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I am currently putting together a dhampir blood hunter character and I noticed something interesting, which I would like to verify the RAW about:

The Order of the Lycan, Heightened Senses is described as:

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain the improved senses of a natural predator. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

The Passive Checks section in the basic rules states:

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.

And finally, the Observant feat states (third point, emphasis my own):

You have a +5 bonus to your passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation) scores.

So, that would leave a Lvl 4 Dhampir Order of the Lycan Blood Hunter, proficient in Perception, 16 Wisdom, and who just took the Observant feat rocking a passive perception of:

10 + 2 (Proficiency) + 5 (Heightened Senses) + 5 (Observant) + 3 (Wisdom) for a total passive perception of 25

I know that resistances and weaknesses do double, but I am wondering if I am correct in stacking the advantages of a passive check. Do they stack, or does this break the game?

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2 Answers 2

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They stack

Fifth edition largely did away with things that don't stack with each other. If two different things both grant a bonus to something (and those bonuses are numerical - not like "Advantage" or "Resistance" which either you have or you don't) they stack unless they say they don't.

Partly because of this, first party material (items, feats, etc.) for 5e tends not to hand out many bonuses to ability checks, saving throws, and attack rolls.

In the case of passive perception, though, it would be very difficult to break the game. That would require that some aspect of the game be balanced around characters not having a high passive perception score, or perhaps have some mechanic that allows a character to leverage their passive perception score into bonuses or advantages in other situations. Neither of those things exist as mechanics. It seems to me that the designers are willing to loosen up and hand out more numerical bonuses to this particular value as a result.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I know that passive perception is often used to avoid dangers and increase the likeliness that you eavesdrop on some juicy info and stuff. With such a high passive perception, I thought it might ruin some sneaky campaigns or something and thus might have seen some rebuttle (like the Infinite Wish hack for genie warlocks). Am I to understand that I am overqualifying the passive perception? \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 19 at 4:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB As a DM, I just go with it. If a character has a high passive perception, they invested resources into that which means they are 'weaker' in other aspects. Let them be good at what they do, it's their thing. It's not that big of a problem if enemies can't sneak up on them, there are other ways encounters can play out that don't have anything to do with stealth. And for political intrigue games, it's honestly great to have someone with a high passive perception, they get all the info which makes for a very engaging experience. Besides, not even the highest passives are 100% guarantees \$\endgroup\$
    – Pepijn
    May 19 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pepijin That makes a lot of sense, Thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 19 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ And your goal as a DM isn't to be the player's enemies, but to enjoy the game together. You can create new rules on the fly as you see fit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nelson
    May 20 at 7:31
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Conditionally, yes

The only things that don't stack in 5E are bonuses derived from the same source. So all of those different bonuses will stack just fine. However, as you stated, heightened senses includes this line:

You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

As such, you only have advantage on perception checks when they rely on hearing or smell. If the passive perception check was sight based (eg. to notice that a wooden step on a staircase is rotten and likely to break if stepped on) then you don't get advantage. You'd need to have your DM keep this in mind when declaring your passive perception.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have considered the conditional part, but found the question too wordy when added for even myself to understand, but thanks for the clarification. However, you did mention "derived from the same source"... does this mean one couldn't stack lycanthrope curses? (odd question but I was always curious) \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 19 at 4:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB correct, you can only be affected by one feature with the same name at a time, so no triple benefits from contracting lycanthropy or similar, think of 3 people casting bless on you: Only one of them actually takes effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    May 19 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TobiasF. This begs the question: What happens if one type of lycanthrope bites another? Or what would happen if someone buys 5 vials of different Blood of Lycanthrope, and uses it to poison a bottle of ale? Would be interesting to know the consequences on someone trying to poison the Order of the Lycan member \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 21 at 2:51

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