D&D General What's wrong with Perception?

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Something I noticed in the "what don't you like about 5e?" thread was a few people griping about players going out of their way to take Perception. I'd run into this a few years back when I played Pathfinder 1e as well. I'm not really sure what the problem is with players wanting to be good at noticing things, so I was wondering if maybe people would help me understand their point of view on the topic.

D&D especially is a game where not noticing something can end up with your character getting in serious trouble, so it seems to me that everyone would want the ability to not blunder into traps or be snuck up on by Bugbears.
 

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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Something I noticed in the "what don't you like about 5e?" thread was a few people griping about players going out of their way to take Perception. I'd run into this a few years back when I played Pathfinder 1e as well. I'm not really sure what the problem is with players wanting to be good at noticing things, so I was wondering if maybe people would help me understand their point of view on the topic.

D&D especially is a game where not noticing something can end up with your character getting in serious trouble, so it seems to me that everyone would want the ability to not blunder into traps or be snuck up on by Bugbears.
It exists & by existing consumes activities that should be covered by other skills.

  • Want to see a magic trap? don't use arcana, use perception
  • Want to see a hunting trap? don't use survival, use perception
  • Want to see if the NPC is hiding the ball in three card monte? Don't use slight of hand or something, use perception
  • Want to see if the tripwires are positioned so you can maneuver through? Don't use acrobatics, use perception
Then you have the lack of skills like culture/streetwise engineering & appraisal to further shift things to perception in many cases.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It exists & by existing consumes activities that should be covered by other skills.

  • Want to see a magic trap? don't use arcana, use perception
  • Want to see a hunting trap? don't use survival, use perception
  • Want to see if the NPC is hiding the ball in three card monte? Don't use slight of hand or something, use perception
  • Want to see if the tripwires are positioned so you can maneuver through? Don't use acrobatics, use perception
Then you have the lack of skills like culture/streetwise engineering & appraisal to further shift things to perception in many cases.
So it's just the fact that you feel there should be more skills that are more narrowly defined?
 

rooneg

Explorer
It also encroaches into stuff more reasonably covered by Investigation, because players feel like they need to be good at Perception, so they’ll use every trick in the book to get you to let them use it instead of Investigation (see also everyone who wants to use Acrobatics when Athletics is really more appropriate because their DEX based character didn’t bother to take Athletics).
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It also encroaches into stuff more reasonably covered by Investigation, because players feel like they need to be good at Perception, so they’ll use every trick in the book to get you to let them use it instead of Investigation (see also everyone who wants to use Acrobatics when Athletics is really more appropriate because their DEX based character didn’t bother to take Athletics).
I've encountered a disconnect with Athletics and Acrobatics. Back in 4e, I had a DM who asked for Athletics checks for everything, and I finally had to ask him one day what I could use Acrobatics for, and he blinked and said "that's a skill?". LOL.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
IME maybe 50% of PC have proficiency in perception.

IMO perception shouldn't be a skill, you are either naturally perceptive or you aren't. It should always be "passive" (yeah, the REAL meaning, not the garbage WotC labelled that as...), operating in the background.

When you want to be "active", make it Investigation.

As for Athletics and Acrobatics, those are VERY different skill-sets IMO and I've never had any confusion on that front, unlike the horrid Perception/ Investigation issue.
 

rooneg

Explorer
I've encountered a disconnect with Athletics and Acrobatics. Back in 4e, I had a DM who asked for Athletics checks for everything, and I finally had to ask him one day what I could use Acrobatics for, and he blinked and said "that's a skill?". LOL.
I always run into people wanting to use Acrobatics for climbing. Climbing stuff is like half the point of the Athletics skill.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
So it's just the fact that you feel there should be more skills that are more narrowly defined?
Partly. Perception makes it difficult to use the situationally relevant skill to see/notice something related to that skill because it's a skill to see/notice anything even when the thing you are seeing/noticing already has a skill.

edit: having big gaps in the skills means that shoving noticing stuff into relevant skills instead of perception is difficult because the skills don't exist & the PCs can't affird them even if I add them
 
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It, like Dexterity, is too good to pass up. If you can get it, you always should. If you can't get it, you should look for a way to get it. It is always useful to have more people with good Perception--unlike, say, Athletics or Acrobatics, where only 1-2 people really need it (and the 2 is just so you can avoid the "our one Athletics dude is out of commission!" issue.)

Consider if Initiative were a skill that players could become proficient in. Absolutely all characters would want it. There would never be a character who doesn't want it.

PF2e had the right idea, making it a distinct, derived attribute like Initiative.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
It, like Dexterity, is too good to pass up. If you can get it, you always should. If you can't get it, you should look for a way to get it.
Nah... DEX is much more useful than Perception, of course (I won't argue that!), but lots of PCs do just fine without Perception proficiency. It doesn't hurt to have it, certainly, but it is hardly vital to all.

Consider if Initiative were a skill that players could become proficient in. Absolutely all characters would want it. There would never be a character who doesn't want it.
LOL, definitely NOT. Due to Initiative's cyclical nature, going first isn't really that big a deal 90% of the time in 5E IME anyway. Unlike other games where going first really does make a huge difference, that just isn't the case in 5E, especially after tier 1.

FWIW, take the Alert feat and both Perception and Initiative a pretty much taken care of. You cannot be surprised (so no fear of ambushes) and you get the +5 to initiative (if it really matters to you...).

Obviously, YMMV of course, so I'm not looking to "debate" or "discuss" this, just voicing that your view is hardly universal. Cheers. :)

It's also nice to see we're back to disagreeing on things. ;) (j/k)
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I have no issue with Perception as it is written in D&D 5e. In addition to coming up in several adventuring situations in two of the three pillars (if not all of them sometimes), it is probably overvalued in a lot of games because the DM interprets the rules governing Perception in ways that make it stronger than what appears to be intended. That is why a lot of players take it in my view, if they can.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It, like Dexterity, is too good to pass up. If you can get it, you always should. If you can't get it, you should look for a way to get it. It is always useful to have more people with good Perception--unlike, say, Athletics or Acrobatics, where only 1-2 people really need it (and the 2 is just so you can avoid the "our one Athletics dude is out of commission!" issue.)

Consider if Initiative were a skill that players could become proficient in. Absolutely all characters would want it. There would never be a character who doesn't want it.

PF2e had the right idea, making it a distinct, derived attribute like Initiative.
I've actually played games with an Initiative skill. Turns out it's not actually a big deal, because it competes with other skills, and it has fairly narrow application, at least from my experience. For example, Fantasy Age and if memory serves, Star Wars Saga use skills for initiative.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Nah... DEX is much more useful than Perception, of course (I won't argue that!), but lots of PCs do just fine without Perception proficiency. It doesn't hurt to have it, certainly, but it is hardly vital to all.
This is related to the fact that a lot of skills are basically trash & PCs don't have the budget for trash skills. Perception is almost always going to be useful to some degree. How often have you seen entire campaigns run without ever having someone use medicine/nature/handle animal history or performane? Out of the times those skills even come up in a campaign are they regularly important to any degree? Sure bob might tame a wild animal or use handle animal with a horse but was a possible failure going to have much more impact than "ok.. moving on" or something in even half of those cases?
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I think it’s more like they’re thinking “I didn’t want to burn a skill proficiency making my Cat Burglar Rogue able to climb worth a damn”.
Perhaps. Some games make climbing Dex-based. I know free climbing requires upper body strength, but small animals without much Strength are amazing climbers (squirrels, cats, chipmunks) so...
 

Smackpixi

Adventurer
Well, I have a rant on passive perception. Not the question here though, for the regular active perception, yeah, I get it’s different technically than investigation, but I play they’re interchangeable. Wanna check out a place, either works. But I play a real round easy edges shaved off dnd.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
There is a, uh, perception (no pun intended) among players that proficiency in a skill you don't have a strong ability score in is a waste of time. It's not accurate, but I've played under DM's who set fairly high DC's for things, so I could understand a character not wanting to use one of their few skill picks to grab Athletics if they have low Strength.

And while the answer might be "don't have low Strength", you're going to have something low, so what do you choose?
 


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