Inherent ability or skill: another look at Perception.


Back in December I wrote a post about Perception and whether is was even a trainable skill. I think a lot goes into “perception” ( alertness, visual acuity, intuition, reasoning) and the way it’s used by Rolemaster makes it an incredible skill that covers a huge expanse of ability.

But even if you could make an argument (and many did) that perception is a trainable skill, it’s vast multi-disciplinary scope is harder to argue. For instance, while a fighter may be able to perceive an opponents sword skill, the apparent movement of troops or even a carefully laid ambush it’s harder to accept they might be able to detect a trap or secret door if they have no relevant experience in such.

Doesn’t that make sense? No matter how alert or perceptive you are, you can’t perceive small details or glean information on a subject with which you have no skill, training or education. I consider myself a perceptive person, but I can’t look at a horse and draw any conclusions the way Peter could. In other words, perception should be tied to subject matter fluency.

Of course one solution is to add a ton of perceptual sub-skills: perception: reality distortion, perception: traps, perception ambush etc. Of course the list is virtually limitless and would add dozens of new skills to an already bloated system.

With that in mind, I’ve been trying something new and it’s working quite well: I’m using the SKILL RANKS of the appropriate skill/lore as a bonus or modifier to the perception check. If there are no ranks then it’s -25 (along with any difficulty modifiers). So the Thief with 18 ranks in locks/traps gets a +18 bonus to their perception roll related to locks/traps. It’s simple, makes sense and once again creates a use for skill ranks as a measure of proficiency.

8 Replies to “Inherent ability or skill: another look at Perception.”

  1. By the way, this is essentially the ‘complementary skills’ rule that is currently in RMU: you get the full bonus for the main skill, and the ranks bonus for the complementary skill. The specific example RMU uses is perception with someone adding his ranks in Technical (Traps) to his perception bonus. But it is meant to apply to other skills as well. It can also be used for when multiple characters are trying to do something but the group will only make one roll as a whole.

  2. I’m curious – why the ranks and not the skill bonus? Isn’t it unfair to ignore any stat (or other) bonus’ a character has? (I’m not challenging it, I’m interested in understanding it).

    So your characters have a single generic perception skill (in the place of all the ‘perceptions’, ‘observation’, ‘awareness’, ‘senses’, ‘detections’ etc) and you add the skill ranks of an appropriate skill? Or do you still have some of the more specialised perception skills as well (like situational awareness’s and tracking for example)?

    I like this idea as getting better at ‘hiding objects’ automatically makes you better at ‘locating hidden objects’.

    I would be very interested in seeing the list of skills you use in the place of the different perception skills. I’m going to be using an edited excel character sheet for my group and I’ve already filled it full of optional rules found in the Guild Companion website. It would be an easy edit to add these different skill-links so the spreadsheet will do all the work for me – especially when characters level up.

    1. I’d say the idea is to give the character a bit of a bonus for knowing about what they’re looking for while not getting the full bonus because they’re not actually doing that task at the time.

      Adding this to my HARP House Rules.

    2. Craig:

      Not sure if you’ve read some of past blog posts…but I first tried to define the difference between skill ranks and total skill bonus. In RM it’s possible for someone to have 10 ranks in a skill (with not stat or prof. bonuses) and be at a +50, while another player could have 1 rank in a skill with +45 in stat/prof/talent bonuses) and have the same +50 bonus. Should they be equal? Generally in RM, they are. Should training for just 1 rank be the same as a training in 10 ranks? Of course not, but it get’s confusing when we try to equate skills. so let’s use Lore skills. Obviously, 1 rank in a lore is far less than 10 ranks in a lore. So rather than make that a “break in the system”, let’s just acknowledge that ranks represent the learning of a skill and total bonus the efficacy of what is learned. I addressed this somewhat HERE.

      In my mind, the utilization of both skill ranks (proficiency) and skill bonus (resolution) expands the RM system in a unique way without expanding the parsing and expansion of skills. It changes nothing, because it’s already being used (like skill ranks for ambush, just extended to every skill), but it uses something that changes everything!

  3. I honestly don’t see any reason to make things this complex. If the roll relates to Locks/Traps, use that skill but adjust the difficulty level based on what’s being done. If you’re evaluating a horse, you’re really using Animal Handling or (possibly) Riding, not Perception. Perception should be (at most) a fallback skill if no one has the proper skill.

  4. Sorry all, some comments that require a response I haven’t gotten too. Have RL project that is sucking up my time.

  5. I think the idea behind adding ranks in the complementary skill rather than the bonus in the complementary skill is that there shouldn’t be any double-dipping: if you added the entire bonus of the complementary skill, you might be adding a skill bonus twice. If for example you were allowed to add your skill bonus in Poison Mastery to a Perception roll to see if there was venom in a wound, you would be getting a double bonus from both Presence and Intuition (Perception is In/Re/Sd, while Poison Mastery is In/Re/Me). So because you don’t want that sort of double dipping, you just have one master skill and then a complementary one that only gives ranks.

    IntoThatDarkness: I see what you are saying about Animal Handling. In your case, I would say you could always flip the skills: make Animal Handling the main skill, and add any additional ranks in Perception.

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