Stealth vs Scent


Rules Discussion


Hi guys (and gals),

we have currently started our first adventure and immediately encountered the question on how scent is handled, especially in exploration mode as our Ranger chose a dog for his animal compenion.

And while we are fairly sure how things are handled in encounter mode using stealth (observed, hidden, undetected vs perception / seek) it all seems to come down on how to achieve and lose condition "unnoticed", respectively about senses.

After a lot of discussion and reading the respective rules section up and down it almost looks like that considering rules as written using dogs / guard dogs in Golarion is pretty much useless.

So if somebody could enlighten me about how an impresice sense like scent is used versus a concealed foe in encounter and exploration mode respectively the advantage of having such a sense while no other precise sense is impaired?

How to become "unnoticed"? How to detect/counter condition "unnoticed"?


Imprecise Senses, CRB 464 wrote:

Hearing is an imprecise sense—it cannot detect the full range of detail that a precise sense can. You can usually

sense a creature automatically with an imprecise sense, but it has the hidden condition instead of the observed condition. It might be undetected by you if it’s using Stealth or is in an environment that distorts the sense, such as a noisy room in the case of hearing. In those cases, you have to use the Seek basic action to detect the creature. At best, an imprecise sense can be used to make an undetected creature (or one you didn’t even know was there) merely hidden—it can’t make the creature observed.

Scent as an ability is an imprecise sense that automatically detects as hidden anyone who comes within range without stealth.

With stealth they have to be taking special protections against scent that they have declared and justified, or you have to have a master level stealth skill feat that makes such precautions automatic.

Using Stealth with Other Senses wrote:

The Stealth skill is designed to use Hide for avoiding visual detection and Avoid Notice and Sneak to avoid being both seen and heard. For many special senses, a player can describe how they’re avoiding detection by that special sense and use the most applicable Stealth action. For instance, a creature stepping lightly to avoid being detected via tremorsense would be using Sneak.

In some cases, rolling a Dexterity-based Stealth skill check to Sneak doesn’t make the most sense. For example, when facing a creature that can detect heartbeats, a PC trying to avoid being detected might meditate to slow their heart rate, using Wisdom instead of Dexterity as the ability modifier for the Stealth check. When a creature that can detect you has multiple senses, such as if it could also hear or see, the PC would use the lowest applicable ability modifier for the check.

So Scent ability is an automatic "I know what square you are in" ability unless the character has (1) a plausible method to defeat scent (I think there are spells and alchemical substances that accomplish this, and I wouldn't allow anything less to succeed just because a PC said so, and (2) wins a stealth vs. perception DC check as usual.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Xenocrat wrote:
Imprecise Senses, CRB 464 wrote:

Hearing is an imprecise sense—it cannot detect the full range of detail that a precise sense can. You can usually

sense a creature automatically with an imprecise sense, but it has the hidden condition instead of the observed condition. It might be undetected by you if it’s using Stealth or is in an environment that distorts the sense, such as a noisy room in the case of hearing. In those cases, you have to use the Seek basic action to detect the creature. At best, an imprecise sense can be used to make an undetected creature (or one you didn’t even know was there) merely hidden—it can’t make the creature observed.

Scent as an ability is an imprecise sense that automatically detects as hidden anyone who comes within range without stealth.

With stealth they have to be taking special protections against scent that they have declared and justified, or you have to have a master level stealth skill feat that makes such precautions automatic.

Using Stealth with Other Senses wrote:

The Stealth skill is designed to use Hide for avoiding visual detection and Avoid Notice and Sneak to avoid being both seen and heard. For many special senses, a player can describe how they’re avoiding detection by that special sense and use the most applicable Stealth action. For instance, a creature stepping lightly to avoid being detected via tremorsense would be using Sneak.

In some cases, rolling a Dexterity-based Stealth skill check to Sneak doesn’t make the most sense. For example, when facing a creature that can detect heartbeats, a PC trying to avoid being detected might meditate to slow their heart rate, using Wisdom instead of Dexterity as the ability modifier for the Stealth check. When a creature that can detect you has multiple senses, such as if it could also hear or see, the PC would use the lowest applicable ability modifier for the check.

So Scent ability is an automatic "I know what square you are in" ability unless the character has (1) a plausible...

This. Though I do think there are contexts where you can fool scent. For example, a group of my players snuck by some goblin dogs by rolling around in a goblin campsite and basically wearing their sleeping bags as clothes, thus masking their human scents with a musk the goblin dogs were used to smelling and wouldn't react to.


Xenocrat wrote:
So Scent ability is an automatic "I know what square you are in" ability unless the character has (1) a plausible...

This is not correct, as far as I can tell. At least, not for an animal companion's ability, which is imprecise scent. It tells you someone it "there", but not "where".

In an attempt to answer the original question. Imprecise scent would automatically notice that someone/something was present, triggering initiative (barring special measures taken by the hiding creature, as discussed above). However, imprecise scent does not cause the sneaking creature to lose the hidden condition.

The difference between scent and hearing from what I understand, is that someone sneaking would usually try to avoid being heard (triggering Sneak vs. Perception DC), but would not actively try to hide their smell (which would make imprecise scent automatic at detecting someone (though they would still be hidden until a Seek action is performed).


Captain Morgan wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Imprecise Senses, CRB 464 wrote:

Hearing is an imprecise sense—it cannot detect the full range of detail that a precise sense can. You can usually

sense a creature automatically with an imprecise sense, but it has the hidden condition instead of the observed condition. It might be undetected by you if it’s using Stealth or is in an environment that distorts the sense, such as a noisy room in the case of hearing. In those cases, you have to use the Seek basic action to detect the creature. At best, an imprecise sense can be used to make an undetected creature (or one you didn’t even know was there) merely hidden—it can’t make the creature observed.

Scent as an ability is an imprecise sense that automatically detects as hidden anyone who comes within range without stealth.

With stealth they have to be taking special protections against scent that they have declared and justified, or you have to have a master level stealth skill feat that makes such precautions automatic.

Using Stealth with Other Senses wrote:

The Stealth skill is designed to use Hide for avoiding visual detection and Avoid Notice and Sneak to avoid being both seen and heard. For many special senses, a player can describe how they’re avoiding detection by that special sense and use the most applicable Stealth action. For instance, a creature stepping lightly to avoid being detected via tremorsense would be using Sneak.

In some cases, rolling a Dexterity-based Stealth skill check to Sneak doesn’t make the most sense. For example, when facing a creature that can detect heartbeats, a PC trying to avoid being detected might meditate to slow their heart rate, using Wisdom instead of Dexterity as the ability modifier for the Stealth check. When a creature that can detect you has multiple senses, such as if it could also hear or see, the PC would use the lowest applicable ability modifier for the check.

So Scent ability is an automatic "I know what square you are in" ability unless the
...

So how exactly would you handle the following situation? What happens automatically regarding detection via scent and what needs to be done actively (seek vs concealment)?

The ranger and his dog enter a room containing 3 creatures?

Creature number one is out of sight but not concealed (just standing behind some curtains without much effort to hide via stealth)?

Creature number two is concealed, hiding under the bed (stealth check beat the perception DC of both ranger and dog)?

Creature number three is concealed (stealth check beat the perception DC of both ranger and dog) and under water (hiding in the bath tub)?


Iff wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
So Scent ability is an automatic "I know what square you are in" ability unless the character has (1) a plausible...

This is not correct, as far as I can tell. At least, not for an animal companion's ability, which is imprecise scent. It tells you someone it "there", but not "where".

In an attempt to answer the original question. Imprecise scent would automatically notice that someone/something was present, triggering initiative (barring special measures taken by the hiding creature, as discussed above). However, imprecise scent does not cause the sneaking creature to lose the hidden condition.

My statement is exactly correct, because as you acknowledge they would have the hidden condition, and the hidden condition means "I know what what square you are in."

Hidden, CRB 466 wrote:
A creature that’s hidden is only barely perceptible. You know what space a hidden creature occupies, but little else.

You appear to have confused Hidden with Undetected (something is hiding somewhere, but I don't know where) which is distinct from Unnoticed (no clue that anything is hiding).


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Ubertron_X wrote:

So how exactly would you handle the following situation? What happens automatically regarding detection via scent and what needs to be done actively (seek vs concealment)?

The ranger and his dog enter a room containing 3 creatures?

Creature number one is out of sight but not concealed (just standing behind some curtains without much effort to hide via stealth)?

Creature number two is concealed, hiding under the bed (stealth check beat the perception DC of both ranger and dog)?

Creature number three is concealed (stealth check beat the perception DC of both ranger and dog) and under water (hiding in the bath tub)?

1. Scent detects his square, a curtain doesn't disguise scent (unless it's a stinky curtain).

2. Scent detects his square, unless there's something masking scent underneath there his normal stealth precautions are irrelevant vs. scent.

3. Scent does not detect him, scent doesn't pass through water, so his stealth was successful.


Xenocrat wrote:

1. Scent detects his square, a curtain doesn't disguise scent (unless it's a stinky curtain).

2. Scent detects his square, unless there's something masking scent underneath there his normal stealth precautions are irrelevant vs. scent.

3. Scent does not detect him, scent doesn't pass through water, so his stealth was successful.

I presume the first two happen automatically and creature number 3 could still be deteced early on by using a successful seek action?


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Xenocrat wrote:

My statement is exactly correct, because as you acknowledge they would have the hidden condition, and the hidden condition means "I know what what square you are in."

Hidden, CRB 466 wrote:
A creature that’s hidden is only barely perceptible. You know what space a hidden creature occupies, but little else.
You appear to have confused Hidden with Undetected (something is hiding somewhere, but I don't know where) which is distinct from Unnoticed (no clue that anything is hiding).

Ah, you're right. Indeed, still getting to grips with the new terminology. Thanks for the correction.


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Ubertron_X wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:

1. Scent detects his square, a curtain doesn't disguise scent (unless it's a stinky curtain).

2. Scent detects his square, unless there's something masking scent underneath there his normal stealth precautions are irrelevant vs. scent.

3. Scent does not detect him, scent doesn't pass through water, so his stealth was successful.

I presume the first two happen automatically and creature number 3 could still be deteced early on by using a successful seek action?

I think that's how it works.

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