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I'm new to D&D. There seems to be a discrepancy between the 5e Starter Set Rulebook and the associated character sheets. The Rulebook says that a passive wisdom (percep) score is "10 + the creature's wisdom modifier, as well as any bonuses."

In the example they have a 1st-level character (with a proficiency bonus of +2) Wisdom of 15 (+2) and a proficiency in Perception, he or she has a passive Wisdom (Perception) of 14 (10+2+2).

But the Human Fighter Folk hero character has a WIS mod of +1, and a +3 written beside perception, and a passive Wis percep of 13 (not 14?).

The Dwarven Cleric has Wis mod of +3 and a +3 written beside perception, and only a 13 passive wisdom.

I guess this has to do with proficiency in the skill, but I'm confused. Can someone explain these instances and maybe also when proficiency is used, vs when just the modifier or just the skill without proficiency?

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Proficiency in a skill is used when... you are proficient in that skill. The exact amount changes by level. See the chart in the game rules, but it starts at +2 and eventually goes to +6.

From your example, the fighter (with a wisdom of 12 or 13, for a +1 wisdom modifier) has a perception modifier of +3, so that example character must be trained in perception. Perception is on the fighter's list for potential proficiencies (choose two from a list), and clearly the example character did choose that (or got it from a background choice).

Passive perception is not 14, because the passive score is just 10 + your regular bonus for that skill, not 10 + your ability modifier + your regular skill bonus which already includes your ability modifier.

The dwarven cleric isn't trained in perception, but has a high wisdom, so the +3 wisdom modfier = the skill modifier too (no proficiency bonus is added) and the resulting passive score is 10 + just the ability modifer — so, also 13, but for different reasons.

In general, the proficiency modifier is used when you are trained in (or, in other words are proficient with) the skill, tool, or weapon in question.

This is explained in Chapter 7 of the freely-downloadable basic rules, and the sidebar about Hiding on page 60 explains all of this pretty nicely. In the official terminology, there does not appear to be a name for the number you write next to the skill, other than the relevant ability modifier plus bonuses and penalties. But, colloquially, I think many people will use the 3rd edition terminology and call this a "skill modifier" or "skill bonus", or specifically "perception bonus". People will say "perception skill" too, although I think that should be avoided because it could arguably mean either the bonus, the passive score, an actual roll + modifier, or even the just whether you're trained or not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That makes sense. So unless a character is proficient, it's just the ability mod. Got it. \$\endgroup\$ – Besty Sep 30 '14 at 5:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ HOLD ON - FOLLOW UP QUESTION. Could one say that passive Wis = 10 + perception skill. Because this is merely the ability mod if there is no proficiency, but includes the mod, proficiency, and any other increase to perception that might be in place? (again new to d&d, don't know if such skill affecting bonuses exist, but just trying to figure it all out) \$\endgroup\$ – Besty Sep 30 '14 at 5:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Besty Follow up questions don't work too well if put in comments, since there's no guarantee that someone who knows the answer will see it, and we won't be able to vote on which answers are useful. I recommend you actually ask a new question via the 'Ask Question' link near the top of the page. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Sep 30 '14 at 6:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Besty agreed on the new question, but I don't think "<skill name> skill" is actually a concept. The blank line on the character sheet is there for convenience, but I don't know that 5e has a name for the number you write there...? Using a skill means making an ability check you may be proficient in. Similarly, using a tool means making an ability check you may be proficient in. \$\endgroup\$ – Mag Roader Sep 30 '14 at 10:09
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  • Perception bonus = [wisdom modifier] + [proficiency bonus (if proficient in perception)]
  • Passive perception = 10 + [perception bonus]
  • Active perception = 1d20 + [perception bonus]
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I think there is an error in Starchild's answer.

  • Passive perception = 10 + [perception bonus] + [other bonuses (Feats like "Observant" (+5 to passive perception)]

So the bonuses are like this, adjusted:

  • Perception bonus = [wisdom modifier] + [proficiency bonus (if proficient in perception)]
  • Passive perception = 10 + [perception bonus] + [other bonuses (Feats like "Observant" (+5 to passive perception)]
  • Active perception = 1d20 + [perception bonus]
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