Perception (Wis)

Your senses allow you to notice fine details and alert you to danger. Perception covers all five senses, including sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Common Uses

Notice Someone/Something

Perception has a number of uses, the most common of which is an opposed check versus an opponent’s Stealth check to notice the opponent and avoid being surprised. If you are successful, you notice the opponent and can react accordingly. If you fail, your opponent can take a variety of actions, including sneaking past you and attacking you.

Perception is also used to notice fine details in the environment. The DC to notice such details varies depending upon distance, the environment, and how noticeable the detail is. The following table gives a number of guidelines.

Detail Perception DC
Hear the sound of battle –10
Notice the stench of rotting garbage –10
Detect the smell of smoke 0
Hear the details of a conversation 0
Notice a visible creature 0
Determine if food is spoiled 5
Hear the sound of a creature walking 10
Hear the details of a whispered conversation 15
Find the average concealed door 15
Hear the sound of a key being turned in a lock 20
Find the average secret door 20
Hear a bow being drawn 25
Sense a burrowing creature underneath you 25
Notice a pickpocket Opposed by Sleight of Hand
Notice a creature using Stealth Opposed by Stealth
Find a hidden trap Varies by trap
Identify the powers of a potion through taste 15 + the potion‘s caster level
Perception Modifiers DC Modifier
Distance to the source, object, or creature +1/10 feet
Through a closed door +5
Through a wall +10/foot of thickness
Favorable conditions1 –2
Unfavorable conditions1 +2
Terrible conditions2 +5
Creature making the check is distracted +5
Creature making the check is asleep +10
Creature or object is invisible +20

1 Favorable and unfavorable conditions depend upon the sense being used to make the check. For example, bright light might increase the DC of checks involving sight, while torchlight or moonlight might give a penalty. Background noise might reduce a DC involving hearing, while competing odors might penalize any DC involving scent.

2 As for unfavorable conditions, but more extreme. For example, candlelight for DCs involving sight, a roaring dragon for DCs involving hearing, and an overpowering stench covering the area for DCs involving scent.


Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action.

Retry? Yes. You can try to sense something you missed the first time, so long as the stimulus is still present.


  • Race Elves, half-elves, gnomes, and halflings receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception checks. Creatures with the scent special quality have a +8 bonus on Perception checks made to detect a scent. Creatures with the tremorsense special quality have a +8 bonus on Perception checks against creatures touching the ground and automatically make any such checks within their range.
  • Familiars A spellcaster with a hawk or owl familiar gains a +3 bonus on Perception checks. If you have the Alertness feat, you get a +2 bonus on Perception (and Sense Motive) checks.

Perception Unchained

Source PFU

About This Section Optionally, a character who reaches 5, 10, 15, or 20 ranks in a skill unlocks various bonuses and abilities unique to that skill. The unchained rogue uses these rules extensively, but others can gain access to them with a new feat.

In this system, characters unlock additional abilities when they attain 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. The skill unlocks system interfaces with the unchained rogue to make the rogue the true master of skills.

Skill unlocks give characters new abilities and ways to use their skills upon reaching 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. Any character with the Signature Skill feat can earn skill unlocks for a single skill, and they are a prime feature of the revised version of the rogue who uses her rogue’s edge ability to gain skill unlocks for several of her most iconic skills. Alternatively, you might make skill unlocks a universal part of the game, but you should be aware they add significant power and flexibility to skills, so giving them for free to all classes would grant power boosts to other highly skilled classes such as the investigator and bard, particularly in comparison to the rogue. Another alternative is to eliminate access to the Signature Skill feat, limiting skill unlocks to rogues and rogues alone.

With sufficient ranks in Perception, you earn the following.

5 Ranks: You remain alert to sounds even in your sleep, and the normal DC increase to Perception checks when you are sleeping is halved. The distance modifier on the DC of Perception checks you attempt is reduced to +1 per 20 feet.

10 Ranks: The distance modifier on the DC of Perception checks you attempt is reduced to +1 per 30 feet. In addition, you gain a +5 bonus on Perception checks to notice or locate an invisible creature or object.

15 Ranks: You remain alert to sounds even in your sleep, and the normal DC increase to Perception checks when you are sleeping doesn’t apply to you. The distance modifier on the DC of your Perception checks is reduced to +1 per 40 feet.

20 Ranks: You gain a +10 bonus on Perception checks to notice invisible creatures or objects. The distance modifier on the DC of Perception checks you attempt is reduced to +1 per 60 feet.



The trap spotter rogue talent is a good way to gain an auto-spot ability for traps in the game. Normally, you don’t automatically spot traps like this. A player has to specifically state that they’re looking for traps.

Get Organized!


The following information is not official in terms of general campaign usage. It is copied from the Pathfinder Society Organized Play FAQ section of the Paizo website because we thought it might be helpful information for a player or GM in adjudicating common problems or questions. Usage is up to the GM of your game.

What does a deaf PC (or other creature) need to do in order to read lips?

Any PC may learn to read lips with a rank in Linguistics as if they had learned a new language. When reading the lips of a speaking creature within 10 feet in normal lighting conditions, the reader need not make any skill checks. In situations of dim lighting, extreme distances, or to read the lips of someone trying to hide their words from the reader, the reader must make Perception checks (DC determined by the GM based on the situation). A lip reader may only understand spoken words in a language it knows.

Unofficial Extras!

The following rules ideas are from publishers other than Paizo. Use at your discretion!

Below are several additional ways to use Perception.

Listen Underwater: The DC to hear a sound at a distance underwater increases more slowly than it does in air because sound travels better underwater, although water conditions can make the rate change from place to place and time to time. Typically, however, the DC is increased by +1/50 feet.

Listen Through Soil: The DC to hear a sound when both the listener and the source of the sound are in direct contact with the earth increases much more slowly with distance than it does in air. The DC is increased by only +1/400 feet.

Pinpoint Sound: If you exceed the Perception DC to hear a sound by 20, you pinpoint the source of the sound, learning the exact space the sound came from.

If you cannot see the sound’s source, it still has total concealment against your attacks.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.

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