D&D 5E Charisma to prevent giving out info during interrogation?

Oofta

Legend
I don't allow torture, in the real world it's not effective and I don't allow evil PCs.

If an NPC is lying, that's a deception vs insight check. Other types of getting information is generally against either a DC I set based on the NPC or a wisdom save. There is no real hard guideline though - if an NPC is just a hired guard they may spill the beans in exchange for being let go. Others will be susceptible to bribes, some are unwilling or unable to talk no matter what you do.

The trick to making interrogations interesting to me is to think about the motivation and bonds of the NPC. Can they be tricked into giving away information? In some cases I'll roll a straight up intelligence check to see if they let something slip unintentionally. Other times they want to bargain, or they feed he PCs a line of B.S. Can the PCs offer the NPC something they care about? Give them enough of a reason to talk? Threaten or reveal a threat to someone else the NPC cares about?

There are many ways to handle this, even sometimes just a persuasion check.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This is a flat-out Intimidation vs Deception head-to-head check. Torture is Intimidation, and refusing to give out information is Deception, whether just waking down the street, or tied to the rack. Advantage or disadvantage to one or the other, depending on the circumstances.

I would say making them believe what you say under duress would be Deception. Having the will to refuse to cooperate under that duress would (again, in my book) be Wisdom.

Also, from a game design perspective, Charisma is already overloaded, as the primary casting stat for four classes and the primary stat for social interaction.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
I think you might need to back up and consider the whole "torture PCs"scene context. Why is this even happening?
"Torture" might be a strong word for it. It's more like a possible batman/vigilante interrogation scenario. Less about inflicting pain or disfiguring the PC's, but more about inciting fear into their characters.

Most players, imx, would simply refuse to give info once it's established there being a negative consequence, even if it's in-character. I was thinking of making the outcome less predictable but still somewhat controllable using ability checks/dice rolls.

I had first thought of Wisdom, but Wisdom more has to do with worldly attunement and discernment, which doesn't feel as relevant. Wisdom saves do invoke resistance to something that assaults your willpower, but I don't think I want it to be a simple save.
 

South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
[...] Also, from a game design perspective, Charisma is already overloaded, as the primary casting stat for four classes and the primary stat for social interaction.
I certainly agree with that. While I understand the need to strengthen its role in the past (in AD&D it was almost a nothing-stat (in practice)), they've gone overboard with it now.
 

seebs

Adventurer
The practical answer is that everyone gives information if tortured but the information is extremely unreliable, so it doesn't do much good. I wouldn't call it a charisma thing, or much of an anything. People break pretty easily and say anything-and-everything, but they're completely unreliable in what they say.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The practical answer is that everyone gives information if tortured but the information is extremely unreliable, so it doesn't do much good. I wouldn't call it a charisma thing, or much of an anything. People break pretty easily and say anything-and-everything, but they're completely unreliable in what they say.

In the real world, true. In heroic fiction, however, there's a trope that folks may want to work with, however inaccurate it may be.
 

ECMO3

Hero
How does it sound to use Charisma to prevent giving out information during an interrogation/torture sequence involving the characters as the subject of torture? Most players would simply refuse to give information because they don't feel the pressure of giving the information out without death outright being a consequence. Because otherwise, there's nothing for them to lose.

At first, I was thinking of using Charisma saves because they're being involuntarily pushed to do something that requires willpower to prevent, but then I thought of a skill contest, since the torturer can torture indefinitely, it's up to the character to persuade the torturer that they won't give any information.

So, it would be a Persuasion vs Intimidation check and on success, the character gives out no information during the interrogation and on failure, they share one bit of information.

How does that sound? Too much? Would you enjoy this type of interaction? Would you prefer a different ruling or just let the player decide whether they break or not?

I would say giving false information would be a contest deception check with advantage vs insight. Advantage because information gained under torture is very unreliable. When people are tortured they will say anything to make the torture stop including falsehoods. I would normally use Charisma for that but I could see intelligence or wisdom in some abnormal case.

If the intent is to "John Wayne" and tell them nothing at all I would make that probably a constitution check with a very high DC (maybe 25) to remain quiet. If you are successful I would have you make a death saving throw to see if you die. If you fail the first check you say something at which point it is another contested deception check, this time with disadvantage because you were broken.
 
Last edited:

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In my games, unless magically compelled, the players decide what their characters think, say, and do, full stop.

In the interrogation scene the OP imagines, because there's no uncertainty as to the outcome of the action - the player decides if the character reveals information or not - there's no ability check or saving throw to be used here.

If I absolutely needed the NPCs to have information the PCs have, I'd figure out some other way to get it to them (though personally I wouldn't likely be in this situation anyway).
 

5th ed isn't a gritty enough system to go to in depth into this.
I'd make it a Saving throw to resist ( either Con or Wis or some mix and match). If this save is made then the tortured person can use deception etc to implant a lie.
All the grisly stuff off scene of course.
In time the villains may realise Dantooine was a lie!
 

jgsugden

Legend
The practical answer is that everyone gives information if tortured but the information is extremely unreliable, so it doesn't do much good...
This is why torture for a confession does not work, but torture to extract information that can then be tested does work. Eventually, they try the truth so as to end the pain. You won't know when it will come, but it will come.

Regardless, when I DM, when non-magical torture is used, I leave it up to the player to decide what happens. It isn't left up to a saving throw or die roll - it is a decision on how much the player/PC will allow before they break. As HP loss is described in my setting as expending the toughness of the individual, I usually have a tortured PC set to low hps as they've been wrecked physically to gather information, etc... However, smart enemies will often resort to other means to induce compliance, such as threatening allies, destroying things the PC cares about, etc... rather than torture.
 

In my games, unless magically compelled, the players decide what their characters think, say, and do, full stop.

Yup. If the player wants to roll some dice because they can't decide quite what to do, fine, but I won't enforce any result of those dice. How they interpret it is up to them.

If they imagine their character being able to withstand the pain, that's their call. If they imagine their character folding like a wet newspaper, that's their call.
 

ECMO3

Hero
In my games, unless magically compelled, the players decide what their characters think, say, and do, full stop.
Players can give out information they don't want to give out without telling someone.

That is most of what the deception skill is about. You lie to the town watch and say it was someone else that broke into the kings treasury - deception check vs insight.

If you fail you still "gave out information" and let the watch know it was you even though you said it was not you.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Players can give out information they don't want to give out without telling someone.

That is most of what the deception skill is about. You lie to the town watch and say it was someone else that broke into the kings treasury - deception check vs insight.

If you fail you still "gave out information" and let the watch know it was you even though you said it was not you.
At best, an NPC can discern that a PC is lying on a failed check. But that's all. And it's still the player's choice to lie and take the risk. That's a different scenario than an NPC putting the thumbscrew to the PC and me saying the PC gives up the goods, roll or no roll.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
At best, an NPC can discern that a PC is lying on a failed check. But that's all. And it's still the player's choice to lie and take the risk. That's a different scenario than an NPC putting the thumbscrew to the PC and me saying the PC gives up the goods, roll or no roll.
I suppose it depends on perspective. The reason why you have players roll for deception isn't that something is compelling them to be conspicuous, it's that they have a chance of involuntarily messing up somehow and they are putting in efforts to seem genuine.

If you're perspective is that the characters can easily choose to remain silent, then it makes sense that you'd have the players decide.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I suppose it depends on perspective. The reason why you have players roll for deception isn't that something is compelling them to be conspicuous, it's that they have a chance of involuntarily messing up somehow and they are putting in efforts to seem genuine.

If you're perspective is that the characters can easily choose to remain silent, then it makes sense that you'd have the players decide.
The reason for the roll, if there's a roll at all, is that there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure given the attempted task in context. It could be for any number of reasons that the outcome is uncertain and any number of consequences may happen upon failure (including progress combined with a setback rather than outright failure to deceive), not just what you say above.

The players get to decide whether to tell the truth, lie, or remain silent. What I can't do as DM is say their character gave up some bit of information because they're being tortured. That's for the player to say.
 

Yora

Legend
I would say Wisdom applies to not revealing anything.
Charisma applies to making the interrogators think you don't know anything.
 

Reynard

Legend
Everyone breaks eventually, but that doesn't mean they are truthful. Instead, they tend to tell the Inquisition what it wants to hear just to get the screws to stop turning.

If I were inclined to try and model it in game (which I probably wouldn't be) I would use a PF1E condition track that you can't escape and with an ever increasing penalty. That way all a victim can do is hold out long enough to escape or die.
 

I suppose it depends on perspective. The reason why you have players roll for deception isn't that something is compelling them to be conspicuous, it's that they have a chance of involuntarily messing up somehow and they are putting in efforts to seem genuine.

Sure, there’s a chance they’ll succumb. And a chance they’ll stay strong. I’m happy to let the player decide what those chances are, and how it resolves.
If you're perspective is that the characters can easily choose to remain silent, then it makes sense that you'd have the players decide.

Is there an unspoken assumption that players will decide their characters will remain silent for purely gamist reasons? And, sure, they might. My view is that:
1) I don’t want to waste time and emotional energy worrying about player motivations.
2) If I DM myself into a corner where the outcome of the interrogation is going to have a major impact on the story, that’s my fault. I’m not going to take away player agency to fix my mistake.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
The reason for the roll, if there's a roll at all, is that there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure given the attempted task in context. It could be for any number of reasons that the outcome is uncertain and any number of consequences may happen upon failure (including progress combined with a setback rather than outright failure to deceive), not just what you say above.

The players get to decide whether to tell the truth, lie, or remain silent. What I can't do as DM is say their character gave up some bit of information because they're being tortured. That's for the player to say.
Is there an unspoken assumption that players will decide their characters will remain silent for purely gamist reasons? And, sure, they might. My view is that:
1) I don’t want to waste time and emotional energy worrying about player motivations.
2) If I DM myself into a corner where the outcome of the interrogation is going to have a major impact on the story, that’s my fault. I’m not going to take away player agency to fix my mistake.
Hmm...I appreciate the elaboration of your personal DM style, but let me steer the question in a different direction with an example and perspective-shift.

Imagine you're playing a game and you've been captured by a fiend. The fiend is under oath that they cannot kill any humanoids, but they use a loophole to torture you for information. You provoked the fiend, purposefully, but you didn't know that the fiend was as strong as they were.

As a player, you don't actually know the fiend can't kill you, but you are aware that I, the DM, has promised in session 0 that I wouldn't outright kill without reasonable opportunity to survive.

During the interrogation, would you willingly give up information, be it correct or incorrect?

And if I, the DM, told you to make some form of roll with a DC 13 to not say anything, would you feel that unacceptable?

Also, in this model, if you fail the roll, your character is free to say anything the player chooses, they just can't stay quiet.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Hmm...I appreciate the elaboration of your personal DM style, but let me steer the question in a different direction with an example and perspective-shift.

Imagine you're playing a game and you've been captured by a fiend. The fiend is under oath that they cannot kill any humanoids, but they use a loophole to torture you for information. You provoked the fiend, purposefully, but you didn't know that the fiend was as strong as they were.

As a player, you don't actually know the fiend can't kill you, but you are aware that I, the DM, has promised in session 0 that I wouldn't outright kill without reasonable opportunity to survive.

During the interrogation, would you willingly give up information, be it correct or incorrect?
I might or I might not, depending on whether I thought either choice would be more fun and contribute to an exciting, memorable story. As a player, I don't have a predetermined choice here.

And if I, the DM, told you to make some form of roll with a DC 13 to not say anything, would you feel that unacceptable?

Also, in this model, if you fail the roll, your character is free to say anything the player chooses, they just can't stay quiet.
I would find that to be an unacceptable intrusion upon my right to play my character as I see fit. If you want that to be a thing that happens, make it into a spell or the like, give me a saving throw, and some sense of what is at stake so I can make an informed decision about what resources I want to spend to avoid a bad result (Inspiration, for example).
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top