D&D 5E The Solution to Perception?


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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
You can’t be surprised while you are conscious. (I dislike these kind of absolutes)

In my games I have house ruled this aspect of the feat to be an Int or Dex check (player's choice) against the highest rolled initiative by a surprising enemy. If you make it, you are not surprised.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
I have players regularly ask for perception checks for things as simple and risk free as looking out a window...

I'm very pro-leaning on passive perception regularly, I even really like using it as a floor.
 

Reynard

Legend
If the check is always tied to an in-game action, it’s no more of a break than any other check tied to the use of a skill.
I'm not be an absolutist about it. I just like the flow better if I already know what that particular character can glean. If I had the time, i would write up "perception charts" like the knowledge DC charts you see in adventures and MMs.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I have players regularly ask for perception checks for things as simple and risk free as looking out a window...
Stressed Out Reaction GIF
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I just start describing what they see, and they get this confused look in their eye, and they say "Don't I need to roll?" and I say "You can if you want to," and then carry on with my description, utterly unimpacted by it.

Maybe I throw in a "You spot a beautiful kestrel swooping through the air in the distance." for a 20.
Frankly, I wouldn’t encourage that kind of thing with additional description on a 20. I wouldn’t even say “you can if you want to.” Rather, I’d say something to the effect of “Your eyes are working fine, so there’s no chance of you failing to see what’s out the window. Was there some other goal you wanted to accomplish by doing so that you thought might have a chance of failure?”
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
Frankly, I wouldn’t encourage that kind of thing with additional description on a 20. I wouldn’t even say “you can if you want to.” Rather, I’d say something to the effect of “Your eyes are working fine, so there’s no chance of you failing to see what’s out the window. Was there some other goal you wanted to accomplish by doing so that you thought might have a chance of failure?”
Oh, sure, that's the approach that has a better chance of actually resulting in change. I just have more fun highlighting the uselessness of the roll with obviously non-actionable filler. Just to be clear, though, if they do go to roll, I don't wait for it to finish, I just barrel through with what I was already saying as they're throwing it.

Less snarkily, I do sometimes respond with, "Oh, there's no need, what you see isn't up to chance here."
 
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jgsugden

Legend
I would remove it as a skill and make it (and insight) into an ability that functions like a skill, but that you can't select as a skill - you either get it from your class/heritage/background or you don't. Then I'd give them the unusual treatment for 5E of penalties and bonuses rather than just using advantage and disadvantage. This would allow these more common activitirs to introduce a bit more nuance to give them less of a cookie cutter feel.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Why not just remove Perception as skill? It is the 'must-have' skill of skills
First, Perception is not a 'must-have' skill. Feeling like it is is part of the problem. In my games, less than half the PCs have Perception as a skill. You are about as likely to find PCs with Athletics, Stealth, and Survival as Perception IME anyway.

Here is what I've been thinking about doing for my games. One game is pretty much RAW, and I don't know if they are really ready for house-rules yet...
  1. Perception is always passive (so is Insight FWIW).
  2. The base for passive scores is 7, not 10.
  3. If you make an ability to check to notice something or figure something out, it is Investigation! You are (literally) looking for clues and tells, etc. that will reveal the truth of the situation (is there a secret door over there?). You are paying attention to noises you might have heard and trying to uncover the source of those sounds. And so forth...
  4. You can take proficiency in either Perception, which boosts your passive score.
  5. Greater innate capacity in these are accomplished through the Observant feat, which already impacts Perception and now does Insight instead of Investigation (which is always active, not passive).
  6. Disadvantage and advantage are a -3 or +3 mod to your passive scores, not +5.

For example, if you have:
  • Passive Perception of 12 (base 7 + proficiency +3 and WIS +2)
  • Passive Insight of 9 (base 7 + WIS +2 only)
  • Investigation +6 (proficiency +3 and INT +3)

A bad guy is sneaking up on you and rolls 11. Your passive perception 12 kicks in, alerting you to a noise or something. BUT what made it? Where did it come from? You tell me you look around for the source, and pay greater attention to your hearing. Now, I'll tell you to make an Intelligence (Investigation) +6 check. If you roll 6 or higher, you see or hear the bad guy and know generally where they are (depending on light conditions, line of sight, etc.).

Now, if the bad guy had rolled an 18, then your passive perception failed and you won't hear or see the bad guy coming!

But, if you are "on watch" or something, you make an Intelligence (Investigation) +6 check and your roll replaces your passive perception while you are "on watch" if it is higher. If you roll lower, your passive perception is used.

Another example:

Suppose you are talking to a captive who is lying to you. I make the Charisma (Deception) roll and compare it to your Passive Insight 9.

If I roll 14 (beating your passive insight), your character believes the information. You, as the player, can always decide otherwise of course.

Now, if I roll 7, your passive insight 9 kicks in and I inform you that you (and your PC) believe the captive is lying. But depending on the information giving, WHAT is he lying about?? Perhaps the number of enemies, their defenses, or even their location? Perhaps he is telling you something that will lead you into a trap? So, you make an Intelligence (Investigation) roll to determine just what he is deceiving you about.

NOTE: "Passive" scores are totals for something you are doing in the background, not actively attempting to do. For example, if you are watching TV, you might still hear someone unlocking a window or opening a door, but you aren't trying to hear those things... you are watching the game.

I use the term "Routine Checks" for what 5E calls "Passive Checks". Checks done repeatedly assume a base average of 10, as do times when I need a roll to be secret (if I can't just have the player roll behind the screen...).
 

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!).
I found it much easier to break things down into obvious vs. non-obvious hazards, both being different travel activities. You use perception to find hidden things that are obviously hazards, such as tripwires and hidden creatures. You use investigation to realize that some obvious thing is important, such as more dust on a section of floor (trigger plate) or off colored stones on the wall (secret door). Occasionally I'll require both to be successful, and other times its a Nature or Survival check instead. It takes a lot away from the over reliance on wisdom & perception and boosts intelligence & investigation.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
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.
This so much yea. 5e does a terrible job here so you wind up with a tiny handful of SSS tier skills like perception and the GM simply can't use other skills or houserule around it because there just aren't enough skills & not enough skill choices. Any attempt to fix the problem a few folks are unjustly blaming on GMs would likely result in revolt & outrage from players feeling nerfed because suddenly they couldn't do everything or it's a zero sum change for the sake of change like more skills to choose from but more choices
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This so much yea. 5e does a terrible job here so you wind up with a tiny handful of SSS tier skills like perception and the GM simply can't use other skills or houserule around it because there just aren't enough skills & not enough skill choices. Any attempt to fix the problem a few folks are unjustly blaming on GMs would likely result in revolt & outrage from players feeling nerfed because suddenly they couldn't do everything or it's a zero sum change for the sake of change like more skills to choose from but more choices
You don't really need skills do stuff though. It just makes it a bit easier.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
You don't really need skills do stuff though. It just makes it a bit easier.
That nay be so but 5e is built with a skill system more like 3.x minus the framework it had in 3.x to support it than the 1e/2e style skill system you are indicating . The result is a skill system too crunchy & in the way for 1e/2e style that simultaniously fails to support the GM with the tools needed to leverage it well
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That nay be so but 5e is built with a skill system more like 3.x minus the framework it had in 3.x to support it than the 1e/2e style skill system you are indicating . The result is a skill system too crunchy & in the way for 1e/2e style that simultaniously fails to support the GM with the tools needed to leverage it well
I'm not "indicating" anything and there's really no need to consider other systems when looking at D&D 5e's skills in my view. You can try anything. If that outcome is in doubt, the DM has you roll an ability check. If you have a skill or tool proficiency that applies, add it. What is there to leverage other than the player says something they want to try and the DM adjudicates?
 

ECMO3

Hero
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?

I really like Perception being a skill, particuarly when counterbalanced against investigation and stealth. I find how DMs use investigation makes perception godlike or just great.

If you are going to scout you are going to need a high perception, high investigation and high stealth to be effective. By spreading this across 3 different abilities makes it difficult to be great at all of them.

As you sneak down the hall and quietly past the guards (Stealth), you notice the tiles on the floor ahead are a slightly different color (perception), on examination you discover it is a pressure plate that causes a poison needle to shoot from the wall (investigation).

Your chance of making all 3 of those checks is small unless you have really great skills, and if you do it is because you either rolled awesome abilities or you invested in expertise to get them, giving up other options. If you miss one of those checks you are kind of at a loss. Miss the stealth and the Jig is up, make stealth but miss the perception and you set off the trap ... and the jig is up, .... make stealth, make perception and miss investigation ..... well you have to decide to continue.

Add in things like deception if the guards notice you, or slight of hand to lift the keys off the peg without making a noise and you see most of the skills have their place.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I'm not "indicating" anything and there's really no need to consider other systems when looking at D&D 5e's skills in my view. You can try anything. If that outcome is in doubt, the DM has you roll an ability check. If you have a skill or tool proficiency that applies, add it. What is there to leverage other than the player says something they want to try and the DM adjudicates?
The existence of & lack of specific rules imposes constraints on what the system encourages & discourages. the 5e skill system is problematic for both styles without striking out in a new direction of its own because so much focus is devoted to ensuring that 5e aggressively avoids being good at any particular style
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The existence of & lack of specific rules imposes constraints on what the system encourages & discourages. the 5e skill system is problematic for both styles without striking out in a new direction of its own because so much focus is devoted to ensuring that 5e aggressively avoids being good at any particular style
Being that as a product I believe it's meant to capture the most amount of people, then... mission accomplished?
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm not "indicating" anything and there's really no need to consider other systems when looking at D&D 5e's skills in my view. You can try anything. If that outcome is in doubt, the DM has you roll an ability check. If you have a skill or tool proficiency that applies, add it. What is there to leverage other than the player says something they want to try and the DM adjudicates?
My various groups of GenXers still struggle with "can we do that untrained?"
 

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