When to call for Perception?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

Hello. I am currently running the Reign of Winter adventure path and my first session, Imust have called out "PERCEPTION" over twenty times. Do, I have a question, when should I call for Perception checks?

Thanks!


When the adventure says to roll perception (to find the hidden treasure or similar).
When there's an enemy using stealth.
Optionally, when you want to make the players feel paranoid.

What are you using it for?

Liberty's Edge

It was for a lot of things, sprites in the trees, a dragon in the snow, ice elementals, and so forth.

Dark Archive

For sure in the surprise round, to see who can act and who can't against an opponent using stealth.


If you get tired of having them roll all the time, you can either have them preroll some checks, write them down and use those or treat them as taking 10 on their perception. I mostly do the second whenever the PCs are aware they are in hazardous territory and don't have a reason to be in a hurry or otherwise distracted.


You don't need to have the players roll perception for a couple of ice elementals unless the elementals are actually hiding / rolling stealth. Not every battle has to be an ambush.


I usually let them have a take 10, unless they say otherwise


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Never.

Record their Perception modifiers and roll for 'em. If you let them roll, they'll know something's up--even if they fail. This way, there's no immersion break.

If they ask you if they can roll a Perception check to notice something, on the other hand, let them roll and tell them the result.


Detect Magic wrote:

Never.

Record their Perception modifiers and roll for 'em. If you let them roll, they'll know something's up--even if they fail. This way, there's no immersion break.

And you can roll their combats too, and all their other skills, in fact, why bother even having them be there? Just send out a paragraph each week letting them know what their character did. That'll be SO very fun.

And no immersion is ever broken.


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That's hardly the same.

If you ask for Perception checks, their suspicion is heightened. That's breaking immersion. Even if the character fails the check, the player is aware that there's something there. They can choose not to act on that knowledge, but many times they won't. Similarly, it ruins the "surprise" of an ambush.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Whenever there is something that calls for a check.
If you look at the perception skill, there are lots of standard DCs.
If my players are moving through an area and hasn't specifically said they're keeping a lookout for traps etc I assume they're taking 10.
But if something is sneaking up on them, that might warrant an opposed roll.
But if a non-sneaking enemy approaches, assume they're taking 10 and use the DC in the skill section.

It's also a good idea to call for perception checks once in a while, for no reason, just so the players don't expect every perception to be something important.

If rolling perception gets tedious, cut back on the rolls and save them for more critical perception rolls.

Edit: Make a note of the groups highest Perception (+10) value and let that value be the default "take 10" value, unless the group is farther apart than a few squares.


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@ Detect magic:
This is why I let my players roll perception from time to time even when there is nothing to find.

For the same reason I sometimes ask them for their exact marching order and spacing or roll some random dice behind the screen, ask one of the players what their bonus on acertain saving throw is and pretend to write something down or have them roll sense motive when the NPC is telling the truth.
This way you teach them to stop metagaming.


Detect Magic wrote:

That's hardly the same.

If you ask for Perception checks, their suspicion is heightened. That's breaking immersion. Even if the character fails the check, the player is aware that there's something there. They can choose not to act on that knowledge, but many times they won't. Similarly, it ruins the "surprise" of an ambush.

So you do your best to make them routine. For example, when the party enter a new area I ask for perception and describe the details according to the results. Add appropriate details according to their skills - for example the ranger spotting small birds or noting their absence, or tracks, or no tracks if they might be expected.


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If they roll low, though, they're going to know that they're receiving less information than is potentially there.

Rolling in secret removes the potential distraction/abuse of this meta-knowledge, just like it does with the Disguise skill; a player shouldn't know how good his or her disguise is, so goes it with Perception.


I don't really understand the knee-jerk reaction by players (and some DMs) to a DM making secret rolls for his or her players. Different strokes, I suppose.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

Ugh... as little as possible! It's the easily the most needlessly overused skill.

Very quickly you will get an understanding of which PC's are perceptive and how much. If you want to give out flavor details just accredit them to the PC's you know are most perceptive. If it's inconsequential I say no roll.

If it is to perceive an ambush or a PC actively makes a perception check as a move equivalent action then that's appropriate enough. But even then you have to make sure they're not overdoing it. Over the top paranoid trapfinding will grind games down to sheer monotony.


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My "rule":

They roll when something is going to happen regardless of the roll. Such as, an ambush. They make the check, no surprise, they fail the check, surprise - either way, there WILL be an ambush, something will happen.

I roll when something ONLY happens if they succeed. Such as, hidden treasure. They make the check, they find the treasure, they fail the check, they walk on and never find the hidden treasure - in this case, there will only be something IF they make the check.

Why?

Assuming they roll badly:

Bad roleplayers will stop what they're doing and start searching, taking 20, doing whatever they can to find the thing they missed.

Good roleplayers will walk on and ignore the bad roll like it never happened - but, what if there are details that might have tipped them off 15 seconds later, some in-game clue that they should search that area? Now the good roleplayer will often deliberately pretend they didn't catch the clue, maybe because they think it would be metagaming to search the area where they failed a perception check. Some of them might search anyway, using the clue as "rationalization" and might even feel a bit guilty about it, others will stubbornly refuse to metagame and will deliberately ignore the clue - in all these cases, that one failed check alters what they do or how they feel about themselves doing it.

Even the best roleplayers can get hung up on stuff like that. I've seen it way too often.

So I just roll the secret ones for them, or use static values (Take-10).


I do what DM Blake and to a lesser extent Detect Magic describe.

If the players are actively searching (i.e. they ask for a perception check) then I will roll it. This is usually a scenario of having some indication that something might be there (searching a known cultist den for a secret room). I will tell them if they find anything, and often they will take 20, time permitting (in game time).
If the players are walking around but don't expect something and aren't specifically looking for it then I give them a take 10 on perception (like spotting a trap door in a house in a bad neighborhood that leads to a drug den), I have all their perception checks written down. If they spot something I notify them. If not, no one is ever aware a check was made.
If something is going to happen despite success or failure and would only modify the conditions of the event then I will have the players roll. No need for secrecy to prevent metagaming in this event, as DM Blake notes.

Players seeing their roll will often metagame or go to an opposite extreme to avoid anything they think might be metagaming. Thats why I try to avoid anyone knowing a roll has been made where failure would me something doesn't happen.


Some of this comes from old Gygaxian adventure styles.

It's sort of like doors.

Everyone's afraid of going through doors without checking for millions of traps, first. A single door can derail an adventure for hours while the players discuss what to do about it.

The goal of whatever you do is to mitigate the metagaming. There are some good suggestions in this thread, though I'll add another: try and make a joke out of it and bring them in on it.

If everyone's laughing, it's a little easier.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I've found that sometimes it's easier to just know my player's score and roll myself... other things I'll just roll 50/50 if I should tell them they should roll. :)

For the most part, if the characters aren't looking for trouble, trouble will find them.

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