[RPG] How to deal with extremely high passive perception


I recently noticed how crazy high your passive perception can get.

Assuming you are a druid or cleric (i.e. Wisdom being your main stat) with one level in rogue, you can get expertise in perception (2*6 prof bonus). At level 20, with +5 WIS modifier, and with the Observant feat (another +5), that equals to

10 + 5 (WIS) + 12 (prof) + 5 (Observant) = 32 passive perception (+17 to checks)

As a DM, I can hardly make every perception check a DC35 (and shouldn't, since the player would have to invest quite the amount of resources to get such a high passive perception, which should be rewarded).

However, I still might want to add some traps or sneaking enemies without them being immediately spotted. How could I do this, aside from separating the master of perception from the rest of the group every time?

Best Answer

Don't nerf the player's resources

As you rightly say, to get this good has taken a significant investment and it would be a vindictive DM who would invalidate that investment. Feel free to be as vindictive if you like - no moral judgement from me.

Perceiving is not the same as Overcoming

For all sorts of reasons but just limiting to the circumstances you describe:

  • Traps: DM: "You see a long corridor, the walls have a bas relief with hideous demons, their mouths are dark holes. Super Eyes notices old blood on the floor and that the entire floor of the corridor is disconnected from the wall and the floor you are standing on". The super perception has shown them the spear trap and the trigger - they still have to get down the corridor or go home: perception doesn't help here. Finding out how the trap works is an Intelligence (investigation) check, disarming it is a Dexterity (Thieves Tools) check.
  • Ambushes: So Super Eyes is rarely surprised (if they took the Alert feat this would be never surprised): that doesn't help anyone else. The rest of his companions have not noticed a threat so are surprised until the end of their first turn of the combat.