So you just don’t use the Insight/Sense Motive skills in your games?

2 thoughts on “So you just don’t use the Insight/Sense Motive skills in your games?

  1. D. Walker says:

    There’s also the fact of meta-game knowledge, and the difference between player ability and character ability.

    A player might find an NPC’s behavior to be incredibly shifty, but if they are playing a character who isn’t as perceptive as they are, they need to make decisions based off what the character would think – not what the player thinks.

    If they have a dim-witted Barbarian with a Wisdom score of 4, it isn’t realistic that they’d be able to read an NPC as well as their sharp and observant player. And if you allow the player to dictate their characters actions based on information the character itself does not posses… well, that’s meta-gaming.

    Of course, even wise and observant characters sometimes fail to notice things. Your normally highly insightful Wizard might end up in some sort of circumstance where they would have disadvantage on detecting fishy behavior in an NPC, and they absolutely should roll.

    It often works the other way too. Sometimes a PC is actually more insightful than the player running them! You shouldn’t penalize a player for failing to detect something shady with an NPC, when their much more insightful character absolutely would pick up on it. Not giving them a roll is punishing them for not actually being the clever and capable heroes they are pretending to be for fun.

    • D. Walker says:

      And of course, even putting everything else aside, there’s always the simple random factor of the dice – you are always at risk of rolling poorly, or even rolling a 1 and critically failing.

      Sudden, unexpected misfortune on a die roll is one of the best tools for creative storytelling in D&D. Your keen and alert Wizard might normally have no trouble reading someone, but by rolling a 1 the players and the DM are tasked with inventing an entertaining reason why this one time – against all odds – they read someone entirely wrong.

      One of my games had the party Rogue interrogating a Drow assassin, who was making smug threats. “Fool! My brothers and sisters are already on their way here! And when I am free, oh, the things I’ll enjoy doing to you…”

      Player rolls insight to get a feel for whether she believes them, and rolls a 1. We decided that she misread the comment entirely – she got momentarily distracted by the Drow’s uncanny beauty, and didn’t quite pay any attention to the bit of the comment about more Drow being on the way. But she did hear the part about “enjoying doing things” and read it as innuendo, and figured that the Drow was attempting to seduce her.

      And so, because of the Rogue’s personality, she blinks in surprise, considers, and decides… why not play along? With a raised eyebrow and a suggestive voice she asks, “Oh, really? What did you have in mind?”

      Now the Drow blinks in suprise, considers, and decides… why not play along? “I’m sure we can think of something we can both enjoy.” And the rest of the interrogation was carried out as a back and forth erotic power play, with both sides trying to get leverage by arousing the other. (The Drow ended up losing his composure in the end, and gave up his secrets in a fit of passion.)

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