Stealth and Perception


(Lee Barklam)

More Than Hiding

Stealth and Perception work well for more than just characters and creatures attempting to sneak up on or past other characters or creatures, the same rules can be applied to other senses and other circumstances, for example:
  • picking a pocket or any other act of sleight;
  • detecting traps;
  • camouflaging (or mimicking) an accent;
  • feeling for secret doors;
  • hunting for game or fresh water in the wilderness;
  • noticing fouled water or soured potions;
  • obtaining information\goods\gossip in a settlement;
  • evesdropping on a conversation;
  • noticing the smell of flammable gases building up in the mine; and/or
  • detecting the subtle taste of poison in food.
Obviously, different circumstantial modifiers apply to uses of Perception other than those given for sight in the official rules, but the principle extends well.

Roleplaying Perception

Assigning anything 'hidden' (compartment, trap, treasure, secret door) a Stealth score provides GMs a simple and intuitive way to decide whether a character finds a trap or hidden clue within the existing rules. However, there should be more to searching than having players roll dice and pit their Perception score against a Stealth score to determine what hidden goodies or surprises the characters find. A much more immersive role-playing experience would be for players to direct their character's search.

For example, a character has found a cave believe to be used by an Elementalist as a base for his band of spore-kin to raid a nearby trade road. Inside, some of the natural chambers have been hewn into proper-sized rooms and populated with some crude furnishings. Whilst the Elementalist and his spore-kin allies are away, our stalwart adventurer searches the caves for treasure, clues and anything else of interest.

The GM has already determined that a scroll linking the Elementalist with a plot on the local town mayor's life is amongst a sheaf of papers on the desk in the study, a replenishment potion is hidden in a small alcove behind a tattered tapestry on one of the walls and the floor of the cavern used as a bedchamber has been boarded, underneath which is a trapped box containing some money looted from merchants on the trade road.

The GM has 3 options:

  1. The GM can assign a Stealth score to each of those items and the character can roll Perception once for the entire cave system and just provide the character with whatever he finds (based on which, if any, of the Stealth scores his roll was sufficiently low to defeat).
  2. The GM can assign Stealth scores as for option 1 and ask the player to roll Perception separately for each cavern the character explores.
  3. Ask the player to describe what the character is doing and where he is doing it, assigning Stealth scores depending on the actions the character takes whilst exploring the cave.
In terms of role-playing, option 3 provides the most scope for the GM to reward the character for the player's good ideas. Consider that if the character does not look behind the tapestry or look through the papers on the Elementalist's desk, he will have no chance to spot the potion or the scroll. However, if a character looks behind the tapestry, finding the potion will be automatic (it's in plain sight), although hastily rifling through the papers on the desk will still require a Perception roll to notice the one incriminating scroll (unless he takes all the papers to read at his leisure later on). As for the loose floorboard, it would be unreasonable to expect the character to lift up every floorboard, but not so unreasonable to expect a character to notice a loose floorboard underfoot as he walks around and the character should be entitled to a Perception roll to notice the floorboard just for going into the room.

In all cases, the trap on the box (assuming it is found) would be dealt with separately (see Traps).

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