D&D 5E The Solution to Perception?

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Bold emphasis mine.
Same for Insight then, or not?
With perception, most DMs are more likely to feel comfortable describing what the PCs can see, hear, etc., and players with how their PCs interact with that. So you could cut back on perception checks and most tables wouldn't have much of an issue with that.

But in my experience many more DMs and players have trouble with, or are not as comfortable with, describing and role playing subtle social cues and interactions. If you greatly cut back on insight checks to encourage more role playing in the social pillar, I think many players would not like that.

Of course each person and group is different and all that. But that's what my intuition tells me based on anecdotal evidence. Can I make an insight check to see if I'm right?
 

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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Being that as a product I believe it's meant to capture the most amount of people, then... mission accomplished?
It's hard to avoid seeing the blinding example ofa blatant appeal to popularity at the core of your post there. On the chance that an appeal to popularoty was coincidental rather than intentional though... "You're the GM, you fix this mess of a skill system that avoids choosing any path" is only "mission accomplished" if it's referencing a meme by the same name. In avoiding any style with so much force and failing to support the gm to such a degree it creates a hazard for the gm to manage.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's hard to avoid seeing the blinding example ofa blatant appeal to popularity at the core of your post there. On the chance that an appeal to popularoty was coincidental rather than intentional though... "You're the GM, you fix this mess of a skill system that avoids choosing any path" is only "mission accomplished" if it's referencing a meme by the same name. In avoiding any style with so much force and failing to support the gm to such a degree it creates a hazard for the gm to manage.
Rather I think the onus is on you to show that it's a "mess." Because it's so simple it's hard to imagine what mess can be made of it. The player describes what they want to do. The DM assesses that and calls for an ability check when the outcome is uncertain. The skill or tool proficiency is added, if applicable. That's all there is to it.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Rather I think the onus is on you to show that it's a "mess." Because it's so simple it's hard to imagine what mess can be made of it. The player describes what they want to do. The DM assesses that and calls for an ability check when the outcome is uncertain. The skill or tool proficiency is added, if applicable. That's all there is to it.
I did... You even quoted it.

[

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.
Click to expand...


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
[/hr][/hr]
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The Perception skill to me is really two different things-- it is the out-of-combat check to get a sense of what is going on around the person, looking for hints and clues of what might be out and about-- and the in-combat number mechanic opposing Stealth used to determine whether characters can attack with Advantage.

The latter is I think mainly why Perception exists in the game as a skill. During combat every roll tends to have an opposite number... whether than be Armor Class that opposes the Weapon Attack roll, the Saving Throw that opposes the Spell attack roll, the Athletics or Acrobatics check that opposes the Athletics check for a grapple etc. For attacking someone while hidden in order to gain a benefit... you again need two opposing things-- in this case Stealth of the person hidden while attacking vs Perception of the person being attacked. If the opposed check is successful for the attacker, then their attack roll gains Advantage. So a Perception like number is necessary in some form or fashion if you want players to be able to attack while hidden in the middle of combat.

As far as the former... this is the place where I think you don't need to use it necessarily. Where the DM can just tell the players what they can see and hear and smell purely as part of the description and narrative. There's no game mechanic to be gained by making a successful Perception check... it's purely information. And the DM gets to decide how much information they give out to players.

But I would suspect that most players (with good reason usually) suspect that there are things hidden out and about narratively too... and the call for the Perception check is their shortcut to discovery rather than the other method, which is to actually narrate your character going out and trying to "scout"-- narratively dictating the different places you are looking around, naming all the different animals and sounds you might hear that seem out of place, smelling any odd fragrances that don't belong. All in an effort to discover that thing the DM has placed out there to surprise the group with later.

Most players nowadays just skip all that narration and want to make a Perception check just to speed up the process-- the same way many players no longer wish to describe how they are disarming a trap the DM has put in front of them, they instead just want to roll a Thieves Tools check to get it taken care of. It's faster, it's easier, and it doesn't require the player to have to get overly detailed on saying the bits the DM wants to hear to let them find the hidden thing or disarm the trap.

Personally I don't care either way. If a player wants to get a hint via asking to make a Perception check, or I just decide to give the players a hint by narrating the hint as part of the description... I'm fine either way. After all... since more often than not the Perception check is merely a player's way to make sure the DM isn't going to surprise the group... the easiest way to cut down on those number of requested Perception checks is to just cut down on the number of times you as DM try and "surprise" the group. Just remove that trick from your DM's bag and your players will no longer constantly believe they have to be on alert and requesting checks in order to outsmart and counteract you.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I did... You even quoted it.

[

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.
Click to expand...


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
[/hr][/hr]
All I saw of your post is agreement with "players don't have enough skills." Which you don't even need to do stuff. Then something about not supporting a specific "style," whatever that means. So I'm not sure how you think that proves D&D 5e skills are "a mess." Please go into more detail about why you think the skills are "a mess." To me, they are so simple that someone making "a mess" of them is probably doing something unintended.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
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'd always assumed insight was "cold reading" ability, like that used by phony psychics and con artists (maybe trained interrogators).
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
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.
There's plenty of bad examples in 5e adventures too, however. The worst I've seen, however, bar none is Tales from the Yawning Portal, now sure, those are reprints of older adventures, but I don't see that as an excuse for printing a whole book of adventures for the current version of the game chock full of bad examples of how to use Perception.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There's plenty of bad examples in 5e adventures too, however. The worst I've seen, however, bar none is Tales from the Yawning Portal, now sure, those are reprints of older adventures, but I don't see that as an excuse for printing a whole book of adventures for the current version of the game chock full of bad examples of how to use Perception.
I agree, and in particular with the book you mention. I'm a little more lenient on D&D 5e adventures though simply because I view that as just another DM giving their interpretation of how they use skills to help communicate their vision to the reader. There's always going to be some variation on how ability checks and skills are applied from table to table, so when it appears in a module, I'll grumble but I understand. Still, some DMs take modules to be official statements about how to use the rules, so they carry that forward sometimes to their own detriment.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I agree, and in particular with the book you mention. I'm a little more lenient on D&D 5e adventures though simply because I view that as just another DM giving their interpretation of how they use skills to help communicate their vision to the reader. There's always going to be some variation on how ability checks and skills are applied from table to table, so when it appears in a module, I'll grumble but I understand. Still, some DMs take modules to be official statements about how to use the rules, so they carry that forward sometimes to their own detriment.
I've definitely seen this with newer DM's, and once they get it into their heads that DC's of 20+are perfectly acceptable for 1st level characters and that you need to make rolls for everything, of course their players are going to all going to make sure they have the best possible die rolls.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I'm going to stand on them not having enough skills.

If skill are going to exist (and I think they should), there should be both robust coverage and availability.
I agree to this in a certain way of thinking... which is why I use the Alternative Ability Score variant rule. Because that gives me in theory 6 times the number of skills the normal game has (if you multiply a skill by any of the six ability scores I could pair it to when calling for a check.)

Granted, all these "skills" don't have individual names per se, and someone proficient in one skill is actually proficient in all 6 possible combinations... but for the most part using any of the 18 skills in six different ways more than fill things out for my needs. (And it also doesn't hurt that I've added/removed different skills because of the six ability scores making certain combos redundant.)
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I agree to this in a certain way of thinking... which is why I use the Alternative Ability Score variant rule. Because that gives me in theory 6 times the number of skills the normal game has (if you multiply a skill by any of the six ability scores I could pair it to when calling for a check.)

Granted, all these "skills" don't have individual names per se, and someone proficient in one skill is actually proficient in all 6 possible combinations... but for the most part using any of the 18 skills in six different ways more than fill things out for my needs. (And it also doesn't hurt that I've added/removed different skills because of the six ability scores making certain combos redundant.)
The way I deal with 'infinite skills' is that I provide free game currency at character creation and level up to buy your hobbies and background and you can use that as a roll as a 'skill', or a derived bonus to a related existing skill.

So if you're a baker, you can roll Baker as a skill, or add your Baker Bonus to a check to a Survival check to find food and spices.
 

The way I deal with 'infinite skills' is that I provide free game currency at character creation and level up to buy your hobbies and background and you can use that as a roll as a 'skill', or a derived bonus to a related existing skill.

So if you're a baker, you can roll Baker as a skill, or add your Baker Bonus to a check to a Survival check to find food and spices.

The way it works at our table:

If the PC is trying to find food and spices, and is a baker, they'd be granted advantage on a Wisdom(Survival) ability check (assuming a roll was deemed necessary by the DM in the first place). That keeps it simple, IMO.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
My problem with that -- and advantage as a whole -- is that 1) if anything else grants them advantage (and it will as that's like the one mechanic PCs still have in terms of skills) being a banker means nothing and 2) being a baker doesn't actually make them better at being a baker than someone with a good stat and the random advantage boost.

I frankly like actual bonuses much, much better than advantage and think advantage should be used for extraordinary circumstances like magic
 

Reynard

Legend
My problem with that -- and advantage as a whole -- is that 1) if anything else grants them advantage (and it will as that's like the one mechanic PCs still have in terms of skills) being a banker means nothing and 2) being a baker doesn't actually make them better at being a baker than someone with a good stat and the random advantage boost.

I frankly like actual bonuses much, much better than advantage and think advantage should be used for extraordinary circumstances like magic
I think untrained should grant disadvantage for every skill. You ever seen someone try and make cookies from scratch who has never baked before? Even stuff like athletics should work this way: if you don't believe me, watch some Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder videos...

I also thing sources of advantage and disadvantage should stack. Why not have someone roll 3d20 and take the worst under really trying circumstances?
 

Clint_L

Hero
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.
Hmmm...if a lot of people are consistently getting it wrong, might that not suggest that it is, in fact, a system problem? Or at least a communication one?

I tend to agree that perception is overly broad, and making it a skill plus tying it to wisdom makes for some weird story dynamics. Like, it always feels off to me that the bookish Cleric is the party's go-to person for sensing danger in the wilderness, while the barbarian who has spent a lifetime in the wild is terrible at hearing creatures "moving stealthily in the forest" (PHB).

And the fact that it is so widely used speaks to it being something that probably every character should just have, with perhaps a bonus coming from their background via a feat, not their ability scores.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Hmmm...if a lot of people are consistently getting it wrong, might that not suggest that it is, in fact, a system problem? Or at least a communication one?

I tend to agree that perception is overly broad, and making it a skill plus tying it to wisdom makes for some weird story dynamics. Like, it always feels off to me that the bookish Cleric is the party's go-to person for sensing danger in the wilderness, while the barbarian who has spent a lifetime in the wild is terrible at hearing creatures "moving stealthily in the forest" (PHB).

And the fact that it is so widely used speaks to it being something that probably every character should just have, with perhaps a bonus coming from their background via a feat, not their ability scores.
Well obviously, the Cleric has a god (or gods) on their side.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Thinking on this more...does perception seem to have more in common with abilities rather than skills? I know WotC won't violate the sacred six abilities, but the ubiquity of perception and the fact that it is such an uncomfortable fit with any of the current abilities suggests that maybe it could be its own sub-ability or something. I don't think it should be tied to wisdom.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
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.
With passive perception being 5 + proficiency + modifier
 

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