About Perception/Insight Checks...

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Ok, this mechanic hasn't been FULLY clarified to me, never in the story of roleplaying games... And that's maybe because I'm not very intuitive :/

Let's say I hide a key on a bookshelf, inside a book, and the Insight Throw requires a DC 25 to find it. My player tells me he wants to check on the Bookshelf, and rolls the die, and the result with his modifier is 20. Ok, good, he didn't find it... But what if he says... "I want to try it again!"?

Ok, I re-roll, he gets 23, and fails. And then he says "Ok, let's try once more!"... and he rolls 22...

I ask because this happened last night and they were stuck for about an hour looking dor the dang key, so much they got bored. They made like... 10 Die rolls per bookshelf, and they had the worst luck on the world. And I mean, I even tought about changing the key's hidespot but then, what's the point of hiding stuff? -.-

What should I do?  
If the people take a good amount of time to search an area, you can say they find the key. No roll.
If the characters have unlimited time to search, why not treat the check as a "20"? Add modifiers to the 20 roll and see if it beats the DC.

If the characters have a few minutes to look around, why not make it a "Take 10" roll.

I'm not too fond of trying the same skill over and again, or having all the characters try it.
I usually allow one roll, you're hard pressed and need to move on? Make a check.
You have a few minutes to look around? Take 10.
You have an hour or unlimited time? Take 20.
You want to help another character? The most skilled character rolls, the others can "help another" to give him/her +2.

Just my 2cp
Consider that maybe there is no point in hiding stuff.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

First, if finding the key is the only way to proceed then you hid the key too well.  In the future, in this type of scenario make finding the key to unlock the door a path that bypasses potential threats but if they do not find it there is always a "more dangerous" path they can follow. Or decrease the difficulty so that finding the key is easier

Second, I agree with Yokel and SanClown - taking 10 or 20 is what speeds up the "re-trying" method.

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RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
Second, I agree with Yokel and SanClown - taking 10 or 20 is what speeds up the "re-trying" method.

I agree.

If there's no time pressure, then they find it. If there is time pressure, then let them take the risk and reroll.

In general, don't roll unless failure would be interesting, such as when something is attempted in combat, or when failure looks like success but with a twist.

Put another way:
Before you call for a roll, visualize two things:
1. Success.
2. Failure.
If either one of those seems uninteresting, don't call for a roll.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

DMG p.41: "Unless the characters are under a time constraint, assume that they’re going to roll a 20 eventually, and use the best possible Perception check result for the party. (Effectively, this result equals the best passive Perception check +10.) Assume the characters spend a minute or two searching, and move on to tell them what they find."
Ok, let's put an example. Let's say they just killed all the demon maids and butlers on the Main Hall,and no other threats are arround, so they have all the time in the world to search for the Three Coins they need to complete a Puzzle. I hid a coin inside an urn, another one between the logs of the chimney, and the last one is on the corpse of a Demon Butler. Should I tell them they found the 3 coins? Or wait till' they tell me where to look and then give them the coins without a roll?

Instead of tellign them they've found three coins right away because they can take their sweet time, you could encourage them to explore the room a bit by listing some specific objects.


"In this room, you see the corpses of your slain foes. It also contains a bizarre-looking painting, a fireplace, a suit of armor, an urn underneath a portrait and a finely-crafted carpet."


These cues would prompt your players to search these elements, getting them to interact with the environment a bit. The coin is found by simply inspecting the element; no roll required. After a while of doing this, they might start looking for stuff on their own, without any cues. However, to be honest, I haven't really used this method much, so I can't say how effective this is.

Consider that maybe there is no point in hiding stuff.



I tend to agree with Centauri here, unless there is a specific reason for something to be hidden, that it is in effect part of the encounter, there's no point other than to say "After a few minutes searching you find a key hidden in a book."

Now, there are games which reward players for searching every nook and cranny, but those tend to be extra items and treasure, not "can't go into the next room without this item" items.

Ok, let's put an example. Let's say they just killed all the demon maids and butlers on the Main Hall,and no other threats are arround, so they have all the time in the world to search for the Three Coins they need to complete a Puzzle. I hid a coin inside an urn, another one between the logs of the chimney, and the last one is on the corpse of a Demon Butler. Should I tell them they found the 3 coins? Or wait till' they tell me where to look and then give them the coins without a roll?

If they have all the time in the world, then they find it. Rolling to find things is only interesting if there's an interesting cost or mode of failure. Take the same scenario, but now the maids and butlers are also searching for the coins. They will find one each round after the first round, and the one who finds it will flee, protected by the rest.

Also, the building is on fire, and the room is rapidly filling with smoke. It will become unsearchable in 5 rounds, and uninhabitable in 7 rounds.

There are 5 hiding places in the room. Three are obvious, but only two coins are hidden in those. Two are non-obvious and can each be realized with a Hard Perception check, which can be attempted once per turn. The third coin is in one of these.

The enemies do not make Perception checks, and obtain the coins from the obvious hiding places in rounds two and three. They will obtain the coin from the non-obvious hiding place one round after any PC realizes the non-obvious hiding place with the coin.

Once all the coins have been obtained, by either side, the remaining demon butlers and maids retreat.

So, now they're welcome to make as many Perception checks as they want, but while they're at it they're being attacked, and if they take too long, they might fail. Or they can try to kill all the enemies, and maybe even succeed at that, at which point they can find the coins, unless the fire has progressed too far. Chances are good that the PCs will lose at least one coin. This might prompt a chase or a heist scenario. Losing all the coins should be a set back, but ideally they didn't need the coins, having them just would make the adventure easier.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy


Instead of tellign them they've found three coins right away because they can take their sweet time, you could encourage them to explore the room a bit by listing some specific objects.


"In this room, you see the corpses of your slain foes. It also contains a bizarre-looking painting, a fireplace, a suit of armor, an urn underneath a portrait and a finely-crafted carpet."


These cues would prompt your players to search these elements, getting them to interact with the environment a bit. The coin is found by simply inspecting the element; no roll required. After a while of doing this, they might start looking for stuff on their own, without any cues. However, to be honest, I haven't really used this method much, so I can't say how effective this is.




This is good advice.

Items should only be hidden in the details. That is to say, if something is hidden somewhere, make sure the players are told what it is hidden in up front as part of the description. Do not omit items that have legitimate relevance to the players.

An important facet of this is not ONLY listing things that contain items or what-have-you...you also need to put in some red herrings. These red herrings, however, do not need to be useless as they can contain facets of lore or other things of interest.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Consider that maybe there is no point in hiding stuff.



I tend to agree with Centauri here, unless there is a specific reason for something to be hidden, that it is in effect part of the encounter, there's no point other than to say "After a few minutes searching you find a key hidden in a book."

Now, there are games which reward players for searching every nook and cranny, but those tend to be extra items and treasure, not "can't go into the next room without this item" items.




This is also good advice.

Think of things like Super Mario Bros 3 (an example of a near-perfect game and probably the best game of its time)...things you need to continue are NEVER hidden in the game. Things to excel (flight leafs, mushrooms, etc) are sometimes concealed but their concealment is typically obvious (? blocks) while a small minority of them will be hidden more obscurely (like in plain blocks). It is only the REALLY hidden items that are difficult to find...and they are NEVER necessary to continuing, they are just hidden bonuses and special items (like the Whistles, etc).

This is a good way to think when you are designing things. The required should almost be so obvious as to bash the players over the head (this can be literal if it's a magic weapon being wielded by a foe!), the Nice But Not Necessary should be "hidden" but require little effort to discover and the Not Necessary At All But A Neat Bonus can be hidden in much stranger ways or can require some hoops and such to get through. These three levels let you reward Play, Engagement and Exploration in that order.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I also agree with Centauri in that re-writing the encounter/adventure to include complications makes hiding things more relevant. I would have put coins in different rooms, with their own traps or challenges, if the players preferred moving at their own pace.


Heh, I've just been reminded of the piano in Super Mario 64. The first time you meet it, it's like "Cool, there's a red coin here! I'll just go ahead an- HOLY****THEPIANOISALIVEANDITHASTEETHANDITMAKESAHORRIBLESOUND!!!"

Ok, this mechanic hasn't been FULLY clarified to me, never in the story of roleplaying games... And that's maybe because I'm not very intuitive :/

Let's say I hide a key on a bookshelf, inside a book, and the Insight Throw requires a DC 25 to find it.



It should be a perception check to find the key.