PCs Awareness and immersion during sessions

Hi guys,

in my teens I started DMing in a series of DnD games which was always very fun but a little too technical too be truly immersive, which was my main goal in roleplaying. Now I´ve picked up Numernera and the role of the DM again and I´m very happy with the simplistic and intuitive system of Numenera.
I like to run survival-horror-esk games, inspired by Lovecraft, Silent Hill and every zombie movie there is, which is funny, suspensefull and gross, but awesome. But recently I´ve run into a problem and I´d like to hear how you guys handle it.

Example: The PCs are barricated in a builing, surrounded by gross muntants, smasing against the walls, windows ect. The Incentive is clear. The situation is suspenseful as long I manage to keep up the pacing. So while the PCs argue what to do next I intervene by letting some kind of super monster jump on the roof and try to attack the PCs.
Now, as a DM, I have two options.

Option one: I tell the PCs they hear some noise on the roof, I create some suspense "theres something on the roof but you don´t know what", the monster suddenly appears, I let them roll for initiative and so on.

Option two: I let someone roll if he can hear the monster. The PCs rolls for listening, awereness or so, he hears the noise and can choose what happens. They barricade themselves or they split up to find the source of the noise, either way they are in for a mean surprise.

What I like about Option one is, that there is no interruption in the flow of the story. The players are put in a situation of danger and there is no pause or escape from the danger because I, as the DM, stress them constantly to keep the pace up. But what about the PCs trained in perception. Their skills and strenght are ignored, which is bad.

Option two is who I would have handled in DnD. You roll for some technicality and play it out. But thats not immersive. I have to tell the PCs that there is some kind of noise, but the PCs can´t hear it because they´ve fumbled on their rolls. In DnD thats not too big of a deal, in Numenera I try to avoid that the best that I can.

I´d like to hear if any of you has some advice or at least how you handle passive awareness in your sessions.

Regards from the southern egdes of the fair realm of Germany :D


  • I feel that it should be tailored to what players (and their PCs) are at the table. If the PC is trained or specialized in Perception then they should hear it. Those without that advantage should have to roll. Unless the story says they should be surprised - then they all roll.
    Overall it is the needs of the story that drives the rolling in my games. The GUMSHOE rules (different game entirely) says that if the PC is in the right place with the right skills there should be no rolling and I have carried that (mostly) over to Numenera.
    In the example of the Mutant jumping onto the roof of their hideout, what was the hideout made of? that could determine if they all heard it or not. Maybe it was loud enough for them all to be startled and stop their talking or soft enough that only the one listening could hear it. In the case of a fumble roll that gives you the advantage of the XP-Free GM Intrusion. Their arguing or talking caused them to miss or dismiss the sound. Making the ones that fumbled last in the initiative list for the first round.
    I have a tendency to have the needs of the story come first.
  • I like that GUMSHOE rule. Is that some other RPG? Maybe I can find some kind of solution there.
  • Bye the way I really appreciate your opinion
  • The GUMSHOE system was created by Pelgrane Press for their Esoterrorist games. I discovered it when I was attempting to figure out a way to create an investigative adventure for my players. I haven't played it specifically yet but I did steal liberally from their rule set.
  • GUMSHOE's conspyramid is a great way to structure cults and organisations. I've expanded on it a bit to give some idea of the resources the cult has available at any given Tier in the conspyramid. The Order of the Tempura Avenis (in the Key of Time write-up) is structured in this way)
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