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This question already has an answer here:

I was wondering if someone might explain this to me...

We were playing TFTYP last weekend and one of the players said that we've been doing Perception checks wrong all the time. Below is an example of how I understood it from this player.

Player 1 has a passive perception of 15. Player 1 does a perception check and rolls a 6. Player 1 still notices what is going on in the area because of their passive perception being 15.

Is this correct? To me, this doesn't seem right. If a player rolls perception, regardless of their passive perception they will only notice what they rolled for. Otherwise a player could just put a load of points into Wisdom and have 17 passive perception in the first couple levels.

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marked as duplicate by user27327, KorvinStarmast dnd-5e May 3 '17 at 16:05

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related/possible dupe: How to avoid the determinism of Passive Perception \$\endgroup\$ – RollingFeles May 3 '17 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RollingFeles I'm not sure if that's a dupe or just related. Leaning related. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 3 '17 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also related \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 3 '17 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm concerned that the duped question (which was then marked as a dupe to a question that isn't really a duplicate) was closed. These questions are about Passive acting as a floor, not the difference between active and passive. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 3 '17 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Duplicate status under discussion in this meta. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 3 '17 at 17:20
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UPDATED ANSWER

That is correct. For perception, your passive score is your floor. The roll is to see if you can get higher.

Jeremy Crawford was interviewed and discussed the Stealth mechanic (about 9:00 in) and he states that for Perception, your passive is your floor.

Whether or not this is considered RAW is possibly up for debate (it was in an interview and not published on released articles/books/twitter and other game designers have said the opposite on twitter - but they do not have Crawford's ability to give "official" rulings.)

In addition - this appears to only be true for Perception. Other skills do not necessarily have a passive score that is a floor. I can see arguments for each skill, but it will be up to the DM as to whether or not there is a floor for an active roll.

PREVIOUS ANSWER

This is currently wrong by the above, but keeping because I think it still applies.

I'm still keeping this here because the rules seem to support it outside of the above quoted interview. Applying a 'floor rule' to one skill but not the others doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It's creating an exception in the rules, or it's creating a new rule where every skill has a passive floor.

Passive Perception is not a Floor to your skill, it represents a different type of check

Passive Perception

A passive perception check is (PHB pp175, emphasis mine)

a special kind of ability check that doesn't involve any die rolls. Such a check can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly, such as searching for secret doors over and over again, or can be used when the DM wants to secretly determine whether the character succeed at something without rolling dice.

Active Perception

If you as the DM are calling for a die roll, it doesn't matter how a passive score is processed, it only matters what that character is actively doing. In this case, the player is (PHB pp 178)

actively trying to detect the presence of something.

And that is determined with their Perception Roll (plus any proficiency). The passive score is completely separated from this particular check.

Is this a narration problem?

It might be! You can add fluff around the passive test vs active test if needed. But just because someone is good at something passively doesn't mean that it becomes their base.

Some PCs can be innately good at things and do have a floor to their score

Rogues get Reliable Talent at level 11 (PHB, pp96) which sets their ability checks they are in proficient to a base roll of 10. If passive scores do represent a floor, it makes this boon not particularly beneficial (especially as you now have a floor generated for all abilities and not just those with which you have proficiency.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Oh wow, thanks for the updated answer! I'll check out the Stealth mechanic link when I get a second and listen to make sure I fully understand, but your updated answer has pretty much explained what I was told by a friend in the party :) \$\endgroup\$ – ChronixPsyc May 5 '17 at 15:39

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