I'm thinking of the game design and play implications of the Perception
skill (sometimes an attribute or ability) commonly found in RPGs.
The existence of a score character Perception ability in a game suggests that the designer wanted it to be important
. Less indirectly, such a game is set in a world where there are things unseen
: secrets, spies, hidden doors, traps, stalkers, invisible creatures...
Ostensibly, the designer does not want them to be found all the time
, and thus leaves finding these wondrous things up to chance
. The cleric walks right past the secret door that leads to the treasure room, never to find it. Oh well!
I wonder if this idea is totally wrongheaded. What if characters just automatically find things? Does that spoil the game?
- You find the secret door to the treasure room! But you still need to get out of the dungeon alive.
- You spot a giant pit trap in front of you. But you still must jump over it.
- You spot a poison needle trap on that locked chest. But you still must unlock it and avoid getting pricked.
- You notice someone tailing you. But you still must decide if letting them know you're onto them is a good idea, and possibly shake them or confront them.
I'm sure some sim-purists will say that just succeeding at noticing everything ruins the fun for them. I suspect that's a minority view though.
When you're creating a setting with all this hidden stuff, don't you really just want the characters to find it? How much prep gets wasted because someone fails their Spot check? Is it more dramatic to fall into a pit you didn't know was there, or to fall into a pit you saw and were trying to leap over?