House Rule – Sense Motive & Perception Checks

Let’s talk about metagaming and metagamers…

Personally, I have a force of hatred for metagaming and metagamers that quite simply, cannot be measured.  I tried measuring it once, but numbers just don’t go that high.  The scum of the earth.  A wart of the anus of humanity. Etc etc.


Don’t get me started on Power Gamers either!!!

With that completely understood and out of the way, let’s get down to the point of this post shall we?

If you listen to a lot of podcasts and / or have played a lot of RPGs, you will have come across these types of situation…

1. The PCs are exploring a crypt that seems to move around in a town’s graveyard.  There’s been no logical explanation for it, and as the whole town now knows and is up in arms for the Mayor to “Do something!”, he employs the ‘Gimboid Crue’ – their name, not mine.
They’ve found the crypt, but cannot find how to get inside, there doesn’t seem to be any entrance at all!
Alfred says, “I’ll do a Perception Check around the crypt for hidden doors…”  and rolls a 2 on a Perception check to find hidden doors.
Burt sees that Alfred’s roll was rubbish and ‘metagamingly’ decides that had better check too and rolls a 9.
Chamomile sees them both roll low and metagamingly’ decides that she will check too, and rolls a 12…
Derek sees…. 
and so and and on and on.
Now, I understand the desire to succeed in as many rolls as possible.  As a player you don’t know which rolls are vital to succeed in and which ones aren’t, so you try and succeed in everything.  I get that, I really do but if we’re trying for immersion and some sense of realism, the characters have no way of knowing what the others rolled!  While it’s easy to tell the player, “That’s metagaming, you’re not doing that,” all that does is either, get the players to desperately try and justify why another roll is feasible, or start infighting amongst the players.
2. The PCs are questioning a spy they caught infiltrating the King’s gardens.  They know the spy was looking for the ‘Mirror of Gorsh’, but have no idea why as they have been told that it’s of very little value.  They have just asked the Spy who hired him…
Zimbie says, “I’ll Sense Motive, I want to know if he’s telling the truth or not…” He rolls a 5.
Yimbie, not liking the look of Zimbie’s low roll, says, “Yeah, good idea, I’ll Sense Motive too…”  She rolls a 7.
Ximbie, not liking the look of either of those rolls….  
You get the point.
If the rolls are visible to the Players, and the roll looks like it failed, there is ALWAYS the temptation to try and justify a reason why someone else in the Party should be allowed to roll.  That sucks.
The way I see it is that if you roll a Perception or Sense Motive or a similar Check, then the result of that roll shows what your character truly believes about something/someone or that he has searched ‘to the best of his/her ability’.
Now, if an event comes up where the players want to try a Perception Check then I could say, “Ok, whoever wants to roll on ‘this Check’, all of you roll at the same time.”  Then, once all the rolls are done, I could reveal the result, but all that will do is create a situation where everyone rolls for, everything, always and that is more than a little ridiculous.
Another point to consider here is when the GM says, “Roll a ‘Blah Blah’ Check.”  Now sometimes this is just to recall a memory or to see whether you have knowledge about something, and that’s fine, but if it’s some kind of hidden reveal, the GM has just telegraphed that something is either about to happen or there is something they are about to potentially miss.  It gives the game away and informs the players that there is something going on…
If they pass the Check, then they would find out, and that’s fine, but if they fail, then they would never know what was about to happen pr what they could have seen…  BUT they already know that there was something that they missed.
Now, a GM can throw in a few random checks just to keep players on their toes, and I do that from time to time but I believe that there is a simpler and more creative way to deal with this.
At the start of the Session, get your players to roll 10 Perception Checks, and 10 Sense Motive checks.  The GM takes those results behind his screen.
During play, if the players call for a Check of one of those types, randomly pick one and cross it off the list, that is the result for that character.
There will also be times when unbeknownst to a player, they need to check to see if they spot something.  For example, a pickpocket, a trap, a nervous glance.  In those moments, the GM randomly chooses another pre-rolled Check and applies that.  If the player succeeds, then the GM tells them, if they fail…
Now, there may be some players who really don’t like this idea…  And they typically fall into one of three types:
1. Power Gamers;
2. Players that don’t trust their GM; and
3. Metagamers.
Enough said.
I believe the idea is sound, know many GMs that have been doing this for quite some time now.  They have all said that not only does it help the sessions immersion but, contrary to what some may think, it make the players feel proud of their awesome Characters.
Goyosa – I think we should head straight, there are double doors down there and that surely is an indication of where the Ogre Commander’s going to be holed up.  He’s hardly going to be in some small antechamber is he!?”
The party generally agrees and start to move down the corridor.
Behind the Screen – there is a scythe trap in the corridor, with a DC 22 Perception Check to notice it.  The GM quietly rolls a d10, and checks along that row of pre-rolled Perception Checks made by each Player before the Session started.  Dumpling has a 24.
GM – “Ok, so you’re moving down the corridor, the usual marching order with Yum Cha up front, Dumpling right behind him…  As you get halfway to the double doors, Dumpling spots two narrow slots in the walls at around waist height and a small glyph on the wall just before them.  Dumpling darts forward and grabs Yum Cha just before his leg would have moved in front of the glyph.”  
The GM looks at Dumpling’s player, “You just saved the Party from a very nasty trap fella…  Nice work!”

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