My group likes to stop and peek inside caves to look for monsters before proceeding through. They like to surprise all the time.

I already know how to spot something inside closed doors using Perception. But I'm not sure whether I should use Stealth (to peek in corners to prevent getting spotted by monsters) or just plain old Perception check.

What check should one use if you just want to peek in a corner/hallway/open cave area/passage to look for possible monsters without engaging combat.


I'd have the person trying to peek roll Stealth. I'd describe what they see based on their passive perception, and only demand a Perception roll if the monster is actively hiding (possibly because it heard the guy approaching from a botched Stealth and is preparing an ambush of its own).

I advise this because the point of meaningful failure in this case lies in the Stealth check: Whether or not the monster sees you at the same time as you see it. Especially as you know the characters are doing this to set up an ambush.

The players don't need to be told whether the Stealth check succeeded or not. Instead, you narrate what they see when they peek, which might depend on that check's result: Maybe the monster is currently looking up in surprise at the head poking around the corner, or maybe it's still busy making a rope out of human hair. Or maybe there isn't a monster at all.

If the monster is making enough noise that people wouldn't need to round the corner to become aware of its presence, I'd also handle that with Passive Perception, as something done even before the Stealth check is rolled.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If lets say there are really no monsters in the area, if I use Stealth check, what DC should I use? If Passive Perception, who's Passive Perception am I contesting it with, if there are no monsters? \$\endgroup\$ – kutsuu Jan 9 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ If there is no monsters in the area, there is no meaningful result to a failure. So you either don't let them roll at all, or (to avoid the metagaming) you give it a DC of 0 without telling them. And the perception should be the one of whoever they send first. Despite what movies depict, it's hard for multiple people to peek past a corner at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ – AlienAtSystem Jan 9 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the case of naturally camouflaged or hiding enemies an explicit Perception check might be warranted as well, but I definitely agree that peeking around a corner should be a Stealth check (since that's what they're focusing on) and Passive Perception. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Jan 9 at 20:44

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