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Background: I will be DM of an upcoming gaming session. I and the players are all new to D&D or roleplaying. This will be our first session (and unfortunately there are no other gaming groups in our area that we can join).

For running this first gaming session, since we are all noobs, I thought of using a one-shot adventure - for which I selected "A Most Potent Brew" from Winghorn Press. I am trying to read up on the rules and atleast get a basic handle to run the session.

One of the things generally mentioned in these adventures goes something along the lines "Spotting the rats before then requires a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check from adventurers in the room".

I understand DC 10 is the difficulty class that the players will have to roll the dice and beat. (DC 10 being 'Easy' as per the table 'Typical Difficulty Classes' given in Player Handbook).

However, what does the Wisdom (Perception) mean?

Once they roll a d20, should they be adding Perception skill modifier? What is the significance of Wisdom?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you read the part about proficiency bonus based on character level in the PHB? Related question here. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 2 '17 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a note for you: Passive perception in 5e starts at 10 + WIS modifier. So unless they have negative WIS, players should automatically succeed on any DC 10 perception check. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 2 '17 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, and welcome to the site and to the game. I'd like to encourage you to drop into Role-playing Games Chat when you've got a moment--there are almost always people familiar with D&D5e in there, so you could probably find a lot of good clarification, quickly, through that channel, too. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 2 '17 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli this is quite likely an area where the perception may be happening in dim light (e.g. darkvision), if so, this creates light obscurement and disadvantage on the check (-5 for a passive check). This is probably going to require proficiency and quite a high wisdom (16+) to overcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Mar 2 '17 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM - yes, dim to no light condition. All - thanks for all your explanation. The answers below and your comments have clarified it for me. (Not sure if I should be marking this question as answered - if so how?) \$\endgroup\$ – Vyoma Mar 3 '17 at 6:01
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How the Ability Check works

When you look in the PHB in Chapter 7 (sub heading Skills) covering ability checks, you will find that Perception is one of five skills that use Wisdom for Ability Score modifiers.

Wisdom: Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Perception, Survival

Ability Score modifiers are in the table in the beginning of Chapter 7.

For a first level character, the proficiency bonus is +2, from Chapter 1, Character Advancement Table (In the Tiers of Play paragraph).

If your character has a skill proficiency in Perception, add the Proficiency bonus. If your character has a Wisdom ability score bonus, add that regardless of whether the character is proficient or not.

Two cases: with Perception chosen as a skill choice, and without it

  1. Nelda the Cleric has a Wisdom of 16 and chose the Perception skill during character creation. This means that she has proficiency in Perception, so she applies the proficiency bonus as well. Nelda will add +3 +2 (+5) to the d20 roll: +3 for the ability score bonus (16 Wisdom) and +2 for proficiency in the Perception skill. When she reaches level 5, her proficiency bonus will increase by one to +3
  2. Ted the Wizard has a 12 Wisdom, but did not choose Perception as a skill during character creation. He adds +1 to the d20 roll for the Perception check, since he does not get the proficiency bonus for that skill.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! I understand this concept clearly now. After re-reading the sections you specified, and actually going in and rolling a new PC helped me understand how to arrive at the numbers and how to resolve the ability check's. (The proficiency in a particular skill, where you check/fillup the bubble beside the skill in character sheet, was what I had missed, and once I understood how the number is arrived at - it was pretty obvious). Feel like a thick-skull now. :P \$\endgroup\$ – Vyoma Mar 3 '17 at 5:59
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Wisdom is the ability that Perception uses. You can see this with various other skills such as Dexterity (Stealth), Charisma (Persuassion), etc.

It is there so you can see which ability modifier to use, in this case Wisdom. If you are proficient in Perception, you can also add your proficiency bonus to the roll.

So to answer your question, yes they should be adding their Perception skill modifier to the roll. The significance of Wisdom is that Wisdom is the ability Perception is based on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that this answer, while entirely correct, would be better with references to either the PHB or PBR backing it up. As OP is brand-new, I think pointing them to the places where the information lies is as important as giving them the information. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 2 '17 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 ah I don't have my PHB in front of me right now! I shall update when I'm home if I get the chance \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Brace Mar 2 '17 at 14:50
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Your guess is right on the money. If the character is proficient in Perception, they should add their Perception skill modifier, which is their Wisdom modifier added to their proficiency bonus. If a character is not proficient in Perception, it is simply 1d20 + their Wisdom modifier.

This works for other skills as well. If you have one of the official character sheets from Wizards, each skill will have the attribute that it is keyed off of next to it, for easy reference.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, say "Fogbuz the Fighter" has STR 17, DEX 10, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 13, CHR 12 and a +1 Perception; then it is d20 + 1 (Wisdom) + 1 (Perception) ? \$\endgroup\$ – Vyoma Mar 2 '17 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vyoma In 5e they are either proficient or not proficient in a skill. If they are not proficient, then it is just the ability check, and sometimes not having a proficiency might make it so that the character cannot even attempt it. If you have a proficiency in perception, then you add wisdom + proficiency bonus. Amount of proficiency bonus is dependant on character level, at 1st level it is +2. So in your example the fighter should get +1 from wisdom and +2 from proficiency, making it 1d20+3. \$\endgroup\$ – PnP Mar 2 '17 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If Fogbuz is a pregenerated character, then this is likely the full (wisdom + perception) value and Fogbuz does not have proficiency in Perception, yielding a net +1 (for 13 WIS). If not, you would need to tell us which skills the player picked for Fogbuz when they generated the character (they'd pick two from the list at the very top of page 72 of the PHB for the Fighter class and pick or get two more from whatever background they chose from chapter 4 (pages 126 through 141). \$\endgroup\$ – Wtrmute Mar 3 '17 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fogbuz was something I made up trying to elaborate/clarify on this answer. @KorvinStarmast answer above, and me re-reading the section specified + actually rolling a new PC clarified it for me. Thank you all for your effort in helping me understand! \$\endgroup\$ – Vyoma Mar 3 '17 at 5:56

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