Reactive Perception, or When You See It


Rules Questions


So I was looking over some adventuring gear and noticed this

FALSE-BOTTOMED CUP
Price 1 gp; Weight —
The tiny compartment in the thick bottom of this cup is an excellent place to store a small item or substance. The most insidious are designed with a weighted catch that opens when the cup is tilted back, releasing the hidden substance into the contents of the cup. Spotting the secret compartment in an empty cup requires a DC 15 Perception check.

Emphasis, as always, mine.

Well that got me thinking, when do you get the opportunity to make this roll in a full cup? Now I know that if its a PC an it could possibly be detrimental to the PC then they get a roll to avoid it. (I doubt that's an actual rule just any non-dick GM would probably handle it that way)

But lets say that me, the handsome and dastardly assassin, try to poison Nelson NPC. I'll paint you a picture with words... He has no reason to suspect anyone, or I, would try/want to poison him. He picks up the cup where I've hidden the nefarious substance and goes to drink....PAUSE

As I twirl my mustache what are the next course of events? Does he receive a Perception check because there's an opportunity to make one? Or does he need to be actively looking for something to make the roll? Mind you he's completely oblivious to the fact that anything is out of the ordinary.

This is just a thought I had about skills and skill checks in general. The answer may in fact be as simple as "Yes he does" but I figured I'd ask.


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Under the perception skill located here you can find the following quote.

Quote:
Action: Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action.

So in this case if there is an observable stimulus the character can react. As this is not information a player would know aside from meta-gaming (though it is something his character would detect) it is the responsibility of the DM to inform a character that hey may make a perception check to detect something whenever perceiving said thing would provide some benefit (either its useful, or maybe just interesting) as by RAW perception checks can be made to observable stimulus.

Not rules related but food for thought. I have played several games where the DM at the time used a sort of passive perception which was equal to the players perception score + 5 or 10 depending on the circumstances. The DM kept track of these values and used them whenever there was something that a player would or could notice passively. In cases of active searching the player rolled normally. This provided several benefits including speeding up gameplay however it definitely isn't for everyone and does require forethought from the DM to keep things fair.

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