I’m building a character and one of the pillars of his abilities should be a high passive perception. I’ve found enough ways to boost this that I highly doubt I need to take all of them, so I’d like to know what the highest perception DC is in each WotC-published adventure (otherwise spoiler-free) so I can avoid a “win more” level of effort towards this goal.
This is a response to the original version of the question, which was concerned with achieving a high enough passive Perception to meet all Perception DCs given in various adventures.
Frame challenge: The static DCs aren't the thing to worry about
The highest possible passive Perception you might need is not likely to be the fixed DCs, but rather, the Stealth checks made by opponents in ambush or hiding during combat. Even if the highest static Perception DC is 20, if the adventure includes an ambush by a monster with +6 Stealth (e.g. a CR 1/4 Goblin or CR 1 Bugbear; the Goblin can even Hide as a bonus action), you might need a passive Perception as high as 26 to detect them if they roll a Nat 20 on their check (ties default to not hidden, so you wouldn't need a 27). Sure, a Nat 20 is unlikely, but if they have any source of advantage (e.g. dim light, light fog, or any other form of lightly obscuring effect), the average natural roll is 13.825, plus whatever their modifier is, so many of your opponents will be able to semi-reliably exceed DC 20 (often significantly) if conditions favor them.
As you level, enemies will have higher Stealth modifiers as well; they generally don't progress as fast as a PC can progress (Expertise in Perception is hard to match), but it does go up, e.g.
- Shadow Demon (CR 4): +7 Stealth (can Hide as bonus action in dim light/darkness)
- Drow Elite Warrior (CR 5): +10 Stealth
- Invisible Stalker (CR 6): +10 Stealth, and naturally invisible, so they can Hide in plain sight without needing cover
- The Shadow Dragon template grants the base dragon the equivalent of Stealth Expertise and allows them to Hide as a bonus action; for example, from Wyrmling to Ancient Black Shadow Dragon, the Stealth modifier grows from +6 to +16
And that's just a sampling from the core Monster Manual. There are even better Stealth modifiers for some monsters you're less likely to fight (e.g. multiple fae creatures in the CR 1 and below range outclass Goblins and Bugbears), but that's the sort of thing you need to consider.
Point is, if you're trying to be Dr. Sees All, you can't just get passive Perception to X and be guaranteed you won't miss anything.
|Highest DC for Perception in Adventure
|Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus
|1 in ch. 1, 1 in ch. 2, 2 in ch. 3
|Curse of Strahd
|1 in ch. 1, 3 in ch. 4, 1 in ch. 13
|Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
|2 in ch.4
A note on methodology for anyone that wants to pitch in: Starting in the first chapter of an adventure book on D&D Beyond, ctrl+f and
Wisdom (Perception) will allow you to quickly navigate through the adventure's checks.
Many players would consider this a form of cheating.
I am generally quite averse to the sort of answer I am about to give here, and bearing in mind that this site affirms a plurality of playstyles, we should observe that cheating is not a playstyle, and this sort of upfront investigation is something that many players and DMs, myself included, would consider to be a form of cheating. This question is asking us to read ahead in the adventures to provide you with information that you would not have without just reading ahead in whatever adventure you are playing. You are trying to optimally circumvent an adventure's challenges via game mechanics during character creation. This is something that I would consider to be a breach of trust, both as a player and a DM. As a player, I would feel it were unfair if I knew another player had read ahead in the adventure and used that knowledge to make more optimal decisions during character creation. As a DM, if I found out that you tailor-made your character to things you shouldn't know about, I would almost certianly ask you to build a new character, and may consider asking you to no longer be a part of that game.
Don't rob your future self of creative roleplaying opportunities.
One of the things that makes roleplaying games so fun is that they aren't videogames: there is no "right" way to complete a task. You are trying to find the least amount of effort required to auto-win a type of task, so that you can auto-win others as well. If that's the way you want to play the game, that's fine (as long as you do it without cheating), but please consider that you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to find more creative ways to resolve the adventure's tasks by leveraging high numbers on the game's mechanics. For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of D&D is solving problems despite the mechanical shortcomings of my character. You play the way you want, but at least consider these things when deciding how you want to play.