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View Full Version : Is Spot/Notice/Search/Perception Really the “God Skill?”



DRD1812
2018-01-23, 11:57 AM
I've got a comic on the subject over here (http://www.handbookofheroes.com/archives/comic/spot-check), but here's the TLDR:

Players believe that they need max ranks in the "notice stuff" skills. I contend that, while very useful, it isn't strictly necessary. Many Perception rolls are inconsequential, and often serve as GM shorthand for “I’m about to describe something.” This creates the perception that "notice stuff" is the most useful skill in the game, when in reality it is only the most rolled.

What do you think? Are the "notice stuff" skills truly critical for every character? Would you be a fool (a damn fool!) to neglect them?

Anonymouswizard
2018-01-23, 12:25 PM
This would probably do better in Roleplaying General.

Perception is so valued not because of the number of rolls, but because failing a perception roll that you didn't call for can have dire consequences. With other skills you can generally just not attempt the roll, perception doesn't allow you to mitigate danger in that way.

A pit trap, an ambush, a long invisible enemy, oncoming boulders, ect ect ect

Tinkerer
2018-01-23, 12:27 PM
Hahaha, that's a great comic. It is one of those things which really depends on the GM though.

It's tied to the tracking problem, an old gaming sentiment which goes "The only time that tracking comes up is if somebody has tracking." Therefore if nobody takes tracking then nobody can fail a tracking attempt and you will never be lost on what way the bad guys went. Yes, taking tracking actually makes you worse at tracking. You will also run into this a lot with lockpicking, if nobody can pick a lock you will encounter about 95% fewer locked doors and chests. If you have a GM that works in this fashion then indeed the skill is nearly useless, as is nearly every skill in the game. However even then there is one situation where the Notice skill shines, see Ambushes below. Now naturally this doesn't apply to things like modules and APs where a third party wrote the module.

For my personal campaigns Notice checks are quite vital. I realized that a significant number of the rolls that I had the players make were just like what you mentioned, I wanted to describe something. So I completely eliminated that and now it serves two primary purposes. #1 Detecting bonus information. A significant portion of the bonus XP that I give out is based on the characters acquiring bonus information. Usually this information comes about as a result of a either a Notice check for physical evidence or a Persuasion/Intimidation check for testimony. #2 Detecting ambushes. Ambushes are a huge influence in pretty much every game system which utilizes combat and most of the time your parties defense against it is tied almost exclusively to their Notice skill.

EDIT: I forgot about traps since I don't often use them in my games but as was pointed out if those are present then that would also be a very important reason to have it.

Thrudd
2018-01-23, 12:40 PM
It depends entirely on how the GM runs the game. If there are actually consequences for failing to notice things, they are much more useful than if you've got a cinematic/railroad DM who will make sure you find the important stuff regardless and won't penalize you if it means missing something related to their set piece or story.

They may be "god skills", or they may be entirely frivolous, or hopefully a balanced investment of resources that are neither 100% nevessary nor entirely pointless in relation to all other skills, with a competent DM that designs the game appropriately.

Mark Hall
2018-01-23, 01:14 PM
A lot depends on the GM, as said. I had one GM who decided a spot check was necessary to notice that the guy was wearing a 2-handed sword on his back... and others who would read the boxed text and tell us about traps.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-23, 01:31 PM
Kinda, yeah. If you don't max it out, traps and ambushes become very deadly as you'll probably trigger them all. All DMs love traps more than they love their own family members after all.

I also greatly suspect that many people max it out because some DMs are very bad at putting in multiple clues, so if you miss one, well, you get spend several hours doing nothing because you have no idea who the next NPC to talk at is.

Geddy2112
2018-01-23, 01:58 PM
They are not required, but as others have said not noticing something can get you killed quickly. People who walk around blissfully unaware of their surroundings tend to suffer more misfortune and death than those who are hyper vigilant.

I think it is important, but you can get by without it. I have seen it shorthand roleplaying, or be used to describe things that are utterly inconsequential. Like any roll it should be called for when 1. There is a chance of success vs failure and 2. The success or failure has a significant, measurable consequence.
Noticing somebody sneaking up on you trying to stab you in the back calls for a roll. You might only get one chance before you are dead. Rolling to tell what color shirt somebody is wearing is pointless-it has no consequence(unlikely to have one even in a combat scenario) of success vs failure and there is little to no chance to fail. The DM should simply describe these things, or if a player asks give that information out. Like any skill, when a player asks a question where success and failure matter, as well as a chance for either, then a roll is called for.

RazorChain
2018-01-23, 02:27 PM
This depends on the system

In point buy systems where you can spend your points at being better at

A) Hitting Things
B) Doing magic
C) Improving other myriad of things
D) Being better at spotting things

People tend to neglect perception or spot...or maybe one or two PC's are good at it. In those system there tends to be no max rank or if it is often you can max the skill from the start. This comes with the cost that the better you are at spotting things the worse you will be at something else.

If you are playing a game where you are raiding dark underground abodes and trying to avoid the poor denizens traps and ambushes to grab some ill begotten treasure in your quest for wealth and power. Then it should be evident that players will tend prioritize perception because they deem it important.

Koo Rehtorb
2018-01-23, 02:28 PM
It depends. They're very important in sandbox/lethal games where missing something means you won't necessarily ever find it, or not finding the thing can and will get you killed.

I have absolutely averted certain death with a timely passed Observation test multiple times in one campaign.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-23, 02:33 PM
They are not required, but as others have said not noticing something can get you killed quickly. People who walk around blissfully unaware of their surroundings tend to suffer more misfortune and death than those who are hyper vigilant.

This has made something occur to me. I think a lot of people want their characters to be 'cool' or at the very least, 'mildly competent'. Acting like Mr. Magoo and blundering your way through things probably isn't going to accomplish either goal, and brings up the question of how your character survived to level 1. Furthermore, people in various PC professions (thief, guard, or hunter) are probably going to need those skills to be any good at their job from a role-play perspective.

Thrawn4
2018-01-23, 02:44 PM
In my experience this is only true for Call of Cthulhu games where noticing odd things is vital (although still lethal at times).

Tinkerer
2018-01-23, 03:24 PM
This has made something occur to me. I think a lot of people want their characters to be 'cool' or at the very least, 'mildly competent'. Acting like Mr. Magoo and blundering your way through things probably isn't going to accomplish either goal, and brings up the question of how your character survived to level 1. Furthermore, people in various PC professions (thief, guard, or hunter) are probably going to need those skills to be any good at their job from a role-play perspective.

Indeed. What's one of the fastest ways to point out the competent in fiction? You have them be the first to notice problems.

calam
2018-01-23, 03:27 PM
I think it depends on the lethality and type of game. In games like warhammer where a perception roll is the difference between spotting a sniper and an enemy getting full accurate dice plus an ambush bonus directly to your head it can be the most life saving ability in the game. On the other hand if you're playing a game without combat that can end your life in one bad enough attack its far less important.

Tanarii
2018-01-23, 04:37 PM
I agree it's commonly used to gate information that the GM should be providing, or typically WILL be providing, anyway. Same with knowledge / lore skills. And yes, I think that's part of the reason they're heavily valued.

But if there is a primary skill preventing ambushes and/or allowing players to find the enemy and launch their own ambushes, it's always going to be an important skill in any game in which ambushes play a significant part. Either individually, or for the scout characters, depending on if one character detecting enemies is sufficient.

Same for discovering traps. If traps are a thing, it's either important for the scout to have the skill, or for all characters. Although more commonly this one it's just the scout that matters, and it's mostly used saving his own skin.

This isn't just true in D&D-like fantasy games either. I've played more than a few military-like RPGs where such skills were critical for at least one team member, the point-man. Both Recon and Palladium games (in particular RDF/SC/REF in Robotech, and Coalition in Rifts), it's important for a foot patrol's point-man to find the enemy and traps before the enemy or traps find the PCs.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-23, 04:43 PM
I think it depends on the lethality and type of game. In games like warhammer where a perception roll is the difference between spotting a sniper and an enemy getting full accurate dice plus an ambush bonus directly to your head it can be the most life saving ability in the game. On the other hand if you're playing a game without combat that can end your life in one bad enough attack its far less important.

I disagree with this. In non-combat games, you often have puzzles, traps, or social encounters to replace the combat. While insight/sense motive type skills will suddenly be given the same status as perception in a social game, you'll still need perception to avoid detection, poisoning attempts, rifle through people's belongings and determine forgeries, and stalk people.

Florian
2018-01-23, 04:43 PM
It´s a bit based on "frequency of use".

Perception tends to be rolled very often, followed by Knowledge and Spellcraft. Other skills need to be "player initiated" and come up less frequently, if at all. For ex, Athletics doesn't play a role unless someone wants to tumble frequently, then it comes up, but in the general scheme of things? Not that much.

In PF, the "real" god skills are the ones tied to the specific sub-systems, especially when you only have one roll to get it right.

Darth Ultron
2018-01-23, 05:39 PM
Nope, in fact they are the Ruin the Fun skills.

It sounds good to Roll and avoid anything that might happen to your character ever....but in game play it's very dull and boring.

Sure, the optimizing jerk player will be sitting on the edge of their chair endlessly saying how super duper great their character is as they always Spot stuff and never fall for traps or such. But it's really only a great thing to this one type of player.

For normal players, it's not the End of the World if their character can't Spot an Ambush from the other side of the planet. So the character gets ambushed? So, what? A normal player can just keep on playing the game.

Slipperychicken
2018-01-23, 05:53 PM
I wouldn't call it a 'god skill' -that's system dependent. I think it's just important in almost all roleplaying games. GMs tend to hide important stuff behind perception and knowledge skills.

You can neglect it if you really have something better to use your resources on. It's a question of your priorities. Also, if everyone else has it, you can probably free-ride off them without impacting the group's survival too much.

tensai_oni
2018-01-23, 06:17 PM
They're god skills because if you fail to detect the trap, the DM may declare you dead. And then you have nothing left to live for in real life.

Sarcasm aside, it depends on the paranoia factor of the game. That's more GM-specific than system specific - everyone has a horror story or two (possibly second hand) about adventures where everything is trapped and every seemingly innocuous object or NPC is actually a doppelganger/succubus/invisible assassin. Basically, if it's a game you can't play without a ten foot pole at the ready, then perception skills are a must. Otherwise, like Darth Ultron said, falling into ambushes is more fun and interesting.

Anonymouswizard
2018-01-23, 06:31 PM
For normal players, it's not the End of the World if their character can't Spot an Ambush from the other side of the planet. So the character gets ambushed? So, what? A normal player can just keep on playing the game.

Depends on the game. I once had a friend have to sit out the entirety of a combat because we got ambushed, his character was the closest to our ambushers, and he failed his defence roll. Then combat started, and as there were no penalties to defence rolls and as lot of bonuses once the remaining PCs dived for cover it took a long time. He spent a long time unable to play. This happened to my character in another game, although there I'd dumped Perception intentionally and the combat was over much quicker (it was a hit and run poison affair).

Now, my homebrew system is rather nasty for surprise, denying any ability to add your Athletics or Melee skill to your defence roll, making you rely on your Perception alone for defence, and most weapons will take you out with a solid hit (unless you've got your hands on good armour, which is rather rare). But the system is meant to have fast combat, hits either tick off grazes (enough and you take a Wound for more long term penalties) or take you out and potentially deal a wound. You're not meant to spend your time in personal combat, that's why it gets a page and a bit of rules compared to investigations, exploration, trade, and other activities PCs are expected to engage in.

ross
2018-01-24, 12:43 PM
Perception is great if you want to analyze someone's body language for tells, like where their eyes flick to when they're talking (or when you ask them where something is, watching to see if they inadvertently give away its position), how much they fidget, if they're sweating, breathing pattern, etc.; for things like traps and ambushes since it's a group check usually, so it's pretty much trivial (example: in one game I'm in, there are seven players and perception is a d6 or d8 for all of them, making even the hardest check almost an auto win)

flond
2018-01-24, 01:14 PM
Nope, in fact they are the Ruin the Fun skills.

It sounds good to Roll and avoid anything that might happen to your character ever....but in game play it's very dull and boring.

Sure, the optimizing jerk player will be sitting on the edge of their chair endlessly saying how super duper great their character is as they always Spot stuff and never fall for traps or such. But it's really only a great thing to this one type of player.

For normal players, it's not the End of the World if their character can't Spot an Ambush from the other side of the planet. So the character gets ambushed? So, what? A normal player can just keep on playing the game.

Depends on how deadly ambushes are. Also if you're using perception checksto hide important facts. I mean we've all seen the opposite, the game where the players stumble around confused and then die confused.

icefractal
2018-01-24, 02:58 PM
I would say it's the most generally useful skill, not necessarily the most useful for a given character.

Unlike many skills though, /anyone/ can benefit from a bonus to it. There's not usually much point going from "terrible at UMD" to "mediocre at UMD", despite how good UMD is - leave that **** to the pros. But everyone ends up rolling Perception, at a variety of difficulties, so improving it is always a good thing (unless being oblivious is specifically part of your concept).

calam
2018-01-24, 03:58 PM
I would say it's the most generally useful skill, not necessarily the most useful for a given character.

Unlike many skills though, /anyone/ can benefit from a bonus to it. There's not usually much point going from "terrible at UMD" to "mediocre at UMD", despite how good UMD is - leave that **** to the pros. But everyone ends up rolling Perception, at a variety of difficulties, so improving it is always a good thing (unless being oblivious is specifically part of your concept).
I can't believe this hasn't been suggested before. Perception skills is definitely the only skill that I know of where everyone can test it at every time without there being shortcuts like sending down a rope is for climbing.

DRD1812
2018-01-24, 05:44 PM
What do you guys think about making "Notice Stuff" skills scale like BAB? Classes like Ranger and Rogue get "Full Perception" ranks, while classes like Fighter and Barbarian get 3/4 and full casters get half?

Mark Hall
2018-01-24, 06:01 PM
What do you guys think about making "Notice Stuff" skills scale like BAB? Classes like Ranger and Rogue get "Full Perception" ranks, while classes like Fighter and Barbarian get 3/4 and full casters get half?

In a lot of ways, 4e did that... skill checks added half your level, so if I was trained in Notice and you were equally trained in sneak, it was an equal match-up.

RazorChain
2018-01-24, 06:11 PM
What do you guys think about making "Notice Stuff" skills scale like BAB? Classes like Ranger and Rogue get "Full Perception" ranks, while classes like Fighter and Barbarian get 3/4 and full casters get half?

Or how about people just distribute skillpoints so they can decide themselves instead? That way we can avoid being constrained by your preconceptions that rogues and rangers have to be perceptive

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-24, 06:18 PM
What do you guys think about making "Notice Stuff" skills scale like BAB? Classes like Ranger and Rogue get "Full Perception" ranks, while classes like Fighter and Barbarian get 3/4 and full casters get half?

I don't like the idea of class skills, but I also don't like the idea of a skill monkey as a role in a party overall. A lot of editions of DnD already rely on having a trapspringer, and this only enforces that rule even in games not focused on exploration or combat.

Having perception be a god stat isn't a problem in my opinion, due to role-playing reasons. Don't like it? Make other skills more valuable. Sure, everyone COULD take perception, but then you might not have other skills to solve issues and get past obstacles. Sure, someone will always need to invest in it, but there should be a cost to having everyone take it.

Psikerlord
2018-01-24, 06:57 PM
I think it;s smart for at least one PC to have high perception/spot whatever. It is just really handy for avoiding ambushes, traps and so on.

Generally speaking I think it's the best skill in most Dnd like games.

But I dont think every PC needs it. One or two spotters is enough. You can be of more use to your party with other skills if you already have good spotters.

Psikerlord
2018-01-24, 06:58 PM
Depends on the game. I once had a friend have to sit out the entirety of a combat because we got ambushed, his character was the closest to our ambushers, and he failed his defence roll. Then combat started, and as there were no penalties to defence rolls and as lot of bonuses once the remaining PCs dived for cover it took a long time. He spent a long time unable to play. This happened to my character in another game, although there I'd dumped Perception intentionally and the combat was over much quicker (it was a hit and run poison affair).

Now, my homebrew system is rather nasty for surprise, denying any ability to add your Athletics or Melee skill to your defence roll, making you rely on your Perception alone for defence, and most weapons will take you out with a solid hit (unless you've got your hands on good armour, which is rather rare). But the system is meant to have fast combat, hits either tick off grazes (enough and you take a Wound for more long term penalties) or take you out and potentially deal a wound. You're not meant to spend your time in personal combat, that's why it gets a page and a bit of rules compared to investigations, exploration, trade, and other activities PCs are expected to engage in.

Do you have a draft of your system I could read? I'd be interested to see it.

Tanarii
2018-01-24, 07:04 PM
If definitely an ability check (or skill check in 3e/4e DnD) that does too much.

They probably need to break proficiency in it up and make it much more narrow. There could stand to be a Find Traps, Find Hidden Creatures, and Find Hidden Things skill, for determine proficient bonus. Those are all three very useful in traditional D&D on their own merits. Easily as useful as something like 5e Animal Handling, which is short-hand for 'Ride checks plus some rare other things'. Or 5e Medicine, which means 'Stabilize Checks plus some stuff the DM makes up to make the skill appear useful'.

Knaight
2018-01-24, 07:05 PM
I usually make it a straight up attribute in systems which let you pick attributes, and favor it being on that level. I'm also pretty fond of ambushes and stealth as a GM, which is likely part of the reason for this.

Tanarii
2018-01-24, 07:08 PM
I usually make it a straight up attribute in systems which let you pick attributes, and favor it being on that level.
Technically in 5e it is: Wisdom. Problem is the attribute does too much already, and it also allows you to specialize in a very broad slice of it, to be even better at all kinds of Perception.

Knaight
2018-01-24, 07:13 PM
Technically in 5e it is: Wisdom. Problem is the attribute does too much already, and it also allows you to specialize in a very broad slice of it, to be even better at all kinds of Perception.

In that 5e's internal semantics around the term "ability check" would fit that, yes. In the sense that Perception is valuable enough to be an attribute all on its own, not so much.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-24, 07:16 PM
They probably need to break proficiency in it up and make it much more narrow. There could stand to be a Find Traps, Find Hidden Creatures, and Find Hidden Things skill, for determine proficient bonus.

I think there's a reason that 4th/5th edition DnD AND Pathfinder collapsed the skill list. Firstly, guess who gets to take these skills!? That's right, the skill monkey, SCREW their concept! That was a common complaint with skills when I played third edition as no one else could even take the darn things, so rogues were often scrambling for more skill points to do their expected role and do what they intended to do.

Secondly, they need to be distinguished well and make logical sense. Why wouldn't Find Hidden Doodad find a hidden trap? It's a hidden thing, after all. What distinguishes a trap from a different mechanism? I think that was the issue with Open Locks/Disable Device in third edition, since most locks are in fact, devices.

And lastly, if it's too prohibitive for other classes, you go back to the idea of Warrior/Rogue/Mage/Healer which many modern editions are trying to move away from. There should be benefits to diversity in characters, but you shouldn't feel like you need one of every role or you'll fail everything. Since in many DnD editions/Pathfinder other classes have limited skills, adding more to the list isn't going to make for fun character or party building in my opinion.

Anonymouswizard
2018-01-24, 07:18 PM
I don't like the idea of class skills, but I also don't like the idea of a skill monkey as a role in a party overall. A lot of editions of DnD already rely on having a trapspringer, and this only enforces that rule even in games not focused on exploration or combat.

I recently noticed that I don't have fun if I'm not playing a Skill Monkey. Maybe it's due to mainly playing point but games, but I'm just so used to having spent 60-80% of my resources into noncombat mundane skills that not having any feels wrong.


Having perception be a god stat isn't a problem in my opinion, due to role-playing reasons. Don't like it? Make other skills more valuable. Sure, everyone COULD take perception, but then you might not have other skills to solve issues and get past obstacles. Sure, someone will always need to invest in it, but there should be a cost to having everyone take it.

I think looking back the thing with Perception is that it's everybody's first pick once they've got their key skills.


Do you have a draft of your system I could read? I'd be interested to see it.

Not yet, still a lot of tweaking until it's at playtest level. It's switched core mechanic a few times, currently at 'roll the appropriate Attribute die and appropriate skill die, take the higher and compare to the target number/opponent's highest'. Attributes will always be at least a d4 (average d8), while an untrained skill is just no die (a professional well have a d8 or d10). I've got that, the core combat mechanics and am working on the core investigation mechanics, but it's all in very rough notes form right now.

Tanarii
2018-01-24, 07:26 PM
In that 5e's internal semantics around the term "ability check" would fit that, yes. In the sense that Perception is valuable enough to be an attribute all on its own, not so much.Yup I got your point even I was typing up my response. I agree it valuable enough a broad concept that in games that aren't limited by a sacred cow of 6 specific attributes.


I think there's a reason that 4th/5th edition DnD AND Pathfinder collapsed the skill list. Firstly, guess who gets to take these skills!? That's right, the skill monkey, SCREW their concept! That was a common complaint with skills when I played third edition as no one else could even take the darn things, so rogues were often scrambling for more skill points to do their expected role and do what they intended to do.And in this particular case, it was a mistake. It made a too broad and uniquely valuable skill for typical D&D games: exploring dungeons and other trap laden old ruins with lots of hidden things and hidden enemies.


Secondly, they need to be distinguished well and make logical sense.No it doesn't. It just needs to work mechanically, giving each slice of "better at this stuff" slice of stuff choice approximately the same 'value' as another.


And lastly, if it's too prohibitive for other classes, you go back to the idea of Warrior/Rogue/Mage/Healer which many modern editions are trying to move away from.No idea what you're babbling about. With the current way things are, all classes get to choose four things out of 18 they're better at, and two of them can be chosen from the entire list. And the best at the things I'm talking about are Wisdom characters: Clerics and Druids. They're not even traditional 'skill monkeys'.

The problem is those 18 things don't all have equal value. Performance might as well be Craft (Basketweaving), Medicine is only slightly more useful, and Perception is very valuable.

Edit: other games might have other balance issues around the value of the "Perception" skill equivalent, obviously. I'm speaking only to one game's fairly well known value bias for the skill.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-24, 08:42 PM
No it doesn't. It just needs to work mechanically, giving each slice of "better at this stuff" slice of stuff choice approximately the same 'value' as another.

Yes, it does. If the players and the DM cannot understand or agree on what skill would apply, it's not a very good break down of the skill. Maybe better names need to be chosen, but they need clear enough distinctions.


No idea what you're babbling about. With the current way things are, all classes get to choose four things out of 18 they're better at, and two of them can be chosen from the entire list. And the best at the things I'm talking about are Wisdom characters: Clerics and Druids. They're not even traditional 'skill monkeys'.

1) Earlier, it was suggested that rangers/rogues become the best ones at spotting things. 2) Rogues and other skill monkeys have more ability to take these skills in most editions of DnD, simply due to more skills in most editions. If custom backgrounds aren't in play, then 5e gets added to the pile as well. I hope that clears up the issue for you.

But yes, mundanes not having a use for mental stats is a problem. Probably has been a problem since second edition, but I'm not old enough to comment on that.


And in this particular case, it was a mistake. It made a too broad and uniquely valuable skill for typical D&D games: exploring dungeons and other trap laden old ruins with lots of hidden things and hidden enemies.

Which I'd say is an older mindset for DnD. Social, intrigue, and wilderness exploration games have been popular for DnD for a while now. I'd even bet that several newer modules made for DnD now feature those aspects. Balancing DnD for only that type of game is I think inappropriate given the amount of fluff and ribbons made for other types of games.


Edit: other games might have other balance issues around the value of the "Perception" skill equivalent, obviously. I'm speaking only to one game's fairly well known value bias for the skill.

Except that game (I assume you mean DnD) is slowly moving away from the paradigm of 4e with Defender/Leader/Controller/Striker. 5e has the backgrounds of 4e to help people customize their characters for RP purposes and to fill in weaknesses of the party. Several subclasses seem meant to make classes traditionally in one role take on another. I'd say that 5e has the strongest emphasis on 'do whatever' in terms of class balance of most DnD editions. Creating too many 'must have' skills is not going to help that design choice.

Telok
2018-01-24, 08:56 PM
So with the game I'm currently in when the DM (he's still kind of new to DMing and using modules as written) calls for spot/perception checks we all just look at the guy who has it maxxed out and wait for him to roll. That's because the system penalizes skills that aren't part of a character's class list, sets target numbers based on the assumption of ~60% success rates for 'skilled' characters, scales all the difficulties to character levels, and at about 1/3rd of the way through the game the main skills are at around +15 on a d20 variable.

In many d20 games skills have become a Red Queen's Race where you have to keep the skill at maximun value to keep up with increasing target numbers. Which means that characters who can't fully invest in a skill actually get worse at it relative to the rolls that they have to make.

So a third of the way in we're normally throwing against target numbers 25 to 30 with perception. The guy with it as an allowed skill has it at d20+14+1d6, the rest of the party is under +5. If we'd dumped resources into it we could top out at about +10 or +11, but that would take away from our skills where we need to hit those 25+ numbers.

I've come to believe that perception shouldn't be a skill. There can be modifiers and boosts, but it's not a good fit with skill systems that force specialization and binary has/hasnot skill choices on the characters. This of course means that stealth rules would have to change, but most of the current d20 and similar systems are so bad with stealth that it might be a real benefit to them.

Anonymouswizard
2018-01-25, 04:28 AM
I've come to believe that perception shouldn't be a skill. There can be modifiers and boosts, but it's not a good fit with skill systems that force specialization and binary has/hasnot skill choices on the characters. This of course means that stealth rules would have to change, but most of the current d20 and similar systems are so bad with stealth that it might be a real benefit to them.

Honestly, perception has that problem where it feels wrong as a skill, but I can tell you from personal experience that you can teach yourself to notice stuff more often. I'm actually against Perception being an Attribute, because I really don't think the ability to notice stuff is something 'inherent' and difficult to train (the traditional Attribute definition), rather it's something that's difficult but with time and effort can be trained about as well as crochet.

Now, as long as you don't fall into the 'increasing difficulty equal to the rate the skill could be raised at' trap then a Notice skill actually does work in a more generic skill list. You'd want to alter the skill list slightly depending on the setting, as in some settings Athletics and Notice are equal, in others one outshines the other. This is true of any skill list, I was once in a game where Detect Lies was the god skill, in another it was internet search.

Knaight
2018-01-25, 04:37 AM
Honestly, perception has that problem where it feels wrong as a skill, but I can tell you from personal experience that you can teach yourself to notice stuff more often. I'm actually against Perception being an Attribute, because I really don't think the ability to notice stuff is something 'inherent' and difficult to train (the traditional Attribute definition), rather it's something that's difficult but with time and effort can be trained about as well as crochet.

You can also make yourself stronger, fitter, more charismatic, etc.

Anonymouswizard
2018-01-25, 04:43 AM
You can also make yourself stronger, fitter, more charismatic, etc.

Yes, my point was that, in my personal experience, training yourself to be more perceptive is much more like training yourself to do crochet better than any of those.

RazorChain
2018-01-25, 04:44 AM
I think perception is one of the God skills. If you get it high enough you will become omniscient and that really IS a god skill.

After that you can train your potency.

Cespenar
2018-01-25, 08:57 AM
Since it's a "god skill" in RL conflicts, I have little trouble with it being a "god skill" in RPGs. It's a rare point that such systems got right, in my opinion.

What issues I have is the generalness of it. If it were up to me, it would be specialties. Like: warriors and rangers should spot ambushes easier, rogues should spot traps easier, wizards should spot magical traps easier, etc. It's more tied to experience than training, I'd say.

Tanarii
2018-01-25, 10:08 AM
I'm actually against Perception being an Attribute, because I really don't think the ability to notice stuff is something 'inherent' and difficult to train (the traditional Attribute definition), rather it's something that's difficult but with time and effort can be trained about as well as crochet.
You seem to be assuming Attributes are something inherent and fixed, and cannot be trained.

Telok
2018-01-25, 12:44 PM
I would like to remind you that I never said 'static attribute' or 'no bonuses'. I said that it works badly as a skill, especially in d20 games that restrict it to particular classes.

In D&D 3.x and PF you can kick the skill into the high teens and low 20s fairly fast, in D&D 4th and 5th with the take 10 rules problems arise once you get to +9 relative to most other characters. The problem for DMs and the game is that anything the max perception character has to roll for is unfindable by everyone else, and what the rest of the party has to roll for is automatically found by the max perception character.

My only solution to this is not to put perception and stealth into the same skill framework as swimming and history type skills.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-25, 12:54 PM
You seem to be assuming Attributes are something inherent and fixed, and cannot be trained.

I was under the impression that in a lot of systems, this was in fact the case. Especially in Whitewolf systems? Maybe I'm just getting old and my memory is fading.

Arbane
2018-01-25, 01:05 PM
If definitely an ability check (or skill check in 3e/4e DnD) that does too much.

They probably need to break proficiency in it up and make it much more narrow. There could stand to be a Find Traps, Find Hidden Creatures, and Find Hidden Things skill, for determine proficient bonus. Those are all three very useful in traditional D&D on their own merits. Easily as useful as something like 5e Animal Handling, which is short-hand for 'Ride checks plus some rare other things'. Or 5e Medicine, which means 'Stabilize Checks plus some stuff the DM makes up to make the skill appear useful'.

The more different skills a game has, the more inept the player characters become.

Anonymouswizard
2018-01-25, 01:17 PM
The more different skills a game has, the more inept the player characters become.

Eh, only really works if the resources used to buy them aren't increased proportionately. Although I'll agree that, past a certain point, characters get so many skills that players start to forget them.

(On the 'perception as Skill versus Attribute', in most games Skills are cheap and quick to train while Attributes are slow and expensive. I'm saying that, in my personal experience, learning to notice things was a fast process compared to increasing my strength or health.)

Arbane
2018-01-25, 01:27 PM
Nope, in fact they are the Ruin the Fun skills.

It sounds good to Roll and avoid anything that might happen to your character ever....but in game play it's very dull and boring.

Sure, the optimizing jerk player will be sitting on the edge of their chair endlessly saying how super duper great their character is as they always Spot stuff and never fall for traps or such. But it's really only a great thing to this one type of player.

For normal players, it's not the End of the World if their character can't Spot an Ambush from the other side of the planet. So the character gets ambushed? So, what? A normal player can just keep on playing the game.

...Unless their character gets killed by the ambush, which I believe is quite often the point of ambushes.

And there's traps. Nothing says 'heroic adventurer' like blundering right into the rotating knives!

And then there's things like secret doors or hidden clues, where Perception is the 'Let The Plot Continue' skill.

You are really unhappy unless the PCs are suffering, aren't you.

Mark Hall
2018-01-25, 02:21 PM
I was under the impression that in a lot of systems, this was in fact the case. Especially in Whitewolf systems? Maybe I'm just getting old and my memory is fading.

IME, that is not the case. While some games do have that (AD&D, Ars Magica come to mind), most others let you improve your attributes, but usually make it more expensive than improving your skills. WEG's Star Wars, 2nd edition, for example, makes improving a 2D attribute to 2D+1 cost 20 CPs, whereas improving a 2D skill to 2D+1 would cost 2 CP. In that system, improving your 2D attribute to 2D+1 would improve all of your skills linked to that attribute, even your 14D Lightsaber skill.

Tanarii
2018-01-25, 02:26 PM
The more different skills a game has, the more inept the player characters become.
Sure. Which is why you figure out the Y core things the PCs do, and then break it up into X equally valuable slices, where X/Y is a reasonable amount of things a PC should be able to do.

And IMO in D&D specifically, Finding Stuff is far too much X/Y to be one skill. In other words, it's an extremely common activity out of all possible things PCs generally do. Breaking it into at least 2 things, Find Hidden Creatures and Find Hidden Not-Creatures, is perfectly acceptable as a division of of "total things PCs commonly do".

In fact, it looks to me like 5e originally intended to break it down that way with Perception vs Investigation. But then they tried to make the mistake of generalizing it by method/approach instead of intended result, like Spot vs Search, using the same logic Honest Tiefling tried to use that "they need to be distinguished well and make logical sense." What they ended up with is being right back up with Perception being too large a slice of 'things typical adventurers do'. Unless the DM makes a concerted effort to divide it up with Investigation, or allows Investigation to universally replace Perception if you are deducing instead of merely looking.

Jay R
2018-01-25, 05:47 PM
There is a legal maxim: "Any lawyer knows the law. A good lawyer knows the exceptions. A great lawyer knows the judge."

Similarly, a great player knows the DM. These skills are incredible if and only if the DM makes them so. For instance, I have one DM who tries to make something cool happen whenever somebody with an elite level skill rolls a natural 20. Since I have figured this out, and my character has the best Spot roll by far, I try to find as many opportunities to use a Spot roll as I can. I justify it with the PC's watchfulness and focused intent on guarding the party, and his character has adjusted to include it, but there's no question that I know it's more useful in Mike's game than anybody else's.

In the last three sessions, I have found a diamond, a pouch of gold, and a Ring of Freedom of Action, none of which (I believe) were there before I rolled the 20.

In other games, with other DMs, I don't use Spot nearly as often. [I look for what those DMs reward most; Dirk admires bold actions, so I play flamboyant hero types. Nolen is impressed with clevers idea he hadn't thought of, so I emphasize INT; In Wil's, I try to be find out the NPC's real motive; etc.]

Psikerlord
2018-01-25, 06:23 PM
I've come to believe that perception shouldn't be a skill. There can be modifiers and boosts, but it's not a good fit with skill systems that force specialization and binary has/hasnot skill choices on the characters. This of course means that stealth rules would have to change, but most of the current d20 and similar systems are so bad with stealth that it might be a real benefit to them.

In LFG I split Wis into Perception and Willpower. Detection is a skill that helps you with perception.

Xuc Xac
2018-01-25, 10:51 PM
What issues I have is the generalness of it. If it were up to me, it would be specialties. Like: warriors and rangers should spot ambushes easier, rogues should spot traps easier, wizards should spot magical traps easier, etc. It's more tied to experience than training, I'd say.

The way I do it, perception isn't a skill of its own. It's something you can do with any other skill. Having keen senses doesn't matter if you don't realize that what you see is important.

An athlete or swordsman would notice if a warrior is favoring one leg due to pain. A space pilot would recognize that the registry numbers on a ship's hull indicate that it's from Rigel IV and not Rigel VII like the sleazy merchant claims. A soldier or assassin would recognize an ambush before it's sprung. A wizard with knowledge of alchemy or a chef with knowledge of pickling would recognize an acid trap by the corrosion stains and sour smell. Any skill can be used to notice stuff that the skill covers.

Knaight
2018-01-26, 01:40 AM
The more different skills a game has, the more inept the player characters become.

That's not necessarily true - skill access also matters. A Fate/Fudge style skill pyramid usually nets you 15-21 skills where you've got at least some talent quite cleanly. If that's 15-21 out of 30-40, you're well ahead out of 2+int per level out of 20.

Cluedrew
2018-01-26, 02:09 PM
There is a legal maxim: "Any lawyer knows the law. A good lawyer knows the exceptions. A great lawyer knows the judge."I wish that wasn't true, but it applies here either way.

As a simple example, outside of D&D I don't think I have ever had a character encounter a trap. Guards and security cameras yes, but dart shooters are not really a security measure used in real life* or in many types of fiction. Hidden doors same things. Looking at something and noticing things about it can come from some variety of investigation skills. Ambushes... well that is the tricky. I kind of like just rolling for "how well do you react to the ambush" because it is immediate, active and all outcome have relatively straightforward results**. That doesn't cover noticing the ambush well ahead of time, but besides that (and traps in the right setting) I'm actually found very little use for it at all.

* Probably exceptions, but on the whole.
** "You don't notice anything" is less straightforward to resolve than one might think.

gkathellar
2018-01-26, 03:13 PM
In adventure modules: yes, almost always.

Outside of adventure modules: depends on your GM.

Tanarii
2018-01-26, 05:30 PM
As a simple example, outside of D&D I don't think I have ever had a character encounter a trap. Guards and security cameras yes, but dart shooters are not really a security measure used in real life* or in many types of fiction. Hidden doors same things.
You mean you haven't played the Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider RPGs?

But yeah, D&D traps and secret doors are basically concepts straight from that movie & game. Not sure how they got inspiration from something that came out after the game did. But clearly inspired by them somehow. :smalltongue:

Telok
2018-01-26, 09:12 PM
Both traps and secret doors are real things. The IEDs currently being used are just today's variation on them. Likewise concealed doors show up in real life. Heck the trapdoor to my basement qualifies, it's in a closet behind a vac and you have to notice the cut in the carpet or the hole for the pull-ring.

Every armed conflict sees both of those things get used. In a D&D world with the constant threat of random wights, dragons, and murder-hobos I'm perfectly willing to believe that a farmer keeps his valuables hidden in a hollow stone in the fireplace and lays snares around his hen house.

Jay R
2018-01-26, 10:38 PM
The more different skills a game has, the more inept the player characters become.

No - the more focused the player characters become. The players as a group just needs to make sure that there is a single character with each skill they need.

You need to make sure that somebody in the party has the specific skills that really make a difference. Additional skills like left-handed underwater barbed-wire weaving make no difference at all, as long as nobody is stupid enough to take them

Florian
2018-01-27, 04:50 AM
The more different skills a game has, the more inept the player characters become.

It´s a team-based game, not a simulation. The only skills a character needs are those that are necessary to cover the functional role in the party.

Socratov
2018-01-27, 07:14 AM
Yes.

Reasons deal with the tactical options succeeding (or even exceeding) on perception checks:

you get to see what's coming and plan accordingly.

it goes more or less like this:


adventurer wakes up and prepares for his day of adventuring. some prepartions for general stuff like combat, traps, dungeondelivng, etc.
this creates a pool for resources (goes double for spellcasting)
during the day he will encounter different problems
these encounters will be solved by expending resources (hp, spells, items, special dicepools, rages, points of some sort)
at the end he will deplete his resources, recover them, gain some new ones or improve some others and the day will start anew


Now during steps 3 and 4 he will make or break his success. And step 3 is governed by perception. Better perception leads to a better plan of solving the encounter. better plans make for better resource management and better resource management makes for a more successful adventurer.

Vice-versa: bad perception leads to bad planning, which leads to bad resource management which leads to a dead adventurer.

And that is why people generally invest in perception based skillsets, if able...

Arbane
2018-01-27, 04:38 PM
It´s a team-based game, not a simulation. The only skills a character needs are those that are necessary to cover the functional role in the party.

Uh.... I personally like to have SOME overlap in character capabilities, in case Only Person Who Can Do (something we need RIGHT NOW to survive) gets one-shotted. Also, it's a very bad bit of game design to force players to chose between spending points on Cool Flavorful Skill For My Character's Background and Skill My Character Needs To Stay Alive.

Tipsy_Pooka
2018-01-27, 06:01 PM
In my games at least… this has never been a “god-skill”. Like any other skill, the advantages from mastering it is entirely situational.

I assume I'm about to catch a TON of flak for this... I actually never let my players roll their own "perception-type" skill-checks... for me, both as a player and a DM find it completely immersion breaking. Just like the comic in the OP suggested, it completely breaks the narrative of the story. I also never write “Perception or Die” scenarios. Sure, the players may be at an initial disadvantage for flubbing a Perception check… but it is never so key to an encounter that they can’t overcome it if they do. It also provides a carrot for those characters that do focus on it. I have also never used it for completely mundane details either.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-27, 06:30 PM
I assume I'm about to catch a TON of flak for this... I actually never let my players roll their own "perception-type" skill-checks... for me, both as a player and a DM find it completely immersion breaking.

I wouldn't mind this, if the DM was honest and did enough checks to reward a character for having it. Then again, I don't usually play rogues/rangers. Might I ask which system you pay, and how you handle it?

Tipsy_Pooka
2018-01-28, 07:09 PM
I wouldn't mind this, if the DM was honest and did enough checks to reward a character for having it. Then again, I don't usually play rogues/rangers. Might I ask which system you pay, and how you handle it?

As nearly all my games are with people who know me.. there's never been any accusations of unfairness.. plus its not something I would ever stoop to anyway. As for "systems" this goes from BECMI through 3.5.. the only other system I used was CP 2020.

Usually I'll just roll "behind the screen" at relevant points/player request and just narrate accordingly. I've also used tables of say 12 pre-rolls for passive checks and only roll a dice when the player states they are actively searching.

And apologies for coming off a little defensive.. after ghosting these forums for the last few years, I've seen some really nasty hatred thrown towards anyone who might interfere with "player agency.

DRD1812
2018-01-30, 12:58 PM
Usually I'll just roll "behind the screen" at relevant points/player request and just narrate accordingly. I've also used tables of say 12 pre-rolls for passive checks and only roll a dice when the player states they are actively searching.

That fear of immersion breaking is the real deal. Pacing is important, and I've even heard of GMs jotting down X number of pre-generated Perception checks for each PC so that the game can flow more naturally. It gets dodgy when there are conditional modifiers (+4 while tracking gnolls in swamps!) but I do like the idea of hurrying the game along a bit.

Koo Rehtorb
2018-01-30, 02:11 PM
Personally I don't give a crap about session pacing. I think one of the biggest mistakes newer GMs make is that they feel the need to have an immediate answer to everything, which leads to making dumb mistakes. It's absolutely fine to take breaks and discuss the rules and everything like that.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-30, 07:14 PM
And apologies for coming off a little defensive.. after ghosting these forums for the last few years, I've seen some really nasty hatred thrown towards anyone who might interfere with "player agency.

Not sure why you are apologizing. I didn't mean to seem offensive, myself. I can definitely see some benefits (immersion and pacing) to not rolling the skill. The biggest issue I see is that people usually like to roll their own dice just for the physical feel of it and the excitement. I don't really think it cuts down on player agency, as the DC would be the same and the character can still search or be on guard.

Tipsy_Pooka
2018-02-02, 12:16 AM
Personally I don't give a crap about session pacing. I think one of the biggest mistakes newer GMs make is that they feel the need to have an immediate answer to everything, which leads to making dumb mistakes. It's absolutely fine to take breaks and discuss the rules and everything like that.

For new players, I couldn't agree more. Every situation, with new players, is a teaching moment for me. This screen name is based on an "in character" avatar I use in my campaigns with new players to facilitate an understanding of in game rules/plots/situations.


Not sure why you are apologizing. I didn't mean to seem offensive, myself. I can definitely see some benefits (immersion and pacing) to not rolling the skill. The biggest issue I see is that people usually like to roll their own dice just for the physical feel of it and the excitement. I don't really think it cuts down on player agency, as the DC would be the same and the character can still search or be on guard.

Appreciated... Again, I've seen some nasty things on these forums about subverting perceived "player agency". I've always felt that one of my responsibilities as DM is to make sure the game is running as smoothly as possible. If there are things that I can streamline to that end, so much the better for all at the table.

I totally agree with rolling your own dice and the results will fall where they may... and those moments should be reserved where they have the most impact. I was never a fan of rolling dice for the sake of rolling dice. Having every player roll a "Perception" style check every 5 minutes never seemed conducive to effective gameplay.