Perception Clarifications


Rules Questions


I had a few questions regarding the RAW perception skill.

1. Let's say you have a party walking down a corridor with a corner at the end. Ten feet from the corner is a creature with total cover from the party (because of the wall). The creature is deaf, and automatically fails its perception check to hear the party. The creature is not stealthing, not moving, and not talking. What perception check, if any, would the party get, and at what point would they make it?

2. When it comes to perception DC modifiers (+1/10 ft, etc.), are the modifiers applied in a straight line from the perceiver to the source, or does it take the path of least resistance, to modifiers that are most beneficial to the one making the check. For example, in the corridor scenario, assuming the party gets to make a perception check, would the DC be determined by drawing a straight line through the corner (incurring the penalties from going through a wall,or by going around the corner, avoiding the wall?


The check should be 0 to notice a visible creature (I take that as hear able, smellable and otherwise perceivable by mundane senses), then likely unfavorable conditions +2 (cover).
The creature is not trying to stealth, and unless it is silently asleep, it is likely breathing/chewing/shuffling around. Conditions such as chatting party members, echoing corridor, would increase the DC as the GM sees fit.

Checks would come in to play as soon as a player character could reasonably make the check.
I believe that Perception is the most favourable to the checker, just as stealth is least favourable to the user, I am not certain though.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

This is one of those situations where the GM is going to have to just improvise a bit. Personally, I would say that the DC would be 10 + the distance modifier. He isn't moving, he is behind the wall, and isn't speaking. I would say you are trying to hear something breath that is otherwise not doing anything that would be heard or seen in an obvious way.

As for the increase to the DC due to distance, I would have it go around the corner, not through it. If it was through the wall it would also get the +10/foot of thickness increase to the DC.

*Edit* As for when they would get it, I would have them do multiple checks. For example 20 feet from the corner, 10 feet from the corner, right before they walk around the corner. Giving them multiple opportunities to notice is always a good thing.

Grand Lodge

Heretik61 wrote:
1. Let's say you have a party walking down a corridor with a corner at the end. Ten feet from the corner is a creature with total cover from the party (because of the wall). The creature is deaf, and automatically fails its perception check to hear the party. The creature is not stealthing, not moving, and not talking. What perception check, if any, would the party get, and at what point would they make it?

If any of your PCs can succeed by taking 10 against a DC of 40 + distance penalties, you could allow them to hear the creature breathing or shuffling its feet at the point where they make the check. Otherwise, the first PC sees it automatically when she reaches the corner.

Heretik61 wrote:
2. When it comes to perception DC modifiers (+1/10 ft, etc.), are the modifiers applied in a straight line from the perceiver to the source, or does it take the path of least resistance, to modifiers that are most beneficial to the one making the check. For example, in the corridor scenario, assuming the party gets to make a perception check, would the DC be determined by drawing a straight line through the corner (incurring the penalties from going through a wall,or by going around the corner, avoiding the wall?

Whichever gives the lowest DC.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Starglim wrote:

... a DC of 40 + distance penalties...

How did you get 40?

Grand Lodge

CalebTGordan wrote:
Starglim wrote:

... a DC of 40 + distance penalties...

How did you get 40?

I made the assumption that he was referencing Invisibility, as the creature is out of line of sight, not moving, and not making any serious active noise.

So, 40 + Stealth skill + 10 + distance modifiers = nominal DC to notice.

A bit harsh, though.


To answer part 2:
Sound travels around corners and through objects aswell.
This means that the sound would be theoretically noticable both through the wall AND via the corridor. So... You would use the path that results in the lowest possible DC.
If that means that it is through the stone wall then fine, but in your example it sure sounds like the lowest DC would be to let the sound turn the corner, ie. draw a path around the walls.


Thanks for helping me understand. The perception rules are a bit confusing.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

The Perception skill lists a lot of example DCs. Have a look at the chart. Rule out anything that obviously relies on sight, such as "notice a visible creature" or "find the average concealed door".

Now, take a look at what's left, and see which one see what's closest to the current situation. It sounds from your description like the only detectable stimulus would be the sound of the creature breathing. If so, then it's going to be harder than "hear the details of a whispered conversation" and probably harder than "hear the sound of a key being turned in a lock". Given those benchmarks, you're probably looking at a base DC of 20-25. Then you add your distance modifiers and so forth.

If there's some other means of detecting the creature, such as nasty body odor or if he's making noises besides breathing (maybe basketweaving?), select different benchmarks as appropriate.


Perception is indeed a bit difficult to get just right. And there are lots of examples where the GM has to use judgement, because the situation is outside the realm of the rules.


This actually brings up something I've wondered for a while and Kinevon touched on it. If you have Total Cover and can't be seen by the opponent then you are effectively invisible, so do you get a +40/20 on your stealth the same as with the invisibility spell or not?


chrono17 wrote:
This actually brings up something I've wondered for a while and Kinevon touched on it. If you have Total Cover and can't be seen by the opponent then you are effectively invisible, so do you get a +40/20 on your stealth the same as with the invisibility spell or not?

Nope. The +40/+20 is from the invisibility spells. In 3.5 where perception and stealth was split up into move silently vs. listen and hide versus spot I guess you could grant the +40/+20 to hide.

But in pathfinder perception is supposed to be both listen and spot. Now... If you have total cover and cannot be seen then sight based perception would be completely impossible, but auditorial perception would not be hindered in the slightest. (Although the DC is probably a little high because of distance penalty and/or sound traveling through objects)

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