Perception DC to See the Sun


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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So, here's the thing: I occasionally see people remark that, by the rules of altering Perception DC's, the sun's distance from the planet (whichever planet your game takes place on) should render the sun completely unnoticeable due to the +1/10 feet Perception DC modifier. However, this supposes that the sun is a "Detail" (Perception DC is based on the "Detail" one is trying to notice) with Perception DC anywhere close to zero. Whatever the DC Modifier to notice the sun is, the DC it's modifying is, let's say, a negative number that is at least twice whatever the modifier is.

But that's all rules talk. The Perception DC to notice the sun is likely a very large negative number, but is even more likely just-not-a-thing. Why would you ever need to make a Perception check to notice the sun? (Barring shenanigans, which I am open to having described if you can think of one!)

I realize that there's a very good chance that the people who talk about the "impossible DC to notice the sun" are joking, with their tongues placed firmly in their respective cheeks. The point that I'm (slowly) trying to reach is, I suppose, a question about what the purpose of this kind of speculation is? The reasoning behind these kinds of statements has eluded me for some time, and it's bothered me just enough that I thought I'd ask y'all for some answers. Are people asking only in jest? Do people say this to mock the idea that this Perception DC would ever be needed in a game? Are they mocking the game for having this DC modifier not account for celestial bodies, without taking into account that the original DC would counteract it? What's the deal?

No points will be given for answers that disparage others' intelligence. You're better than that!

Liberty's Edge

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I think the reason people use this line of arguments is normally when people are complaining about the outcome of some skills. It shows the ridiculousness of taking some skills to their outer limits - perception DCs work well for spotting a deer in the forest, but don't work well for spotting the sun - something that clearly should be possible. By the same logic, the DC to do something at the outer edge of what a skill was designed for is not always going to make sense given the rules of the skill, and so should not always have much importance based on it. The same way you wouldn't require a perception check to notice the sun, you might not want to calculate the DC for some of the survival things, like the DC to track something that was of a diminutive size walking over stone 3 days ago, with snowing happening after that. That's a doable DC based on those modifiers, but you might not think that should be possible, so you use the reasoning that the DCs for fringe cases are weird in skills and shouldn't be used :)

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Or you could say that the size and luminosity of the sun give you a damn near infinite circumstance bonus to see it.


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These statements are usually made just to poke fun at the rules and their flaws. There are plenty of cases where the rules either make no sense or just contradict themselves... The sun might be exaggeration, since that thing is many times bigger than Earth. But what about clouds? Chances are they are impossible to see as well, according to RAW. XD

tl/dr: It's just a hyperbolic joke being used to make a valid criticism. Humor has always been used to criticize real issues, after all. ;)


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mechaPoet wrote:
Why would you ever need to make a Perception check to notice the sun? (Barring shenanigans, which I am open to having described if you can think of one!)

Reportedly, when in Pangolias (Nidal's capital city), one can never know if it's daytime or nighttime.

mechaPoet wrote:
Are people asking only in jest? Do people say this to mock the idea that this Perception DC would ever be needed in a game? Are they mocking the game for having this DC modifier not account for celestial bodies, without taking into account that the original DC would counteract it? What's the deal?

Personally? It's fun to poke at the medium-sized bipedal humanoid-centric rules.

The rules and spells get blurry when a character or target is not a medium or small-sized (wonky spacing rules and attacks of opportunity), living (how does a skeleton see/hear/feel?), bipedal (more legs = more carrying capacity, or is it just for quadrupeds?), bimanual (could a creature with multiple hands use multiple longbows/two-handed weapons?) humanoids (called shots and effects that specify hitting heads and eyes get blurry as well).

That said, you can question the validity of the Perception DC formula without joking about the sun. What's the DC to see Mars if it's in the sky--during daytime? It does not exactly emit light. A dragon flying far above flat-out cannot be seen if it is moderately dark.

An easy solution is to divide the DC modifiers by the width/height of the object/creature in feet.

Sczarni

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The mental image of someone looking for the sun on a clear day and failing to find it is just too funny to pass up.


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There are rules somewhere noting that you can see light sources at a very great distance.


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The Sun is not hiding, thus you done need to roll Perception to see it.

/check = n./a.

Liberty's Edge

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Guru-Meditation wrote:

The Sun is not hiding, thus you done need to roll Perception to see it.

/check = n./a.

If that's how you run your games, do you make it so that if there's any possible line-of-sight between a creature and the target it wished to look at, it can see it, so long as the target is not sneaking? If I climbed to the top of a mountain near a town, can I make out individual targets in the courtyard of the town square? They're not sneaking, but normally that would be a DC so high you can't make it without extremely specialized skills.


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Generally it's mocking the absurdity of the -1 DC/10 ft. rule by taking it to its logical conclusion.

As-is according to the rules the average football fan in any of the middle to upper stands in the stadium is incapable of seeing the players on the field unless they roll a 20 on Perception.


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It's a reductio ad absurdum about the pitfalls of dogmatic adherence to the rules as written.

Liberty's Edge

It's a silly premise to apply to a game.


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Arcaian wrote:
Guru-Meditation wrote:

The Sun is not hiding, thus you done need to roll Perception to see it.

/check = n./a.

If that's how you run your games, do you make it so that if there's any possible line-of-sight between a creature and the target it wished to look at, it can see it, so long as the target is not sneaking? If I climbed to the top of a mountain near a town, can I make out individual targets in the courtyard of the town square? They're not sneaking, but normally that would be a DC so high you can't make it without extremely specialized skills.

Ranges for spotting something not using stealth are given in the environment section of the PRD and vary by terrain. Space isn't one of the terrains covered though.

In some cases, eg plains, I think the ranges are too low but they are considerably further than perception v stealth.


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The Immortals Handbook gave additional rules for size up to actual stellar objects, and vast bonuses to spot them.

It still wasn't enough to overcome the distance.


I see it more often applied to the full moon tbh... but most often I see these comparisons are brought up when silly rulings or descriptions are made by GM's who are applying obscure rules to doing something the player feels their character should just "do", even if RAW mechanically says otherwise or as said above in silly threads about unrealistic rules.


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I think the key is actually the very beginning description of the Perception skill: Your senses allow you to notice fine details and alert you to danger.

I don't know about you, but I can't see any fine details on the sun by staring at it directly. I can see fine detail by looking at photographs that were taking of the sun using special equipment...

If we use our sun as the model, the perception check is DC 49,080,666,095 (49 billion).

Size of objects get a -4 to stealth every size category they go up. I didn't do any kind of fancy formula, and even though there is an extra 5' jump from Gargantuan to Colossal, I just did a simple radius divided by 5' = a size category of 456,917,471.

Now the sun is surrounded by darkness (space) - so from darkness to dim light, lets say we give the sun a -16 (4 *4) stealth for every size category above medium. Next step is from dim light to normal light, so another *4 modifier to stealth so -64 (4 ^ 3) stealth each size. The last step is from normal light to bright light, another *4 modifier on top of all that, so -256 (4 ^ 4) modifier per size category.

Now let's go back a step: because of our atmosphere, the sun while it is bright light, it is surrounded by normal light in our sky, so let's halve, that final modifier of -256 to -128.

Multiply that by it's size category and we are left with a -58,485,436,288 stealth modifier. Add the DC modified by distance to that, and we have a DC of -9,404,770,193 to notice the sun. Of course that is just to notice the sun.

Without the proper equipment (eye protection + powerful telescope) let's just say we double the DC of the sun to see finer details (not to just notice a giant floating ball of fire) that's a DC 39,675,895,902 to see/notice the finer details of the sun.

So while we can easily notice the sun's presence with our perception, we'll go blind long before being able to see any fine details of the sun.

Course, other than the size and distance of our sun, all the other numbers were just fuzzy math logic I made up. So yeah...


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Hugo Rune wrote:
Arcaian wrote:
Guru-Meditation wrote:

The Sun is not hiding, thus you done need to roll Perception to see it.

/check = n./a.

If that's how you run your games, do you make it so that if there's any possible line-of-sight between a creature and the target it wished to look at, it can see it, so long as the target is not sneaking? If I climbed to the top of a mountain near a town, can I make out individual targets in the courtyard of the town square? They're not sneaking, but normally that would be a DC so high you can't make it without extremely specialized skills.

Ranges for spotting something not using stealth are given in the environment section of the PRD and vary by terrain. Space isn't one of the terrains covered though.

In some cases, eg plains, I think the ranges are too low but they are considerably further than perception v stealth.

Link?

I couldn't find anything like that.


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thejeff wrote:
Hugo Rune wrote:


Ranges for spotting something not using stealth are given in the environment section of the PRD and vary by terrain. Space isn't one of the terrains covered though.

In some cases, eg plains, I think the ranges are too low but they are considerably further than perception v stealth.

Link?

I couldn't find anything like that.

Sorry, on phone and linking is too hard. But goto core rulebook PRD and click on environment page. Scroll down past traps. Each wilderness terrain has a section titled 'stealth and detection'. Detection ranges for encounters are there.

Liberty's Edge

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Hugo Rune wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Hugo Rune wrote:


Ranges for spotting something not using stealth are given in the environment section of the PRD and vary by terrain. Space isn't one of the terrains covered though.

In some cases, eg plains, I think the ranges are too low but they are considerably further than perception v stealth.

Link?

I couldn't find anything like that.
Sorry, on phone and linking is too hard. But goto core rulebook PRD and click on environment page. Scroll down past traps. Each wilderness terrain has a section titled 'stealth and detection'. Detection ranges for encounters are there.

Cool, didn't know that existed. Thanks! Though the bits are titled 'stealth and detection', so not entirely sure if thats for when the targeted creature isn't stealthing? :)


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Scythia wrote:
It's a reductio ad absurdum about the pitfalls of dogmatic adherence to the rules as written.

But, like most such arguments, there is an important grain of truth in them.

A more realistic example would be a lighthouse. Lighthouses are supposed to be visible for miles away -- in fact, a typical (30-45m) lighthouse is designed to be visible at a distance of roughly 13 miles (20 km).

Thirteen miles is roughly 13,000 5' squares, or a -6500 penalty to seeing it. As a Colossal object, there would be a corresponding +16 bonus to find such a thing, but that's dwarfed by the distance penalties.

Shipwrecks must be much more common in Golarion than on Earth, because by RAW, you can't see a lighthouse further away than about the length of a football pitch.

Following the PRD's terrain rules, I couldn't see Godzilla stomping across a plain if he/she/it were further than about 1500' away. (Maximum sight range is 6d6 times 40 ft.)


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Scythia wrote:
It's a reductio ad absurdum about the pitfalls of dogmatic adherence to the rules as written.

But, like most such arguments, there is an important grain of truth in them.

A more realistic example would be a lighthouse. Lighthouses are supposed to be visible for miles away -- in fact, a typical (30-45m) lighthouse is designed to be visible at a distance of roughly 13 miles (20 km).

Thirteen miles is roughly 13,000 5' squares, or a -6500 penalty to seeing it. As a Colossal object, there would be a corresponding +16 bonus to find such a thing, but that's dwarfed by the distance penalties.

Shipwrecks must be much more common in Golarion than on Earth, because by RAW, you can't see a lighthouse further away than about the length of a football pitch.

Following the PRD's terrain rules, I couldn't see Godzilla stomping across a plain if he/she/it were further than about 1500' away. (Maximum sight range is 6d6 times 40 ft.)

Sure, but you could also argue that it has a +6500 DC to spot it because it has a giant shining light poking out of it.


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pinkycatcher wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Scythia wrote:
It's a reductio ad absurdum about the pitfalls of dogmatic adherence to the rules as written.

But, like most such arguments, there is an important grain of truth in them.

A more realistic example would be a lighthouse. Lighthouses are supposed to be visible for miles away -- in fact, a typical (30-45m) lighthouse is designed to be visible at a distance of roughly 13 miles (20 km).

Thirteen miles is roughly 13,000 5' squares, or a -6500 penalty to seeing it. As a Colossal object, there would be a corresponding +16 bonus to find such a thing, but that's dwarfed by the distance penalties.

Shipwrecks must be much more common in Golarion than on Earth, because by RAW, you can't see a lighthouse further away than about the length of a football pitch.

Following the PRD's terrain rules, I couldn't see Godzilla stomping across a plain if he/she/it were further than about 1500' away. (Maximum sight range is 6d6 times 40 ft.)

Sure, but you could also argue that it has a +6500 DC to spot it because it has a giant shining light poking out of it.

Not in the Rules as Written, and often not during the day, even in the real world. Godzilla certainly doesn't have a giant shining light on the top of his/her/its head.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I did the math for the moon a while back.

Moon Math:

So here is my argument against this. You say the moons size penalty is only -128, which looks to be for something roughly 32' by 32'. Kaiju being somewhere between 50x50 to 60x60 means they have a smaller size penalty than the moon???

Nah, here is how I think it works out. The DC to see the moon is still 126,139,200. Size penalties to stealth are a function of the area the creature takes up.

Squares | Size | Penalty
1 | Medium | 0
2 | Large | -4
3 | Huge | -8
4 | Gargantuan | -12
5 | Skipped for some reason
6 | Colossal | -16

Barring the weird one which is Colossal, we can see that Stealth penalty S(p) = -1*(([Number of squares on one side you take up]-1)x4). For example for Huge we have S(p) = -1*((3-1)x4) = -1*(2x4) = -8.

As you mentioned, the moons diameter is 1,416,433 squares, which means its dimensions are 708,216x708,216. By my formula, this gives the moon a size penalty of 2,832,860.

This means the DC to see the moon is -123,306,227, well within the bounds of anyone with out the blind condition or clouded vision oracles, who have only ever heard of this "moon" thing.

Considering the size difference between the sun and moon is much bigger than the distance difference, I think its safe to say its not hard to see the sun.


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Wait, what?

The moon is "roughly" 250 thousand miles away, or 1.25 billion feet. This means a penalty of 125 million on any attempt to see it.

The moon's diameter is roughly 2500 miles, or roughly 12.5 million feet, or roughly 2.5 million squares. Your formula -- which is NOT supported by the rules, by the way -- would then give us a bonus to spot it of about ten million.

The penalty totally trumps the bonus; they're not even in the same order of magnitude. In the Pathfinderverse, the moon is completely invisible,

I think you misunderstood when you calculated the DC. The DC you calculated is 126 million and change, but the size "penalty" to stealth reduces that by about three million, which still means you need to roll a number in the hundreds of millions to spot the moon.

In fact, the moon would need to be roughly in geosynchronous orbit, 90% closer than it actually is, to be visible.


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casual conversation.....

"It is as plain as the nose on your face."

One failed perception check later....

"Egads! My nose! It's gone!"

"Uh yeah that giant rat gnawed it off in the dungeon last week while you were asleep.....and two of your toes, to boot."

"Pretty sure it was a big spider, you know the whole nose, spider face thing."


The sun is not trying to hide, so it is not not an opposed stealth check but an encounter distance roll to determine spotting distance.


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People are conflating noticing something obvious with noticing fine detail. There is no DC nor perception check to see something obvious. Perception checks only apply to noticing fine detail. The moon in the night sky is not a "fine detail". A more down to Earth example would be that seeing an obvious mountain off in the distance is not a "fine detail" so a perception check is not needed to know that it's there; but noticing a person climbing said mountain, or maybe a campfire on said mountain, would be a fine detail. So any argument on nearby celestial objects being "functionally invisible due to their distance" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding (or dysunderstanding, in some cases) of how the rules for Perception work.


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Kazaan wrote:
People are conflating noticing something obvious with noticing fine detail. There is no DC nor perception check to see something obvious. Perception checks only apply to noticing fine detail. The moon in the night sky is not a "fine detail". A more down to Earth example would be that seeing an obvious mountain off in the distance is not a "fine detail" so a perception check is not needed to know that it's there; but noticing a person climbing said mountain, or maybe a campfire on said mountain, would be a fine detail. So any argument on nearby celestial objects being "functionally invisible due to their distance" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding (or dysunderstanding, in some cases) of how the rules for Perception work.

So then I can see every planet I have direct line of sight to, just not any fine details of the planets, right?


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Kazaan wrote:
People are conflating noticing something obvious with noticing fine detail. There is no DC nor perception check to see something obvious. Perception checks only apply to noticing fine detail. The moon in the night sky is not a "fine detail". A more down to Earth example would be that seeing an obvious mountain off in the distance is not a "fine detail" so a perception check is not needed to know that it's there; but noticing a person climbing said mountain, or maybe a campfire on said mountain, would be a fine detail. So any argument on nearby celestial objects being "functionally invisible due to their distance" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding (or dysunderstanding, in some cases) of how the rules for Perception work.

Except of course that "fine detail" is completely undefined. At what range, for example, does a person become a fine detail? Or a colossal Titan? Or a dragon in flight?


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Y'know what's weird? You can succeed at a perception check to see the moon during the day or at night, but perception checks to see the sun at night always fail, like, every single time; I just don't get it!

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We really need a sarcasm font so I can interpret these responses correctly. :P

I think it's a good point that Perception deals with Stealth and "finer details" and this seems to be the crux of the situation: in Pathfinders simulationist elements, there is a temptation to apply game rules to things that don't need game rules. And it seems easy to cross that line into silly corner cases because I personally think there are rules in Pathfinder that are needlessly granular. This is part of the reason why I didn't get into specific DC's. Partially it's because my math skills aren't stellar, but mostly because even considering what those numbers are or how to measure them misses the point that they don't really need to be measured. Not to put down those people who do, and have, worked out the numbers; for y'all I'm sure it's a fun exercise and I know it's a thought experiment more than a serious endeavor.

Basically, I think it comes down to a question of where to draw the line in simulationist game rules, and what counts as too granular to quantify or not. Ironically, I think the answer is subject to the game's narrative, rather than an answer that can be assigned a number.


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Chess Pwn wrote:
Kazaan wrote:
People are conflating noticing something obvious with noticing fine detail. There is no DC nor perception check to see something obvious. Perception checks only apply to noticing fine detail. The moon in the night sky is not a "fine detail". A more down to Earth example would be that seeing an obvious mountain off in the distance is not a "fine detail" so a perception check is not needed to know that it's there; but noticing a person climbing said mountain, or maybe a campfire on said mountain, would be a fine detail. So any argument on nearby celestial objects being "functionally invisible due to their distance" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding (or dysunderstanding, in some cases) of how the rules for Perception work.
So then I can see every planet I have direct line of sight to, just not any fine details of the planets, right?

This is a strawman fallacy argument. I said you need a perception check to notice fine detail and not to notice obvious things. An obvious mountain is obvious; you're not going to miss it. But if you see just the peak over the horizon, that would be a fine detail. They're all floating points as to what constitutes "obvious" and what constitutes "fine detail", but the rule book isn't going to provide an exhaustive, comprehensive list (nor should it). At a certain point, a celestial body is no longer an obvious object but, rather, a fine detail of the entire sky. What the exact point is is a matter for discussion, but things like the Sun and the Moon are, by a very large margin, things in the category of "obvious things", barring a niche scenario (eg. noticing the glow of the moon behind thick clouds or noticing where the new moon is in the sky). Misrepresenting the argument I presented does not a valid counterpoint make.


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mechaPoet wrote:

We really need a sarcasm font so I can interpret these responses correctly. :P

I think it's a good point that Perception deals with Stealth and "finer details" and this seems to be the crux of the situation: in Pathfinders simulationist elements, there is a temptation to apply game rules to things that don't need game rules. And it seems easy to cross that line into silly corner cases because I personally think there are rules in Pathfinder that are needlessly granular. This is part of the reason why I didn't get into specific DC's. Partially it's because my math skills aren't stellar, but mostly because even considering what those numbers are or how to measure them misses the point that they don't really need to be measured. Not to put down those people who do, and have, worked out the numbers; for y'all I'm sure it's a fun exercise and I know it's a thought experiment more than a serious endeavor.

Basically, I think it comes down to a question of where to draw the line in simulationist game rules, and what counts as too granular to quantify or not. Ironically, I think the answer is subject to the game's narrative, rather than an answer that can be assigned a number.

Okay, I'll admit it: my answer deserved a sarcasm font. If you want me to speak seriously, I can't imagine a situation where I would ask my table to roll on Perception to see the sun. I might ask for Knowledge (Nature) or Survival to understand the connection between daily sunlight exposure variance and seasonal climate shift, but that's not what I use Perception for. I suppose if my party wandered out of an underground dungeon at night I might ask for a Perception check to notice the crickets and the wind, and realize they're outside, but anyone with darkvision won't need to roll on the check.


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Seeing the sun aside, this is an actual problem when dealing with groups of people. Say a group of 30 Rogues decide to sneak up on a castle. They have enough stealth to be undetected individually, but what penalty do they get while moving as a crowd?

What is the DC to spot an army on the move? What if it is an army of halflings? is it harder? Is it literally 40ft harder? so if you are 140 ft away, you see an empty plain, but at 100 ft suddenly you see a bunch of tents?


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Whenever comments about being unable to see the sun/moon/lighthouse or the economic benefits of using a major creation spell vs crafting something or, really, anything along these lines intended to make the simulative aspects of the rules look like a joke - I write it off as someone using the rules in ways they aren't intended to be used. These are RPG rules - they're not economic or physics simulators. They're designed to operationalize things players want their PCs to do with reasonable nods to how we understand things to work in the real world crossed with how they work in inspirational fantasy sources ranging from books to movies and further crossed with compromises made to facilitate the usability and flow of the game. Using them to simulate an economy or determine if someone can see the sun are about as useful as using a skunk do your taxes.

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Hitdice wrote:
mechaPoet wrote:

We really need a sarcasm font so I can interpret these responses correctly. :P

I think it's a good point that Perception deals with Stealth and "finer details" and this seems to be the crux of the situation: in Pathfinders simulationist elements, there is a temptation to apply game rules to things that don't need game rules. And it seems easy to cross that line into silly corner cases because I personally think there are rules in Pathfinder that are needlessly granular. This is part of the reason why I didn't get into specific DC's. Partially it's because my math skills aren't stellar, but mostly because even considering what those numbers are or how to measure them misses the point that they don't really need to be measured. Not to put down those people who do, and have, worked out the numbers; for y'all I'm sure it's a fun exercise and I know it's a thought experiment more than a serious endeavor.

Basically, I think it comes down to a question of where to draw the line in simulationist game rules, and what counts as too granular to quantify or not. Ironically, I think the answer is subject to the game's narrative, rather than an answer that can be assigned a number.

Okay, I'll admit it: my answer deserved a sarcasm font. If you want me to speak seriously, I can't imagine a situation where I would ask my table to roll on Perception to see the sun. I might ask for Knowledge (Nature) or Survival to understand the connection between daily sunlight exposure variance and seasonal climate shift, but that's not what I use Perception for. I suppose if my party wandered out of an underground dungeon at night I might ask for a Perception check to notice the crickets and the wind, and realize they're outside, but anyone with darkvision won't need to roll on the check.

I appreciate the serious response, but you can totally make sarcastic jokes as well! :P

But that kind of ties in to my original question: how serious are people about the spot-the-sun DC? How many of those posts are in earnest and how many are joking? And what the game rules leads to that question?


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
Scythia wrote:
It's a reductio ad absurdum about the pitfalls of dogmatic adherence to the rules as written.

But, like most such arguments, there is an important grain of truth in them.

A more realistic example would be a lighthouse. Lighthouses are supposed to be visible for miles away -- in fact, a typical (30-45m) lighthouse is designed to be visible at a distance of roughly 13 miles (20 km).

Thirteen miles is roughly 13,000 5' squares, or a -6500 penalty to seeing it. As a Colossal object, there would be a corresponding +16 bonus to find such a thing, but that's dwarfed by the distance penalties.

Shipwrecks must be much more common in Golarion than on Earth, because by RAW, you can't see a lighthouse further away than about the length of a football pitch.

Following the PRD's terrain rules, I couldn't see Godzilla stomping across a plain if he/she/it were further than about 1500' away. (Maximum sight range is 6d6 times 40 ft.)

If you were familiar with my posting history, you'd know you're preaching to the choir. Absurdio is one of my hallmark techniques.


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mechaPoet wrote:


But that kind of ties in to my original question: how serious are people about the spot-the-sun DC? How many of those posts are in earnest and how many are joking? And what the game rules leads to that question?

I'm quite serious about the lighthouse. Lighthouses are designed to be seen across huge distances, but they're by no means obvious at the range they're designed to be useful. A typical lighthouse looks like a small tower by day and a flashing light that's not really much brighter than a star at night -- and of course, when it's really needed (in bad weather) it's much harder to see through the rain and fog.

For an example of what I'm talking about, look at this photo. That lighthouse is almost certainly a standard navigational aid, marked on charts, and real-world sailors would expect it to be visible for more than twenty miles in daylight with good weather (given its height above water). But it's also not "obvious" even in that photograph, and certainly not obvious when it's simply a tower on a promontory a nautical mile away. Even in that photo, it's a landscape detail and not necessarily the central focus of the shot.

Here's another example, this one a view of Paris from the top of Montparnesse. The Eiffel Tower is probably obvious, but can you find the Arc de Triomphe? It's definitely a fine detail,... and that's only four miles. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower itself is something like two miles away in that photo.

So the lighthouse is definitely a fine detail on the coastline at four miles distance, but should be visible. On the other hand, any sailor would take a -2000 penalty to see the lighthouse at four miles.... and a -250 penalty at a mere half mile, which makes seeing the lighthouse at any distance at all impractical.

So the argument that "Perception is only for fine details" is spurious. At two miles, someone trying to see an object like the Eiffel Tower by RAW would take a -1000 penalty... and as soon as the GM rules that the tower qualifies as a detail, the roll would shift from unneeded to impossible.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
Scythia wrote:
It's a reductio ad absurdum about the pitfalls of dogmatic adherence to the rules as written.

But, like most such arguments, there is an important grain of truth in them.

A more realistic example would be a lighthouse. Lighthouses are supposed to be visible for miles away -- in fact, a typical (30-45m) lighthouse is designed to be visible at a distance of roughly 13 miles (20 km).

Thirteen miles is roughly 13,000 5' squares, or a -6500 penalty to seeing it. As a Colossal object, there would be a corresponding +16 bonus to find such a thing, but that's dwarfed by the distance penalties.

Shipwrecks must be much more common in Golarion than on Earth, because by RAW, you can't see a lighthouse further away than about the length of a football pitch.

Following the PRD's terrain rules, I couldn't see Godzilla stomping across a plain if he/she/it were further than about 1500' away. (Maximum sight range is 6d6 times 40 ft.)

Consider the fact that for the times when a lighthouse is actually useful (night, bad weather, combination), you can't actually see the light house in the real world. Rather, you only see the light coming from it.

Spotting a lighthouse during the day from 13 miles away with the naked eye is actually pretty difficult, unless it's against a sky backdrop, but usually it isn't as the shore behind it continues to gain elevation.

You don't see the lighthouse, rather you see the light coming out of it.

One could argue that you can't actually see the Sun either, but only the light coming from it. If the Sun were just a giant, cold rock, it would be impossible to spot with the naked eye.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:
mechaPoet wrote:


But that kind of ties in to my original question: how serious are people about the spot-the-sun DC? How many of those posts are in earnest and how many are joking? And what the game rules leads to that question?

I'm quite serious about the lighthouse. Lighthouses are designed to be seen across huge distances, but they're by no means obvious at the range they're designed to be useful. A typical lighthouse looks like a small tower by day and a flashing light that's not really much brighter than a star at night -- and of course, when it's really needed (in bad weather) it's much harder to see through the rain and fog.

For an example of what I'm talking about, look at this photo. That lighthouse is almost certainly a standard navigational aid, marked on charts, and real-world sailors would expect it to be visible for more than twenty miles in daylight with good weather (given its height above water). But it's also not "obvious" even in that photograph, and certainly not obvious when it's simply a tower on a promontory a nautical mile away. Even in that photo, it's a landscape detail and not necessarily the central focus of the shot.

Here's another example, this one a view of Paris from the top of Montparnesse. The Eiffel Tower is probably obvious, but can you find the Arc de Triomphe? It's definitely a fine detail,... and that's only four miles. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower itself is something like two miles away in that photo.

So the lighthouse is definitely a fine detail on the coastline at four miles distance, but should be visible. On the other hand, any sailor would take a -2000 penalty to see the lighthouse at four miles.... and a -250 penalty at a mere half mile, which makes seeing the lighthouse at any distance at all impractical.

I don't have the wherewithal to screen cap and photoshop your pic, so I can't prove it, but yes, I could locate the Arc De Triomphe in that picture. I'm just saying that I made a Knowledge (Parisian Streetwise) check, rather than Perception.


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Personally I like to extrapolate the size penalty to hide out past gargantuan size. The penalty doubles every size category you go up, and size categories go up about every 5' across a thing's space is. So with a sun being thousands on miles across it's got a penalty to hide/things have a bonus to see it of 2^[several hundred thousand]. This is, technically, just a houserule, though.


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I think the problem is that the DCs go up for every 10' but in reality it should go up a 10', 20', 40', 80', 160' and so on.

Liberty's Edge

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Hitdice wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
mechaPoet wrote:


But that kind of ties in to my original question: how serious are people about the spot-the-sun DC? How many of those posts are in earnest and how many are joking? And what the game rules leads to that question?

I'm quite serious about the lighthouse. Lighthouses are designed to be seen across huge distances, but they're by no means obvious at the range they're designed to be useful. A typical lighthouse looks like a small tower by day and a flashing light that's not really much brighter than a star at night -- and of course, when it's really needed (in bad weather) it's much harder to see through the rain and fog.

For an example of what I'm talking about, look at this photo. That lighthouse is almost certainly a standard navigational aid, marked on charts, and real-world sailors would expect it to be visible for more than twenty miles in daylight with good weather (given its height above water). But it's also not "obvious" even in that photograph, and certainly not obvious when it's simply a tower on a promontory a nautical mile away. Even in that photo, it's a landscape detail and not necessarily the central focus of the shot.

Here's another example, this one a view of Paris from the top of Montparnesse. The Eiffel Tower is probably obvious, but can you find the Arc de Triomphe? It's definitely a fine detail,... and that's only four miles. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower itself is something like two miles away in that photo.

So the lighthouse is definitely a fine detail on the coastline at four miles distance, but should be visible. On the other hand, any sailor would take a -2000 penalty to see the lighthouse at four miles.... and a -250 penalty at a mere half mile, which makes seeing the lighthouse at any distance at all

...

I think the point was you'll need to check to see it - it took me 5 seconds are so to find it, and it doesn't jump out, so it's definitely not obvious. Is it fine detail? If so, it's impossible to spot in Pathfinder. If it's counted as not fine detail, then it's always visible. And we want to see something (well the light it emits) from 5x that distance - surely it would be a fine detail by then, if the Arc de Triomphe is already so close to fine at 4 miles? :)


Kazaan wrote:
People are conflating noticing something obvious with noticing fine detail. There is no DC nor perception check to see something obvious. Perception checks only apply to noticing fine detail. The moon in the night sky is not a "fine detail". A more down to Earth example would be that seeing an obvious mountain off in the distance is not a "fine detail" so a perception check is not needed to know that it's there; but noticing a person climbing said mountain, or maybe a campfire on said mountain, would be a fine detail. So any argument on nearby celestial objects being "functionally invisible due to their distance" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding (or dysunderstanding, in some cases) of how the rules for Perception work.
thejeff wrote:
Except of course that "fine detail" is completely undefined. At what range, for example, does a person become a fine detail? Or a colossal Titan? Or a dragon in flight?

This brings up another side of the issue: looseness with the language bound very much so to tightness of language.

d20pfsrd version.
PRD version.

Quote:

Your senses allow you to notice fine details and alert you to danger. Perception covers all five senses, including sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

<snip>

Perception is also used to notice fine details in the environment. The DC to notice such details varies depending upon distance, the environment, and how noticeable the detail is. The following table gives a number of guidelines.

---------------------------------------
Detail - - - - - - - - - DC
Hear the Sound of Battle - - - - -10
Notice the Stench of Rotting Garbage -10
Detect the Smell of Smoke - - - - 0
Notice a visible creature - - - - 0
<snip>
Determine if food is spoiled - - - 5
<snip>
Notice a Pickpocket - - - - - - - - Opposed by Sleight of Hand
---------------------------------------
Perception Modifiers - - - - DC Modifier
Distance to Source, object, - - - - - - +1/10 feet
or creature
Through a closed door - - - - - - - - - +5
Through a wall - - - - - - - - - - - - - +10/foot of thickness
<snip>

In the mess noted above, we've a bunch of different things going on.

First of all, notice the previously-quoted "fine detail" - a term that isn't spelled out for us, at all, you'll note. This is a fair argument, but there are a host of examples given to us in the text below it.

First, "hear the sound of battle" is pretty daggum obvious, and it's got a -10 to the Perception check... indicating that there is, in fact, a perception check for it.

The stench of rotting garbage is certainly not trying to hide - instead, it's pretty obvious and out there for everyone to experience, but still has a DC associated with it.

Detecting the smell of smoke is a DC 0. Fairly standard.

Notice a visible creature... provides serious issues.
- What if that creature is trying to Stealth? This is covered in the part of the rules above; you oppose their stealth check. But... does this trump those rules? No? So we've got to be talking about a visible creature who is not stealthing. There is a DC 0 Perception. That's... hard to fail. Until you take in the penalties (see below).
- What if that creature is behind a wall? Are they visible? Probably not... but they aren't, technically, invisible, either. The game probably presumes the "obvious" use of visible/not visible dichotomy instead of visible/invisible dichotomy (which, in game terms, are a different pair of states), but it's not clear within the text as-written. One curious effect of the vis/not vis. interpretation, is that the penalty to perceptions behind walls begins to apply to vision, as well, which, given that Perception explicitly applies to all of your senses, actually makes sense within-text. Of course, that means that if you take the vis/invis. dichotomy, then being invisible means you're not able to be perceived (which renders the bonus to Stealth useless), sooooo... problems either way.
- What if that creature is behind something translucent - what do they count as?

But let's presume the most plain of plain English. So a visible creature is a DC 0. The untrained average person couldn't notice a batter player from the outfield seats.

This ignores the absurd sun problem and ties directly into the text. What does "fine detail" mean? It's pretty liberally mixed with "just plain detail" which, in and of itself, is weirdly variable between similar and dissimilar things to notice.

English is already a bit of a tricky beast to wrangle at the best of times, but the blending of clear in-game language with non-clear out-of-game language when covering the same thing blurs the lines... but it's not always the developer's fault, either, given that our language isn't commonly used to handle situations that folks in such a highly magic-charged PF environment would. Still, it only adds to the issues, if one applies things too literally.


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Arcaian wrote:
Hitdice wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
mechaPoet wrote:


But that kind of ties in to my original question: how serious are people about the spot-the-sun DC? How many of those posts are in earnest and how many are joking? And what the game rules leads to that question?

[...]

Here's another example, this one a view of Paris from the top of Montparnesse. The Eiffel Tower is probably obvious, but can you find the Arc de Triomphe? It's definitely a fine detail,... and that's only four miles. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower itself is something like two miles away in that photo.

[...]
I think the point was you'll need to check to see it - it took me 5 seconds are so to find it, and it doesn't jump out, so it's definitely not obvious. Is it fine detail? If so, it's impossible to spot in Pathfinder. If it's counted as not fine detail, then it's always visible. And we want to see something (well the light it emits) from 5x that distance - surely it would be a fine detail by then, if the Arc de Triomphe is already so close to fine at 4 miles? :)

Yes, that's basically it exactly. Stripped of the hyperbole about the sun, the Arc de Triomphe is basically what Pathfinder should be trying to model; it's a very large (Colossal) object that is demonstrably visible (as seen from the photograph) over a distance of miles, even if you need to sit there and "Where's Wally" it for a few seconds. At least three people on this thread have confirmed that they can see it in the photo, and it's not even like you need to "take 20" or use a magnifying glass (+2 bonus for masterwork tools).

This means, in turn, that the effective DC for seeing such an object at such a distance should be no more than 20 or so, so an ordinary person with of ordinary skill can do it. Even if you want to argue that "well, everyone on this board is a Pathfinder player and hence has superpowers," ... well, all right, the net DC shouldn't be more than 30 or so, because while we may have superpowers, we're not all artillery spotters or military pilots.

But a four mile distance imposes, as I said, a roughly -2000 (that's minus two thousand) penalty.

Loren is right. If you remember high school geometry and similar triangles, an object twice as far away looks half as large, so the penalty should be logarithmic, not linear. An object four miles away, then, would have taken about 12 levels of penalty (10, 20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640, 1280, 2560, 5120, 10240, 20480 feet) and so should be roughly DC 0, with a +16 bonus for Colossal size and a -12 penalty for distance, meaning anyone can see it.

In this specific case, I'd apply an ad-hoc circumstance penalty not because of distance, but because the confusing Paris skyline provides effective camouflage -- but even with an additional -10 penalty, you still need only roll a 6 (+16 bonus, -22 net penalty) to hit DC 0 and find it. If the Arc were standing alone in the middle of an empty Kansas prairie, it would be even easier to find.

By contrast, following the rules-as-written, what possible bonuses can anyone come up with to justify offsetting a -2000 distance penalty that will make it possible to accomplish what so many people on this thread have demonstrably already done?


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Tacticslion wrote:
But let's presume the most plain of plain English. So a visible creature is a DC 0. The untrained average person couldn't notice a batter player from the outfield seats.

Not that you really needed this, but I just wanted to chime in and confirm your math. The batter is at least 210 feet away (-21 penalty) and is a DC 0 task to see as per the table. Without a Wisdom bonus and/or skill ranks, I will only hit a -1 even if I take 20.

... which is broken, as has been pointed out by many people.

Sovereign Court

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Orfamay Quest, the idea of a logarithmic penalty for distance is excellent! I may just have to steal that for my games, so ta :)


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Leandro Garvel wrote:
Orfamay Quest, the idea of a logarithmic penalty for distance is excellent! I may just have to steal that for my games, so ta :)

You're welcome, although I hasten to point out that Loren mentioned it first. If you're going to use it, I'd recommend raising the penalty (-2 per increment) as a -1 per increment probably goes too far in the other direction, and people on Montparnasse could not only see you as an individual person standing on the Eiffel Tower, but they could see whether or not you had your shirt properly tucked in.

One way to scale it is that a distance penalty of -20 goes from "can't miss seeing it" to "almost can't see it at all." A penalty of -10 goes from "50/50" to "almost can't see it at all."

A person with "normal" vision can see objects approximately one-tenth the size a person at the edge of "legally blind" can, which we can roughly approximate as "can't actually see." So the difference between 10 and 100 feet, for example, should be roughly a -10 penalty. The -2 penalty per increment captures that nicely.


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I was not aware that the Sun/moon had hellcat stealth.

Here I thought perception checks were " made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action."

One might argue that A giant Ball of flame in the sky that lights up the world each day MIGHT fall under "observable stimuli"
Especially when you face directly at it... it hurts your eyes.

This math of "perception by distance"

Might make more sense if you were trying to pinpoint a Fire elemental who was chilling out on the sun.


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Tacticslion wrote:

This brings up another side of the issue: looseness with the language bound very much so to tightness of language.

d20pfsrd version.
PRD version.
...
In the mess noted above, we've a bunch of different things going on.

First of all, notice the previously-quoted "fine detail" - a term that isn't spelled out for us, at all, you'll note. This is a fair argument, but there are a host of examples given to us in the text below it.

First, "hear the sound of battle" is pretty daggum obvious, and it's got a -10 to the Perception check... indicating that there is, in fact, a perception check for it.

The stench of rotting garbage is certainly not trying to hide - instead, it's pretty obvious and out there for everyone to experience, but still has a DC associated with it.

Detecting the smell of smoke is a DC 0. Fairly standard.

Notice a visible creature... provides serious issues.
- What if that creature is trying to Stealth? This is covered in the part of the rules above; you oppose their stealth check. But... does this trump those rules? No? So we've got to be talking about a visible creature who is not stealthing. There is a DC 0 Perception. That's... hard to fail. Until you take in the penalties (see below).
- What if that creature is behind a wall? Are they visible? Probably not... but they aren't, technically, invisible, either. The game probably presumes the "obvious" use of visible/not visible dichotomy instead of visible/invisible dichotomy (which, in game terms, are a different pair of states), but it's not clear within the text as-written. One curious effect of the vis/not vis. interpretation, is that the penalty to perceptions behind walls begins to apply to vision, as well, which, given that Perception explicitly applies to all of your senses, actually makes sense within-text. Of course, that means that if you take the vis/invis. dichotomy, then being invisible means you're not able to be perceived (which renders the bonus to Stealth useless), sooooo... problems either way.
- What if that creature is behind something translucent - what do they count as?

But let's presume the most plain of plain English. So a visible creature is a DC 0. The untrained average person couldn't notice a batter player from the outfield seats.

This ignores the absurd sun problem and ties directly into the text. What does "fine detail" mean? It's pretty liberally mixed with "just plain detail" which, in and of itself, is weirdly variable between similar and dissimilar things to notice.

English is already a bit of a tricky beast to wrangle at the best of times, but the blending of clear in-game language with non-clear out-of-game language when covering the same thing blurs the lines... but it's not always the developer's fault, either, given that our language isn't commonly used to handle situations that folks in such a highly magic-charged PF environment would. Still, it only adds to the issues, if one applies things too literally.

Again, "fine detail" is a floating point that is highly subjective; it would add several pages to the rulebook, pages that can easily be substituted with a modicum of common sense, to procedurally define what constitutes "fine detail" and what doesn't. But I'll give some cliff-notes here. Hearing the sound of battle as a perception check isn't an absolute case. You don't need to make a DC check to hear the sound of battle when you're in battle; the sound is all around you and impossible to miss. That isn't a "DC 0 check", it's a "DC -- check". This is analogous to the difference between a caster who can cast 0 spells at a given level vs -- spells at a given level. But if you're in a noisy countryside tavern, enjoying a drink, a fight going on up the road would be a fine detail. At a certain point, there's a threshold between you being close enough, and the ambient noise being low enough, that the sound of battle transitions from being "fine detail" to "obvious", but getting it down to the exact square is not significantly important. The GM can just decide circumstantially which category it falls into.

Seeing a visible person standing right in front of you is obvious, not fine detail. But noticing them in a crowd is a fine detail and the crowd would impart unfavorable conditions (or terrible, if crowded enough) upon the check. Noticing them a good distance away would be a fine detail, but, again, at a certain distance threshold and also a certain environmental threshold, it can shift between being "obvious" and "fine detail". Even the rules for perception state that all the base DCs and modifiers given are "guidelines". But that doesn't change the fact that seeing something obvious requires no perception check. Now, if you really wanted to hammer out how close you need to get, on a clear, normal light day, before the guy standing in the road goes from being a DC 0 + modifiers check to "obvious", I'd say that depends on the character, but base it on the spot where a take-10 perception check on their part would exactly equal the DC (with distance modifiers. So, if 10 + perception bonus for that character is 18, that accounts for a DC 0 check + 18 worth of distance modifiers (we're assuming that distance is the only confounding factor) which means that this character needs a perception check to notice the guy standing in the road out past 180 feet, but closer than that, it becomes obvious, rather than fine detail. This, of course, presumes that they are attentive while walking; if they are reading a book or talking on their cell phone, you might presume a lower DC or even that they could not succeed if they are completely oblivious to their surroundings.

I said it before and I'll say it again, the rule book should not try to "define" the threshold between "obvious" and "fine detail" because there are so many subjective factors, it would do nothing but add tedium to the game. Use your common sense to decide when the moon in the sky is an obvious sight and when it's obscured, by various factors, to the point where it would take a perception check to notice whether or not it's visible or where it might be hiding. I already gave examples of considerations.

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