D&D General What's wrong with Perception?

However, given that Perception is a skill in the game, it's understandable that people are going to want to roll for it.
Sure, my issue is purely with how much it gets rolled, and when it gets rolled.
Having purely passive perception could be seen as less fun - either you automatically find it, or you automatically miss it. and since the DM setting the difficulty also knows what the passive scores are, the DM is basically deciding in advance if the party succeeds or fails.
Agree, but there are simple ways around this. First off, I would not propose never rolling, but I'd propose only rolling for things where it's sort of dramatic (ambushes, a briefly seen object, an attempt at pickpocketing), and not merely about "did you hear at the door" or "did you notice the secret door"? I will note that, inconsistently, some WotC material does use passive Perception that way, but not most of the time.

I'd also personally have made it so that basically anything physical you can notice with Perception as a passive DC you can find with intentional Investigation with a significantly lower DC. I think it's really wack that passive Investigation even exists, btw. Investigation is, by definition, an active task, and one you can definitely screw up in ways you can't really with Perception, even if you attempt to be methodical (which can itself be a mistake, or at least waste time). I've personally found very few situations where it genuinely makes sense to use passive Investigation - they're significantly rarer than active Perception checks. Passive Investigation feels like one of the various "half-baked" rules concepts that doesn't actually see much use, RAW/RAI, only if an enterprising DM decides to make use of it somehow.

Continuing I think that making it so social cues and spotting if someone is lying and the like come off Perception is a bit silly, as it's such a poor model for fiction and so irrational. You simply cannot (I would argue) be all that good at Deception, Persuasion, or Intimidation without a strong ability to read social cues, and to understand when others are doing the same. And there are plenty of people who are amazing at reading social clues who would be extremely easy to sneak up on. Right now we have a funny but stupid situation where one of the PCs (with high CHA) does all the social stuff and another acts as the lie detector (with high WIS). It's not like that's an unheard-of dynamic in fiction, but it is pretty silly-feeling, imo.
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Basically I hate uses of Perception in which failure means a story element is skipped, such as simply not noticing a clue, or a secret door, or hidden treasure.

I prefer it when a successful Perception roll gives you an advantage, or the inverse. Using it vs. Stealth to determine surprise is an example.

So, for example, treasure hidden in the bottom of a pool would, in my game, be automatically discovered if players dive in, or even if they just state that they examine the pool for anything. But if they ignore the pool entirely a high Perception result (or a high passive Perception) will result in catching the glint of something out of the corner of their eye.

Expressed another way, I don't use Perception to gate access to story elements, I use it to nudge players in the right direction.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
That much I knew!!! :p

Thanks!
Double-checked, it is actually 36% chance of failing, not 31%.

"Helping" to grant advantage is better (of course), but it will take longer if you are searching multiple areas. I was working with the idea each would check something, move on to the next, and then someone checking where they just were.

Working in pairs to grant advantage would mean two groups checking instead of four "groups" of singles.

So, if you don't have a lot of options to check, working in pairs is best. If you are crunched for time and have a lot of ground to cover, you might have to work singly.
 

delericho

Legend
The biggest problem with Perception is the name. It should be called Senses.

Skill names shouldn't be obviously derived from verbs (perception, persuasion, intimidation, investigation, deception, performance), because that shortcuts the "what are you trying to do, how are you trying to do it" part of action declaration. "I want to perceive my surroundings" is, or should be, a perfectly valid action declaration, but it's functionally no different from "I roll Perception".
 

teitan

Legend
I think it's over used. I think skill checks are overused in general outside of combat. I miss take 10 and take 20 but I really miss just using description and prodding around to find the secret doors and clues. Skill checks became a bit of a crutch and especially perception. I do rely on passive perception occasionally.
 


delericho

Legend
I'd go even further, don't make it a skill. :)
There's certainly an argument for that, just as with initiative.

One question, though: how then would you reflect the fact that some characters are better at it than others, and indeed that some of that can come through training?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'd go even further, don't make it a skill. :)
There's certainly an argument for that, just as with initiative.

One question, though: how then would you reflect the fact that some characters are better at it than others, and indeed that some of that can come through training?
Agreed.
Surprise and Initiative should be rolls outside of skills.

Some classes should get Proficiency or even Expertise in Surprise, eiter surprising others or spotting a surprise.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
There's certainly an argument for that, just as with initiative.

One question, though: how then would you reflect the fact that some characters are better at it than others, and indeed that some of that can come through training?
Ability scores DO represent the possibility of training already:

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So, I wouldn't do anything. Just leave it at Wisdom modifier or if you can break from the sacred cow of six ability scores, make it its own thing, like I would with Initiative.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
As I recall, 1e AD&D gave all characters a set chance to notice concealed things (with some demihumans gaining further ability to notice unusual features), and there was a set chance of a character having exceptional senses of sight or hearing (I don't recall the number, if my ailing memory serves, it was printed on the 1e Dungeon Master's Screen).

As for 2e, Non-Weapon Proficiencies were introduced to cover various perceptive abilities (I recall the Complete Thief's Handbook had a few of these).

In both editions, of course, Thieves had a special ability to detect noise.

Most DM's I played with also used a Wisdom ability check for perception as well, instead of, or corollary to these rules.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
So, if you don't have a lot of options to check, working in pairs is best. If you are crunched for time and have a lot of ground to cover, you might have to work singly.

I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion in this particular case, but in general I think the goal is for players to have more than one option, and for those options to have different risk:reward profiles, and for the optimized choice between those options to be non-obvious.

When those criteria are not met (which is most of the time in an RPG, except during combat) I'd rather just narrate through and leave the dice where they are.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
As I recall, 1e AD&D gave all characters a set chance to notice concealed things (with some demihumans gaining further ability to notice unusual features), and there was a set chance of a character having exceptional senses of sight or hearing (I don't recall the number, if my ailing memory serves, it was printed on the 1e Dungeon Master's Screen).

In OD&D it was very specific hidden things (i.e. secret doors or other specific things). It didn't actually extend it to hidden items generically (though I don't doubt there were GM's who extended it that way).

Most DM's I played with also used a Wisdom ability check for perception as well, instead of, or corollary to these rules.

There was all kinds of patch-and-fill done in the early days when there was no skill system to work with (though when I saw it back in the day, usually Int was used; the connection between Wisdom and perception seems to have come later).
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
In OD&D it was very specific hidden things (i.e. secret doors or other specific things). It didn't actually extend it to hidden items generically (though I don't doubt there were GM's who extended it that way).



There was all kinds of patch-and-fill done in the early days when there was no skill system to work with (though when I saw it back in the day, usually Int was used; the connection between Wisdom and perception seems to have come later).
That makes sense, I know in the 2e PHB, Wisdom was tied to intuition not necessarily perception.
 

rmcoen

Explorer
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?
Sorry just had to chime in here, many pages later. Literally in my last campaign session, the various PCs had to make Animal Handling (the ex-marine driving the horse-and-wagon cross country with the Exhasuted spellcasters in back because of a Forced March, ahead of a giant warparty), Medicine and Nature checks (identifying damaged plant life, determining they were medicinal plants picked clean, by said giant warparty, and understanding the medicinal salves would last only 3 days, giving a range of potential targets), Nature checks again (to determine that the awfully-conveniently-timed fierce storm was in fact natural in origin (helped by a druidcraft cantrip), and not a big "we're hitting this location here" sign), and a performance check with animal handling (to calm the storm-spooked horses of the giants' target, so they could mount up and flee). Oh, and a gratuitous Performance check by the bard, because why not!

Also used were Persuasion, raw Charisma, ranger Primeval Awareness (shocker, right?), Favored enemy, Favored Terrain, Survival (tracking, foraging), raw CON (the forced marches), Athletics (climbing mountainous terrain for a better view), Stealth (because giants!), and several raw INT checks (to recall previously learned/noticed information), and an INT/Arcana check (by the warlock) to understand a weird floating crystal near the giants' target. [No combat... but that's coming next session!]


Otherwise, to the OP, I work hard as a DM to make the line between Perception and Investigation very clear. That being said, the vast majority of my characters will have moderate to good Perception skills - sometimes despite low WIS - because nearly every bad situation starts with "make a Perception check"!! I won't let players "search" with Perception, but knowing this is a good time to Investigate is still valuable.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Otherwise, to the OP, I work hard as a DM to make the line between Perception and Investigation very clear. That being said, the vast majority of my characters will have moderate to good Perception skills - sometimes despite low WIS - because nearly every bad situation starts with "make a Perception check"!!

As I've noted, this is entirely keeping with any number of games entirely outside the D&D-sphere.
 

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