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How do you handle insight?

Ashrym

Explorer
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. ;)
Why does that have to be roleplaying?

Approach 1: give dialog demonstrating the intent (roleplay)
Approach 2: state the PC is asking probing questions to gain insight (mechanical action)
Approach 3: state the PC is using insightfulness (DM knows this can be probing questions as a possible method and adds that to the dialogue to help develop the player's future statements).

Just like there isn't anything wrong with simplifying a task by speaking in game mechanics, there definitely isn't anything wrong with roleplaying in a roleplaying game. My position is don't force the roleplay to the point it affects using game mechanics.

Insight as stated by the rules:

" Your Wisdom (Insight) check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. Doing so involves gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms."

Involving gleaning those clues doesn't preclude an active approach to triggering, and an omission of statement does not prove it's invalidity. What that means is it doesn't say it's on only a mental exercise; nor does it say using a real-world approach like probing is invalid. It doesn't actually give specifics on how at all -- only some of the things involved.

I would say it's hard to glean clues from speech habits without engaging in the speech part. ;-)
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
Our 80s were dnd, travellers and hero mostly.
90s were fnd, vampire and hero mostly
2k+ were much more diverse as more scyfy properties got licensed replaced Traveller, Mutants replaced hero, etc.

But so many others for short period - cant vount them all.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
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.
Sure, but I'm just providing some examples to illuminate my thought process.

[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"?
Half dozen, but they're a bit contrived after the first time. I recognize that, I'm just suggesting that instead of saying I roll Insight, which isn't actually helpful, the player instead say they want to find out if Ned is lying, or hiding something, or doing something that reveals he knows more than he lets on. Anything really to have them tell me the end goal, since "I roll Insight" isn't a goal it is a process, and processes are fun and useful they need to have a goal to achieve. The reason I'm focusing on the goal so much is because my idea of what the player wants from Insight-ing Ned and their idea might be different.

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.
For the door, the player can say "I'm checking the door for traps." Which is awesome, they don't need to clarify beyond that. I'm inclined to give them relevant information, but at the same time I'm not a fan of gatekeeping clues behind checks, skills or otherwise depending on system. Rather I prefer using them to explain the clues in more detail.

More stuff, still getting use to new boards.

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.
Sure it is, but that's why I want a goal rather than a process. I want to know what the player is thinking they can find. I'm pretty generous when it comes to information.

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".
The first two I would 100% cover under any request to determine truthfulness. The latter is an observable trait that doesn't require any check.

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.
Neither am I. I'd outright state something to that effect in addition to any other information they might be looking for.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Sure, but I'm just providing some examples to illuminate my thought process.



Half dozen, but they're a bit contrived after the first time. I recognize that, I'm just suggesting that instead of saying I roll Insight, which isn't actually helpful, the player instead say they want to find out if Ned is lying, or hiding something, or doing something that reveals he knows more than he lets on. Anything really to have them tell me the end goal, since "I roll Insight" isn't a goal it is a process, and processes are fun and useful they need to have a goal to achieve. The reason I'm focusing on the goal so much is because my idea of what the player wants from Insight-ing Ned and their idea might be different.



For the door, the player can say "I'm checking the door for traps." Which is awesome, they don't need to clarify beyond that. I'm inclined to give them relevant information, but at the same time I'm not a fan of gatekeeping clues behind checks, skills or otherwise depending on system. Rather I prefer using them to explain the clues in more detail.
But my whole point is that if I make any kind of knowledge gaining type check, whether that's insight, history, nature, etc, I'm going to give them all the relevant information on a success. If they're investigating a door for a trap they're going to also see other things that an investigation check could reveal.

If I make a perception check looking for rats in the cellar, I'm not going to tell them they miss the clown in the corner because it's not a rat.

The goal of a perception check is always the same: do I see anything hidden or unusual. The goal of an insight check is always simple: gain more knowledge about the target NPC. I don't need anything more than that.

Telling me specifically what they're looking for or trying to see is superfluous because I'm not going to play "gotcha" DMing. A successful insight check will always reveal the same info no matter what they were initially looking for.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
But my whole point is that if I make any kind of knowledge gaining type check, whether that's insight, history, nature, etc, I'm going to give them all the relevant information on a success. If they're investigating a door for a trap they're going to also see other things that an investigation check could reveal.

If I make a perception check looking for rats in the cellar, I'm not going to tell them they miss the clown in the corner because it's not a rat.

The goal of a perception check is always the same: do I see anything hidden or unusual. The goal of an insight check is always simple: gain more knowledge about the target NPC. I don't need anything more than that.

Telling me specifically what they're looking for or trying to see is superfluous because I'm not going to play "gotcha" DMing. A successful insight check will always reveal the same info no matter what they were initially looking for.
Exactly... at least for me.

That said, I have stated before, at my tables (in cases where I have not just turned to a player and said " your character notices..." based on passive insight) when an insight check is made the vast majority of time the intent is obvious.

I mean, it's like the NPC says something crucial and folks are jumping to edge of seat hands for dice immediate follow-up.

Otherwise, it's a general "what was my impression?" kind of thing after a.bit of discussion.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
But my whole point is that if I make any kind of knowledge gaining type check, whether that's insight, history, nature, etc, I'm going to give them all the relevant information on a success. If they're investigating a door for a trap they're going to also see other things that an investigation check could reveal.
Maybe. But like I said I'm pretty generous. That said, if the extra info about the door is relevant at all, I'm probably gong to give the players that info regardless.

If I make a perception check looking for rats in the cellar, I'm not going to tell them they miss the clown in the corner because it's not a rat.
Sure, that's fair and I'm not saying that's the case. Unless it's a ninja clown.

The goal of a perception check is always the same: do I see anything hidden or unusual. The goal of an insight check is always simple: gain more knowledge about the target NPC. I don't need anything more than that.
Sure, but I'll give that to them regardless, but the players might not need to roll any dice to get it, thus why I want to have them tell me what they're doing. Kind of like I want to know if they're interested in learning about something before deciding what information they're going to get. I might info dump them and not need to.

Telling me specifically what they're looking for or trying to see is superfluous because I'm not going to play "gotcha" DMing. A successful insight check will always reveal the same info no matter what they were initially looking for.
Neither am I if you think that's what is going on. But I also operate on the basis that the player has a goal in mind and I want to know what it is so I can adjudicate the result of their proposed actions.

And just to clarify, how much information would you provide? Your previous example were all things that are noticeable about a person that some kind of check would provide in addition to the truthfulness of a response. Or rather they are things that indicate such truthfulness, or are observable traits without making checks. Your dismissive to the gnome example I would just provide, probably as part of an introductory description because its a character trait I want the players to be aware of for that NPC.

Now, I find that the reason the players want to use this kind of check proactively falls within one of two very broad categories: 1) they think the DM is out to get them; or, 2) they already suspect something because the DM has lead them to think so through previous interactions/scenes/whatever.

I generally want to use something like Insight as a way to get the player to be able to interact with an NPC in a way that they can't otherwise. They can't see the NPC fidget and sweat when questioned about a specific topic. But a successful check will tell the players Ned is uncomfortable and probably lying because he's getting physically uncomfortable. The players can't see the NPC react to talking, even a visual medium like a video game doesn't do it well, despite L.A. Noire and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's best try. So I'm by default going to provide visual information about an NPC reactions if the players want to use a check to find something out. I still want to know what they want to find out specifically, since it will change how much information they get about that thing.

As an example of the visual medium. My wife and I were watching one of those shows about game wardens in the US. They officers are questioning a guy about hunting. She noticed that he kept taking layers of clothing off the more they asked him about his behavior. That's an observable behavior I can use to describe a successful check with Insight. I'm not necessarily going to info dump that he keeps avoiding eye contact with Hamlet unless it adds to the scene or gives more information the players don't already have.
 
For the door, the player can say "I'm checking the door for traps." Which is awesome, they don't need to clarify beyond that.
I feel they do need to clarify a bit further.
I have many times had conversations like:

Player: I check the chest for traps.
GM: As you touch the chest, it feels sticky. You are poisoned.
Player: That's not fair! I didn't say I was touching it!

So, for physical actions, there should be a bit more clarification. Things like how close the character is getting to the object, whether they are touching it or not, whether they are using their fingers or poking it with a stick, how thick their gloves are (thick gloves might grant advantage on the poison save but disadvantage on the ability check).

As for knowledge based activities like insight, I would one ask for one clarification, which is how hard the character is studying the person. If they are being very attentive I might give advantage or automatic success, but allow the target a chance to notice the character is paying close attention. "What are you looking at, bub!"
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I feel they do need to clarify a bit further.
I have many times had conversations like:

Player: I check the chest for traps.
GM: As you touch the chest, it feels sticky. You are poisoned.
Player: That's not fair! I didn't say I was touching it!

So, for physical actions, there should be a bit more clarification. Things like how close the character is getting to the object, whether they are touching it or not, whether they are using their fingers or poking it with a stick, how thick their gloves are (thick gloves might grant advantage on the poison save but disadvantage on the ability check).

As for knowledge based activities like insight, I would one ask for one clarification, which is how hard the character is studying the person. If they are being very attentive I might give advantage or automatic success, but allow the target a chance to notice the character is paying close attention. "What are you looking at, bub!"
I have never once in all my years of playing going back to AD&D days had a DM tell me I just set off a trap when I was looking for a trap.

Have you? Or is this just the strawman of ability checks?
 
I have never once in all my years of playing going back to AD&D days had a DM tell me I just set off a trap when I was looking for a trap.

Have you? Or is this just the strawman of ability checks?
Yes, I have. Only twice, but it generated such bad feelings at the table I still remember them years later.

Though I did use slightly the wrong quote above, because both of the instances were statues not chests. One was something like, "I see if there are any secret doors in the statue." The other was something like, "I see if there are any hidden compartments in the statue."

I was thinking that this involved pushing and pulling the statue (to determine if it moved) or tapping it (to find hollow spaces) so I responded with the poison quote above. The players thought that searching for secret doors and hidden compartments just meant standing there and looking at the object.

So now I ask for a bit more clarification.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yes, I have. Only twice, but it generated such bad feelings at the table I still remember them years later.

Though I did use slightly the wrong quote above, because both of the instances were statues not chests. One was something like, "I see if there are any secret doors in the statue." The other was something like, "I see if there are any hidden compartments in the statue."

I was thinking that this involved pushing and pulling the statue (to determine if it moved) or tapping it (to find hollow spaces) so I responded with the poison quote above. The players thought that searching for secret doors and hidden compartments just meant standing there and looking at the object.

So now I ask for a bit more clarification.
But that seems more like an issue with how to handle the check, not necessarily an inherent problem. As with anything players are attempting to do, if it's not clear what's happening then I ask for clarification.

So I would never assume anyone was touching the statue, I'd assume looking first and then let them know what their options are.

There are times when I'll do an Indiana Jones put your hands in the spider-infested hole to turn the lever or some such, but it's always obvious what the risk is and there will be an alternative.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
But that seems more like an issue with how to handle the check, not necessarily an inherent problem. As with anything players are attempting to do, if it's not clear what's happening then I ask for clarification.

So I would never assume anyone was touching the statue, I'd assume looking first and then let them know what their options are.

There are times when I'll do an Indiana Jones put your hands in the spider-infested hole to turn the lever or some such, but it's always obvious what the risk is and there will be an alternative.
In general the consequence is either that you do not see anything or you perceive it in the wrong area, like you believe the wrong floor tiles have pressure plates. I am willing to handle this one of two ways. Either I can make the rolls behind the screen and your actions are not bound by my descriptions or you can make the roll with an open DC and will be bound to play it with a measure of integrity.

In general for more Step On Up challenge focused play I tend to prefer secret rolls so the player is more free to act. If we are doing more focused character exploration sort of play I prefer the shared tension of the die roll. Of course searching for traps tends to not be a feature of character exploration focused games.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
But that seems more like an issue with how to handle the check, not necessarily an inherent problem. As with anything players are attempting to do, if it's not clear what's happening then I ask for clarification.

So I would never assume anyone was touching the statue, I'd assume looking first and then let them know what their options are.

There are times when I'll do an Indiana Jones put your hands in the spider-infested hole to turn the lever or some such, but it's always obvious what the risk is and there will be an alternative.
Yeah, I get this.

Everytime I see this kind of example that goal and approach is supposed to solve, I see a case where the GM just doesnt need to take a non-specific check and run it off the cliff.

I mean, literally if someone says I " head forward towards the cliff" and its 25' away and their normal move is 40, do you have them plunge off the cliffside? I assume they get close- based on context, or I ask.

But again this gets back to is there an assumption of confidence or not?

I mean, in ye olde days when the player's casual description could get him groping the poisoned door and not saying "I look up" meant you were blind and never saw the ceiling- we had lists of SOPs for doors , standard camp write-ups, trap routines, etc.

But the other issue is, when he examines or looks at the stsue for secret doors, was his search enough to spot signs of poison? Or, since he didn't say " looking for poison" as his goal does he not get a chance- the tell me what you are looking for issue.

Cuz if its that he doesnt have what it takes to spot the poison, seems like we will be there soon anyway even if we stop at "you dont spot sny sign of doors by just looking. What now?"

Then again, contact poison out of the blue is a good way to teach players always use Gloves and daggers cuz anything can be poisoned.
 
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Ashrym

Explorer
I remembered another active use for insight that doesn't come up in out games much.

Playing games with someone is a good way to gain understanding of their personality, granting you a better ability to discern their lies from their truths and read their mood.
-- XGE

Gaming sets are used to gain insight into character with a 15 DC to help guage the ability.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I value specificity of the fiction because focusing in on those details makes the experience of playing the game more fun for me. This is true as a player and as a GM. These small moments matter and I want to give them the weight that they deserve. Speaking generally while character goals are important for some things and I very much want to know them for the sake of my curiosity having a detailed understanding of what is going on right now in this moment is more important to me.

I want to know what's going on so firm consequences for failure and success can be set. I want to know what's going on so we can focus on the drama of the moment. For me the entire point of playing roleplaying games are these moments of tension where the decisions I make and risks I take impact the outcome. There is no where to get to. That will work itself out. The group can find that out together.

Sometimes we can elide details like say exhaustively searching while we go along dungeon corridors might simply mean we need to travel at a much slower pace which should still be consequential, but when we get to a room with an elaborate set of traps to navigate where we search may become more salient. Just like some conversations can be covered in broad strokes while in others we drill down to the specific exchanges.

The point is that play is all about the choices we make and the impact those choices have. There is no need to rush through things because there is nothing to rush to.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I value specificity of the fiction because focusing in on those details makes the experience of playing the game more fun for me. This is true as a player and as a GM. These small moments matter and I want to give them the weight that they deserve. Speaking generally while character goals are important for some things and I very much want to know them for the sake of my curiosity having a detailed understanding of what is going on right now in this moment is more important to me.

I want to know what's going on so firm consequences for failure and success can be set. I want to know what's going on so we can focus on the drama of the moment. For me the entire point of playing roleplaying games are these moments of tension where the decisions I make and risks I take impact the outcome. There is no where to get to. That will work itself out. The group can find that out together.

Sometimes we can elide details like say exhaustively searching while we go along dungeon corridors might simply mean we need to travel at a much slower pace which should still be consequential, but when we get to a room with an elaborate set of traps to navigate where we search may become more salient. Just like some conversations can be covered in broad strokes while in others we drill down to the specific exchanges.

The point is that play is all about the choices we make and the impact those choices have. There is no need to rush through things because there is nothing to rush to.
Ok, sure. That's great.

My bet is most folks here would say that making choices thst matter is huge part of rpg play too, so you are certainly in a big pool of folks.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I value specificity of the fiction because focusing in on those details makes the experience of playing the game more fun for me. This is true as a player and as a GM. These small moments matter and I want to give them the weight that they deserve. Speaking generally while character goals are important for some things and I very much want to know them for the sake of my curiosity having a detailed understanding of what is going on right now in this moment is more important to me.

I want to know what's going on so firm consequences for failure and success can be set. I want to know what's going on so we can focus on the drama of the moment. For me the entire point of playing roleplaying games are these moments of tension where the decisions I make and risks I take impact the outcome. There is no where to get to. That will work itself out. The group can find that out together.

Sometimes we can elide details like say exhaustively searching while we go along dungeon corridors might simply mean we need to travel at a much slower pace which should still be consequential, but when we get to a room with an elaborate set of traps to navigate where we search may become more salient. Just like some conversations can be covered in broad strokes while in others we drill down to the specific exchanges.

The point is that play is all about the choices we make and the impact those choices have. There is no need to rush through things because there is nothing to rush to.
Depends on a whole lot of things. For example if you're just engaging one player while everyone else is bored. Does it add to the story, or at least to the richness of the world. Is it fun.

I do use traps and puzzle-like locks now and then, but I don't make assumptions about what a player is doing without giving them details and a general idea of risk. I don't want to get to the point where the PCs have to go buy a ten foot pole so they can describe how they tap the floor ahead of them to detect traps.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
......

But again this gets back to is there an assumption of confidence or not?

I mean, in ye olde days when the player's casual description could get him groping the poisoned door and not saying "I look ip"mesnt you were blind and never saw the ceiling- we had lists of SOPs for doors , standard camp write-ups, trap routines, etc.

But the other issue is, when he examines or looks at the stsue for secret doors, was his search enough to spot signs of poison? Or, since he didn't say " looking for poidon" as his goal does he not get a chance- the tell me what you are looking for isdue.

Cuz if its thst he doesnt have what it takes to spot the poison, seems like we will be there soon anyway even if we stop at "you dont spot sny sign of doors by just looking. What now?"

....
AMEN AMEN AMEN EVERYONE GIVE THIS PERSON AN AMEN. PRAISE THE GREAT E.G.G. PRAISE THE LORD. AMEN AMEN AMEN.
I got tired of the SOPs back before 4E. And ticked off players by enforcing the SOP. Sorry Bob you rolled for traps and failed so you were in the front of the party.
Now days if they roll a perception ability (skill is a skill check haahahah) check, and they hit the DC then they discover everything. Secret doors, the poison trap, and key to dad's adult mags.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I feel they do need to clarify a bit further.
I have many times had conversations like:

Player: I check the chest for traps.
GM: As you touch the chest, it feels sticky. You are poisoned.
Player: That's not fair! I didn't say I was touching it!

So, for physical actions, there should be a bit more clarification. Things like how close the character is getting to the object, whether they are touching it or not, whether they are using their fingers or poking it with a stick, how thick their gloves are (thick gloves might grant advantage on the poison save but disadvantage on the ability check).

As for knowledge based activities like insight, I would one ask for one clarification, which is how hard the character is studying the person. If they are being very attentive I might give advantage or automatic success, but allow the target a chance to notice the character is paying close attention. "What are you looking at, bub!"
Hmm Ok. Back in 1E Player: I check the chest for traps.75% DM Your Detect Traps is 45% you fail badly.
In 5EPlayer: I check the chest for traps. Perception total is 9. DM the DC was 15. You fail badly.
and back to you.
GM: As you touch the chest, it feels sticky. You are poisoned.
Player: That's not fair! I didn't say I was touching it!..
GM. Ok fine I don't exactly what you did but you are poisoned. Give me a con save. Bob what are you doing.
End of scene.
Unless the trap says contact poison I would just go ahead with pc being poisoned. Now if the player gives me extra clarification, I may change the DC but not always.
And back in the day I was poisoned a lot by touching things. That is why I wear glasses now days.
 
So in my game, that would go something like this...

DM: Neatly squirreled away under a cleverly disguised false floorboard, Briggs finds the assassin guildmaster's lockbox. What do you do?
Walt: It has to be trapped, there have been traps all over the place. Briggs checks it for traps. I got a... oh. 19.
DM: Briggs does not find the trap that he is sure is there. What do you do?
Walter: Briggs tells Gabriel that the lockbox is probably trapped.
Dave: Gabriel tells everyone to stand back. He breaks the lock.
DM: Gabriel is exposed to the poison when he breaks the lock. Please make a Fortitude save.
Dave: Gabriel is immune to poisons.
DM: Right. Well. The poison tastes a bit like cracked pepper and sea salt. Now that the lockbox is open, what do you do?
 

Ashrym

Explorer
I was watching season 3 of Stranger Things and saw another example of insight in media. Hopper vs the Russian in the stawberry / cherry slurpee scene.
 

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