This will be short - I've decided to post my note taking here, in part to use the blog more, but also make it more visible to myself. Also, this might not be a revelation to anyone - but it's useful for me.. so.. err.. Gerr'off'my'lawn!
One of the things I've always uneasily tangled with is secret things, such as traps and doors - and the concept of the Gotcha! trap. You see on one hand, i'm a very new school GM, I believe in co-operative play, storytelling, friends just playing a game. On the other hand i'm a firm believer that it wouldn't be D&D if at some stage someone didn't fall down a greased hole with spikes at the bottom. That's a little bit oil and water, if not handled in the right way.
4e/5e is kind of there with Passive Perception, but I don't like skills lists. Too defining, too much character skill not player. And putting the concept in player hands? #NOPE So, I've been thinking about random encounters. There's a certain tension and magic in letting the players know that you're checking for random encounters, your pushing their resources, they shouldn't want to fight. So its fun to roll a die and let them know whats going on, under the hood so to speak. That builds uncertainty and apprehension. So, why can't that be the same for Secret Things?
Here's the idea, every-time the party enters a new space (room, corridor etc) I roll a passive perception check - regardless if a secret thing exist or not. Now that's not a late-gen skill check, no, a simple 1-in-6 chance will do fine. That fits with the roll low aesthetic I've adopted in TBH. If they get a 1, I alert them to the clue that gives away the secret thing. They still have to do all the hard work of searching, testing, teasing out its secrets. Narrative searching is fine, i'll give Advantage if they make a big meal of that, but i'll always use attribute tests to determine how things pan out - that way I can remain completely impartial. Just a referee. Plus whats the point of generating a Wisdom score and not using it?
At least this way there's a very real and obvious Gotcha! safety net in place. The players know its fair and thorough. I didn't get you, the dice gods did.