Scent and the Seek action


Rules Discussion


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hi everyone.

One of my players have a gnome bard with the Sensate Gnome Heritage.

I'm not sure how this imprecise scent works when used to Seek.

- Does this sense allow the character to automatically detect creatures inside the radius when he spends an action to Seek? I'm referring to the "You can usually sense a creature automatically with an imprecise sense..." in the Imprecise Senses section, and the "preventing creatures from passively noticing its presence via smell alone" in the Negate Aroma spell description. That text implies it is automatic. On the other hand, the Heritage gives a +2 circumstance bonus to Perception checks when the target is inside the Scent range, so that part implies that a check is needed... maybe I'm reading it wrong, english is not my first language.

- Wether you have to roll or not, do you still have to select a 30 ft. cone or 15 radius burst (keeping in mind that the Scent only works up to 30 ft.) when using this sense in a Seek action? Or does it function like an "aura" of sorts, detecting in a 30 ft. radius in all directions from the character's square?

- If you don't automatically detect creatures, how do you calculate the difficulty to detect a creature by smell inside the Scent range? I assume that the DC would be easy unless you take specific precautions that mask your smell or the conditions in the area prevent you from using Scent or make it difficult to use.

Is anyone else confused by this? How would you adjudicate the Sensate Gnome Heritage in your games?

Thank you.

Sensate Gnome:

Source Core Rulebook pg. 44
You see all colors as brighter, hear all sounds as richer, and especially smell all scents with incredible detail. You gain a special sense: imprecise scent with a range of 30 feet. This means you can use your sense of smell to determine the exact location of a creature. The GM will usually double the range if you’re downwind from the creature or halve the range if you’re upwind.

In addition, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to Perception checks whenever you’re trying to locate an undetected creature that is within the range of your scent.

Imprecise Senses:

Source Core Rulebook pg. 464
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:

Source Bestiary pg. 344
Scent involves sensing creatures or objects by smell, and is usually a vague sense. The range is listed in the ability, and it functions only if the creature or object being detected emits an aroma (for instance, incorporeal creatures usually do not exude an aroma).

If a creature emits a heavy aroma or is upwind, the GM can double or even triple the range of scent abilities used to detect that creature, and the GM can reduce the range if a creature is downwind.

Detecting with Other Senses:

If a monster uses a sense other than vision, the GM can adapt the variables that keep its foes from being detected to equivalents that work with the monster’s senses. For example, a creature that has echolocation might use hearing as a primary sense. This could mean its quarry is concealed in a noisy chamber, hidden in a great enough din, or even invisible in the area of a silence spell.

Using Stealth with Other Senses
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.

Seek:

Single Action
Concentrate Secret
Source Core Rulebook pg. 471You scan an area for signs of creatures or objects. If you’re looking for creatures, choose an area you’re scanning. If precision is necessary, the GM can have you select a 30-foot cone or a 15-foot burst within line of sight. You might take a penalty if you choose an area that’s far away.

If you’re using Seek to search for objects (including secret doors and hazards), you search up to a 10-foot square adjacent to you. The GM might determine you need to Seek as an activity, taking more actions or even minutes or hours if you’re searching a particularly cluttered area.

The GM attempts a single secret Perception check for you and compares the result to the Stealth DCs of any undetected or hidden creatures in the area or the DC to detect each object in the area (as determined by the GM or by someone Concealing the Object). A creature you detect might remain hidden, rather than becoming observed, if you’re using an imprecise sense or if an effect (such as invisibility) prevents the subject from being observed.

Critical Success If you were searching for creatures, any undetected or hidden creature you critically succeeded against becomes observed by you. If you were searching for an object, you learn its location.
Success If you were searching for creatures, any undetected creature you succeeded against becomes hidden from you instead of undetected, and any hidden creature you succeeded against becomes observed by you. If you were searching for an object, you learn its location or get a clue to its whereabouts, as determined by the GM.

Negate Aroma:

Spell 1
Abjuration
Source Core Rulebook pg. 354
Traditions arcane, primal
Cast Two Actions somatic, verbal
Range touch; Targets 1 willing creature
Duration 1 hour

The target loses its odor, preventing creatures from passively noticing its presence via smell alone, even if the creatures have precise or imprecise scent. A creature attempting a Perception check to Seek with scent and other senses might notice the lack of natural scent. If the target has any abilities that result from its smell, such as an overpowering scent, those abilities are also negated.Heightened (5th) The range increases to 30 feet, and you can target up to 10 creatures.


Sc8rpi8n_mjd wrote:

Hi everyone.

One of my players have a gnome bard with the Sensate Gnome Heritage.

I'm not sure how this imprecise scent works when used to Seek.

- Does this sense allow the character to automatically detect creatures inside the radius when he spends an action to Seek? I'm referring to the "You can usually sense a creature automatically with an imprecise sense..." in the Imprecise Senses section, and the "preventing creatures from passively noticing its presence via smell alone" in the Negate Aroma spell description. That text implies it is automatic. On the other hand, the Heritage gives a +2 circumstance bonus to Perception checks when the target is inside the Scent range, so that part implies that a check is needed... maybe I'm reading it wrong, english is not my first language.

- Wether you have to roll or not, do you still have to select a 30 ft. cone or 15 radius burst (keeping in mind that the Scent only works up to 30 ft.) when using this sense in a Seek action? Or does it function like an "aura" of sorts, detecting in a 30 ft. radius in all directions from the character's square?

- If you don't automatically detect creatures, how do you calculate the difficulty to detect a creature by smell inside the Scent range? I assume that the DC would be easy unless you take specific precautions that mask your smell or the conditions in the area prevent you from using Scent or make it difficult to use.

Is anyone else confused by this? How would you adjudicate the Sensate Gnome Heritage in your games?

Thank you.

** spoiler omitted **...

My understanding of it is that scent would make it so creatures within the range are made hidden (rather than undetected) automatically (barring certain methods of negation). You would still need to remove the hidden condition, and you get a bonus to to the check to do that if they are in range (again, subject to negation from things like negate aroma).


Sc8rpi8n_mjd wrote:
Is anyone else confused by this? How would you adjudicate the Sensate Gnome Heritage in your games?

Yes, our table also is confused how scent works versus the individual stealth statuses, especially unnoticed, because if you operate in between undeteced and hidden you already know something is there and probably already are in initiative.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

So I think you might be able to have creature that can't be sensed via scent, like someone with the Foil Senses feat or a water elemental while underwater. This feat would give you a bonus to the check to locate them with your other senses. (It is confusing because it only works in the range of your scent, but the feat does describe how your other senses are enhanced too.)

Sovereign Court

Usually creatures (that you can't see) will be Hidden from you if they're within the range of your imprecise scent.

Sometimes though, they'll be Undetected, for example because they used some chemicals to reduce their scent (i.e. took special measures to make their Stealth applicable to scent-based detection), or because the environment is full of other strong smells (for example, there's a fire and lots of smoke). Then you can still try to Seek to move them from Undetected to Hidden, and that's what the +2 is for.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ok, thanks a lot for the answers! This will help me a lot in establishing how to run this part of the game for my group.

However no one has told me if you think a Seek action is required (wether you have to roll or not), and the radius of the search area in that case (30 ft. aura centered on the character, 30 ft. cone or 15 ft. radius as specified in the action).

Also, in case you have to roll to detect a creature, how would you calculate the difficulty? For the purposes of this question, assume that the target doesn't have a special ability or feat that allows to roll Stealth as usual (as specified by Captain Morgan).

Sovereign Court

Sc8rpi8n_mjd wrote:

Ok, thanks a lot for the answers! This will help me a lot in establishing how to run this part of the game for my group.

However no one has told me if you think a Seek action is required (wether you have to roll or not)

You normally don't need a Seek action or roll, because the rules for Imprecise Senses tell you: "You can usually sense a creature automatically with an imprecise sense, but it has the hidden condition instead of the observed condition." Automatically, meaning you don't need to take an action and don't make a roll. It's the same as hearing someone walking around who isn't trying to do so quietly. You don't need an action or roll for that either.

Sc8rpi8n_mjd wrote:
Also, in case you have to roll to detect a creature, how would you calculate the difficulty? For the purposes of this question, assume that the target doesn't have a special ability or feat that allows to roll Stealth as usual (as specified by Captain Morgan).

Well this could come up in a couple of situations:

- because the creature was taking special measures to avoid your sense of smell
- because the environment interferes with your sense of smell

If the creature is taking countermeasures, then whether you or the creature is making rolls depends on what the creature is doing. If the creature is remaining in hiding, then you have to actively Seek with your perception against it's (modified) Stealth DC. If the creature is moving around using the Sneak action, then it has to use it's (modified) Stealth to roll against your Perception DC.

Modified Stealth: this refers to the rules for detecting with other senses; "In some cases, rolling a Dexterity-based Stealth skill check to Sneak doesn’t make the most sense." Someone using scent-masking alchemical stuff might use Intelligence as their ability for Stealth instead of Dexterity for example (cuz alchemy is Crafting is Int), while someone using local plants to mask their scent might use Wisdom (cuz plants is Nature/Survival is Wis). This is vague and supposed to be up to the GM to decide what seems reasonable. The Foil Senses feat just lets a character automatically do this and keep using Dexterity.

The other case: the environment interferes with your sense of smell. In that case I'd set a DC based on the environment. For example, if the combat was taking place in the middle of a Smoke Hazard, I'd look at the hazard's level, compare that to the level based DCs table on page 503 (live by that page!) and use that as the DC to smell things masked by the smoke.


I am still not quite clear how imprecise scent works in regards to unnoticed creatures and/or out of combat which afaik tends to occur quite often.

Imagine the following situation: We are in exploration mode and a unnoticed creature has sucessfully used stealth to avoid the PC's notice (aka beat all characters perception DC's) as it wants to let the PC's pass by. It did however not undertake special precaution to mask smell. A PC with the scent imprecise sense is comming within under 30 feet. What happens?


Ubertron_X wrote:

I am still not quite clear how imprecise scent works in regards to unnoticed creatures and/or out of combat which afaik tends to occur quite often.

Imagine the following situation: We are in exploration mode and a unnoticed creature has sucessfully used stealth to avoid the PC's notice (aka beat all characters perception DC's) as it wants to let the PC's pass by. It did however not undertake special precaution to mask smell. A PC with the scent imprecise sense is comming within under 30 feet. What happens?

In PF2, out-of-combat and out of Encounter Mode are not necessarily the same thing.

The scenario you describe switches from Exploration Mode to Encounter mode. The stealth check is the creature's initiative as well as being compared to the PCs' Perception DC to determine if the creature remains unnoticed/undetected.

The PCs and this creature would then take their turns in initiative order, likely with the creature seeking to avoid the party delaying and the PCs using Stride and possibly some Seek actions to move through or explore the area, potentially having further chance at noticing the other creature but also potentially moving on with no idea there was a creature present.


thenobledrake wrote:
The scenario you describe switches from Exploration Mode to Encounter mode. The stealth check is the creature's initiative as well as being compared to the PCs' Perception DC to determine if the creature remains unnoticed/undetected.

So the creature's status would automatically change from unnoticed to undetected because of the scent ability and you would thus probably transition from Exploration mode to Encounter mode, is that what I am taking?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ubertron_X wrote:

I am still not quite clear how imprecise scent works in regards to unnoticed creatures and/or out of combat which afaik tends to occur quite often.

Imagine the following situation: We are in exploration mode and a unnoticed creature has sucessfully used stealth to avoid the PC's notice (aka beat all characters perception DC's) as it wants to let the PC's pass by. It did however not undertake special precaution to mask smell. A PC with the scent imprecise sense is comming within under 30 feet. What happens?

Based on the information presented in this thread, I think the character with Scent would automatically locate the creature (hidden condition), as you can't normally "hide" your smell.

So you transition from Exploration mode to Encounter mode, the creature rolls Stealth for initiative (and the result is compared to the Perception DCs to determine if the characters aside from the one with the imprecise Scent have detected it or not).

The characters roll for initiative using whatever skill makes sense for whatever they were doing before.

Then you proceed with the turns as normal.


I'm not sure PCs without Scent would have a chance to detect the creature unless/until the PC with Scent mentioned the creature's presence. Wouldn't the same rules apply to them as normal?

I imagine it could be like having a dog perk up, where the other party members are reacting to their ally's reaction more than anything. It'd still be Perception, but for Sense Motive rather than creature detection or Seek. And then this will tie back to how much the PC w/ Scent can say outside of their turn or before initiative.

Yet also, the ally may not want the other players/PCs to know, since that might trigger a fight maybe they're not ready for or who knows why. They might even attempt to use Deception to keep the other players from seeing that they've smelled trouble. It'd also be a cool trick to ask "Where did our Barbarian friends all go? Would think a dozen huge warriors would've had no trouble getting here by now."
Or something.


Ubertron_X wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
The scenario you describe switches from Exploration Mode to Encounter mode. The stealth check is the creature's initiative as well as being compared to the PCs' Perception DC to determine if the creature remains unnoticed/undetected.
So the creature's status would automatically change from unnoticed to undetected because of the scent ability and you would thus probably transition from Exploration mode to Encounter mode, is that what I am taking?

No, the status would not change automatically. You do not need to realize there is another creature involved to be in Encounter Mode (and some encounters don't even involve creatures).

Encounter Mode would apply, and the creature would remain unnoticed and undetected until something actually caused for it to be otherwise - such as succeeding at a Seek action against it, or physical positioning relative the creature making not noticing it impossible.


thenobledrake wrote:
Encounter Mode would apply, and the creature would remain unnoticed and undetected until something actually caused for it to be otherwise - such as succeeding at a Seek action against it, or physical positioning relative the creature making not noticing it impossible.

Again, what caused the transition if the creature is still unnoticed after the player with the scent ability comes within 30ft? If this is still the case why go into encounter mode at all? Just to alert players via metagaming that something is not fully as it seems to be instead of passing the apparently still unnoticed creature in exploration mode?

GM: *after exploring some ruins for 3h in 10min turns* You enter the room and now please roll for initiative.
Players: Is there a fight? *players do some seek checks,but in the wrong places or not rolling high enough*
GM: No.
Plyers: Is there a trap at work? *players frantically do some seek checks in the wrong places or not rolling high enough*
GM: No.
Players: Then why the hell are we in initiative order?
GM: You don't know.
Players: ...


The player w/ Scent automatically detects the invisible presence in 30'.
I thought the rules quote above clarified that?
They just can't pinpoint the target yet.

That doesn't necessarily trigger combat/Encounter Mode though, anymore than running into an NPC must. Given PC paranoia, the PC with Scent will likely initiate initiative though.


Castilliano wrote:

The player w/ Scent automatically detects the invisible presence in 30'.

I thought the rules quote above clarified that?
They just can't pinpoint the target yet.

That doesn't necessarily trigger combat/Encounter Mode though, anymore than running into an NPC must. Given PC paranoia, the PC with Scent will likely initiate initiative though.

Thats how we played our Rangers loyal companion dog. We just figured it made low level "ambushes" rather pointless (monsters hidden in small rooms) and wondered if this was right. Or rather it forced some monsters to act prematurely. However we were not certain if it really works this way.

Sovereign Court

That's basically why people get guard dogs. Because they're actually good at that.

If a sensate gnome with Imprecise Scent walks through the woods and passes by a bandit who didn't take steps to hide from scent, only the usual sight and hearing, then he's going to know where the bandit is, no roll required.

That doesn't mean fight music plays from the speakers and everyone rolls initiative. You roll initiative only when someone actually initiates a fight. If the gnome notices the scent and decides to keep quiet about it, and the bandit thinks the party is too big and stays in hiding, they just pass each other by and no fight happens.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ok so after all the information posted in this thread, I'll try to answer my initial questions:

- Does this sense allow the character to automatically detect creatures inside the radius when he spends an action to Seek?

Yes, the character automatically detects creatures inside the 30 ft. radius of the imprecise Scent. They become "hidden" to the character, wich means that it knows the square they are in, but still have to deal with the DC 11 flat check to target them, etc.

In case the character has to make a Perception roll against something inside the 30 ft. radius (because their scent is masked somehow), that is when the +2 to Perception checks from the heritage is applied, since it enhances all the gnome's senses.

- Wether you have to roll or not, do you still have to select a 30 ft. cone or 15 radius burst (keeping in mind that the Scent only works up to 30 ft.) when using this sense in a Seek action? Or does it function like an "aura" of sorts, detecting in a 30 ft. radius in all directions from the character's square?

Depends. If you can locate the creatures using the imprecise scent, that is done automatically within the 30 ft. radius. If they mask their smell but you still can use Scent, then you can roll if they are within 30 ft. of you. If they mask their smell and you have to use another sense, you should follow the standard rules for the Seek action, taking into account the +2 bonus to Perception.

- If you don't automatically detect creatures, how do you calculate the difficulty to detect a creature by smell inside the Scent range? I assume that the DC would be easy unless you take specific precautions that mask your smell or the conditions in the area prevent you from using Scent or make it difficult to use.

Refer to the general advice in the Core Rulebook for the DM to establish skill DCs. Depends a lot on the situation. For example, if the creature has a smell but is in a smell-heavy environment (for example an otyugh inside a sewer; or if there is a lot of smoke in the air), that probably requires a Perception check to locate them.

Thank you everyone for participating in the discussion!


Ubertron_X wrote:
Again, what caused the transition...

Transition from Exploration Mode to Encounter mode happens "When every individual action counts." Full stop. See page 468, first sentence, for reference.

The idea that the players need to have some indication why every individual action counts in a particular instance is a "because that's how it works in other editions/games" idea, not a "because that's how PF2 lays out it's own workings" idea.

And your lil dialogue is presuming that all these actions and checks fail... which is not necessarily going to be the case, but would certainly be the same outcome as entirely skipping the encounter.

Unless, of course, you were to do differently than the established rules suggest and not consider the encounter as having started until/unless one of the characters has done something to invalidate the stealth roll made by the creature in hiding, like walk over to a spot that has clean line of sight without the creature being able to even potentially do anything about that because initiative order isn't being followed despite every individual action having a potential impact.


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The new Shoony Heritage elaborates on this a bit.

Quote:

BLOODHOUND SHOONY

Your ancestors were famous trackers, and you carry
in your blood that same gift of the hunt. You gain a
special sense: imprecise scent with a range of 30 feet.
This means you can use your sense of smell to determine
the location of a creature, but it remains hidden
(as detailed on page 465 of the Core Rulebook). In
addition, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to Survival
checks to Track creatures that you have previously
sensed with your scent.

This indicates to me that it would be automatic within 30 feet, just like vision is automatic within line of sight. The only difference is that all creatures within 30 feet that you can't see are hidden, rather than observed, unnoticed, or undetected, unless they are intentionally using Stealth.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh, I haven't noticed that!

Thanks for the heads up Aratorin, I think it supports the conclusiones reached in this thread.

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