Just starting out as a GM (Mouse Guard and otherwise). In our last session a player asked “Can I discern if she is hiding something, or is there more to what she says?” - she being an NPC. I was stumped to what ability or skill to use, and how. In Dungeon World I would have said “That sounds like a Discern Realities move, go ahead and roll”. Later I thought that maybe Will vs Manipulator would have been reasonable, although somehow that feels sort of the other way around (resisting the manipulator, rather than actively trying to see through the manipulator).
I’ve seen this discussed over Discord also. My chime-in is that it should not incur a dice roll to discover if a mouse is lying or attempting deceit or manipulation. But, there are some reasons to get deeper.
NPCs have things to hide. This makes good logical sense, and they may want to hide true things from the cloakmice who might judge them for it. I won’t fault any GM for that, but I will say that it is not a fruitful test. It could be a test of Persuader/Manipulator Vs Will to induce an NPC to offer the truth (but maybe not to determine if it is truth); in such a test, success allows the PC to gain the truth, while success w/ condition may allow PC to gain the truth with Angry or Tired. Cause learning the truth might create anger and upset, or it could be a long night of interrogation to learn the truth.
Players need info to make decisions. Hopefully, this makes good sense and fair logic. In this case, you could say, “here’s what you know is true, and here is what you are being told.” You could put it another way, “the character knows this much, but there is more to be learned about the circumstances.” Also, I feel it is appropriate to alert the player directly, such as, “this mouse tries liying to you by saying, ‘blag blah,’ and you already know that seems false based on things you already know.” In other words, invite the players to be co-authors with you in the game by giving those clear indicators of third-person omniscience about the circumstances of the characters. Sure, some will use that to advantage, but it is a game for everyone to tell a story. Invite the players to join in the story telling.
Dice are going to be fickle regardless. And, this is an interesting spot to consider an example. I guided a group though a thorny situation. The patrol was met by a charlatan who requested help from the patrol in capturing and escorting a ‘known thief’ from Grasslake to Rustleaf. I tried to give them clear indicators this guy was not truthful, but was sincerely telling them his believed viewpoint on the circumstances. He believed she had stolen from him, and he wanted her brought to Rustleaf to face laws there rather than make his case in Grasslake.
The patrol didn’t really spend a moment to check out what he was talking about, so they arranged a well-executed snatch-n-grab of this youthful mouse while she was baking with her cousin in the home. I mean, they really did a thorough job describing the assault on the house and their operation. Once captive, they still didn’t ask her anything about the circumstances. They just bound her and took her under escort toward Rustleaf.
I had thought they would behave differently, and I thought the dice might come up with enough cowards I could slow them down and encourage them to get an explanation. But, it turned into a really neat session regardless.
If you really want to have players with knowledge of the truth, making decisions based on truthful facts, you’ll need to give it to them rather than hope they will ask for it.
Since you were fortunate to have a player ask, you should keep it in mind that the NPC can still lie and manipulate, but you can still tell players the truth. Some will act on that, some will look for a way to discover it.
But discovering the truth is different than convincing a mouse to tell the truth. For convincing, use Persuader or Manipulator Vs Will or Persuader/Manipulator. If the NPC is actively trying to convince the patrol of something, using Persuader or Manipulator can act as that effort to convince while Will only acts as the effort to refuse. For a case of discovering truth, you may need to test Scout, Circles, maybe Loremaster, possibly Haggler, Archivist. There are many ways to create scenes of discovering truth, so keep an open mind on that one.
I like this approach of Persuading them to offer truth or else comparing their statement with what you know. It is much more truthful to not only reality but also most fiction that isn’t predicated specifically on supernatural lie-detector characters.
In reality, studies have shown that people who believe they can discern lies (just from hearing them, rather than investigating) are no better than chance and sometimes even worse.
The way to spot a lie is to find contradictions with known fact. You can easily suspect someone has lied, of course, but you can’t really know. That’s just not a thing humans (or presumably mice) can actually do.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to play/run any BWHQ games…
If it’s useful to plot and important to the player, detecting non-belief in the target seems fitting.
Not detecting truth - but detecting whether the NPC believes what they’re saying. (it’s a subtle distinction. Gossip is often believed but untrue, and sometimes not believed but still true…)
Deceiver seems fitting for both sides of the check, but with a bonus for the level of unbelief.
If MG is using non-fight weapons then Obvious Lie (or Plausible Lie or Evidence or Emotional Appeal) tells players without necessarily telling characters what might be happening in the scene. The dice can determine the result still, but it is a signal in mechanics that could coexist with narrative description.
Thanks for the input, very useful! Still need to ponder how I would handle a similar situation next time it occurs.
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