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Atraangelis

Deception, how do you hide this from the PC's so they dont meta the dice pool.

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Hi Gm's so i have a situation.

I have an evil NPC that is gaining the trust of the party. This has been through regular roleplay none have questioned the NPC's loyalty. 

But.. now someone has, they have become suspicious and wanted to ask the NPC flat out if they were something else. 

The NPC is REALLY GOOD at deception and has a high Discipline. The player wants to do an opposed roll, and by doing so would reveal how good the NPC is at what she does, by metaing the dice pool.

How do you get around hiding power traits of NPC's??? like this. 

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Short of misrepresenting or hiding the NPC's pool, there really isn't any way to conceal skills and characteristics.

Of course, high Willpower/Discipline or even Cunning/Deception aren't in and of themselves some kind of mark of evil, especially if the NPC is worldly, or if their motivations are complex. On the other hand, if the NPC is a wolf dressed as Sweet Ol' Grandma...that's a trope with a limited lifespan, and best let the mask drop soon to get on with the campaign.

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I am largely against the GM doing hidden rolls, an in fact lie down my screen so that everything is open (I am not the enemy)

However, this might be an exception. have the PC roll the positive dice, and you as the GM roll the negative dice hidden, and tell them the final result.

Pass or fail, this will keep the skill of the NPC secret. Knowledge of which could impact follow up checks.

of course, the downside of this is the fact that your hiding it means the Players get a bit of meta foreshadowing that the NPC is not who they seem.

 

 

 

 

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Are you concerned that they may find out the truth because they will see the good Deception pool? If that's the case, can you provide another reason why your NPC might be good at deceiving others? Of course, having a high deception doesn't automatically mean they are lying

Additionally, just because a PC fails their Discipline check, doesn't have to mean the NPC is lying, it just means the PC can't tell whether or not they are. I've had the opposite problem where an NPC is telling the truth, but my PCs are still suspicious and roll an opposed Discipline only to fail. I remind them that they failed a Discipline check, though the NPC wasn't necessarily trying to deceive them.

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This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation.  If you show it, they know how good the NPC is.  If you don't, then it suggests you're hiding something important, especially if you usually roll openly.  Players (at least mine) will overthink this no matter which way you slice it, plus there might also be the suspicion that you are not being forthright with the results.

In the end I think it's better to just roll openly.  If the NPC is good at Deception it doesn't mean they are a liar to the PCs, in the same way the PC with good Deception isn't lying all the time.  Plus you can always use threat/despair on the PC's roll to come up with a reasonable alibi, eg:  "Ok, fine, I lied about that.  But I'm trying to keep my family out of this mess, so I was late for the meetup..."

Now that I think about it, it's less about the roll than just getting ready for the reveal.  Players seem to not be able to let go of certain ideas once they have them, it's probably best to be prepared for the fallout.  Surely the NPC is going to sense the PCs are getting suspicious, and take appropriate action.  They might even lay a breadcrumb trail for the PCs to "stumble across" to legitimize what they are saying (news articles, documents, images, etc).

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This is something I have wondered and struggled with for a while.

A related question is "How do you convince someone of something true?" If the answer is Charm, then they don't necessarily know if you are rolling for Charm or for Deception. If the answer is Deception, then it's a matter of success=PCs buy it, failure=PCs don't, whether it is the truth or not. I would make the NPC the acting character, meaning that he rolls the positive dice.

With my in-person game, I have set precedent of "Okay, I'm going to remove all the negative dice from the table and hide them while I roll the difficulty so you can't know how difficult it is or what the result was."* but I communicate with them to explain why. I also have a reputation for truthfulness and fairness, so that helps.

In this situation, I think I would hide the positive dice, having the PCs roll the negative dice, then I'd tell them what their characters think about the situation, rather than telling them the results or discussing Threat/Despair. That way they don't really know what's up.

Example: 3 Success, 2 Threat (NPC telling the truth): You think he's telling the truth, but some suspicion is still nagging at you. 1 Failure, 2 Triumph (NPC lying): He's lying, but [insert good explanation for why]. In both cases, the PCs aren't aware of the Threat or the Triumphs, even if they may be able to guess.

 

*This is often for knowledge checks or examination checks so that they don't know that they rolled a Despair and that I didn't tell them about the minefield, or that that isn't a harmless house cat and it has deadly venom.

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Players who use meta information will do it, no matter what you do. So it really doesn't matter. Probably still the best to hide your half of pool, so they only have their side of knowledge. This way you can still surprise them if it is your wish.

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How about allowing the roll in the open, but tell them you are flipping a Destiny Point to make it harder for them (you aren't, but it might explain the dice pool to the players). I realise that this is effectively metagaming the players, in order to stop them metagaming the dice pool, but it might work.

Of course, you cannot control the actual result of the roll, so it might be that the NPC reveal comes a little early no matter what.

 

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Issue with hiding the pool is that it's immediately more suspicious then anything else you could ever do. No one else has their rolls hidden, why just this NPC? The phrase "kill your darlings" comes to mind, most writers have to be prepared to put their characters through he.ll to get a decent story out of it. Same here, a PC is suspicious so an investigation is inevitable where the schemes villainous is uncovered, at the moment you are possibly too determined to get that *exact* outcome where no amount of investigation can change the end goal.

My suggestion? Don't mind it a roll. The PC in question would need some hard evidence that this NPC is up to something as the NPC has such a tight alibi that nothing they are asked at this juncture could give away their crime. But they have had to do some footwork to make the betrayal mean something; even a master mind has to leave some trace that is simply overlooked in implementation. The nature of the trace depends on exactly the kind of betrayal the NPC is pretending, but rather then rejecting any opportunity for an investigation make that PC work for it. Perhaps even have this as a solo session where they alone might end up getting in deep and work in the unveiling that way; the PC acting out of line has forced the villain to deploy the trap before time and has turned a clean transition into a battle of survival. Either that or being directly accused might walk them a step back, removing any evidence of wrong doing for when that PC tries to investigate down the line.

That and it's worth sometimes including a random NPC who is particularly good at something, negation, piloting e.c.t. That aren't actually as important as their skill indicates; they are just a character who just happens to be great at what they practice.  Same practice here, if they are used to the idea of skilled NPC's then having one in their amidst wouldn't be unusual.

Edited by LordBritish
Stupid censor.

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Steal from Genesys. When the player asks to discern if an NPC is untrustworthy. Tell them to roll a vigilance check vs the NPCs deception.

Do this every time a player asks, regardless of the NPC is actually trustworthy or not. You can even explain as you hand them the dice that "The character could be quite trustworthy or a sith in disguise. Regardless, this will be a vigilance check with XXXX difficulty". The difficulty is based on just how unreadable the NPC is. Just because it is based on deception, does not mean the NPC is actually deceiving. Anything beyond that is irresponsible bordering on metagaming.

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so, my two cents...

Dice should NEVER be used as a lie-detector.  In d&d5e they joke about INTUITION TO DETECT LIE.

The big complaint is that it undercuts the player's ability to actually role play think in the characters' shoes when they can just pull back the curtain.

The only reason I think it should be used to determine this is if the Player has something to the effect of PROBE HIS MIND WITH THE FORCE where there's zero way to lie.

...

Being said, here's my alternatives (what I run with in campaigns)

  • perception/intuition/etc should only reveal how the other character is behaving.  However, this SHOULD have the possibility to lead to false positives (like how the internet assumes the dev of No Man's Sky was a total liar, when really he's just an extreme introvert who can't even answer a simple question like "what's your position in the company" without wriggling).  In your case, a failure could simply means he flinches .. or he plays off a failure as offense.
  • FACT CHECKING against lies is actually a far better idea, and makes use of the under-utilized Intelligence stat blocks.  So your NPC says "MYEEEESSSS, THESE ARE HONEST IMPERIAL PLAAAANS, there's a contact in tatooine", your PCs could do the appropriate checks to see if that lines up with what they've heard in the underground.  That way they still have to make their own personal call, but they back it up with logic or reason.
  • ... I know I've done other stuff, but I'm forgetting them atm.

And if all else fails, just set a difficulty in your head and LIE.  If they get 1 success, but needed 3, just say "eh, he seems honest, I guess."  and start intentionally giving them mixed signals in your answers.

 

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I know I am going to be the odd man out, but I am one of those that hides my rolls behind my screen. All of my players come from a D&D background and are used to it, but I am very forthright with my results (most of the time... the exception being an over or undertuned homebrew creation in most cases)

Because of this, I never have to worry about my players having to meta the dice, and have been deceived by the same character in two different campaigns (despite having several hints throughout and only figured it out at the very end before the big reveal). They are experienced enough that they can often tell a lucky roll vs a very one sided one, and in several cases, I have shown my rolls that were very much against the odds. I find it keeps the suspense high and allows me to keep the mystery of their enemies. It's not for everyone, but it works at my table and have yet to run across any complaints from my players.

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7 hours ago, kaosoe said:

Steal from Genesys. When the player asks to discern if an NPC is untrustworthy. Tell them to roll a vigilance check vs the NPCs deception.

Do this every time a player asks, regardless of the NPC is actually trustworthy or not. You can even explain as you hand them the dice that "The character could be quite trustworthy or a sith in disguise. Regardless, this will be a vigilance check with XXXX difficulty". The difficulty is based on just how unreadable the NPC is. Just because it is based on deception, does not mean the NPC is actually deceiving. Anything beyond that is irresponsible bordering on metagaming.

This is excellent advice!

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22 hours ago, Atraangelis said:

The NPC is REALLY GOOD at deception and has a high Discipline. The player wants to do an opposed roll, and by doing so would reveal how good the NPC is at what she does, by metaing the dice pool.

How do you get around hiding power traits of NPC's??? like this. 

I roll the bad dice behind a screen, PC rolls the good dice. I then tell them the final results (ex: 2 successes with 1 threat). They don't get to see what dice the other side rolls. But, they may be able to make some assumptions from their roll. For example, if they roll amazingly and still fail, then the NPC got really lucky or they are really good.

I also roll the bad dice behind the screen for unknowns such as rolling Perception vs searching for traps.

ETA: I don't roll the bad dice behind a screen for everything, just the above rare situations.

Edited by Sturn

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1 hour ago, Sturn said:

But, they may be able to make some assumptions from their roll. For example, if they roll amazingly and still fail, then the NPC got really lucky or they are really good.

I know I'm quoting myself, but just to add, I think this part is actually a good thing. It's realistic. There should be clues about what is going on.

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I would make this a PCs Cunning or Streetwise vs an unnamed difficulty, rolled by the PC. Deception should never be mentioned, as the PC is not the one ultimately deceiving in this scenario.

 

Players that min/max munchkin the experience are troubling to deal with; making the checks about only their skills takes a lot of their "Clue" type deduction out of the equation.

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6 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

This system is all about players knowing things that their characters do not and being mature enough not to have their characters act on such knowledge. It's in the nature of the shared narrative experience.

This is why I use 1/2 blind rules rarely.

LETTING PLAYERS ROLL ALL THE DICE

#1: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there is a trap. I've pre-figured a Perception check vs. 2 difficulty to spot it. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I say ok and hand him 2 purple dice. The scout fails at the roll. But, he knows there is actually at trap since I handed him 2 dice instead of just saying, there aren't any. Are the players expected to march to their dooms or they aren't mature players?

#2: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there isn't a trap. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. Since I don't have a difficulty set (there's no trap), I say I don't have any difficulty dice to hand over, revealing there isn't a trap at all?

I ROLL THE BAD DICE, THEY ROLL THE GOOD DICE

#1: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there is a trap. I've pre-figured a Perception check vs. 2 difficulty to spot it. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I say ok and tell the scout to roll the good dice. I pick up 2 difficulty dice from behind my screen and roll them then compare the total results. It's a failure. I tell him, "You don't see any traps". As it should be, he doesn't know for sure. The players have an interesting decision regarding trusting the scout's roll or not before entering the passage.

#2: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there isn't a trap. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I have them roll the good dice. I pretend I'm rolling difficulty dice behind the screen. Regardless of success or failure (there isn't a trap), I say, "You don't see any traps". The players have an interesting decision regarding trusting the scout's roll or not before entering the passage.

I much prefer the mystery of the unknown, just like in real life, as opposed to forcing them to decide on a march to doom vs. role-playing shame.

Edited by Sturn

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16 minutes ago, Sturn said:

#2: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there isn't a trap. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I have them roll the good dice. I pretend I'm rolling difficulty dice behind the screen. Regardless of success or failure (there isn't a trap), I say, "You don't see any traps". The players have an interesting decision regarding trusting the scout's roll or not before entering the passage.

Or perhaps you roll the same difficulty as if there were traps, and on a success you tell them "you are confident that there are no traps." Then, they either assume they failed with Despair and high-tail it outta there (meta-gaming), or traipse down the hall without a care in the world.

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8 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

This system is all about players knowing things that their characters do not and being mature enough not to have their characters act on such knowledge. It's in the nature of the shared narrative experience.

That, but also I think there is way too much angst over what the players know, or rather what the GM fears the player might know.  I roll everything openly, and while I still sometimes get players trying to second-guess what the pool means, the truth is there are so many options they have mostly given up by now trying to read too much into it.*  They are almost always wrong, or if I'm feeling really devious, I can just make them wrong and change the situation.  Or even if they were wrong, but I think it's a really cool idea, I will make them right, which is often more rewarding.  If they don't know, it can't hurt them, and if the players have fun, well, that's the main thing.

--------------------

* At one point they were sure somebody was following them, perhaps reading too much into my narrative description of a busy street in a place they didn't know.  They wanted to roll to see if they could spot someone following them.  There was nobody, so I made up a random pool on the spot, turned out to be RRRP.  They nearly passed a brick, wondering who or what was after them.  Despite that, they succeeded (with Threat, for which I handed out Strain for their paranoia) and I told them "you are absolutely sure, nobody is following you."  They got the point after that (mostly) that trying to read too much into the open roll is futile.

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16 hours ago, Sturn said:

This is why I use 1/2 blind rules rarely.

LETTING PLAYERS ROLL ALL THE DICE

#1: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there is a trap. I've pre-figured a Perception check vs. 2 difficulty to spot it. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I say ok and hand him 2 purple dice. The scout fails at the roll. But, he knows there is actually at trap since I handed him 2 dice instead of just saying, there aren't any. Are the players expected to march to their dooms or they aren't mature players?

#2: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there isn't a trap. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. Since I don't have a difficulty set (there's no trap), I say I don't have any difficulty dice to hand over, revealing there isn't a trap at all?

I ROLL THE BAD DICE, THEY ROLL THE GOOD DICE

#1: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there is a trap. I've pre-figured a Perception check vs. 2 difficulty to spot it. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I say ok and tell the scout to roll the good dice. I pick up 2 difficulty dice from behind my screen and roll them then compare the total results. It's a failure. I tell him, "You don't see any traps". As it should be, he doesn't know for sure. The players have an interesting decision regarding trusting the scout's roll or not before entering the passage.

#2: Party approaches a passage and they fear of traps. I know there isn't a trap. A scout player decides to use Perception to look about the passage before entering it. I have them roll the good dice. I pretend I'm rolling difficulty dice behind the screen. Regardless of success or failure (there isn't a trap), I say, "You don't see any traps". The players have an interesting decision regarding trusting the scout's roll or not before entering the passage.

I much prefer the mystery of the unknown, just like in real life, as opposed to forcing them to decide on a march to doom vs. role-playing shame.

 

16 hours ago, P-47 Thunderbolt said:

Or perhaps you roll the same difficulty as if there were traps, and on a success you tell them "you are confident that there are no traps." Then, they either assume they failed with Despair and high-tail it outta there (meta-gaming), or traipse down the hall without a care in the world.

I agree with @P-47 Thunderbolt. Another example: you set the same difficulty, and, if they fail, you simply tell them that they can't tell if there are traps or not. 

The same with a Deception check. If they fail, tell them that they can't tell if he's lying or not. Say, he might be, he might not be. They don't know. 

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Something that I've done: The Deceptive dice roll.

If you know it's coming, make the check away from the RP Table.

And if the success for the NPC is REALLY good, put out an easier more believable check (Like vs RP) and then you should report, "Nope everything is on the up and up."

Another option, if you are surprised is to give the player a check of VS RP (or any other reasonable opposition pool) and while the players are focused on the player's pool, then casually grab the rest of the opposition dice and role those in secret.  So while the player return with a result like 1 success and 2 advantages, you know as the GM that the real result is 7 failures and 2 threat (for example).

 

This helps if you, as a GM, also grab groups of dice randomly and roll dice for no reason.

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I feel you have to hide certain dice rolls or you loose some of the uncertainty.  If players always know when they fail certain things just don't make sense to me.  For example...player is looking for a good sniper position.  If the player rolls all the dice they know that they didn't find a good spot.  But if the dice roll is hidden (my bias) then I get to narrative the heck out of it.  3 failures with 4 advantages?  "Not only is this a very poor spot but there is a police station across the street."  3 failures with 4 threats?  "You have found a great spot!" (Same location as before.) 

Seems to me that with some things the player knowing failure means they just keep trying, while there should be situations where the player believes there is success, but is just flat out wrong.  I'm certain that all of us have been in a situation where we were 100% sure of something, but were wrong.  I feel hidden dice can be used to create that effect for the players.

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