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Using Spot Hidden (or other clue-skills, like Psychology)


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Hey, just a question from a fairly newb Keeper...

Do push or pull Spot Hidden rolls?

In Pathfinder, the GM would just call out "Ok, everyone roll a perception roll" which is one way to do it, who noticed that the gnome was pocketing the relic while you were fighting the zombies? But no one ever ASKED to do one, it was all passive, from the players point of view. But I have been basically making the players ask for it, as in "hey, I search the cupboards" before getting them to roll Spot Hidden on the fake back wall, hiding the secret compartment. But the scenario I am running has several places where players might just notice something, and the things noticed may matter. 

so do you pull? ("we enter the room" "ok, roll me a spot hidden") or push (wait for someone to ask about something "Do I notice anything strange about the glass figurine?")

I hope my explanation makes sense.

Rick

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In general the need to call for a Spot Hidden or wait for a prompt from the Investigators will be situational.

Asking the players to make Spot Hidden rolls can break the mystery if you're not careful, as it automatically tells them that there is something to discover.

If you've just described a room and then an Investigator says they'd like to search the room/desk/bookcase etc and there is the potential for them to find a clue, then the response would be "ok, make a Spot Hidden". 

If the Investigators are being tailed or watched as they're walking the streets during a regular activity, then (unless they've been provided narrative motivation) they are unlikely to always ask if there's anything suspicious they can see. At this point the Keeper would ask for a Spot Hidden.

 

Always consider immersion. If the players can lead the way and you can react to their decisions with the appropriate rolls, they'll feel a greater sense of success. Although, if it feels like they're about to miss something important, then you could give them a last minute opportunity by asking the roll yourself.

 

I hope that helps.

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What edition of CoC are you running, Aggamemnon?

Pages 201-204 of the 7e Keeper Rulebook provides fairly comprehensive answers to your questions. 

As far as your "cupboard searching" example is concerned, this section of the rules on Obvious Clues is particularly worth paying attention to:

Quote

If you have something you want the players to find out about, you should make the clue obvious. Obvious clues are useful if your game is plot-driven, especially when missing such a clue would leave the players at a loss for how to proceed. The players are not required to roll dice to uncover obvious clues. (7e Keeper Rulebook, p. 202, emphasis added) 

Clues can also be obscured, rather than obvious:

Quote

Finding an obscured clue may help the investigators in some way, but is not pivotal to progressing the plot. If you feel that either option, getting the clue or not getting the clue, would allow the game to proceed in an interesting direction, you can use an obscured clue. When the players request a perception roll, you should generally use an obscured clue.

     Obscured clues serve two functions:

. The chance to gain useful information.

. To create tension when the players miss the roll and know they have missed a clue. (7e Keeper Rulebook, p. 202, emphasis added)

The following paragraphs go into more depth on resolving Perception rolls for obscured clues, consequences of losing a pushed perception roll, using more than one perception skill, player goals for perception rolls, Perception vs. Spot Hidden rolls when there is no clue to find, and use of Psychology rolls to discern NPC motivations.

 

Please accept my apologies if you're already familiar with all of the above. I often find myself forgetting or overlooking some of the finer points of rules or adjudication-related suggestions.

 

Edit: for your "spotting the gnome pocketing a relic during combat" example, you need to decide whether witnessing that is critical to furthering the plot or unraveling the mystery (in which case no roll would be necessary and you could just adjudicate that one of the PC's noticed the incident out of the corner of his eye). If witnessing the gnome's shenanigans isn't critical to the story, then I would probably call for a passive Perception roll, maybe at Hard difficulty or with disadvantage (since the investigators are probably focused primarily on the zombies posing a direct threat to them rather than actively scanning for larcenous gnomes). 

Edited by TwiceBorn
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Yes it can derail things if players don't spot clues using Spot Hidden checks. It can be hard for players to put clues together even if they find them, let alone not finding them at all due to a random roll. You can partially hide clues by, for example having something in a cupboard that won't be found unless the player states that they're looking in the cupboard; but they automatically spot it if they do.

Spot Hidden could be used to get even more information from a crime scene, ie. extra clues. Also, used passively you can keep players nervous by calling for random checks; that way not every check means there's actually something to see. If they succeed you could confirm that they're not being followed, or give them some random clue for your investigation.

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As others have said, it can come down to the immersion or the way you're trying to use it but you can lean into the way the party reacts. If you ask for a spot hidden and they suddenly think something is going on, work with it, put them into a slightly suspicious mood but help them justify why. Maybe they fail the dice roll but somebody heard something that puts them on edge, saw something out of the corner of their eye. Push the paranoia a little.

Another use would be similar to something described in the pulp rules. In pulp, it suggests that failed dice rolls can still give you an outcome but something bad or unexpected happens. The examples in the book are things like failing a lock pick and the door opens but it sets off an alarm but it can be used just as well for spot hidden, they may still get important clue but what happens as well?

- being pick pocketed, the victim may fail the dice roll so they notice but not until the thief has got a good distance away. 

- finding a secret passage, they push it open but that was a VERY loud creak. Did anything hear it?

- you spot a cultist who actually hadn't been tailing you, but he's spotted you at the same time and he's not alone.

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Hmmm I am limited to one post per day, so I will try to reply to all 😄

Many thanks to the all of the replies, especially TwiceBorn. No need to apologize, unless I say I read, no reason to assume I have. I mean, I did once, but it did not stick. I DID go back and re-read the skill entries for this, but that portion is much more detailed.

I keep forgetting how railroady CoC is. it is not a bad thing, but it is different. my foundational game is a mish-mash of dungeons and dragons and advanced dungeons and dragons, and so, from the start, very confrontational with the players. And you are expected to watch the players flail away, missing clues and such. Design advice for dungeons tells you to expect the players to miss as much two thirds of any level, for various reasons. I forget that this game is different. There is no treasure hoard, no levels, no resurrection. There is only the plot, really, the plot, and the mystery. I will have to adjust my thinking, consciously.

And yes, a failed spot check can be very useful, you can crank up the tension by only giving them partial info, enough to know that something is happening, but not enough to feel like they have it under control...

Thanks again, everyone. It is very nice to be able to ask for advice to improve my table skills.

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2 minutes ago, Aggamemnon said:

Hmmm I am limited to one post per day

The limit will disappear once our filters establish you aren't a spammer. We've had a few problems in the recent past so now have a proactive system in which your posts are approved by the moderators. Keep posting! 

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On 8/26/2021 at 9:28 AM, Scotty said:

The limit will disappear once our filters establish you aren't a spammer. We've had a few problems in the recent past so now have a proactive system in which your posts are approved by the moderators. Keep posting! 

I figured as much. Not a problem. This is a good discussion, I am already thinking about how to deal with specific "times" in the scenario, since I am running from a magazine.

 

Again, thank you all for your responsed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My way of doing it is:

- If it is a menace to the player (monster, someone following, a book or painting you should not see): I ask or the roll.

- If it is just there, to be found : I want for them to say they are searching.

Then:

1) If they have time and/or know what to do : automatic succes.

2) If they have to do it quick or have others circonstances (like, leaving no traces) : I ask for spot hidden.

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