D&D 5E Using social skills on other PCs

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Let's try it another way then, an NPC tries to deceive a PC, and as the DM you don't know how well he will perform in his deception, so the result is clearly uncertain.
I don’t need to know how well he performs. I’ll describe the action (the lie), and if the player suspects it’s a lie, they can describe an action to try and determine if it is or not. At that point (assuming the player’s approach could succeed or fail), I’ll call for them to make an ability check, probably Wisdom (Insight) contested by Charisma (Deception). If the player succeeds, I’ll give them whatever information they were saying they were trying to learn with their action (as established by the goal they stated). On a failure I won’t. Either way, the player is free to decide how their character thinks and feels about that information (or lack of information) and if and how they act on it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Well…I think it’s fair game for the DM to factor skill proficiency (or expertise) into the decision of whether there is uncertainty. The character with Arcana and the character with Acrobatics might be granted automatic success in different situations.
Sure. I’d call that a part of the fictional positioning. A character who lacks certain specialized training may not have a chance of success on an action that someone who has that training would have a chance of success at, and a character who has certain specialized training might not have a chance of failure on an action that a character who lacks that training would have a chance of failure at.
 

I don’t need to know how well he performs. I’ll describe the action (the lie), and if the player suspects it’s a lie, they can describe an action to try and determine if it is or not. At that point (assuming the player’s approach could succeed or fail), I’ll call for them to make an ability check, probably Wisdom (Insight) contested by Charisma (Deception). If the player succeeds, I’ll give them whatever information they were saying they were trying to learn with their action (as established by the goal they stated). On a failure I won’t. Either way, the player is free to decide how their character thinks and feels about that information (or lack of information) and if and how they act on it.
And, as I keep saying (but nobody ever responds), since the DM controls the game world why would they rely on dice rolls to force the players to pretend to be intimidated/persuaded/deceived? If you want the players to feel intimidated, use an intimidating monster.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
@Charlaquin I'd like to get this straight. You put forward that
  1. All skills are not actions, they’re a source of bonuses on a subset of ability checks.
  2. Ability checks are not actions, they’re a step in the action resolution process; a step which comes after determining uncertainty, if uncertainty is established.
  3. An action that is resolved by the general action resolution process can either succeed (if it has no chance of failure or no stakes), fail (if it has no chance of success), or be resolved with an ability check.
  4. An action taken with the goal of forcing a PC to think, feel, or do something succeeds if the player decides it does, or fails if the player decides it does.
  5. There is no opportunity for an ability check of any kind to be made, because based on the goal, the process for resolving it says it should succeed or fail.
  6. If a more specific process governs the resolution of the action, such as the spellcasting rules, then none of this is relevant to the resolution process of that action.
So I think here you are claiming that other kinds of game action resolution have more specific processes - specific enough to form an exception to the putative general rule. You seem to be saying that the spellcasting resolution system is specific enough, while the ability checks system is not specific enough. That's why spells get a free pass on 4., right? Concretely, 4. stands as a gatekeeper for every game process that wants to support mechanical instances that override the putative general rule. Generally, you are claiming that several game resolution system are specific enough but not ability checks.

It hadn't occurred to me to suppose that the test to be an exception was made at the game process level. I count it made at the process-instance level, which is where game mechanics impact on and are availed of by players. However, were we to wonder if an overall game resolution process could be specific enough, then I don't agree that the ability check process is any less specific than the others.
 
Last edited:

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
While I agree in general, I would reiterate that it's more clever than this. Yes, the player decides, but based on the information that he has. And, to make it simple with the easiest example (there are many others but this one is by far the easiest both to understand and to rule since it's a contest with no fixed DC), the result of the deception check of an NPC trying to lie to a PC (and beat his insight, whether active or passive) and the associated description from the DM will certainly inflence the way the PC decides. It's not black and white.
For sure. The player is free to decide based on his knowledge. That can be influenced, but not forced. He can decide that he thinks an NPC is lying or telling the truth and he may be wrong. What I can't do with the social skills is require his PC to think one or the other based on a roll. Skills are not mind control.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Without having any knowledge or experience of PbtA games myself, I assume that an effort to "press or entice" a PC has the goal of influencing that character such that they do what the character making such effort wants them to do. A binding successful result on a check to test such an effort would have the PC compelled to submit to the will of the other character, which is problematic if we hold that a PC's actions are governed by its player.

If, on the other hand, an effort is made to discover what it would take to persuade the PC, then I think a Wisdom (Insight) check might be appropriate to resolve that effort.
Without getting too bogged down into PbtA frameworks, a successful "check" on a Persuade (vs. PC) in Stonetop, broadly speaking, gives the target PC the choice to either (1) agree to do what the rolling PC wants or (2) reveal what could persuade them, through whatever method of their choice. There is a bit more to it. To "press or entice a PC and they resist" is a condition that must exist in the fiction for the move/check to be triggered. But the check is also dropped if the player of the target PC believes there is nothing that the other PC could do to persuade their character.

One key difference is that Stonetop distinguishes between two types of Persuade: i.e., (vs. NPCs) and (vs. PCs). NPCs would never roll Persuade against PCs in either Stonetop or PbtA games. But two reasons for that is primarily (a) the GM never rolls in PbtA games but also that (b) a failed Presuade (vs. NPCs) roll could involve the NPC turning the tables on the PC.

As to whether that would be Charisma or Wisdom in D&D 5e, I think that the former may reflect sweet talking it out of the target while the latter would reflect discerning it. Stonetop simply uses Charisma to cover the entire range of possibilities.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
And, as I keep saying (but nobody ever responds), since the DM controls the game world why would they rely on dice rolls to force the players to pretend to be intimidated/persuaded/deceived? If you want the players to feel intimidated, use an intimidating monster.
I've played it out a few different ways over the years. We've talked about that a bit up thread, but here is a case I have in mind.

The PCs are taken captive in what would otherwise have been a TPK (as often advised in official published material.) The NPCs want to pry crucial information from them, which the whole party have promised one another to withhold. We're not interested in torture-porn so we have no interest in narrating the process in any detail. Each player is now put in an awkward position? What decides if their character spills or not? In the end, the players found it to be a relief that I let the dice decide. It made perfect sense to them that they might have been able to say nothing, but there was a chance they would break. It avoided any player having to intentionally do something that might have felt at odds with their commitment to the party.

This certainly isn't the only way to run the situation, yet unless the situation is something a group are anxious to narrate, it is a decent way to do it. I wouldn't mind a DM saying - yes C you hold out as long as you can and - make a roll - you give up the location of the prince on the 3rd day. If a DM asked me if I caved, I think I'd prefer to roll, in most cases.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Previously, it seemed you bestowed a kind of inviolable certainty on things falling within the definition of roleplaying. You argued that for a DM to be working within the rules required that DM to have a basis for their judgments as to uncertainty. It occurs to me to that for consistency you ought to believe that to be working within the rules a DM must also have a basis for their judgments as to stakes? Is that right? Or is there a lack of parity in those requirements?

Anyway, as it turns out, that certainty is often violated within the game rules. Thus, within the game paradigm, a DM is justified to say that things falling within the definition of roleplaying can be uncertain.
Can you give an example of that certainty being violated in a way that matches social skills vs player making the decision?
We can make arguments from consequence in play, preference, what we understand to be norms, but you need to produce RAW additional to the above to support any claim that a game mechanic like deception is not specific enough.
No she doesn't need to produce additional RAW. You do. The Specific Beats General RAW is very clear that there needs to be a SPECIFIC exception or contradiction, not one you want to be there. Heck, even an implied exception fails to be specific enough.

You've made the assertion that a vague, "It doesn't forbid it" is specific enough. You need to provide additional RAW to support that, since it goes directly against the Specific Beats General RAW.
Deception specifically calls for a check making it clear that a DM is justified in doing so. That particular forms an exception to any general rule.
Deception calls for no check unless the outcome is in doubt and there is a meaningful consequence for failure. No ability check is made is called for under RAW unless those two conditions are met.
Again, the DM is encouraged to call for a check. The particular here overrides any general elsewhere.
"might ask for a check" is not encouragement to call for a check. It's saying that if you are attempting one of those actions against an NPC, with the outcome in doubt and a meaningful consequence for failure, there would be a check. Those circumstances might occur when attempting one of those actions. If those two circumstances are not present, no check is called for. The DM simply announces success or failure at the deception attempt.
Some questions worth asking are: Where is the RAW that tells us what is specific enough? Where, is the RAW that says it must be a spell to be specific enough? Or that it must reference a condition?
5e uses natural language. So look up specific in the dictionary. It means clearly defined or identified. The vague "It doesn't forbid it" and/or all the vague rules used to imply that it's okay don't clearly define or identify an exception or contradiction. They aren't sufficient to trigger the Specific Beats General rule.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Can you give an example of that certainty being violated in a way that matches social skills vs player making the decision?
I've read your post, and will not reply directly only because I think we have moved the discussion forward from that point. If a detail you raise becomes relevant later, I will try and remember to acknowledge it (and respond there as needed).
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
One key difference is that Stonetop distinguishes between two types of Persuade: i.e., (vs. NPCs) and (vs. PCs). NPCs would never roll Persuade against PCs in either Stonetop or PbtA games. But two reasons for that is primarily (a) the GM never rolls in PbtA games but also that (b) a failed Presuade (vs. NPCs) roll could involve the NPC turning the tables on the PC.
Does the DM still call for the move to come into play, though? Earlier I assumed they would. The players don't name their move right? Even if it will be player-to-player.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I agree with that. It's not symmetric in all respects. I believe it is the presence of rules and guidance for PC dealings with NPCs that leads many to jump to a conclusion that RAW can't possibly support NPCs dealings with PCs!
It doesn't support it. Support = positive help. The best you can show is that RAW doesn't explicitly forbid it, which isn't the same as support. The game supports PCs being able to hide by providing specific rules on hiding. There would be no support if all the game did was fail to forbid hiding. The game supports spellcasting by providing spells and rules for PCs and NPCs to cast spells. The game would not support spellcasting if it failed to have spells and such rules, having only a failure to forbid spellcasting.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I'd like to get this straight. You put forward that
  1. All skills are not actions, they’re a source of bonuses on a subset of ability checks.
  2. Ability checks are not actions, they’re a step in the action resolution process; a step which comes after determining uncertainty, if uncertainty is established.
  3. An action that is resolved by the general action resolution process can either succeed (if it has no chance of failure or no stakes), fail (if it has no chance of success), or be resolved with an ability check.
  4. An action taken with the goal of forcing a PC to think, feel, or do something succeeds if the player decides it does, or fails if the player decides it does.
  5. There is no opportunity for an ability check of any kind to be made, because based on the goal, the process for resolving it says it should succeed or fail.
  6. If a more specific process governs the resolution of the action, such as the spellcasting rules, then none of this is relevant to the resolution process of that action.
Correct, and if I’m not mistaken, my exact words.
So I think here you are claiming that other kinds of game action resolution have more specific processes - specific enough to form an exception to the putative general rule. You seem to be saying that the spellcasting resolution system is specific enough, while the ability checks system is not specific enough.
Ability checks are part of the general action resolution system, so all other resolution systems are more specific.
That's why spells get a free pass on 4., right?
Basically, yes. Spells are actions with their own specific resolution process, so they bypass even 3.
Concretely, 4. stands as a gatekeeper for every game process that wants to support mechanical instances that override the putative general rule. Generally, you are claiming that several game resolution system are specific enough but not ability checks.
Rather, I would say that 3 is the general processes for resolving actions that don’t have more specific rules for how they are supposed to be resolved.
It hadn't occurred to me to suppose that the test to be an exception was made at the game process level. I count it made at the process-instance level, which is where game mechanics impact on and are availed of by players. However, were we to wonder if an overall game resolution process could be specific enough, then I don't agree that the ability check process is any less specific than the others.
The basic procedure of play, which ability checks are a step in is the single most general rule in the game, after rule 0. That’s why it’s written in the very beginning, under “how to play.” All other action resolution processes are more specific.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
I don’t need to know how well he performs.

Yes you do, see below, since you end up granting the NPC a Charisma (Deception) check in the end.

I’ll describe the action (the lie), and if the player suspects it’s a lie, they can describe an action to try and determine if it is or not.

And the problem by doing this is that you are equating yourself as a DM to the NPC you are controlling, which is not what roleplaying is about. NPCs are limited by their skills and abilities like PCs are, which is one thing that is sometimes not too hard to do when it's diminishing your abilities, but just impossible to do when the NPC abilities are greater than yours. For example, I know that I am incredibly clever and so charismatic (not to mention an incredible liar :p), but even I would not dare compare myself to an Archdevil in terms of persuasion.

Taking into account these abilities in your roleplaying of the NPC is as much what roleplaying is about as it is doing the same thing for a player playing his PC.

At that point (assuming the player’s approach could succeed or fail), I’ll call for them to make an ability check, probably Wisdom (Insight) contested by Charisma (Deception).

You are of course free to totally reverse things this way, but it's not what the RAW is saying. First, in the introduction to the PH, it says that the DM has actions, so the action was the NPC lying to the PC, which should be resolved first. This is further confirmed once more by the active/passive character of the skills used, in particular Deception.

If the player succeeds, I’ll give them whatever information they were saying they were trying to learn with their action (as established by the goal they stated). On a failure I won’t. Either way, the player is free to decide how their character thinks and feels about that information (or lack of information) and if and how they act on it.

And yet, they will have been influenced by the Charisma (Deception) check of the NPC, and this while leaving the player 100% free to decide... :p
 

I've played it out a few different ways over the years. We've talked about that a bit up thread, but here is a case I have in mind.

The PCs are taken captive in what would otherwise have been a TPK (as often advised in official published material.) The NPCs want to pry crucial information from them, which the whole party have promised one another to withhold. We're not interested in torture-porn so we have no interest in narrating the process in any detail. Each player is now put in an awkward position? What decides if their character spills or not? In the end, the players found it to be a relief that I let the dice decide. It made perfect sense to them that they might have been able to say nothing, but there was a chance they would break. It avoided any player having to intentionally do something that might have felt at odds with their commitment to the party.

This certainly isn't the only way to run the situation, yet unless the situation is something a group are anxious to narrate, it is a decent way to do it. I wouldn't mind a DM saying - yes C you hold out as long as you can and - make a roll - you give up the location of the prince on the 3rd day. If a DM asked me if I caved, I think I'd prefer to roll, in most cases.

The bolt bits are essential here: if the players are buying into the dice, then there's no debate. In fact, if we're talking about situations where the players and the DM agree, this entire conversation is moot*. I have solely been considering situations where there is disagreement.

Just for fun, here's how I imagine this unfolding:

I've just stepped in deus ex machina and saved the characters from dying. Therefore, their souls (and character sheets) are by rights mine. I would have no problem making the information the price they pay for this. "Without going into gory detail, the king will torture the information out of you. If you refuse to talk, you'll need a new character. What do you do?" I don't need to roll dice...that's going to be intimidating (unless the player hates their character and wants a new one). Now, if the player thinks, "You know, I honestly don't know if my character could hold out" and wants to roll dice, fine. But that's just using RNG to assist in making a decision that is theirs to make however they want. Or if they want to be the hero, I'm fine with that, too.

One interesting variation is they decide to lie. That in itself might call for a dice roll (Cha? Con?), but probably another dice roll (Int? Wis?) to see if they all tell the same lie. And if they fail the second check....wow, not sure. It gets complicated.

Or another variation...assuming everybody buys into it, because this is the sort of thing that could wreck real life friendships in the wrong group...is to set it up Prisoner's Dilemma style.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
When a PC successfully intimidates an NPC, the GM is presumably supposed to in good faith to play the NPC as intimidated. So the same except than in reverse. I don't really suggest doing this, but I don't think how it would work is particularly hard to imagine.
Success against a PC is determined by the player, though. Not some random roll, unless the player determines that the outcome is in doubt. Just like when the PC tries to intimidate an NPC, the success is determined by the DM and not a random roll, unless the DM determines that the outcome is in doubt. And yes, if the player determines the outcome to be in doubt and a successful roll happens against the PC, the player should in good faith roleplay being intimidated. Just like if the DM determines the outcome is in doubt and the player rolls a successful intimidate check, the DM should roleplay the NPC as being intimidated.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And that 'uncertainty' doesn't exist only because your circular reasoning of social ability checks not being able to affect the PCs!
That isn't her argument or the argument of any of the rest of us. Social skills can affect PCs, but it's up to the player to determine auto success, auto failure, or uncertainty. Just like it's up to the DM to do the same for his NPCs.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Like I said earlier, I personally view it more your way and not the other way. I say "more," because I don't view it as absolute like you do.

I'm not sure I stated such an absolute view, see below...

I was thinking about it after my first post agreeing with you and I thought about environmental descriptions. I pictured myself saying something like, "As the group crests the hill, you guys can see far down into the valley. The valley is mostly grassland, but you do see trees scattered here and there. Within your field of vision you can make out 3 flocks of sheep and some shepherds keeping them safe. One shepherd with the second flock splits off to recapture an escaping animal."

Is that environment or not? In the description I've included people and what actions(outside of combat) those people are taking, which you say isn't environment, but it really seems like it could be environment to me. If it is environment, what makes people taking actions environment here, but not in combat?

As I've mentioned, it's entirely up to the DM and his style, what I did not like in the previous description was the gatekeeping of "the loop is mandatory, every action taken has to be by a PC, everything else is environment", when the RAW actually explain that it's not the case, just a simple tool for the flow of the game, with many possible exceptions.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Based on information that may vary depending on the social skill result, which in turn makes the result uncertain justifying a roll.
No. It doesn't make the result uncertain at all. The varying information just means that the PC can be wrong with his decision, not that the decision is uncertain.

Going with deception, the DM could roleplay out the lie and be very convincing about it. The player based on that information thinks it's the truth and decides to rely on the info. The outcome was never uncertain, so no roll ever occurs. The fact that the outcome was based on incorrect information doesn't remove the certainty of the result. It just makes it incorrect.

Uncertainty is when the player or DM doesn't really know which way the PC/NPC will go. Will he believe it, or will he not. It could go either way, so a roll might be called for.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top