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How do you handle insight?

5ekyu

Adventurer
I asked this a page ago, but I want to try again:

For anybody advocating a straightforward "skill check" where a successful Insight check reveals lying/truthfulness, do you have any great stories you love to tell about "that one time I rolled Insight, and..."

Not about what happened in the game later as the result of the roll, but where the narration of the success or failure of the roll is the story?

Example: "This one time I tried to leap onto the banquet table, jump up and grab the chandelier (because that's what chandeliers are for), and swing onto the bad guy. But I totally flubbed my Athletics roll, so just as I reached for the chandelier my foot landed in a plate, and I ended up skating the entire length of the banquet table, dishes and silverware everywhere, and crashed off the far end."

What's your story like that that involved using Insight to detect a lie?

(Note: as you may suspect, I'm not expecting much. But if somebody DOES have a great story I actually think that will help move this conversation in a productive way.)
Obvioudly, great us in the eye of the beholder... but interesting and getting enjoyment from those involved?

The meeting in the bar with the lowlife was going on. The lowlife kept hemming and haawwing. Finally, a few more coins went down and the low life gave up "the guys" names to the PC. "They was them. The ones that done it."

Player said, eyebrow raised, in sight check and rolled low but had good skill', got like a 13 total.

"Ok, this is tough, sure, clearly he is not truthful, may not know what truth is. He's also skittish and the hustle and bustle of this bar has him jumpy. Add in that and him sermin' legit scared of these guys he mentioned and you figure it's not the whole truth but its likely close... but all in all, not a sure bet."

That was the "some progress with setback" displaying thru ths narrative the info was not complete and definitely not worthy of high confidence - but not necessarily if it was even a success or fail check.

A bit later, the character fudge realize thst as he questioned snd scrutinized the lowlife, someone lifted his purse and some definitely "not happy thsts gone" stuff was now gone... that was the "with setback" part of the actually failed insight check. Had it succeeded, not only would there be more clear description but he would have seen a tell that alerted him to the pickpocket, which was not unknown to the lowlife.

The standard 5e "some progress with setback" imo is vital tool for interesting resolution of non-instantaneous efforts.

Now, had the PC wanted to they could have followed thru, taken the options to remove some of the problems with their check - given in the narrative- promised protection or safety, hot him outside the bar, someplace away from the hustle and bustle, etc... or maybe raised the offer. Those could gave offered up another check, with advantage - because the player in character decided to use the "scenery" and description presented in game and NPC and change it to his advantage - literally.

To me that's a whole lot different than a player needing to know sweating this means lies and guessing what the upcoming lie is about to be.

I dont need the player to " play the check" that is the character's job. He foesnt need to know what good insight looks like. He has to play the scene. Big difference to me.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Obvioudly, great us in the eye of the beholder... but interesting and getting enjoyment from those involved?

The meeting in the bar with the lowlife was going on. The lowlife kept hemming and haawwing. Finally, a few more coins went down and the low life gave up "the guys" names to the PC. "They was them. The ones that done it."

Player said, eyebrow raised, in sight check and rolled low but had good skill', got like a 13 total.

"Ok, this is tough, sure, clearly he is not truthful, may not know what truth is. He's also skittish and the hustle and bustle of this bar has him jumpy. Add in that and him sermin' legit scared of these guys he mentioned and you figure it's not the whole truth but its likely close... but all in all, not a sure bet."

That was the "some progress with setback" displaying thru ths narrative the info was not complete and definitely not worthy of high confidence - but not necessarily if it was even a success or fail check.

A bit later, the character fudge realize thst as he questioned snd scrutinized the lowlife, someone lifted his purse and some definitely "not happy thsts gone" stuff was now gone... that was the "with setback" part of the actually failed insight check. Had it succeeded, not only would there be more clear description but he would have seen a tell that alerted him to the pickpocket, which was not unknown to the lowlife.

The standard 5e "some progress with setback" imo is vital tool for interesting resolution of non-instantaneous efforts.

Now, had the PC wanted to they could have followed thru, taken the options to remove some of the problems with their check - given in the narrative- promised protection or safety, hot him outside the bar, someplace away from the hustle and bustle, etc... or maybe raised the offer. Those could gave offered up another check, with advantage - because the player in character decided to use the "scenery" and description presented in game and NPC and change it to his advantage - literally.

To me that's a whole lot different than a player needing to know sweating this means lies and guessing what the upcoming lie is about to be.

I dont need the player to " play the check" that is the character's job. He foesnt need to know what good insight looks like. He has to play the scene. Big difference to me.
So this was so much fun that you actually re-told the story later? "Hey guys, remember that awesome time we were in the bar...?" "YES! That was the best!"
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I like to differentiate between genuine domain expertise, and basic creativity. Certainly expecting players to know chemical formulae, or understand how a clock escapement works, or to know vocabulary from a foreign language (let alone a fictional foreign language) would be leaning too heavily on "player skill."

None of the examples I gave require a player to have any specific out-of-game expertise. It just requires following along with the plot, and being willing to think and improvise ideas.

Sure, you could excise all player judgment from the game. Why not eliminate spell descriptions, and just have a "Cast Spell" action, with the results appropriate to the need? After all, you can't expect players to be actual wizards. "I want to cast a spell that will do fire damage to all of them, but miss my friends, can I do that?" "Let's see, that's three criteria, so a DC of 18 for Arcana." "Drat, 15." "Nope, you didn't prepare a spell like that."

Same with tactical movement. Get rid of grid and positioning and distance, and just give players a Combat skill they can check every time there's uncertainty. "Can I get to the Wizard without drawing opportunity attacks?" "Gimme a Combat check." "17." "Yes, you can."

That doesn't sound very fun to me, and it's not very fun to me when "detecting traps" and "detecting lies" are reduced to a single binary die roll. It adds nothing to the game.
Obviously a GM can vhoose yo run 5e in a binary roll sense, but 5e presents most results rolls as non-binary in dome or all cases.

All ability checks have complete, some progresssuccess with setback and no progress as outcomes by default- core rules. Some have degrees of success or failure added in as well.

All attack rolls have fail, hit for damage and hit for crit. A few creatures have special rules and sometimes degrees of duccess.

Saves, the most "just roll no play required" are more binary in more cases but even then not always with degrees of failure being an issue for some.

One does not have to jump all the way from "know yourself tell me the tells in advance" player-side personal knowledge to no-player judgement. In between that there is knowing the gameplay. Knowing what skill do, knowing what your character fireball does, picking up on the fact that the crowded bar scene was described as one of the problems getting info and deciding " let's step outside" are all very different from knowing sweaty this snd looking thst wsy means lies when that was not presented to you in game.

But, if to you there is no difference, if the jump you describe is what the options are, then hey, that may explain your conclusions a lot.

Not that since the two you point out at the end - traps and lies are both referenced as ability checks-- they default to non-binary tho a GM of course can reduce them to that if preferred.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
So this was so much fun that you actually re-told the story later? "Hey guys, remember that awesome time we were in the bar...?" "YES! That was the best!"
It has been brought up more than once, yes, cuz while it was fun to play thru it and the results, it was also fun cuz of the "and failed skill checks get lots of fun going" since I dont run the game as binary.

As for best, awesome, greatest" blah blah, eye of beholder.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
I hadn't thought about the retroactive action angle before. And I think you're exactly right. We don't wait until after we've fallen into the pit to see if we can make an Athletics check. Or after the guard has seen us to make a Stealth check.

So maybe when somebody says, "Can I use Insight to see if he's lying?" the right response is, "Are you just going to stand there and stare at him and wait for him to tell a lie? What are you DOING?" (Also, lying about WHAT is important. That's usually omitted, in my experience. Lying about everything?)
Not quite. If the player asks to use insight to see if someone is lying it's an active attempt to probe that person for information. This is how it would run in one of my games.

NPC: *tells a lie
DM: compares NPC's deception to the passive insight scores for the players

The player isn't retroactively doing anything. If the NPC lied the check should have already been made. That's the time to give information on the results. How this appears to the PC's is the "telegraphing" that is actually the response to the roll instead of an indication that someone should roll.

The pit is no different. Something already took place and resolved itself as falling into the pit and the athletics check is what gets the player out of the pit. Nothing prevents using a skill after the event. If the player sees the pit and doesn't fall in or does, he or she can either climb out or jump over. Noticing the pit is the first check and the athletics check is the active response. So getting back to the scenario...

Resolution: check succeeds
DM: "Something about Bob's tone of voice indicates there's something he's not telling you. You don't trust he's being honest with you".
Player: "Can I roll insight to see if he's lying?"

At this point, the player is requesting knowledge and the answer is "yes, he or she can roll insight". The action would have more firm if he or she stated he or she is using insight to confirm the lie. The player might be using the question because he or she is not clear based on my response. I can give that clarification and it won't change the fact the PC is already aware of dishonesty. I already indicated the NPC was lying and the character just wants more confirmation or details.

This is also taking an action. Using a game mechanic request or in-game language doesn't change what the character is doing. The typical action could be described as "I ask a few questions to get a better understanding of what's going on." Or could be played out as a series of questions. Or could as simple as going with the mechanical request. Different players play differently. As a DM, I see all those as the same thing. They don't change what information is available or the DC to find it. It's fluff vs mechanics. The game is colored with fluff but it still runs on mechanics. At least until some tables emphasize the fluff more. ;-)

Player: Rolls a 2 and fails the active check initiated by the action.
DM: "You do not learn anything new. You know he is being dishonest with you but you don't know why and you are no closer to the truth than before."

The point is that it was never a retroactive request. It was an active request to do something in response to the previous activity,

The player might take the NPC into an interrogation room and browbeat him for a few hours. Then I would let the player "take 20" and give results I think are appropriate. The result is most people crack under interrogation. Getting information via interrogation is another common trope. I temper what can be learned with the NPC reactions as a reaction. A person can only convince someone to give up information based on the risk to themselves. Intimidation or persuasion can influence attitude towards the interrogator.

So the NPC might give up quite bit of information. Some willingly, some more unwillingly, but the extent is never more than I, as the DM, feels is appropriate. It's also my opportunity, as the DM, to give information I also want the players to have or plant hooks or provide backstory etc.

Hopefully that makes sense. :)
 

coolAlias

Explorer
@Ashrym To add to what you've said, it's also a prime time to throw in some repercussions for the players' choices.

Ferreting out further information via a few well-worded questions vs. a beat-down interrogation chamber have a very different consequence for their relationship with that NPC and possibly others, and if their behavior is consistent they will certainly gain a reputation (good or bad).
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I write a whole post basically arguing that everything takes some amount of player skill, but it varies what sort and how much. And your takeaway is, "To you there's no difference."

Fascinating.
Funny that to make that point you had to turn the question I made into a statement and frame it as my takeaway...

That says a lot.

Thanks. You are always very informative.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Funny that to make that point you had to turn the question I made into a statement and frame it as my takeaway...

That says a lot.

Thanks. You are always very informative.
I don't want to go down this rabbit hole, but I do want to point out that what you originally wrote:

But, if to you there is no difference, if the jump you describe is what the options are, then hey, that may explain your conclusions a lot.
Maybe this is phrased as an "if" but, come on man , do you REALLY want to argue that this was a genuine question, posed in a spirit of curiosity?
 

Ashrym

Explorer
@Ashrym To add to what you've said, it's also a prime time to throw in some repercussions for the players' choices.

Ferreting out further information via a few well-worded questions vs. a beat-down interrogation chamber have a very different consequence for their relationship with that NPC and possibly others, and if their behavior is consistent they will certainly gain a reputation (good or bad).
Lol, yes they do indeed. Actions still have consequences.

Even the example I gave could go a completely different direction.

NPC: Hi, my name is Bob. I noticed you seem new around here.
PC: I want to use insight to see if Bob is lying?

DM option A: About his name or you seeming new here? Because you've heard other people call him Bob and you just arrived.... Okay, Bob's an open book. No roll necessary.

DM option B: roll succeeds -- Bob seems genuinely honest in his intentions. He's the down-to-earth trustworthy type of guy you with whom you could become friends. He does seem like he wants to ask you something, however, but doesn't know how to begin.

DM option B: roll fails -- You noticed other people mention Bob by name and obviously just arrived so the there's nothing misleading about his statements. Other than that, you don't notice anything regarding his intentions one way or the other.

Now if the players decide to browbeat poor Bob they'll probably end up getting arrested or something. Player behavior can get carried away and if there's an issue along those lines an after game discussion might be worthwhile.

Simply wanting to use insight isn't really an issue. It might be as pointless as barking at airplanes at sometimes, but players don't intentionally waste their own time if they can help it, IME. All characters have an insightful quality for that matter. It doesn't take proficiency or wisdom; they are just baselines. There's no reason it shouldn't be as common in social encounters as athletics in exploration.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Thanks for the response. I guess I just don't see a difference between "Can I get an insight check" and "I study his body language..." or similar. I think the end result is the same.

After all I don't say "I swing my sword with the intent of doing bodily harm". I simply say "I attack and get ___". Sometimes we use shorthand to communicate meaning, whether that's typing LOL or saying "I make an insight check".
I'd want, as a 5E DM, to have the request phrased differently. Even if its as simple as a "can I make a check here to determine if Ned lying/hiding something?" That way it reinforces that 5E doesn't have skill checks, it has ability checks proficiency bonus applied. In this specific instance the difference is negligible, but I want to reinforce its the DM that gets to pick what if any checks are being used, rather than the players picking what check is being used.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I'd want, as a 5E DM, to have the request phrased differently. Even if its as simple as a "can I make a check here to determine if Ned lying/hiding something?" That way it reinforces that 5E doesn't have skill checks, it has ability checks proficiency bonus applied. In this specific instance the difference is negligible, but I want to reinforce its the DM that gets to pick what if any checks are being used, rather than the players picking what check is being used.
I agree with this as a general thing about skill checks. I'd rather have players say, "I try to accomplish X" so that I, the DM, decide what ability and what skill (which may not be the traditional pairings) get used.

But also, in the specific context of this thread, I don't want players just making general perception or insight or investigation checks without describing what they do. Any challenges that can be resolved that way just did add anything interesting to the game in the first place.

In fact, I think I wanna go back and reply to 5ekyu again...
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
It has been brought up more than once, yes, cuz while it was fun to play thru it and the results, it was also fun cuz of the "and failed skill checks get lots of fun going" since I dont run the game as binary.

As for best, awesome, greatest" blah blah, eye of beholder.
Ok, so I will take it at face value that this session was great fun. But it seems to me that is more about the DM taking input from the roll and using that to weave a good scene, rather than the action represented by the roll being dramatically interesting in its own right.

Contrast that with my Athletics example: the actual outcome of the failed Athletics roll is something that got narrated in a way that itself became memorable. And had it succeeded, it might also have been narrated in a memorable way.

Does that difference make sense?

It's tough for me to improvise imaginary "memorable" scenarios because they tend to arise organically, but here goes...

Iimagine Insight being used in the way I suggested earlier: the player describes how he is going to keep mentioning NPC-B's name, looking for reactions from NPC-A. The first time he rolls high, and the DM says, "It looks like the corner of his moustache twitched." The PC says, "I'll do it again!" Again a solid roll, and the DM says, "It's clear his hands are trembling." At this point the PCs could accept that he's lying and do whatever it is they wanted to do with that information. But the player goes for it again, and the third time he crits, and the NPC totally loses it, breaking down in confession, or attacking the PCs, or whatever.

Like I said, hard to improvise.

But I'm trying to demonstrate that by describing specific approaches (actions that don't take ANY real-life player expertise) it creates narrative opportunities, that the actions represented by the dice rolls can be memorable, in a way that I just don't see happening with "I roll Insight to see if he's lying."
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I'd want, as a 5E DM, to have the request phrased differently. Even if its as simple as a "can I make a check here to determine if Ned lying/hiding something?" That way it reinforces that 5E doesn't have skill checks, it has ability checks proficiency bonus applied. In this specific instance the difference is negligible, but I want to reinforce its the DM that gets to pick what if any checks are being used, rather than the players picking what check is being used.
I just find that kind of phrasing to be clumsy at times. To me, an insight check is not just detecting lies, it's paying close attention to body language, mannerisms, a bunch of little things. The PC may pick up a lot of things, not just lies.

So a result of "he seems to be telling the truth but he's hiding something" or "he seems to be telling the truth but he's scared" or even "he's telling the truth but you notice that every time the gnome asks a question he's dismissive".

These are all common tropes from TV/detective shows. I'm not a good enough actor and I don't expect my players to always pick up on these things.

But I also don't always think of it as them doing something unusual - it's just a reminder to me as a DM what their PC would be doing while questioning someone.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I don't want to go down this rabbit hole, but I do want to point out that what you originally wrote:



Maybe this is phrased as an "if" but, come on man , do you REALLY want to argue that this was a genuine question, posed in a spirit of curiosity?
Do you want to put forth the your rewrite was actually the takeaway I took? What it was was actually a conditional - the if part of an if then - not a statement of conclusion or takeaway and you knew that, I suspect, hence the rewrite.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I just find that kind of phrasing to be clumsy at times. To me, an insight check is not just detecting lies, it's paying close attention to body language, mannerisms, a bunch of little things. The PC may pick up a lot of things, not just lies.

......

But I also don't always think of it as them doing something unusual - it's just a reminder to me as a DM what their PC would be doing while questioning someone.
I think that's the difference. I don't want the players calling for a check. They might not need to even roll anything, never mind that 5E doesn't have skill checks at all. I'd much rather have the player explain to me what they envision the character doing. It can be third person like a movie director instructing an actor, and then working with me to determine if a check is even needed.

If a player says "I'm going to roll Insight!" my response is going to be "What do you envision your character doing?" or "What is your goal?" The response will determine what the next step is going to be. Players might respond: "I want to see if Ned is hiding something from us" or it could be "I want to threaten Ned into talking to us and tell the truth." The first one is Wisdom (Insight) the second is probably Charisma (Intimidation).

I'm never going to make a player try hard to use the buttons and levers they have access to, but I want to be clear about what buttons and levers they are trying to use. Sometimes abilities and skill proficiencies are important, sometimes literally describing either by accident or design the answer to a problem results in the solution working (as with searching a room for example).
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I think that's the difference. I don't want the players calling for a check. They might not need to even roll anything, never mind that 5E doesn't have skill checks at all. I'd much rather have the player explain to me what they envision the character doing. It can be third person like a movie director instructing an actor, and then working with me to determine if a check is even needed.

If a player says "I'm going to roll Insight!" my response is going to be "What do you envision your character doing?" or "What is your goal?" The response will determine what the next step is going to be. Players might respond: "I want to see if Ned is hiding something from us" or it could be "I want to threaten Ned into talking to us and tell the truth." The first one is Wisdom (Insight) the second is probably Charisma (Intimidation).

I'm never going to make a player try hard to use the buttons and levers they have access to, but I want to be clear about what buttons and levers they are trying to use. Sometimes abilities and skill proficiencies are important, sometimes literally describing either by accident or design the answer to a problem results in the solution working (as with searching a room for example).
Sure, and you can be tolerant about it, ask for your clarifications, without being a dysfunctional pedant about it. They'll get the picture what levers you want them to push by your clarifying questions and nudges toward the style you want them to use.
The point, for me anyway, is to be understanding and flexible - not inflexible - because not everyone is going to feel very strongly about the importance of following the 'right style' for the edition.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Sure, and you can be tolerant about it, ask for your clarifications, without being a dysfunctional pedant about it. They'll get the picture what levers you want them to push by your clarifying questions and nudges toward the style you want them to use.
The point, for me anyway, is to be understanding and flexible - not inflexible - because not everyone is going to feel very strongly about the importance of following the 'right style' for the edition.
Do you think that anyone is pedantically telling their players, “I’m sorry, that action wasn’t phrased correctly, so I’m not going to allow it”? Cause I don’t think that’s what anyone is doing. I, personally, need to know what a player’s goal is and how they envision their character trying to achieve it, in order to feel confident in adjudicating the action. But I don’t tell my players, “you must express all actions in the form ‘I try to _ by _” or anything. If a player at my table asks to make a check, I don’t admonish them for it. I ask for clarification so as to figure out the things I need. I generally start with what I was able to glean from their request, and then ask for the information I require that I am still unsure about. For example, “I’m hearing that you want to learn more about Ned’s intentions. I’m not sure what you hope to learn or how. Can you be a bit more specific?”
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Sure, and you can be tolerant about it, ask for your clarifications, without being a dysfunctional pedant about it. They'll get the picture what levers you want them to push by your clarifying questions and nudges toward the style you want them to use.
The point, for me anyway, is to be understanding and flexible - not inflexible - because not everyone is going to feel very strongly about the importance of following the 'right style' for the edition.
By no means am I saying there's a right style for any edition, but I want my players to know that skill checks aren't a thing. There's a reason they aren't a thing though, and its because the action resolution system for anything other than combat is driven by ability checks and proficiency. It's one of those things that I want to drive into them because it makes the game flow better if they're actually using the rules they way the designed intended instead of the way they think they work based on a previous edition.

I'd even be okay is players just outright ask "Can I use Insight here?" I'll probably ask a few extra questions to clear up what they want, but I don't want to have declarations of checks being used since I as the DM might not even need them to be made for any of a variety of reason.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Sure, and you can be tolerant about it, ask for your clarifications, without being a dysfunctional pedant about it. They'll get the picture what levers you want them to push by your clarifying questions and nudges toward the style you want them to use.

The point, for me anyway, is to be understanding and flexible - not inflexible - because not everyone is going to feel very strongly about the importance of following the 'right style' for the edition.
Agreed.

The question then becomes, if the players in a 5e game are constantly just invoking the name of a skill when they want to do something outside of combat, and the DM is more often than not asking for clarification, won't the players naturally migrate to front loading the clarity? You know, declaring an action their PC is taking in the fiction and what they hope to accomplish?

I know that is how our table has evolved. It started out with players just mentioning skills and, over several months of playing, it morphed into them stating actions within the fiction. It has made our sessions more interesting, fun, and memorable. No pedantry involved.
 

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