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Perception and long-range bow shots


Rules Questions


How do archers spot targets 800+ feet away given range penalties to perception? How do you rule on that?


roguerouge wrote:
How do archers spot targets 800+ feet away given range penalties to perception? How do you rule on that?

Very good point.

I make 20 an automatic success for Perception checks if the target isn't hidding, because makes sense. You may fail to see someone walking in a rural area for a while, but after a minute you should be able to spot him.
Of course it is a House rule.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
roguerouge wrote:
How do archers spot targets 800+ feet away given range penalties to perception? How do you rule on that?

It's a DC 0 check before adjustments, so at 800ft that would be a about a DC 80 check. Not easy to pull off.

As a rule I'd allow the sniper to take his time (assuming an unsuspecting victim that doesn't jump around a lot. i.e. taking 20. With +10 to perception that would be 30; so the upper limit of my hypothetical sniping scenario would be a target about 300ft away.

If, however, we're talking about the broad side of a barn; or other massive thing, then the DC can presumably be lowered significantly. I'd say something really big like a castle would make the basic spot DC a -20, before modifiers. So my hypothetical sniper above could try shooting at the castle about 500ft away.

In theory you might allow a sniper to use a spyglass; which effectively halves the penalties taken; so our sniper could hit a human at 600ft or a castle at 1000ft. Though as a GM I'd penalize the attack roll slightly for the discrepancy when trying to aim using a spyglass.


There are a bunch of problems with the perception system. Frankly, real ordinary soldiers presently habitually engage at 300 yards all the time. Good quality non-sniper rifles consider 400-600 yards effective firing range (they'll go a lot further, but they expect to frequently achieve effective hits at this range). So how the devil do they do that when 300 yards (900 feet) is -90 to perception? The answer is that -1/10 feet is grossly inappropriate for open fields or anything remotely close to it. It's quite appropriate for a very sound-damped dungeon though (build a house with tons of insulation and walls that aren't paper thin and drywall and you'll notice just how incredibly quiet it is---most houses in the US don't have anything that'd even slow down a rifle bullet much, except maybe the water heater), which is probably why it was worked that way. It's probably appropriate also to some degree when a person is actively trying to hide and there's a lot of clutter around to hide in and occlude lines of sight from some angles. You probably need to bolt major bonuses on spotting range based on the number of members in the group that you could potentially spot, as it'd be easy IRL to miss seeing someone in the open at 500 feet, but you'd almost certainly not miss seeing 20 someones at that range. In my experience though, this set of rules gets handwaved/ignored a lot, like the weapon vs armor adjustment rules back in 1st edition.


A creature that isn't trying to hide, that isn't obscured by terrain, and is lit, can be seen from a greater distance than even long-range spells can be cast at.

A common mistake is to apply the Perception chart too liberally. DC 0 is for "a visible creature" -- as in, one that is possible to be seen, but isn't explicitly hiding (because that's an opposed skill check). A creature who isn't hiding, is well-lit, and is in clear line of sight isn't even a skill check to see. You just see it. The modified DC 0 check comes in when there's poor lighting conditions and/or obscuring terrain.

Shadow Lodge

Zurai wrote:

A creature that isn't trying to hide, that isn't obscured by terrain, and is lit, can be seen from a greater distance than even long-range spells can be cast at.

A common mistake is to apply the Perception chart too liberally. DC 0 is for "a visible creature" -- as in, one that is possible to be seen, but isn't explicitly hiding (because that's an opposed skill check). A creature who isn't hiding, is well-lit, and is in clear line of sight isn't even a skill check to see. You just see it. The modified DC 0 check comes in when there's poor lighting conditions and/or obscuring terrain.

Or, if you absolutely insist on giving EVERYTHING a skill check, then you should also be handing out +100 circumstance bonuses.

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