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5E Do you use passive insight?

machineelf

Explorer
Twice this week this has come up. Once in a discussion on this board, and once in a discussion with one of my players.

Do you use passive insight in your game? I don't, and I'll give my reasons below, but I am genuinely curious to hear other opinions and arguments for and against. I was fairly surprised that it seems a good number of people believe have come to expect passive insight as a rule.

For sake of starting the discussion, here are the reasons why I don't use passive insight:

Passive checks essentially set a baseline number for your ability checks that is at least average. That means, that a complete failure is impossible. So I avoid passive checks if at all possible, because I believe sometimes you should roll a 1 and bungle an ability check. My one exception to passive checks is perception, because perception is something that is always turned on to some degree while awake, and I've found you can run it to great effect in a game. There is a good amount of control and affecting conditions, such as low light and obscuration, that can place a -5 modifier on perception. This means that even a character with high perception might miss things if the conditions work against him/her.

And of course, passive perception helps reduce the temptation of your players to feel like they have to actively check every single nook and cranny of every room. They know that even if then don't actively check, they are at least somewhat covered by passive perception. It also helps with sneaking situations where the players are sneaking around lackadaisical guards who just have their passive perception scores to rely on, and vice versa.

But passive insight presents a host of problems for me. It sets that baseline number which a character can't roll below, of course. And that presents role-playing and story-telling problems. If a character has a high passive insight, then is the DM supposed to reveal all the plot secrets, and say things like: "Edgar the merchant comes to you and tells you that his daughter has been kidnapped, but Bob, your character has a high passive insight, so you think he might be lying to you." With a passive insight, it creates a situation where some players just know all the easy secrets and answers automatically. It prevents the ability of the DM to create mysteries, or problems that the PCs have to solve or work through if one character always has a good hunch about what's going on. And when "Bob" gets told that his character has a hunch about something, all the other players know that's correct information, which makes it difficult to play their characters as though they came to other conclusions.

Sometimes a PC's hunch is just way off, and I prefer to have them roll an insight checks whenever they want, where they might roll low. This is also one of the few rolls I will make behind the screen, so that when one or multiple characters ask to know if an NPC is trustworthy or lying, different characters may get told different things depending on their secret roll, and they simply must role-play their character based on the hunch they each get, because they don't really know how the roll went. It causes the group to perhaps rely on the one character who is very wise (has a high insight modifier) and is often able to suss out a situation correctly. But sometimes even that player gets things wrong.

So those are my reasons. Any other opinions on this?
 

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Jubles

First Post
If an enemy is lying, passive insight is a check against deception. If there is a blatant deception I probably wouldn't reveal that through passive insight. However I don't like to subjugate player builds and abilities to make my job easier.

In my campaign we have a druid with an insight modifier of 10, or a passive of 20. Frankly he should be able to see through a sleazy merchant. He is level 12 though, and not likely to be concerned with the honesty of a random merchant. If he were level 3 with a passive insight of 15, I wouldn't automatically grant him that knowledge.

I think that passive insight is also always on. I'm sure everyone has an experience where they were talking with someone, maybe a poor salesperson and you just get that feeling that you know something is off about that person. I don't know which part of his spiel was deceptive but I know I'm talking to someone that is probably not giving me the straight story.

I use passive insight as a way to enhance the story and scene. Often I won't even be revealing information that is mechanically important. Sometimes it's revealing positive information. Insight is a tricky thing because it is not telepathy (despite many players wishing it were) so even with a very good insight roll it's always just a gut feeling. But lying and lie detection is an art and some people are naturally very good at it. Many players are supernaturally good at it.

I like the DM rolling insight on the player's behalf behind the screen. That can certainly make the mystery more potent. I also have a tendency to give false information on low checks. Maybe a poor active insight roll suggests the merchant is lying about his daughter but in fact the merchant was completely honest.

Another point is that if the players know Bob is always got a good knack for insight, that doesn't mean Bob was able to tip them off. If they're still talking to the merchant it's not as if Bob begins to actively ignore the merchant, physically turn to his party and, in front of the merchant say, "I think this dude is lying," before turning back to talk to the merchant again. If other players are using privileged information then perhaps an additional complication is better. Maybe before Bob detected a lie about the daughter because the merchant was trying to exploit the party in some low level scheme. Now with a new complication, the merchant is trying to save the party's life by sending them on a wild goose chase before the really mean evil black knight of this-and-that comes back to town to collect half of everyone's wealth.
 

machineelf

Explorer
Insight is a tricky thing because it is not telepathy (despite many players wishing it were) so even with a very good insight roll it's always just a gut feeling. But lying and lie detection is an art and some people are naturally very good at it. Many players are supernaturally good at it.

Yes, but even when someone's good at it, they can occasionally be wrong and their gut feeling is off, which is why I think I still favor a roll. So a person with a +8 to insight may usually be right, but on some occasions be wrong. And that seems to more fully match reality for me. Contrasting that with perception, perception is a bit more objective. A thing is either there to be noticed or not. Insight is a bit more subjective. There is some interpretation and guesswork.

So I think I still favor not allowing passive perception, though you make some good arguments. By the way, what part of Florida are you from?
 

Jubles

First Post
Yes, but even when someone's good at it, they can occasionally be wrong and their gut feeling is off, which is why I think I still favor a roll. So a person with a +8 to insight may usually be right, but on some occasions be wrong. And that seems to more fully match reality for me. Contrasting that with perception, perception is a bit more objective. A thing is either there to be noticed or not. Insight is a bit more subjective. There is some interpretation and guesswork.

So I think I still favor not allowing passive perception, though you make some good arguments. By the way, what part of Florida are you from?


I don't disagree. I definitely use active insight for most things, I just like to supplement scenes with the passive sometimes. For example my party recently stumbled into a monastery of rock gnome monks except the leader was a big firbolg monk who called himself Papa Gumble.

I presented the entire scene as one that was generally friendly and agreeable folk but something just wasn't quite right. Then again, they were in the Faewild where everything has consistently been at least a little bit funky. What they did not know was Papa Gumble was actually a rakshasa named Vonkleesio. The long and short of it was the rakshasa killed the real firbolg and schemed to have former master removed. It was all a charade and he was using the gnomes to collect a dangerous power source to power a portable gateway to the City of Dis for greater economic gain, blah blah blah.

The point is, I obviously did not reveal to them that this 'Papa Gumble' was actually a rakshasa. I spoke with the druid player in private between sessions and filled him in based on his 'passive insight'. I didn't actually give him new information. I told him while he was meditating and replaying the day's events he began to piece things together. I reminded him of different inconsistencies and deflections and odd statements the creature had made in its faux welcoming act. The party was invited to sleep in the monastery and be on their way in the morning. The rakshasa wanted them gone, not to fight. The party, in their innocence of the situation was getting close to forcing the rakshasa's hand. The druid's ability to recognize something was wrong allowed the party to wake up the next morning somewhat more on guard and understanding the delicateness of the situation.


My point is that if I'm worried a player will detect an NPC's lie with their insight and I don't want them to know that information yet then I go at it in another way. I rarely tell a direct lie as an NPC, because I don't think most people, even liars, do that often in real life, especially when the stakes are high. I've found an excellent method for this is to have the NPC, in the midst of being grilled for information by the PCs, turn it around on them and ask the same personal questions of the PC. Or suddenly speak to a different PC, or otherwise cause some sort of distraction. It doesn't always fit the NPC, but when it does, like with a rakshasa or a green dragon or an archlich or something it tends to be effective. And if they do figure it out and happen to get a good enough insight roll, then good on them. They still wouldn't have known it was a rakshasa that had a secret torture dungeon. They would just know he was a shifty dude that wasn't telling them everything, which was odd based on his fronted personality.


I'm from Tampa.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Twice this week this has come up. Once in a discussion on this board, and once in a discussion with one of my players.

Do you use passive insight in your game? I don't, and I'll give my reasons below, but I am genuinely curious to hear other opinions and arguments for and against. I was fairly surprised that it seems a good number of people believe have come to expect passive insight as a rule.

For sake of starting the discussion, here are the reasons why I don't use passive insight:

Passive checks essentially set a baseline number for your ability checks that is at least average. That means, that a complete failure is impossible. So I avoid passive checks if at all possible, because I believe sometimes you should roll a 1 and bungle an ability check. My one exception to passive checks is perception, because perception is something that is always turned on to some degree while awake, and I've found you can run it to great effect in a game. There is a good amount of control and affecting conditions, such as low light and obscuration, that can place a -5 modifier on perception. This means that even a character with high perception might miss things if the conditions work against him/her.

And of course, passive perception helps reduce the temptation of your players to feel like they have to actively check every single nook and cranny of every room. They know that even if then don't actively check, they are at least somewhat covered by passive perception. It also helps with sneaking situations where the players are sneaking around lackadaisical guards who just have their passive perception scores to rely on, and vice versa.

But passive insight presents a host of problems for me. It sets that baseline number which a character can't roll below, of course. And that presents role-playing and story-telling problems. If a character has a high passive insight, then is the DM supposed to reveal all the plot secrets, and say things like: "Edgar the merchant comes to you and tells you that his daughter has been kidnapped, but Bob, your character has a high passive insight, so you think he might be lying to you." With a passive insight, it creates a situation where some players just know all the easy secrets and answers automatically. It prevents the ability of the DM to create mysteries, or problems that the PCs have to solve or work through if one character always has a good hunch about what's going on. And when "Bob" gets told that his character has a hunch about something, all the other players know that's correct information, which makes it difficult to play their characters as though they came to other conclusions.

Sometimes a PC's hunch is just way off, and I prefer to have them roll an insight checks whenever they want, where they might roll low. This is also one of the few rolls I will make behind the screen, so that when one or multiple characters ask to know if an NPC is trustworthy or lying, different characters may get told different things depending on their secret roll, and they simply must role-play their character based on the hunch they each get, because they don't really know how the roll went. It causes the group to perhaps rely on the one character who is very wise (has a high insight modifier) and is often able to suss out a situation correctly. But sometimes even that player gets things wrong.

So those are my reasons. Any other opinions on this?

A passive check doesn't mean you're not doing something actively - it just means you're doing something repeatedly or on an ongoing basis and therefore not rolling. If you're doing something, then chances are you're not also doing something else. The rules for tasks while traveling are built this way, for example. If you're, say, foraging or poking around for secret doors, you don't get to also stay alert for danger, which means you can't apply your passive Perception to determine if you are surprised.

This can apply the same way for extended social interaction challenges. Let's say the adventurers are at a feast with the king's court and have some social objective to complete that will take a number of hours. Outside of specific complications the DM sets before the PCs, we might ask each player what his or her character is doing in general as the scene plays out. For those that want to determine the true intentions of the NPCs by gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms, passive Insight may be used to determine a result, assuming the effort has an uncertain outcome. But this can come at the cost of not being able to do some other thing that can reasonably distract from this effort. Someone else is going to have to do the talking or performing to win over the attendees (or whatever). And that's okay because being able to glean an NPC's personal characteristics is a good way to gain advantage on any subsequent checks (if any) to influence the NPC. (See "Social Interaction" in the DMG.) This is why I tend to choose Insight as a trained skill on my combat characters (the ones that didn't dump Wis anyway): The more charismatic characters do the talking, but I can contribute to their success by filling them in on some insights as to the NPC's personal characteristics.

That all said, an extended social interaction challenge (which can take many forms) is about the only place a passive Insight check might come into play because, like traveling, it will be something that takes time and has space for someone to perform a task repeatedly. What passive Insight is not an "always on lie detector," just like passive Perception is not an "always on radar." It requires the PC to be performing a task repeatedly, often at the cost of not doing some other useful task. So if you've got a PC with a high passive Insight, that character has to put him or herself in the position to make it useful and not do anything else that distracts from the effort. They don't get to do that and something else useful as well. And it has to be a task performed repeatedly or else it's just a normal ability check. (Notice I don't say "active" check.) As a result, unless your game has a lot of extended social interaction challenges, passive Insight should not be coming up very much at all.

As for your example on narrating the result of the successful Insight check (passive or otherwise), I strongly recommend you don't tell players what their characters think. Instead, consider saying "His body language seems to indicate that he's being untruthful..." or "His body language gives nothing away about his truthfulness." It's basically communicating the same thing, but we're not supposed to tell players what their characters think. Stick to narrating just the NPC and you can't go wrong here. A way to do this is to train yourself away from starting out narration with "You..."

With regard to secret rolls, you don't really need to do that as long as you're not telling players what their characters think or that they believe a certain thing on a failed check. The NPC either signals that he or she is lying or they don't and then it's on the player to decide what to think in the face of that. You may also want to consider using more meaningful consequences of failure because otherwise there is no cost to failure and therefore no reason everyone shouldn't be trying to suss out lies or personal characteristics (to the extent they can given the other tasks they are performing). A failed check might shut down further attempts from anyone else as the NPC notices the probing and becomes more guarded. Or a bad read might impart disadvantage on the next Charisma check made to influence the NPC.

I hope that helps!
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I do not use passive Insight because as the DM I do my best to roleplay the NPC in such a way that its up to the players to decide whether or not they think the NPC is lying. Sometimes I make it fairly obvious that the NPC is not telling the whole truth by how he/she acts and talks... sometimes I'm completely deadpan about it. Then it comes down to the players getting their own sense on whether or not the NPC is lying, and they then have to request an Insight check if the hair of the back of their necks were raised.

That's the middle ground I play between using the roleplay as the actual decision-making process and using skill checks only with roleplay having no mechanical influence. It allows the less-than-charismatic or less-than-intuitive players a chance to play more charismatic and intuitive characters... but still allows me as DM to use roleplaying and characterization as part of the mechanics of the game. If the way I or my players roleplayed had absolutely no influence or impact on the game, I think our game would suffer mightily for it.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
I don't use passive anything - except in AD&D where elves have an automatic chance to spot secret doors if near enough (because it's dirt simple. Roll a 1, spot a door. I don't need to track a shifting score for each pc)

Why? Because I'm only concerned with what the characters are actively doing. I've got more important things to be doing than quietly comparing #s behind my screen.
If I want you to know x without a check or some action on your part? I'll just tell you.
If I don't want you to know? Then I'll leave it to you to indicate if your searching, suspicious of the npc, etc. If you are, tell me what your doing about it. Maybe you'll need a die roll, maybe you wont....
 

thethain

First Post
Real talk here : Most don't.

It's a valid target for deception checks. (similar to how Passive perception is the DC for Stealth checks).

However it should be noted the DC could be adjusted based on the fact the players don't know the target very well, or the story matches up with what has happened. Or it might be even harder because there is some natural distrust of the NPC (he's a known criminal). Easiest would be treat any positive or negative as advantage or dis which would be -5 or +5 on the check.

Insight doesn't tell you if someone is lying or not, just that something seems off. I am far more likely for insight to give a player a read on the emotions of the person or what the motivations for the statement are rather than know they are lying.

"Help me Heroes, I have been robbed!" An high check might tell you the person doesn't seem as shaken up as someone might be who had just been threatened.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
Yes I use passive insight and passive perception. Here's how:

When a character is engaged in activity, and their attention is on that activity, I use passive scores to determine whether or what they may otherwise notice.

For instance, while mining mithril, ill use PP to see if any character notices danger of a cave-in somewhere or a goblin ambush some time.

Likewise with passive insight.

I have also used those numbers as "defenses" a la 4E, where someone is attempting a deception or sneaky move, but the character is not actively looking for deception or sneakies.

And here's the thing. The idea of a floor and ceiling being fixed isn't a problem. Not at all. It's a baseline on which a player can decide something like, "I have a passive insight of 14, so I'm decent at this, and I really think something's funky here, so I'm going to take action to see if I can confirm my suspicions." And then I can ask for a roll.

It's like when you set a scenario, you give players info on which to make decisions and act. The passive support that function. And they do it automatically, without pausing. Which lets me move from transition to setup to "what do you do" without everyone throwing dice and then me saying what I was going to say anyway.

Passives are a tool. They serve plenty of worthwhile functions. They don't serve every situation. If you can't find a use for them, that's okay. But frankly for me they're a bit like an extended socket wrench. Good lord, when you need it...



-Brad
 

Gradine

Final Form
I liked the Angry GM's suggestion of using 8 as a baseline for passive checks instead of 10. This allows you to use passive checks when they make sense while still giving advantage to direct character action. I combine this with the fact that I never give away everything with passive checks, only clues or hints to direct the player to resolve the situation actively. I don't ever use passive perception to tell someone when they see a trap, but I'll give them something to investigate further.

If I'm writing an adventure what I'll typically do is bracket off information with a minimum passive score, such as:

[Passive Perception 14]: "You notice one of the bricks in the wall is lighter shade of red than those around it"
[Passive Insight 12]: "As he speaks, his voice wavers, and you notice he seems to be avoiding eye contact"
[Passive History 13]: "You remember hearing about that battle once... where was it again?"

Then the player chooses how they proceed to gather more information (Investigation or Perception for searching the wall; Insight for reading tells on the liar, maybe Perception to spot that bead of sweat rolling down; likely History for the long-term memory recall). Throw in enough red herrings or variations on theme to not tip the players off every time they get some extra info from a passive score; though in theory the players should never know when you're checking their passive scores, in practice it becomes fairly easy to tell. Maybe that brick is hiding a trap switch, maybe it was just recently replaced; maybe he's not lying, he's just nervous about something else.

So yeah, I do passive insight. Also passive knowledge. Angry DM says all knowledge skills are passive and recall doesn't really work because of some armchair psychology but that's nonsense. Recall is definitely active and is a skill (which can in fact be trained) and I think both the Intelligence ability and skill proficiency reflect not just your knowledge base (what you've been exposed to, which is what I'd use passive knowledge for) as well as your ability to recall said knowledge on command (the active roll). Just as passive insight or perception reflect what you naturally pick up without even thinking about it, whereas active uses involve putting those skills into deliberate practice.

The important thing here is that passive checks are meant to give the player the clue to use their active skills, but they don't need to succeed the passive check in order to do so. Thus, you don't need to design your passive checks such that you need to be sure at least PC will succeed. Nothing's stopping them from making an active Insight check if they think the guy is lying, they just don't pick up on the tells passively. Likewise, the passive knowledge check is just my prompt to tell the player they might know something more about this particular piece of lore. They might decide they might know it themselves and roll.

This might not be necessary or even useful with more seasoned players, but I find it works wonders with newer players.
 

Brandegoris

First Post
Twice this week this has come up. Once in a discussion on this board, and once in a discussion with one of my players.

Do you use passive insight in your game? I don't, and I'll give my reasons below, but I am genuinely curious to hear other opinions and arguments for and against. I was fairly surprised that it seems a good number of people believe have come to expect passive insight as a rule.

For sake of starting the discussion, here are the reasons why I don't use passive insight:

Passive checks essentially set a baseline number for your ability checks that is at least average. That means, that a complete failure is impossible. So I avoid passive checks if at all possible, because I believe sometimes you should roll a 1 and bungle an ability check. My one exception to passive checks is perception, because perception is something that is always turned on to some degree while awake, and I've found you can run it to great effect in a game. There is a good amount of control and affecting conditions, such as low light and obscuration, that can place a -5 modifier on perception. This means that even a character with high perception might miss things if the conditions work against him/her.

And of course, passive perception helps reduce the temptation of your players to feel like they have to actively check every single nook and cranny of every room. They know that even if then don't actively check, they are at least somewhat covered by passive perception. It also helps with sneaking situations where the players are sneaking around lackadaisical guards who just have their passive perception scores to rely on, and vice versa.

But passive insight presents a host of problems for me. It sets that baseline number which a character can't roll below, of course. And that presents role-playing and story-telling problems. If a character has a high passive insight, then is the DM supposed to reveal all the plot secrets, and say things like: "Edgar the merchant comes to you and tells you that his daughter has been kidnapped, but Bob, your character has a high passive insight, so you think he might be lying to you." With a passive insight, it creates a situation where some players just know all the easy secrets and answers automatically. It prevents the ability of the DM to create mysteries, or problems that the PCs have to solve or work through if one character always has a good hunch about what's going on. And when "Bob" gets told that his character has a hunch about something, all the other players know that's correct information, which makes it difficult to play their characters as though they came to other conclusions.

Sometimes a PC's hunch is just way off, and I prefer to have them roll an insight checks whenever they want, where they might roll low. This is also one of the few rolls I will make behind the screen, so that when one or multiple characters ask to know if an NPC is trustworthy or lying, different characters may get told different things depending on their secret roll, and they simply must role-play their character based on the hunch they each get, because they don't really know how the roll went. It causes the group to perhaps rely on the one character who is very wise (has a high insight modifier) and is often able to suss out a situation correctly. But sometimes even that player gets things wrong.

So those are my reasons. Any other opinions on this?

I use passive insight. My reason is this:
The Characters have certain ability scores and in a lot of cases they may have a score that is Higher than the actual real life player has, so I have to represent that?
I hope that made sense?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I do really like @iserith's approach of declared repetitive action is tied to the passive scores. One question I have though is what about passive stealth? For example the party might be creeping through a dungeon (and wanting to move stealthily - so they all declare "I'm moving stealthily" :) ) but then another (say the rogue) says "I'm keeping an eye out for traps" - passive perception. But as they've already declared that they're being stealthy how can they do both (in game mechanics) but in real-life that seems perfectly reasonable.

So I guess I would say that you can do one "physical thing" passively and one "mental thing" passively.

Thoughts?
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I do really like @iserith's approach of declared repetitive action is tied to the passive scores. One question I have though is what about passive stealth? For example the party might be creeping through a dungeon (and wanting to move stealthily - so they all declare "I'm moving stealthily" :) ) but then another (say the rogue) says "I'm keeping an eye out for traps" - passive perception. But as they've already declared that they're being stealthy how can they do both (in game mechanics) but in real-life that seems perfectly reasonable.

So I guess I would say that you can do one "physical thing" passively and one "mental thing" passively.

Thoughts?

Being stealthy is more a factor of pace than tasks in my view. The trade-off is a slow pace which, depending on how you set up your adventure, could make it harder to achieve your goals on time or increases the frequency of random encounter checks. I call for a check from the PCs when it's time to determine if the monsters are surprised per the rules.

I do use passive Stealth in my games on the monster side, if they're lying in wait. I did that in my last session, actually. In two combat challenges, the enemies were trying to ambush. The first group had a passive Stealth of 11, resulting in only one PC being surprised. In the second group, they had the benefit of pass without trace due to a druid in their ranks, so the passive Stealth was 21 and all the PCs were surprised.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Being stealthy is more a factor of pace than tasks in my view. The trade-off is a slow pace which, depending on how you set up your adventure, could make it harder to achieve your goals on time or increases the frequency of random encounter checks. I call for a check from the PCs when it's time to determine if the monsters are surprised per the rules.

I do use passive Stealth in my games on the monster side, if they're lying in wait. I did that in my last session, actually. In two combat challenges, the enemies were trying to ambush. The first group had a passive Stealth of 11, resulting in only one PC being surprised. In the second group, they had the benefit of pass without trace due to a druid in their ranks, so the passive Stealth was 21 and all the PCs were surprised.

That seems cool. I still kind of like my idea too, though... It's a common trope in social interactions to have the protagonists dancing but also keeping an eye on the crowd/other dancers. So passive "dancing" + passive "insight" but, of course, if it's a dance the PC doesn't know then they'd have to focus their attention on the steps/moves so no insights for them :)
 

MiraMels

Explorer
Yeah. i use passive scores for every skill in the game, including insight, in various situations. It's incredibly useful for guiding my own fiats as a DM, and when you use advantage, disadvantage, and opposed active checks there's plenty of variety.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That seems cool. I still kind of like my idea too, though... It's a common trope in social interactions to have the protagonists dancing but also keeping an eye on the crowd/other dancers. So passive "dancing" + passive "insight" but, of course, if it's a dance the PC doesn't know then they'd have to focus their attention on the steps/moves so no insights for them :)

Yep, multiple tasks can be undertaken of course - they just can't be distracting from the attempt to glean insight. Best to go with a simple slow dance instead of a tango.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Pretty much the only time I roll an ability check for a monster/NPC is for grappling or shoving or Stealth to determine surprise. Opposed checks are very rare because the circumstances that would call for an opposed check don't come up much. I just set DCs for the PCs' checks, usually at 10 + relevant ability (skill) bonus, which is effectively the monster/NPC's passive score.
 

Honestly, it depends on the roll.
If the Deception roll is terrible, then I might rule it's a thing. That they can tell someone is lying without having to roll or even ask to roll. They just know. But unless it's so low that I don't need to do the math, I assume the lie is adequate enough that it passes.

Really, Insight is best for confirming what the players already suspect. I'm not going to tell the players they believe a lie because someone rolled well. My die rolls don't change how their character acts.
 

BoldItalic

First Post
Passive scores make sense when they are used as a DC for someone to roll against. The archetypical example is rolling Stealth against passive perception.

But it doesn't make sense for a DM to compare a PC's passive score to a fixed DC that he himself chooses, as a way of deciding anything. You could have done that before the game session even started. If it makes the narrative more interesting for the innkeeper to lie to the adventurer, go with it and just say so. "The innkeeper tells you that there are no bandits on the north road, but he is obviously lying". There's no need to justify your narrative choice with pseudo-mathematical numbers; there's no need to say to yourself "12 is greater than 10 so I'm going to tell the player that the innkeeper is lying".

Of course, if you are randomizing a pre-written scenario and you want to decide by rolling dice whether or not the innkeeper is lying this time through, then that's fair enough; but the probability you assign to the truthfulness of innkeepers has nothing to do with the passive insight of the PCs.
 

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