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
Supporter
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...).
 

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