Perception Rolls

It seems that the ‘perception’ ability and skill have been overused. In D&D, only a few backgrounds significantly recognize the ‘perception’ skill. A player who builds a character with low Wisdom is at a disadvantage, walking around clueless and sight-less. Clerics generally have high wisdom, giving them more of an advantage, which only makes sense in some fantasy settings. Feats such as ‘observant’ exacerbate this oddly universally useful skill that is critical but can’t be had by all.

Also, a perception skill, or at least the way it is portrayed in games, doesn’t seem to reflect how perception works in reality. It’s looking at the right place at the right time, which seems more like a matter of luck and timing, at the expense of other types of perception. Besides, the notion of someone walking around with a passive perception of 20, always active, sounds exhausting.

If I have to keep it, then I like the idea of removing perception as a skill and having it as a game mechanic like a death save. Roll 10+ (or TN) and you spot it. Modifiers can be applied depending on the subject or situation:

  • A Rogue receives a +1 bonus to perceive pickpocketing or sneaking, based on their expertise.
  • A Druid receives a +1 bonus to perceive details in nature.
  • A Cleric receives a +1 bonus to notice undead or aberrations.
  • A Fighter receives a +1 bonus to spot hidden enemies and tactical factors in combat.
  • A Scholar receives a +1 bonus to perceive historical/academic details.
  • Characters can gain +1 bonuses perceiving things related to their backgrounds.
  • A Linguist can gain a +1 bonus to recognize when someone is trying to speak a language without an accent.
  • Characters can gain a +1 bonus related to a familiar skill, class feature, feat, etc.

Conversely, if you’re a sheltered Noble, perhaps a few perception penalties are in order while passing through the market with your purse. “Oooo! Shiny objects, pretty people, and what is that smell?”

I’m not happy with Pathfinder combining Spot and Search. One being wisdom based the other intelligence.

Let’s face it some people are just more naturally observant. ADD was a survival trait when Saber tooth tigers were still around, and all we had was sticks and stones.