Should characters be aware of the quality of perception checks?


Advice

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To start, I hope this is an advice topic, my apologies if it isn't!

This conundrum came up at our table: the group is making perception checks while exploring a dungeon. Pretty bad perception checks. Having already been victim to some traps, we continue making checks until one of us has a decent roll (whether it meets any trap DCs or not, we couldn't say) and continue on through the dungeon in this manner.

At a certain point, our GM gets a bit fed up. He is insistent that using perception in this manner is metagaming. While we haven't actively been roleplaying our checks, I counter with a real world example: Detective Schmoe investigates a lot of crime scenes. For whatever reason, on this particular day, he is pretty distracted and unfocused and does a pretty shoddy job of investigating. Nevertheless, he doesn't feel too good about his search, and reexamines the scene.

Similarly, adventurers do a lot of visual investigating. I feel like they would be aware of when they do a poor job of it, but my GM does not agree. From that point until today, he has made all our perception checks in secret. Which is totally okay, but the underlying issue still bugs me.

TL; DR Should PCs have any kind of awareness of how well they've made a perception check? Care to share your opinions on the matter, or if you've even encountered this problem?

Thanks for any input!


If they want to waste time looking and looking and looking, just let them.
Let them take-20 and waste a whole minute for each look.


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Terronus wrote:

This conundrum came up at our table: the group is making perception checks while exploring a dungeon. Pretty bad perception checks. Having already been victim to some traps, we continue making checks until one of us has a decent roll (whether it meets any trap DCs or not, we couldn't say) and continue on through the dungeon in this manner.

Unless the group is actively searching, the GM should have them make the perception check when the trap is set off.

If the group is purposefully trying to be away of traps, as a GM, I would offer them to pick one of three options.

- Take 10 option for regular movement (non combat only)
- Take 20 option for an exhaustive, time consuming search (non combat only)
- Roll PER once when they encounter the trap (combat or non-combat)


It is also perfectly acceptable for the GM to make these kinds of roles and keep the result secret from the players.

Your character would be aware how good they are in general and likely of any modifiers to the roll (distance and things like that) but they wouldn't be aware of the luck that causes them to do well on one roll and not on another (baring luck type abilities of course).

Detective Schmoe doesn't realize that as he was looking over the scene he got distracted when Sergeant Smith coughed and missed the piece of paper in the corner. He doesn't know that he rolled a 1.

Now, he reasonably may after looking over the scene and not seeing anything go back and examine it again, believe that criminals are not perfect and they must have left some sort of clue, but he would do this because he didn't find anything, not because he rolled a 1. He would look again even if he had rolled a 20 on the first roll (in which case he still wouldn't find anything, even if he took a long time to go over every detail).

In my games I generally don't roll the perception for the players, but my players also try to roll again when they roll bad.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

As a player, I say No. The roll is the roll, the outcome is what my character perceives. If the GM says my character detects no traps, then I make my character proceed as if he trusts his senses.

It drives me a little crazy when I roll low on PER and report back that there's nothing of interest, then another player or two go to "double check" but if I roll high, they don't do that.


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Ideally, the GM should be rolling perception checks for the players.

On the other hand, if the game isn't too serious, "Wait, I think I just failed a Spot check" has a long and storied tradition.


I think you could call for a Wisdom check to guess the quality of their Perception check.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Terronus wrote:
To start, I hope this is an advice topic, my apologies if it isn't!

Depends, what are you actually asking for?

Are you asking how the Pathfinder system treats the making and repetition of Perception checks? If so, it should be in Rules Questions.

Are you asking for suggestions on how to achieve table harmony on the subject? Advice is probably fine.

Are you asking for ways to modify how Perception checks work in order to bring them in line with how your table likes to play? Then we should be in Suggestions/Houserules/Homebrew.

I'll wait for clarification from you before giving an answer, but in the meantime, I've got further questions for you:
Why hasn't anyone been taking 10?
Why hasn't anyone been taking 20?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The easiest way to address this, in my experience, is for the GM to hand out notecards at the beginning of the session, ask the players to pre-roll the secret rolls, and record them on the cards. Just say "I need you each to give me 20d20 on this card." Also have the players provide a couple modifiers - perception, sense motive, etc. on the card for reference. As rolls are utilized, the GM just crosses them off in order.

I understand where your GM is coming from. Some players tend to metagame the hell out of some rolls and Perception is the biggest offender, by far. That said, the downside here is that you have to trust your GM enough to not "dramatically" pick the garbage rolls out of order. Sometimes, that's a big problem for a group. It all depends.


Detective Schmoe feeling off once in a while and giving things another look makes sense. But only once in a while. Detective Schmoe being methodical and liking to double or triple check things makes sense too.. but in that case he'd roll again after getting nat 20s too.

But doing it constantly and whenever you get bad rolls definitely feels metagamey. You walk into a room, see nothing of interest, but you don't intrinsically know that you didn't spot the weird disturbances in the dust near one of the walls and so you should start checking again. You didn't see anything.


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The PC's shouldn't know they got a 1 on the dice roll. I think if you keep rolling until you get a high roll it is metagaming.


Jiggy wrote:


I'll wait for clarification from you before giving an answer, but in the meantime, I've got further questions for you:
Why hasn't anyone been taking 10?
Why hasn't anyone been taking 20?

I think what I was really seeking is some sort of advice on the in-game implications of perception and how to handle it out of game, as well. So table harmony is probably the best fit! In this particular case, 10s and 20s were not allowed because-- being in a dungeon-- the GM ruled we were in danger.

wraithstrike wrote:
The PC's shouldn't know they got a 1 on the dice roll. I think if you keep rolling until you get a high roll it is metagaming.

I don't think it was any of the players' intent to metagame for desired results (I know it was not my intent). It really boiled down to the use of perception specifically, but I'll try to clarify a bit further.

If I roll really poorly on a perform or acrobatics check, there is a tangible result of that roll in-game. I fall on my face or the crowd boos, for example. I agree the PC's would never be aware of a 1 on any roll, but they would know if they did poorly. Even in the case of a really skilled character just rolling poorly, they would know they could do much better.

There is no such consequence for a poor perception check, though, so the issue was whether or not a character even realized they searched or examined something poorly. There is an absence of a result, rather than an actual result.

Dave Justus was kind enough to give a good example of outside circumstances affecting such a roll, which would be excellent flavor for a failed check. In fact, our group does this frequently. On a failed knowledge roll, I might describe my character as preoccupied with something that previously occurred, not just as a dummy, heh.

I hope that might better clarify the intent of my discussion and what I, specifically, am looking for. It was advice on the nature of perception, not so much a means for achieving a successful roll.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Terronus wrote:
Jiggy wrote:


I'll wait for clarification from you before giving an answer, but in the meantime, I've got further questions for you:
Why hasn't anyone been taking 10?
Why hasn't anyone been taking 20?
I think what I was really seeking is some sort of advice on the in-game implications of perception and how to handle it out of game, as well. So table harmony is probably the best fit! In this particular case, 10s and 20s were not allowed because-- being in a dungeon-- the GM ruled we were in danger.

*blinks*

Okay. The GM wants the game to be all about swingy d20 results, so if the goal is table harmony, then "What does a Perception result look like?" is an irrelevant question. Either you convince the GM that, at a fundamental level it's okay for actions to be resolved by something other than a single d20 roll, or you simply do things his way, roleplay opportunities be damned.

This isn't a matter of how he envisions Perception working, this is a matter of how he believes the game is meant to be played.

Quote:

If I roll really poorly on a perform or acrobatics check, there is a tangible result of that roll in-game. I fall on my face or the crowd boos, for example. I agree the PC's would never be aware of a 1 on any roll, but they would know if they did poorly. Even in the case of a really skilled character just rolling poorly, they would know they could do much better.

There is no such consequence for a poor perception check, though, so the issue was whether or not a character even realized they searched or examined something poorly. There is an absence of a result, rather than an actual result.

It's academic at this point, but Perception might be a skill where (in my opinion) it's hard to self-evaluate, because the act of making the check does not itself produce anything observable. When you use Diplomacy, you're talking, and you can hear and react to your own word choice. (We've all been there, amirite?) When you use Acrobatics, you're performing a physical action. But with Perception (and perhaps also with Knowledge?) we're just resolving whether or not you're aware of something.


Sense Motive too, Jiggy.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Heal, too, for all purposes that matter to the discussion.

You don't know if you treated a poison or disease successfully until the next save comes around, and by then the multiple roll opportunity is gone.

Knowledge is you know it or you don't. There's no, "You aren't familiar with the political motives of House Bla-Bla." "OK. I think really hard about it just to be sure." Now, if you do something to change your knowledge, like visiting a library... but again, the time for multiple tries on that original roll is gone.

Sense Motive and Perception are ways for GMs to determine how much or how well you perceive your environment.

Even Diplomacy. Your character doesn't know you rolled low, they only experience the result of the failed roll after 10 minutes of conversation.


If the GM is not allowing taking 10 and 20 then I suggest someone become the party radar(focus on getting a really high perception modifier).
I really dont like GM's not allowing take 10's, but he is the GM so all I can do is try to improve your chances at success.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Blake's Tiger wrote:
Even Diplomacy. Your character doesn't know you rolled low, they only experience the result of the failed roll after 10 minutes of conversation.

Bull. If you haven't had the experience of saying something and then immediately regretting it, you have a serious deficit of social self-awareness.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Jiggy wrote:
Blake's Tiger wrote:
Even Diplomacy. Your character doesn't know you rolled low, they only experience the result of the failed roll after 10 minutes of conversation.
Bull. If you haven't had the experience of saying something and then immediately regretting it, you have a serious deficit of social self-awareness.

Sorry, 1 minute (10 rounds) not 10 minutes.

Diplomacy wrote:

Gather Information: Using Diplomacy to gather information takes 1d4 hours of work, searching for rumors and informants.

Influence Attitude: Using Diplomacy to influence a creature’s attitude takes 1 minute of continuous interaction.
Make Request: Making a request of a creature takes 1 or more rounds of interaction, depending upon the complexity of the request.
Suggest Course of Action: at least 1 minute of continuous interaction.

Are we talking Pathfinder rules here or science? Because if we're talking Pathfinder rules, your roll represents the sum total of the conversation (including, I would gather, recovering from flubs), and the result is known after the lengthy effort is made. So, unlike real life, you don't get immediate non-verbal cues to warn you of a misstep and thus prompting a re-roll.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I make these kinds of rolls for my players. I also make Disable Device and Sense Motive checks for them, oftentimes. There are some saves I'll roll for them too,,such as the Fort save versus disease they get when they're hit by a diseased creature attack. In fact, I keep a post-it note on the inside of my screen that has all their saves, Perception, Sense Moytive, and Disable modifiers so that I don't even have to ask for them.

Some checks/rolls are, by the very act of rolling and seeing the number that appears, can be metagamey.

-Skeld


Terronus wrote:
Dave Justus was kind enough to give a good example of outside circumstances affecting such a roll, which would be excellent flavor for a failed check. In fact, our group does this frequently. On a failed knowledge roll, I might describe my character as preoccupied with something that previously occurred, not just as a dummy, heh.

That was entirely not my intent. Schmoe didn't realize that he missed a clue. Sergeant Smith coughs all the time, and usually Schmoe ignores it just fine, this time it was unlucky that it distracted him into missing something.


My solution for perception is that every player's PASSIVE detection is their perception skill + 10.

So if a player has +5 in perception they'll automatically see anything requiring a roll of 15 and under. If an enemy is lying in wake then they'll be using their stealth skill +10 to keep things fair.

However should a player ASK to search an area, then they'll get to roll.

Something else I do is keep a running sheet of my player's Perception/Sense Motive/Disable Device skills and have each player roll x5 d20s pregame. Then I'll flip a coin (keeping result a secret) to decide whether I use rolls from left to right or vice versa.

Also good for secret Fort saves when a player spends way too much time with a cheap hooker...


Rory wrote:
Unless the group is actively searching, the GM should have them make the perception check when the trap is set off.

If the group is not actively searching for traps then they do NOT get a perception check at all when they run into traps unless they have a particular rogue talent.


MeanMutton wrote:
Rory wrote:
Unless the group is actively searching, the GM should have them make the perception check when the trap is set off.
If the group is not actively searching for traps then they do NOT get a perception check at all when they run into traps unless they have a particular rogue talent.

Got a citation for that? Because the only text I am aware of that gives any indication one way or the other is the following text from the Perception Skill:

Perception Skill - Action wrote:

...

Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus.
...

Which would strongly suggest that you should automatically get a perception check. Based on that, you should almost certainly get the check before the trap gets set off, since signs of the trap would be visible before actually triggering the trap.


Snowblind wrote:
MeanMutton wrote:
Rory wrote:
Unless the group is actively searching, the GM should have them make the perception check when the trap is set off.
If the group is not actively searching for traps then they do NOT get a perception check at all when they run into traps unless they have a particular rogue talent.

Got a citation for that? Because the only text I am aware of that gives any indication one way or the other is the following text from the Perception Skill:

Perception Skill - Action wrote:

...

Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus.
...
Which would strongly suggest that you should automatically get a perception check. Based on that, you should almost certainly get the check before the trap gets set off, since signs of the trap would be visible before actually triggering the trap.

The RAW are difficult to parse out on the topic and there's been a lot of discussion. The existence of the Trap Spotter rogue talent certainly suggests that you can't normally spot a trap without actively searching for it.

As far as RAI go, James Jacob explicitly details the intention of the trap spotting rules. He states " Normally, you can't autospot traps like this. A player has to specifically state that they're looking for traps."

Now, that's not RAW. The RAW is unclear. But the RAI clearly indicates that without the Trap Spotter rogue talent you need to declare that you're searching for traps.


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What you are describing is taking 20. This is also what any detective would be doing so your point about the detective is kind of pointless. You can only take 20 when you spend the extra time, and are not in danger. If for some reason the GM does not allow taking 20 then that is something you should talk over with the GM.

If you tell the GM we are carefully searching the room that should be clear enough. If he does not get it tell him straight out you are taking 20.

For a quick search you should not know the quality of your roll just the results. Once you start rerolling you are essentially taking 20 except you are actually rolling, and not being guaranteed getting the 20. If I don’t find my keys I don’t know that I rolled a 1, I just know I did not find my keys. At that point I start searching (take 20).

If you want to be more realistic you could actually roll to see how long it takes to get the 20 instead of just taking 20 times as long. To me that would end up slowing down the game too much.


The way I handle it is to have an unimportant thing to notice when they fail the important perception check. If they roll to spot a secret door and fail then I say "you notice this there's a considerable amount of dust on the floor in this room, as though it hasn't been used in a long time." This leads them to believe they've spotted what their was to spot, even if they all rolled 5s.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

Perception checks for traps should always be done by the GM: having the GM make these takes away the silliness of retroactively trying to figure out if they were searching actively or not. Pretty soon savvy players will see the value of the Trap Spotter talent here... The Trap Spotter language specifically calls for a GM check, so I've always found it appropriate to extend that rule to active trap checks. This way the player can't search again for no good reason other than a low roll (unless he's got the Paranoid drawback, in which case I'd allow another check, but I would still not show the trap search check)

Perception checks for everything else should be done by the players as it speeds up the game.


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Not being aware of the perception check leads to some hilarious RP, as seen when a rogue told my Paladin "It looks clear to me."

While the party was being paranoid about a possible low result, I just said "Our scout told me it's clear. I stride confidently forward like a boss."

Then the trap goes off. Natural 20 on the attack roll. "I take the crit in the chest, like a boss."

Still standing afterwards.
"Ow. I lay on hands, like a boss."


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Blake's Tiger wrote:

As a player, I say No. The roll is the roll, the outcome is what my character perceives. If the GM says my character detects no traps, then I make my character proceed as if he trusts his senses.

It drives me a little crazy when I roll low on PER and report back that there's nothing of interest, then another player or two go to "double check" but if I roll high, they don't do that.

Completely agree with this.


Purple Dragon Knight wrote:

Perception checks for traps should always be done by the GM....

If the players don't metagame this is not necessary for many groups.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Every time* I see someone claim that XYZ should be done in secret by the GM, I learn a little more about the social health of the gaming community.

*With exceptions for things explicitly laid out that way in the rules, or situations where a given group simply decided communally that they prefer it that way rather than declaring it a general necessity of gaming, etc.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I usually handle situations like this by rolling a D20 myself and offsetting the player rolls by the amount of my roll (wrapping over after 20)... so if I roll a 7 then player rolls of 1, 9, and 16 become 8, 16, and 3.

I find that, even more than the possibility of 'meta gaming', the players knowing things their characters do not detracts from enjoyment of the game. If the characters should have reason to be nervous/uncertain about something then taking that uncertainty away from the players is removing the dramatic tension.

Sovereign Court

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Jiggy wrote:

Every time* I see someone claim that XYZ should be done in secret by the GM, I learn a little more about the social health of the gaming community.

*With exceptions for things explicitly laid out that way in the rules, or situations where a given group simply decided communally that they prefer it that way rather than declaring it a general necessity of gaming, etc.

Provided you can trust the GM (and if you can't that's an entirely different issue), it can actually be nicer for the players to let the GM roll in secret.

You get to enjoy the excitement of not knowing for sure how you rolled. I think there's more thrill in that than in knowing "I got a 20, if I didn't see a trap then there is no trap".

Also. if you decide you'd rather be sure and ask for a couple more rolls, you're not metagaming, either. It can be very liberating as a player not to know stuff, because then you don't have to self-censor so heavily.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Ascalaphus wrote:
Jiggy wrote:

Every time* I see someone claim that XYZ should be done in secret by the GM, I learn a little more about the social health of the gaming community.

*With exceptions for things explicitly laid out that way in the rules, or situations where a given group simply decided communally that they prefer it that way rather than declaring it a general necessity of gaming, etc.

Provided you can trust the GM (and if you can't that's an entirely different issue), it can actually be nicer for the players to let the GM roll in secret.

You get to enjoy the excitement of not knowing for sure how you rolled. I think there's more thrill in that than in knowing "I got a 20, if I didn't see a trap then there is no trap".

Also. if you decide you'd rather be sure and ask for a couple more rolls, you're not metagaming, either. It can be very liberating as a player not to know stuff, because then you don't have to self-censor so heavily.

As I alluded to in my footnote, there's a big difference between "I (and/or my table) enjoy not knowing what the roll was and feel liberated by mechanical safeguards against metagaming" and the far more commonly expressed "The GM is supposed to be rolling in secret".


For perception and sense motive, I steal a concept from 4e. They have a passive score that's based on taking 10. This is used, as should be evident from the name, for cases where somebody isn't taking an action to actively use the skill. When you are in a dungeon, you are trying to be alert for danger around you. Yes, this means that a perceptionmonkey can spot most traps and ambushes. Then again, the player spent resources to do that, so they should get the benefit of this.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If mr rogue walks up to the door and immedietly says "its safe". I wont believe him. My character will tell him to take a minute and check it out more carefully. Now if he then says its safe, ill believe him...which knowing many mr rogues might be a bad idea.


Dave Justus wrote:
Terronus wrote:
Dave Justus was kind enough to give a good example of outside circumstances affecting such a roll, which would be excellent flavor for a failed check. In fact, our group does this frequently. On a failed knowledge roll, I might describe my character as preoccupied with something that previously occurred, not just as a dummy, heh.

That was entirely not my intent. Schmoe didn't realize that he missed a clue. Sergeant Smith coughs all the time, and usually Schmoe ignores it just fine, this time it was unlucky that it distracted him into missing something.

Thank you for that clarification, sorry that I misinterpreted that!

I definitely apprrciate everyone's thoughts on the situation. The more I've thought about it after reading the responses I think there was some (unintentional) metagaming, but feel like that might have resulted in part from our group needing to hash out the concepts of skills like perception, sense motive and knowledge for a common understanding.

I'll certainly keep an eye on the thread for any more responses


My group uses hidden Perception rolls (made by GM)-reason: players have stated bluntly that they will use any and all information presented to them, including roll results.

No one thinks the GM rolling is unfair, due to the above statement. I prevent metagaming by removing it as an option.

I also change things like what monsters look like, or what they are immune to, so that the people who invested skill points to be able to identify weaknesses get to do so (on a successful roll), while the metagaming INT 3 barbarian who assumes trolls are hurt by fire (without having any skills to help him know this) don't get to metagame anymore.

We actually have Rogues in our games because of this (for the skillpoints). They are basically worshipped.

Perception isn't a physical skill with obvious results, why would the characters know they 'rolled poorly'?

They either spot the thing, or they don't. That is the information they are given.

Other things that aren't rolled by the players: disease resistance (they will find out if they are sick when the symptoms show up), slow acting poisons and so on.

Telling a player to roll dice will usually immediately result in readied actions and unusual behaviour (such as casting spells to buff)-at least in my current group. I like having them roll perception checks in town to notice odd colored cats, or a new bakery offering tasty cinnamon buns... They are starting to realize what metagaming is, and how it can be detrimental to their characters (having spent multiple rounds casting buff spells, someone eventually rolled high enough to notice the nicely made shoes on a local bum... it became a clue to solving an earlier murder, but they basically wasted about a third of their spells because of it).


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Player: "Eric the Cleric checks the bushes for hidden orcs."

GM: (rolls behind screen) "You see nothing."

----------

The player does not know if (a) there are no orcs in the bushes; or (b) the GM rolled poorly.

Alternatively, if the player makes the die roll and he rolls low, he's pretty much in the same situation. But if the player rolls high, the player is in a markedly different situation - he now knows with a flexible degree of certainty that there's actually no orcs in the bushes. That player will either control their character differently, or be forced to police themselves.

Advantage of off-screen rolls: the player is in the same position as their character. They no longer have to do the mental gymnastics of divorcing what they know from their character in order to avoid the universal infraction of metagaming.

While it is certainly true that responsible and experienced players can do this, in my view you can remove the pressure and enhance the roleplaying experience, by shifting Perception checks off-screen. It is particularly useful for novice players who struggle with the concept of metagaming or veterans with a competitive spirit.

I recognize though that you have to balance this against the countervailing factor: Players just outright plain love rolling dice. I know I do. Where possible, you want them to do it. It's how we have fun.

Open rolled Sense Motive checks are another example which really pit the player against their character unnecessarily. It is 'unfun' pretending your PC does not suspect an NPC when in fact you as the player do.


(Long-time lurker, first-time poster)

As a DM myself, I'm curious as to where the line is drawn between "secret" and "open" rolling. I, for one, am very sold on the idea. I would love to nurture that schism between the player's mind and the player's character's mind to eliminate what I dread as a DM: meta-gaming. (Shoanti mentioned "veterans with a competitive spirit." That is my group haha.) I'm always trying to cultivate that feeling of suspense and the unknown at the table, so it's a bummer when the PCs gang-pile onto a perception or sense motive check after the 1 hits the table.

However, knowing my gaming group, they would feel that their agency has been taken from them if I took it upon myself to roll checks such as perception, disable device, sense motive, etc. behind the screen. I would be decried as a tyrant attempting to railroad (the dirtiest of words at our table). They're a lovely group of power-gamers (I don't mean that facetiously) who want to maximize every encounter to their benefit since they're cognizant of the "game" element (rather than being concerned with the thematic, storytelling elements as I am) of Pathfinder. We've been playing together for nine years and they've developed the habit of rolling everything for themselves always (they're in love in their characters and dice, what can I say?).

A PC's agency is a large crux of the game and I would be afraid of denying my friends of that (of course, I know no one here is advocating stripping PCs of their choices as individuals, but simply suggesting ways of maximizing the gaming experience).

(I hope my comment is pertinent to this thread and proves somewhat useful. Otherwise, I apologize for my oversight and the redirection!)


Dysphoria_Blues wrote:

(Long-time lurker, first-time poster)

As a DM myself, I'm curious as to where the line is drawn between "secret" and "open" rolling. I, for one, am very sold on the idea. I would love to nurture that schism between the player's mind and the player's character's mind to eliminate what I dread as a DM: meta-gaming. (Shoanti mentioned "veterans with a competitive spirit." That is my group haha.) I'm always trying to cultivate that feeling of suspense and the unknown at the table, so it's a bummer when the PCs gang-pile onto a perception or sense motive check after the 1 hits the table.

However, knowing my gaming group, they would feel that their agency has been taken from them if I took it upon myself to roll checks such as perception, disable device, sense motive, etc. behind the screen. I would be decried as a tyrant attempting to railroad (the dirtiest of words at our table). They're a lovely group of power-gamers (I don't mean that facetiously) who want to maximize every encounter to their benefit since they're cognizant of the "game" element (rather than being concerned with the thematic, storytelling elements as I am) of Pathfinder. We've been playing together for nine years and they've developed the habit of rolling everything for themselves always (they're in love in their characters and dice, what can I say?).

A PC's agency is a large crux of the game and I would be afraid of denying my friends of that (of course, I know no one here is advocating stripping PCs of their choices as individuals, but simply suggesting ways of maximizing the gaming experience).

(I hope my comment is pertinent to this thread and proves somewhat useful. Otherwise, I apologize for my oversight and the redirection!)

The comment is perfectly appropriate. The golden rule is "do what's best for your table". In the game that I GM, I only hide dice rolls when the characters wouldn't know if an action succeeded or failed. Basically, a very few number of perception checks and little else. All attack rolls, etc., are out in the open.

In the game that I play, the only hidden rolls are Perception checks. Everything else is out in the open.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I currently GM exclusively via Play-by-Post. Although I make some rolls for the players for logistical reasons (that is, asking for a save and then waiting for them to post and then coming back to post the result would take DAYS just to resolve a single action, so I just roll it and move on), I don't hide the rolls.

Not only do I not hide the rolls, but thanks to how the forum dice-roller works, even the modifiers to the rolls are right there in the post. So, for instance, when I post a monster's turn in combat, I post something like this:
Claw vs Doofus: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (6) + 6 = 12, Damage: 1d6 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 4 = 9
Bite vs Spoopy: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13, Damage: 1d4 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4
Right out there for everyone to see.

Nothing broke.

Nothing. Broke.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
Dysphoria_Blues wrote:

(Long-time lurker, first-time poster)

As a DM myself, I'm curious as to where the line is drawn between "secret" and "open" rolling.

A quick rule of thumb I use is this:

1. If players are in combat or active social interaction: they roll.

2. If players are not in combat or *heavy* social interaction, such as situations they would usually take 10, the GM rolls.

*Passive* rolls done by the GM speed up the game and create realistic expectations from players, in that the world/universe cannot be cracked of its secrets via routine strolls in the street.

When in a tense combat or social situation, where the player's mind is completely focused and he's looking straight at the GM before saying, "my character does this," then leaving the fate of that player's character in the dice rolls that will immediately follow is what the game is all about.

Examples:

A) Party in a tavern drinking, shady spy watching them from the corner of the bar: passive (the party is socially 'flat-footed' as it were...)

B) Party in a meeting room with the three richest merchants in the kingdom trying to sell an artifact: active (let the player know that merchants X and Y are not fond of what he just said with terms like 'they straighten immediately, with sneers of disgust')

C) Rogue looking for traps out of combat: passive

D) Rogue looking for traps or trying to disable a mad scientist's machine DURING a combat: active (when he makes a low roll, feel free to tell the player that his character 'searches the area frantically but cannot find a seam in the floor or a trip wire')

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Dysphoria_Blues wrote:
However, knowing my gaming group, they would feel that their agency has been taken from them if I took it upon myself to roll checks such as perception, disable device, sense motive, etc. behind the screen.

I had a group that similarly wanted to roll everything themselves. That's why I developed the 'offset' methodology I described earlier. Basically, I allow the players to roll, but then I make one roll in secret and add that result to their rolls (wrapping around to 1 after 20) before adding modifiers to get the final result. That way the players are still rolling, but they can't know what the result should be based on the number they rolled.


Terronus wrote:
TL; DR Should PCs have any kind of awareness of how well they've made a perception check?

Since we're talking PC's and not just the *players*, I'd have to say: No. That's pure meta-game knowledge, something the characters could impossibly know.

However, in regards to letting the players know or not: Let them know if you want them to. As a DM, I love letting them roll their own. Because when they do roll very well or really bad and still don't notice anything... ooooh the joy. That's what keeps me in the DM chair. Honestly.


As a GM, I always assume the PCs are constantly "Taking 10" on passive skill checks (most often Perception, Sense Motive, Knowledge skills and, occasionally, Spellcraft and Survival), unless it's not possible for them to take 10 for whatever reason (e.g.: they are in combat or otherwise threatened/distracted) or the player wants to roll for whatever reason.

This doesn't include actively searching stuff, like opening a drawer to see what's inside, but OTOH, it can auto-detect traps, if the bonus is high enough.

This makes the game move faster and doesn't require the "voice tax" of forcing players to say "I look for traps.... I look for traps.... I look for traps...." over and over again. Forcing a "voice tax" simply isn't fun and doesn't add anything to the game.


Terronus wrote:
In this particular case, 10s and 20s were not allowed because-- being in a dungeon-- the GM ruled we were in danger.

The easiest way to work with this is to physically take 20. Every step pick up and roll 20 dice. No different than take 20 except it's super annoying but you couldn't call it metagaming. You're checking 20 times. I just wastes a lot of in game time which is what the take 20 rule was meant to save. As Lemmy put it, forcing a "voice tax", or in this case roll tax, isn't fun but that's what you're left with.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

graystone wrote:
Terronus wrote:
In this particular case, 10s and 20s were not allowed because-- being in a dungeon-- the GM ruled we were in danger.
The easiest way to work with this is to physically take 20. Every step pick up and roll 20 dice. No different than take 20 except it's super annoying but you couldn't call it metagaming. You're checking 20 times. I just wastes a lot of in game time which is what the take 20 rule was meant to save. As Lemmy put it, forcing a "voice tax", or in this case roll tax, isn't fun but that's what you're left with.

I did something like this once. I was playing the designated trap-search guy, and had asked ahead of time how the GM understood T20 to work (since I know folks have varied opinions and understandings of it, and I hadn't played under this GM before). There was something weird (can't remember what) about how he saw T20 working that made it not actually work.

So when I wanted to search for traps, I picked up all ten of the d20s I owned, announced "I'll spend ten move actions searching for traps at this door" and dumped the dice across my character sheet. Scanned for the highest roll, did the math, and said "My highest check is XX".

I'm not sure he ever caught on.

Sovereign Court

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So a couple of times the idea has been floated that the GM can just assume that if the players don't know they should be making a roll, the GM can assume they're passively taking 10.

That's not entirely unreasonable, and it's very streamlined. However, I do think GMs should be aware of the statistical side effects.


  • Imagine a party of five PCs who miraculously all have a +5 Perception. An NPC rogue is sneaking up on them and rolls a 16 for Stealth. If all the PCs unknowningly take 10, they the party will not notice the rogue until it's too late. However, if all of them roll (or the GM rolls in secret for all of them). the chance of none of them rolling higher than 10 is 0.5^5 = 0.03125, so a 3.125% chance of nobody noticing the rogue. Clearly, there's a big difference here.

  • Imagine the PCs in your party have a +4 +4, +4, +4 and +5 Perception modifier. They face ten hidden things each DC 15 to notice on a passive check. Every single one of them will be noticed by the last PC and none of the others, because his Perception is one higher.

  • Suppose you've decided to apply some correction for the weirdness described in the first point. You figure that giving some bonus to the PCs' Take 10 will account for having multiple "rolls". By all being on guard, they're essentially Taking Some Number Somewhat Over 10. But this time, your party's Perception skills are +0, +4, +7, +8, +14. What bonus should you give?

I'm not saying it's crazy to use the Take 10 method, but you should give some thoughts to these side effects.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Rub-Eta wrote:
Terronus wrote:
TL; DR Should PCs have any kind of awareness of how well they've made a perception check?

Since we're talking PC's and not just the *players*, I'd have to say: No. That's pure meta-game knowledge, something the characters could impossibly know.

However, in regards to letting the players know or not: Let them know if you want them to. As a DM, I love letting them roll their own. Because when they do roll very well or really bad and still don't notice anything... ooooh the joy. That's what keeps me in the DM chair. Honestly.

As a clarification to my original opinion: the character shouldn't have a sense of the roll, but they should have a sense of their own modifiers and perceivable factors that would affect the DC. E.g. My trapper has a +24 to detect humans (favored enemy), my healer has a +2 to detect anything. If they both came upon a situation where they needed to watch out for an ambush in the foggy woods, my trapper would be confident in the results of the roll as reality, but my healer wouldn't even roll and just play as though the fog was just too thick to see anything (letting the spotters in that group do the rolling).

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