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Questions from soon to be GM


Beginner Box


Hello folks. After reading some books from The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, I couldn't stop my imagination from running wild and decided to start GM'ing so I could let it out :D

For this, I have a couple of questions:

When I want NPCs to lie to the PCs, do I have to secretly roll a sense motive/bluff check for every lie? Would be kinda strange... NPC X talks to the party, tells a lie. I stop talking for a moment to roll the checks and say "OH player X you figure that what he said doesn't really add up." Or how does it work?

What happens when my NPCs are in a town, talk to a person like a guard or whatnot and suddenly decide to attack the guy? I would need the stats for him, however this is possible for every NPC out there. When it somehow works out that they attack an NPC, what do I do then? If it's the village elder, his stats will differ from the guard and all. However that seems very tedious...

What's your opinion on this? When I got more questions I'll ask and I guess that won't take long :D


Notisur wrote:

Hello folks. After reading some books from The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, I couldn't stop my imagination from running wild and decided to start GM'ing so I could let it out :D

For this, I have a couple of questions:

When I want NPCs to lie to the PCs, do I have to secretly roll a sense motive/bluff check for every lie? Would be kinda strange... NPC X talks to the party, tells a lie. I stop talking for a moment to roll the checks and say "OH player X you figure that what he said doesn't really add up." Or how does it work?

What happens when my NPCs are in a town, talk to a person like a guard or whatnot and suddenly decide to attack the guy? I would need the stats for him, however this is possible for every NPC out there. When it somehow works out that they attack an NPC, what do I do then? If it's the village elder, his stats will differ from the guard and all. However that seems very tedious...

What's your opinion on this? When I got more questions I'll ask and I guess that won't take long :D

My advice on this (and I'm not even a GM, I just learn from my own GM at what he does): Let the players have the initiative.

If the Players find something doesn't add up or something doesn't seem right, let them ask/say "I don't think he's telling the truth. I wanna know what he could be hiding" (or something along those lines). By this point, you make the roll, and depending on the results you tell them that the guy seems to be telling the truth (if they fail and the guy really is lying), or that the guy is hiding something (and the PC's interrogate through means of spells that force creatures to tell the truth, or through "persuasive torture").

If the PC's think his story is legit (when it couldn't be), and/or don't take the initiative to figure out if he's lying or not, then keep them in the dark. If they complain about it happening, you should tell them "Well, you didn't think to investigate into his story, so you deal with the consequences it presents."


As for the NPC stats, there is a section within the Gamemastery Guide (or perhaps the Core Rulebook as well) that gives a general list of NPC types and their standard stats. From that point, it's copy-paste, and adjustments as to how you see fit.


Notisur wrote:

Hello folks. After reading some books from The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, I couldn't stop my imagination from running wild and decided to start GM'ing so I could let it out :D

For this, I have a couple of questions:

When I want NPCs to lie to the PCs, do I have to secretly roll a sense motive/bluff check for every lie? Would be kinda strange... NPC X talks to the party, tells a lie. I stop talking for a moment to roll the checks and say "OH player X you figure that what he said doesn't really add up." Or how does it work?

What happens when my NPCs are in a town, talk to a person like a guard or whatnot and suddenly decide to attack the guy? I would need the stats for him, however this is possible for every NPC out there. When it somehow works out that they attack an NPC, what do I do then? If it's the village elder, his stats will differ from the guard and all. However that seems very tedious...

What's your opinion on this? When I got more questions I'll ask and I guess that won't take long :D

Not for EVERY lie... that would get tedious. :p It really depends on the situation. If the NPC is just feeding the party a string of lies, go ahead and go through the dialogue, and roll 1 single opposed bluff/sense motive for everyone. Pay attention to varying degrees of success/failure... if a party member fails by 5 or more, he completely believes the NPC. If a party member fails within 4 of the bluff, he believes the NPC, but thinks that something doesn't quite add up with the NPC's story/claims. If a party member beats the bluff within 4, he knows something's fishy about the guy's story/claims and doesn't believe him. If a party member succeeds by 5 or more, he knows without a doubt the guy is lying through his teeth, and may even gain an insight on the actual truth of the matter based on the lies. (This is how I'd do it, anyway)

If you want to keep things moving along, just compare the party member with the highest result to the NPC's bluff and go from there (make sure that party member is given due credit). If you want to make things interesting with bluff/sense motive, you can even write down what each party member perceives from the NPC and hand the papers out to each party member (this is always fun, but most of the time unnecessary & takes away some game time).

Also, a tip: Make sure you make a list before the game starts of players' Perception, Sense Motive, and whatever else you might need to roll secretly... that way you can just refer to the list whenever a secret roll is made, and all you players know is that you're rolling for something.

Silver Crusade

Notisur wrote:

Hello folks. After reading some books from The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, I couldn't stop my imagination from running wild and decided to start GM'ing so I could let it out :D

For this, I have a couple of questions:

When I want NPCs to lie to the PCs, do I have to secretly roll a sense motive/bluff check for every lie? Would be kinda strange... NPC X talks to the party, tells a lie. I stop talking for a moment to roll the checks and say "OH player X you figure that what he said doesn't really add up." Or how does it work?

So here are some tips:

1st: Understand which rolls need to be made without the player knowing the outcome: Appraise, Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. It's ok that the player knows they are making these skill checks (usually they are initiating the check), but knowing the outcome of the roll will change how they play, so keeping the roll secret is vital.

2nd: Make sure that you write down a few of each party member's skills that would be rolled secretly. This includes Sense Motive and Perception. Not only do sometimes these skills need to be rolled without the players knowing the outcome, but sometimes you need to roll them without the players knowing what skill you are rolling. Just invoking the skill name lets the players know something is up.

3rd: Before the game, take a d20, roll it 20-30 times and write down the results on a sheet of paper in order. Then, whenever an NPC needs to make a roll, like a Bluff for example, you can just look at the 1st number on the sheet and cross it off. This lets you prevents you from giving anything away by rolling dice.

(Inversely, sometimes you should just randomly roll dice for no reason at all. Just to screw with your players. It prevents them from being able to second guess when you are rolling dice for something important and rolling dice to create a red herring)

4th: When doing Bluff/Sense Motive checks, the best way to do so would be to figure out exactly what kind of situation the party is going to be facing?

Is this going to be a simple one-off lie? Give everyone one secret sense motive check to see if they figure it out.

Is this guy going to be telling a string of lies over a period of time? Perhaps give the players a check every minute or every hour that they spend interacting with the NPC depending on the length of interaction.

If it's going to be a REALLY long time, someone who has been betraying the party from the beginning, yadda yadda, then you might get into once/day or week or month territory to figure out something is fishy.

On top of that, if the party finds a context clue, give them another check on the spot.

Notisur wrote:


What happens when my NPCs are in a town, talk to a person like a guard or whatnot and suddenly decide to attack the guy? I would need the stats for him, however this is possible for every NPC out there. When it somehow works out that they attack an NPC, what do I do then? If it's the village elder, his stats will differ from the guard and all. However that seems very tedious...

What's your opinion on this? When I got more questions I'll ask and I guess that won't take long :D

The core rulebook has rules for building NPCs and the Gamemastery Guide has tons of pre-genned NPCs in the back.


Elamdri wrote:
3rd: Before the game, take a d20, roll it 20-30 times and write down the results on a sheet of paper in order. Then, whenever an NPC needs to make a roll, like a Bluff for example, you can just look at the 1st number on the sheet and cross it off. This lets you prevents you from giving anything away by rolling dice.

That's... genius. I've been GMing for years and never once did I think of that. Super good idea.


With NPCs lying, I don't make Bluff rolls unless the player requests to Sense Motive, in which case we then make opposed rolls - in the open. If the player wins, they get a good 'read' on whether the NPC is lying.

The Core Rules NPC building stuff is useful, but you already have a good number of NPCs and reskinnable monsters in the BB - eg Orcs & Orc Bosses make good barbarians and warchiefs. For noncombatant NPCs, you can default to 1st level types as follows:

Everyone has AC 10 and a +0 to-hit bonus, unarmed or weapon as appropriate - a farmer might have a Scythe, a merchant or aristocrat perhaps a dagger or shortsword.

Commoners, regular people - 4 hp (or 1d6), saves at +0.

Experts and Aristocrats, skilled people - 5 hp (or 1d8) Will save +2, other +0.

If desired You can also give the NPC a +2 attribute bonus to any one* stat, eg high STR gives +2 to hit & damage, high WIS gives +2 to Will saves. Trained skills as appropriate, should have a +4 bonus each skill, +6 if it's also a high-stat skill.

*Non-humans get it to 2 stats, as per their race.

So if the PCs decide to attack Mayor Deverin of Sandpoint, I'd use the Expert/Aristocrat line above, probably give her the max 8 hit points as she's quite important. If negotiating with her I'd give her a +2 CHA bonus, with a net +6 on her Diplomacy and +4 on her Sense Motive.

I probably wouldn't give any XP for killing these noncombatant NPCs; maybe CR 1/8 - 50 XP.

For combatant NPCs I'd use the stat blocks in the Monster section, eg a Cleric uses the Evil Cleric stat block, the head of the Town Guard uses the Evil Fighter stat block - regular guards use the City Guard stat block, of course.

Here are some quick NPC rules I did years ago for 3e - http://immortalshandbook.com/simony2.htm - but really for the BB the above is all you should need.


Here's some sample NPC stats I just made up, suitable for Beginner Box play. They are based loosely on the core rules NPC classes, except fotr the bandit they are heavy on relevant skills; light on combat ability.

BEGINNER BOX QUICK NPCs

Human Merchant (Expert): AC 10 HP 5 (or 1d8) CHA+2 Saves Fort +0 Ref +0 Will +2 CR 1/8 (50 XP)
wpn: Dagger +0/1d4 (19-20x2) Skills: Bluff +6 Diplomacy +6 Sense Motive +4 Knowledge (Local) +4

Human Aristocrat: AC 10 HP 5 (or 1d8) CHA+2 Saves Fort +0 Ref +0 Will +2 CR 1/8 (50 XP)
wpn: Unarmed or Rapier +0/1d6 (18-20x2) Skills: Bluff +6 Diplomacy +6 Intimidate +6 Sense Motive +4 Knowledge (History) +4

Human Farmer (commoner): AC 10 HP 6 (or 1d6+2) CON +2 Saves Fort +2 Ref +0 Will +0 CR 1/8 (50 XP)
wpn: Dagger +0/1d4 (19-20x2) or Scythe +0/2d4 (20/x4) Skills: Knowledge (Local) +4, Knowledge (Nature) +4

Human Bandit (Warrior): AC 13 (studded leather) HP 6 (or 1d10) STR +2 Save Fort +2 Ref +0 Will +0 CR 1/3 (135 XP)
wpn: Battle Axe +3/1d8+3 (20/x3) or Short bow +1/1d6 (20/x3)

The Aristocrat is a Mayor Deverin type; for a warrior-noble use the Evil Fighter stat block in the Monsters section.


iamtim wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
3rd: Before the game, take a d20, roll it 20-30 times and write down the results on a sheet of paper in order. Then, whenever an NPC needs to make a roll, like a Bluff for example, you can just look at the 1st number on the sheet and cross it off. This lets you prevents you from giving anything away by rolling dice.
That's... genius. I've been GMing for years and never once did I think of that. Super good idea.

Wow! Holy owlbear crap... that is genius. Totally stealing this idea.


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Hiya.

Ok...I may get some heat from this, but hear me out.

First, make a character sheet that has Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive blacked out. Draw a box around Gather Information.

Second, when you sit down with the players to present the campaign, tell them the campaign is going to be heavy on the role-playing and intregue, and because of that, the above skills are not used other than...

Third, Gather Information only gathers *basic* information; it may provide clues, hints, inclings, suggestions, etc....but it will *NOT* provide you with the name of the head of the super secret underground resistance movment leaders name.

The reasoning for the above is that, as I see it, the skills I mentioned are for "quick n' dirty" results for games in which the standard focus is on adventuring into ruins, caves and dungeons, killing monsters, and taking their stuff. Generally, that style of campaign leads players to want to just sort of "hand wave" (re: make a Sense Motive check, or Bluff check) so that they can get on with the killing and looting. For a campaign that is going to focus on the PLAYERS abilities to solve complex social situations and conundrums, you don't want it to boil down to "I rolled a 26 on my Bluff".

So, that's my suggestion. Drop all the "dice-rolling-for-role-playing" skills if you want to have a good RP/Intregue campaign.

Edit: Pre-Rolling is new? Wow...sometimes I *really* feel old. For added fun, do the same with PC's, but have the players make the rolls before game. I used this on a few occasions back in the 80's (and not just d20's; maybe a half dozen of each die type). Perfect when a character needs to make a save they have no idea they're making. ;)

Edit-Edit: Another tip - throughout a game just roll some dice and scribble stuff down on paper. Every now and then, ask to see one of the players character sheets but don't tell them why. Oh, and for added fun...especially in the campaign style you want to run...write a note on a piece of paper to a player that says something like "Ignore this note, don't show it to anyone. Now hand it back to me after writing 'Something' on it. Thanks!". >:) Variations of the above "secret note" work wonders for intregue/spy/sneaky games. Sometimes have the note ask the player to roll some dice and/or then name a character or prominant NPC's name out loud. Muu-ah-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

^_^

Paul L. Ming


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Pawns Subscriber

I really like all of Elamdri's suggestions, but I go a little bit farther (and I have a LOT of NPC interactions): At the end of ANY conversation that we've roleplayed out with an NPC the characters have just met or don't fully trust, the characters all get Sense Motive checks. I give them a general idea as to how the conversation 'felt', depending on the rolls.

"You get the feeling that what he was telling you was truthful, but he knows more than he was letting on."

"The only strong feeling you got was her sense of disgust at the barbarian. It might have something to do with his aroma..."

"That was a sack of #$%$#^#."

And, as Elamdri says, if it's someone who's traveling with the party on a long-term basis, I move down one time step each time they fail to figure out they're being deceived:
- 1 conversation
- 1 hour
- 1 day
- 1 week
- 1 month
If they've failed all of their Sense Motive checks for a month, it's over. They trust that what the NPC says is true, unless it's so out of line that they specifically ask for a Sense Motive check.

And I'm not going to give Paul Ming any heat at all; each person likes their own style, but I personally don't like lumping skills together. I come from a Runequest background, and I hate to see "hide" and "move silently" bundled into one skill, or "listen" and "spot hidden". So yes, his system is definitely simpler, and might improve game flow. But I'm GMing a group that just spent a 6-hour session last night without a single combat or hostile encounter, and having a bunch of Sense Motive/Bluff checks wasn't disruptive.

Finally, most NPCs are going to be 0th or 1st level, and are going to be easy kills for the PCs. But I try to play my world as a 'real' world and not a scenario. What would really happen if a group of adventurers just started cutting down peasants a la Gamers: Dorkness Rising because it was fun? First, the local authorities would get better troops to send (5-10 second-level fighters). If they lost them, they'd bring in mercs (half a dozen 4th-6th level fighers, with a cleric and a wizard). If those were lost, they'd appeal to the nearest temple, and some high-level paladins would be on the party's trail. Not fun when their actions have already shifted their alignments to Evil...

EDIT: Just saw Paul's "pointless note passing". We have an inveterate note passer in one of the campaigns I'm GMing, and I do *exactly* that! I take players out of the room and tell them, "OK, look depressed and thoughtful when we go back in for no particular reason," or hand notes that say, "Please write something here and then hand it back." But it does depend on the game. My RotRL game involves no note-passing at all, but it's a group that was hand-selected to get along and have no PC friction. (My only complaint is that they're giving away all their loot or donating it to charity, and one of these days they're going to need better equipment.)


pming wrote:

First, make a character sheet that has Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive blacked out. Draw a box around Gather Information.

Second, when you sit down with the players to present the campaign, tell them the campaign is going to be heavy on the role-playing and intregue, and because of that, the above skills are not used other than...

I understand this and agree that it helps immersion a lot. I'll talk to my players about this. Very great idea indeed. It always bugged me that those skills are like a shortcut for players that want to end the talk and just go on killing... like one time when I talked to the NPC ingame and another player said "Just roll the dice for the diplomacy check!"...


Whatever you do, have a few times when you have them roll, for nothing

This is especially fun if they roll for "Bluff" or "Sense Motive" on a Stable Boy, Bar Maid or even an NPC who can have a reason to lie to them.

Have them roll and you roll secretly and no matter what they roll, so, "Oh, you sense they're telling you the truth"

In some cases, have the shopkeeper seem nervous because he's being robbed. The shopkeeper is told if anyone is told his kid/wife/favorite servant/etc will die if he gives the party anything like "Help Me". The more the party presses, the more nervous the shop keeper gets. The party can inadvertently have something bad happen with out realizing it. If they leave, there are many things the party can think about; being cheated is just one of them.

Not every lie or hidden secret has to do with the party. Some people don't want them to know they're cheating on their spouse with the neighbors pretty young daughter

Sometimes the best way to hide things is have many things vie for the party's attention

Shadow Lodge

Another option is to just have set DC's made before the game for specific lies, instead of rolling during the game.

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