5E How do you handle this? - DM edition

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Interesting position.

To me, it's not about skill at lying vs. truth. It's telling a convincing lie or targetted omission of the truth to get what you want vs. using the right arguments/rhetoric/appeals to the heart to convince someone to get your way.

I've known quite a few people who suck at lying but are very persuasive, so that part falls flat to me.

To me, the skill check is Deception here because the player and character know that they are using a true statement in a deceptive manner. Can they sell the deception? Did the character control their body language, their eyes, their poker face, etc.
For me I'm happy just leaving this to the player to decide as I said above. I'll call for the Charisma check (if the declared action meets the requirement for calling for checks) and the player applies whichever skill proficiency he or she thinks is appropriate.

Even if the player is picking Persuasion over Deception solely because the bonus is bigger, I just can't be given to care. As @cmad1977 mentioned, it's unlikely the variance will be so great that it will make a huge difference once we factor in the swinginess of a d20. When taking that plus a general desire to move things along into consideration, I don't see any value in trying to parse whether a true statement used as a way to deceive should have its uncertainty as to outcome resolved via Deception or Persuasion. In short, I'd prefer to just get on with it than spend time on this at the table.

Assuming we have good faith on the part of the player, this approach to adjudication eliminates 2 of the 3 issues the OP raised and others no doubt that may arise in play, particularly around disagreement on which skill or tool proficiency applies to the ability check.
 

Ashrym

Hero
Most of the answers assuming the check is required in the first place, OC. ;)

My answers also assume people are naturally being wary in a dangerous fantasy world. I can't be the only DM who is using passive insight because it's also on the D&D Beyond character sheets, for example.

As for group checks, it just depends how many people are trying to accomplish a task and what that task is.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
1. I feel that tools are under-utilized in the game, and everyone has the impression that they are lame choices for proficiencies. So I let tools trump straight ability checks or skill checks whenever possible.


2. I let the second character make the attempt, and take the higher result (effectively granting the two Advantage on the check, as if they were using the Help action). Subsequent characters that chime in to make the same check will automatically get that same result, unless they are doing it differently somehow (using a candle to check for drafts instead of just looking at a wall, for example.)

Important Side-Note: Don't let bad dice rolls derail your game. If it's mission-critical that they Find The Thing in order to move forward in the story, a failed check shouldn't mean the Thing goes unnoticed...perhaps it means it takes them a long time to find (possibly hours), or that there is another Thing that can be found elsewhere that will accomplish the same task. It's okay for the players to think they are stuck and be temporarily frustrated...but it shouldn't be a game-ender.


3. I rule that Deception is "any attempt to deceive." It doesn't matter if your words are factual; what matters is your intent. If you are using facts to deceive another creature you are using Deception. Full stop.
 
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Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
3. Deception. Skills are not magical lie-detectors like zone of truth. The PC's linguistic cunning would be invaluable to fool a zone of truth, but the intent in telling is to mislead. However, I'm not convinced your example would even necessitate a check. In the case of a NPC/monster of average Intelligence (10), I'd have them immediately followup with "Yeah? And how much gold are we talking here? Exactly?" Whereas a low Intelligence NPC/monster (7 or less) I'd probably just have them agree to the deal – no roll necessary – if it suited the NPC/monster's personality.
I agree here with a caveat on monster types. Dragons are probably going to do what they want; while fey creatures might become friendly for being so technical if you literally have one gold coin and the rest of the wealth is in gems for example: they agreed to all of the gold, not all of the wealth.
 

Kurotowa

Adventurer
3. I rule that Deception is "any attempt to deceive." It doesn't matter if your words are factual; what matters is your intent. If you are using facts to deceive another creature you are using Deception. Full stop.
Indeed, it's often less about the specific words as the tone and attitude you say them with. In the original example, you don't want to sound eager or uncaring about giving up "all your gold" to someone. You hem and haw, you wince at the thought of giving up that much wealth, you try to bargain for a smaller amount and then wilt under their glare and hurriedly raise your offer. All that? That's what Deception is. That's what sells the unspoken lie of omission.

If you were trying to bargain honestly for a fair ransom, that would be Persuasion, as would trying to appeal to their conscience. Intimidation would come into play if you're playing the "We have powerful friends, take the money and don't force us to escalate this" card. But if you're Clever Jack trying to fool the gullible ogre with word play and misdirection? That's Deception, every time.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
To me, it's not about skill at lying vs. truth. It's telling a convincing lie or targetted omission of the truth to get what you want vs. using the right arguments/rhetoric/appeals to the heart to convince someone to get your way.
The problem is that there's a LOT of overlap between the two. Lies require using the right arguments/rhetoric/appeals, just as persuasion does, just not using the truth. This is why IMO the use of two different skills is pointless.

I've known quite a few people who suck at lying but are very persuasive, so that part falls flat to me.
Well, I guess both our cases are anecdotal. Of course, I personally think the number of people who suck at lying is much smaller than appears. For example, my wife is convinced I suck at lying due to a long process I've developed over the years giving her that impression; when I do lie she has no suspicion whatsoever (which is how I've managed to pull off surprise parties, which the only thing I've really ever lied to her about). I suspect that others do the same, but on a wider spectrum than just a single person.

To me, the skill check is Deception here because the player and character know that they are using a true statement in a deceptive manner. Can they sell the deception? Did the character control their body language, their eyes, their poker face, etc.
Oh, the original example would totally be a deception check. The player's intent is to deceive, and there's nothing in the RP that would likely go against that. The problem is usually when someone tries to use the deception skill, but just tells the truth during the RP (or the opposite with persuasion).
 

Mistwell

Legend
A couple of quick question how various DMs handle a few mechanical situations. If there is a definitive rule that I've just missed, please point it out in the book. But I think these are more open to interpretation.

1. Based on the description of what a player is doing, both a tool proficiency and a skill proficiency are integral in what they describe they are doing, and both applicable. Do you pick one, have them clarify whihc is primary, add both/grant advantage to one, do something else? Especially when the bonuses are not the same like only one proficient, or cases like expertise/magic tools/etc.
Let player choose which to roll.

2. One character examines something, gets a poor roll, calls over another who wants to roll, and then they call over more if the rolls continue to be bad. Since they are being done one at a time it's not the case of one character helping another. So effectively everyone gets a separate roll which is almost like penta-advantage for a 5 person party.
Metagaming. Unless the circumstances are such that the first PC to fail would suspect there is something they missed as a PC, I wouldn't allow further checks as that PC would have said they didn't find anything and moved on.

3. A character makes truthful statements in ways that are deceiving. Like "you can have all the gold I'm carrying if you let them go" when they have little on them. They see it as persuasion because the character is truthful they will gladly give you all they have, but since the player intent is to get off cheap, it's like they are attempting to deceive to imply they have more.
Let player choose deception or persuasion to roll.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Many people mentioned "I would not call for a risk if there was no consequence - as long as the others are willing to accept the consequence that's fine".

Often this is of the type "Do I recognize these runes" or other knowledge check. There in many cases there are no consequence to failure except you don't know the information and you can't make the check again since that's all you recall. So there is no problem with others accepting the consequences.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Metagaming. Unless the circumstances are such that the first PC to fail would suspect there is something they missed as a PC, I wouldn't allow further checks as that PC would have said they didn't find anything and moved on.
It could be, but need not be.

"Do I recognize these markings" is a legitimate History (or perhaps Arcana or Religion) knowledge, you know when you fail, and it would be reasonable question to then consult a colleague."

I would have called it out if it was a meta issue.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Thanks all!

The link to tool proficiency in XGtE was perfect. Actual rules.

Interesting on how to handle sequencial characters being called over to make a check. I should have expanded the example to mention it was something they would know they failed. And since I am calling for a check in the first place, that's already taken care of.

The deception vs. persuasion had several valid approaches with different answers. The one that seems to fit my DMing style best is to ask the intent - if it's to deceive, even with truth, then it's deception.

The thread is open to other "How do you handle this" questions as well if anyone has one - that's not hijacking, it's invited.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Interesting on how to handle sequencial characters being called over to make a check. I should have expanded the example to mention it was something they would know they failed. And since I am calling for a check in the first place, that's already taken care of.
I think the way to best handle issues that some folks call "metagaming" is for any action with an ability check that may cause a disconnect between what the player and character knows (e.g. I suspect there's a trap, I rolled very low, and was told I found no trap), it's best to adjudicate that with progress combined with a setback on a failed check. Rather than have some sort of policy against "metagaming" which relies upon other people to modify their behavior, the DM can stop that from happening in the first place by using that failure option. Incidentally, that's a good way to prevent people from piling on trying to trigger more ability checks since they get what they want, but at a cost or setback.
 
Walking the Chimera is what I call the kind of metagaming that is scenario #2. We walk the Chimera when we conveniently choose to see our fellow player's characters not as individuals but as heads on a chimera, mere facets of a team. It's very common, and very easy to succumb to when we're frustrated by the dice.

I'm always struck by how literally we play this game. In hindsight we understand that skill checks are a dicing mechanism used to sum up a piece of the narrative, just like attack rolls sum up a series of dodges, parries, and thrusts. But, in the moment, at the table, a skill check is often merely a cast of the die. This is relevant because as I read the responses pertaining to scenario #2, I see that a series of individual skill checks made to achieve the same goal IS a group skill check. Indeed, at the table, we're doing the same thing--in both cases everyone is rolling a die to achieve a single goal.

I think I'll be treating it as such the next time we get frustrated and decide to walk the Chimera. When the first of us fails a skill check we can call on another player's character to try, but now it's a group skill check. If the next check succeeds then one is half of two and the group check is successful. If not, then a third character can be called upon. However, if this check succeeds the group is still not successful because one is not half of three.

What do you think? Would be willing to treat it as a group check, or will you walk the Chimera?
 
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Coroc

Adventurer
1. I feel that tools are under-utilized in the game, and everyone has the impression that they are lame choices for proficiencies. So I let tools trump straight ability checks or skill checks whenever possible.


2. I let the second character make the attempt, and take the higher result (effectively granting the two Advantage on the check, as if they were using the Help action). Subsequent characters that chime in to make the same check will automatically get that same result, unless they are doing it differently somehow (using a candle to check for drafts instead of just looking at a wall, for example.)

Important Side-Note: Don't let bad dice rolls derail your game. If it's mission-critical that they Find The Thing in order to move forward in the story, a failed check shouldn't mean the Thing goes unnoticed...perhaps it means it takes them a long time to find (possibly hours), or that there is another Thing that can be found elsewhere that will accomplish the same task. It's okay for the players to think they are stuck and be temporarily frustrated...but it shouldn't be a game-ender.


3. I rule that Deception is "any attempt to deceive." It doesn't matter if your words are factual; what matters is your intent. If you are using facts to deceive another creature you are using Deception. Full stop.
On your side note, I heavily agree on this but I resolve that differently. The big McGuffin is never behind the DC25 secret door which the party does only find with 35% probability.

But. Big but. I got into a hefty discussion with one of my players who wanted a 2d10 instead of 1d20 on skill checks arguing that this would smoothen the curve and prevent situations that the muscle man does not lift the bars whereas the meager wizard does.
That is why I use thresholds and sometimes only let people make checks which have some reasonable skill to offer.
So if behind said bars there is the nice-to-have-but-in-no-way-campaign-essential magic item then Arnold gets a chance to do it. If he fails, the second strongest character may try to help him for a repetition with advantage.
But wizard Weaklorious cannot also try after they both together failed, I would rule he tries and simply strains a muscle giving him disadvantage on STR until the next long rest.

Edit: I sometimes ask for everyone to make a perception check, since this is more abstract. Or religion for those skilled in or arcana to decipher something which is uncommon to all of those with the skill.
But if there is some superhidden thing then only the guy with best perception gets a chance.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Walking the Chimera is what I call the kind of metagaming that is scenario #2. We walk the Chimera when we conveniently choose to see our fellow player's characters not as individuals but as heads on a chimera, mere facets of a team. It's very common, and very easy to succumb to when we're frustrated by the dice.

I'm always struck by how literally we play this game. In hindsight we understand that skill checks are a dicing mechanism used to sum up a piece of the narrative, just like attack rolls sum up a series of dodges, parries, and thrusts. But, in the moment, at the table, a skill check is often merely a cast of the die. This is relevant because as I read the responses pertaining to scenario #2, I see that a series of individual skill checks made to achieve the same goal IS a group skill check. Indeed, at the table, we're doing the same thing--in both cases everyone is rolling a die to achieve a single goal.

I think I'll be treating it as such the next time we get frustrated and decide to walk the Chimera. When the first of us fails a skill check we can call on another player's character to try, but now it's a group skill check. If the next check succeeds then one is half of two and the group check is successful. If not, then a third character can be called upon. However, if this check succeeds the group is still not successful because one is not half of three.

What do you think? Would be willing to treat it as a group check, or will you walk the Chimera?
Neither. I only call for a group check when the players describing what they want to do as being a task they want to accomplish as a group, when the outcome of that task is uncertain and when there's a meaningful consequence for failure. Per the rules "Group checks don't come up very often" and that is indeed how it plays out in my games.

Players trying to pile on with actions because someone else failed the same action already is usually a symptom of the DM calling for ability checks when there is no meaningful consequence for failure (a requirement for there to be an ability check in the first place) or not narrating progress combined with a setback (one of the failure conditions suggested by the rules). As with many issues, this begins with the DM.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Walking the Chimera is what I call the kind of metagaming that is scenario #2.
Sorry it's not in my OP but I clarified later that it's not metagaming; it's the type of check the characters would know they failed like "Do I recognize these markings?".

It's a legitimate case where characters get called over sequentially - I know how to deal with it when it's metagamed.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
1. Based on the description of what a player is doing, both a tool proficiency and a skill proficiency are integral in what they describe they are doing, and both applicable. Do you pick one, have them clarify whihc is primary, add both/grant advantage to one, do something else? Especially when the bonuses are not the same like only one proficient, or cases like expertise/magic tools/etc.
In general, if more than one skill applies, they can choose which to use - in the vast majority of cases, that means they'll use the best applicable skill. See (3) below for a reason they may not want to do so.

2. One character examines something, gets a poor roll, calls over another who wants to roll, and then they call over more if the rolls continue to be bad. Since they are being done one at a time it's not the case of one character helping another. So effectively everyone gets a separate roll which is almost like penta-advantage for a 5 person party.
If they have time for it, sure, why not?

3. A character makes truthful statements in ways that are deceiving. Like "you can have all the gold I'm carrying if you let them go" when they have little on them. They see it as persuasion because the character is truthful they will gladly give you all they have, but since the player intent is to get off cheap, it's like they are attempting to deceive to imply they have more.
First, there's the question of the approach (if stated by the player)

"Please, sir, I don't have much, but what I do have is yours if you let them go," is Persuasion.

"Dude, listen, I have a whole pouch of coins here. You can have it all if you let them go," when the pouch is full of coppers and iron blanks, is Deception.

If the player isn't the sort to outright demonstrate their approach, then this is like (1) above - more than one skill may apply. And, here's the difference that may drive a player to choose one over the other.

If you use Deception: you are perhaps more likely to succeed (because you actively try to make it seem like a lot of money) but the target will swiftly learn you were being dishonest, and is apt to not react well at all.

If you use Persuasion: you are perhaps less likely to succeed, because you don't actively misrepresent how much you have, but the target will not feel cheated when the deal is done.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Players trying to pile on with actions because someone else failed the same action already is usually a symptom of the DM calling for ability checks when there is no meaningful consequence for failure (a requirement for there to be an ability check in the first place) or not narrating progress combined with a setback (one of the failure conditions suggested by the rules). As with many issues, this begins with the DM.
This keeps coming up and is driving me crazy because I feel that there needs to be both uncertainty and a meaningful consequence, but it can be on either success or failure. Sure, failing the Athletics check may make you fall off the bridge as an example of a meaningful failure, but making a History check to recognize the runes on the clay golem's forehead and give you an alternate way to shut it down has a meaningful success but no setback for failure.

Knowledge skills where the penalty for failure is just "you don't know this" is the ur-example. There are a number of knowledge based skills where simply being unable to recall something is the full extent of the failure.

For example, a defeated assassin might have several different clues towards the side plot of who sent them, such as the foreign minting of some of the coins they are carrying to their distinctive martial-arts fighting style. A standard thing is always to give a clue at least three times to make sure it isn't missed. So there's no meaningful consequence to a single failure, or to one character failing when another succeeds.

(Note in this case it's a side plot, maybe part of a character arc. Not figuring it out at this point does not stop the current plot from advancing.)
 
1. If more than one skill and/or tool is relevant I would either do two rolls with the success of one granting advantage, a lower DC on the other, or both, or else just say that just having proficiency in the one thing allows them to roll for the other with advantage, a lower DC etc, or perhaps just allows them to roll at all when it is something like proficiency in a musical instrument for a performance where, if they are not proficient, there is no way they could use it effectively (my guess is that this is how most musical performances are handled). Advantage is best (when +4ish seems appropriate) because then the player knows what they got out of the first success, unless I am actually telling them the DCs, which I rarely do, but if it is some sort of crafting thing they will do repeatedly I would.

2. Players generally don't get to keep rolling on an ability check until someone succeeds. Where appropriate, one can take the help action to give another rolling on behalf of the group advantage. That said, if one person wants to attempt the same thing using a different skill or a different tactic with the same skill that's usually fine, and might make a lot of character sense. Also letting two people attempt separately is not as advantageous for them as just granting advantage to the one with the highest modifier, but it often makes sense character wise and makes play less of a bummer for the player who invested in a skill but still has a lower modifier than someone else in the group. Still, once you get past the second person they've got to have a creative new angle on the thing.

3. It is almost always easier to deceive effectively by telling the truth in a misleading way than by lying outright, but fundamentally they are still being deceptive. Generally they should just get a lower DC or advantage on the deception check if it seems like this use of truth would make their deception more effective. However, in some circumstances misleading use of truth may fall more in the persuasion or even performance categories. Also you can just decide that for the purposes of this roll they are proficient in deception, if that is the issue. If, in an extreme example, they conceal their identity by giving X name they no longer go by from the life they left behind as a dirt farmer or whatever, they are presumably nevertheless hyper-proficient in saying "my name is X", and have proficiency with this deception even if they normally don't have proficiency in deception.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
This keeps coming up and is driving me crazy because I feel that there needs to be both uncertainty and a meaningful consequence, but it can be on either success or failure. Sure, failing the Athletics check may make you fall off the bridge as an example of a meaningful failure, but making a History check to recognize the runes on the clay golem's forehead and give you an alternate way to shut it down has a meaningful success but no setback for failure.

Knowledge skills where the penalty for failure is just "you don't know this" is the ur-example. There are a number of knowledge based skills where simply being unable to recall something is the full extent of the failure.

For example, a defeated assassin might have several different clues towards the side plot of who sent them, such as the foreign minting of some of the coins they are carrying to their distinctive martial-arts fighting style. A standard thing is always to give a clue at least three times to make sure it isn't missed. So there's no meaningful consequence to a single failure, or to one character failing when another succeeds.
"Meaningful" is one of those words that has a variable meaning. If uncertainty is sufficiently meaningful for you, then go with that. But I'd also suggest you evaluate which nuggets of information should be left uncertain and which nuggets you really want them to know. If you ultimately want them to know because you want to see how they interact with them, don't hide them behind a check or, if you do, drop them a good hint about where they can find that info out. For example:
"You can't understand the carvings on the wall, but your mentor at the academy had a colleague with some pretty specialized knowledge of languages. He might know."

Some of that uncertain information is present in the adventure/campaign because it's interesting, uncovers interesting information about the setting, or something like that. It kind of sucks that it would be unavailable simply because someone didn't build a skill high enough or rolled poorly. That's why I'm starting to come around the idea of just having clues be found and let the players decide what to do with them.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This keeps coming up and is driving me crazy because I feel that there needs to be both uncertainty and a meaningful consequence, but it can be on either success or failure. Sure, failing the Athletics check may make you fall off the bridge as an example of a meaningful failure, but making a History check to recognize the runes on the clay golem's forehead and give you an alternate way to shut it down has a meaningful success but no setback for failure.

Knowledge skills where the penalty for failure is just "you don't know this" is the ur-example. There are a number of knowledge based skills where simply being unable to recall something is the full extent of the failure.

For example, a defeated assassin might have several different clues towards the side plot of who sent them, such as the foreign minting of some of the coins they are carrying to their distinctive martial-arts fighting style. A standard thing is always to give a clue at least three times to make sure it isn't missed. So there's no meaningful consequence to a single failure, or to one character failing when another succeeds.

(Note in this case it's a side plot, maybe part of a character arc. Not figuring it out at this point does not stop the current plot from advancing.)
I think it's helpful to keep things in terms of recalling lore (Arcana, History, Nature, Religion) or making a deduction based on available clues (Investigation). "What do I know about...?" or "Do I recognize...?" needs to be restructured into an action that justifies having had access to the lore and suggests what edge the player hopes to gain in my view. This makes it easier to adjudicate for the DM and, as an added bonus, often fleshes out the character as details are established to justify having the information.

We're told as DMs to provide the basic scope of options when describing the environment and I take that to mean that whatever lore is required to make reasonably informed decisions should also be included. I don't gate that stuff behind checks. When I do call for a check, it's typically because the player wants to dive deeper to gain an advantage of some kind. On a failed check, I do something like progress combined with a setback: You get some interesting information, but it's not quite what you wanted and it's on you to take additional steps to make it useful.

Inherent in this method is making sure to be generous with information while asking that the players be explicit about what they want. "What do I know about...?" is insufficient. I've already told you what you know when I described the environment. If you want to recall something on top of that or make a useful deduction to gain some kind of advantage, you have to tell me what you're looking for and what you're doing before I can decide how to adjudicate. If the player is performing his or her role in this regard, it's a cinch to adjudicate.
 

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