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I know that in AD&D 2nd Edition elves and half-elves have the ability to find secret and concealed doors when searching for them

  • concealed: 1 in 2 chance
  • secret: 1 in 3 chance

And that they have the special eleven ability to detect concealed doors within 10 feet without searching for them with a 1 in 6 chance.

Are there any stated rules about what chance races other than elves and half-elves (for example humans) have to find concealed and secret doors when actively searching for them?

I've heard of using a 1 in 6 chance for both concealed and secret doors but I'm unsure if this is a house rule people use or a rule in the book that I've not been able to find.

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2 Answers 2

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It's typically an ability check, so the chances depend on your attributes.

See the DM'sMiscellany, specifically "Doors" at pp.129-130. Briefly...

Anyone without elven heritage must search for secret doors, at a default rate of 20' of wall per 10 minutes. (Circumstances may vary that time requirement.) At the end of this time the character makes an ability check1 (likely Wisdom or Intelligence, DM's discretion) to see if they've found any secret door.

Some related notes:

  • a character cannot search an area a second time;
  • discovering a secret door typically includes discovering its means of opening, though some may require a second check to divine operation;
  • concealed doors are discovered upon searching, no check required.

On Elves...

Note that merely passing within 10' of a concealed/secret door yields an elf a 1-in-6 chance of detecting either. However, as the stated rules for active searching (1-in-3 for secret and 1-in-2 for concealed) likely yield search results strictly worse than a typical ability check2, we always read that to be an "active search while walking." In other words, those were an elf's chances to find either door while they were traveling at walking pace dedicated to watching for doors, rather than searching for traps, mapping, being on lookout, &c.


1 - that there is an ability check at the end of the search time is not explicit in the rules. Its implied by the following: "In very rare cases, the character may discover that the secret door exists... but not know how to open it.In this case, a separate check must be made to open the door." (DMG p.130, emphasis mine) But a moment later we're told this opening check will not be a bust-it-open-with-strength check, but rather a knowledge-based check. Reading 'opening requires a separate check'='finding required a first check' is admittedly thin, but it's the only way I know of to make sense of the section as a whole.

2 - to expect a 1-in-3 chance on an ability check requires a relevant attribute of ~8, a 1-in-2 chance an 11. While these were not unusual stats in the days of rolled stats, two factors make those seem like unusually low comparators. (1) in 2e plenty of people were using 4d6-drop-1 or 3d6-assign variants, (2) within a party one would expect there to be some members with better mental stats than those, putting the onus on someone with a keen mind/eye to look for doors.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say "At the end of this time the character makes an ability check (likely Wisdom or Intelligence, DM's discretion) to see if they've found any secret door" is this a house rule or something in the DMG? I wasn't able to find it in the "Concealed and Secret Doors" section. \$\endgroup\$
    – gene_wood
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gene_wood I don't believe it's a house rule; I believe it's the only sensible reading of the DMG, though it's admittedly not explicit in the DMG. I've added some of my reasoning above. I have no idea if either of my older brothers got this reasoning from anything official, or this is just received-rules-lawyering =\ \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 22:36
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The rule 1 in 6 I think comes from BD&D (Rules cyclopedia pg 147).

The rules in AD&D2°ed for seaching a secret door are... lacking. In the race's description say that elves and half-elves have 2 in 6 but don't say nothing about other races. It should be logic to say 1 in 6 because you can't say 1.5 in 6 or 0 in 6 (because they can for sure, there is an example where an human look for secret door on PHB pg10, and on DMG pg130 speak about races different from elf).

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