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Going from exploration mode to encounter mode by rolling perception or a skill as initiative is an idea that seems really cool, but in practice I feel like my group and I are still struggling to make it come together smoothly. I've been watching and listening to as much 2e content as I can to get a better grip on the rules, but I still feel like I'm missing something.
The idea of using different skills for initiative is mentioned a lot by the team and in the rules, however in play initiative is perception 99 out of 100 times, and stealth is the other 1. Even when it's not perception, characters are still given the option to use perception, and it feels like they always just opt to use perception instead of whatever they were doing. I want the idea of using all sorts of skills as initiative to come into play, but even through the entire playtest it's never clicked for me.
Characters in my games so far end up with perception or stealth as their highest checks. As far as I can tell, what characters do in exploration mode determines what they will roll for initiative if an encounter begins such as a trap triggering, or hostile creatures appearing, or some other opposing threat. Exploration mode has all sorts of cool suggestions for things to do, but the system makes using everything but sneaking or perceiving a suboptimal choice. Scouting gives a +1 circumstance bonus to initiative which pushes even further into "only use perception." The book gives examples of using athletics, or nature, deception, diplomacy and more as initiative, but there is no reason to ever attempt to do so when your perception modifier is the highest. The result is that characters won't do anything interesting in exploration mode because they don't want to be caught with their guard down if they were using any other skill. When I ask my players what they want to do in situations, it's always back to using perception, and then they often feel pigeonholed into it because they aren't aware of how any other skill would help them.
I wish there were more things like the scouting option in exploration mode that gave explicit mechanical benefits to the start of encounters, or it would make more sense if characters didn't end up with perception as their highest modifier. I'm not sure if it's just my particular player characters that are maxing out perception and stealth intentionally due to their historic precedent of being the most important things to have, or if I'm not understanding the system well enough. The idea of backflipping off of a balcony into a tavern brawl using acrobatics as initiative sounds really awesome, but mechanically there's no reason why I would ever do that if my perception is 4 higher and gives me a +1 circumstance bonus.
Does anyone have any thoughts or advice on how to smooth this out? As a GM are there more ways I can think of to begin encounters that will encourage non-perception approaches?