Convincing someone you're telling the truth when you are


Skills & Feats


This has been a perennial problem for every DM I've gamed under as well as for every game I've DMed: what are the mechanics for convincing someone that you're telling the truth when you are telling the truth? It has something to do with Sense Motive and Bluff, but the problem is if you run it like a normal Bluff check, a person who sucks at reading people is more likely to get the picture than someone who's great at it, and if you run it in reverse, having a high Bluff check is bad. Anyone have any ideas on how to adjudicate this? Preferably, there'd end up being a sidebar in the eventual book on this, since it's a pretty common occurrence, I've found, and tricky to work around.

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
BlaineTog wrote:
This has been a perennial problem for every DM I've gamed under as well as for every game I've DMed: what are the mechanics for convincing someone that you're telling the truth when you are telling the truth? It has something to do with Sense Motive and Bluff, but the problem is if you run it like a normal Bluff check, a person who sucks at reading people is more likely to get the picture than someone who's great at it, and if you run it in reverse, having a high Bluff check is bad. Anyone have any ideas on how to adjudicate this? Preferably, there'd end up being a sidebar in the eventual book on this, since it's a pretty common occurrence, I've found, and tricky to work around.

Most people assume somebody is telling them the truth I'd say. So if you've got somebody who is suspicious then a successful sense motive check should let them know you're telling the truth. (DC shouldn't be too high unless it is something so unbelievable yet still true and it isn't an opposed check)

I guess if you need to convince somebody that you're being truthful then diplomacy would be the skill to use.


Wintergreen wrote:
I guess if you need to convince somebody that you're being truthful then diplomacy would be the skill to use.

Diplomacy is the standard "convincing" skill, regardless of what it is you're trying to convince someone of. That includes convincing someone you're telling the truth.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

In at least one published adventure Paizo has used a flat Sense Motive, DC 10, to recognize when someone is telling the truth and actively trying to convey that truthfulness.


Pangur Bàn wrote:
Wintergreen wrote:
I guess if you need to convince somebody that you're being truthful then diplomacy would be the skill to use.
Diplomacy is the standard "convincing" skill, regardless of what it is you're trying to convince someone of. That includes convincing someone you're telling the truth.

I tend to agree that diplomacy is the way to go. You could just do a straight CHA versus their sense motive if they 'get it' then you have communicated it.

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Dennis da Ogre wrote:


I tend to agree that diplomacy is the way to go. You could just do a straight CHA versus their sense motive if they 'get it' then you have communicated it.

And an untrained diplomacy check is a straight charisma check so that would fit with that while still having somebody benefit from being a very convincing communicator (i.e. having ranks in diplomacy).


Telling the truth is Not lying.

To determine if someone is telling the truth, make an opposed roll (bluff/sense motive).

They sense motive.
Since you are not trying to bluff, their DC is 0.
Assuming they roll a 1 or higher, they win. And they determine you are, in fact, not lying.

This is different from Diplomacy because with Diplomacy you are actually trying to convince someone to be your friend. You are trying to adjust their overall attitude towards you, usually from unfriendly (or or worse) to indifferent (or better).

I can hate you and despise you and I can be totally convinced that just as soon as you shut up, then I am going to kill you.
Simultaneously, I can believe that whatever you are saying is true.

Knowing you speak truth doesn't necessarily mean I am more friendly to you. It just means that whatever statement you made, I think you spoke truthfully about it.
(now that truth might also sway my feelings about you- if for example you are saying you didn't kill my daughter and I agree with you- but in that case it's the truth swaying me, not you. I still hate the killer: it just happens that I believe it isn't you anymore. And in fact, I might Still hate you- i just might hate you despite believing you didn't kill my daughter.)

-S

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Dennis da Ogre wrote:


I tend to agree that diplomacy is the way to go. You could just do a straight CHA versus their sense motive if they 'get it' then you have communicated it.

The trouble with this idea is that it implies that you'd have a harder time convincing someone you were telling the truth if you had a higher than average Charisma or if they have a higher than average Sense Motive. In the case of detecting the truthfulness of a true statement, the Charisma/Diplomacy check and the Sense Motive check should be working together, rather than in opposition.

Given that skills working together in d20 is handled with Aid Another, here's an idea: have the listener make an "Aid Another" Sense Motive check, at the usual DC 10. If it works, you gain a +2 bonus on the subsequent Diplomacy check; if the Diplomacy check (with or without the bonus) makes the listener at least friendly to you, they believe you. Otherwise, they're left unsure what to think. You gain the same modifiers to your Diplomacy check that you would gain to a Bluff check telling the same story.

This system, while slightly more complicated than I would like, does have the great advantage of working with the game's already extant rules...


Shisumo wrote:
The trouble with this idea is that it implies that you'd have a harder time convincing someone you were telling the truth if you had a higher than average Charisma or if they have a higher than average Sense Motive. In the case of detecting the truthfulness of a true statement, the Charisma/Diplomacy check and the Sense Motive check should be working together, rather than in opposition.

I don't know what I was thinking with an opposed check, it just doesn't make sense.


The un-opposed method works best because the characters themselves don't know that one guy "didn't oppose", so to speak.

Think about the skills in a "real" situation.
You are talking to someone who you have no history with.

He is telling you something.
You don't know if he's lying.
You don't know if he's telling the truth.

You try to "figure out" by his mannerisms, speech, whatever, whether or not he's telling the truth.

Now if he Is in fact telling the truth, then he's not hiding anything.
Which is in fact no different than him Trying to lie, and succeeding.
(in both cases your "radar" says he's telling the truth).

It's just that when he Is telling the truth, it's alot easier to see it, than when he's actively trying to lie. (because not bluffing is easier than bluffing).

I'll grant the rules don't explicitly state this but it's also the only place in the skills that actively talks about detecting lies and such. Therefore it goes to reason that it's where you'd go to figure out when someone is /not/ lying.

Just remember that you don't KNOW the other guy is telling the truth. You just don't think he's lying.

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

I was thinking that a sense motive check would let you know they're not trying to lie to you. That would be unopposed but if you're suspicious about the other person then they could try and allay your suspicions (by changing your reaction to them from hostile to more friendly) which is what diplomacy is all about.

Liberty's Edge

Wintergreen wrote:
BlaineTog wrote:
This has been a perennial problem for every DM I've gamed under as well as for every game I've DMed: what are the mechanics for convincing someone that you're telling the truth when you are telling the truth? It has something to do with Sense Motive and Bluff, but the problem is if you run it like a normal Bluff check, a person who sucks at reading people is more likely to get the picture than someone who's great at it, and if you run it in reverse, having a high Bluff check is bad. Anyone have any ideas on how to adjudicate this? Preferably, there'd end up being a sidebar in the eventual book on this, since it's a pretty common occurrence, I've found, and tricky to work around.

Most people assume somebody is telling them the truth I'd say. So if you've got somebody who is suspicious then a successful sense motive check should let them know you're telling the truth. (DC shouldn't be too high unless it is something so unbelievable yet still true and it isn't an opposed check)

I guess if you need to convince somebody that you're being truthful then diplomacy would be the skill to use.

And some people will never believe you. Ever.


Under Sense Motive:
"Hunch (DC 20)
This use of the skill involves making a gut assessment of the social situation. You can get the feeling from another’s behavior that something is wrong, such as when you’re talking to an impostor. Alternatively, you can get the feeling that someone is trustworthy. "


True, but the "never" scenario doesn't work well in D&D where a high enough diplomancy check can make someone your practical thrall.

If the DM has an NPC who will never believe the PC's then the dice rolling is just to make the PC's think the DM is following the rules. (not that there is anything wrong with an NPC who refuses to believe the PC's- but it does contradict the rules).

Besides, the skill checks just tell you what you are sure of.

Lets say for example that you tell me the sky is purple.
You win the opposed check. I don't think you are lying.
I am still free to not trust you.
Just because I don't think you aren't lying doesn't mean you aren't.
And I can be fully awarae of that. Maybe you are just so good at lying that I can't tell.

While the PC says "I am telling the truth, so I won't oppose the roll" the NPC doesn't know that.
(and vice versa.. if the PC wants to check someone's truthfulness, the DM should roll a die behind the screen even if the DC is 0).

Absent spells, you never really know if someone is actually lying. All you know is whether or not You can Tell if they are lying.

-S


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I just have the PC roll a sense motive check. And then I tell him that "The guy seems pretty sincere" whatever the result of the check. But then, I tell them the same thing when they fail their sense motive checks and the guy is bluffing too. ;)

With a higher sense motive check than a lower one, I'll give more info. "He seems sincere, even earnest, in what he's saying."
"He's not giving off any clues that he's being evasive, as far as you can tell."
And for a really high roll:
"He seems to be absolutely convinced of what he is saying."

If you give the players no clues that the NPC is lying and the PCs don't believe you anyway, that's their problem...

Dark Archive

What happens when the other person flat-out refuses to believe your truthful statement?

For instance, say that a friend, who isn't me, was shopping with his girlfriend and saw some woman he used to work with, and said, unthinkingly, 'Wow, she's lost a lot of weight,' and his girlfriend said, 'Are you saying that I'm fat?'

What would I, er, that friend, need to roll to convince my, er, *his* girlfriend, need to roll to convince her that he's wasn't saying what he didn't say, but she's now convinced that he meant?

Or will euclidean dice prove useless in this situation, and should I pray for divine intervention?


Pray my friend, pray. Dice won't save you now.

In all seriousness though-

I have a relative who can't tell the truth.
At noon, if they say the sun is up, I look outside to check.

Now, they can say anything they want. Whether I can "tell they are lying" or not, I won't believe them. It's not a matter of my ability to discern truth in another person, its a matter of my having decided not to trust them. (in this case, due to past experience).

Lets coin an in-game example.

the BBEG comes to your character and says
'I will let your sister free, unharmed, if you will deliver the Device of Doom. I know your little group has it. Bring it to me, and she will go free'.

Now- You can roll all the dice you want. the PC can be terrible at sense motive and the BBEG can be telling the truth- but that doesn't mean you have to believe them. All B/SM does is tell you if Your perception informs you of their falsehood. That's it. Period. It doesn't make you believe them. It doesn't make you change your mind.

If you want to actually KNOW whether the person is telling the truth, cast zone of truth and other such spells.

Skills will only tell you whether or not you can detect their lying. As such, they do have a certain inherent unreliability to them.
(basically- they never tell you someone is speaking the truth. All they tell you is whether or not you can detect a lie).

-S


I call it the DC 20 use of sense motive for a Hunch. If the person is actively being honest with you (not just being honest, but trying to prove that he is and citing examples why) then the DM Best Friend -4 to DC could come into play.

Personally, I think these DCs are a little high, relative to "reality", but the social skills are the hardest to quantify anyways, so I won't worry too much on that front.


The way to detect a lie is with an opposed test (Sense vs. Bluff). Whoever is betting at their respective skill "wins." You're basically setting a high DC for your opponent to beat.

The opposite mechanic is in play when you try to tell the truth. Instead of setting as high a DC as you can, you're trying to set a low DC. So roll a Charisma check and subtract that number from 20. That's the DC of the Sense Motive check.

That might work at low levels, but it wouldn't scale, I think.


Whatever the mechanic, I think it needs to be more difficult to judge the "truthfulness" of someone with low Charisma. No matter how hard they try, they just come across as shifty and untrustworthy due to their poor personalities and social skills (this perceived "untrustworthiness" could indeed be the cause of a low Charisma for someone of otherwise average appearance).

Rez


Honestly, like it's been suggested, Sense Motive is how you resolve this. With a Sense Motive, you can tell if someone is lying. There is NO way (even in real life) to know if someone is telling the truth. You know that someone is untruthful by certain body language (thus the Sense Motive).

The main problem is that many players tend to metagame at least a little (if not a whole lot). They assume that the bad guys are untruthful or that a particular NPC is holding information back because the story must continue. I have had players that even when their Sense Motive check doesn't reveal that someone is untruthful, they just automatically assume that the person is untruthful anyway (regardless of their roll).

It's the same logic that explains that if an NPC has a diabolical sounding name, he *MUST* be evil (in the mind of players). As long as players make correlations in games based on their past gaming experience, this will continue to happen. There is just no solution to this.


I dunno Rez.

That sorta thing is difficult because it can lead to wrong conclusions based on nothing having to do with whether or not they are tellin the truth.

You are basically saying that someone with poor communication skills should both find it difficult to lie, and difficult to tell the truth.
It can't be both.

If someone can't lie with a straight face then it's not hard for it to be noticed when they are tellin the truth.
If someone can lie the green off a dollar bill then telling the truth also wouldn't pose a problem for them.

The "trick" here is that if it's an NPC doing the truth telling, the DM should NOT tell the PC's what the DC is. He doesn't tell them the DC is 0.
He just has the PC Roll, and the DM rolls behind the screen, and announces what the player perceives.

If it's the player doing the convincing, then remember that knowing someone isn't lying, and trusting them, are not the same thing.

You can be such a good liar that I can't tell you are lying- but that doesn't mean I necessarily believe you. Why? Because I am aware that some folks are so good at lying that I can't tell.
The super-uncharismatic person, to me, would be sorta like that individual. General "untrustworthies" would also fall into that category. (the orc showing up to the frontier fort claiming he's seeking sanctuary would be another. He may be a good liar, but they still may not believe him), and so on.

-S


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Selgard wrote:

Telling the truth is Not lying.

To determine if someone is telling the truth, make an opposed roll (bluff/sense motive).

They sense motive.
Since you are not trying to bluff, their DC is 0.
Assuming they roll a 1 or higher, they win. And they determine you are, in fact, not lying.

I don't see how the Sense Motive DC could be 0 for something like this — ever heard of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? ;) If someone is trying to convince someone that they are telling the truth, then that means the person making the sense motive check is already having some level of suspicion over the veracity of the claims they are hearing.

"Please, You have to let me speak to the king, I have urgent news for him," says the shady-looking adventurer to the palace guard,

Regardless of whether the adventurer is telling the truth or trying to bluff, there's no way I'd allow that adventurer's DC to be set at 0 for that interaction unless they were a renouned hero of the realm known to everyone in the kingdom. Even then, whether or not the guard believes the adventurer merely sets the DC for the subsequent diplomacy check needed for them to actually take further action.

IMO, using Rich Burlew's version of the Diplomacy skill is much better-suited to resolving this sort of impasse.

Even without Burlew's rules, I agree with using the Hunch mechanic as a starting point. Decrease the DC by increments of 2 if the person seems trustworthy (visibly belongs to an organization with a code of conduct, has a positive reputation in the area, etc), further decrease it if the person making the SM check has had positive previous dealings with the subject. Likewise, increase the Sense Motive DC if the reverse is true (i.e. the guard is dealing with a rogue he's previously arrested for stealing an old lady's purse while the guard observed them yet the rogue tried to lie about it anyway).

Just remember that the issue of trust is possibly separate from the Diplomacy check needed to get someone to take action. In essence, trying to get someone to believe You is fundamentally an effort to modify the DC of an upcoming Diplomacy check.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

*nods*

If you have to convince someone of the truth, Diplomacy seems to be the skill to be using.

I like Sense Motive DC10 to determine if someone that's being truthful is truthful or not. But then again.. there are those people that refuse to believe the truth.. even if they know it's the truth, especially if the source isn't trustworthy.


I'd go the 'Sense Motive' route, and then if that failed, I'd allow them to try again with a diplomacy check (which if successful, the 'convincee makes a second Sense Motive roll).

That allows you to use Diplomacy as a back-up when all else fails.


Sense Motive seems wrong to me, since not everyone you're trying to convince will be making an effort to determine whether you're lying or not. The effort will always come from the person trying to convince someone, not from the person that needs to be convinced.

IMO the best (but unfortunately not most practical) solution is a fixed DC, modified by the DM as the situation warrants (how hard the story is to believe, how much incentive the other party has to believe/disbelieve you, etc.). A high Sense Motive bonus for the target could be a part of these modifiers. And just as with Bluff the target wouldn't be absolutely convinced, but would get the strong impression you're telling the truth if you succeed.


I completely agree that the DC20 "hunch" seems to be the way the RAW handles it.

But... isn't that a bit too hard? Even if you give the DC a -4 for circumstance (or if you prefer, the sense motive-er a +4 bonus), your average commoner still needs to roll a 16 to succeed, meaning that they still think you're lying 3/4 of the time.... which, mechanically, makes it far easier to make them believe a lie than it is to make them believe the truth.

Erm.. also, why would you give somebody a circumstance mod "because they're actually telling the truth" when that's what the check was for in the first place?! You wouldn't. That means the average person succeeds in recognizing the truth only 5% of the time. Rediculous.

Which would seem to imply that the DC should be set very low.. say.. DC 5. Unfortuanately that's problematic from the other end when PCs try to get a hunch if someone is trustworthy. They'll succeed almost all the time, especially if they have any wisdom or sense motive. PCs will assume that if they don't "recognize someone as telling the truth" that the NPC is lying, thereby blowing bluff out of the water. The higher the DC, the less you get of this problem, but the more you get of problem #1. A 'happy medium' at DC 10 is the worst of both worlds, low-mid level PCs will never fail, commoners still only understand half the time.

Should it be diplomacy? Well, possibly. It seems to make flavorful sense. "Convincing" is diplomacy, right? Whether I'm convincing the guard to look the other way for a minute for a cool 10gp, or convincing someone I'm telling the truth. But right now there is no mechanic for that.

I suppose I would say that if you can get their attitude adjusted to being "indifferent" for situations that there is not much consequence for, and is not too outlandish, they believe you. Perhaps friendly for either truths that are difficult to believe, or truths that might have dire consequences (letting you in to see the King, alone.), and helpful for truths that are both difficult to believe *and* might have dire consequences.

Dark Archive

Rezdave wrote:
Whatever the mechanic, I think it needs to be more difficult to judge the "truthfulness" of someone with low Charisma.

I kind of agree with this. People with low self-esteem or less than stellar social skills would be more likely to 'seem shifty' due to their nervousness in a social situation (especially a stressful one!).

Kinda reminds me of those people who get so flustered under pressure that lie detectors are useless on them, since they register as lying their butts off if asked the color of the sky or who is President.

The higher Charisma person is going to come off as more confident and at ease when being truthful, much as they do when they are lying...


I think I would start with a Sense Motive bse DC of 20. The person who tries to persuade the other that he's telling the truth makes a diplomacy check to influence his credibility in the others eyes, as if making a check to influence his attitude.
Instead of the attidude rating hostile, unfriendly, indifferent, friendly, and helpful, the credibility ratings are unreliable, untrustworthy, indifferent, trustworthy, and reliant. For each category better than unreliable, the DC 20 is lowered by -4.
Usually, the credibility rating is the same as the attitude rating.

You only make a check if the story seems outrageous, the other person deperately wants to deny the truth, or the other person has good reasons to belive he would be lied to.

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