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D&D 5E Using social skills on other PCs

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There's nothing at all wrong with "The PCs make their own decisions". Bravo. Preach it!

What makes me shake my head is that some of the same people pushing that stance are also pushing for PCs to retain the ability to use social skills/abilities to influence (if not outright force) NPCs' decisions, via the DM calling for a roll. To me this just sounds like trying to have one's cake and eat it too.

If "the PCs make their own decisions" is true then "the NPCs make their own decisions" should also be true. No rolling required unless someone - player or DM - wants to do a non-binding self-informative roll if truly uncertain how their character(s) would react.

Or (the much-worse option):

If the NPCs can be mechanically influenced/forced into certain decisions then the same should apply to PCs.
The NPCs aren't being "mechanically influenced" though. The player is stating an action. The DM is determining the outcome. If the DM is uncertain about the outcome and there's a meaningful consequence for failure, they call for an ability check. It's the action that is influencing the NPC, not the ability check. The ability check just determines whether the action is successful or not (since it was uncertain). Getting this concept straight in one's head is fundamental to understanding how the game works in my view. An ability check is not an action, nor an action an ability check.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Okay, so is there no way in this system to influence an NPC to do something without the GM's agreement or imposing conditions? If not, I would be a little surprised, but like I said, I'm completely ignorant when it comes to PbtA.
Pretty much. PbtA games generally don't have "push skill X to win" buttons in the game. So mechanically your ability to influence NPCs generally involves stipulations and conditions. Some moves require the player to pick their own conditions or complications.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think the key dividing factor here is in how we view ability checks. Folks arguing with me keep talking about “using social skills” like that’s a thing in the 5e rules.
If I've got all these skills listed on my character sheet and I can't use them, what the hell are they there for?

If I'm in an in-game situation where I'm trying to intimidate a captive to get some info out of it and I've previously put character-build resources into Intimidate as a skill, I should be able to proactively (i.e. without waiting for DM permission) bring that resource/skill into play somehow. If I can't, then what's the point of it? Why does it even exist?

(my point here is that it shouldn't exist; if these social skills serve no mechanical purpose then get rid of them)
I think for those who conceptualize ability checks as actions, instead of a step in the process for resolving actions, my argument probably seems like nonsense.
Some - me included - would see the following (stripped down to basics for clarity) as exactly analagous:

"I try to hit the Goblin with my shortsword; I'm +2 for Strength and +1 for weapon focus!"
"I try to intimidate the Goblin into telling me where its base camp is. I'm +2 for Charisma and +1 for intimidate!"

Now obviously the second of these could and would involve a lot more back-and-forth roleplay between me-as-character and DM-as-Goblin than is show here but in the end, unless the DM says it's no contest one way or the other, the resolution boils down to this.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
It does not apply the Charmed condition. I know, weird, right?
Maybe someone else has already corrected you (I'm behind in the thread) but... yes, charm person inflicts the charmed condition.

You attempt to charm a humanoid you can see within range. It must make a Wisdom saving throw, and does so with advantage if you or your companions are fighting it. If it fails the saving throw, it is charmed by you until the spell ends or until you or your com panions do anything harmful to it. The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance. When the spell ends, the creature knows it was charmed by you.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Fine unless you have players - and there's a lot of 'em out there, IME it's the majority of 'em - who under the aegis of "the PC is controlled by the player" simply won't respond to such things until and unless the game mechanically forces them to do so.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There's nothing at all wrong with "The PCs make their own decisions". Bravo. Preach it!

What makes me shake my head is that some of the same people pushing that stance are also pushing for PCs to retain the ability to use social skills/abilities to influence (if not outright force) NPCs' decisions, via the DM calling for a roll. To me this just sounds like trying to have one's cake and eat it too.

If "the PCs make their own decisions" is true then "the NPCs make their own decisions" should also be true. No rolling required unless someone - player or DM - wants to do a non-binding self-informative roll if truly uncertain how their character(s) would react.
It already is true. On the NPC side of things the DM decides whether the outcome is in doubt or not. If the DM has determined that there is doubt that the NPC will refuse, the NPC won't do what the PC wants no matter how high the PCs persuasion skill is.

As the DM, though, I don't know every Tom, Baker and Horse Salesman, so the outcome is going to be in doubt for me a lot more than it will for a player who is only playing a single PC and knows that PC better than I ever will.
 

I do recall some past conversations that seemed to suggest that descriptions of scenery or the environment in some old adventures or modules was so timid out of fear of suggesting anything that the characters may think about any of it. If what you say is true, then there may be some truth to that.
There's a style of writing boxed text which is kind of painful that contains writing like "You feel your heart sink as you cross over the peak of the mountain ridge only to see more mountains in front of you as far as the eye can see, and feel weariness sink into your bones as you contemplate the laborious journey ahead."

I don't think it's the role of DM description or boxed text to say things like "You feel your heart sink" or to otherwise say how the PCs respond to what they see.

I don't think this means the writing has to be bad - I think these kinds of novelistic descriptions are usually full of cliches anyway.
 

There's nothing at all wrong with "The PCs make their own decisions". Bravo. Preach it!

What makes me shake my head is that some of the same people pushing that stance are also pushing for PCs to retain the ability to use social skills/abilities to influence (if not outright force) NPCs' decisions, via the DM calling for a roll. To me this just sounds like trying to have one's cake and eat it too.

If "the PCs make their own decisions" is true then "the NPCs make their own decisions" should also be true. No rolling required unless someone - player or DM - wants to do a non-binding self-informative roll if truly uncertain how their character(s) would react.

Or (the much-worse option):

If the NPCs can be mechanically influenced/forced into certain decisions then the same should apply to PCs.

Nobody is arguing that. Literally every person on this side of the debate has acknowledged that the DM decides how it is adjudicated, and is free to rule without dice.

So, no. Just no. Bad argument! Bad! No biscuit.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The NPCs aren't being "mechanically influenced" though. The player is stating an action. The DM is determining the outcome. If the DM is uncertain about the outcome and there's a meaningful consequence for failure, they call for an ability check. It's the action that is influencing the NPC, not the ability check. The ability check just determines whether the action is successful or not (since it was uncertain).
And that determination, as it's binding, is what forces the NPC's decision.
Getting this concept straight in one's head is fundamental to understanding how the game works in my view. An ability check is not an action, nor an action an ability check.
True, though many action declarations will lead to an ability check unless the DM says auto-pass or auto-fail.
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
Or the PC might suspect he's not good for it. A successful deception check only means that the PC can't tell whether the Lord is lying or not. It doesn't force him to think the promise is good.
Maybe it is that when thinking about these rules, one can intrude quite far into RP so long as stopping short of deciding what the player thinks. It's an interesting situation, as if the metaphysical arrangement is of the player as character soul.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And that determination, as it's binding, is what forces the NPC's decision.
Well, yeah. If the DM is saying, "I'm not sure how this NPC will respond, so we will leave it to an ability check to determine," then it's binding. Same is if the player for some reason opted to leave it to an ability check. There is no ability check, though, if the DM just determines auto success or auto failure. Same as with the player.
True, though many action declarations will lead to an ability check unless the DM says auto-pass or auto-fail.
Sure, but I'm not seeing where this is an issue. The DM has to opt into the check in order for it to be binding. The player can't force it.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Maybe it is that when thinking about these rules, one can intrude quite far into RP so long as stopping short of deciding what the player thinks. It's an interesting situation, as if the metaphysical arrangement is of the player as character soul.
I'm not sure we have to get that deep. Basically, as the DM I get to roleplay my side. Whether that's being deceptive, honest, engaging in disguise, trying to persuade someone or whatever. That's all I'm doing is playing my side of things. I'm not playing or deciding for the other side, at least not without something like Dominate or Suggestion going on. On the player side of things the player is doing the same thing. His PC is being deceptive, honest, caring, disguising himself or whatever. That's all he's doing is deciding his side of things. He's not playing or deciding for my side without something similar to the Dominate or whatever.

Should there be a collision point such as the player telling me that his PC is suspicious and is looking for signs that the NPC is lying, then and only then do we need to worry about potential ability checks. The player may just announce that his PC is suspicious of the NPC and leave it at that. Or the NPC may be under a spell that makes all lies successful and the PC automatically fails the insight check. Or the outcome may be in doubt and deception vs. insight happens.

Short of some sort of conflict like the deception vs. insight above, both sides are only roleplaying and deciding for their side, even if the information being used is incomplete or in error.
 

I'm not sure we have to get that deep. Basically, as the DM I get to roleplay my side. Whether that's being deceptive, honest, engaging in disguise, trying to persuade someone or whatever. That's all I'm doing is playing my side of things. I'm not playing or deciding for the other side, at least not without something like Dominate or Suggestion going on. On the player side of things the player is doing the same thing. His PC is being deceptive, honest, caring, disguising himself or whatever. That's all he's doing is deciding his side of things. He's not playing or deciding for my side without something similar to the Dominate or whatever.

Should there be a collision point such as the player telling me that his PC is suspicious and is looking for signs that the NPC is lying, then and only then do we need to worry about potential ability checks. The player may just announce that his PC is suspicious of the NPC and leave it at that. Or the NPC may be under a spell that makes all lies successful and the PC automatically fails the insight check. Or the outcome may be in doubt and deception vs. insight happens.

Short of some sort of conflict like the deception vs. insight above, both sides are only roleplaying and deciding for their side, even if the information being used is incomplete or in error.
Honestly, I’m not a fan of this whole “looking for signs that he is lying” thing. It’s nearly impossible to play that out such that a successful roll isn’t equivalent to a Detect Truth spell.

And the reality is that if you are looking for signs of lying you are going to find them. Even if all you can come up with is that his act is so perfect it must be an act.

I haven’t succeeded much at this in practice, but what I’d like to see is players trying to come up with schemes to actually catch them in a lie. Like my comments in the secret door thread, instead of just making a dice roll in passing, the whole session could consist of springing a trap to catch the NPC in a lie.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
There's nothing at all wrong with "The PCs make their own decisions". Bravo. Preach it!

What makes me shake my head is that some of the same people pushing that stance are also pushing for PCs to retain the ability to use social skills/abilities to influence (if not outright force) NPCs' decisions, via the DM calling for a roll. To me this just sounds like trying to have one's cake and eat it too.

If "the PCs make their own decisions" is true then "the NPCs make their own decisions" should also be true. No rolling required unless someone - player or DM - wants to do a non-binding self-informative roll if truly uncertain how their character(s) would react.

Or (the much-worse option):

If the NPCs can be mechanically influenced/forced into certain decisions then the same should apply to PCs.
Not all DMs desire that sort of symmetry.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
A silly thought (obviously one that would need to be discussed with and agreed to by the players): Give PCs an "Intimidated" score. It would be something like 10 + PB + the modifier of their class' main stat, so a wizard would use Int, a fighter would use Strength*, etc. You could make it be 12 or 15 or even higher instead of 10; I'm just spitballing here.

This is the DC an NPC would need to beat in order to intimidate the PC. If the PC has a trait that gives them advantage on saves against being frightened, the NPC rolls at disad.

Then, the PC should RP being intimidated. This doesn't mean that they have to cower or agree to whatever the intimidator is demanding--it's perfectly logical for an intimidated person to lash out in some way. But at least this should prevent PCs from being totally blase about NPCs.

(I came up with this idea a moment ago. I clearly haven't playtested it.)
I mean, that’s basically just using a passive check to contest the other party’s Charisma (Intimidation) check, which is a reasonable enough way to resolve an action taken to intimidate a character, if you’re going to allow that action to influence the PC.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
And that determination, as it's binding, is what forces the NPC's decision.

True, though many action declarations will lead to an ability check unless the DM says auto-pass or auto-fail.
Yes, once the DM determines there's uncertainty, the ability check determines the result. But it's still the action, not the ability check, that is influencing the NPC.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
My ideal is that you and your character share the same thoughts. I don’t want to pretend to be intimidated by an orc that I know I can kill without breaking a sweat, because the dice told me to. I want to genuinely be intimidated (on my character’s behalf) because I don’t know what the DM is up to.
If there is no threat, a DM might decide not to call for a check. Right?

Generally though, to my reading everyone is okay with there being game mechanics that do decide what a player character thinks, says, or does. All or almost all are okay with PC ability checks deciding what NPCs think, say or do. Many though are not okay with NPC ability checks deciding what a PC thinks, says, or does. And analysis of RAW diverges on that score.

I think the social skills are deception, intimidation, persuasion, possibly performance, and by implication insight. Deception seems to get a pass for NPCs to use it, because it can be looked at as not changing what a character thinks. I don't share that view, but perhaps it doesn't matter. Insight also gets a pass. I think it likely that many cases involving performance by an NPC will also get a pass.

So we are concerned only about intimidation and persuasion. There are I think valid concerns about the balance of permitting them to be used to override what characters think. Here I intentionally say characters because - thinking of @Lanefan - the power they might confer NPCs is a mirror of the power they might confer to PCs. In fact, I would say that power risks far less disruption in the hands of an NPC! In play, I have seen the social interaction structure in the DMG prove very poorly balanced, so I have a strong sympathy with concerns around the balance of these skills.

Further efforts to settle the legal arguments are likely fruitless unless someone introduces new thinking. Therefore I want to focus more on what happens if - for the sake of argument - intimidation and persuasion were something NPCs can use. That has speedily turned up worthwhile considerations.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
If I've got all these skills listed on my character sheet and I can't use them, what the hell are they there for?
In 5th edition, they’re there to allow you to add your proficiency bonus to a subset of ability checks when the DM calls for them.
If I'm in an in-game situation where I'm trying to intimidate a captive to get some info out of it and I've previously put character-build resources into Intimidate as a skill, I should be able to proactively (i.e. without waiting for DM permission) bring that resource/skill into play somehow. If I can't, then what's the point of it? Why does it even exist?
If you’re playing smart, your goal should be to avoid having to make a roll, rather than actively trying to make one, since rolls can fail. In the unfortunate event that you can’t eliminate the possibility of failure and must make an ability check, your proficiency in Intimidate makes failure on that roll less likely.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Honestly, I’m not a fan of this whole “looking for signs that he is lying” thing. It’s nearly impossible to play that out such that a successful roll isn’t equivalent to a Detect Truth spell.

And the reality is that if you are looking for signs of lying you are going to find them. Even if all you can come up with is that his act is so perfect it must be an act.

I haven’t succeeded much at this in practice, but what I’d like to see is players trying to come up with schemes to actually catch them in a lie. Like my comments in the secret door thread, instead of just making a dice roll in passing, the whole session could consist of springing a trap to catch the NPC in a lie.
I find most DMs' objections to this are actually centered around there being no real cost for failure. It costs nothing to try and failure just means you're back where you started. If there's a meaningful consequence for failure, then I find the objection goes away. Usually what I do is have it where failure means progress combined with a setback (an option for failure under the rules for ability checks): The NPC's body language indicates they are being deceptive, but the NPC notices you notice, altering their behavior to become harder to read going forward. Or gets frustrated and their attitude shifts down a step. Or the NPC breaks off the interaction. Or whatever makes the most sense and also stings.
 

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