Mission Impossible: lying

Old RPGer but new to BW. I see the base OB for Falsehood is the victims Will. That seems rediculously difficult for anybody but a grand master of falsehood, even with advantage dice and the single potential FORK. Am I missing something?

Yep. Any social skill roll where your Intent is to do something and your opponent’s is to not let you do that thing is really hard. Persuasion, Seduction and Intimidation are the same way. The trick is to angle for an intent that forces a versus test between you and your opponent. It’s more interesting and you’re more likely to succeed.

Another trick is to beat up your target first. Wounds (above superficial) reduce the wounded character’s Will, making lying much easier. Also, many humans only have a Will of 3, and 3 is a sort of “standard” obstacle. Lying to Elves is hard, but I think that in all of Tolkien only Sauron and Saruman ever successfully lie to Elves…

Also, failure doesn’t have to mean that they don’t believe you. Anything that denies you your intent is fair game. Maybe they believe the lie, but react to it in a dangerous or annoying way.

Lastly, I think characters are supposed to fail pretty often. Failure should be fun and exciting, right? My character fails most of the tests he makes.

Lying is boring. It’s better to bait Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits to get what you want from a character (player or otherwise).

I’ve found it works especially well to tell the players when someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. “He’s lying to you. What do you do?” It makes for more interesting confrontations between those involved.

Burning Wheel typically puts a lot of things out in the open, more so than games I’d played previously. In my experience, presenting information in a way that allows everyone to interact with it makes for rich, dynamic sessions.

Whenever players are the target, I don’t have the NPCs roll. Sometimes I’ll tell the players the NPC is lying, sometimes I’ll say they can’t tell. What they choose to do is more important than whether or not they’re forced to believe. In player vs. player conflict, which I don’t have a ton of at my table, it’s either pure roleplaying without rolls or straight to DoW.

One of the tricks I’ve found with lying is that it often doesn’t matter. Players sometimes obfuscate as a matter of course, and that’s fine. Say Yes. You can get away with claiming you’re someone who you’re not, doing something that you’re not, for reasons that have nothing to do with either, as long as the NPC doesn’t know you and doesn’t have reason to inspect further. They often don’t care if you’re lying, even if they’re guards or other allegedly responsible people.

But let’s say you lie to a guard. “I must be allowed into court to address the magistrate—it’s urgent!” The intent is to get to the magistrate, and the task is to lie. It should be very hard! Even if the guard believes you, he’s still more likely to call his superior, or send a page to notify the magistrate, or do other things that aren’t exactly what you want. That’s why it’s hard, not because people don’t believe you, but because getting someone to believe you and do something out of the ordinary is difficult. In many ways it’s the same as Persuasion, regardless of the truth.

Oh no. If I want to become a great liar, give me those tests. I want to lie a lot and get into a lot of problems because of it. :smiley:

(Although you can always justify a bit of Practice of it. But I want complications!)

Just because there can be complications doesn’t mean there should be. Anything can go wrong. It’s not always good for the drama.

Everybody’s got great points about story complications and drama stemming from lies not being wholly believed.

If you still wanted to make it a little easier to pull off a lie against someone who doesn’t catch liars professionally, you could add a new skill (Empathy or Lie Detection or whatever) based on Will. Falsehood to Lie Detection would work like Stealth to Observation. People with trained Lie Detection might include magistrates, guard sergeants, mothers, and whoremongers. If you have trained Falsehood it would reflect that you were a very able, slick liar with very few tells.

Gylthinel, what do you/your GM if that’s not you usually use for your NPCs’ Will stats? What Falsehood skill exponents to the PCs have?
Or is this hypothetical, and you haven’t actually played yet?

Something i wrote on G+

When you Test Falsehood, you don’t test if someone is believing your lie or not. The question is:
“Can i use my lies to convince him to do X”

That’s why you don’t just test Falsehood when you tell a simple lie that is not that important, only if you really need to convince someone and you only have Falsehood to fall back on.

Thank you! Couldn’t have said it better myself. I know how to not test falsehood. I know how to make an interesting fail. My issue is that a common person (which I extrapolate as will 4) against an exceptional liar (5 +) has a very good chance of seeing through the lie. If I make Daniel Ocean I would fail my 10 pals. Though this “issue” is entirely theoretical. I haven’t had much opportunity to use straight falsehood tests, I’ve only used it in Duel of Wits.

Daniel Ocean doesn’t fail because the GM doesn’t call for a roll that decides between an awesome success and a boring failure. If the GM doesn’t have an interesting failure option, it’s a say Yes moment. To really make the best use of his skill the player (and the GM) should be looking for opportunities to test Falsehood in versus tests, where the target has stakes.

‘Professional’ liars (scammers, con artists, confidence men, Danny Ocean) rarely straight-up lie to you with nothing to back it up. They use leverage, false teaming, false urgency, all sorts of tricks. BW encourages you to plan ahead, set things up so you can vie for advantage or help dice - or ideally, make it a versus test, where the other character has something to gain.

The cliche of a player saying “oh, I’ll roll my lying skill so the guard will let us see the King” is really just lazy play that BW discourages.

Falsehood is also a skill that can be used for Feints, Incites and Obfuscates in the Duel of Wits. Unskilled liars and tyro liars are better served slipping their lies into the context of larger discussions. Truly expert liars can look someone right in the eye and deliver a bald-faced lie that will convince the most stubborn person.

He also FoRKs in Persuasion, Seduction and Rhetoric!


Which brings to mind, Helping Dice! You want to set up a good con, you need a few friends around to setup the mark.
And Circles, “I want to find a particularly gullible city guard.”
And linked tests, “I find the guard in the tavern before his shift and spot him a few drinks.”

Hey, it’s almost as if this lying thing is turning into its own adventure…

Mr. Ocean had better be ready to dump a ton of artha into his lies. When everything’s riding on making someone believe you you have to pull out all the stops and make it happen.

Don’t forget to FoRK in your Wises… lies are far more believable if you come across as knowledgeable, and are hidden in the midst of truths.