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Search (Int)

You can find secret doors, simple traps, hidden compartments, and other details not readily apparent. The Search (Spot) skill lets you notice something, such as a hiding rogue. The Search skill lets a character discern some small detail or irregularity through active effort. Search does not allow you to find complex traps unless you are a rogue (see Restriction, below).

Check: You generally must be within 10 feet of the object or surface to be searched. The table below gives DCs for typical tasks involving the Search skill.

TaskSearch DC
Ransack a chest full of junk to find a certain item10
Notice a typical secret door or a simple trap20
Find a difficult nonmagical trap (rogue only)¹21 or higher
Find a magic trap (rogue only)¹25 + level of spell used to create trap
Notice a well hidden secret door30
Find a footprintVaries²
¹ Dwarves (even if they are not rogues) can use Search to find traps built into or out of stone.
² A successful Search check can find a footprint or similar sign of a creature's passage, but it won't let you find or follow a trail. See the Track feat for the appropriate DC.

Action: It takes a full-round action to search a 5-foot-by-5-foot area or a volume of goods 5 feet on a side.

Special: An elf has a +2 racial bonus on Search checks, and a half-elf has a +1 racial bonus. An elf (but not a half-elf) who simply passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door can make a Search check to find that door.

If you have the Investigator feat, you get a +2 bonus on Search.

The spells explosive runes, fire trap, glyph of warding, symbol, and teleportation circle create magic traps that a rogue can find by making a successful Search check and then can attempt so disarm by using Disable Device. Identifying the location of a snare spell has a DC of 23. Spike growth and spike stones create magic traps that can be found using Search, or against which Disable Device checks do not succeed. See the individual spell descriptions in Chapter 11: Spells, Player's Handbook, for details.

Active abjuration spells within 10 feet of each other for 24 hours or more create barely visible energy fluctuations. These fluctuations give you a +4 bonus on Search checks to locate such abjuration spells.

Synergy: If you have 5 or more ranks in Search, you get a +2 bonus on Survival checks to find or follow tracks.

If you have 5 or more ranks in Knowledge (architecture and engineering), you get a +2 bonus on Search checks to find secret or hidden compartments.

Restriction: While anyone can use Search to find a trap whose DC is 20 or lower, only a rogue can use Search to locate traps with higher DCs. (Exception: The spell find traps temporarily enables a cleric to use the Search skill as if he were a rogue.)

A dwarf, even one who is not a rogue, can use the Search skill to find a difficult trap (one with a DC higher than 21) if the trap is built into or out of stone. He gains a +2 racial bonus on the Search check from his stonecunning ability.

Investigator Feat

TaskSearch DC
Find a clue10

In addition to using Search to find a certain item, notice a secret door, or find a footprint, you have the additional training and experience necessary to find clues of all sorts. Modify the Search DC according to the nature of the scene being examined, as indicated below. (This function of the Search skill doesn't reveal clues when there are no clues to find.)

Scene ConditionSearch DC Modifier
Undisturbed (The scene has not been touched or contaminated in any way.)+0
Disturbed (Someone or something has slightly and perhaps unintentionally contaminated the scene; for example, a book was picked up and put back or a guard walked cautiously across the area.) +5
Greatly disturbed (Someone or something has massively and intentionally contaminated the scene; for example, the area has been cleaned and scrubbed, or the area was intentionally disturbed after the primary event occurred.) +10

When a successful Search check turns up a clue, you can make a second check to discern patterns, analyze evidence, and draw conclusions about what occurred in a specific area. In other words, the first Search check lets you find something, and the second check allows you to figure out what you've found.
You can make a DC 15 Search check to analyze a clue. By examining a body, you might determine whether the victim fought back or provided no struggle at all, or if claws, a weapon, or a spell killed the victim. By looking at a scorch mark on a wall, you might approximate the location of the spellcaster when the spell was cast. The DC for the check is modified by the time that has elapsed since the event occurred and how significant the clue is, as indicated below. All other rules concerning the Search skill otherwise apply.

Circumstance (example)DC Modifier
Each day past since event+2 (Maximum modifier +10)
Minor clue (Provides only a piece of the solution to a puzzle and requires additional data for the investigator to reach a conclusion.)+0
Moderate clue (Provides significant data toward the solution of a puzzle and could lead to a conclusion without additional data.) +2
Major clue (Provides everything an investigator needs to solve a puzzle, even if the solution isn't immediately obvious.) +5

The DM should secretly make the second Search check to analyze a clue. If the check succeeds, the DM provides a truthful, objective analysis of the clue that can help the investigator reach a reasonable and logical conclusion. For example, analyzing a brooch clutched in the hand of a murdered dwarf (a major clue) reveals that it was torn from a blue cloak or tunic (it bears strands of a blue material). It bears the symbol of House Cannith, but the brooch isn't of the quality that a house noble would normally wear. These true and objective facts are now left for the investigator to consider and follow up on.

If the check fails, the DM provides analysis of the clue that sounds plausible but is actually flawed in some manner. For example, a flawed analysis of the major clue discussed above would reveal only that the brooch bears the symbol of House Cannith. Even a successful analysis won't reveal the actual authenticity of a clue. False clues planted at a scene could provide truthful and objective data that leads an investigator in the wrong direction.
Generally, investigating a scene a second time doesn't add new insight unless another clue is discovered. You can take 10 when making a Search check to find a clue, but you can't take 20.

Synergy: If you have 5 or more ranks in an appropriate Knowledge skill, you get a +2 bonus on Search checks to find or analyze clues.

Skills Index
Character Creation