Perception

2

Comments

  • I've just learned that Vincent Baker's "Seclusium" book has an appendix with two pages of "Perception Tests", which are D&D-specific "read a situation/person" moves. The one for wizards feeling out arcane energies is particularly nice.
    I'm intrigued. Could you give some examples from those tables please, particularly the one for exploring arcane energies?

  • Another thought on this in 5e:

    Passive Perception is a peculiar situation where it functions as “AC vs. Stealth” and as a skill floor (can’t roll below this). I think this is a rather shoddy design (no other skills have passive versions or skill floors), but it’s one that evidences the importance of the skill: the designers call special attention to it by creating mechanics that are exceptions to the rest of the system.
  • The way I see Perception checks is they're only useful when there is time pressure and the players have to decide how much time they spend searching for traps/secret doors/hidden devil's horns before moving on. Or, as in the case of Apocalypse World, where failing the roll has a cost. Sticking your head out of cover to get a read on your opponents might reveal your position to them, or leave you squinting long enough that they shoot you.

    Dungeon crawling (where the system usually has some sort of perception check) I usually don't use it though, only having 1/6 in finding a secret door even when searching the right spot is lame, I only roll when there is only visual inspection for reasons of extreme paranoia or distance.
  • The way I see Perception checks is they're only useful when there is time pressure and the players have to decide how much time they spend searching for traps/secret doors/hidden devil's horns before moving on. Or, as in the case of Apocalypse World, where failing the roll has a cost. Sticking your head out of cover to get a read on your opponents might reveal your position to them, or leave you squinting long enough that they shoot you.
    I like this take on it.
  • Having to spend precious time on searching and a having cost for failure seem like the best conditions for these kinds of test.

    Torchbearer handles these perception checks quite well, I think.

    1. If the player describe an insight that would help them notice what they're looking for quickly, it's a "Good idea". They get all the information right away, without a roll. (e.g. "I check this statue for moving parts. Maybe it has a hidden lever?" or "I look to see if she's wearing a ring like the other cultists")

    2. The GM only class for a Scout roll based on how player describes what they're doing. No "You enter the dark room. Make a scout check." If they say they're looking for a hidden key somewhere in the barn, then you check the difficulty and have them roll.

    3. All rolls, pass or fail count toward the grind. Every four rolls, everyone marks a condition. So spending time searching is a tactical decision with transparent stakes. There's no negotiation about how long it would take, etc. You only search for something if you think it's worth a turn.

    4. If you fail, then there is a twist or condition. On a twist, you fail and some new danger is introduced. Broken gear, wandering monster, or a trap is triggered. If the GM chooses (based on pacing and the importance of the information to the Player's agenda) then of 'twisting', she can say the player succeeds at the task but earns a condition. Conditions are sometimes punishing, especially as they add up, but the player gets their intent.

    I've occasionally had push-back from players used to D&D: "Looking around a room can make a situation worse?" But the absence of illusory stakes from these situations is really refreshing to me.
  • edited January 6
    I've occasionally had push-back from players used to D&D: "Looking around a room can make a situation worse?" But the absence of illusory stakes from these situations is really refreshing to me.
    In old school D&D the cost is very noticable. My players are very careful not to look around too carefully if they have a goal other than general exploration in mind as they know both the risk of wandering monsters but also just triggering dangers such as traps or inert enemies.

  • @Krippler Yeah, the Torchbearer procedures are definitely Moldvay-era inspired. I do think the TB rules stand out for their transparency. Having a procedure of turns, and conditional success, help players (or at least me as a player) feel able to make calculated risks.
  • I think transparency is of the utmost importance with any rules system. Particularly with Perception rules. If Perception rules are opaque, then how the hell can you see their inner workings?

    *rimshot*

    But seriously, just like with any other rule, a game's mechanical procedures for figuring out how characters learn information about their environment send a message to the people playing the game about the role that senses and intuition play in the story, the world, the genre, or what have you.

    Dungeon World's Discern Realities move gives players that succeed on a roll the chance to learn more about the situation around them, prepare for what's coming next, and get a bonus when they incorporate what they learned into future actions. It's message is "Perception is a problem solving tool, a way to gain information and advantage that would otherwise be impossible."

    Torchbearer and B/X with the Grind, Twists, and Conditions or Turns/Wandering Monster rolls send the clear message "Perception is a way to offset the horrible risks of diving into monster-infested hellholes. But it has a cost: in time, in risk to the scout, and in the chances that 2d4 ghouls might come on by looking for a snack."

    Fate sends a very different message with it's rules for incorporating reasonable new details into the fiction with a successful Create Advantage roll. It sends the message "Noticing things is a way of showing off my character's backstory and personality, based on what they notice, how they notice it, and how they turn it to their advantage." The Eager Young Revolutionary who Notices that there is a Little Used Back Alley that might allow her fellows to creep unseen towards the Bastille is way different from the Ragged Sellsword who Notices that the champion he's fighting is using armor that's Too Ostentatious For It's Own Good: a vulnerability he can exploit with deft maneuvering.

    5th edition D&D (as with many aspects of it's design) doesn't really set up a clear message as to what Perception is for. It's there because it was there in previous editions and is something people expect to be in their D&D. It's not there as a strategic choice with a clear risk and reward. It's not there because it allows players to express their character's Special Thing (as it doesn't let players contribute to the fiction in the way that something like Persuasion or Deception might, by avoiding a fight or making an ally). It doesn't even grant a clear advantage: because of the way success and failure are set up the information you gain from Perception might be stuff that you already know, and doesn't grant any superior position to act on it. It's just kinda...there.

    So I think the key to designing transparent and functional Perception rules are to ask "What sort of clear (ha) message do I want to send regarding what it means to sense stuff? What role does figuring things out play in this genre, in this type of story, for the goals that players are supposed to have?"

    A few random Perception rules:

    "If you question the truth of a matter, roll Perception. On a success, name one thing that's absolutely true and one thing that's definitely a lie. These can't be contradicted unless someone Reveals a Secret that overturns Everything We Thought We Knew. On a failure, turn to the player whose character you trust least and have them do it."
    -Perception is a tool for figuring how what is real and what's a lie. But it's illusory: at any moment, someone might undo everything you thought you knew."

    "When you're faced with the Old Ones, take as much or as little Preparedness as you wish. So long as you have at least 1, you're not caught at the Horror's mercy. Spend Preparedness 1 for 1 to get bonuses on rolls or trigger a flashback. For every Preparedness you take, sacrifice 1 Sanity. You automatically notice anything normal coming at you. Your eyes are all too open."-Being Perceptive means losing your hold on reality. Being ready for horrible things means being constantly on edge. What matters during play is dealing with otherworldly horrors (and going crazy in the process)

  • This. +1
  • I looked at the D&D Basic Rules Version 1.0, looking for Perception stuff:
    Finding a Hidden Object

    When your character searches for a hidden object such as
    a secret door or a trap, the DM typically asks you to make
    a Wisdom (Perception) check. Such a check can be used to
    find hidden details or other information and clues that you
    might otherwise overlook.

    In most cases, you need to describe where you are looking
    in order for the DM to determine your chance of success.
    For example, a key is hidden beneath a set of folded clothes
    in the top drawer of a bureau. If you tell the DM that you
    pace around the room, looking at the walls and furniture for
    clues, you have no chance of finding the key, regardless of
    your Wisdom (Perception) check result. You would have to
    specify that you were opening the drawers or searching the
    bureau in order to have any chance of success.
    Interesting that they talk about having to describe what you are doing and how you are doing it in order to bring the roll about.

  • I've been watching some online D&D play and this does appear to be how many/most people use the Perception check in D&D5. (At least, I haven't seen a counterexample.)

    * Players specify character actions which could or should give them the info (looking where the thing is).

    * DM calls for a Perception check.

    * There is usually more than one character rolling, so failures are very rare.

    I'm not sure if there is a functional way to handle failures in this mode of play without completely removing the point of rolling, by the rules as written.

    Next time I'm watching and I spot an example of a clear failure, I'll post about it here.
  • I've just learned that Vincent Baker's "Seclusium" book has an appendix with two pages of "Perception Tests", which are D&D-specific "read a situation/person" moves. The one for wizards feeling out arcane energies is particularly nice.
    I'm intrigued. Could you give some examples from those tables please, particularly the one for exploring arcane energies?
    Sure. I'll omit some of the text so there's still value to checking out the full rules, but here's an excerpt:
    For Magic-Users only: When you unveil your inner vision and feel your way outward from yourself, roll 2d6 and add your Intelligence modifier.

    No matter what the result, I’ll describe the auras, plasms, resonances, and magical tensions present.

    Then, on a 10+, ask me two questions. On a 7-9, ask one:

    * Which of these auras or plasms
    represent a threat to us here?
    * When I subject them to stern rigor,
    are any of these auras or plasms
    misrepresenting themselves?
    * When I dissect these plasms or auras
    for the fingerprints of their creators’
    psyches, whose are they?
    [etc ...]

    You can ask more, or questions of your own devising, if you’re willing and able to
    conduct experiments and full analysis at your leisure. (Note that on a 6 or less, I’ll
    describe the auras, plasms, etc., but you don’t get to ask any questions.)
  • edited January 7
    Blegh. Mixing active/passive, leisurely/time-pressured, and targeted/broad searches all together makes my head hurt.

    I'd rather separate such things.

    Thorough Search - You find everything there is to find. Roll to see how long it takes; or don't (as it's clearly not important).

    Timed Search - Declare what you're searching for. Then declare how long you'll search, in either number of minutes (e.g. 30 mins) or in terms of other developments (e.g. until the gnolls break through the door), which the GM may roll for (e.g. gnolls arrive in 2d6 rounds). Then roll to see what you find during that time.
    • If you are searching for a specific thing, the GM will determine a target number for success (if possible during the time window).
    • If you are searching for whatever you can find, the GM will decide what a perfect roll will yield in this situation, and then dole out portions of that according to the actual roll.
    Notice - When the GM wants to know whether your character might spot a surprise attack, or an environmental feature they aren't looking for, the GM requests a roll.

    You could use your Perception stat for any, all, or none of these, depending on what you want "Perception" to mean in your game.
  • edited January 7
    As for thinking it through / playing it out / rolling:

    You could require that players roleplay their efforts/attentions as a prerequisite to rolling, or you could encourage them to not ever do that and just roll instead, depending on whether you find such roleplay/effort/attention to be fun/rewarding.

    Or anywhere in between. I think "give us just enough to justify the roll" is a popular in-between.

    If I wanted to maximize player interaction with the imagined environment, I'd ditch rolls entirely, and just base what they find on what they do.
  • I've been watching some online D&D play and this does appear to be how many/most people use the Perception check in D&D5. (At least, I haven't seen a counterexample.)

    * Players specify character actions which could or should give them the info (looking where the thing is).

    * DM calls for a Perception check.

    * There is usually more than one character rolling, so failures are very rare.
    Requiring specific descriptions to be allowed a chance for failure seems like the worst of both worlds to me: like D&D 5E's disadvantage, you take the worse of the player's skill and the character's skill.

  • Requiring specific descriptions to be allowed a chance for failure seems like the worst of both worlds to me: like D&D 5E's disadvantage, you take the worse of the player's skill and the character's skill.
    I'd say it doesn't have to be one or the other. Recon 5e doesn't state it as a rule, neither too many indies, yet it makes sense that the whole mechanic should be: If the player's description of their character actions doesn't seem to make the outcome predictable, roll as established.
  • edited January 14
    Interesting that they talk about having to describe what you are doing and how you are doing it in order to bring the roll about.
    I think this little Finding a Hidden Object note is a mistake because it runs a bit counter to the rest of the design. It says "typically" because it's kind of a catch-all description of what people have been observed doing with D&D. But the rest of the rules do a fine job of explaining how Exploring works and they make an okay distinction between Investigation and Perception while leaving almost everything else up to discretion and whatever level of granularity the GM and players have established.

    It would be extremely weird to play a game in which most scenes convey only the most essential heart of the situation, and then, suddenly, need to go into those apparently "typical" specifics. And, in my experience, most people play most editions of D&D in an organic way that stretches, but tends to quickly snap back to the most essential heart of every situation. When a player wants to get more surgical, most competent dungeon masters either respond in kind OR make it clear there's nothing there. And when a dungeon master wants the players to get more surgical, they funnel the players towards that level of detail with description and questions.

    Many players certainly do use D&D to perform Swords & Sorcery Minesweeper, but that's definitely not the default position of the game. Given the ways I see people play at conventions and actual plays, I'd say that approach is fringe enough that the Finding a Hidden Object note is dissonant with both the rest of the text and the culture.
  • It depends what you mean. I don't see a lot of "pixelbitching" play, but Critical Role, for example, which stands as the Ultimate Exemplar of D&D play to thousands of people, has players roll Perception or Investigation pretty much any time they're looking around for something. (Including examples like, "Hey, while they're having tea, I'm looking at the bookshelf. Is there a book on this shelf by such-and-such an author?" - "Roll Investigation.")
  • edited January 14
    It depends what you mean. I don't see a lot of "pixelbitching" play, but Critical Role, for example, which stands as the Ultimate Exemplar of D&D play to thousands of people, has players roll Perception or Investigation pretty much any time they're looking around for something. (Including examples like, "Hey, while they're having tea, I'm looking at the bookshelf. Is there a book on this shelf by such-and-such an author?" - "Roll Investigation.")
    What I mean is that level of granularity occurs perhaps every session or many times per session according to what's organically appropriate, but is not the default or even most typical position of the game. But that little text box about Finding a Hidden Object implies it is. And I think the rest of the text suggests that how specific one must be is necessarily relative rather than being prescriptive.
  • I -sort of- tested yesterday the mechanic I mentioned here before and realized how ingrained the perception roll is in my mind and how lots of the things mentioned before actually happen in the game.

    For starters, whenever perception was triggered in the game, 70% of the time I just stated what did the characters see because it was optimal to keep the story rolling, it made sense in the fiction and/or failing to perceive anything, while it meant the next challenge would be harder, looked more like a speedbump instead.

    The other 30% of the time were two instances in where 1)a player wanted to read an opponent to determine his intentions. 2)another player was looking for the entrance to a hideout using thermal sensors, while being ambushed by insurgents with appropiate equipment. However in these occasions I didn't hade explicit prep made for this, so I ended up asking players to roll the die after engaging with the mechanic to oracle the dice. (hence the "sort of tested" above)

  • I apologize if this is somewhat orthogonal, but does anybody have any insight about the general history of these different kinds of codified Perception mechanics?

    I know in D&D that the rolls explicitly for secret doors and for finding traps date back quite far, but for me personally I recall being super intrigued by the introduction of the "Spot" and "Listen" skills in 3E, and the implications they had for a passive, mechanics-mediated system of determining how to introduce information into the game. As innocuous as it may have felt in presentation (just another skill in a big list of skills), in retrospect (as this thread attests, I believe) it actually looks like it's practically a cornerstone of a certain kind of play, an integral part of mediating GM-player-world interactions; are there any really notable antecedents in the rules of pre-3E games?
  • Yeah, that's a good point.

    I can think of two things:

    Early versions of D&D had rules for "listening at a door", which was usually handled as a straight 1 in 6 roll (though thieves could be better at it, depending on the ruleset). A very specific action, like many things in early D&Ds, for handling dungeon crawling.

    By the time we got Advanced D&D, I remember alternate rulesets appearing which renamed the basic ability scores and some popular ones included a "Perception" stat, either added to the others or replacing Wisdom. (Another popular one was separating "Charisma" from "Comeliness", so you could have a Charismatic but ugly wizard, for instance.)

    I don't remember ever seeing terribly clear rules for how to use the Perception ability score, though - presumably the group just would figure out when to ask for a Perception check on its own.
  • I'm also curious about non-D&D games, for what it's worth.

    2nd Edition Mechwarrior (1991) has this to say, for example:
    Perception Rolls give the gamemaster a good way to keep a story moving and to tell the players what their characters see and when they see it. Be careful not to overuse Perception Rolls, however, or they will bog down the flow of play. As with everything else, resort to game mechanics only when the outcome is uncertain.
    And I suspect it's probably not the first example of a game text talking explicitly about Perception rolls as a GM tool.
  • edited February 15
    I apologize for resurrecting this thread, but I read an article by Alexis Smolensk (Tao of D&D blogger) who critiques Perception in modern D&D:
    The DM describes anything: a room, an opponent, a landscape, the thorn in the player's foot ... and the player answers, "I want to make a perception check."

    Effectively, the player is asking, "I want more information than you're giving me." By using the perception roll, the player means to use the rules of the game to force the DM to give more information; or, in the case of looking for a weak spot in the armor of an opponent, a flaw in a non-player's argument or evidence of some kind, the player wishes to force the DM to give the player an advantage.

    So DM's learn to describe part of what the player ought to see, knowing the players will make a perception check, so that the DM can then tell the rest of the story.

    ...

    More information is obtained by changing your physical position; by using your other senses to investigate it or by poking at it with a stick of by some other test. In other words, by taking an action, which the player designates. NOT by looking harder or hearing harder without actually changing anything about the situation you've already perceived.
  • That is exactly right. I am making some similar observations over in the "insight" thread.
  • I almost posted it there because it seemed so relevant, but I did not wish to divert the discussion from Insight. Smolensk's take on gaining more information doesn't use the exact phrase "fictional triggers," but it's there in the description of activities that might gain more information.

    Certain limitations to this process exist. The GM is privileged with knowledge the players are not, and so the players might not perform the necessary fictional triggers to glean additional knowledge. This seems a failing to me, but it is probably working as intended to Smolensk. Is there a way to blend the modern approach of Perception check for more information and the traditional approach of fictional triggers?

    Example: a room with a burning brazier that has a hidden staircase that will be revealed when the brazier is twisted upon its base.

    #1: "I search for a hidden door." This would typically invoke a Perception/Investigate check, at least with the way that most GMs end up playing.

    #2: "I look at the brazier to see if there's anything unusual about it." This would also typically invoke a Perception/Investigate check in most games. A success might locate the mechanism that opens the secret door.

    #3: "I douse the brazier." This is the wrong fictional trigger in the right location. It does not locate the door. Personally, I might treat this interaction with the environment as allowing a Perception check to notice the mechanism as in #2.

    #4: "I twist the brazier upon its base." This would automatically succeed.

    None of this feels quite satisfactory to me.
  • (Including examples like, "Hey, while they're having tea, I'm looking at the bookshelf. Is there a book on this shelf by such-and-such an author?" - "Roll Investigation.")
    I can’t help but wonder if, in this case, the GM is actually undecided about whether such a book is present, and having the player roll to determine the fictional reality. I’ve seen similar things done in other games.
  • I think that's quite common in D&D, but only when the presence of such a book isn't important to the ongoing action.

    Say, looking for a heretical scripture in someone's personal library to establish whether they're a heretic or not (establish as in [i]shape[/i] the fictional reality, as opposed to [i]find out[/i] the shape of the fictional reality) is very unlikely in a D&D game about sniffing out heresy.

    Looking for a heretical scripture in someone's personal library to highlight that your character is into obscure texts, while the game is about, say, warring thieves' guilds: fairly likely.
  • I can't count the number of times that I couldn't find the garlic powder in the spice cabinet, let alone when I had my glasses on my head and could find them. I think perceiving objects that are perceptible is not a given, and that's why rolls exist. (They're just not always interesting gaming.)

    For example, there's a secret message scratched onto a brick in a large room. A highly perceptive character would (might?) see it. An average character would not. I think Alexis expects a player to first say, "I'll examine the walls," and then he'll give them the information. I'm not sure how fun that is in play because it trains the players to examine everything in detail, one thing at a time.
  • edited February 16
    @shimrod This is sort of how I do it (without the roll for "cosmetic changes") even if it sounds unfair to have to rules for the same skill.
  • Sorry, do you mean you have major truths in the fiction decided by skill check succes, with minor ones just declared without a roll?

    Or major points can't be decided by skill checks (like my heretic in the first example), minor points can be decided, and really minor, cosmetic points are just declared?
  • (They're just not always interesting gaming.)
    Yeah, I think the only time looking for something is cool is when it's dramatic, like when, using Adam's example, you're looking for powdered garlic when a vampire is approaching(pressed for time and dramatic in play), when used as a prompt for more description from the DM, or when it gives a benefit to further action.

    I mean, if failure's dramatic, then why leave it up to chance? A lot of the time, it seems that game is at odds with the swing of drama. But, I get it - it's that strangely fertile mule, the rpg.
  • Things are dramatic (exciting) because they're uncertain. I think uncertainty is part of the definition.

    Wandering through a dungeon and not being sure if you're going to miss something that could get you killed is pretty dramatic.

    However, I'd prefer to let players spring traps and then roll saving throws to avoid the consequences, I think, rather than rarely spring the trap. If players specifically look for traps in the right places, then tell them what they find without a roll, and let them figure out how to disarm or circumvent them.
  • edited February 18
    Things are hopefully suspenseful, but not dramatic. I mean, it all depends on the messenger, and the message. If no one cares, it's just nothing.
  • Things are dramatic (exciting) because they're uncertain. I think uncertainty is part of the definition.

    Wandering through a dungeon and not being sure if you're going to miss something that could get you killed is pretty dramatic.

    However, I'd prefer to let players spring traps and then roll saving throws to avoid the consequences, I think, rather than rarely spring the trap. If players specifically look for traps in the right places, then tell them what they find without a roll, and let them figure out how to disarm or circumvent them.
    I think it's sometimes lazy to use the unknown as the source of drama, instead of the way there. It's the means to something, not that something. The unknown is the carrier, not the message.
  • And I don't buy that things are dramatic because they're unknown. Things are maybe interesting because we learn only a bit at a time, or it makes us lean in to something, attracts us to something, but the unknown loses it's appeal.

    Things are dramatic because they're in opposition, they just start off unknown.
  • I have a problem addressing uncertainty, it's vague-as-fuck.
    Perhaps the vaguest-as-fuck word anyone could use?
    Not that I haven't used really abstract words, it's just hard to wrap ones head around.
  • edited February 18
    ... and yet there lies fun.
    @shimrod : The latter for me, that is when I have to play some old games that don't leave room for manipulating the setting. This slip from character agency to player agency is easy to accept.
  • I hope it's not a huge surprise to anyone that this discussion is, really, in many ways the same as the Insight discussion:

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21942/d-d-the-insight-check-and-other-social-skills

    What tends to be missing from such discussions, in my opinion, is a certain clarity about the goals of the game. Nail that down, and you can get a sense of how and why we'd want the mechanisms to operate.
  • For instance, this is a great example to work with:


    Example: a room with a burning brazier that has a hidden staircase that will be revealed when the brazier is twisted upon its base.

    #1: "I search for a hidden door." This would typically invoke a Perception/Investigate check, at least with the way that most GMs end up playing.

    #2: "I look at the brazier to see if there's anything unusual about it." This would also typically invoke a Perception/Investigate check in most games. A success might locate the mechanism that opens the secret door.

    #3: "I douse the brazier." This is the wrong fictional trigger in the right location. It does not locate the door. Personally, I might treat this interaction with the environment as allowing a Perception check to notice the mechanism as in #2.

    #4: "I twist the brazier upon its base." This would automatically succeed.

    None of this feels quite satisfactory to me.
    Why are none of these satisfactory? Let's figure out what the goal here is, first. (Roleplayers often fall into the trap of wanting everything at once, which makes it basically impossible to come up with a solution that works.)

    What's the ideal play here, what does it look like?


  • Example: a room with a burning brazier that has a hidden staircase that will be revealed when the brazier is twisted upon its base.
    For me to make it satisfactory it would be more like:

    #1: "I search for a hidden door." This would make me as a GM ask "How and where in the room?" expecting them to inspect and interact more with the elements in the room, even if there isn't such thing as a hidden door. If the player answer is vague or generic I'd let them roll the dice but use a high difficulty, as it will become obvious that they just want to rush the story forward. Depending on how much they want to rush it, their degree of frustration will make evident I'd probably just let them find it or mahe something else happen instead.

    #2: "I look at the brazier to see if there's anything unusual about it." Now THIS would invoke a Perception/Investigate check for me, with a normal or low difficulty. Or if the PC is near enough or the player gestures how they look for clues and it makes sense they find something, I'd give them another clue: "You find marks on the floor that suggests this brazier's base has been twisted on the same spot a few times".

    #3: "I douse the brazier." This is the wrong fictional trigger in the right location, but the way it's done it still can trigger a perceptopn roll. This roll, with a normal or low difficulty would be my way to oracle de dice, to find out if the water splashes the right way to notice something strange on the floor, like the door or the mechanism. If it doesn't make sense, then that's it, the secret door isn't found for now.

    #4: "I twist the brazier upon its base." This would automatically succeed. Of course, this one is very, very rare. The key is to give the players clues that make them think. Hear them when they talk about their logic to other players. If it makes sense and it's interesting enough to make me change my prep, I'm all for it.

    Yet I'd have to admit that it makes things just satisfactory, not ideal, and not exactly fair to be honest. I'm willing to hear about other approaches to this.


  • I would want to ask:

    What are your goals, in play?

    Is it to reward character builds/strengths?

    Is it to challenge player cleverness?

    Is it to enable detailed fictional exploration and puzzle/problem-solving?

    Is it to maintain uncertainty about which secrets/clues are discovered by the players and which aren't?

    Is it to make sure that necessary information gets to the players every time, but in a way which seems organic and fluid?
  • edited February 19
    All this is, is a petition to the GM.

    If it were framed as such, instead of a well-defined, function of play. If you could bid on it, it might feel less bullshit?

    There's a reason games like Fate and Universalis exist. This petitioning, humbling yourself for another story morsel, can get awfully tiring.

    I don't find the GM/DM as pinsetter, to be an enjoyable part of role-playing.
  • I would want to ask:

    What are your goals, in play?

    Is it to reward character builds/strengths?

    Is it to challenge player cleverness?

    Is it to enable detailed fictional exploration and puzzle/problem-solving?

    Is it to maintain uncertainty about which secrets/clues are discovered by the players and which aren't?

    Is it to make sure that necessary information gets to the players every time, but in a way which seems organic and fluid?
    Therein lies the problem. A man cannot serve two masters, or so I've read, but I nonetheless toil endlessly in a futile pursuit. From my perspective (within the context of challenge-oriented gameplay). the GM's role is to provide relevant information about the environment and it is the players' duty to engage with the environment to elucidate more information. This engagement creates immersion. As the players address and question the fiction, the GM is tasked with clarifying and expounding. This challenges both parties, as the GM's prep cannot account for the numerous fictional details that might exist.

    Player engagement with the fiction serves as a cue for the GM in the same way that reading a sitch's questions serve as a cue: "Who's really in control here?" A prompt for information (and improvisation as needed), except rather than dealing with threat maps and hard moves, it's about hidden treasure and secret passageways.

    Broadly:

    If the players properly engage with the fiction, they deserve to be rewarded. If they're smart enough to twist the brazier, it is the GM's duty--and his delight--to give them the secret passageway or the hidden cache of gems. ("Properly" here being a matter of acumen.)

    If the players engage with the fiction (deeply or shallowly), they deserve a chance at being rewarded. If they make an effort, they have earned a chance at finding the secret. "Deep" fictional engagement being the iconic prodding with a ten-foot pole, or in the case of the brazier, investigating it, dousing the flame, asking questions about its construction and design, etc. "Shallow" fictional engagement being a matter of minimal expenditure of mental effort.

    If the players do not engage with the fiction, there should be a backup system in place to assist them. Some players cannot engage the fiction. They may be less intellectually curious, they may be unused to that style of play, they may be tired or mentally taxed, etc. At the end of a long session, the GM is likewise taxed, and he may be unable to convey information properly. It would thus be unfair to provide all parties without a suitable recourse. (One does not hope to rely on a generator for power, but in the event of an outage, it is appreciated.)

    Does what I am saying provide any clarity?

    To answer your questions directly:
    Is it to reward character builds/strengths?
    Yes. A player who invests resources in finding hidden treasure should be superior in that regard to a player who invests resources elsewhere. ("Resources" being game mechanics.)
    Is it to challenge player cleverness?
    I would phrase it as rewarding player cleverness, not necessarily challenging it.
    Is it to enable detailed fictional exploration and puzzle/problem-solving?
    Yes.
    Is it to maintain uncertainty about which secrets/clues are discovered by the players and which aren't?
    Yes. "Secrets/clues" being non-vital information.
    Is it to make sure that necessary information gets to the players every time, but in a way which seems organic and fluid?
    Yes. This is primarily a matter of GMing technique, but it also feeds into the first point: rewarding character strengths.
  • edited February 19
    Good answers! But many of them contradict each other - or, at least, potentially contradict each other. That's worth thinking about!

    I don't think it's always possible to reward character design, player cleverness, and maintain uncertainty of which things are revealed, while ALSO making sure the information gets to the players in the end. Sometimes, maybe, but certainly not all the time.

  • What tends to be missing from such discussions, in my opinion, is a certain clarity about the goals of the game. Nail that down, and you can get a sense of how and why we'd want the mechanisms to operate.
    This is an honest question, do games that have clear goals and achieve them really lead to more enjoyment at the table? I think this is something we often just assume in game design but I don't know the it is always true. It definitely helps marketing to a niche. But when I look at the most successful games that the majority of people play, it seems like they are covering a very wide swath of territory, or at least not terribly focused on a tight set of goals or a single goal.
  • edited February 19
    That's a tremendously interesting question!

    I'm going to start a new thread about it. See you there!

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21954/focused-design-and-play-is-it-worth-it?

    However, for the purposes of this thread, I'll mention that focused design as an approach to doing games (a larger topic, in other words) is potentially totally separate from the idea of having a clear intention at the table for how we're going to use a particular mechanic (more of an immediate, nuts-and-bolts concern).

    For instance, we might say that D&D5E is written to facilitate a variety of playstyles, sure, but it's important in my game that I establish that Perception rolls are used by us to make sure that we can represent the character's preternatural senses and intuition, which are part of the genre (highly perceptive, heroic adventurers!) and necessary to make up for all the sensory information the players aren't privy to.

    This might be important if, for example, someone thinks that D&D is great because they can change what XP means from game to game, getting a wider range of play with that game - that person might make the argument that they want their game texts somewhat open-ended but still prefer that their particular games or game sessions are defined and focused. (Although I don't know how common that attitude is!)
  • In some ways, it seems to me that the question of what exactly can Perception perceive is similar to the question of what exactly can Seize by force seize.

    You might roll Seize by force to seize the next hill, or you might roll to seize the Maginot Line, right?

    The DM sets the stakes for any given roll (and it's often different kinds, scopes of stakes, roll by roll, not game by game), giving him an additional dial for difficulty and pacing, you roll Perception, and if you succeed you perceive whatever was at stake. In the same fictional situation, that might be "there's a secret door here activated by twisting the brazier" or "there's a secret door here" or "the brazier looks like it's been twisted before" or "you're sure there's more to this room than meets the eyes".

    So typing this out, it occurs to me there's at least three layers of focus-vs.-openness: 1) how focused is the game in saying what Perception does; 2) within that, how focused is our consensus on what Perception does in our game; 3) within that, how focused is our understanding of what Perception does for this one roll.

    I think there's a very good argument for vagueness in 1) and 2), but very little value (if any?) in vagueness in 3).
  • Overjoyed that I've been referenced in so many threads, thank you so much DeReel♥

    I love Critical Role for what it is. But it is so different from how we play.

    My rule-of-thumb is that rolls are for physical actions. Hiding, lifting things, etc.

    I straight up removed, without replacement, these seven skills: Deception, Intimidation, Performance, Persuasion, Insight, Investigation. Players know about this at char creation time so they can spend their resources elsewhere.

    Perception and knowledge skills are most often used as passives.

    Back in the day the example used in order to advocate for rolling behind the screen was "there is a cheetah in the tree. Do the heroes see it? If you roll openly and they fail, they'll know that they've missed something".
    Passive perception and passive skills solve this problem.

    I let the players find things IOR they have high enough passive, or they "hit the right pixel".
    When I make my own dungeons I usually use jot down the DC by taking 15+4dF. I don't want there to always be a threshold of PP that's optimal to go for. Sometimes 14 is enough and sometimes you need 17.

    Usually there are plenty of secrets that my players don't find and I'm OK with that. There are also things that passive perception (yet another reason to have a CoDzilla along) just "spoils" for them a la this:
    • 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.
    and that always works out great too. Traps are the most fun when all the elements are known but the players still fuck up or are tricked. Traps that are just "ok as you're walking down the corridor whoops you take 96000 damage each, gg" aren't great.

    Also, they have "detect trap" spells and "wand of secrets" etc. They have plenty of rope to hang themselves with. Last sesh a "detect trap" spell misfired and they spent 20 minutes trying desperately to get three (actually non-existent) traps to trigger. They transformed themselves into boards to clamp around heavily on the floor, they were hitting the walls hard with staffs, they spider climbed in the ceiling. They were more afraid of missing the trap than the consequences. FOMO is a powerful drug♥
Sign In or Register to comment.