[RPG] How to handle this character’s overpowered Perception


I'm starting a new campaign with a few friends. They're all pretty new so we rolled level one characters and it's been going okay, with one minor problem: one character has a +9 to perception and it's ruining many of my traps/secret doors/surprise encounters.

She rolled a Firbolg Rogue with a wisdom of 20 (she rolled an 18 for one of her stats and firebolg gets +2 to wis), and chose to be proficient with perception. Plus, with the rogue's expertise feature, her proficiency bonus is doubled. Thus, we have a perception bonus of 5(wisdom)+4(proficiency)=+9.

First, I'd like to ask if I screwed something up, and, if so, what can I do to fix it? Having stats retroactively changed sucks for everyone.

Second, this poses a minor problem. She almost never fails to detect secret doors, ambushes, and the like. Even a DC20 check she'll get half the time, and these are supposed to be hard. I've planned some pretty interesting ambushes that have gotten foiled. I want my players to do well, but if they constantly notice everything, it seems like it'd be less fun than to occasionally miss things and deal with the consequences.

My questions are: Is this actually a problem or am I overreacting? If so, what can I do to fix this? The only thing that would be really effective would be to start making all the checks DC20, which would discourage other players and seems unrealistic (i.e. is the secret latch on the chest really that hard to find?)

Best Answer

Don't punish your players for doing well.

A player having a +9 to Perception at an early level really isn't a problem. Sure, starting at level 1 with a 20 in Wisdom and Expertise in Perception is a little minmax-y, but that isn't an issue. The player obviously geared the character towards it, and punishing them by reducing their stats would be incredibly unfair to them, and punishing the rest of the group by making perception checks that are impossible for them unless one player gets lucky is just as unfair.

So, what can you do?

Don't rely on failing Perception checks to make an interesting dungeon.

The secret door? Now it's a magical door. They don't need to roll to see it; instead, they need to determine how to open it.

A tripwire trap? Nope; now it's a giant purple crystal that explodes if the players make too much noise. Instead of rolling to see it, now they have to figure out a way to get the party around it without dying.

An ambush of enemies? Now it's a group of enemies so large or fierce that the party decides they need to avoid the group rather than spot them and kill them.

You can even keep your usual traps, and instead add things in to make them something that requires an approach other than Perception. Keep the tripwire trap, but now the room is covered in magical darkness so they have to dispel that first. Keep the ambush, but now it takes place in an area with heavy fog, so Perception is at disadvantage.

That said, you shouldn't take away success from this player. It would be very un-fun, for both this player and the party, if you took away all Perception checks. She should have situations in which there is an invisible item to spot, or a trap that can be seen. Players have fun when they get to feel cool, and if they've geared themselves towards a large bonus in a skill, let them use it and give them that cool feeling.