Spot (Wis)


Use this skill to notice bandits waiting in ambush, to see a rogue lurking in the shadows, to see through a disguise, to read lips, or to see the monstrous centipede in the pile of trash.


The Spot skill is used primarily to detect characters or creatures who are hiding, or to notice or see things that are difficult to spot.

Task Spot Check DC
Spot a creature who is hiding Opposed by opponent's Stealth check
Notice something Varies
See through a disguise Opposed by opponent's Disguise check
Read lips 15, or higher for complex or inarticulate speech
Determine encounter distance Opposed by other party's Spot check
Detect magical traps 30
Defeat illusion with visual component 30 + caster level
Pinpoint invisible creature 30 or higher

The following modifiers apply to every kind of Spot check:

Condition Modifier
Per 10 feet of distance (up to 200 feet) +1 DC
Per 100 feet of distance (past 200 feet) +1 DC
Spotter distracted –5
Bright light –2 DC
Normal light
Dim light (moonlight or torchlight) +2 DC
Dim light (candlelight or starlight) or darkness1 +5 DC
Rain, snow, or sleet2 –4
Heavy snow or fog Special3

1 It is impossible for creatures without darkvision to see in absolute darkness; the given modifier is for situations with at least a little bit of light, like a starlit night, or a dark room where light is leaking in from the outside through cracks in the doorframe, etc.
2 This applies to both natural weather conditions and to weather effects created by some spells and magic items, such as the ice storm power of a wand of frost.
3 Obscures all sight beyond 5 feet; creatures 5 feet away have concealment (20% miss chance on attacks against them).

Passive Perception

Three skills — Insight?, Listen?, and Spot — use the passive perception rule. This represents the fact that your characters perceive the world around them, and various perceptible aspects of things and people in the world, without having to take any special action to do so. Whether your character hears a nearby noise, happens to spot an oddly shaped cloud, or notices the blacksmith glancing nervously at his wife, is not the result of your character actively doing anything, but simply depends on how perceptive she is in general.

A character's passive perception score for each of these three skills is simply 10 + the modifier for that skill. In any situation when your character might potentially perceive or notice something, the DM compares your passive perception score for the appropriate skill to the Insight?, Listen?, or Spot DC which is set by the situation. If your passive perception score matches or exceeds the DC, the DM informs you that your character has perceived or noticed whatever there is to notice; if your passive perception score is lower than the DC, the DM simply says nothing, because you have no way of knowing when your character failed to notice something.

If the passive perception scores of multiple characters in a group match or exceed the DC to notice something, all of those characters notice it, within the same round. If it makes a difference which character notices the object or environmental feature first, the DM may determine this randomly, or simply declare that the character with the highest passive Perception score was the first to perceive it.

Spot a creature who is hiding

Your Spot check is opposed by the Stealth check of the creature trying not to be seen. If your Spot check result matches or exceeds the hiding creature's Stealth check, you spot it; otherwise, you don't (although you may still be aware that the creature is there — if, for example, you hear its footsteps).

Notice something that is difficult to spot

Sometimes things are hard to spot even when they're not intentionally hiding, because they're small, they blend into their surroundings, they're far away, there's a lot of things around them that clutter a viewer's visual field, or many other reasons. The DC for a Spot check to notice or see the creature, object, or feature of the environment depends on the situation.

Your passive Spot score (see Sidebar: Passive Perception) determines whether you notice hard-to-spot things around you, so you will usually not be rolling Spot checks for this purpose unless you're actively looking for something. You can take a move action to peer at a suspicious painting, look up into the sky, give a stranger a once-over, or otherwise look directly at something or in some direction; the DM will then roll a Spot check for you to determine if you notice whatever there is to notice (if anything). While you're looking carefully at something, you can't do anything else, and you are distracted (–5 to Spot checks) from anything else that is around you.

Table: Example Spot Check DCs

Task DC
Notice a person standing directly in front of you, in broad daylight –2
Notice a great wyrm red dragon flying a thousand feet overhead, on a sunny day 10
Notice a kobold hiding in the bushes 5 feet away 15
Notice a strange potion vial on a nearby shelf in a dimly lit shop, while talking to the shopkeeper 20
See a black cat in a dark room (assuming the cat is there) 33
Identify a gargoyle using its freeze ability for what it really is 20
Notice a monstrous spider's web before walking into it 20

See through a disguise

If you interact with someone who is disguised (see the Disguise? skill), your passive Spot score (see Sidebar: Passive Perception) determines whether you notice that something is amiss. If your passive Spot score exceeds the other character's Disguise check result, you realize that they are disguised (and recognize their true identity, if you know this person).

Normally, you can't see through a disguise if you merely see a disguised person (i.e. if you pass by them on the street, or see them in a crowd of anonymous people); you have to directly interact with that specific person. However, if your passive Spot score is at least 10 points higher than a person's Disguise check result, you detect their disguise with only a moment's glance.

Read lips

To understand what someone is saying by reading lips, you must be within 30 feet of the speaker, be able to see him or her speak, and understand the speaker’s language. The base DC is 15, but it increases for complex speech or an inarticulate speaker. You have to concentrate on reading lips for a full minute before making the skill check, and you can’t perform some other action during this minute. You can move at half speed but not any faster, and you must maintain a line of sight to the lips being read.

If your Spot check succeeds, you can understand the general content of a minute’s worth of speaking, but you usually still miss certain details. If the check fails by 5 or more, you can’t read the speaker’s lips. If the check fails by 4 or less, you get some partial information, but (10% chance per point by which you failed) the partial information might be wrong, in which case you draw some incorrect conclusion about the speech. The DM rolls your check secretly, so that you don’t know whether you've read the speaker's lips correctly or not.

If you don't know the language being spoken by the person whose lips you're trying to read, you must make a Linguistics check (against the same DC as if you were trying to understand speech in that language). If you fail, you can't read the speaker's lips; if you succeed, you can, but you still take a –4 penalty on your Spot check.

Determine encounter distance

The Dungeon Master may use passive Spot scores to determine the distance at which an encounter begins. He compares the passive Spot scores of both groups (usually, the party of PCs and a group of one or more monsters or other opponents), which determine how far away each group spots the other group; the encounter begins at that range, with the group that spotted their opponents from further away having the benefit of surprise. (See Sidebar: Passive Perception for more on passive Spot scores.)

Detect magical traps

The presence of many (though not all) kinds of magical traps can be sensed, near the edge of the trap's effect (if it's designed to trigger via proximity), or about 30 feet away from the glyph or rune in which the trap's magic lies (if it triggers in some other fashion). This manifests as an extremely subtle crackling noise, and a slight shift in the refractive properties of the air, nearly imperceptible to members of the humanoid races, and even then indistinguishable from a dozen other natural sounds to all but the most well-trained eye and ear.

A character who is not distracted, and doing nothing except looking for traps, may notice this effect if her passive Listen? or Spot score is at least 30. A character may also take a full-round action to actively attempt to detect this effect. (The trap sense ability of a barbarian, rogue, or archaeologist or sandman bard grant those characters a bonus to Listen? and Spot for the purpose of detecting magical traps.)

Magical traps which are detectable in this way include glyphs of warding and symbol spells. It is not possible to identify anything about the nature of the trap merely by noticing the presence of this effect, only that a magical trap is present.

Defeat illusion

If you are exceptionally perceptive, you can notice the tell-tale visual signs that something which seems to be real is actually a product of illusion magic. The DC for a Spot check to defeat an illusion with a visual component is 30 + the caster level of the spell which produced the illusory image. If you succeed, you realize that what you see is illusory, and may make an immediate Will save to disbelieve the illusion. You do not need to interact with an illusion to have a chance of defeating it in this way, but you do need to have a clear, unobstructed view of it, in favorable lighting conditions. The DM makes the Spot check in secret, as you have no way of knowing when you have failed to spot an illusion for what it is.

If you successfully defeat an illusion, you can use aid another to point out the signs of the illusion's unreal nature, granting other characters who can hear you a new Spot check (with a +2 bonus due to your assistance) to see through it as well. However, if they do not succeed on this check, other characters may not roll a Will save to disbelieve the illusion, even though they have been informed of its unreal nature (unless they interact with the illusion, of course).

Pinpoint invisible creature

You can notice the presence of invisible creatures or objects, and even pinpoint their locations, with a sufficiently high Spot check. (If your passive Spot score is high enough, you can even notice and pinpoint invisible things without actively looking for them.)

The DCs given on the table below are for pinpointing the locations of invisible objects and creatures; if you beat this DC, you can pinpoint the creature's or object's location down to the exact space it occupies (i.e. to within less than 5 feet, for Medium-sized creatures), although you still can't see it, and it has full concealment from you. If you miss the DC by 5 or less, you notice the presence of the invisible creature or object, but can't pinpoint its location — you only have a general sense of the area it's in.

Task DC
Pinpoint location of active invisible creature 30
Pinpoint location of unmoving, living invisible creature 40
Pinpoint location of inanimate invisible object 50
Pinpoint location of unmoving, unliving invisible creature 50


Every time you have a chance to spot something in a reactive manner (for example, when someone tries to sneak past you while hidden, or you move into a new area), you can make a Spot check without using an action. Actively trying to spot something is a move action.

To read lips, you must concentrate for a full minute before making a Spot check, and you can’t perform any other action (other than moving at up to half speed) during this minute.

Taking 10 & 20

You can try to spot something that you failed to see previously at no penalty, which means that you can take 20 on an active Spot check (note, however, that if you're trying to spot something which is active or changing, such as a creature who is hiding or invisible, it might be gone while you are taking 20 to spot it). You can't take 20 on your ability to passively notice things around you, but you are always assumed to be taking 10 (this is what your passive Spot score represents). You can neither take 10 nor take 20 on Spot checks made as reactions (which the DM usually rolls in secret).

You can't take 20 on checks to read lips, although you can take 10. (You can attempt to read lips once per minute, and you can keep trying if you failed, although retries do not cancel the effects of previous failures.)


You can aid another character's Spot check by taking a move action to point out something you've successfully spotted; doing so grants the other character a +2 bonus on their Spot check. This only applies to Spot checks made when actively attempting to look for something; you can't use aid another to improve another character's passive Spot score. You also can't aid another character's attempt to read lips.

A character's vision gets worse with age. A middle-aged character takes a –1 penalty on all Spot checks; an old character takes a –3 penalty on all Spot checks; and a venerable character takes a –6 penalty on all Spot checks.

A fascinated creature (such as one who is affected by a hypnotism spell or by a bard's fascinate performance) takes a –4 penalty to their passive Spot score.

A spellcaster who has a familiar gets a +2 bonus on Spot checks as long as the familiar is within arm's reach.

A ranger gains a bonus on Spot checks when using this skill against a favored enemy; he also gains a bonus on all Spot checks when he is in one of his favored terrains.

Elves, and half-orcs with the Bestial racial trait, get a +2 racial bonus on Spot checks due to their keen senses. Half-elves get a +1 racial bonus on Spot checks; their vision is better than a human's, but not as good as an elf's.

The master of a hawk familiar gains a +3 bonus on Spot checks in areas of bright light.

The master of an owl familiar gains a +3 bonus on Spot checks in shadows or darkness.

Category: Skills