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How do you handle insight?

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
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).
Except that there is no visible action. The activity is pretty much mental, paying close attention and thinking about what is being said. You can come up with all sorts of words to describe that activity, IMHO "Can I make an insight" is just one way of describing what is always going to be an internal mental process. Threatening Ned is not an insight check, it's an intimidation check. It's unrelated.

I've never had a DM have this kind of attitude which is one of the reasons I started this. It seems to be a big deal ... but only on this message board and never in the real world.

Let's say I consider my PC an incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. He watches people closely, deduces things about them based on what they're saying and how. If he's trying to intimidate, persuade, badger or console the NPC that's handled completely separately (possibly with it's own check). How many ways are there to say "I observe them closely to intuit their emotional state"?

If a PC were doing ... I don't know ... an investigation check of a door to look for traps, I'm going to tell them any info I think they would get from examining the door closely. Maybe they notice that there's no trap, but the lock is new and high quality. Or there are minute scratches on the lock indicating that someone else has tried to clumsily pick the lock. Or any number of other things. I'm not going to withhold information that's unrelated to traps. All I need to know is that they're examining it closely.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
Except that there is no visible action. The activity is pretty much mental, paying close attention and thinking about what is being said. You can come up with all sorts of words to describe that activity, IMHO "Can I make an insight" is just one way of describing what is always going to be an internal mental process. Threatening Ned is not an insight check, it's an intimidation check. It's unrelated.

I've never had a DM have this kind of attitude which is one of the reasons I started this. It seems to be a big deal ... but only on this message board and never in the real world.
I'm just as perplexed that people go around 'insighting' NPCs in other games.

Does everyone just roll for insight when meeting someone? Why not?

In such a game does this approach apply to other things too.

If the party enters a new dungeon area does each party member 'perception' it?

That kind of approach is weird to me.

I have noticed that new to D&D players usually intuitively understand 5e's approach of just describing what you are doing.

I have seen former 3e players say something similar of 'I make an X check to do Y'. It can be hard to explain to them that it isn't how 5e is designed.

I still haven't seen people just roll whenever they can. Maybe I'm misinterpreting what is being said. But I wonder though, in such a game if people aren't doing it, shouldn't they? The whole party should just be able to make these checks whenever they want right? And why not just keep rolling insight until you get a high number?
 

coolAlias

Explorer
@Oofta, I think many of us are suggesting that we wouldn't ask the player to roll an ability check, but would use their passive Wisdom (Insight) score to model how observant they are in general.

So in your Sherlock Homes example, assuming the character has a decent or high passive Wisdom (Insight) score, they would just notice these types of things, no roll required. Same for Wisdom (Perception) to notice the slight charcoal smudge on the NPC, which might indicate something. They might also immediately deduce quite a bit of information based on their passive Intelligence (Investigation) score.

I realize that the lack of rolling may be less fun for some players, but they can use the information they obtained from their passive scores to inform their decisions that typically do call for a roll.

Of course Sherlock will notice everything - that's what he does. The question isn't whether he notices, but what will he do with that information?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Just to be clear about something: there are times when I call for an insight check, there are times when players call for an insight check, there are times when I use passive insight checks, there are times when there is no need for an insight check because the NPC is obviously lying or angry or scared. I've also never had anyone abuse this by asking to make constant insight checks.

On the other hand it's incredibly rare for someone to say "I make a persuasion check" without further details, or without me prompting for details. It may have happened once because someone was talking their way past the bouncer of a club and I was glossing over that part of the encounter in the interest of time.

But insight? I just don't see why the context or goal would be in question. Approach is always going to be basically the same, paying close attention yada yada yada. The goal is always going to be to get a read on the NPC.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
But insight? I just don't see why the context or goal would be in question. Approach is always going to be basically the same, paying close attention yada yada yada. The goal is always going to be to get a read on the NPC.
And that's exactly why I tend to use it mostly as a passive score - I assume the PCs are generally pretty savvy and always trying to gauge whether NPCs are dodgy or trustworthy.

If a player actually does something, like say they ask a few leading questions to get a better feel for the NPC's intent, then I'll have them roll a Wisdom (Insight) check, but now the NPC could realize the PC doesn't fully trust them.

Notice how that's slightly different than the "I'm just paying close attention" that effectively has no possible consequence other than the current status quo, i.e. not noticing anything?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
And that's exactly why I tend to use it mostly as a passive score - I assume the PCs are generally pretty savvy and always trying to gauge whether NPCs are dodgy or trustworthy.

If a player actually does something, like say they ask a few leading questions to get a better feel for the NPC's intent, then I'll have them roll a Wisdom (Insight) check, but now the NPC could realize the PC doesn't fully trust them.

Notice how that's slightly different than the "I'm just paying close attention" that effectively has no possible consequence other than the current status quo, i.e. not noticing anything?
But to me, asking leading questions is either a purely RP exercise, persuasion or intimidation. Perhaps with some intelligence or other related checks to remind the player of something the PC may have forgotten. Related skills, but different.

As a general rule I use passives unless the passive perception is not high enough to beat the target DC.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
But to me, asking leading questions is either a purely RP exercise, persuasion or intimidation. Perhaps with some intelligence or other related checks to remind the player of something the PC may have forgotten. Related skills, but different.

As a general rule I use passives unless the passive perception is not high enough to beat the target DC.
For insight, asking question enables gauging the responses and checking answers against other questions for inconsistencies.

I think that's one of most realistic actions for actively using insight. As for passive scores, if they don't meet the DC it's a fail or roll depending on circumstances. I use "no roll needed" for easy tasks outside of distracted et al times when rolls are normally expected. If a PC's passive score would beats the DC it's auto-success, if not roll or "take 20". There generally isn't much reason for such rolls at all most of the time. Generally if a player can do it and there's no danger in failure or time crunch most tasks are an auto-success anyway.

Passive scores are simply assuming an average check to avoid tipping off players by getting them to roll. Perception and insight are the most common examples of passive checks that matter. I used passive in response to actions the PC's are not actually taking and I don't want to tip them off what I'm rolling. If that passive score fails the check fails. I wouldn't ask for a roll in such a case. It would defeat the purpose of the passive score and NPC roll in the first place.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
For insight, asking question enables gauging the responses and checking answers against other questions for inconsistencies.

I think that's one of most realistic actions for actively using insight. As for passive scores, if they don't meet the DC it's a fail or roll depending on circumstances. I use "no roll needed" for easy tasks outside of distracted et al times when rolls are normally expected. If a PC's passive score would beats the DC it's auto-success, if not roll or "take 20". There generally isn't much reason for such rolls at all most of the time. Generally if a player can do it and there's no danger in failure or time crunch most tasks are an auto-success anyway.

Passive scores are simply assuming an average check to avoid tipping off players by getting them to roll. Perception and insight are the most common examples of passive checks that matter. I used passive in response to actions the PC's are not actually taking and I don't want to tip them off what I'm rolling. If that passive score fails the check fails. I wouldn't ask for a roll in such a case. It would defeat the purpose of the passive score and NPC roll in the first place.
I just don't see trying to "determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. " as having anything to do with asking questions.

The person doing the insight may or may not be the person talking for one. Second, communicating with another individual is covered under persuasion, intimidate and deception. Thinking of questions might be covered by a straight wisdom check or intelligence checks with arcana, history or religion proficiency bonuses as necessary.

In theory anyway. I've had games where it seemed to always devolved into the barbarian getting bored and hitting something. Frequently the party bard. ;)
 

coolAlias

Explorer
I just don't see trying to "determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. " as having anything to do with asking questions.

The person doing the insight may or may not be the person talking for one. Second, communicating with another individual is covered under persuasion, intimidate and deception. Thinking of questions might be covered by a straight wisdom check or intelligence checks with arcana, history or religion proficiency bonuses as necessary.

In theory anyway. I've had games where it seemed to always devolved into the barbarian getting bored and hitting something. Frequently the party bard. ;)
You can have one person asking the leading questions and another gauging the reaction - that's covered by the help action, granting advantage on any related ability check.

Understanding what the other party in a conversation actually means / what their intentions are is part of communication, and that aspect of it is covered by Wisdom (Insight).

Aside from just generally observing the person you're communicating with as you talk, which is assumed to be covered by the passive score, how are you going to search out a lie without doing something such as asking questions?

I don't make my players actually come up with the questions - they can simply state that that is how they intend to try to detect lies or motive or whatever, and the roll determines how well they did / what they were able to learn, if anything.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think you are describing how the NPC telegraphs. How the player describes looking for the lie is a different question.

Which I think I answered above: "checking to see if he's lying" is about as specific as "I try to kill the monster". ("Can I make a Strength check?")

Players should state:
1) What specific thing they think the NPC might be lying about.
2) How they are going to try to trigger revealing behaviors in the NPC.

And, as Ovinomancer says, they should be describing what they are going to do next, not what they want to retroactively apply to what has already happened.
I wasn't talking about telegraphing. If I'm telegraphing then those things will just be in the description. What I'm talking about are the little clues that aren't so obvious that they should be telegraphed, but are never the less there if the PC looks for them. The player can tell me that he's looking for certain things.

Your list above is pretty good and I think I liked your post about them. I would just add what I said as a 3) behind your 2.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
To me, it seems each of these is requiring a certain degree of detail in player specificstion of approach and aptitude of the player in the skill naming specific tells in advance, knowing specific tricks to surprise reactions etc" and also even a very specific focus- not just deception but pre-choosing deception about what. Wrong guess on what he is gonna be hiding and what then? Wasted effort and time?
I don't know what happens. It depends on the specific circumstances that are occurring in the game which I don't even come close to having here. At worst, we have some really good roleplaying.

When I compare that to the repeated claims about how nope, player just gives me something of an approach, not requiring player side knowledge etc... and I look at other skills like say arcana, medicine, survival for say foraging or spotting tracks etc or even stealth- it's hard to believe that those skills also require that much "player aptitude in how done."
Then don't get that detailed. You can just tell me that you examine the object to see if you can figure out if it has arcane worth. Don't expect an auto success or even a bonus, though. Don't expect a penalty, either. If you are going to be basic in my game, you are just going to get basic chances. You only need to be as detailed as you want to be.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
You can have one person asking the leading questions and another gauging the reaction - that's covered by the help action, granting advantage on any related ability check.

Understanding what the other party in a conversation actually means / what their intentions are is part of communication, and that aspect of it is covered by Wisdom (Insight).

Aside from just generally observing the person you're communicating with as you talk, which is assumed to be covered by the passive score, how are you going to search out a lie without doing something such as asking questions?

I don't make my players actually come up with the questions - they can simply state that that is how they intend to try to detect lies or motive or whatever, and the roll determines how well they did / what they were able to learn, if anything.
You're paying attention to their reactions. If your passive isn't high enough to make the DC, I go to (or allow people to call for) active rolls. Always telling everyone everything or always relying on passive scores would feel too ... passive to me.

We just do it differently. I generally like to use a mix of skills and techniques when we just don't handle it all with RP. I find that for me it allows me to give different people ways to contribute.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
On a fundamental level skilled use of fictional positioning, establishing that your character has the means to impact the ongoing game state, is a core skill of playing any roleplaying game. It has been the basis of games bearing the name Dungeons and Dragons since the beginning. The level of detail we go into can vary dramatically from situation to situation, but firmly showing what your character is actually doing in a meaningful way is something that I consider necessary to both establish rewards and consequences for what you are doing. For example if you are going to step back and really study someone's body language the obvious risk is they might notice and confront you. If you pursue a line of questions meant to trip them up and they navigate through it artfully you might close off that avenue and need to pursue another.

Additionally providing detail and context is just more fun. We get to pursue a fiction or game state that is richer in terms of character, motivations, and relationships.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I just don't see trying to "determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. " as having anything to do with asking questions.

The person doing the insight may or may not be the person talking for one. Second, communicating with another individual is covered under persuasion, intimidate and deception. Thinking of questions might be covered by a straight wisdom check or intelligence checks with arcana, history or religion proficiency bonuses as necessary.

In theory anyway. I've had games where it seemed to always devolved into the barbarian getting bored and hitting something. Frequently the party bard. ;)
This gets st something I wanted to bring up earlier but had to go actually play my teleporter in FASERIP for a while.

I quote from the above thread a fewxexsmples to pose a question for you GMs - where do you draw the line between perception/insight and Investigation?

"""I want to know if he actually knows Vinnie the Snake. I'm going to casually mention some untrue things about Vinnie that would surprise somebody who actually knows him, and watch his reaction."
"I want to know if he had feelings for her. I'm going to keep bringing her back into the conversation, and watch to see what he does."
"I want to know if he has a prior relationship with the city watch. I'll keep the conversation going for a while, then suddenly announce that the city watch should be here any minute, and see his reaction." (Player2: "Ooh...I want to try to slip out, and then knock on the door loudly!")""

Me? One of my dividing lines is "are you creating clues or working with and changing evidence into clues?" Or are you just observing.

To me, a somewhat literal example of scientific method and experiment is shown in the three examples cited in quotes. A question or hypothesis was raised, a test was initiated that was intended to produce new data and then those results assessed vs the question and expectations.

That to me is Investigstion, not just observation and that becomes one of the places where I divide between investigation snd the "as I see thrm" observation skills of perception and insight.

If someone looks in a room and I get asked "do we see any secret doors", I use percrption for any of those that can be seen without investigations.

But if they describe a search, something active like rapping on wall panels etc, that's interacting snd creating new data to analyze- so for me that shifts to investigation.

If it's a subject that interests you and is relevant to this discussion, do you have other criteria for when you feel you move from perception or insight as the way to resolve a uncertain result?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
In general I am not really a fan of Investigate as a skill. To my mind it is more an activity where other skills should rightfully be applied. If you are searching for Traps I would use Perception. If you are poring through arcane texts to suss out a detail on the ritual your enemies are preparing to cast that would be Arcana. If you are trying to catch someone in a lie that would be Insight.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
The old Marvel Superheroes game?
Oh yeah... it's a blast. We are young and relatively incorigable teen mutants in a campaign we have unofficially dubbed Detention -X. Tonight's game did finally reveal my character's ties in N'awlins and they saw him go from cocky bamf-first-worry-never to far more respectful teen when around Mama Lavore. I even managed to actually dial up the southern with English as second language once he was home. Gallon milk jug of sweet tea "so sweet the spoon stands up" to go.

And of course... voodoo.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Oh yeah... it's a blast. We are young and relatively incorigable teen mutants in a campaign we have unofficially dubbed Detention -X. Tonight's game did finally reveal my character's ties in N'awlins and they saw him go from cocky bamf-first-worry-never to far more respectful teen when around Mama Lavore. I even managed to actually dial up the southern with English as second language once he was home. Gallon milk jug of sweet tea "so sweet the spoon stands up" to go.

And of course... voodoo.
My friends and I spent the 80s and early 90s playing D&D and Marvel almost exclusively. We through in a smattering of Gamma World, Boot Hill, Star Frontiers and James Bond, but 95% of our game play were those two games.
 

Ashrym

Explorer
I just don't see trying to "determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. " as having anything to do with asking questions.

The person doing the insight may or may not be the person talking for one. Second, communicating with another individual is covered under persuasion, intimidate and deception. Thinking of questions might be covered by a straight wisdom check or intelligence checks with arcana, history or religion proficiency bonuses as necessary.

In theory anyway. I've had games where it seemed to always devolved into the barbarian getting bored and hitting something. Frequently the party bard. ;)
So if I asked, "what brings you to these parts?" would you not think I could glean information from your reaction to my question? "Where were you 3 nights ago shortly after dusk?" could cause worry or concern, shifty eyes, acting defensively, etc.

Knowing how to probe is part of knowing how to gauge a response. It's not just how the target of the PC's insight checks act; it's also how they react, and a PC is capable of speaking and observing at the same time.

That gets back to my Black Widow example. When she was tied up in a chair interrogating her captor, she wasn't just sitting there and observing. She was leading the conversation and drawing her observations along the way. When she was interrogating Loki, she was leading the conversation and gleaning information from his responses along the way.

Active insight starts with two way communication. Passive insight stems from observation. That depends on whether it's the PC or NPC initiating the action to be resolved. Psychiatrists and psychologists would really struggle if all they did was watch the patient on the couch and hope for something useful. ;-)

Convincing someone to do something is what's covered under persuasion. Intimidation is causing fear and making threats. Deception is hiding something, or lying, or twisting the truth in order to deceive the person. Speaking to them and asking questions is none of those things. Communication is beyond just charisma checks. Wisdom and intelligence both have examples that factor in.

And it could very well be another PC asking the questions while the first PC observes. How does that second PC know which questions to ask?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So if I asked, "what brings you to these parts?" would you not think I could glean information from your reaction to my question? "Where were you 3 nights ago shortly after dusk?" could cause worry or concern, shifty eyes, acting defensively, etc.

Knowing how to probe is part of knowing how to gauge a response. It's not just how the target of the PC's insight checks act; it's also how they react, and a PC is capable of speaking and observing at the same time.

That gets back to my Black Widow example. When she was tied up in a chair interrogating her captor, she wasn't just sitting there and observing. She was leading the conversation and drawing her observations along the way. When she was interrogating Loki, she was leading the conversation and gleaning information from his responses along the way.

Active insight starts with two way communication. Passive insight stems from observation. That depends on whether it's the PC or NPC initiating the action to be resolved. Psychiatrists and psychologists would really struggle if all they did was watch the patient on the couch and hope for something useful. ;-)

Convincing someone to do something is what's covered under persuasion. Intimidation is causing fear and making threats. Deception is hiding something, or lying, or twisting the truth in order to deceive the person. Speaking to them and asking questions is none of those things. Communication is beyond just charisma checks. Wisdom and intelligence both have examples that factor in.

And it could very well be another PC asking the questions while the first PC observes. How does that second PC know which questions to ask?
If you aren't using a skill such as persuasion or intimidate in a conversation, I'd say you were doing this thing called "role playing"*. Insight and other checks may influence what you are saying of course.

Insight as defined in the book is purely a mental/internal exercise no different than arcana, history or religion IMHO. It's getting a read on a person, that's all.

*Yes, I'm being a bit snarky here. But I can complain about answering the same basic question a dozen times as well. ;)
 

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