Detecting Secret Doors and Skill Checks

Question: Isn't an old school D&D "detect secret doors" roll the equivalent of a "skill check" today? Wouldn't that "detect secret doors" be the same thing as rolling to see if a character found a scrap of paper in the fireplace or a bloodstain on the carpet? I'm not seeing the distinction.

Answer: Here's the distinction. If an old school D&D player told the DM he was looking in the fireplace or examining the carpet then an old school DM wouldn't ask for a roll. If the player describes what his character is doing, then it's just common sense that his eyes would be working just fine and he would discover the scrap of paper or carpet bloodstain.

The detect secret doors is for automatically noticing if there's a secret door just by walking near it. Again, if a player was specifically checking for secret doors in a particular room or hallway, then there's no roll. Given enough time (they can't be glancing for secret doors in between rounds of combat or something), that player will always find what he's looking for unless there's some greater force at work... like magic.

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The way I had always played it is that a player would point to a 10 feet section of wall, floor, or ceiling & then roll a D6, a 1 or sometimes 2 would indicate you found the secret door or perhaps a secret compartment in a garment, for example.

On the skill check, i use it when things are not obvious, or like when there are various levels of understanding about what you are seeing/doing. This way i describe something in more or less detail as presented in the boxed text & or extrapolating.

This is actually incorrect, at least about what the roll is for. Sure, you can choose to play it that way, but even OD&D required a Turn to check for Secret Doors in a ten foot area (page 8-9, Book 3). Only elves get the 'notice check for simply walking past'.

I probably remembered it the way we played decades ago instead of rules as written. Unless it was revised or presented as an alternative ruling in Rules Cyclopedia or Dragon Magazine, etc.

Thanks for catching that! Glad someone is paying attention. ;)