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Inquisitor Tremayne
11-14-2008, 10:47 AM
So game went pretty well last night, the dungeon crawl, so far, is going interestingly.

However the other issue that came up, that came up before in my game, Passive Perception checks.

Essentially, from level 1, a character gets an automatic +10 to their Perception and Insight checks, meaning there is hardly any reason to ever roll a perception or insight check unless you are trying to beat a higher DC.

Example; the 2nd level Ranger character in my game has a passive perception of 20. Meaning he could walk into every dungeon room that I had planned for this floor of the dungeon and instantly spot all the trigger plates for the traps, they had a DC of 20.

What brought this up is that he walked up to a room and said I want to search for traps but use my Passive Perception. As a matter of semantics he was taking 10, which is fine, but really this means why would anyone ever roll a perception check if they can automatically have a 10 except in the off chance they want to try to make a higher DC? And what happens if they roll lower than 10? Are they assumed to then be using their Passive check? Cause how could one be MORE perceptive when they are being Passive as opposed to being less perceptive when they are actively looking?

This also has the problem of making me, the DM, create encounters that are metagamingly over the PCs Passive checks so that they have to make a check which increases the difficulty and poses at leaset somewhat of a challenge. Now yes, some things are just going to be easier to spot than others, but a DC 20 at second level I expect to be at the very least a challenge for players. That is negated by a player who can walk into a room and instantly see where every trap is, that seems a bit much for 2nd level!

One of my players last night said that it was having a DM vs. the Players mentality, and that by increasing the DCs over the PCs passive checks meant that I was punishing the player for having a high score, whereas allowing the player to spot everything is rewarding the player. I can understand this to a point because it is similar to Star Wars Saga and the way skills are handled in that system.

Maybe it is a matter of semantics really, but the idea of a character instantly spotting things that should normally be at least challenging for a second level character bugs me.

Valdar
11-14-2008, 11:51 AM
However the other issue that came up, that came up before in my game, Passive Perception checks.

Essentially, from level 1, a character gets an automatic +10 to their Perception and Insight checks, meaning there is hardly any reason to ever roll a perception or insight check unless you are trying to beat a higher DC.

Example; the 2nd level Ranger character in my game has a passive perception of 20. Meaning he could walk into every dungeon room that I had planned for this floor of the dungeon and instantly spot all the trigger plates for the traps, they had a DC of 20.


I think the person who wrote that section of the DMG didn't quite think things through. The way I see it, passive checks are for if the NPC or effect is rolling dice- basically, someone rolls an action (be it attack, perception, stealth, bluff, or some other skill) and someone has a static defense, be it AC, Fort, Ref, Will, Passive Perception, or Passive Insight- this is the basic mechanic for the entire game. Comparing passive perception to a fixed DC isn't the way the rest of the game works, since it only has one possible result- similarly, a "contest" where both sides roll and add their bonuses, and compare the results, is also not the way the game works, since D&D doesn't have bell probability curves for determining success.

Since traps are essentially custom encounters, doing away with the passive vs. passive isn't even really a house-rule- just decide if you want the trap or the character to roll (depending on your impression of how likely your player is to metagame), and give the character or the trap the passive score accordingly.

Kalanth
11-14-2008, 02:03 PM
So game went pretty well last night, the dungeon crawl, so far, is going interestingly.

However the other issue that came up, that came up before in my game, Passive Perception checks.

Essentially, from level 1, a character gets an automatic +10 to their Perception and Insight checks, meaning there is hardly any reason to ever roll a perception or insight check unless you are trying to beat a higher DC.

Since they removed the Take a 10 / 20 option from the game I am rather strict on Passive checks. Passive Perception and Passive insight are meant for when the person is just not trying. I.E., they walk down the hallway and happen to catch light out of the corner of their eye which reveals the secret door (Perception). The judge is talking to them and his tone sends chills down the players spine, giving them the impression that the judge is lying (Insight).

I don't give the players the choice to use Passive anything. When writing the next adventure I set the Perception and Insight DC's without any notes of the players Passive scores. At the beginning of the session I get the Passives and compare them any time a Perception or Insight check comes up. That allows me to avoid the Meta-game a bit, although its not perfect. Destroy the notes on the passives after the session and you should be good to go.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-14-2008, 03:38 PM
Since they removed the Take a 10 / 20 option from the game I am rather strict on Passive checks. Passive Perception and Passive insight are meant for when the person is just not trying. I.E., they walk down the hallway and happen to catch light out of the corner of their eye which reveals the secret door (Perception). The judge is talking to them and his tone sends chills down the players spine, giving them the impression that the judge is lying (Insight).

I don't give the players the choice to use Passive anything. When writing the next adventure I set the Perception and Insight DC's without any notes of the players Passive scores. At the beginning of the session I get the Passives and compare them any time a Perception or Insight check comes up. That allows me to avoid the Meta-game a bit, although its not perfect. Destroy the notes on the passives after the session and you should be good to go.

So it doesn't bother you (or anyone else) that they are just strolling along and all of a sudden (passively); "Hey! There is a secret door there!"?

Why even bother making it a secret door if a character can Passively percieve it in the first place?

MortonStromgal
11-14-2008, 04:08 PM
So it doesn't bother you (or anyone else) that they are just strolling along and all of a sudden (passively); "Hey! There is a secret door there!"?


I don't think its "heh a secret door is there" its more of a "anyone else notice this stonework is off?" then you investigate and there is a secret door.

Farcaster
11-14-2008, 04:23 PM
I've moved this off from the "A brief critique of 4e so far..." thread, as this is a seperate topic.

Grimwell
11-14-2008, 04:56 PM
I don't think its "heh a secret door is there" its more of a "anyone else notice this stonework is off?" then you investigate and there is a secret door.

This is how I prefer to use passive checks (in any system). They catch your eye and tell you something is different or unusual, but they don't give you a total understanding of it. Just enough to draw your attention and offer you the opportunity to roll a real check to determine how much info you can glean about this passively noticed thing.

A totally real life example that sorta works:

You are walking down the street and notice a green dollar bill shaped paper on the ground as you are passing by. Your brain registers "GREEN" "RECTANGLE" "MONEY!!" and forces your active conscious to doubletake on it. So you stop and look, and perhaps pick it up. Only then do you know if it's real money or some childs plaything; let alone the dollar amount it's for.

The passive check does not allow someone to pick up on something like "Hey, there is a fifty down there, but it's Monopoly money... forget it." it just says "Was that really money down there?"

The active check sorts the difference.

boulet
11-14-2008, 05:18 PM
There's something about passive perception that puzzles me. The PCs have fixed scores for these perceptions. As a GM you're the one deciding what difficulty it is to perceive some clue. As a GM you use these clues probably with the intention to lead the PCs in a new direction and/or reveal new elements of the story. So you kind of want them to find the clue right ? Or at least you'd like them to realize that's something is hidden/forgotten there. So why bother with this passive attribute thing ?

I'm not talking of the case of determining if a group of PCs spot an ambush about to happen. In this case passive perception has an obvious use for the tactical situation to come. And the fight will happen whether the PCs spotted the sneaky orcs or not. It's really about those "optional" type of clues that I find the concept lame.

Valdar
11-15-2008, 10:36 AM
If the DM really wants the party to succeed at something, have everybody roll against the DC. Somebody will succeed. If they all fail, give them a chance to roll against a different skill.

If you want it to be a challenge, and have the game branch on success/failure, restrict it to one player- either the best or worst, depending on if one success means success or one failure means failure. If it's an arcana question, give the character with the highest arcana a shot. If the whole party is trying to sneak, hand the dice to the player with the lowest stealth. And so on.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-15-2008, 11:01 AM
This is how I prefer to use passive checks (in any system). They catch your eye and tell you something is different or unusual, but they don't give you a total understanding of it. Just enough to draw your attention and offer you the opportunity to roll a real check to determine how much info you can glean about this passively noticed thing.

A totally real life example that sorta works:

You are walking down the street and notice a green dollar bill shaped paper on the ground as you are passing by. Your brain registers "GREEN" "RECTANGLE" "MONEY!!" and forces your active conscious to doubletake on it. So you stop and look, and perhaps pick it up. Only then do you know if it's real money or some childs plaything; let alone the dollar amount it's for.

The passive check does not allow someone to pick up on something like "Hey, there is a fifty down there, but it's Monopoly money... forget it." it just says "Was that really money down there?"

The active check sorts the difference.

I am quoting you Grimwell not to pick on but because you are more descriptive with what the last few folks have been saying.

Regardless, the above scenario you present works like this game mechanics-wise...

Your Passive Perception allows you to spot the bill lying there, then either you must make another Perception check to determine what kind of bill it is or the DM simply tells you what it is. If another perception check is required, what happens when the player rolls less than 10? Do they suddenly not see the bill? Can they not make out what kind of bill it is? If the DM is going to tell you what it is, why even bother with requiring a DC to spot the thing in the first place?

I understand how Passive Perception checks should work, BUT they are very problematic and frankly nonsensical.

Maelstrom
11-15-2008, 08:03 PM
Here's my take:

Passive perception checks are "Passive." In most cases, having the players roll skill checks as they describe they are doing something is preferable, as it makes it a role playing game rather than a story.

There are two situations where Passive checks improve the story:

1) The situations where you don't want the players to know something is amiss. If you have them roll, they automatically become suspicious, and have to metagame to keep their characters doing what they were doing, knowing something nasty might happen. The passive checks prevent that... only those that have the invested ability to notice something will, while the others will suffer the consequences of not being as insightful or perceptive.

2) To speed things up. Common things like small clues or ajar doors or overheard voices can be done without a roll to keep the action moving. Simple as that. This is another way 4e keeps the action moving.

boulet
11-16-2008, 12:40 PM
To me it's just pure masochism. You planned clues and new details of your story, you spent probably a few hours figuring out cool scenes, creating new NPCs and a dynamic set of events ready to be unfold. And now you'd throw it out the window because something on a character sheet has value of x instead of x+2 ? OK you could recycle it but my point remains. You're the one who is deciding what DC is going to be the check. You know the values of the PCs passive perceptions. In the end you're the one who decide if it succeeds or not. Why would you choose the PCs fail ? To punish yourself ?

Maelstrom
11-16-2008, 02:17 PM
You're the one who is deciding what DC is going to be the check. You know the values of the PCs passive perceptions.

But why plan with the PC's perception checks in mind? You set the DC based on the difficulty and the level of the players, and let it shake out who notices. Those with invested perception/insight get rewarded, and those without it don't.

Same principle applies when they will roll... the liklihood that the low wisdom fighter will notice a hidden nook is very low whether you make it a passive or active check, while the cunning rouge would have a difficult time failing to spot it.

It sounds like overplanning to me.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-16-2008, 06:54 PM
Here's my take:

Passive perception checks are "Passive." In most cases, having the players roll skill checks as they describe they are doing something is preferable, as it makes it a role playing game rather than a story.

There are two situations where Passive checks improve the story:

1) The situations where you don't want the players to know something is amiss. If you have them roll, they automatically become suspicious, and have to metagame to keep their characters doing what they were doing, knowing something nasty might happen. The passive checks prevent that... only those that have the invested ability to notice something will, while the others will suffer the consequences of not being as insightful or perceptive.

Problematic because once one players knows the whole party usually ends up knowing.

PLUS, what if the PCs roll lower than their Passive Perception? Are they suddenly now less Perceptive?



2) To speed things up. Common things like small clues or ajar doors or overheard voices can be done without a roll to keep the action moving. Simple as that. This is another way 4e keeps the action moving.

Then why even include DCs or Passive Perception checks if the DM is going to tell the PCs the info they see and hear? Whats the point of having a secret door with a DC of 20 if a second level character can spot it passively? Why even bother? Why not just tell the PCs, "You see a door."?



To me it's just pure masochism. You planned clues and new details of your story, you spent probably a few hours figuring out cool scenes, creating new NPCs and a dynamic set of events ready to be unfold. And now you'd throw it out the window because something on a character sheet has value of x instead of x+2 ?

Yes. Because that stat on a character sheet negates any potential obstacle that has a DC equal to or less than the static number on the character sheet.


OK you could recycle it but my point remains. You're the one who is deciding what DC is going to be the check. You know the values of the PCs passive perceptions. In the end you're the one who decide if it succeeds or not.

Then you end up with a DM vs. player sort of game, where the DM is intentionally trying to make things difficult for the PCs. A DC 20 for 2nd level characters SHOULD be challenging. It should mean the PCs have to roll well/high in order to make that DC. I take issue with a 2nd level character that can instantly negate that DC 20 by simply walking into a room, or walking down the street, etc...


Why would you choose the PCs fail? To punish yourself?

Because failure is realistic. No one is all powerful 100% of the time. Granted at higher levels things become second nature to the PCs, and things with DCs of 10, 15, or 20 begin to become very easy. But that should be reserved for higher levels, not for 2nd level characters.

There is a big difference between a character taking 10 on a spot or search check vs. a PC simply walking into an area and being instantly aware of anything amiss.

Unless I can be convinced otherwise.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-16-2008, 07:02 PM
But why plan with the PC's perception checks in mind? You set the DC based on the difficulty and the level of the players, and let it shake out who notices. Those with invested perception/insight get rewarded, and those without it don't.

But why even set a DC if a player can easily see it without a roll? Then it simply becomes added descriptive text.

And lets face it, when one PC knows something the whole party does as well.


Same principle applies when they will roll... the liklihood that the low wisdom fighter will notice a hidden nook is very low whether you make it a passive or active check, while the cunning rogue would have a difficult time failing to spot it.

True but your above statement implies there is still a chance for failure, having a high Passive Perception means that the DC to notice something then becomes moot, there is no chance for failure.

The chance for failure keeps the game interesting. It is very boring to be able to simply walk around and notice everything and never have any surprises.


It sounds like overplanning to me.

It is overplanning. Why plan DCs that are lower than the Players Passive scores? It makes no sense. You would be better off to include anything with low DCs in the descriptions of the areas the PCs are in. And that is boring.

Kalanth
11-16-2008, 07:19 PM
It does not bother me in the slightest to plan out a game blind and have the players wonder down the hall and happen to notice something. It is all in the descriptions that you give them. Instead of saying, "You walk along and see a trap door in the floor," say something like, "You walk along and as you step over a particular section of the floor you feel an updraft emit from the floor." From there the player can check out the draft and you describe them finding the trap door and a hidden passage beneath them. Going along those same lines you can do passive Insight checks.

When I plan out the game, as I mentioned, I plan for the level of the players and make some things harder and some things easier. The DM should not meta game against the players while crafting the game just like the players should try not to meta game against the DM. I have a player in our party that is a Paladin / Ranger and he has both Insight and Perception trained. Thanks to him life is rather difficult in terms of hiding things, but then again that makes it fun for us as well.

As for why I go about setting the DC's it is simple, I cannot expect the party to stay together in all situations. Sometimes the events of the campaign split them up, sometimes they are placed in situations where the person with the high perception simply cannot see and the others can, and sometimes it is just because I don't know if every player will show from game to game. The paladin I mentioned before is a human, and if the party is going about and relying on the Light spell of the party wizard to illuminate things for the paladin that is one thing. However if they suddenly are enveloped by a dispell magic and the human is rendered virtually blind in an area where there is something to find then that means there is a huge point to having preset DCs.

Social situations are somewhat the same as I don't usually give them a chance to use their Passive Insight when they don't understand the language that is being spoken. While tone and inflection may be able to be discerned, without an understanding of the words the character would not be able to pick up on a lie or any misleading information. I don't use these particular examples often and generally I am relying on the expectation that all persons will be.

Is it overplanning? Sure, but just how much extra time is it really adding to put in one extra paragraph of text and a number? Generally not much.

MortonStromgal
11-17-2008, 02:37 PM
Your Passive Perception allows you to spot the bill lying there, then either you must make another Perception check to determine what kind of bill it is or the DM simply tells you what it is. If another perception check is required, what happens when the player rolls less than 10? Do they suddenly not see the bill? Can they not make out what kind of bill it is? If the DM is going to tell you what it is, why even bother with requiring a DC to spot the thing in the first place?


I'm confused :confused: why would you roll? Its a passive check, no roll GM says you notice air coming through the bricks (success)... Where you choose to go is your own accord. Now if you want to figure out if its a secret door it may or may not require a perception roll (GMs choice) depending on his/her whims. Either way PCs know there is an air passage behind the wall and they may take the time to bust through even if they don't find a secret door. In Grimwell's example you would find green paper. The GM then needs to decide does the paper look alittle bit like money or is it an excellent forgery. Excellent forgery may require another roll, a failed roll would have you believing its real money where as a success would alow you to see some odities in the bill. If its monopoly money no extra roll would be required the passive check was enough once you investigated it.

Thats how I see passive checks anyway.



There's something about passive perception that puzzles me. The PCs have fixed scores for these perceptions. As a GM you're the one deciding what difficulty it is to perceive some clue. As a GM you use these clues probably with the intention to lead the PCs in a new direction and/or reveal new elements of the story. So you kind of want them to find the clue right ? Or at least you'd like them to realize that's something is hidden/forgotten there. So why bother with this passive attribute thing ?


I'm an on the fly GM (look at my notes sometime after a session and most people will go WTF) and if I have PCs exploring a great dwarven city I may throw a secret passage back to nothing of significant story plot in. A passive check allows me to say "heh you can go this way" without the time involved in rolling. Then the PCs can choose to either continue on to the dwarven tresury or take the new passage. Now your thinking so what just hand over the clue, I could do that but maybe i want to have 1042 orcs behind the door ready to pop out if they pass by and not explore the passage.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-17-2008, 02:50 PM
I'm confused :confused: why would you roll? Its a passive check, no roll GM says you notice air coming through the bricks (success)... Where you choose to go is your own accord. Now if you want to figure out if its a secret door it may or may not require a perception roll (GMs choice) depending on his/her whims. Either way PCs know there is an air passage behind the wall and they may take the time to bust through even if they don't find a secret door. In Grimwell's example you would find green paper. The GM then needs to decide does the paper look alittle bit like money or is it an excellent forgery. Excellent forgery may require another roll, a failed roll would have you believing its real money where as a success would alow you to see some odities in the bill. If its monopoly money no extra roll would be required the passive check was enough once you investigated it.

Thats how I see passive checks anyway.

Because according to his example (and others that I have read on other message boards) a Passive Perception check is only going to give you a clue.

Well if you are given a clue it stands to reason that the player then needs to take some sort of action to glean more information OR the DM should just give them all the pertinent information to begin with.

THAT seems to be how a lot of people view Passive checks. But it's inherent flaw is that the PC is then going to take some sort of action, another check, and in that case what happens if they roll less than their passive score? OR your DM is going to give you the info anyway, and in that case why even bother with having a DC in the first place.

If that is not how you view Passive checks to work then you must view it the opposite, that your passive score gets you all necessary information. Which again brings up the issue, why even bother having a DC?

Kalanth
11-17-2008, 02:57 PM
I'm confused :confused: why would you roll? Its a passive check, no roll GM says you notice air coming through the bricks (success)... Where you choose to go is your own accord. Now if you want to figure out if its a secret door it may or may not require a perception roll (GMs choice) depending on his/her whims. Either way PCs know there is an air passage behind the wall and they may take the time to bust through even if they don't find a secret door. In Grimwell's example you would find green paper. The GM then needs to decide does the paper look alittle bit like money or is it an excellent forgery. Excellent forgery may require another roll, a failed roll would have you believing its real money where as a success would alow you to see some odities in the bill. If its monopoly money no extra roll would be required the passive check was enough once you investigated it.

Thats how I see passive checks anyway.

I completely agree here. The secondary check on perception / insight is usually not needed at all. The players noticed something questionable in passing and, unless there are specific circumstances, the players should not need a second roll at all. I would assume that if I am walking along and discover a strange breeze I would be able to investigate the breeze by the clues that have been given.

The special circumstance is well presented in the bill on the ground. A second roll to determine if the bill is a forgery is a good example of the rare times that a second roll should be made. While yes, most look at it as a clue, maybe the best way to say it is that the player gets the initial clue and is able to piece together the information based on the initial passive score. Making the players roll twice for every discovery defeats the purpose of the passive checks in the first place.

And in response to the why for the DC's I re-present the concept that the party may have split up, a player might not be present, or a particular character may not have the tools and type of vision to see or inspect the clue in that environment.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-17-2008, 03:54 PM
And in response to the why for the DC's I re-present the concept that the party may have split up, a player might not be present, or a particular character may not have the tools and type of vision to see or inspect the clue in that environment.

That is very circumstantial at best and game killing at worst. Circumstantial in that it probably isn't going to happen often. Game killing in that if it is happening often then it is a poor way to manage a broken game mechanic.

MortonStromgal
11-17-2008, 04:27 PM
B
THAT seems to be how a lot of people view Passive checks. But it's inherent flaw is that the PC is then going to take some sort of action, another check, and in that case what happens if they roll less than their passive score? OR your DM is going to give you the info anyway, and in that case why even bother with having a DC in the first place.


Because the passive and active are telling you different sets of information. The passive is giving you the general, the active is telling you a specific. If you roll bad on the active you still know the general without the specific.

Its like the knowledge checks in some of the monster manuals DC10 tells you X, DC20 gives you X & Y. Only we are gifting you the DC10 without a roll. Even if you only roll an 8 after that you still keep the X you just don't find out Y.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-17-2008, 04:58 PM
Its like the knowledge checks in some of the monster manuals DC10 tells you X, DC20 gives you X & Y. Only we are gifting you the DC10 without a roll. Even if you only roll an 8 after that you still keep the X you just don't find out Y.

If only it worked that way.

Using your example, you have set DCs of 10 for x, and 20 for Y (which is really X and Y). With a skill modifier of lets say +10, your passive check is actually 20, meaning you now get the information for DCs 10 AND 20 or you know know X and Y. Rolling in this case is pointless because, unless there is a higher DC (which their might be), your character now knows all they need to know with simply their passive score.

And I say again, what is the point of even having a DC if you are just going to give away the information anyway when a PC encounters it?

MortonStromgal
11-17-2008, 05:24 PM
Yes, if the number were in fact 10 & 20 and you had a passive of 20 you would not roll. But it doesn't matter what the numbers are here. You could have the "feel the air in the room" as DC10 and the "find the hidden door switch" as DC5,000. Its the level the GM is setting for difficulty. Another roll is only needed if the GM feels it is difficult enough to need it. It is X & Y or if you prefer X1 & X2. Getting the higher DC give you an addition of the subset of information better known as staging in other systems. Its like the initial DC is a hit and the higher DC is a crit. If the players have high enough scores to beat both the success is automatic. If they only have enough to beat the first they gain the first but must roll for a chance at the second (this does not effect the first). If they don't have enough for the first they must roll for a chance at both. But regardless its one roll, its just setting a base to go on and then asking yes or no for a subset. In the Monster Manuals they have multiple subsets depending on how well you do on a knowledge check. Rolling a 23 (or passively getting a 23) will give you the information at 10, 15 and 20. If you passively got the 23 you could roll if you roll less than 23 you still retain the 10, 15, and 20. If you rolled lets say a 31 you would get any information at 25 and 30 on top of the 10, 15 and 20 you already had.

I don't know how else to explain it better.



And I say again, what is the point of even having a DC if you are just going to give away the information anyway when a PC encounters it?
because your not always going to be giving it away... you have 3 cases

1. PCs have a passive number high enough to beat all the DCs, in this case you give it all away

2. PCs have a passive number high enough to beat some of the DCs, in this case you give some away and roll for some

3. PCs do not have a passive number high enough to beat any of the DCs, in this case you roll for all.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-17-2008, 05:51 PM
Yes, if the number were in fact 10 & 20 and you had a passive of 20 you would not roll. But it doesn't matter what the numbers are here. You could have the "feel the air in the room" as DC10 and the "find the hidden door switch" as DC5,000. Its the level the GM is setting for difficulty. Another roll is only needed if the GM feels it is difficult enough to need it. It is X & Y or if you prefer X1 & X2. Getting the higher DC give you an addition of the subset of information better known as staging in other systems. Its like the initial DC is a hit and the higher DC is a crit. If the players have high enough scores to beat both the success is automatic. If they only have enough to beat the first they gain the first but must roll for a chance at the second (this does not effect the first). If they don't have enough for the first they must roll for a chance at both. But regardless its one roll, its just setting a base to go on and then asking yes or no for a subset. In the Monster Manuals they have multiple subsets depending on how well you do on a knowledge check. Rolling a 23 (or passively getting a 23) will give you the information at 10, 15 and 20. If you passively got the 23 you could roll if you roll less than 23 you still retain the 10, 15, and 20. If you rolled lets say a 31 you would get any information at 25 and 30 on top of the 10, 15 and 20 you already had.

I don't know how else to explain it better.

I know how it works.



because your not always going to be giving it away... you have 3 cases

1. PCs have a passive number high enough to beat all the DCs, in this case you give it all away

Then the game becomes boring because there is no element of surprise and the PCs breeze through every encounter, trap, or secret door.


2. PCs have a passive number high enough to beat some of the DCs, in this case you give some away and roll for some

The issue is at level 2, a recommended DC for a Hard encounter is 15 according to the errata, this means the ranger in my group succedes 100% of the time. This also means by the time he reaches level 14 when the Hard DC bumps up to a whopping 23 his passive check will be 26, if not higher by that point.


3. PCs do not have a passive number high enough to beat any of the DCs, in this case you roll for all.

Then you are probably not having level appropriate challenges for the PCs if NONE of them can make any of the DCs.

To give you more of an example, someone at the Wizards message boards started this thread (http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1087829) where he posted this:


I have a 2nd-level human cleric with a high Wisdom score (20), Insight skill check (+11), and Perception skill check (+13).

I was reading the Insight skill (and it's errata) and it would appear that my Cleric is so damn insightful, that his Passive Insight automatically let's him detect the motives and attitudes of creatures 22nd level or lower! It also allows him to see through all illusion effects of 12th-level or lower!

With my Passive Perception he can hear somebody whispering from over 50 feet away! Or normal voices through a solid wall at the same distance! He can find tracks in mud or snow that are 4 days old, or that are fresh but have been deliberately obscured!

AND HE CAN DO ALL THIS AUTOMATICALLY WITHOUT ROLLING ANYTHING!

Um...am I missing something? :confused:

What is to keep me from passing a note to my DM informing him not to even bother asking about these kinds of things, that he should just tell me since my character is just THAT good?

MortonStromgal
11-17-2008, 06:03 PM
first off you can have case 1, 2, & 3 all in the same room for different stuff in the room and multiple times through out an adventure. As to the WOTC example... So you have a very high scoring tweeked character in one area vs an average level 12 or below illusion spell... I don't see the problem, this character will be more than challenged in other ways and you can always put a non average level 12 illusion spell up. You got someone who can see everything, invisible stalker on the celing time, someone whos got uber combat to hits, mind control them. Its all about knowing your PCs and adjusting to make it challenging without making it too difficult. Heck if I had that guy as a PC it would be awesome, he would become more paranoid than anyone else. Always hearing things never knowing when the ambush hits but knowing they are surounded.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-17-2008, 06:13 PM
As to the WOTC example... So you have a very high scoring tweeked character in one area vs an average level 12 or below illusion spell... I don't see the problem,

Did you miss the part where he said this character is level 2?

And an average level 12 illusion spell is nothing for him? Does that sound appropriate, that it takes a level 12 encounter to challenge this character?

OH! And that is all passively, without effort.

Kalanth
11-17-2008, 07:45 PM
You just have a rather close minded look at the Passive checks. It is not so much that you don't understand the use of the passive checks as it seems to be you are unwilling to understand them. I have seen many fine examples of many different ways to use them, some of which I will be using to expand the way I have been using them in my own game. Instead of looking at the solutions and deducing an answer you have attempted to shoot holes in each and every one of them. So I present you with one final solution.

Don't use them at all. Houserule out the passive scores. Taking 10 and taking 20, which was effectively the same thing in 3.5 just slightly different, is gone now. If you remove the passive scores from your game. Instead you just make the players announce that they are searching the room or checking to see if they can pick up on the mannerisms of the person they are talking to. This is a throw back to older editions, like 2nd ed, where if you did not say you were doing it then you just were not doing it. To me that sounds like the easiest way for you to handle them because it is becoming clear that convincing you otherwise is like trying to a get a bull to not charge when it spots red.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-17-2008, 09:56 PM
I would prefer not to use house rules and I am not being resistant to options to change if there are any viable solutions. Plus I have already discussed this with my players and passive checks are not going anywhere.

So here is the issue to be exact...

I created a dungeon for the PCs to explore. The first level has an entrance that split off into two corridors that led to two adjacent rooms that both had the same trap, basically a Magic Crossbow trap but modified with longswords. The traps were actually in the ceiling of the room in a far corner with a DC 25 perception check to notice, the trap would be triggered by 4 trigger plates scattered throughout the room and noticeable with a DC 20 Perception check.

What happened is the ranger character enters one room and announces that he wants a perception check but wants to use his Passive Perception score, which is 20. Meaning he walks into the room and sees all of the trigger plates in the room, pointing out all of the trigger plates (in the floor) to the rest of the party, allowing them to easily walk around or jump over the plates.

So the only way that this trap would be effective is if the DCs were higher. Even if this were included in an encounter with other opponents that could try to distract the PCs, the ranger is still going to see the trigger plates, because I believe Passive is simply that, passive. It is allowing you to be aware of what you may otherwise be unaware of, which following the game mechanic in 4e is contradictory in and of itself. For how can one ever be unaware if they have a high enough passive check? So even being "distracted" by combat if there is an element in that combat that the PC might not be aware of their passive check is going to come into play and should be compared against that other element.

So then the problem I have is the trap that I put in, its lowest DC is 20, which according to RAW should be more than a difficult challenge for the PCs. However a character was and is able to allow the party to bypass the trap simply by walking near it.

Yes I could raise the DCs, yes I could include it in an encounter, yes I could do all these things to make life more difficult for that particular player, but then there is another problem, the game becomes DM vs. players AND the DCs then become out of reach for the other players.

So now I am fleshing out the rest of the dungeon, yes I want the players to succeed, but I also want to challenge the players and allow for an element of failure...:confused:

Should the players fail? Ever?

Grimwell
11-17-2008, 10:11 PM
Should the players fail? Ever?

Ahhh, so here lies the true question that you weren't asking up front. :D

The short answer, for me, is Yes. There are many times when the PC's should have the opportunity to fail, or face very difficult odds. If the entire game is a cakewalk, I get bored.

The other side of the coin is that the players should also have times when they do automatically win, or have overwhelming odds.

Your example of the character noticing the trap's trigger plates due to a high skill... that's the reward for investing in that skill! It's OK that Character X can spot traps at a 1/4 mile distance if that's how the character was created; and you should offer that character many opportunities to be the hero and excell at spotting traps.

Not all traps are easily circumvented though, and on the rare times when the passive check won't spot the trap, the player gets a reminder that they should be on their toes despite the character's high score. Not because you are fixing the numbers as the GM, but because sometimes spotting traps is hard. No shame in that!

Finding the right balance between heroism and hard is never easy, and it varies from group to group; but that hard part (failure) needs to be there, and presented from time to time. So does the heroism (win) part. Don't sweat it.

Also, don't sweat deliberately throwing challenges in that will not be easy for your players, GM's are supposed to use their metagame knowledge to create something that is fun and challenging for their players. You aren't cooking the books, you are ensuring that there is a little suspense and action in your game. Declare victory and design a few hard traps eh?

You won't find hard and fast rules on this btw, there is a point where the rules just don't cover every situation, which is why there is a GM at the table... that's his job -- covering things that aren't easy and need interpertation and understanding.

Your point about failing checks on my example of the fallen bill... if the player were to say "I pick it up and read it." I wouldn't make them roll... they are doing enough to skip worrying over a rule. If they stand twenty yards away and try to read it, that's a roll... situational use of the rules and my own best judgement... that's key.

Maelstrom
11-18-2008, 04:34 AM
your character now knows all they need to know with simply their passive score.

I disagree with this use of passive. Every check is either passive or active. To assume that Insight and Perception are a special case of every other skill that has some kind of minimum seems like an odd interpretation to me.

Any given check can be passive or active by my interpretation, but not both (DMs choice, not the player's choice).



And I say again, what is the point of even having a DC if you are just going to give away the information anyway when a PC encounters it?

Because you give it only to those that can see (or perceive) it. In some cases it would be for flavor to include the PCs in the descriptive text (making it personal rather than just a generic narration). In other cases some characters would be affected while others are not.

Example 1: As you describe the reaction of an unimportant NPC's to a PC's question, Joe and Fred who are particularly insightful know that that NPC is trying to hide something. In game, they are the only PCs that can act on that knowledge.

Example 2: Maybe you have a short fight planned in which a creature lies in wait, attacks for just a round, then teleports away. You as a DM have 3 options:
1) An opposed skill check of the players perception vs the creature's hide skill.
2) A perception skill check against a set DC
3) Just check the passive perception of each player, those under the DC are surprised, those over are not

Personally, I'd chose 3, because regardless after the perception check there is an initiative check, and too much rolling can ruin the quick and urgent nature of this planned strike and fade attack.

Kalanth
11-18-2008, 08:04 AM
I created a dungeon for the PCs to explore. The first level has an entrance that split off into two corridors that led to two adjacent rooms that both had the same trap, basically a Magic Crossbow trap but modified with longswords. The traps were actually in the ceiling of the room in a far corner with a DC 25 perception check to notice, the trap would be triggered by 4 trigger plates scattered throughout the room and noticeable with a DC 20 Perception check.

What happened is the ranger character enters one room and announces that he wants a perception check but wants to use his Passive Perception score, which is 20. Meaning he walks into the room and sees all of the trigger plates in the room, pointing out all of the trigger plates (in the floor) to the rest of the party, allowing them to easily walk around or jump over the plates.

While, yes, he would have an idea of where they are on the floor, doing so voluntarily is not an option to the player, so to speak. It is passive, as in that is the score they get at all times when not actively searching. What I would do is in the situation is, when the Ranger enters the room, ask him what his passive perception score is. On his tell me I mention that the floor looks oddly raised in some places and on further inspection of the raised portions of the floor you notice that they are trigger plates of some kind. The actual trap is still hidden from view to the ranger at this moment. Think of it like a spot check, just without a random die roll tied to it. They spotted danger in the area and are able to discern some of it, if they want to know more about the danger they need to actively search (rolling perception). If they just want to start disarming the trigger plate’s great, but that is really the long and slow way to disarm the trap. That is an optimal point to unleash a horde of enemies at the players (especially with a magical crossbow trap that discerns the bad guys from the players). This puts a sense of danger onto the players and they may decide it to be optimal to simple charge over the trigger plates and attack or be picked off by the enemy on the far side of the trap.



Should the players fail? Ever?

Even with traps the line that describes combat should apply. Sometimes the players should be given something that they can excel at so that they can truly feel powerful. If they happen to have a high Passive perception in the party, great, the occasional moment of easy success just helps them confirm their position as powerful heroes in the world. There will be plenty of other moments in the game to challenge and confound them.

MortonStromgal
11-18-2008, 10:26 AM
Did you miss the part where he said this character is level 2?

Yes



And an average level 12 illusion spell is nothing for him? Does that sound appropriate, that it takes a level 12 encounter to challenge this character?

OH! And that is all passively, without effort.

Against 1 type of spell... My guess is he probably broke the rules in someway but its completely reasonable to tweek out against 1 type of thing. I've made 1st level rogues with disable device +12 in 3e. Because I put everything I could into it. But you know what? I have a ton of things I wasn't as good at in other areas. Its not a big deal its maximizing in one area.


What happened is the ranger character enters one room and announces that he wants a perception check but wants to use his Passive Perception score, which is 20. Meaning he walks into the room and sees all of the trigger plates in the room, pointing out all of the trigger plates (in the floor) to the rest of the party, allowing them to easily walk around or jump over the plates.


He doesn't get to pick to use his passive... If he says hes wants to look around at that point hes gone active. Via #3 of my previous example.



So the only way that this trap would be effective is if the DCs were higher. Even if this were included in an encounter with other opponents that could try to distract the PCs, the ranger is still going to see the trigger plates, because I believe Passive is simply that, passive. It is allowing you to be aware of what you may otherwise be unaware of, which following the game mechanic in 4e is contradictory in and of itself. For how can one ever be unaware if they have a high enough passive check? So even being "distracted" by combat if there is an element in that combat that the PC might not be aware of their passive check is going to come into play and should be compared against that other element.

So then the problem I have is the trap that I put in, its lowest DC is 20, which according to RAW should be more than a difficult challenge for the PCs. However a character was and is able to allow the party to bypass the trap simply by walking near it.

Yes I could raise the DCs, yes I could include it in an encounter, yes I could do all these things to make life more difficult for that particular player, but then there is another problem, the game becomes DM vs. players AND the DCs then become out of reach for the other players.


You can raise a DC without falling into DM vs PC mode. But in your particular scenario I would do the following

The ranger does infact notice something odd about the floor (your plates) not sure what it is though, and a monster comes running in. He can A. deal with the monster ignoring the odd floor or B. Examine the odd floor and get attacked. or C. come up with a cool alternative I didn't think of.

Just because he passively saw the plates doesn't mean he knows what they are for or that he knows they are plates yet.




So now I am fleshing out the rest of the dungeon, yes I want the players to succeed, but I also want to challenge the players and allow for an element of failure...:confused:

Should the players fail? Ever?

One of the most memorable fights I was ever in was one I help my wife set up. She was running a canned adventure and frustrated that it just wasn't exciting. So I sat down and worked out a room with her. The room we had yet to explore that I picked was one described as having two hanging prison things (those one man cells that the name escapes me) and a stone golum to fight. I told her we can make this much more exciting by having 4 stone statues in the room with one or two of them being golums. Now take these wonderful cells on chains and make them touch sensitive to raise. Any pressure sends them to the celling fast. Now add in a couple pressure plates that send them crashing to the floor. Our rogue noticed the pressure plates and pointed them out when the golums came to life the mage tried to climb up one of the cells and ended up squishy on the celling screaming for help. One of us got the bright idea to hit one of the pressure plates which droped our poor mage and the cell crashing to the floor. All in all the enviornment made the encounter crazy fun. And what made it alot of fun was having partial information. We new the pressure plates were there but we didnt know what they did, and the mage found out the hard way.

Sure PCs should fail sometimes, passive checks are there to give you some information. Your the GM you dont have to tell them the pressure plates are attached to the magical bow just that there are some plates there and mix it up have some be traps and some open the secret panel to the cool stuff.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-18-2008, 11:05 AM
Ahhh, so here lies the true question that you weren't asking up front. :D

The short answer, for me, is Yes. There are many times when the PC's should have the opportunity to fail, or face very difficult odds. If the entire game is a cakewalk, I get bored.

The other side of the coin is that the players should also have times when they do automatically win, or have overwhelming odds.

I agree whole-heartily!


Your example of the character noticing the trap's trigger plates due to a high skill... that's the reward for investing in that skill! It's OK that Character X can spot traps at a 1/4 mile distance if that's how the character was created; and you should offer that character many opportunities to be the hero and excell at spotting traps.

Technically the character really hasn't invested in the skill all that much. If he were not getting a free +10 to his roll passively, he would not be able to spot them and for me that is where the risk comes in, the die roll.


Not all traps are easily circumvented though, and on the rare times when the passive check won't spot the trap, the player gets a reminder that they should be on their toes despite the character's high score. Not because you are fixing the numbers as the GM, but because sometimes spotting traps is hard. No shame in that!

Then those traps that this character can't spot passively are going to be obviously above a level appropriate challenge for the party anyway, and that is unfair. Especially considering the recommended Hard DC for 2nd level characters is 15!


Finding the right balance between heroism and hard is never easy, and it varies from group to group; but that hard part (failure) needs to be there, and presented from time to time. So does the heroism (win) part. Don't sweat it.

I've never had any real problems with this before.


Also, don't sweat deliberately throwing challenges in that will not be easy for your players, GM's are supposed to use their metagame knowledge to create something that is fun and challenging for their players. You aren't cooking the books, you are ensuring that there is a little suspense and action in your game. Declare victory and design a few hard traps eh?

Even bumping up the DC to 25 (which is a Hard DC for 14th level btw) means that the other players would have to roll EXCEPTIONALLY well in order to notice whatever it is there.


You won't find hard and fast rules on this btw, there is a point where the rules just don't cover every situation, which is why there is a GM at the table... that's his job -- covering things that aren't easy and need interpertation and understanding.

I agree. But passive perception is pretty well spelled out in the PHB and covers A LOT of things.


Your point about failing checks on my example of the fallen bill... if the player were to say "I pick it up and read it." I wouldn't make them roll... they are doing enough to skip worrying over a rule. If they stand twenty yards away and try to read it, that's a roll... situational use of the rules and my own best judgement... that's key.

I agree.


I disagree with this use of passive. Every check is either passive or active. To assume that Insight and Perception are a special case of every other skill that has some kind of minimum seems like an odd interpretation to me.

They are special cases. Only Perception, Insight, Arcana, and I think Dungeoneering get the passive boost of +10. Check the PHB under Passive checks.


Any given check can be passive or active by my interpretation, but not both (DMs choice, not the player's choice).

That is your interpretation and by a strict reading of the RAW you are moving into house rule territory.


Because you give it only to those that can see (or perceive) it. In some cases it would be for flavor to include the PCs in the descriptive text (making it personal rather than just a generic narration). In other cases some characters would be affected while others are not.

I would really like to believe that when I am describing a scene and I have to reveal information to a certain player due to their passive scores that the rest of the players plug their ears and don't listen. Regardless, when one player knows it is standard practice for that character to inform the rest of the party, so within a round let's say, the rest of the party is going to know.

Yes there are special circumstances where the party might not be made aware for a few rounds.


Example 1: As you describe the reaction of an unimportant NPC's to a PC's question, Joe and Fred who are particularly insightful know that that NPC is trying to hide something. In game, they are the only PCs that can act on that knowledge.

I am now wondering if degrees of success have gone away also? I mean, lets assume unimportant NPC is going to have a low bluff as compared to the PCs high Insight. Is it just enough that the PCs beat the bluff, passively? Or should you give them more information due to their high score? Has 4e become a game of simply beat the DC and get the info? But I digress.


Example 2: Maybe you have a short fight planned in which a creature lies in wait, attacks for just a round, then teleports away. You as a DM have 3 options:
1) An opposed skill check of the players perception vs the creature's hide skill.
2) A perception skill check against a set DC
3) Just check the passive perception of each player, those under the DC are surprised, those over are not

Yes, that is how passive perception works.


Personally, I'd chose 3, because regardless after the perception check there is an initiative check, and too much rolling can ruin the quick and urgent nature of this planned strike and fade attack.

Actually no it doesn't ruin the quick planned strike and fade because the PCs that are aware are going to get their action anyway, that is if the creature was even able to roll a stealth higher than a PCs passive check. If you want a fast strike and fade to work for this enemy you need to make sure that their stealth can be higher than the PCs passive check. Otherwise they are going to spot the creature at x squares away and be prepared for it.

So see, I know there are ways to make it work, but those ways are inherently flawed according to RAW.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-18-2008, 11:11 AM
While, yes, he would have an idea of where they are on the floor, doing so voluntarily is not an option to the player, so to speak. It is passive, as in that is the score they get at all times when not actively searching. What I would do is in the situation is, when the Ranger enters the room, ask him what his passive perception score is. On his tell me I mention that the floor looks oddly raised in some places and on further inspection of the raised portions of the floor you notice that they are trigger plates of some kind. The actual trap is still hidden from view to the ranger at this moment. Think of it like a spot check, just without a random die roll tied to it. They spotted danger in the area and are able to discern some of it, if they want to know more about the danger they need to actively search (rolling perception). If they just want to start disarming the trigger plate’s great, but that is really the long and slow way to disarm the trap. That is an optimal point to unleash a horde of enemies at the players (especially with a magical crossbow trap that discerns the bad guys from the players). This puts a sense of danger onto the players and they may decide it to be optimal to simple charge over the trigger plates and attack or be picked off by the enemy on the far side of the trap.

Emphasis mine. And what is that further inspection, mechanically? Is it another perception roll? Since he isn't rushed he might as well be getting his passive perception, which is a 20 and good enough to determine what it is so why not give him that information right off the bat?



Even with traps the line that describes combat should apply. Sometimes the players should be given something that they can excel at so that they can truly feel powerful. If they happen to have a high Passive perception in the party, great, the occasional moment of easy success just helps them confirm their position as powerful heroes in the world. There will be plenty of other moments in the game to challenge and confound them.

Not if their passive scores are scaling with their level. Already at level 2 this character is beating Hard DCs for level 12 characters. Something is flawed in the game design.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-18-2008, 11:31 AM
Yes

And it isn't troubling that at second level this character is negating things that are 10 levels higher and in a different tier than the PC?



Against 1 type of spell... My guess is he probably broke the rules in someway but its completely reasonable to tweek out against 1 type of thing. I've made 1st level rogues with disable device +12 in 3e. Because I put everything I could into it. But you know what? I have a ton of things I wasn't as good at in other areas. Its not a big deal its maximizing in one area.

Yes but your 3e rogue wasn't getting a free +10 passively to his score. He could get one actively by taking 10, yes but that is still different. And it doesn't even apply in this case because we are talking about 2 different skills. But yes I am aware of the tweakability of 3.5. However, 4e is so party-centric and character power driven that you can have super focused PCs and the party will still function very well because you have powers that are still useful in combat situations.



He doesn't get to pick to use his passive... If he says hes wants to look around at that point hes gone active. Via #3 of my previous example.

Then he takes 10 and gets the same result. Or he rolls less than 10 but should get the information that his passive would give him anyway. either way he is still getting the same info, there are trigger plates there.


You can raise a DC without falling into DM vs PC mode. But in your particular scenario I would do the following

The ranger does infact notice something odd about the floor (your plates) not sure what it is though, and a monster comes running in. He can A. deal with the monster ignoring the odd floor or B. Examine the odd floor and get attacked. or C. come up with a cool alternative I didn't think of.

Just because he passively saw the plates doesn't mean he knows what they are for or that he knows they are plates yet.

I should also point out that due to me overlooking the passive rules they had already sprung the trap in another room so they had a pretty good idea of what the trigger plates did.



One of the most memorable fights I was ever in was one I help my wife set up. She was running a canned adventure and frustrated that it just wasn't exciting. So I sat down and worked out a room with her. The room we had yet to explore that I picked was one described as having two hanging prison things (those one man cells that the name escapes me) and a stone golum to fight. I told her we can make this much more exciting by having 4 stone statues in the room with one or two of them being golums. Now take these wonderful cells on chains and make them touch sensitive to raise. Any pressure sends them to the celling fast. Now add in a couple pressure plates that send them crashing to the floor. Our rogue noticed the pressure plates and pointed them out when the golums came to life the mage tried to climb up one of the cells and ended up squishy on the celling screaming for help. One of us got the bright idea to hit one of the pressure plates which droped our poor mage and the cell crashing to the floor. All in all the enviornment made the encounter crazy fun. And what made it alot of fun was having partial information. We new the pressure plates were there but we didnt know what they did, and the mage found out the hard way.

Yeah that sounds cool and I did a similar thing on that same dungeon level. In the next room after they walked around the trigger plates they found another one and heard moaning in this room. This trigger plate was different from the others and the gnome trained in thievery determined that this plate activated a secret door. SO the dragonborn promptly stepped on it and revealed 2 secret doors in which lots of zombies poured out of!


Sure PCs should fail sometimes, passive checks are there to give you some information. Your the GM you dont have to tell them the pressure plates are attached to the magical bow just that there are some plates there and mix it up have some be traps and some open the secret panel to the cool stuff.

Yes but the characters are smart and not through metagaming they can deduce what the trigger plates are for at the very least they can roll and get a better guess. Still doesn't change the fact that they easily notice them in the first place, allowing them to be wary and bypass it altogether.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-18-2008, 11:35 AM
I am sorry to beat down everyones suggestions, its just that I know if I can find a way around what you guys are describing that my players will be able to do so as well.

And if I say that the PC cannot see something then they know that the DC is higher than 20 and that very few of them have a glimmer of a chance of spotting it.

Kalanth
11-18-2008, 12:18 PM
Emphasis mine. And what is that further inspection, mechanically? Is it another perception roll? Since he isn't rushed he might as well be getting his passive perception, which is a 20 and good enough to determine what it is so why not give him that information right off the bat?

Further inspection in my games would be the player stating that they wanted to check out the abnormality closer and I would provide the flavor text. If the players wanted to hunt down the primary trigger box that would require a secondary roll against DC 25 (per your example). Why make them roll twice for something they already discovered unless you want dice to determine the characters interpretation of the discovery, and that would feel like DM vs. PC. The why to not giving it right away is because the player may not want to inspect it further as it is not their obligation. Will the majority of players look at it closer? Yes. Will all players inspect that hallway? No.

Would you just throw your hands up in a social situation and hand the players a stack of plot hook cards? I am confident the answer for you is no. There is nothing wrong with holding some of the information back and allowing the players to decide if they want to take the hook and inspect the floor further. While they are making that choice it is also a great time to spring an attack on them. Make the choice have a bit more impact on the players. Depends on how you want to rule the situation.

I used the same trap in a scenario once where the triggers were immediately behind a set of doors. The room with the trap also had several goblins in the room. The players noticed the trigger plates without much effort but they had to decide if it was better to disarm them one by one or risk the trap to deal with the monsters. Overall it made for a rather memorable combat for them and presented a welcome challenge in figuring out how to approach the situation.


Not if their passive scores are scaling with their level. Already at level 2 this character is beating Hard DCs for level 12 characters. Something is flawed in the game design.

I need to look at the DC's on things, but it might be good to revise those scores a bit. +5 to checks that require a skill, which is suggested in pre-errata versions on page 47 of the DMG (I think), might be good for you in some situations. I mentioned before that I have a Paladin / Ranger in my game that presents the same types of problems. He has Passive Perception 21 and Passive Insight 20 at level 5. He has not taken skill focus, but if he had then he would beat out almost every single perception DC so far. I don't worry about it because that was what he wanted and it allows the party to use him as a scout in their adventures. To me it adds an element of flavor to the games and makes the player feel like he has a bigger role than just attracting the enemies’ attention in fights.


Technically the character really hasn't invested in the skill all that much. If he were not getting a free +10 to his roll passively, he would not be able to spot them and for me that is where the risk comes in, the die roll.

But he has invested in the skill by at least training in the skill. Lets say he had an 18 in the primary attribute for that skill but did not train in the skill. He would have a passive of 15 at level 2 (10 + 4 ability + 1 <1/2 level>). If he trained in the skill then he should have a 20 (10 + 4 ability + 5 trained + 1 <1/2 level>) and without books available my memory says that with Skill Focus he should have 23 (10 + 4 ability + 5 trained + 3 Skill Focus + 1 <1/2 level>). Training alone is a significant focus in any skill, it is just more noticeable because of the +10 passive bonus which is, in effect, taking a 10 on a spot check.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-18-2008, 12:34 PM
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Would you just throw your hands up in a social situation and hand the players a stack of plot hook cards?

Actually the DMG suggest doing just that, except that it is a method in which the players can track which quests they are on and they are only given cards for the quests that they are on.


I am confident the answer for you is no. There is nothing wrong with holding some of the information back and allowing the players to decide if they want to take the hook and inspect the floor further. While they are making that choice it is also a great time to spring an attack on them. Make the choice have a bit more impact on the players. Depends on how you want to rule the situation.

Yeah I am aware of that.


I used the same trap in a scenario once where the triggers were immediately behind a set of doors. The room with the trap also had several goblins in the room. The players noticed the trigger plates without much effort but they had to decide if it was better to disarm them one by one or risk the trap to deal with the monsters. Overall it made for a rather memorable combat for them and presented a welcome challenge in figuring out how to approach the situation.

I am starting to think that a trap shouldn't be used on its own and should only be used as part of a larger encounter. If a trap is used on its own then it will need to be engineered so that the players MUST interact with it.


I need to look at the DC's on things, but it might be good to revise those scores a bit. +5 to checks that require a skill, which is suggested in pre-errata versions on page 47 of the DMG (I think), might be good for you in some situations. I mentioned before that I have a Paladin / Ranger in my game that presents the same types of problems. He has Passive Perception 21 and Passive Insight 20 at level 5. He has not taken skill focus, but if he had then he would beat out almost every single perception DC so far. I don't worry about it because that was what he wanted and it allows the party to use him as a scout in their adventures. To me it adds an element of flavor to the games and makes the player feel like he has a bigger role than just attracting the enemies’ attention in fights.

Yes please look, it is in the errata. What is this +5 to checks that require a skill? Why wouldn't that +5 be added into the DC already?

Actually a 20 passive check at level 5 sounds more appropriate than it does at level 2, still the player should be making every level appropriate DC.

Kalanth
11-18-2008, 12:43 PM
Yes please look, it is in the errata. What is this +5 to checks that require a skill? Why wouldn't that +5 be added into the DC already?

Actually a 20 passive check at level 5 sounds more appropriate than it does at level 2, still the player should be making every level appropriate DC.

I ripped apart the errata and took only small pieces of it. For example I still require initiative on skill challenges and generally use the chart for DC's found on page 47 because that chart is the revised errata chart +5 already.

As for your players current score, maybe you should look into their math? While you were responding to my post I was editing and adding a section regarding what the score should be based on what he might do. The reason the paladin / ranger in my group has a 21 is because he has a 19 in wisdom (+10 passive + 4 ability + 5 trained + 2 <1/2 level> = 21). It may seem high now, but it really evens out as they go because there is no other way to increase it short of half level. This paladin should cap at a passive score of 40 if he invests 1 of his bonus attribute points into wisdom as he progresses (+10 passive + 7 ability + 5 trained + 3 Skill Focus + 15 <1/2 level>). While high that is really not so bad compared to some of the DCs around that level.

Webhead
11-18-2008, 01:37 PM
There's a saying:

"An adventuring party is only as oblivious as its best Spot check and only as crafty as its worst Stealth roll."

;)

Belkar: "Wait...I think I just failed a Spot check!"

Haley: "Really? I don't see anything."

Belkar: "Exactly."

:behindsofa:

Kalanth
11-18-2008, 02:57 PM
And if I say that the PC cannot see something then they know that the DC is higher than 20 and that very few of them have a glimmer of a chance of spotting it.

Going back through I noticed this comment. One of the key things is to never actually say that they players don't see anything. Word it differently. Saying this like, "You are confident the way is clear," or "The hall is made of non-descript stone with a door at the end," helps to prevent the players from deducing they noticed nothing when there is clearly something there. It has little difference than those moments when players use their perception checks in areas that don't need a check at all. Just put on your poker face and tell them what they see. When the trap springs they will be more surprised. Afterall, the players already know there is something there if they had to roll a check or if you asked for their passive scores. At this point the question is how well they can suspend their disbelief and avoid the meta-game.

I think one of the best ways to help the situation is to deduce how much information is enough based on perception and what you want them to do to learn more. Is it enough for them to say the look closer after seeing it from the passive score or do you feel that two DC's should be set and the player would need a second roll to get more details. If a second roll is required how do you describe it if they fail? One way to do so is to tell the player that they are unable to figure out what the abnormality is and thus can't learn the purpose of it.

Determining what is best for your group is really something more specific to the people you play with. Have you talked it out with them to see how they would prefer you handled the passive perception / insight moments?

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-18-2008, 04:28 PM
Going back through I noticed this comment. One of the key things is to never actually say that they players don't see anything. Word it differently. Saying this like, "You are confident the way is clear," or "The hall is made of non-descript stone with a door at the end," helps to prevent the players from deducing they noticed nothing when there is clearly something there. It has little difference than those moments when players use their perception checks in areas that don't need a check at all. Just put on your poker face and tell them what they see. When the trap springs they will be more surprised. Afterall, the players already know there is something there if they had to roll a check or if you asked for their passive scores. At this point the question is how well they can suspend their disbelief and avoid the meta-game.

I think one of the best ways to help the situation is to deduce how much information is enough based on perception and what you want them to do to learn more. Is it enough for them to say the look closer after seeing it from the passive score or do you feel that two DC's should be set and the player would need a second roll to get more details. If a second roll is required how do you describe it if they fail? One way to do so is to tell the player that they are unable to figure out what the abnormality is and thus can't learn the purpose of it.

Determining what is best for your group is really something more specific to the people you play with. Have you talked it out with them to see how they would prefer you handled the passive perception / insight moments?

Right, I usually don't say it like that, normally I just say, "You don't notice anything."

I have discussed it with my players and they want it per RAW and I am inclined to agree with them.

The problem is that level appropriate challenges are going to be incredibly easy for them to get around by way of passive scores. I think this is a flaw in 4e design and I may discuss this with my players further and make them aware that I am going to significantly increase the DCs in an attempt to bring the DCs more in balance.

Another thing I have been thinking of doing is doing away with passive checks and allowing reactionary checks like in Star Wars Saga. Basically when something enters your line of sight you get a reactionary perception check.

I am afraid my players won't like this because as it is now they can essentially detect anything with a DC of 20 or lower, who wants that to be nerfed!?

Webhead
11-18-2008, 04:54 PM
...Another thing I have been thinking of doing is doing away with passive checks and allowing reactionary checks like in Star Wars Saga. Basically when something enters your line of sight you get a reactionary perception check.

I am afraid my players won't like this because as it is now they can essentially detect anything with a DC of 20 or lower, who wants that to be nerfed!?

Based on the (pages) of preceding anaylsis, examples and suggestions, I think this idea would be the best way to go (and probably the direction I would go were I ever to run 4e).

I am a fan of "secret checks", checks which I make for the players behind a screen or otherwise when they haven't a clue what the roll is for. This avoids the meta-game element of the "failed Spot check" where the player knows that something is up, even though his character is specifically supposed to be oblivious due to the results of the dice and thus alters his character's behavior.

If there is something that the PCs might spot, I roll a handful of dice and quietly check their totals to see if anyone is successful. If someone is, I communicate any relevant information. If none succeed, I simply move on as normal and say nothing. Of course, I roll dice off and on throughout the session so that the rolling of the dice themselves doesn't tip off that something is happening and keeps things interesting.

There's also the "pre-game roll list" method that I've used in the past and rather like. In a d20 game for instance, before the game session, just roll a d20 several times (usually 20 or 30 times is enough) and write down the results in order. Anytime a situation comes up that calls for a "secret roll", just use the top result on the sheet, apply any modifiers and mark it off. Lather, rinse, repeat. Your players are none the wiser.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-20-2008, 09:08 AM
So I went back and re-read the section on dispensing information to the players in the DMG, especially the columns on passive checks.

I am starting to get the impression that passive checks ONLY give you clues and hints regardless of how high your passive score is. If you want to take action from there you must make a roll and accept it even if it is worse than your passive score.

Kind of makes sense but also doesn't make sense. On one hand the PC can be like "hmm, there are some strange markings on the wall over there", on further inspection and a low roll the PC then thinks, "hmm, can't figure it out, sure is weird."

I think that is what they are aiming for with these passive checks.

And yes i know others have pointed this fact out before, it just didn't make sense that way, still kind of doesn't but I am more comfortable knowing that yeah you might be able to notice every little detail (passive score) but you might not be able to discern what it is on further inspection (active roll).

Webhead
11-20-2008, 10:06 AM
So I went back and re-read the section on dispensing information to the players in the DMG, especially the columns on passive checks.

I am starting to get the impression that passive checks ONLY give you clues and hints regardless of how high your passive score is. If you want to take action from there you must make a roll and accept it even if it is worse than your passive score.

Kind of makes sense but also doesn't make sense. On one hand the PC can be like "hmm, there are some strange markings on the wall over there", on further inspection and a low roll the PC then thinks, "hmm, can't figure it out, sure is weird."

I think that is what they are aiming for with these passive checks.

And yes i know others have pointed this fact out before, it just didn't make sense that way, still kind of doesn't but I am more comfortable knowing that yeah you might be able to notice every little detail (passive score) but you might not be able to discern what it is on further inspection (active roll).

Interesting idea and one I find I rather like. A character's passive perception is kind of like their general radar, "Hey, there's something over there. Should we go check it out?", at which point the character chooses to engage their more focused attention to discern the "blip" or not. In that way, even if the player follows up with an active roll that is less than their "passive" score, they still know it is there, but they weren't able to make any more sense of it than that. Just because your character perceives something doesn't necessarily mean they understand its purpose or all its details.

And as far as the sensibility of "rolling lower than your passive score"...well, as the saying goes:

"The best place to hide a letter is on the mantlepiece."

We often have the most difficult time finding the things that are right in front of our faces. Intensity of focus can often cloud our minds.

MortonStromgal
11-20-2008, 10:42 AM
And it isn't troubling that at second level this character is negating things that are 10 levels higher and in a different tier than the PC?

It doesn't bother me at all. Its only one thing, hes not better (from what you have said so far) at everything else. If you go back to AD&D the 3rd level Fighter was +8 better than the wizard at swinging a sword (To use 3e terms it was BAB for fighter +3 wizard at +0 still and a -5 for not being proficient). Niche has always been a part of D&D. Do you have anyone else with a 20 in their stat? Compare their stat to his, They are going to be significantly better at anything related to that. You have a player who put all his eggs in one basket, if hes ever separated from the party hes going to have a hard time defending against his weaknesses.

[edit] something evil and fun to do would have his perception work against him. Have no traps found the party walks though (hopefully you can get him in the back of the party) then as the party steps through have him notice a trap springing on them, hopefully he dives back for cover and a stone wall slams down in between him and the party. The rest of the party deals with some caltrops or other fairly survivable trap while he goes solo with a monster.

Inquisitor Tremayne
11-20-2008, 02:00 PM
It doesn't bother me at all. Its only one thing, hes not better (from what you have said so far) at everything else. If you go back to AD&D the 3rd level Fighter was +8 better than the wizard at swinging a sword (To use 3e terms it was BAB for fighter +3 wizard at +0 still and a -5 for not being proficient). Niche has always been a part of D&D. Do you have anyone else with a 20 in their stat? Compare their stat to his, They are going to be significantly better at anything related to that. You have a player who put all his eggs in one basket, if hes ever separated from the party hes going to have a hard time defending against his weaknesses.

[edit] something evil and fun to do would have his perception work against him. Have no traps found the party walks though (hopefully you can get him in the back of the party) then as the party steps through have him notice a trap springing on them, hopefully he dives back for cover and a stone wall slams down in between him and the party. The rest of the party deals with some caltrops or other fairly survivable trap while he goes solo with a monster.

4e has done away with the min/maxing of characters in favor of party balance. Yes it can still be done but in 4e case that character is still fairly affective in it's role. A fighter that is focused on perception is still going to be good at his defender role due to at-will, encounter, daily and utility powers; that is the benefit of 4e. Gone are the days where your character was only good at one thing or maybe 2, now you can still specialize AND be effective for the party in a combat situation. Too often in 3.5 would you have a wizard for example that had burned through all his spells and then relied on either using a bow or quarterstaff, which they would simply be rolling in the hopes of getting a 20.

You also pointed out a flaw of 4e as well, separating the party. If the party is ever separated then their survivabilty decreases significantly due to the simple fact that their character which has been designed to fill a specific role can no longer function alone, except for clerics, they might be the only one.

Either way, I think passive checks have been resolved, still wonky, but I am more at ease with them now.

Kazinsky
12-16-2008, 11:39 AM
You also pointed out a flaw of 4e as well, separating the party. If the party is ever separated then their survivabilty decreases significantly due to the simple fact that their character which has been designed to fill a specific role can no longer function alone, except for clerics, they might be the only one.

I hope this isn't thread necromancy, but I was just going back through some things.

This isn't a flaw in 4e. If anything it isn't further from the truth. 4e allows for each party member to be 10 times more resilient and effective alone than in prior editions. You don't need divine magic to heal you, you always have some effective attack to fall back on and you're typically not 1-hit killable (barring super crits with a big power on a very low-CON character).

Plus, with the amount of work that has been done with the combat mechanics in 4E and keeping that balance flowing throughout the levels, there's a good chance that a Full Defense action (+2 to all defenses) really helps you out (unless your opponent is striking at one of your lowest ACs).

Hennik
12-16-2008, 12:23 PM
Ok, here's my 2 cents, and I appologize if this has been said, but I just don't have the attention span to read through all the other redundant sayings of 5 or 6 pages of posts (I did read some, though).

When I saw what this was about I was at first irritated, as I too often have the player vs. DM mentality (no matter which I am). Though, I think that there is a healthy level of player vs. DM mentality, as it helps to promote the conflict we humans enjoy so much...I digress

I then realized (on the prompting of a post, and I appologize I dont remember who...I'm bad at looking at the authors of posts) that the goal of DnD, in many ways, is to tell a story. That being said, I think that the passive stats can be helpful to the DM as a prompting to give a hint that somehting just isnt' right, and who would see that, then when they actively search, be it for a secret door as was an example earlier, if they roll lower, then it could be that they were mistaken, we often think we see somthing out of the corner of our eyes, or think we hear something or even feel something, there are a lot of possible explanations for why we might see something with our 'passive stats' but then when we look again, it was really nothing. If they are actively searching for an enemy whos hiding in the forest, and the character rolls lower than a 10 or whatever, then that character might have been looking in the wrong direction at the time when they had the chance to notice the enemy. You're a DM, use your great creativity to help drive the telling of the story, you spent time developing it for your players, you (even if its only deep, deep down) want them to succeed because them failing means you fail, and your time is wasted.

As with all the systems, there are problems, and things that individuals will disagree with due to personal preferences, thats why any good RPG will have a paragragh somewhere in the rules that says to make up your own rules, and that they are just a guide.

-Hennik