One of the useful tricks that smart adventurers learn after a few trips into
deadly dungeons is to pay attention and listen for strange noises. Noise is a
valuable clue, alerting characters to possible danger and even occasionally
giving them a definite picture of what dangers they face. After rashly bashing down
a door only to discover a barracks full of unruly orcs, the player characters
may find it more prudent to stop outside and listen before trying the same stunt
All characters have a percentage chance to hear noises, the percentage varying
by race, as listed on Table 83 . This ability is equal to that of a 1st-level thief (however, thieves can
choose to increase this score). This is not the character's chance to hear someone talking to him or the tolling of the
city watch's bell at night. This percentage should be used only when hearing is
difficult or there are extraordinary circumstances involved.
The percentage chance is followed by a number in parentheses. The second
number is the same chance on 1d20. You can either make a percentile check or roll
1d20, whichever is most convenient. In either case, a roll equal to or less than
the number on the table means the character hears something.
Of course, the chance to hear noise given above represents more or less
optimum conditions—helmet off, not moving, and all others remaining relatively still
for one round while the character stands and tries to hear noises carried on
the breeze or down a hallway. Under such conditions, the character will get a
relatively clear idea of the nature of the noise—animal grunts, slithering, speech
(including language and race), and perhaps even words.
Less than perfect conditions don't alter the chance to hear (which is low
enough) but can affect the clarity. Some, like the muffling effect of doors or the
echoing of stone passages, may still allow the character to hear a noise
reasonably well, but may prevent precise identification.
In some situations, a character can hear muttering, growls, panting, or
voices, but may be unable to identify the issuer of the sounds. The character would
know there is something ahead, but wouldn't know what. In other situations, the
chance to hear anything at all may be affected. Extreme cases can give you the
excuse to provide misinformation. Guttural speech may sound like growls, the
moaning wind could become a scream, etc.
In some cases a check is necessary even when the character is not attempting
to discern some unknown noise. The character tries to hear the shouted words of
a pirate captain over the raging storm. He can see the captain and can clearly
tell the man is speaking. Indeed, the captain may even be speaking to him.
However, a hearing check should be made to find out if the character can make out
the captain's words over the fury of the storm. If the character were a little
closer, the storm a little less, or the captain's lungs exceptionally strong,
the character's chance of success would be increased.
In all cases, hearing a noise takes time. The amount of time spent listening
to the captain is obviously the time it takes him to speak his peace. Standing
and hearing noise in a corridor or at a door requires a round, with the entire
party remaining still.
Furthermore, a character can make repeated checks in hopes of hearing more or
gaining more information. However, once a character fails a check, he will not
hear anything (even if he immediately makes a successful check on the next
round) unless there is a substantial improvement in the conditions. The group will
have to move closer, open the door, or take some other action to allow a new
If a check is successful, the character can keep listening to learn more. This
requires continued checks, during which the player can attempt to discern
specifies—number, race, nature of beast, direction, approaching or retreating, and
perhaps even bits of conversation. The player states what he is trying to learn
and a check is made.
Trying to overhear things this way is less than reliable. Thieves should not
be allowed to use their hear-noise ability like super-sensitive microphones!
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