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My group has had some discussion over the use of Scan and Search and we would appreciate other people's opinions.

Question 1) Do people use passive Scan and Search or are those skills only attempted when the player declares their adventurer to be using them?

i.e. If the adventurers are about to step onto a trap or walk into an ambush, do you allow them to attempt a roll to detect it before it is activated even if the players haven't requested one?

 

Question 2) If so, which skill?  Walking into an ambush would seem like a situation appropriate for Scan, but if it is a tripwire or pit trap, would you use Scan or Search?

 

Question 3) If a passive use of the skill is allowed, do the adventurers get to use the skill at:

  • Full skill?
  • Half Skill?
  • Require a Special success to succeed?
  • Some other amount?

 

Thanks heaps people.

 

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1) In my case, it depends on the situation. For example, if the PCs are not expecting any traps, I won't necessarily tell them to roll any perception tests unless they specify they are carefully paying attention, or if the trap is particularly nasty, then I would let them roll passively.

I remember once a PC was chasing a sorcerer along the corridors of a dungeon, since she wasn't paying attention to the floor, she fell onto a trap, with no perception roll allowed.

You could also determine what kind of success the creator of the trap rolled when setting the trap and using that result as the resut the PCs need to beat in order to spot the trap.

In some situations, the players will complain if you don't let them roll perception (or if you don't roll it for them behind the screen), as they will consider their characters will always be wary of ambushes while on the road, for example. "We don't need to specify that to you every time!", is what my players would tell me in such a case. 😝

2) Yes, Scan for long-distance perception, like the ambush example, and Search for close distance perception.

3) I'd say at least -20%. 

Edited by Runeblogger
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2 hours ago, Mechashef said:

Question 1) Do people use passive Scan and Search or are those skills only attempted when the player declares their adventurer to be using them?

i.e. If the adventurers are about to step onto a trap or walk into an ambush, do you allow them to attempt a roll to detect it before it is activated even if the players haven't requested one?

If, as a GM, I think that they need to make a roll, then I ask them to make a roll. They don't need to instigate it every time.

So, yes, if they were about to walk into an ambush, I would ask them to make a Scan roll.

3 hours ago, Mechashef said:

Question 2) If so, which skill?  Walking into an ambush would seem like a situation appropriate for Scan, but if it is a tripwire or pit trap, would you use Scan or Search?

For a tripwire or pit trap, I would use Scan. For a poisoned needle on a chest, I would use Search.

3 hours ago, Mechashef said:

Question 3) If a passive use of the skill is allowed, do the adventurers get to use the skill at:

  • Full skill?
  • Half Skill?
  • Require a Special success to succeed?
  • Some other amount?

Full skill, unless the opponents were well-hidden. 

I can't see any reason as to why I would penalise them unless there were other circumstances, for example darkness, mist or smoke.

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There are times when Scan and Listen are used actively and some passively.  They don’t seem to be different skills if used active/passive.

A lot of time, they’ll be an opportunity to hear or see something (from an ambush, rustling in bushes, or an arrow being trained).  Generally, unless there’s a reason not to, I assume the players are doing stuff whilst alert, for me it gets too boring to insist on the players to always state, we’re travelling while being alert. (Sorry Runeblogger).  So these cases would be passive use of the skill, which I allow at full chance (or an opposed roll for the ambush example).

Other times, to see or hear something that’s really well hidden or quiet, I’d require the players to say they are stopping what they’re doing to actively scan or listen.  So often (but not always) spotting signs of traps or hear a very soft sigh would fall in this category.  Often this would be when the players to be doing something obviously dangerous, like going into a tomb, expecting trouble.  If I allowed a passive role, it would be at a penalty (perhaps -50%).

For me, the difference between scan and search is that scan is purely visual, search is if you’re trying to find something, possibly feeling or moving stuff around.  So, if you visually looking about for traps that would be scan, whilst if you are feeling about, perhaps prodding with spears, that would be search.  However, I am aware that rules as written (p188), is slightly different, that search is for something concealed or hidden, like traps, so even if the clue is completely visual, you would use search rather than scan.  Also, I can’t see a use of search that would feel right to be used passively.

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Good question and one I need to resolve before my next campaign. 

I am paying Pathfinder as a player at the moment and that’s got a Spot roll based on the Perception skill. 

And the GM rolls it. 

For RQ I’d make a roll based on the highest Scan skill of the party with a bonus based half next highest Scan skill or 2% x party size > max 20%.

Things that were not in plain sight would need a roll of x0.5 of the above. Less obvious things x0.25. 

I’d treat Hidden things like Dodge to an attack.

And in general I am totally down with the GM rolling skills where the player will not know if they have succeeded or failed or fumbled until after they roll. 

Because people hear things wrongly or make a mistake about what they have seen. Or think there’s something there when there isn’t, etc., or think there’s nothing there when there is. 
 

You just need to record who gets a skill check.


 

 

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5 hours ago, Monty Lovering said:

And in general I am totally down with the GM rolling skills where the player will not know if they have succeeded or failed or fumbled until after they roll. 

 

I remember this from RQ3, can not remember where I encountered it but needed it this afternoon so I recreated it from memory for my benefit but if you like it, feel to use it. Best thing it is so intuitive I remember it from a couple of decades ago. Passions and Runes I put into the hands of the player. They will know if they fail pretty quickly, and for the new category of magic the player should be able to know right away as well so I put it under player. For the purpose of MGF one could let the player roll just about anything if the GM determines it will not hurt if the player knows he failed.

Who rolls what

Adventurer          GM

Agility Skills                           Communication Skills

Manipulation Skills             Perception Skills

Magic Skills                            Knowledge Skills

Sneak                                         Hide

Passions

Runes

 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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20 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

I remember this from RQ3, can not remember where I encountered it but needed it this afternoon so I recreated it from memory for my benefit but if you like it, feel to use it. Best thing it is so intuitive I remember it from a couple of decades ago. Passions and Runes I put into the hands of the player. They will know if they fail pretty quickly, and for the new category of magic the player should be able to know right away as well so I put it under player. For the purpose of MGF one could let the player roll just about anything if the GM determines it will not hurt if the player knows he failed.

Who rolls what

Adventurer          GM

Agility Skills                           Communication Skills

Manipulation Skills             Perception Skills

Magic Skills                            Knowledge Skills

Sneak Hide

Passions

Runes

 

I'm not sure I'd agree with all of those.  

 

I'd put Hide in the GM category.  I can see arguments for Sneak (Move Quietly) being in either.  Communication and Knowledge skills could also be in either.

 

I think in general, I have no problems with the players rolling Move Quietly, Communication and Knowledge skills because usually, except for a fumble, they know whether they have succeeded.  

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7 minutes ago, Mechashef said:

I'd put Hide in the GM category.  I can see arguments for Sneak (Move Quietly) being in either.  Communication and Knowledge skills could also be in either.

 

Sneak you will know if you did not succeed, CREAK.... You still won’t know if your opponent heard you or not, but you will know ya f***ed up. Hide is as you say in the GM category, A tab and boom it sits were it was meant to be. Just got missed in cut and paste. So, "I am happy the tapestry is here no one will see me" (with boots plainly sticking out). So thanks for pointing out hide, now fixed. 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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1) In some games like Call of Cthulhu where many characters are "mundane" characters that aren't expected to be always on their guard, or to have any good instincts, I might indeed worry about this kind of thing... but for RuneQuest I would just assume that everybody is keeping an eye out for trouble or foes or dangerous animals any time they're in a situation calling for it (travelling, trading at a foreign market, going into an old temple... pretty much every situation :) ).

Usually, I let the players roll. They know to separate their knowledge from their character's knowledge. Plus, it makes them aware of their own performance: in many cases, one would know to have been distracted, to have made some unwanted noise, to have had gear noise interfere with listening, etc. Of course, they don't know how I rolled behind the screen, so they don't know if the NPCs failed by worse, succeeded by more, matched their success, etc. There's still enough mystery to keep the scene interesting, and the players on their toes.

With different systems/settings, I might roll in secret for the players -- especially if it's a game focused on paranoia and secrets. Not for RuneQuest. And in all cases, if the roll is going to have an outcome immediately, I let the players roll. That is: if they need to spot an ambush about to happen, or a trap about to go off, I let them roll, because if even if they fail, well, the ambush or the trap will be revealed a second later, isn't it? The roll was really to know if they lose a turn or have to roll for DEX or something.

2) Scan or Listen for ambushes (whichever is higher, or whichever the player wants to roll). For a trap, it would be Scan, unless the character is actively checking for one, in which case it would be Search. But I don't like how these two skills manage to both overlap and still miss some elements of the broader "Perception" use-cases, so I'm not the best person to answer this one.

3) Somebody who is not particularly trained or experienced in spotting/hearing enemies and traps might only have 25% (the default) in those skills. This roughly means that 3 times out of 4 they won't spot a trap or an enemy... (it's a bit more complicated than that due to Opposed Roll mechanics but lets hand-wave this for now). There's no need to penalize them for having a low skill (by adding a penalty) because even with a normal roll they're already penalized by getting ambushed in the vast majority of cases. In contrast, people who have a high Scan or Listen score are people who have been trained to, well, be good are spotting or hearing things. It doesn't seem fun or fair to penalize someone who's quite good at this (let's say 60%?) just because someone assumes they're not keeping an eye out... in many cases, it's because they have 60% that they are indeed often keeping an eye out instinctively! So I wouldn't put any penalty on these rolls... players already fail rolls enough in BRP :) 

Edited by lordabdul
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Yes for passive rolls but it depends of the situation :

- the PC are focused on watching/listening the environnement (they are patrolling, they are cautious, etc ...) -> of course yes, and maybe with a bonus for the perception skill (and a malus for any other thing, time to travel, communication, etc...)

- the PC are not focused on any activity (they are simply moving to another location, without special precautions) -> yes, with no bonus / malus

- the PC are focused on another activity (one is trying to seduce someone, one is demonstrating how good sing he is, one is translating a document) -> no passive roll

 

I roll dices on my gm side for to reasons :

- when the players (not the characters) should not know how the situation will evolve (for example a seduction fumble : the "target" is not seduced at all but will trick the player, and as a fumble, the player is conviced he/she succeed) Of course I will give some narrative information to the players

- when rolling secret dices is good for the ambiance (suspense, paranoia, etc..).  For example, the players are in a krashti tunnels or a wild unkonwn forests etc... rolling dices is not only here to pretend there is something, but also, it takes times (few seconds of silence from the gm, few seconds when the players are asking themselves what may happen)
 

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5 hours ago, Mechashef said:

I'm not sure I'd agree with all of those.  

 

I'd put Hide in the GM category.  I can see arguments for Sneak (Move Quietly) being in either.  Communication and Knowledge skills could also be in either.

 

I think in general, I have no problems with the players rolling Move Quietly, Communication and Knowledge skills because usually, except for a fumble, they know whether they have succeeded.  

That’s the entire thing. If you roll and they fumble, then they think they’re tight about what someone said, or a fact. etc., and you misinform them accordingly. 

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5 hours ago, lordabdul said:

f they need to spot an ambush about to happen, or a trap about to go off, I let them roll, because if even if they fail, well, the ambush or the trap will be revealed a second later

If there's an instant resolution, fine. But if people are hiding from them, then they won't know that they passed them three hours ago, or spend twenty minutes stalking a bear.

5 hours ago, lordabdul said:

They know to separate their knowledge from their character's knowledge

I think a character thinking they've been insulted by someone who asked them to pass the salt plays better if the player thinks their character has been insulted by someone who asked them to pass the salt. And it's hard to play a character that you know has fumbled a knowledge roll and now thinks something totally wrong about the Thanatari they are about to attack.

 

 

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38 minutes ago, Monty Lovering said:

That’s the entire thing. If you roll and they fumble, then they think they’re tight about what someone said, or a fact. etc., and you misinform them accordingly. 

I agree it is a very important thing.  There is a line that each group needs to draw.  For my group, they are good enough role-players to act accordingly on the times they do get a fumble on such a skill (knowledge category, Move Quietly etc) but I believe it would be pushing it to get them to do so on a regular basis for fails on perception skills.

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I don't believe "Passive Search" is a thing, unless perhaps there's some declaration from the players that they are going to take everything very slowly and carefully in the ruin (which is basically the declaration "we search everything!"). Remember, "Search takes one melee round per 2×2 meter area searched", so it can't happen if you just walk at regular pace (and actually, just one melee round is really generous in the first place!).

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4 hours ago, Mechashef said:

For my group, they are good enough role-players to act accordingly on the times they do get a fumble on such a skill (knowledge category, Move Quietly etc) but I believe it would be pushing it to get them to do so on a regular basis for fails on perception skills.

I don't think it would be "pushing it", though, because if it becomes tedious and repetitive, it's the actual "rolling for Perception all the time" that's probably getting tedious and repetitive, not the "roll and then play your character based on that roll's result, regardless of what you know as a player"... because the latter should be natural for most players. That's what role-playing is about. If not, the GM has many other problems, like having to chat secretly with a player in the other room when she does something on the side, making players leave the table when the party splits, handing out a note when a player reads the old grimoire that nobody else can read (instead of just saying it out loud), etc. I'd rather spend the time helping players get better at it, if possible.

But yes, I've played with a couple players who are not very good at it, or who prefer the "immersion" of knowing as much or as little as their character (something to discuss on Session Zero!). I can work with it, and in some games like Delta Green (where paranoia and secrets are are core element), I enjoy doing it! Passing notes in this case is a lot of fun, and sometimes someone passes a blank note just to keep the others guessing! For other games like RuneQuest, however, I'd rather embrace the "shared storytelling" side of the hobby rather than the "GM is the all and everything, players are just guests in her universe" side of it....  YMMV, YGWV, and so on, of course.

Edited by lordabdul
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I try to err on the side of player agency - for some games as suggested suspense dictates otherwise - but for RQ I try to put the dice in the hands of the players.  I have also chosen to GM without hidden dice - so a GM roll would be seen anyway.  Most of the situations raised above can be overcome through a slight re-framing of the situations or the application of the skill. 

 

In many cases though the test is an opposed roll, and the outcome isn't set until the opponents roll.  E.G sneaking up on a guard - fail move silently roll - "you are mostly quiet but your armor is subtly clinking with every step"  Their intent could still be mostly successful if the guard fails their Listen roll too - e.g. you get in range for a dagger strike before they can let off a warning (but they can dodge) - but not you reach them and surprise them striking without a defense roll.

 

As to how to handle the inevitable failures and fumbles - I use Humor and Ridiculousness. E.g. Someone fumbles a Hide roll - "You stand in the corner with a lampshade on your head"

 

For fumbled knowledge rolls I usually gift information starting with "There is an old wives tale that you recall" - then decide if the information is false or true - the PC's do not know if the information is false, partly true, or fully true, until they try it.  A failure is easy, "you don't recall anything useful about that", or "most people know X".

 

As for traps - "GM: You are about to trigger a trap" "PC: Surely I would have seen that before stepping on it" "GM: OK roll me a search or scan".

 

The only issue I face is POW vrs POW to resist a spell (as some spells have special effects on Special/Critical - e.g. Madness) - but most times I will invert the roll and tell them they have a 35% (or whatever) to resist the spell.

 

But this is not to say I haven't had fun in games run where the GM handles any roll where the knowledge of success or failure is unclear immediately - because these games are also fun.  The best advice is talk with your players and find out what makes things fun for themselves.

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38 minutes ago, ChrisJ said:

The only issue I face is POW vrs POW to resist a spell

I think many people just tell the player to roll, and then announces if the roll is a success or failure on the Resistance table. The player doesn't know what POW they're up against, but they can guess, after a couple attempts, whether the opponent is weaker or stronger or about the same as them.

That's for player-cast spells, of course. For NPC spells, the GM can just roll behind the scenes. When the NPC fails, I would often tell the player that they felt a magical attack that they managed to repel. I might add adjectives like "easily" or "with some difficulty" to give them a sense of the NPC's POW.

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11 hours ago, ChrisJ said:

The only issue I face is POW vrs POW to resist a spell (as some spells have special effects on Special/Critical - e.g. Madness) - but most times I will invert the roll and tell them they have a 35% (or whatever) to resist the spell.

For me, POW vs POW is always active. As a GM I roll to overcome PCs' POW, as a PC I roll to overcome NPCs' POW.

For some reason, I never saw the point of rolling to resist and still don't.

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53 minutes ago, soltakss said:

For me, POW vs POW is always active. As a GM I roll to overcome PCs' POW, as a PC I roll to overcome NPCs' POW.

For some reason, I never saw the point of rolling to resist and still don't.

RQ isn't quite the right kind of game for it, but as rule, Player-Facing is a good design. Players like to roll for things, but the GM rolling is mostly just a chore.

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8 hours ago, soltakss said:

For me, POW vs POW is always active. As a GM I roll to overcome PCs' POW, as a PC I roll to overcome NPCs' POW.

Oh I had misunderstood that... yes, if it's an NPC casting a spell on the PC, I (the GM) roll for the NPC behind the screen (or in the open.... depends how I feel about it). Same as when the NPC swings a mace at the PC.

7 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

RQ isn't quite the right kind of game for it, but as rule, Player-Facing is a good design. Players like to roll for things, but the GM rolling is mostly just a chore.

I know that you're not alone in thinking this, but I really don't think GM rolling is a chore per se (it's obviously very subjective so everybody is free to like it either way). There are other things that I would consider a chore (like tracking too many numbers, rolling too much because the rules don't scale to bigger encounters, etc.), but rolling, in and of itself, is something I enjoy (that's why we buy pretty dice sets, don't we?).  I ran a campaign of Numenera, a game that pushes the "player facing" philosophy to its natural conclusion, i.e.  the GM never rolls anything, and it felt... weird. Almost like I was only half-playing the game. YMMV and all that, of course.

Edited by lordabdul
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