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D&D 5E No Equivalent of Detect/Discern Lies in 5E?

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
For D&D, I want to see an item called "Salt of Protection". Compare Holy Water as an easily purchased magical item.

The player pours the salt in a continuous line, and no divination nor planar travel can enter its wall or circle.

It also addresses the unrelated problem that D&D worlds feel like modern, scientific/deterministic worlds that just have a layer of magic sort of slathered on top. Remove the spellcasting requirement on crafting alchemical items, and let "mundane" items have magical properties without constantly resorting back to "a wizard did it".

How does simple purified salt block divination and conjuration without being enchanted? It's salt. That's what salt does. The protection from evil and magic circle against evil spells are for immediate use and long-term use, respectively, or as an emergency backup for people who can't rely on salt.
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
It also addresses the unrelated problem that D&D worlds feel like modern, scientific/deterministic worlds that just have a layer of magic sort of slathered on top. Remove the spellcasting requirement on crafting alchemical items, and let "mundane" items have magical properties without constantly resorting back to "a wizard did it".

How does simple purified salt block divination and conjuration without being enchanted? It's salt. That's what salt does. The protection from evil and magic circle against evil spells are for immediate use and long-term use, respectively, or as an emergency backup for people who can't rely on salt.
Anybody can learn how to benefit from the magical properties that are inherent in nature. It is a skill. Literally.

I feel D&D accidentally stumbled on the best crafting rules of any edition, by making Tool a kind of skill check.

This also relates to legendary warriors who forge a magical sword. So to craft a magical sword, it is a Blacksmith Tools check. There might be special ingredients if the DM wants to gatekeep a magic item, but anybody can learn the skill to do it.

Same goes for Alchemist Tools to concoct various items: it is a Tool check.
 

Detect Lies is gone for the same reasons as Detect Evil. In general, 5E has a "nothing infallible" policy when it comes to determining things. A few things come close, like Zone of Truth, Detect Thoughts, and high Insight Checks... but all of those have built in limitations to make sure you are never actually SURE of something. Even spells like Augury, Divination, Commune, and Legend Lore have elements of the unreliable narrator intentionally built into them.

Sometimes they go a little too far with the "nothing infallible" policy, like Find Traps, Primeval Awareness, etc. Hahaha.
 

Yeah, for sure. One thing I really like about Pathfinder is the stealth nerf to spells like knock and remove disease that suddenly make "mundane skills" very important. And Skill Unlocks from Pathfinder Unchained. Way, way too much of the interaction/exploration pillars of modern D&D is relegated to "magic", the sole province of magic classes, and way, way too much of "magic" is just spells.
It also addresses the unrelated problem that D&D worlds feel like modern, scientific/deterministic worlds that just have a layer of magic sort of slathered on top. Remove the spellcasting requirement on crafting alchemical items, and let "mundane" items have magical properties without constantly resorting back to "a wizard did it".

How does simple purified salt block divination and conjuration without being enchanted? It's salt. That's what salt does. The protection from evil and magic circle against evil spells are for immediate use and long-term use, respectively, or as an emergency backup for people who can't rely on salt.
The only point I'd disagree with you here is that you're equating "modern D&D" with "D&D 3.X" - overlapping into both 2e and Pathfinder.

Seriously, that isn't at all how 4e works. As is being shown it's not how 5e works. One of the biggest improvements I see in modern D&D is precisely that not everything important is spells - and that e.g. rogues can do things with their bonus/minor actions simply because they are rogues. Pathfinder's knock still makes the spellcaster better at opening locks than most rogues (caster level +10 is likely to be higher than a skill check); 5e's knock is a trade-off because it's loud.

And whereas your grognard friends claim that the problem was when the thief was added from what I can tell the problem wasn't the addition of the thief - but that they decided (for whatever reason) to make thieves actively bad in the published rules - with unreliable abilities, low chances of success, and the ability to only do things that normal people could rather than the ability to go above and beyond. But the decision was, certainly as far back as 1978, to make about 40% of the PHB of almost any edition pre-4e into spells and for spells to solve things without drawbacks. Modern D&D is starting to escape.
 



Reynard

Legend
"Who hired you?"

In earlier editions, pretty much any significant NPC came with an amulet of immunity to Detect Lies and Detect Alignment. One has to conclude that such amulets are common, rendering the spell useless, so no one bothers with it any more.
"Who hired you?"
"Santa Claus" dings as a lie

Now what?

Again, detecting a lie doesn't provide any more information than a successful Insight check does -- potentially less since at least Insight can be more nuanced (they are lying because they are scared of you versus lying because they are scared of whoever they work for).

Frankly if your "mystery" can be undone by a single positive lie detection it is a pretty crappy mystery. Any time, in any game in any genre, you write a mystery you must take the capabilities of the detectives into account. If you aren't doing that you are not doing it well.

All that said, I don't actually care if Detect Lies exists in the game rules. It's actually pretty lame as far as tools to solve mysteries go.
 



Reynard

Legend
You go through the list of all suspects. "Was is A?" "Was it B?" "Was it C?" etc.
In order for that to be a viable strategy, the PCs would have to have a list of suspects, which means they already conducted an investigation, which puts this point in the adventure somewhere at the end of Act 2 where it goes from a "who dunnit?" to a manhunt. What's the problem?

I think some people in this thread are taking a stance against a spell like Detect Lies without actually thinking about how they would craft a real mystery in D&D with or without the spell. There are any number of other ways PCs can bypass traditional CSI/SVU style investigations. Good. It's D&D. It is the DM's job to account for that stuff if they want to run a mystery.
 

I think some people in this thread are taking a stance against a spell like Detect Lies without actually thinking about how they would craft a real mystery in D&D with or without the spell.
I've seen real mysteries crafted many times in my 40 years of playing D&D. They pretty much all hinge on the culprit possessing a magic item that renders them immune (and returns false results) to Detect Lies and similar magic.

In a world where a Detect Lies spell exists people who wanted to conceal the truth with have invented a way to counter it, rendering it pointless.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Looking at the 3E version, it already kinda fits with the 5E approach to spells:

Discern Lies​

Divination

Level:Clr 4, Pal 3
Components:V, S, DF
Casting Time:1 standard action
Range:Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Targets:One creature/level, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart
Duration:Concentration, up to 1 round/level
Saving Throw:Will negates
Spell Resistance:No
Each round, you concentrate on one subject, who must be within range. You know if the subject deliberately and knowingly speaks a lie by discerning disturbances in its aura caused by lying. The spell does not reveal the truth, uncover unintentional inaccuracies, or necessarily reveal evasions.

Each round, you may concentrate on a different subject.

I'd change the duration to Concentration, up to 1 minute and (personally) get rid of the saving throw. Not sure about the levels I might bump it up to 5th), but as written for 3E having to be at least 8th level to cast it as a cleric and it costing a 4th level slot seems like it'd limit it. I guess if every town in your setting has a helpful 8th+ level cleric walking around every court or magistrate could have one to do this - though Zone of Truth seems better for that use.

Still, I can understand why some people might want to eliminate such a spell - but for my type of game, it has never been an issue. I agree with those that say discerning a lie is not the same as being able to do something about it. I imagine it would be a lot more useful/interesting in a game with a political dimension.

The item I ended up creating is actually a lot more powerful than this version of the spell, but it also has drawbacks - but is for a one-on-one mostly political game.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
In a world where a Detect Lies spell exists people who wanted to conceal the truth with have invented a way to counter it, rendering it pointless.

Only if that method of circumventing it is at least as common as the spell (in reality, I think it'd have to be a lot more common and readily available in order to render the spell "pointless")
 

Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
Seriously, that isn't at all how 4e works. As is being shown it's not how 5e works. One of the biggest improvements I see in modern D&D is precisely that not everything important is spells - and that e.g. rogues can do things with their bonus/minor actions simply because they are rogues. Pathfinder's knock still makes the spellcaster better at opening locks than most rogues (caster level +10 is likely to be higher than a skill check); 5e's knock is a trade-off because it's loud.

It's also only one target - if you're trying to rescue five nobles chained in five separate cells (something you see in games and read in books fairly often), the rogue can handle it without much trouble in a reasonable time, but a caster is going to have to burn all of their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level slots plus one 5th level slot to do the same thing. One of the big advantage of a lot of non-spell abilities (especially skills) is that they can be done repeatedly without issue. If your adventures always have one major lock to deal with then knock can just solve it with a fairly minor resource cost, but multiple mundane locks will require a huge resource expenditure and aren't at all contrived.

Also, if you look at knock there are lock designs that it won't work on, and you can design a door such that casting knock on it triggers a trap. For example, a heavy door that stays shut due to it's own weight that has a 'garage door' type of opener with a complicated activation device won't be opened with knock since it works on "A target that is held shut by a mundane lock". If you have a door held shut by a bar, it can include pressure plate or wire that is triggered when the bar is removed without activating a particular mechanism. Knock will remove the bar, but won't activate the mechanism to stop the trap since it isn't holding the door shut or barring the door, so the party will get hit by the trap. While you're not going to see this on regular doors, it's something that should turn up in expensive, elaborate trapped doors in places like tombs.

I think 5e has done a lot of keep magic interesting, available, and usable without making it completely dominate gameplay. I think scaling back the 'detect alignment' and 'detect lies' type spells is a part of that.
 

Reynard

Legend
I've seen real mysteries crafted many times in my 40 years of playing D&D. They pretty much all hinge on the culprit possessing a magic item that renders them immune (and returns false results) to Detect Lies and similar magic.

In a world where a Detect Lies spell exists people who wanted to conceal the truth with have invented a way to counter it, rendering it pointless.
But they don't have to. You can craft mysteries that embrace what is there and make the so-called bypass abilities integral to the solution. Maybe the investigators can't solve the problem without Speak With Dead in a Zone of Truth, or whatever. I don't get why folks want to run a mystery adventure in D&D and then do everything in their power to make it NOT D&D for the length of that adventure.
 

But they don't have to. You can craft mysteries that embrace what is there and make the so-called bypass abilities integral to the solution. Maybe the investigators can't solve the problem without Speak With Dead in a Zone of Truth, or whatever. I don't get why folks want to run a mystery adventure in D&D and then do everything in their power to make it NOT D&D for the length of that adventure.
Whether or not magical abilities are integral to the solution of mysteries, Detect Lies is clearly easy to counter. If Detect Lies worked the City Watch would have an easy time tracking down all thieves and assassins. Yet the average fantasy city has at least one Thieves' Guild and Assassins Guild, so it is clearly easy to fool magical detection.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
But they don't have to. You can craft mysteries that embrace what is there and make the so-called bypass abilities integral to the solution. Maybe the investigators can't solve the problem without Speak With Dead in a Zone of Truth, or whatever. I don't get why folks want to run a mystery adventure in D&D and then do everything in their power to make it NOT D&D for the length of that adventure.

Adventure designers (amateur and professional) too often find it easier to limit something and be conventional than lean into it and recognize it's a thing (witness how most high level published adventures hamstring high level magic solutions such as teleport, divination etc.).

I agree with you that the much more fun solution is to lean into it. In a world that includes detect lies people will act differently, criminal and otherwise. It can be fun to explore those differences.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
Adventure designers (amateur and professional) too often find it easier to limit something and be conventional than lean into it and recognize it's a thing (witness how most high level published adventures hamstring high lending magic solutions such as teleport, divination etc.).
Yeah. The highest tier adventures should be assuming things like teleport at-will.

I agree with you that the much more fun solution is to lean into it. In a world that includes detect lies people will act differently, criminal and otherwise. It can be fun to explore those differences.
Heh that reminds me of the Shadowhunters, where the faerie is understood as an angel-devil hybrid, who always tells the truth but is duplicitous: "never trust a being that cannot lie".
 

Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
I've seen real mysteries crafted many times in my 40 years of playing D&D. They pretty much all hinge on the culprit possessing a magic item that renders them immune (and returns false results) to Detect Lies and similar magic.

In a world where a Detect Lies spell exists people who wanted to conceal the truth with have invented a way to counter it, rendering it pointless.

What's weird about that is that you don't need a magic item to foil spells like discern lies and zone of truth, because they only detect whether the person believes they are telling the truth, not whether the statements are actually true. You just compartmentalize information and use deception with the muscle you hire. Eventually if you're able to force the guy at the top to answer questions the spell will out the truth, but that's at the point where you've figured out the clues, completed tracking them down, and are just looking for a definite answer at the end of the investigation. Just some minor obfuscation of the sort criminals use in the real world makes it impossible to just detect lie your way to the end of the mystery.

Look at these exchanges for an idea of what I mean:
"Who hired you?"
"Baron Vanderson!" dings as truth

Doesn't mean that Vanderson actually hired the guy. Maybe the guy who paid him said he was Vanderson or an agent of Vanderson because he wants to throw suspicion on Vanderson. Or maybe he knows that this thug really wants to get in good with Vanderson's people, so he says this is a favor from Vanderson to get the guy to do it for free. Maybe the hiring person is a commoner who likes making nobles take the blame for nonsense.

"Who hired you?"
"Sir Brandington" dings as lie

Could mean that the person hiring him was actually working for sir Brandington, but the guy doesn't believe it. Could mean Brandington did hire him, but he thinks someone was playing him. Could mean Brandington hired him, but never identified himself.

"Who hired you?"
"Some androgynous dude in a mask" dings as truth

Doesn't offer a good lead unless the ability to wear masks and robes is rare in the game world.

"So Lord Salen, are you the head of this conspiracy?"
"Guards, expel these ruffians from my household and inform the city watch that if they come near me again to have them arrested. The only reason I'm not having you arrested now is that you did [previous adventure] before, but I will have no hesitation doing so if you continue with these baseless accusations." dings as truth

Could mean Salen heads the conspiracy and wants to shut you up, could mean he's innocent and you've insulted his honor.
 

Reynard

Legend
Whether or not magical abilities are integral to the solution of mysteries, Detect Lies is clearly easy to counter. If Detect Lies worked the City Watch would have an easy time tracking down all thieves and assassins. Yet the average fantasy city has at least one Thieves' Guild and Assassins Guild, so it is clearly easy to fool magical detection.
I think you are putting too much weight on "detect lies" as a problem solver. All it does is bypass interrogation. It either comes at the end of the investigation which means it doesn't bypass anything, or it is a step in the investigation, which means it is moving the adventure along, not derailing it.
 

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