Skill Focus: Perception

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 22, 2009

In previous editions of D&D Perception was broken out into separate skills for spot and listen. In 4e, Perception is just one skill, essentially a catch-all for five senses. I think this is a huge improvement and opens the door to possibilities. With that in mind, I’ve come up with some alternate uses for Perception.

This skill is not, and should not, be limited to just what you can see and hear. You may not have as many opportunities to use Perception to determine smells, tastes or tactile sensation, but it shouldn’t be ruled out if you come up with a creative use for the skill.

10 New Ways to Use Perception


As the wind changes you catch a whiff something unpleasant. A successful Perception check allows you to identify an odor that can only be decaying flesh. You alert the party and the undead waiting around the next bend do not get a surprise round.


You don’t hear anything coming from behind the door, but a successful Perception check allows you to smell the faintest hint of wet fur. You deduce that at least a couple of the Bugbears you’re looking for are on the other side of the door.


A poor beggar pleads with you to follow her and help her injured son. With a successful Perception check you realize that she was recently wearing a very expensive and exotic perfume. She is clearly not as poor or helpless as she seems. You receive a +2 bonus to Insight checks to see through her disguise.


Your superior pallet can discern ingredients in a fine wine. A successful Perception check allows you to correctly detect flavours used in the wine’s creation. Your deduction impresses your host. Subsequent Diplomacy checks receive a +2 bonus.


As you start consuming your meal you discern a flavour that is definitely out of place. A successful Perception check allows you to identify it as poison (or some other dangerous consumable) before you ingest enough to be harmful. You avoid the affects of the poison altogether or receive +2 to subsequent checks or saves to avoid damage.


During an introduction you shake hands with all the visiting dignitaries. A successful Perception check allows you to draw conclusions from each grip. Rough and callused hands betray hours of physical labour or extensive training with weapons. If combat ensues you’ll know who’s most likely to be a physical threat.


As you work to disarm the trap, you run your fingers along every nook and cranny. A successful Perception check results in your sensitive fingers passing over a unique set of indentations undetectable to the eye or perhaps you feel a gentle breeze coming from between two bricks. You receive a +2 bonus to Thievery checks made to disarm or bypass this trap.


You meet and interact with numerous people at the local tavern. With a successful Perception check you recognize that a particular piece of jewelry matches trinkets your party discovered on the band of Orcs they fought yesterday. You receive a +2 bonus to Diplomacy or Streetwise checks made during interactions with the wearer of the jewelry.


You recognize the correct or incorrect use of local colloquialisms and slang and on a successful Perception check allows you to conclude that this person has spent considerable time in a foreign land. Depending on the circumstance, you receive a +2 bonus to either History checks made on his homeland, Diplomacy check to impressing him with the identification of his homeland, or Insight to see though his lies.


You’ve been hired by a rich nobleman to recover a missing heirloom. A successful check reveals that his tone changes ever-so-slightly when he mentions certain details. You realize he only does this when he’s lying. You receive a +2 bonus on Diplomacy or Insight checks now that you know his tell.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out all of our Skill Aides, including other entries in the Skill Focus series.

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1 Quid February 22, 2009 at 7:21 am

So one could assume that Count Rugen made a successful Perception check when he determined that Vizzini and Westley had fought a battle of wits using the odorless, colorless (when dissolved in liquid) and tasteless poison Iocaine Powder- I’d bet my life on it!

If I need to tell anybody what I’m talking about, you need to turn in your geek card right now…

2 Suddry February 22, 2009 at 7:19 pm


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