some variation in PCs, their backgrounds, their classes, even species/ancestry - those are all good. Some of those should develop perceptive abilities more or give PCs more assets.
But the distinction between spot and listen (and their mirror images in stealth components of hiding in and moving silently) were far more problematic than they added back in 3e days. If someone is being stealthy, do you check both spot and listen every time? There are better ways to deal with perception than breaking it back up.
 


aco175

Legend
I use Investigation more in my games. If players say they want to search the room, I'll ask for either Perception or Investigation depending on what I think the answer is. There has been several long threads on this, so I do not want to derail the thread.

I think it makes more sense for Investigation more. Part is that the rogue has INT as one of his attributes that is given over WIS. The rogue should be in the front of the p[arty checking for traps over the cleric since he happens to have the best WIS. It could be assumed that every rogue takes expertise in Perception to get around this as a skill tax though.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I use Investigation more in my games. If players say they want to search the room, I'll ask for either Perception or Investigation depending on what I think the answer is.
If a roll is needed at all, I call for Investigation or Perception for traps, then Investigation (again, if needed) to figure out how the trap works before it can be disabled. For secret doors, it's Perception to find it, then Investigation to figure out how to open it, if a roll is necessary. Each task takes about 10 minutes, so a given trap interaction can take about 30 minutes of in-game time, and secret doors about 20 minutes.

So we might see the rogue or the cleric or even the wizard out front searching for traps (though the wizard tends not to be so brave!).
 


billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I think Insight measures something that is a little harder to model. But, sure, you could treat it the same way.
If Insight were trying to model some real-world ability or skill, sure, it might be hard to model. But since those are generally considered bunk in real life, the skill mostly models the literary equivalent - and that makes it pretty relatively easy to model, in the end. I think just varying a PC's use of it between Intelligence and Wisdom would largely cover most common conceptions from an analytic approach like Sherlock Holmes or Lie to Me to a more intuitive one seen in a lot of fantasy works.
 

Reynard

Legend
If Insight were trying to model some real-world ability or skill, sure, it might be hard to model. But since those are generally considered bunk in real life, the skill mostly models the literary equivalent - and that makes it pretty relatively easy to model, in the end. I think just varying a PC's use of it between Intelligence and Wisdom would largely cover most common conceptions from an analytic approach like Sherlock Holmes or Lie to Me to a more intuitive one seen in a lot of fantasy works.
I always vacillate between answers like "You get the sense that he's nervous" versus "He is sweating a little and stammers over a few words" because I both want to give the player information, but also want to have that info emerge from the fiction. I find that more difficult than "You see the grooves around this particular tile appear to be deeper than the rest."
 

But the distinction between spot and listen (and their mirror images in stealth components of hiding in and moving silently) were far more problematic than they added back in 3e days. If someone is being stealthy, do you check both spot and listen every time? There are better ways to deal with perception than breaking it back up.

IMX, the DM would pick whichever one they felt was more appropriate in the given circumstance. While over granularity can be a problem, I think splitting them up in this case is actually a solution to the OPs complaint. If you think the fact that ~30% of the skill checks in Critical Role is a problem, wouldn't it be better if that was 15% Spot and 15% Listen?

The bigger problem in 5e with skill granularity isn't that it's hard to adjudicate, IMNSHO, it's that players don't get to pick enough skills. In 3e, a Rogue got to pick 8+Int modifier skills. In 5e it's four. Obviously, if a 5e rogue had to spend skills on both Spot and Listen it would be more of a problem than for a 3e rogue. But I would rather 5e players have 4x the skill points they get now and 10x the available skills to choose from. And bringing Int back into the mix would solve the problem of it being a dump stat.

Then again, I also grew up with the WEG d6 system. Where everything from shooting to will saves to sewing were all based on the same skill system, and you had to choose how to split your advancement pips between all three.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The problem with perception is that DM's use it wrong.
@Reynard has said it better than me. It's not a system problem, it's a DM problem.
To be fair, they've had bad teachers, but also many DMs drag habits from one version of the game to another. D&D 3e and 4e adventures, for example, often started with a Perception check at the start of a scene to determine what is noticed. So unless the DM is actively separating one game from another (something that should be done in my view), they end up doing this in 5e.
 

To be fair, they've had bad teachers, but also many DMs drag habits from one version of the game to another. D&D 3e and 4e adventures, for example, often started with a Perception check at the start of a scene to determine what is noticed. So unless the DM is actively separating one game from another (something that should be done in my view), they end up doing this in 5e.
Yep. You both are articulating it better than I can atm :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The problem with Perception (as a skill or otherwise) is that it is over used. The GM's job is to be the eyes and ears of the PCs. GMs rely on Perception checks far too often to gate information that should otherwise be available. It doesn't do a good job of modeling the behaviour in the fiction through mechanics when GMs ask for a perception check at every turn.

I think the best solution would to be to use passive perception only, and even then only when highly relevant to the immediate fiction.
I agree with the first paragraph, disagree with the second. I almost feel like passive perception should only be used as a DC for opposing stealth-users to beat, and we should otherwise only use perception checks when the character actively searches for something hidden. Then we should teach DMs not to gate details of the environment behind Perception checks. Only things that are actually hidden should require perception checks to find, and those things should be telegraphed in some way.
 

Reynard

Legend
I agree with the first paragraph, disagree with the second. I almost feel like passive perception should only be used as a DC for opposing stealth-users to beat, and we should otherwise only use perception checks when the character actively searches for something hidden. Then we should teach DMs not to gate details of the environment behind Perception checks. Only things that are actually hidden should require perception checks to find, and those things should be telegraphed in some way.
I like the idea of passive only because I think it enhances immersion by not have to break to check perception.
 

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