Goodbye Passive Perception!

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After reading some other posts (the latest and best being http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1087829 )
regarding passive perception skill checks and after some long banter sessions, our group feels that the passive skill mechanic in 4.0 is more a hindrance to "fun" then anything else. Anyone else getting this feeling?

So what we are planning on doing is throwing passive perception checks right out the window and replacing it with a pseudo-type 3.5 method like this:

Whenever a player would have made a passive check under the 4.0 rules I will now instead roll a hidden "passive" check for him and if successful tell him what he sees. If my party approaches a room with a trap of DC 22 - I just roll a dice for all players who could possible spot it and see who notices it. This allows my high perception player to more likely detect stuff but also gives the other players a chance to sneak in a sighting he may miss.

When they walk past a secret door or monster hiding, the same thing. No more auto-detect anything just because you automatically get a 10 on every passive attempt.

Ah but won't they know something is up if you're rolling dice behind the screen and meta-game an active check anyway at that point.

Well possibly, but I plan on rolling the dice behind the screen quite often as a "nervous habit". However, if they see through my ruse and suspect something is up, to avoid the "roll until 20 syndrome we're enacting a house rule that limits the number or rerolls on any active checks to the ability modifier tied to the skill. In addition I'm also tossing around the idea of making each subsequent roll a +1 DC since a failed result might have the PC thinking nothing really is there.

So hopefully here's how things will change when entering a room with a DC 22 trap.

Old Way: Upon entering the room DM says, "Mr. Ranger notices the pressure plates on the floors."

New Way: Upon entering the room (DM makes 4 rolls - one player has only a 1 modifier) - everyone misses. Players are leery and want to actively check the room. The DM tells each player they can make their perception rolls. All miss again and DC goes to 23. Now only 3 players have rolls left but one is only a +2 so he's out. Remaining 2 make a roll and lo and behold the Ranger get an 11 and detects it and his partner rolls a 20 and also detects it at the same time.

Any thoughts?
How high is your ranger's passive perception that he would automatically see a DC22 trap on the floor? What level is this? At level 1, he would have to take skill focus as well as being trained and having a +4 wisdom bonus and also have a +2 misc perception bonus, in order to see that trap passively.

If he isn't insane, he'll have to be around level 10 to passively see that trap.
Any thoughts?

It sounds more complex than necessary, but you should at least try it out - it might work out just fine for your group.

I might try something more like: "When a character fails a passive skill check, he can roll a check as a free action, but he must use the rolled result instead." Either as a general rule, or perhaps as a feat or a character option of some kind.

That said, I'm not clear on why you have a problem with passive checks. If you could lay that out, I think we could all help think of how to address the problem a little bit better.
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Seems like a good straightforward approach. I haven't given up on the current mechanic yet, but it does seem a bit too... clinical and I feel a bit silly as a DM creating something that I know will either be automatically missed by everyone or automatically seen by one or more. I did like the old spot checks with a little randomness thrown in.
How high is your ranger's passive perception that he would automatically see a DC22 trap on the floor?

Um... 22? (or more) That's +12 (normal) Perception. It's not that hard to get (5 training + 3 Wis + 2 Elf = +10 right off the bat, so either level 4, or level 2 with a higher Wis).

EDIT: Or you can have it at 1st level with Skill Focus, as your edited post points out.
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Um... 22? (or more) That's +12 (normal) Perception. It's not that hard to get (5 training + 3 Wis + 2 Elf = +10 right off the bat, so either level 4, or level 2 with a higher Wis).

Hey, if that guy managed a +3 or more in wisdom, I'd just give it to him. He would have to put his 16 in wis or his 14 plus racial mods. What he suffers for that is totally worth being able to see traps like that.
Hey, if that guy managed a +3 or more in wisdom, I'd just give it to him. He would have to put his 16 in wis or his 14 plus racial mods. What he suffers for that is totally worth being able to see traps like that.

A ranger isn't suffering much for that, since Wisdom is his Secondary ability score.
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I fail to see how having a character that is supposed to be good at something fail randomly is "fun" let alone "more fun" than the character actually being good enough to notice things.

If you are wanting to add some suspense, roll for the players behind yoru screen - but use their passive scores as a minimum. Then all you have to do is set the DC for the check based on the level of challenge you are looking for... meaning you should set the DC a few levels above the party (use page 42 of the DMG for that) and to a hard difficulty if it is actually supposed to be hard to notice something.

otherwise, just leaving it as is typically allows a character to feel that investing in Perception was a good choice.

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Wouldn't it just be easier to make passive perception an automatic roll of 5 instead of 10? (i.e. house rule it 5 lower than it is). That way players can only really spot traps and such if they decide to roll percepton themselves, but on the other hand you can let them know about stuff they see even if they forget or choose not to use active perception.
A ranger isn't suffering much for that, since Wisdom is his Secondary ability score.

It's actually his tertiary stat. (third down) Dex is so much more important, even if you go with 2weapon fighting. It affects your AC and your Init and your Reflex...

Maybe if you built an archer, wisdom would be your secondary. You'd have a max of +2 in str, but you'd have a high enough wisdom that... this is worth investigating. I like this hawkeye concept and it totally makes sense that he would see the traps.
It's actually his tertiary stat. (third down)

I get that for Two-Weapon builds, but I really don't get why they suggest that for the Archery build. I've only played a "just archery" ranger, and Strength... really wasn't necessary.
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I fail to see how having a character that is supposed to be good at something fail randomly is "fun" let alone "more fun" than the character actually being good enough to notice things.

Because if there is no chance to fail then there is no suspense and hence no real reason to do it IMO. His character is good - not perfect. With the current RAW most traps he comes across he automaticcal finds them - period- if he doesnt automatically find them - then he has to know to take an active check for any chance of finding it.

If you fail to see how this detracts form the game then I suggest moving on to another thread - nothing to see here.

meaning you should set the DC a few levels above the party

Currently I would have to set the he DC at a hard 7th level for him not to detect it. That's 5 levels above him! Not to mention at that level almost no one else in the group could even actively find it.

I'm not clear on why you have a problem with passive checks.

Read the thread I linked - it clears up most of what people seem to be missing with my post.
I'd agree with other posters in this respect:

I have players in my group that have taken Skill Training (not selected as a class skill, but SKILL TRAINING as a FEAT), Skill Focus (Perception), and made sure they had a high Wisdom score despite it not being a class skill.

If I were to remove passive skill checks, that means I roll a d20 for his Perception. THAT means I could roll a '1'.

How is making a character who has invested half of his character's stats in Perception and min-maxed to never be caught off-guard, be caught off-guard, more fun?

I can't imagine telling those characters "Yeah. You didn't see or hear the half-giant walking up behind you. Luck of the dice."
"...what?"
"I rolled a 1 for you. You didn't detect the half-giant."
"But... that's all I'm good for, is hearing things. Why aren't you using the passive rules anymore?"
"Because this is more fun, when I get to ruin the facets of your character you min-maxed to get! Ruining your character at critical moments is fun, you see!"

Still. Some groups may not like passive skill checks. If everyone in your group willingly says "I don't like passive Perception and Insight checks. Remove them. Make it random" I'd say make it so: if the group agrees its more fun, use the house rule that's more fun for them.

BUT.

If the vote is NOT unanimous, you have two options: use random rolls for everyone who wants random rolls, and passive checks for the person who wants passive checks. OR, don't do it at all. In the case of ruining some people's character min-maxing, give each person the choice.

I never, ever, would use a house rule that would **** off more than 0 people in my group.
Incidentally, it's a better house rule to say "Traps require active searching" than "Passive checks don't exist."

I'd even argue it makes more sense: After all, a well-concealed, stationary, deactivated trap can't be noticed by happenstance. You have to ACTIVELY find it, so you don't hunt down traps like that.

Someone sneaking around? Passive check. Noticing a lie in a conversation? Passive check. Noticing someone standing still while invisible? Active check. Noticing an omission in a conversation? Active check.

Oh, and one last note:

I don't think it's RAW that traps are detected passively. I don't recall any place--though I could be wrong--where it says that things with Perception DCs are automatically detected by high enough Passive Perceptions. I only think it says that active Stealth checks are made against Passive Perceptions, or active Perceptions are made against passive DCs.
I don't think it's RAW that traps are detected passively. I don't recall any place--though I could be wrong--where it says that things with Perception DCs are automatically detected by high enough Passive Perceptions.

Perceiving Traps and Hazards
When the party is within line of sight of a trap, compare each character’s passive Perception check with the DCs of the traps in the room. A PC whose passive Perception is equal to or higher than the DCs notices the trap or the relevant aspect of the trap.

So if there is a pressure plate, they see a stone that looks out of place in the floor. If there is a trip wire - they see it. If there is a large net full of rocks hanging from the ceiling, they see that too.

I will never understand why someone would want a character that is obviously supposed to be amazingly good at something to have a random chance of failure at tasks that are not amazingly difficult.

It's like deciding that the maxed out strength score fighter should always have a chance that he lose an arm wrestling match with an octogenarian human opponent: not really that much fun for the person who is playing a character that they want to be "the best" at something.

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:D Passive perception works for the group I dm. Nothing for me to see here.
It's actually his tertiary stat. (third down) Dex is so much more important, even if you go with 2weapon fighting. It affects your AC and your Init and your Reflex...

Maybe if you built an archer, wisdom would be your secondary. You'd have a max of +2 in str, but you'd have a high enough wisdom that... this is worth investigating. I like this hawkeye concept and it totally makes sense that he would see the traps.

I'm not arguing one way or another on the actual topic at hand, but a Cleric who takes the multiclass ranger feat wouldn't be "sacrificing" anything for high Wis. Plus he could take Skill Focus on top of that if he really wanted to be the party's trap-spotter.
Oddly enough, Squarecircle posting here made me realize something - doesn't this thread belong in the house rule forum?

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

Someone mentions suspense for finding traps. If the DM is rolling the perception check dice without the players finding out he's rolling (as he should be) instead of using the passive perception, then there is no suspense for the players, only for the DM. Either the player passes the check and sees the trap, or he fails and the DM never tells him there's a trap until it's sprung. Unless the player is actively searching for traps, the player never goes, "hmm...the DM is rolling a trap perception check for me, let's hope a 1 doesn't come up."
4E's design theory is that the players generally should notice traps. The challenge is instead in dealing with them once you've noticed them; there's not much challenge in "out of the blue, you randomly take damage".
It's actually his tertiary stat. (third down) Dex is so much more important, even if you go with 2weapon fighting. It affects your AC and your Init and your Reflex...

Maybe if you built an archer, wisdom would be your secondary. You'd have a max of +2 in str, but you'd have a high enough wisdom that... this is worth investigating. I like this hawkeye concept and it totally makes sense that he would see the traps.

Actually, Dex is only important for Two Blade Rangers that use HEavy Blades. Otherwise its Str, Con, Wis.
Personally, I've been thinking I should adopt a "there's always SOME roll just not one the PC's are privy to" rule. Like, trap coming up, roll trap's difficulty to find (Search DC -10 + roll). Check passives. Same with anything else the PC might not be aware of (conversation in the next room, stealth already does this, but that too, and passive insight). Cause, it does seem kind of ridiculous.

However, I do see the sense in "we already know this is going to happen, given that, I should plan for it". I have found myself either realizing, "The DM never planned to have these dudes surprise us" (in the case of the best session of DnD I've ever had, lol) or "I just figured the rogue would find that trap... Now I need to know what it does..." (as a DM, yeah when she had to roll over a 2 to find the trap, I figured she'd find it) in 3.5.
Actually, Dex is only important for Two Blade Rangers that use HEavy Blades. Otherwise its Str, Con, Wis.

Explain.
Try using passive perception in this way - it only detects that 'something' isn't quite right. When you tell this to a player, they will roll a perception against the DC and you can tell all after a success. This way, you aren't always just letting them get the info just by walking past...
Explain.

If your going for Hammers, your gonna want a good Con for your Hammer Rythm and Hammer Rythm with mulptiple attacks is useful and you need a good con for Bludgeon Mastery. For Axes you want Strength and Con for obvious reasons (Deadly Axe and Axe Mastery). All so Wis might be secondary for axes if you go into Pitfighter, adding your Wis to all those hits is gonna hurt..
I think that if someone wants to use a feat or two and make a tertiary ability a 16, he should be seeing those traps-otherwise he wasted his time building the character that way. Dming counter to the way your players have built their characters is kind of a slap in that players face.
I think most players really enjoy hearing things like "for your character, that trap might as well have had a red blinking light on it."
What we have done is to just limit the range that the passive perception checks work at. Depending on the situation, it is only useful within a square or two. This means that if the high perception characters are always leading the party, sure they will spot that trap. But it also means you know who will be leading the party and can customize your encounters accordingly.

Also, in rooms when there is a battle going on, the high perception chaaracter rarely has a chance to run around and spot every square, so it keeps everyone on their toes when movign around.
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If your going for Hammers, your gonna want a good Con for your Hammer Rythm and Hammer Rythm with mulptiple attacks is useful and you need a good con for Bludgeon Mastery. For Axes you want Strength and Con for obvious reasons (Deadly Axe and Axe Mastery). All so Wis might be secondary for axes if you go into Pitfighter, adding your Wis to all those hits is gonna hurt..

I don't really know the game past heroic. Still, dex is the primary stat for archery rangers.

With a two anything fighter, are you just expected to trash your ac or spend a feat on heavier armor?

....I suppose the stats are in your favor. HUH, I hadn't even thought about that. It's pretty sweet.
Try using passive perception in this way - it only detects that 'something' isn't quite right. When you tell this to a player, they will roll a perception against the DC and you can tell all after a success. This way, you aren't always just letting them get the info just by walking past...

I like this one a lot. Good idea.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
You know, the thing that I don't like about passive perception is that even if someone decides to spend a minor action to make an active perception check, they've only got a 50/50 chance of actually getting a better value. It's like,

DM: You see some pressure plates on the floor.
Player: I make an active perception check.
DM: Uh, you lost those pressure plates, you seem to recall they're somewhere in the room.

It would make sense to me to put the passive value below 10, like 6 or something, so that at least then most of your active checks will be higher.
Instead of doing the "nervous habit" rolling, why not simply inform players that you will be using Passive Perception checks in any cases that you choose not to actively roll? Then it becomes the players' onus to roll if they feel something is fishy.

If you really want to throw your high Perception Ranger off, let him see the traps but make it more than meets the eye. Let him see the traps, but have a Lurker huddle around the corner and unleash a range attack on the trap breaker. Mention the trap, but also mention what he thinks is a large ruby that only he can see and could be his, all his, MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

If playing D&D at least ONCE has not taught somoene to roll an active spot/perception check when they enter a room then they deserve to fail.

In my current group the ranger has 19 passive perception and I have 15 as a rouge. If he see's a trap I whip out my tools and get to disarming and the same with hidden doors.

It hasn't seemed to break the game or make it less fun in any way, shape, or form. It sure beats in most cases sitting around in a room, with the DM rolling for wandering monsters, while we all take 20 's while searching the room hoping to find the trap or secret door.
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I just haven't found an elegant way to handle the mechanical aspects of things that are supposed to surprise the Players. Whether it's calling for checks, using a passive score, or rolling in secret, all of them have some downside I hate.

Best so far is calling for a perception check and "banking" it for the next perception-event which may be now or a few minutes or a half hour.

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I don't really know the game past heroic. Still, dex is the primary stat for archery rangers.

With a two anything fighter, are you just expected to trash your ac or spend a feat on heavier armor?

....I suppose the stats are in your favor. HUH, I hadn't even thought about that. It's pretty sweet.

Ironically, yes, thats what you do, you pick up armor up to scale or plate (Usually Scale), go Dwarf, pick up Dwarf Training, grab some warhammers and go to town.
That's brilliant... too bad the only image that comes to mind is the star wars kid.
Print out a sheet of "base passive rolls". Basically a long list of "10" with some "5"s and a few "1s" and "15"s mixed in.

Then silently cross them out as they do passive checks. They won't always notice things, but no rolling and they still get bonuses from having good skills. But it's still variable.
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The problem is not passive checks. The problem is that DCs in D&D4 are on a completely different scale than they were in D&D4.

At any given level on the heroic tier, the difficulty of an average level-appropriate task is 12+level/2 (given the average heroic ability score of 14).
The range of an optimized skill check at these levels (where optimized is defined as training, an appropriate ability score of 16, and the appropriate Skill Focus feat) is 12+level/2 to 31+level/2.
To clarify, that's a level 1 character rolling a 31 on a skill check, right there. Judging by the DCs in the PHB, the most difficult mundane task imaginable tops out at 30 (scaling a sheer ice wall is a good example, for Athletics).

To put it another way, the range of an optimized skill check at any level in the game BEGINS at the difficulty appropriate to an average level-appropriate task.
An optimized character will succeed at an average task 95% of the time, assuming that a natural roll of 1 always fails.
Assuming a +5 DC mod for moderate difficulty, the character will succeed 75% of the time.
A +10 DC mod for challenging difficulty still results in a 50% success rate.

I am still reserving judgement on these facts, for the time being, but there they are.
-Let the super-perceptive guy passively notice some traps, but not all. This is even more fun if there are multiple traps in the same room, and they notice one but not the other.
-Let them see it, but the disarm DC is incredibly high. When they fail a disarm, bad things happen (trap, mobs, etc).
-Let them see only part of the trap. They see the pressure plate, but cannot tell what it does.
-Let them perceive something, but whatever they perceive doesn't actually do anything. The actual trap is a high DC of something else.
-Do a reversal roll: roll for the DC of traps. If the trap would be DC 22, then make the DC d20+11.
-They see the traps, there's just nothing they can do about it. They know there are magical crossbow turrets that will spring out, they know where they will spring out from, they know that crossing the room will set it off, but the control panel (if you use such crass objects) is across a room full of pressure plates.
-The trap is, itself, a trap. Disarming it arms something else.
-The player crossing the room to disarm a trap fails to notice, until they are noticed in turn, that there is something large, mean, and living just around the corner, that was previously out of sight.
-The disarmed trap can be rearmed when the badguys show up.
-Include entirely magical, non-physical, traps that do not rely on perception, or else a combination of perception + arcana.
-Put the traps in a dark room, granting the traps concealment or total concealment. You can't see them unless you bring lights into the room, which gives away your location and voids stealth.
-If a guy uber-specializes in perception, let him perceive a lot. I mean, it's what he wants to do. Just plan on that when dealing with difficulty. It's a bit like trying to figure out how to avoid a striker dealing damage - don't try to shut down what they're supposed to be doing.

Another dozen ideas, just off the top of my head.
The problem is not passive checks. The problem is that DCs in D&D4 are on a completely different scale than they were in D&D4.

No, that's not a problem. Use whatever DC you want, on any scale you want. If you want the DC to be 50 at level 1, make it 50. If it helps have fun, then that's what you do. I've made a DC 5 trap - the entire POINT of the trap was to be noticed. A perceptive player would've wondered why it was so easy - why I laughed when they wanted to do a perception check, picked up the die, and told them not to bother because they see X. Oh, ok they say, and wander over to disarm. See "the trap is a trap", above.
I just roll a dice for all players who could possible spot it and see who notices it.

Die! Roll a die! Die is singular, dice is plural! You cannot "roll a dice" anymore than you can "mass murder a man". You can "roll dice", "roll three dice", "roll several dice", or even "mass murder a village" (I won't stop you); but if you are going to use a singular article (a/an/the) you need to follow it with a singular noun!

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The problem is that DCs in D&D4 are on a completely different scale than they were in D&D4.

Huh?

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