What to do when the players fail sense motive


Advice


Not the characters, but the players themselves. When during a conversation with an NPC the GM does such a good job lying to the party that nobody thinks to roll sense motive even though said GM is kind of counting on them to be suspicious of the story. How would you handle such a situation?


Carry on as if everyone trusts them, and plan accordingly. If there ever comes another situation where they may question the NPC, give them a skill challenge or a roll with negative mods.


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Tell them to roll Sense Motive? or "subtly" remind them that it's an option.

Or just let them deal with the consequences of their trustworthy nature.


Interesting question.

I would treat it like the PCs failed Sense Motive.

Why? After all, it's the players that control their arms when they swing their swords - what would you do if, in combat, a player chose to have his fighter stand there and not attack the enemy. Each turn, he just takes a delay action until his turn next round. Would you say the PC still gets actions even though the player isn't taking them? Would your force the player to make his character act?

Of course not.

For stuff like this, the player and the PC are intertwined. They both must succeed (the player to recognize the situation and the PC to make the necessary skill check) for them to detect the deceit.

So now you need a fallback plan. You were counting on them to be suspicious but they bought it. Fine. After the NPC leaves, have some other NPC, maybe a rival of the first one, approach them and laugh at their gullibility and accuse them of being fools to believe such a preposterous story.

Of course, they'll now be suspicious of the second NPC, but maybe now they'll roll some Sense Motive rolls, and when he seems to be what he claims, then maybe they'll finally get suspicious of the first guy. In addition, maybe being laughed at by this NPC might sting a little and help remind them to try those sense motives next time a NPC is regaling them with a story.


Make it a habit to roll Sense Motive secretly. Not only do they not know what they rolled then and can guess from the results if it's true or not, they don't even know a Sense Motive was rolled in the first place.

Let's face it, "Roll Sense Motive" usually is just short for "This guy is lying through his teeth, roll to see if you notice it".
And then you tell the guy who rolled a 5 "He's telling the absolute honest truth" and the guy who rolled a 28 "Oh god, he's lying!", and of course everyone knows what's what now.

Make it a habit to sometimes roll Sense Motive when the other person is honest and give it a DC of 15 or so to recognize that. Anyone who fails it thinks he's lying. That way you prevent situations where "Oh the DM told me he's lying, so must have been a Bluff vs Sense Motive here, so he's lying" is the only logical conclusion.

The comparison with combat is wrong in my opinion, since delaying is actually a conscious decision the player makes. Forgetting to roll Sense Motive isn't. It's forgetting something. Most players don't forget that on their turn in combat they should probably do something.

Also Sense Motive isn't really anything active. It's a passive "gut feeling" or "intuition".

Also if you screw them over like this too often, they'll just start keep rolling Sense Motive on everything. "Good morning sir" - "Oh, is it? I roll Sense Motive!" It really slows the game down.


If your story requires players to be suspicious of something, spot a clue, or figure something out, ALWAYS ALWAYS have a backup way to give them that same information... preferably two ways.

In this instance, they could easily meet an NPC who'd been burned by this guy in the past, or who had a story of his past duplicity to tell.


Calybos1 wrote:

If your story requires players to be suspicious of something, spot a clue, or figure something out, ALWAYS ALWAYS have a backup way to give them that same information... preferably two ways.

In this instance, they could easily meet an NPC who'd been burned by this guy in the past, or who had a story of his past duplicity to tell.

That's what our GM ended up doing, having the opposition party err, violently convince us to come to their hideout to explain what a piece of croc it all is.


Should have 3 ways for any info, but... taking 10 (perception, sense, etc) is a decent, 'they arent looking for it, but may see it' and is usually simple to figure, if you know their modifiers.

If they say they are looking for something, or actively question someone's motives, let them roll, but sense motive is kinda one of those skills that works better in background.


Also, it's a good idea for the GM to have written down the bonuses of each character's "passive checks", that is, things like Sense Motive, Perception and Knowledge checks (the important ones, at least, personally, I only keep track of the ones used to identify creatures, and ask for them to roll a d20, then I add their bonus, if they succeed, they get the information and find out what Knowledge they used to get it).

Assume the character's are taking 10 on these checks all the time, unless a player specifically asks to roll for it, in which case, use his roll.

This gives the PCs a chance to notice whatever they should notice even if their players forget to roll the relevant skill check.


I'd just have them fail, your story continuity should not be reliant on the PCs succeeding a skill check anyway, it should have some impact though or otherwise it might just as well not have been possible to use sense motive.


I am In strong agreement with Quatar in this regard -- treating it as a failed sense motive is not being honest (to me) to what my players have designed their characters to do -- just as they make characters that are stronger then themselves the players, so also do they design them to be more diplomatic or astute or whatever else in other regards, and it's the GM's job (if they're up to it) to acknowledge that.

If you had a player at your table who was a gullible rube, but designed a character to be very observant and empathic -- you'd be doing them a disservice if you made all those skill ranks or items mean less just because of their generous nature... something their characters would certainly should not be caught lacking for. So I say, if it's really important to you (and by asking the question I'll assume it is) -- take note of players sense motive scores and roll off board for them... Give them the hunch that somethings not right, a gut instinct, if you will. That way that will either genuinely get them suspicious and they can make their own sense motive checks (give them a high circumstance bonus if they already passed "intuitively" on your roll) or just let them know that they checked, and passed. Your players will thank you -- The characters are theirs to control, but they are counting on you to help them move through your world -- this is the sort of thing that will help them do that.


DM_Blake wrote:

Interesting question.

I would treat it like the PCs failed Sense Motive.

Why? After all, it's the players that control their arms when they swing their swords - what would you do if, in combat, a player chose to have his fighter stand there and not attack the enemy. Each turn, he just takes a delay action until his turn next round. Would you say the PC still gets actions even though the player isn't taking them? Would your force the player to make his character act?

Of course not.

For stuff like this, the player and the PC are intertwined. They both must succeed (the player to recognize the situation and the PC to make the necessary skill check) for them to detect the deceit.

So now you need a fallback plan. You were counting on them to be suspicious but they bought it. Fine. After the NPC leaves, have some other NPC, maybe a rival of the first one, approach them and laugh at their gullibility and accuse them of being fools to believe such a preposterous story.

Of course, they'll now be suspicious of the second NPC, but maybe now they'll roll some Sense Motive rolls, and when he seems to be what he claims, then maybe they'll finally get suspicious of the first guy. In addition, maybe being laughed at by this NPC might sting a little and help remind them to try those sense motives next time a NPC is regaling them with a story.

I have to disagree with this. Most of the times people play characters that have skills and abilities they do not have. To penalize someone for not using a skill they do not have, but their character does is plain wrong. Do you require you high strength characters to lift heavy objects? Expecting a player to notice what their characters should is the same thing.

There are a couple of ways you can do it. First would be to assume that anyone not asking for a roll is taking 10. This allows characters with a high skill to make most rolls.

The second way you could do it is to just make the roll for them. This works fairly well but a lot of people like to roll for their own characters.

The third way would be to just ask them to roll a d20 without telling them what it is for. Many GM's don't like doing this because they it tips the players off. One way to handle that is to ask for meaningless d20 rolls periodically. Be sure to pay attention to the rolls and pretend to check things to keep them on their toes. Make a big deal out of the fake times and your players will go absolutely nuts.

The Exchange

I used the take 10 method for passive sense motives, as suggested above. This means I just had a number for characters somewhere and referred to it as necessary.

If a player specifically asked to roll, that's when I let them. Speeds up play and allows the character to notice things the player themselves wouldn't.

Cheers


I like the idea of a passive sense motive or perception calculated as if taking 10, though personally I'd assign a -2 circumstance penalty for not actively making the check.


Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
I like the idea of a passive sense motive or perception calculated as if taking 10, though personally I'd assign a -2 circumstance penalty for not actively making the check.

So, is "Take 10" a "Take 8" in other situations as well for you when they don't actively roll?


Quatar, there is a modifier for perception for this.


Quatar wrote:
Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
I like the idea of a passive sense motive or perception calculated as if taking 10, though personally I'd assign a -2 circumstance penalty for not actively making the check.

So, is "Take 10" a "Take 8" in other situations as well for you when they don't actively roll?

If they're actively taking 10, no. It means routine performance of that activity specifically. Only these purely reflexive things would be 'taking 8' and only if they don't declare they aren't actively watching out for things or hidden cues from the speaker. So instead of 'you didn't make the roll so you get nothing' it becomes 'with your keen skills you can tell there's something up even without really trying to catch it".

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