Should Insight be able to determine if an NPC is lying?

Should Insight be able to determine if an NPC is lying?

  • Yes

    Votes: 82 84.5%
  • No

    Votes: 11 11.3%
  • I reject your reality and substitute my own.

    Votes: 4 4.1%

  • Total voters
    97

5ekyu

Adventurer
A question prompted by this:

Suppose a player is playing Battle Master fighter. The rules establish this character as a tactical expert; but suppose the player - either deliberately, or because s/he can't do any better - plays the PC as tactically incompetent. Does this create an issue for you?

And vice versa: what if the PC is (say) a bard with modest INT and nothing in his/her backstory to suggest tactical acumen, but the player is a strong wargamer and plays his/her PC with very good tactical skill (eg optimising damage per spell slot spent, making excellent risk/reward choices in regards to targetting and battlefield positioning, etc). Do you regard that as cheating?
I will give you my takes-

Battle Master - in my games the rules dont establish the character as a tactical expert, the player does. The rules establish certain capabilities, but their precise "nature" is more fluid. But more directly to your point, just like with cases of many other "skills" I have little problem with calling for a check and telling a player "your character's expertise would tell you..." unless they had established a specific gap in the "expertise" as a matter of story. If they then choose to ignore that, that's fine.

In the second, I do not link the broader INT score (more often Wis for cunning) for experience and savvy at the specific things they do. I am not one to rule that Int is de facto "behind everything" and start to rationalize it as needed for putting on a good performance (remembering songs or your set) or cooking (cuz remembering recipes) etc etc and so I would not also carry that into knowing how to use their other abilities that are not derived from INT stat.

As for the backstory vs decisions in play, I do not have to get into that much, and try to avoid getting into too much backseat driving their roleplaying.

If I wanted a game play where INT was required for these kinds of choices, then mechanically, there would be a prerequisite to gain the benefit. For example, maybe I would add "flanking gives you a bonus to your to hit equal to your Int bonus."

But some fun bits of role play can come out of these. Have seen more than one character where frequently their decisions were "just like in" where the character would reference some book, play, song, history or (setting dependdnt) TV show or movie as their reference for "inexperienced" but savvy play. There have been some more recent nods to this in how MCU has presented Spider-Man suggestion really clever plans based on movies, but it's been around in fiction (and reality) far far longer than that.
 
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D1Tremere

Villager
A question prompted by this:

Suppose a player is playing Battle Master fighter. The rules establish this character as a tactical expert; but suppose the player - either deliberately, or because s/he can't do any better - plays the PC as tactically incompetent. Does this create an issue for you?

And vice versa: what if the PC is (say) a bard with modest INT and nothing in his/her backstory to suggest tactical acumen, but the player is a strong wargamer and plays his/her PC with very good tactical skill (eg optimising damage per spell slot spent, making excellent risk/reward choices in regards to targetting and battlefield positioning, etc). Do you regard that as cheating?
To example 1. If the player is playing a specifically tactically minded class as incompetent I would ask for some explanation or role playing reason for this. If they are just not very good at playing that type of character it is no big deal as the rules are built into the class and the fluff is just an in game justification.

For example 2, it really depends on how obvious the meta-gaming really is. Some groups love meta-gaming, but I prefer to go for a more narrative experience where possible. All characters exist in a world governed by the same basic rules, and nothing says you have to be a tactical genius to take advantage of the basic physics of your world. Therefore, I would't view playing your character efficiently in relationship to the rules they are governed by as necessarily indicative of strategic genius nor meta-gaming, though it could be.

Neither of these are directly related to my main point, which is that disregarding the rules/physics of the game whenever you dislike the outcome undermines the structure of the game. If everyone just runs around doing whatever they wish and choosing what is or is not real for their character, then it becomes a childhood game of cops & robbers, destined to end in a "yes I did", "no you didn't" scenario.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Neither of these are directly related to my main point, which is that disregarding the rules/physics of the game whenever you dislike the outcome undermines the structure of the game.
The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions though - not the rules - so why would the DM choose possible outcomes for success or failure that aren't fun for everyone and/or don't contribute to an exciting, memorable story?
 

D1Tremere

Villager
The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions though - not the rules - so why would the DM choose possible outcomes for success or failure that aren't fun for everyone and/or don't contribute to an exciting, memorable story?
The DM narrates the adventure AND arbitrates the rules. Failure isn't always fun, but it still happens sometimes. Failure exists to give success meaning in the game, and to provide environmental feedback which can lead to learning. That said, I am unclear as to why you would equate having rules and enforcing them when they are invoked by a player with not being fun/contributing to a memorable story.
If success in every action were a given, I think that would undermine fun and memorable story telling more than rules arbitration.
If a DM does not arbitrate rules and they break down then the fun comes to a halt when the agency of two or more player "gods" conflicts.
Example: Player 1 chooses to role to detect intent regarding deception from NPC. Player 1 gets a total of 10 (which succeed, unbeknownst to player 1). Player 1 is told that their character doesn't sense any deceptive intentions. Player 1 decides to act as though they did anyway. Player 2 also makes an ability check and succeeds, but now gets into an argument with player 1 for the rest of the session because player 1 is contradicting player 2's character despite the evidence.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
The DM narrates the adventure AND arbitrates the rules. Failure isn't always fun, but it still happens sometimes. Failure exists to give success meaning in the game, and to provide environmental feedback which can lead to learning. That said, I am unclear as to why you would equate having rules and enforcing them when they are invoked by a player with not being fun/contributing to a memorable story.
If success in every action were a given, I think that would undermine fun and memorable story telling more than rules arbitration.
If a DM does not arbitrate rules and they break down then the fun comes to a halt when the agency of two or more player "gods" conflicts.
Example: Player 1 chooses to role to detect intent regarding deception from NPC. Player 1 gets a total of 10 (which succeed, unbeknownst to player 1). Player 1 is told that their character doesn't sense any deceptive intentions. Player 1 decides to act as though they did anyway. Player 2 also makes an ability check and succeeds, but now gets into an argument with player 1 for the rest of the session because player 1 is contradicting player 2's character despite the evidence.
In my experience, failures, especially obvious with failure as in 5e which can be some success with setback, is oftem fodder for fantastic story that is very enjoyable in the arch of the campaign or even scene.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The DM narrates the adventure AND arbitrates the rules. Failure isn't always fun, but it still happens sometimes. Failure exists to give success meaning in the game, and to provide environmental feedback which can lead to learning. That said, I am unclear as to why you would equate having rules and enforcing them when they are invoked by a player with not being fun/contributing to a memorable story.
Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you here, but you said "disregarding the rules/physics of the game whenever you dislike the outcome undermines the structure of the game." I'm saying the outcome is up to the DM even when the rules are being used to resolve an outcome (particularly in the case of ability checks), so why would the DM choose outcomes - either success or failure - that aren't fun for everyone and contribute to an exciting, memorable story? If both success and failure are fun for the players (if not the characters) then disregarding the rules because the result is not fun wouldn't really be an issue, right?

If success in every action were a given, I think that would undermine fun and memorable story telling more than rules arbitration.
I don't think anyone is advocating for success in every action.

If a DM does not arbitrate rules and they break down then the fun comes to a halt when the agency of two or more player "gods" conflicts.
Example: Player 1 chooses to role to detect intent regarding deception from NPC. Player 1 gets a total of 10 (which succeed, unbeknownst to player 1). Player 1 is told that their character doesn't sense any deceptive intentions. Player 1 decides to act as though they did anyway. Player 2 also makes an ability check and succeeds, but now gets into an argument with player 1 for the rest of the session because player 1 is contradicting player 2's character despite the evidence.
I don't fully understand the argument that the players are having in your example, but anyway players don't get to decide to roll checks in D&D 5e. That is the DM's role. And no one but the player can decide what the character thinks and how he or she acts. Some of the issues you suggest may occur may be mitigated by simply doing what the game says to do.
 

D1Tremere

Villager
I don't think anyone is advocating for success in every action.
The point of the topic, and the discussion I was having with ElfCrusher, is the use of the Perception skill in detecting lies. My stance is that once a player uses the skill he is bound by the results, and should not simply be free to act otherwise by invoking player agency. The use of this ability tells the player what his character thinks (i.e., there is or is not intent to deceive present). This is what it does, and to do other wise would amount to letting a player choose when/if they fail.

The DM does not choose whether actions succeed or fail. The rules say that an action either succeeds or fails (you either make the attack roll or you miss, etc.). The DM can certainly choose to ignore the rules/roles if they deem it necessary, such as, as you have said, in cases where the game would be more fun or the story more interesting. The problem is, that isn't what this topic, or my comments are about. I have been discussing the use of the Perception skill in determining intention to deceive, and whether a player (not the DM) should be free to disregard the outcome of this skill check to preserve player agency.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The point of the topic, and the discussion I was having with ElfCrusher, is the use of the Perception skill in detecting lies. My stance is that once a player uses the skill he is bound by the results, and should not simply be free to act otherwise by invoking player agency. The use of this ability tells the player what his character thinks (i.e., there is or is not intent to deceive present). This is what it does, and to do other wise would amount to letting a player choose when/if they fail.

The DM does not choose whether actions succeed or fail. The rules say that an action either succeeds or fails (you either make the attack roll or you miss, etc.). The DM can certainly choose to ignore the rules/roles if they deem it necessary, such as, as you have said, in cases where the game would be more fun or the story more interesting. The problem is, that isn't what this topic, or my comments are about. I have been discussing the use of the Perception skill in determining intention to deceive, and whether a player (not the DM) should be free to disregard the outcome of this skill check to preserve player agency.
The player always determines what the character thinks, does, and says - those are the rules. They are not bound to the result of an ability check made to resolve whether the task the PC performed was sufficient to notice anything about the NPC's truthfulness. If the NPC is lying (or telling the truth) and my character's task to determine that fails, I can still choose to have the character think the NPC is lying (or telling the truth). The DM is just telling me what my character observes about the NPC's behavior as it pertains to truthfulness, not what the character thinks. This is no different than the DM telling me what my character observes in the environment.

Also, the DM does choose which actions succeed and fail. That is the DM's role. Sometimes though, the DM is uncertain, and so he or she calls for an ability check if there's a meaningful consequence for failure.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
The point of the topic, and the discussion I was having with ElfCrusher, is the use of the Perception skill in detecting lies. My stance is that once a player uses the skill he is bound by the results, and should not simply be free to act otherwise by invoking player agency. The use of this ability tells the player what his character thinks (i.e., there is or is not intent to deceive present). This is what it does, and to do other wise would amount to letting a player choose when/if they fail.
Oh, hey, so it looks like I wasn't reading too much into your previous posts, after all.

So, um, yeah, you and I, we play the game very differently.

The irony here is that your DMing style inadvertently leads to the outcome espoused by goal-and-method DMs: if I know that you will require me to roleplay my character by the results of a Perception/Insight check, I'm just not going to declare any actions that might cause you to force me to make such a roll.

The DM does not choose whether actions succeed or fail.
Methinks you are playing a game other than D&D 5e, because that is simply false.
 

D1Tremere

Villager
The player always determines what the character thinks, does, and says - those are the rules. They are not bound to the result of an ability check made to resolve whether the task the PC performed was sufficient to notice anything about the NPC's truthfulness. If the NPC is lying (or telling the truth) and my character's task to determine that fails, I can still choose to have the character think the NPC is lying (or telling the truth).
The player always determines what the character thinks, does, and says, EXCEPT when those things are determined by the rules or the DM. They are always bound by the results of checks (or do players in your game simply disbelieve damage and hits away?). A DM can choose to disregard the outcome of the rules/roles, and a player can choose to roleplay a scenario without invoking roles in many cases, but ultimately a player roles dice to try and succeed at a task or suffer the outcomes of failure. Why else are the dice there?

The DM is just telling me what my character observes about the NPC's behavior as it pertains to truthfulness, not what the character thinks. This is no different than the DM telling me what my character observes in the environment.
The skill actually says “Your Wisdom (Insight) check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature.” Note that it says the check decides what your character determines (which is telling them what they think). What exactly would your character’s thoughts be based on in such a scenario if not what they observed in their environment?

The irony here is that your DMing style inadvertently leads to the outcome espoused by goal-and-method DMs: if I know that you will require me to roleplay my character by the results of a Perception/Insight check, I'm just not going to declare any actions that might cause you to force me to make such a roll.
A DM can’t FORCE a player to make a roll. A player can choose to make a role in pursuit of a mechanical task, which is why the rules exist in the first place. You can choose for your character that they believe someone is lying or telling the truth just as anyone can eschew engaging with reality when conjuring their beliefs and opinions. If you want to pretend your character knows what is what that is fine, but once you engage with reality is has a nasty way of conflicting with such beliefs.

Methinks you are playing a game other than D&D 5e, because that is simply false.
To clarify my position, a DM certainly CAN choose what actions succeed or fail, but that involves disregarding the rules. That is something they are free to do (and should do in many cases), but it is not the default of each action generally. To make success and failure an arbitrary extension of the DM would create a lot of problems, not the least of which would be invalidating every mechanical choice that players made for their characters. To disregard a check here or there or ignore a rule when it suits a scene is fine. To reduce every character to an avatar of the player with no mechanical strengths or weaknesses would be playing a game other than 5e.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The player always determines what the character thinks, does, and says, EXCEPT when those things are determined by the rules or the DM.
Short of magical compulsion which is an exception to the rule, the player always determines what the character thinks, does, and says. The DM can only describe the environment and narrate the result of the adventurers' actions.

They are always bound by the results of checks (or do players in your game simply disbelieve damage and hits away?).
That's not the same thing as the DM telling a player, for example, that he or she must have the character act as if the NPC is lying (or telling the truth).

A DM can choose to disregard the outcome of the rules/roles, and a player can choose to roleplay a scenario without invoking roles in many cases, but ultimately a player roles dice to try and succeed at a task or suffer the outcomes of failure. Why else are the dice there?
The dice are there to resolve uncertainty as to the outcome of a task proposed by the player when there's a meaningful consequence of failure. The DM determines whether or not there is uncertainty based on what the player has described as wanting to do. The player does not choose to make ability checks. That is solely the DM's call. If anything, it's not very smart play for a player to want to roll the dice as the d20 is very unpredictable. If success is the player's goal, then trying to avoid the dice is a better strategy.

The skill actually says “Your Wisdom (Insight) check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature.” Note that it says the check decides what your character determines (which is telling them what they think). What exactly would your character’s thoughts be based on in such a scenario if not what they observed in their environment?
An ability check is not a task.

The ability check, to which the Insight skill proficiency may apply, resolves uncertainty as to the task the player proposed. The task is described if you continue reading the entry for Insight - "...gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms." It has everything to do with observing another creature. The DM is telling you what you observe, just like when he or she is describing the environment, not what your character thinks.

A DM can’t FORCE a player to make a roll. A player can choose to make a role in pursuit of a mechanical task, which is why the rules exist in the first place. You can choose for your character that they believe someone is lying or telling the truth just as anyone can eschew engaging with reality when conjuring their beliefs and opinions. If you want to pretend your character knows what is what that is fine, but once you engage with reality is has a nasty way of conflicting with such beliefs.
A "roll" is not a task and players can't choose to make ability checks. That is the DM's call and he or she makes that call when the task proposed by the player for the character has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure.

At least, that's what the rules say. You can choose to play it some other way, of course.

To clarify my position, a DM certainly CAN choose what actions succeed or fail, but that involves disregarding the rules. That is something they are free to do (and should do in many cases), but it is not the default of each action generally. To make success and failure an arbitrary extension of the DM would create a lot of problems, not the least of which would be invalidating every mechanical choice that players made for their characters. To disregard a check here or there or ignore a rule when it suits a scene is fine. To reduce every character to an avatar of the player with no mechanical strengths or weaknesses would be playing a game other than 5e.
I'm sorry, but none of that is true, except perhaps at your table (and probably others). The rules come into play when the DM says they do since they serve the DM and not the other way around. The "default" is that the players say what they want to do and the DM narrates the results. Sometimes, when certain criteria are met in the eyes of the DM, the DM calls for a roll. A character's "mechanical strengths and weaknesses" come into play if and when the player proposes a task that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, which they will do quite frequently if the player is portraying a bold adventurer confronting deadly perils. But otherwise, success, failure, and uncertainty are all completely in the control of the DM.

Out of curiosity, did you play much D&D 3.Xe or D&D 4e?
 

D1Tremere

Villager
I'm sorry, but none of that is true, except perhaps at your table (and probably others)
You could be right, I have been known to make mistakes and I do run my games in a certain way. I would argue that the results of the poll suggest that my interpretation is more in line with the default at most peoples tables. All of that said, I will defend my position a bit with actual rulebook information.

"Ability Checks An ability check is a test to see whether a character succeeds at a task that he or she has decided to attempt." Says right here that the player can decide to attempt an ability check whenever they want to see if they succeed or fail at a task. Says nothing about the DM making that decision.

Your quote about Insight ignores the point. As the skill specifically states, the check decides (not the player, not the DM) what your character determines. The part you emphasize just details in game fluff that explains WHY/HOW the check determines. You also avoided my question. If the check is your observation of the environment, what else would determine your thoughts if not that?

I would also argue that the rules serve both the DM and the Players as "As the player who creates the game world and the adventures that take place within it, the DM is a natural fit to take on the referee role. As a referee, the DM acts as a mediator between the rules and the players."
Your reference to the rules serving the DM and not the other way around is used in the rulebooks to say that the DM doesn't serve the rules, an explanation that they need not be slavish to them. It does not refer to the players relationships to the rules. If the DM is a referee that would suggest that the rules exist between themselves and the players.

I'm tempted to add a snarky comment here to address yours, but I honestly enjoy discussing my perspective with others and see no need to make it less fun.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You could be right, I have been known to make mistakes and I do run my games in a certain way. I would argue that the results of the poll suggest that my interpretation is more in line with the default at most peoples tables. All of that said, I will defend my position a bit with actual rulebook information.
I voted "Yes" on the poll.

"Ability Checks An ability check is a test to see whether a character succeeds at a task that he or she has decided to attempt." Says right here that the player can decide to attempt an ability check whenever they want to see if they succeed or fail at a task. Says nothing about the DM making that decision.
This is a common error people make, especially if they played D&D 3.Xe or D&D 4e or learned from people who come from those traditions. D&D 5e isn't like those games in many ways. You appear to be conflating a task with an ability check. As I stated in my previous posts a few times, a task and an ability check are not the same thing. A player can choose to have his or her character undertake a task, but a task may or may not involve an ability check. Whether there is an ability check is up to the DM, always, who has several criteria to help him or her determine if one is appropriate.

Your quote about Insight ignores the point. As the skill specifically states, the check decides (not the player, not the DM) what your character determines. The part you emphasize just details in game fluff that explains WHY/HOW the check determines. You also avoided my question. If the check is your observation of the environment, what else would determine your thoughts if not that?
Yes, the character determines that the NPC is exhibiting body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms that indicate untruthfulness. That is not telling the player how the character thinks or how it must act.

I did not avoid your previous question - it's just irrelevant. How I would decide to have my character act in the face of the outcome of a task to determine truthfulness isn't important. (Remember, a check is not a task, nor a task a check.) What's important in this discussion is who gets to decide how the character acts and that is always the player, short of magical compulsion.

I would also argue that the rules serve both the DM and the Players as "As the player who creates the game world and the adventures that take place within it, the DM is a natural fit to take on the referee role. As a referee, the DM acts as a mediator between the rules and the players."
Your reference to the rules serving the DM and not the other way around is used in the rulebooks to say that the DM doesn't serve the rules, an explanation that they need not be slavish to them. It does not refer to the players relationships to the rules. If the DM is a referee that would suggest that the rules exist between themselves and the players.
The players have no relationship to the rules. They can only describe what they want to do. The DM then decides whether any rules apply to resolve those actions. Players might naturally act with the expectation that certain rules may apply (such as having your high-Strength character step up to engage in tasks for which a high Strength may be of benefit), but it's up to the DM ultimately.

I'm tempted to add a snarky comment here to address yours, but I honestly enjoy discussing my perspective with others and see no need to make it less fun.
I didn't make any snarky comments, and I'm glad you won't either.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
"Ability Checks An ability check is a test to see whether a character succeeds at a task that he or she has decided to attempt." Says right here that the player can decide to attempt an ability check whenever they want to see if they succeed or fail at a task. Says nothing about the DM making that decision.
Wait wait wait....

How did you get from “task” to “ability check”? A task is merely something that a character attempts to do, as described by the player. “I’ll unscrew the nut from the bolt” is deciding to undertake a task. It may or may not require an ability check.

Furthermore, while a box wrench is used to turn a bolt or nut, not all bolts or nuts need or even accept box wrenches. Similarly, an ability check IS used to resolve a task, but not all tasks are resolved using ability checks.

When you combine the passage you quoted with the passages that iserith keeps citing it becomes more clear.

(I will, however, suggest that the troll king demanding an answer from the fighter does not count as the fighter “deciding to attempt a task”.)
 

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