Lying and Sense Motive between players. Who rolls?


Rules Discussion


Not sure which way this would go, since contested checks aren't a thing. I'm leaning towards the Sense Motive person rolling, as to not immediately give away the fact that the other PC is lying, but I was wondering if there's any official ruling.


The moving party rolls. The book suggests "secret" rolls for this, and for you to know all of your party's Perception DCs.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Salamileg wrote:
Not sure which way this would go, since contested checks aren't a thing. I'm leaning towards the Sense Motive person rolling, as to not immediately give away the fact that the other PC is lying, but I was wondering if there's any official ruling.

So, the Deception skill says to compare the result of the roll to the Perception DC of the people you're trying to fool.

Sense Motive says to compare the result to the Deception DC of the target.

Rarely does a PC lie in a game without the rest of the players knowing. Especially if they have to look to you to roll the Deception check for them.

Either way, its the active player who makes the check. If the PC wants to deceive the party, they make a deception check. If it beats the Perception DC of the other player, that's how it goes. If that's upsetting to the deceived player, blame the game and move on.

If the Deceived PC learns something new that calls that lie into question, they can take a sense motive action against the Deception DC. What constitutes sufficient evidence is...#askyourGM.

Social skills usually aren't meant to be used on other PCs. Its up to the player to decide if his character believes what another PC is saying.

I probably would just have PCs make opposed rolls against each other, out in the open, so it can be quickly settled. If both people get a chance to roll dice, they'll likely consider it more fair to each other.


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I would just secret roll vs DC as a GM. But I keep commonly used DCs listed behind my screen anyway :)

However RAW the following applies and I actually like that it does.
"no one can ever change the attitude of a player character with these skills. You can roleplay interactions with player characters, and even use Diplomacy results if the player wants a mechanical sense of how convincing or charming a character is, but players make the ultimate decisions on how their characters respond"


It depends on who the active participant is.
Is the lying player hoping to fool the other player? If so, have him roll Deception vs the other player's Perception DC.
If the lying player is just lying, and the listening player wants to see if he thinks the lying player is lying, have him sense motive vs the lying player's Deception DC.


I think the answer to this question depends a lot on the customs of your table. Basically, do the players realize a lie is occuring even when the character's don't? I think it becomes a lot easier if the players know, and at that point you can use the rules as written but not make them secret checks. You should be able to trust your players not to metagame against each other.

If the players don't know, then it becomes trickier. I think it might make the most sense to let the Deceptive character roll both checks in secret when you consider the success conditions of Lie and Sense Motive.

The issue with Sense Motive is that the results of the check are based off the intentions of the character being rolled against, and the only person who is inherently privvy to that is the person playing them. As a GM, I'd have to ask the player to answer that question, and unless we are passing secret notes* that basically reveals the results anyway.Having only the person Lying or being targeted by Sense Motive know what was rolled and sharing based off of that minimizes the amount of meta information being shared. Unfortunately they will know the result of these checks, which they shouldn't, but anything else sans secret notes will basically reveal it anyway.

*Secret Notes can really bog down the game. The more are being passed, the less the players trust each other, and the more Sense Motive checks get rolled, and the more notes get passed. Bad feedback loop.

But the problem is... if you don't trust your fellow players not to metagame, why would you trust them not to fudge the results of the dice behind the screen? Or to take advantage of knowing how well believed they are? I can't see this working long well either.

So as a general rule of thumb I'd say don't Lie to your fellow players even if you Lie to their characters, and you'll avoid this problem in the first place.


Yeah, most of the time this happens the players are pretty sure a lie is happening, but they don't know what the truth is. My friends like to play secretive characters (I'm personally the opposite, I find it fun to play a character who has absolutely nothing to hide) and everyone in the group is okay with that. We also often run mixed alignment parties, as our current group is 5 characters where no two people have the same alignment. But none of that prevents the group from working well together, so we allow it.

As for who rolls, I think I'll just have to keep secret rolls in mind more often. My group hasn't been using them very much.


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I won't allow players to use social skills on other characters. If the other player is inclined to believe you're lying, nothing written on any character sheet or die should force them to change their mind.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
I won't allow players to use social skills on other characters. If the other player is inclined to believe you're lying, nothing written on any character sheet or die should force them to change their mind.

That's definitely another good way to go about it, and something I'm considering.


Best opition is player inform GM of what their going to do and do a secret check, cause otherwise it leaves open to metagaming if players are asked roll against deception.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I won't allow players to use social skills on other characters. If the other player is inclined to believe you're lying, nothing written on any character sheet or die should force them to change their mind.

I dislike this for the opposite reason. It means any player who's bad at picking up on social cues but wants to play a perceptive character is metagamed into a disadvantage in player on player interactions because they don't get to use their character's sense motive.

There's a world of difference between using diplomacy to try to force other players to do things and allowing a character to use relevant skills to get a hunch about something.

Sovereign Court

PossibleCabbage wrote:
I won't allow players to use social skills on other characters. If the other player is inclined to believe you're lying, nothing written on any character sheet or die should force them to change their mind.

While it's true that a player should be the final arbiter of what their character believes, one has to also keep an eye out for metagaming (sometimes unconsciously) by the player as well.

If, for example, the ONLY reason the other PCs have for thinking a particular PC is lying is because of what the players (not PCs) witnessed... sometimes a bit of questioning attitude is called for. Not accusatory, just a simple question of making sure the player isn't jumping to conclusions based on OoC knowledge.


So the main difference is that with humans playing characters interacting with other humans playing characters, it's pretty easy to manage the superposition of "If the previous statement is a lie, then X; if it is true, then Y". But "knowing whether an NPC is lying or not" is generally a binary state.

I mean, since the PCs are going to be spending a lot of time together. If A suspects B of lying, A will have ample opportunities to catch B contradicting themselves or to test the veracity of the statement. I mean, if one player is suspicious of another, no matter how good their deception/bluff roll is... they're still gonna be suspicious.


Again, flip that around. If the player has no reason to suspect a statement is a lie, but it is, they don't get the benefit of their character's superior sense motive score to actually give them that indication at all. Even though that's the whole purpose of that ability in the first place.

That doesn't seem great for that player.


Fundamentally this is something that a GM will always need to decide, but it is a good idea for the GMG to cover the issue. The GM needs to decide very early if the focus of the game is on collaborative play or about about storytelling with a group.

Collaborative play style is going to be heavily jeopardized by characters lying to each other and doing things behind each other’s backs because you don’t want the game to break down into 4 characters with disparate goals attempting to manipulate each other. That stuff makes for interesting fiction but laborious game play and a competitive environment best suited for a different style of game. The characters need to have reasons to trust each other to a level that gets down right boring and absurd for real life or fiction, because you want to avoid having the game be about any 1 character or one interpersonal relationship. In my 25 years of playing, when the table wants to focus on playing through an adventure as a team, and one player starts wanting to make the story resolve around their own characters goals, resentment is not far behind. For collaborative gaming style play, as a GM, I would not let plays attempt oppositional rolls for things related to their character’s relationships, outside of flat checks that both characters agree to for the sake of creating a specific outcome that they are both satisfied with. Otherwise, I’d encourage them to look for a different course of action.

If the whole table is more interested in crafting a complex narrative with lots of subplots, then I’d probably run a more narrative focused game system, but i’d Also make sure everyone knows that the odds of accomplishing a difficult over all plot decreases significantly.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Squiggit wrote:

Again, flip that around. If the player has no reason to suspect a statement is a lie, but it is, they don't get the benefit of their character's superior sense motive score to actually give them that indication at all. Even though that's the whole purpose of that ability in the first place.

That doesn't seem great for that player.

Unless there's a skill feat or class feature I've missed, no one gets passive sense motive checks. So the player has to decide to use it, which means the player has to think something is off already. Because the rules were written for the active player against a set DC a High perception score sets a higher Deception DC, but we can't use those against players so we're back into the chicken or egg.


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Kasoh wrote:
Unless there's a skill feat or class feature I've missed, no one gets passive sense motive checks. So the player has to decide to use it, which means the player has to think something is off already. Because the rules were written for the active player against a set DC a High perception score sets a higher Deception DC, but we can't use those against players so we're back into the chicken or egg.

Not true, that is built into deception.

When someone rolls deception you check vs perception DC, this is 100% a passive sense motive by any other name :P

While it cannot change a player character's attitude a failure still has an effect and grants a circumstance bonus for the rest of the conversation.


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A good rule of thumb is that the active person gets a roll (or secret roll in this case), while a reactive person must use their DC.


I would probably do a case by case decision as you should usually be thrusting the guys you get into and out of life and death situations on a daily basis.

* Petty lie? No check.
* Protective lie? Check probable.
* Lying while under an external effect (e.g. mind control). Check very probable.
* Lie that is critical to the plot because items or information are withold from the group? Definitely check.

Any chase, for the initial lie only the lying party rolls (Deception). If at any time later there is plausible evidence that there might be deception involved active sense motive checks can be called for by the rest of the party.

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