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Darth Poopdeck

How to do Perception Checks?

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It really depends on the situation. If the situation makes sense for everyone to roll, then go for it. Having a wide selection of failure, success and despair to work with can really make a scene ("You noticed the assassin, you failed to notice it - so you get shot, and you, you noticed it but didn't notice the missing bit of catwalk and fell off the scaffolding 30 feet down.")

 

However having just the most skilled person do one roll for the party (with some add-on blues to simulate the others helping) is also a valid way of approaching it. It really depends on how much rolling you want to deal with.

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I've started just doing a bass perception check at the beginning of every session, and I set it up around the kind of typical things someone would notice in passing maybe . So it would apply to things like seeing the tripwire or noticing the pit . I might still require everyone to make a roll to notice the photograph on the desk of their patron and the person they were sent to deal with , or some other slightly more of obscure item .

I don't like calling for perception checks when it involves things like being surprised in combat , it's just too meta-game for me, so I also just use the base check for that like passive perception.

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This is a question which comes up in most every game system, not just this one.  And the question often comes up for other skills as well, not just Perception.

 

Usually there is no official rule, and there isn't one in this system either.  It's the GM's call to make.

 

Typically people will choose one of the following:

 

1. Each person makes a separate check, passing or failing individually.  This is perhaps the most "realistic" approach for Perception, but in many circumstances it also renders the check almost pointless.  Since everyone is making a check, it's almost guaranteed that at least one person will pass.  He will then just tell anyone who failed, "Hey, look at that!", thereby making their failure irrelevant.

 

This approach can work well for things like ambushes, though - those who fail are taken by surprise, those who pass are able to react in time.

 

Whether this approach works well for other skills is a case-by-case question.  It tends to be the best approach in situations where each person is more-or-less on his own, neither able to help nor hinder one another.  Jumping between rooftops, for instance, would usually be such a case - each individual just needs to do it on his own, with people passing or failing individually.

 

2. The person with the best ability makes the check for the whole group.  This is faster, easier, and keeps the outcome from being an almost guaranteed success.  It does, however, mean that everybody with a poorer Perception ability can just ride the coattails of the best person.  No one else is punished for their low skill, and no one else is rewarded for their investment in the skill other than the very best person.

 

For other skills, this approach works well when one person can be seen as taking the lead, guiding the others through the process.  Following an animal's tracks, for instance, could work in this way - it doesn't really matter that Joe has no idea how to do this, since Sarah is a skilled tracker and Joe can just follow her.

 

3. The person with the worst ability makes the check for the whole group.  This works the same as number 2 except that it uses the worst skill in the group instead of the best.  This approach doesn't usually make a lot of sense for Perception, since a blind ally isn't going to prevent his sighted friend from noticing something.

 

This is, however, often appropriate when dealing with activities where one person's incompetence can undermine the efforts of the group - cases where the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  Stealth, for example, tends to work this way.  If the whole group is trying to avoid detection, it should probably be the least stealthy person who needs to make the check since he's the one you need to worry about giving everyone else away.

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In my experience, it's each individual player. Because it's likely not everyone may be in the right place to notice something.

 

I've had a player in a room with something to find, but on failing the Perception check, I'll let him spend the Advantage he rolled to communicate to someone else that he suspects something is there. The next player found it and felt like a badass. Mission accomplished.

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If everyone's searching the same area, I do a combined check (Best characteristic + Best Rank, a boost dice or two for others helping). If the gang is splitting up, or if there's more than one thing to spot, I'll do separate checks and let the people who succeed notice the thing(s).

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When the PCs are performing an action as a group, the assistance mechanics often work well.  But they don't really make any sense for Perception checks specifically.

 

Most of the time Perception is a passive and reactive activity.  Usually people aren't actively trying to search for something, they're just going about their business and might happen to notice something relevant as they pass by.  In these cases, characters "assisting" one another really makes no sense.

 

And even if they are, as a group, actively searching an area, I'm still not sure assistance makes much sense for Perception.  They're combining their efforts (i.e. each person is looking in the hope that someone will succeed), but each person is just doing his own thing.  Perception isn't like, say, Mechanics where one person can hold something in position while the other screws it in place.  One person can't really help another to see or hear or smell better.

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Previously I would have said "one roll for the group", but I'm finding it useful to use shake things up.  One way to use the "everybody rolls" scenario is when you have information you'd like to give the party, but want to dole it out depending on results.

 

So in a case where the group wants to check for an ambush, I'll probably go with a single roll (plus assist).  In this case, success is somewhat binary (there is an ambush or there isn't), and advantages/et al can be spent on positioning, free actions, strain, etc

 

In a case where a room is being investigated and contains various clues, I might allow more in the party to roll, but be stingier about the value of each success.  The useful thing about this is you can also more easily tailor results according to the party makeup or positioning...the slicer notices a computer-related thing, the marauder hears the tread of boots coming down the hall, etc.

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Assisting another, in this case, is not about one PC steadying the other's binoculars. It is about handling a complex situation with multiple protagonists within a single die roll, then interpreting the outcome narratively. In my opinion, the fewer rolls you've got to do to describe a scene satisfactorily the better.

 

This is not d20 anymore, where there's always been a direct cause and effect relation between a single player's action and their die roll. In this game skill rolls are supposed to help describe what's going on in a more abstract manner. In any given situation the most elegant solution would be doing one single roll with multiple dice, then interpreting each die seperately to tell a story of what's just happened. At least, that's what I believe this game is all about.   

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And even if they are, as a group, actively searching an area, I'm still not sure assistance makes much sense for Perception.  They're combining their efforts (i.e. each person is looking in the hope that someone will succeed), but each person is just doing his own thing.  Perception isn't like, say, Mechanics where one person can hold something in position while the other screws it in place.  One person can't really help another to see or hear or smell better.

"Did you check behind the painting?"

"You check that corner, I'll check this one."

"Hey, did you see that?  Na, it was nothing."

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I recently decided to start using a combined group check for things like stealth.  Each player rolls stealth (possibly with different difficulty pools, depending on situation), then all rolls are totalled, cancelling each other's results, then success occurs if the total successes is greater than the total # of PC's.  This lets the weak drag down the average, but a stealthy character can help by going ahead, timing guards, and waving the tank across the street when no one is looking.  I may start doing that for searching, where different things are found based on # of successes, but each player rolls individually.  It would represent the lousy searcher making a big mess digging through drawers, but throwing the contents on the ground, etc.  I'll probably start doing that for more rolls as the opportunity comes up.  

 

On the other hand, noticing an ambush will always be an individual Vigilance check, with results determining who is surprised.

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"Did you check behind the painting?"

 

I get what you're saying and I've thought about such examples, but they don't really fall under what "assistance" is supposed to mean.  "Assistance" occurs when people combine their individual abilities to perform better than any of them would (or even could) have performed alone - it's about a group becoming more than the sum of its parts.

 

Why wouldn't the person pointing out the painting have just checked it himself?  Either person could do it, and the second isn't more likely to find something back there because the first told him to look.  They're not improving their capabilities by working together other than through redundancy (i.e. if one person misses something, another might catch it), and that's more a case of multiple checks, not one assisted check.

 

 

 

"You check that corner, I'll check this one."

 

That's a prime example of two separate checks, not one assisted check.

 

Indeed they're two technically unrelated checks since they're investigating separate areas.  e.g. Only the person who checks the west corner has a chance to find the hidden wall safe (since it's in the west corner).  The guy who checks the east corner fails to find it automatically.

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(Let me note that we often use personal perception checks as well, just for familiarity, but for the sake of argument)

 

That's all true, if your following the principle of 1-check = 1-action.  The same principle that has lead in some D&D games to have the player with the highest perception in the group to ask for a list of what's in the room, then go down the list and search it for secret compartments/treasure/etc, or has led to each person sequentially saying "I search the room."  Neither case is particularly representative of how a group of people actually search a location, nor is it expedient, nor does it solve the issue of probabilistic sample size (with enough rolls, every roll will occur)

 

This changes, however, if you consider the check to encapsulate the entirety of the activity, such as "the team searches the apartment."  In this case each boost die is a rough representation of the general benefit of having more people involved.  A blank on the dice indicates that they provided no real assistance, a success indicating that they may have spotted something otherwise overlooked by virtue of double checking or the endurance of having someone with you, and advantages (usually representative of time taken) demonstrating  the ability to divide up work and cover areas simultaneously.  Furthermore, it addresses the probabilistic issue by increasing the chance of success in the way the system was designed to operate under (inclusion of boost dice) rather then specifically seeking an outlier.  

 

Ultimately, although they sound independent of each other, they actually are not.  One doesn't look at something, or search an area the same way if they are aware that an ally just looked at or searched it.  One instead tends to look specifically for things or areas they guess that the other person may have missed.  In the case of splitting up to search two separate areas, they are advantaged by the knowledge that they have a smaller area to search, and that they do not need to consider searching the other area, because they are trusting another to perform that task.  Moreover, people tend not to give up as easily, because they can tell others are counting on them, and also performing the same labor.  (not to mention embarrassment of giving up, then having another find it where you searched).  

 

In essence, this is no different then providing a boost to another in a combat attack.  I doubt many of us think that we are aiding another in combat by grabbing their pistol hand and steadying it.  Rather, our characters are creating a favorable circumstance (covering fire, driving into the open, distracting, etc.) that our ally is reacting to.  Aiding another in perception is the same thing, creating a favorable circumstance, though which, our ally is boosted.

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I haven't played this game much, so let me know if I'm overlooking something here, but I would probably go with something like this:

 

The leader of the effort (character with the best attribute/ skill combination as determined by the group) rolls for the entire team. The leader receives a Boost die for each additional character in his party. Additional Boost die can be awarded as needed for special abilities, exceptional skill or equipment. Successes rolled indicate that the leader has spotted something noteworthy. The more successes rolled, the more detailed information the leader gets. Advantages rolled are then split up among the rest of the party with each acting as a single success, or more precisely, they can cash the Advantage in to access one of their leaders successes. Players will determine together which character receives these Advantages and how many. No other party member can be awarded more Advantages than the leader has scored in successes. 

 

Only one Advantage is needed to avoid being taken by surprise during an ambush. Players whose characters are not awarded an Advantage must narrate why their characters are unaware or too distracted to notice their surroundings. Triumphs allow all of the leaders party one of their successes and multiple Triumphs stack.

 

Failure with Advantages doesn't have to spell doom (unless Despair rears its ugly head). Although the party may miss hearing the squad of enemy soldiers heading their way, lots of Advantages could mean that the party just happens to enter another room moments before those soldiers round the corner looking for them. 

 

For example: Task is acting as the leader for his team of three, he has a total pool of three Proficiency and two Ability dice. His roll results are- one successes, one Triumph and three Advantages. Task has scored Two successes on the perception roll! The Triumph means that the rest of his team gets at least one success so the whole ream get to see the squad of Stormtroopers sneaking their way down the alley. His three advantages can mow be split up among the group. Jax decides that because his character was hacking into a terminal, he sees the troopers, but is too distracted to notice anything else. One Advantage each goes to the other two team members, so they see as much as Task does, but since Task only rolled two successes, the remaining Advantage can't be used to give either of the two remaining party members another success in their perception, Task will have to decide how to spend that last Advantage with suggestions fro the other players and the GM.

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