Sunday, 1 September 2013

Listen, Spot and Search

I make no pretense of having my own "House Rules" in my games. There are parts of 3.5 that I don't care for, yet the Dungeon Master's Guide book freely admits that there are "Variant" rules and that a DM might make his/her own rules. Interestingly, the DMG does not say that – in the DMs doing so – the game is no longer 3.5. No, even with "House Rules," the game remains 3.5.

But I have been accused of making my own rules with regards to Listen, Spot and Search checks. My RPoL Players are insisting that they are always Listening and Spotting and Searching. Yet, that's not what the rules say. The Players Handbook page 78 states:

"Your Listen check is either made against a DC that reflects how quiet the noise is that you might hear, or it is opposed by your target's Move Silently check."

This tells me that a Player's Listen check is not "automatic." My NPC monsters have the "legal right" to oppose a Player's Listen with their Move Silently check. If a Player does not roll a Listen check, how are my monsters to roll an opposed Move Silently? Am I now supposed to assign the Player a "permanent" natural 20 on a Listen check? Sorry, but that is never going to happen.

My monsters can roll a Listen check whenever they want, even if they are "talking" on Sentry Duty. One NPC holds his hand up, indicating that the other be silent, because the first one is now Listening. I inform my Players of this action by telling them to make a Move Silently roll. If they choose not to make the roll, that's their business, but my monsters will automatically win the non-roll . . . they will hear the PCs.

I believe that some of the Players are hung up on this sentence: "Your DM may decide to make the Listen check for you . . ." They insist that I am supposed to make the Listen, Spot and Search check rolls for them, but that's not what that sentence is saying. The sentence is saying that it's my decision to make.

I have already informed each of them that I will not make the check for them. According to the above sentence, that is not their decision, it is my decision. My Players will make their own Listen checks and if they don't, then my monsters automatically win their "opposed" Move Silently rolls and the Players do not hear them.

This argument is even carrying over to Spot checks; The Player's Handbook page 83 states:

"Your Spot is opposed by the Hide check of the creature trying not to be seen. Sometimes a creature isn't intentionally hiding but is still difficult to see, so a successful Spot check is necessary to notice it."

And all this time I was being accused of making up my own rules. If a Player does not roll a Spot check – of their own volition – then how do they "see" the monster which might be hiding? This "rule" even points out that a monster does not necessarily need to be actively hiding in order not to be seen by the Player! If the Player does not make a Spot check, then how does he/she "automatically" Spot the monster in question, if said monster isn't standing "out in the open?"

And that brings us to the Search check; The Player's Handbook page 81 states:

"The Search skill allows a character to discern some small detail or irregularity through active effort . . . You must be within 10 feet of the object or surface to be searched."

If Players do not roll a Search check, then the Players "discern" nothing. So why am I cheating when I tell a Player that they just stepped on a trap? The "rule" is quite clear: If the Player does not roll a Search check, then the Player is not Searching.

I'm beginning to appreciate that 3.5 Players are nothing but "hack and slash" Gamers, at least, that's true of about half of the 3.5 Players that I've met so far. They want to be able to breeze through the Game World, hacking and slashing and having a good time, without any danger to themselves. All monsters automatically "fall" before their blood thirsty blades!

So tell me, do your Players automatically "hear" everything and "see" everything and "find" everything, without making a successful roll?

Yeah, I'm beginning to see that 3.5 is not the Edition for me. Or maybe I should try a game of 3.5 with 2nd Edition Players? Trust me, 3.5 Players just don't seem to be working out.


  1. I'm rolling on the floor laughing! Because the argument in the game would of caused a TPK by those said monsters.

    Sorry but that last one was for our buddy Sir Xaris!


  2. So true! Sir Xaris is a mass murdering DM of the First Rank! Mwahahahahahahahahaha!

    I may end up taking a page out of his "book." LOL