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I've never played D&D before, but my friends want to try it and I've been appointed DM. A lot I have figured out, but what I don't know how to deal with are situations similar to this: The party is escorting a wagon. The party's rogue says they want to scout ahead. The path ahead has a trap on it.

If the trap's DC is higher than the rogue's passive perception, what do I do? They didn't specifically say they were looking for traps, but they said they went ahead scouting. Do I reveal the trap?

Also, how would I even use traps if a player just checks every single thing for traps every time? I'm assuming there is a way I can use always checking for traps as a drawback, but I'm unsure as to what that is.

Thanks for your help!

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There are a few different options, and the links in the comment contains a lot of good content.

In this case there are a few things you can do. The player who is scouting ahead, you can either ask them for a perception roll, and say that when they're scouting you'll let them know when they need to roll, or you can let the trap happen and get the player because their passive perception isn't high enough.

I would personally ask for the roll, they said they were scouting ahead, and even though they didn't say they were looking for traps, it's part of what they likely meant.

The reason that I'd ask is this allows you to be the one who calls for trap rolls. You want to do that so that they don't end up with trap phobia. If they randomly stumble across this trap and even if it just gets the scout who is up front, they are going to be worried about traps all of the time. Even if they fail the roll and the trap ends up getting the scout, you've now set that you'll call for these rolls.

That does mean, when there are traps in the future, you'll need to call for rolls from whomever is scouting. With a high roll, they'll find a trap, and if they don't, the trap gets sprung.

You then limit who and when they can roll for traps which are often pretty problematic, again see the comment by @Rubiksmoose about curing trap phobia.

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A chance for the DM to use advantage as a DM tool

In a given situation, if you feel that the rogue player by actively taking the scouting role is setting up a favorable circumstance, then you can provide advantage to the passive perception. If not, then don't. This is where your rulings can make a difference in the game and free you of some die rolling. The basic benefit is that you add 5 to the passive score if you rule that the rogue has advantage. In that case, the trap DC may be overcome.

If not, well, traps are intended to work and are usually hidden, so someone tripping a trap is a thing that happens during play sometimes.

Basic Rules, page 4. (PHB, Introduction, p. 7)

Advantage and Disadvantage
Advantage reflects the positive circumstances surrounding a d20 roll, while disadvantage reflects the opposite.

Basic Rules, page 57 (PHB, Ch 7, p. 173)

The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

Basic Rules, page 59 (PHB, CH 7, p. 175)

(Passive Checks)
Here’s how to determine a character’s total for a passive check:
10 + all modifiers that normally apply to the check

If the character has advantage on the check, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5. The game refers to a passive check total as a score.

You make the call. The rules give you that latitude. In this particular case, does the rogues scouting, or how the rogue's player described it to you, suggest to you that they should get advantage on the passive ability check, or not?

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I would think as they approach the trap you can ask for a perception roll. They would still be able to fail and hit the trap. You don't need to say why you need one.

I think you would reveal the trap regardless if you ask for the perception check:they find it if they succeed, or it triggers if they fail. To me, scouting is not the same as checking for traps. Scouting would be looking for interesting items or side passages.

If you notice they start checking for traps all the time, try having them find a fake trap on occasion. You just need to think of something that will throw them off the skill overuse. Maybe they find a simple trap, but in all the searching a monster sneaks up on them?

My two cents :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Scouting is not looking for potential hazards? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 9 '18 at 20:34
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I think you need to ask your rogue exactly what he means when he says he is "scouting ahead". Is he just riding ahead so as to report back if he spots anything, or is he carefully checking for traps (i.e. using the FART skill) all along the way.

If he's carefully searching for traps, the obvious drawback is he moves a lot slower. Now the problem for the GM is that time passes a lot more quickly in the game if nothing is happening, so while a real person would find that job extremely tedious, tiring and irritating, the player can just declare that his rogue is doing always doing it and time will pass quickly until something interesting happens.

You could make them make a roll every 10m or so, they'll soon get tired of it as their character would - increase the DC for a lower frequency of rolling (to reflect a less thorough check) or maybe introduce penalties for fatigue and stuff like that.

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I like to reward scout combing with treasure, and punish it with time. This makes moral dilemmas for thieving scouts, and punishes the team if they go into forced march. there are two ways I like to do this depending on how the PC likes his decision making.

  1. Have rogue declare his own time to spend on each activity. depending on the time he chooses, add a die to his passive. 15min,30min,45min,60min = +4,+6,+8,+10 to passive

  2. Decide your own time penalty. If rogue wants to search, loot, etc, decide your own time based on room size, or make a 10min X 1D6 ADV roll. Reward him by letting him uncover everything, but at the cost of the time. this will add up fast. I also do things like roll a d20, and if >10= reward scout a silver or gold find for time spent, and watch as the scout slowly drives the party into exhaustion from his own greed over something as petty as 15 silver. lol

Some quests I prepare timed encounters, meaning every x hours, an encounter approaches. For a boss dungeon, burning time like that can be brutal towards the end. It's fair play when a parties greatest enemy is their own decisions.

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