D&D General What's wrong with Perception?

Micah Sweet

Legend
Perception and Stealth are important in 2 pillars. It's the only two beside Acrobatics and Athletics that's define in the base rules as useful in the combat pillar.

If 5e was going to be so freeform, it either needed a few more skills or codify more skills having both combat and exploration uses.
My game has at least two added skills, more if we're playing space. I also give every PC an additional skill proficiency.
 

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Micah Sweet

Legend
I would consider the "mismatch skills with abilities" variant rule a little more than just a variant rule given that it is clearly how the designers actually wanted proficiencies to work, given that "pick the appropriate skill and add proficiency bonus" is the approach they took with proficiency in tools, musical instruments, vehicles, etc. The pull towards having set skill bonuses already added up on the character sheet is just too great though, partly because the skills they chose did mostly each sit comfortably with one ability, partly because of the way the character sheet is set up, and partly because the "floating proficiency bonus" concept just doesn't quite click with a substantial chunk of players (in my experience the majority).

Having just spent several weeks helping little kids play D&D I will say that part of the problem is that the name "proficiency bonus" sounds way to technical and is something most kids (and probably a lot of adults) just don't want to tangle with to the extent they can avoid it. In this age of D&D Beyond auto-calculating stuff and most groups having someone reasonably knowledgeable willing to help anyone update a character sheet on that rare occasion when the proficiency bonus changes, getting by without actually understanding the proficiency bonus is pretty easy.
I really wish the answer to, "Why can't we get better rules than this?" Wasn't always, "because players don't want to bother with it".
 

Like every other RPG?

I mean, dude, I know you've played a lot of RPGs. About 95% of RPGs either don't have Perception or a close equivalent, or do, but it's very rarely rolled, not rolled any tested constantly.

I've got to say that while your latter statement may be accurate, I can't think of many games that don't have a Perception skill of some sort. And while I can't claim to know every game in the world, I'm familiar with a pretty large number of them.
 

For me it’s a three-fold problem. One, see the “I make a perception check” thread. Two, players will mangle their concept and beg and wheedle their way into getting it. Three, it’s a useful skill, but players act like their character is guaranteed to die in the first seconds of the game without it. I don’t have a problem with perception as a skill per se, I have a problem with how players treat it, both in-game and in the meta-game. These things bother me. It’s this weird “either you’re perfect or you suck” mentality. Not everyone needs perception. It doesn’t make sense for every character to have it. If the only reason a character has it is because the player thinks it’s mandatory, there’s something wrong.

I can pretty much promise all it takes is a player to walk into one ambush, and they'll feel that way for the rest of their gaming career.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Acrobats climb quickly because they’re Athletic and Strong ;-)

Seriously, Strength is already one of the worst attributes, it doesn’t need its lunch money being stolen by Dexterity any more than it already has been.

That's only an issue if Athletics is bound only to Strength, and Acrobatics only to Dexterity. Strength(Acrobatics) seems entirely appropriate to me.

Climbing is way more about body positioning and technique (and, honestly, keeping a cool head) than it is about raw strength, anyway.
 

I really wish the answer to, "Why can't we get better rules than this?" Wasn't always, "because players don't want to bother with it".
Well in this case my argument was more "because players will struggle unnecessarily with it" rather than "because players don't want to bother with it."

But yeah, if you want to play exclusively with hardcore tabletop gamers who struggle with no ruleset you can have a game with difficult, counter-intuitive, rules that uncompromisingly pursue whatever platonic ideal of simulation you want. If you want to be able to play with all sorts of people you have to make concessions to what players will struggle with and have some kind of dumb rules.
 

amethal

Adventurer
Like every other RPG?

I mean, dude, I know you've played a lot of RPGs. About 95% of RPGs either don't have Perception or a close equivalent, or do, but it's very rarely rolled, not rolled any tested constantly.

2E didn't have this. It just some situation-specific checks and you talked your way through it. Perception is a boring and wildly overused skill that's 90% passive and reliant on a couple of PCs in the party having it at a high level. Those PCs don't do anything interesting or cool with it, they passively ensure the party gets told stuff.
I'm not very familiar with the D&D 5th edition skill system (and my familiarity with the Pathfinder one is probably a drawback here), but what do you do if the monsters are trying to ambush the party, or somebody is using sleight of hand (either directly against them, or to quietly draw a weapon etc.)?

Seems like you'd need some sort of Perception score to compete against, unless you just have a static DC.
 

amethal

Adventurer
I would consider the "mismatch skills with abilities" variant rule a little more than just a variant rule given that it is clearly how the designers actually wanted proficiencies to work, given that "pick the appropriate skill and add proficiency bonus" is the approach they took with proficiency in tools, musical instruments, vehicles, etc. The pull towards having set skill bonuses already added up on the character sheet is just too great though, partly because the skills they chose did mostly each sit comfortably with one ability, partly because of the way the character sheet is set up, and partly because the "floating proficiency bonus" concept just doesn't quite click with a substantial chunk of players (in my experience the majority).
I've not had a chance to try it out, but if I ran a 5th edition game I'd just ask for ability checks. It would then be up to the player to suggest proficiencies that might be relevant.

DM "The path ahead has collapsed into a chasm. It requires a Strength check if you want to jump across it."
Player 1 "Presumably I can use my Athletics proficiency?"
Player 2 "Can I use my Acrobatics proficiency?"
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Part of me thinks that surprise should have been a separate mechanic like initiative completely disconnected from Perception.

Roll a dice. Add Dex or Int if you are the surpriser, Wis or Con if you are the surpriser.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Maren Morris No GIF by Audacy
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Well in this case my argument was more "because players will struggle unnecessarily with it" rather than "because players don't want to bother with it."

But yeah, if you want to play exclusively with hardcore tabletop gamers who struggle with no ruleset you can have a game with difficult, counter-intuitive, rules that uncompromisingly pursue whatever platonic ideal of simulation you want. If you want to be able to play with all sorts of people you have to make concessions to what players will struggle with and have some kind of dumb rules.
I don't think its either/or, and I think players can on average handle more than they're getting.
 

I've not had a chance to try it out, but if I ran a 5th edition game I'd just ask for ability checks. It would then be up to the player to suggest proficiencies that might be relevant.

DM "The path ahead has collapsed into a chasm. It requires a Strength check if you want to jump across it."
Player 1 "Presumably I can use my Athletics proficiency?"
Player 2 "Can I use my Acrobatics proficiency?"

Interesting. I think a pure "apply proficiency where appropriate" system might be most intuitive and appealing with the variant proficiency dice rule. It makes the extra bonus feel more impactful and worth fussing over, particularly at low levels if you are lobbying to add a d4 rather than to just add 2, and I think if you can't use the current neatly pre-calculated total bonus then being able to figure out a couple dice and add them to a bonus comes more naturally to most players than adding a die, a bonus and and additional bonus.
 


I don't think its either/or, and I think players can on average handle more than they're getting.
Sure, but it's not the average player in the group we have to worry about, it's the member of the group who is already struggling with rules long-term. In my experience this is not a person lacking intelligence, but just a person with a busy life who is not able to spend much of their time away from the table thinking about rules, and who maybe also avoided math since High School.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Sure, but it's not the average player in the group we have to worry about, it's the member of the group who is already struggling with rules long-term. In my experience this is not a person lacking intelligence, but just a person with a busy life who is not able to spend much of their time away from the table thinking about rules, and who maybe also avoided math since High School.
So games should be designed based on the people who would struggle the most? That's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. You need to at least design to the average, or you're leaving the majority of your player base high and dry.

And I think the average is higher than what we've been provided.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
I can pretty much promise all it takes is a player to walk into one ambush, and they'll feel that way for the rest of their gaming career.
I'm not saying that you're saying this, but if this is the case, why include ambushes? Why include traps? Why include secret doors? Why include clues at all? Why include surprise?

I find that players in 5e, IME at my table, want all of the above to go away. They want complete control of the situation, don't want to be under any threat, or uncertainty. They certainly never want to take damage, and even under 5e games with no optional rules, will undergo 5 minute work days to be at maximum health and nova ability.

I mean, what is the point of even playing a "game" when you want to remove the game element from it? No danger? No chance of being ambushed? Everything laid out? What's the point? And that is what I see a lot of the arguments around Perception falling into: I don't want to ever fail. I want to see everything. I don't want to auto-fail, and I certainly have built my character to have as close to a 95% chance of success as possible, 100% if I take Lucky!

We switched from 5e to Basic for this exact reason. No Perception skill. No skills at all. You want to figure something out, you figure it out. Sometimes the DM will call for an ability roll, but that's not always the same ability, depending on what you do and situation. So its not as easy as just maximizing certain things.

Hell, my Fighter's maximum ability score is 12. 12! Can you imagine the horror of 5e players?!? Even ability checks aren't even a 50/50 for me a lot of the time. And I managed to survive to 5th level. Imagine that.
 

So games should be designed based on the people who would struggle the most? That's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. You need to at least design to the average, or you're leaving the majority of your player base high and dry.
No, you're leaving the majority of players with a much larger potential player base of people to game with, by not abandoning the quintile or quartile of players who struggle the most.

There are plenty of games that cater to more hardcore tabletop gamers at the expense of a broader player base. The flagship, gateway game in the hobby should not be one of them.

I'm sure you've heard worse ideas in your life than making D&D broadly accessible.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
No, you're leaving the majority of players with a much larger potential player base of people to game with, by not abandoning the quintile or quartile of players who struggle the most.

There are plenty of games that cater to more hardcore tabletop gamers at the expense of a broader player base. The flagship, gateway game in the hobby should not be one of them.

I'm sure you've heard worse ideas in your life than making D&D broadly accessible.
A company that actually wanted to make a good game that wouldn't unnecessary frustrate people would provide solid rules and levels of complexity to suit that broad base they want. What we have now is lazy design that's not going to get better because enough people don't care for them to feel they don't have to bother.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
A company that actually wanted to make a good game that wouldn't unnecessary frustrate people would provide solid rules and levels of complexity to suit that broad base they want. What we have now is lazy design that's not going to get better because enough people don't care for them to feel they don't have to bother.
I think what we're more likely to have here is a player disgruntled that most people seem satisfied with the game as it is rather than match his own preferences. And is then willing to project laziness onto the designers rather than accept that fact.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I'm not saying that you're saying this, but if this is the case, why include ambushes? Why include traps? Why include secret doors? Why include clues at all? Why include surprise?

I find that players in 5e, IME at my table, want all of the above to go away. They want complete control of the situation, don't want to be under any threat, or uncertainty. They certainly never want to take damage, and even under 5e games with no optional rules, will undergo 5 minute work days to be at maximum health and nova ability.

I mean, what is the point of even playing a "game" when you want to remove the game element from it? No danger? No chance of being ambushed? Everything laid out? What's the point? And that is what I see a lot of the arguments around Perception falling into: I don't want to ever fail. I want to see everything. I don't want to auto-fail, and I certainly have built my character to have as close to a 95% chance of success as possible, 100% if I take Lucky!

We switched from 5e to Basic for this exact reason. No Perception skill. No skills at all. You want to figure something out, you figure it out. Sometimes the DM will call for an ability roll, but that's not always the same ability, depending on what you do and situation. So its not as easy as just maximizing certain things.

Hell, my Fighter's maximum ability score is 12. 12! Can you imagine the horror of 5e players?!? Even ability checks aren't even a 50/50 for me a lot of the time. And I managed to survive to 5th level. Imagine that.
Ok, but what's the upside here? You don't invest in Perception so you get hit by every trap, miss every secret door, and get ambushed by any enemy with Stealth? How is that fun?
 

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