Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Game of the Right Question: Gaming Psychology Skill

I can be so annoying. a post in 2007
this is why I'm such a munchkin. One serious critique is that this is punishing to a GM. what GM would entertain this inanity has my complete and sincere in my wishes that you recover from this with all faculties intact. I'm so freaking predictable. 

Feel free to add to this, to help players and GMs use character's skills best. Unlike the Task Difficulty Examples Collection this gives other Ideas on how to maximize the those non-combat or non-influence skills. 
Body Language,    Detect Lies,

and  Psychology.

Examples of how to best use some non-combat or non-influence skills.


Body Language. B181 Body Language is usually for detecting any or other emotions beyond what is in plain sight as well as determining if a person is feigning/exaggerating/downplaying an emotional response (with Acting).
Between a character unskilled in Body Language and an unskilled Actor, it is hard to fool or read each other effectively (Default vs Default). Such of an encounter may lead to more misrepresentation and misinformation than anything useful.
On the other hand it  is easy for a skilled Actor to fool a character unskilled in Body Language or for a character skilled  in Body language reading an unskilled actor. Players should expect a skill of 12 in Body Language best for unskilled deceivers or deviants, they should raise it to levels of Expert or Master against seasoned criminals.
A list of a few commonly encountered emotions are Apathy, Anger, Frustration, Guilt, Passion, Stress and different manifestations of Fear,.


How to use Body Language and Psychology together. The standard use for Body Language and Psychology is discovering a concealed emotional response/state and predicting how or if the person will act on it.
A PC can use this procedure to quickly eliminate unlikely suspects or predict easy or difficult relationships in negotiations.


Body Language and Detect Lies. Body Language is typically used with Detect Lies to confirm if what a person is saying has an a appropriate emotional response.
In game terms, the person must succeed both Fast Talk and Acting to fool a character who has both Body Language and Detect Lies. These two skills combined give a much greater chance of certainty compared to just using one skill as a critical failure with both is very unlikely.
Empathy vs. Body Language. Body Language is more reliable than Empathy because as a skill you can raise it to higher levels.  On the other hand, you don't vision penalties when using empathy.  


Detect Lies. B187 Margin of Failure matter a lot in the use of Detect Lies. On a margin of failure of 1 or 2 the GM may just tell the player “he can't tell” any greater the GM may lie.
Players should be skeptical about what any answer they get from the GM and should use Body Language and Psychology to increase certainty.  


When they Refuse to answer. Use body language and psychology when a target refuses to answer. Guilt or Fear will emotion that will accompany the lack of an answer.


Misleading. Instead of lying, someone may appear to be trying to present the truth as a lie. This would be in a situation where this Lie is easier to believe than the truth presented. Use fast talk and add a bonus to how much the listener would want to believe it is a lie (+1 to +5).  


Contests of Skills. Fast Talk is the skill that best counters Detect Lies. Other skills may be used to lie, Diplomacy can exaggerate some truths or hide a very small lie, or mislead the listener giving a -2 challenge to the Lie Detector. Public Speaking, on the other hand, can be used to lie and spread propaganda, which may be easy to detect (-5 to the public spear in a contest of skills).


Things you should always ask.:  

  • “Who are you?... is that your only/real name?”. Always confirm the identity of an NPC. This is a basic precaution but can ignite a firefight at the suspicion of deception.
  • “Are you giving me a fair deal?”. If you don't have merchant, this is the next best thing. Its reasonable to ask if any deal is a fair deal. Asking if your getting a bargain is a good question to add if your haggling.
  • “What do you get out of this?”. In any negotiation, this is a key question to ask.
  • “Do we have an agreement?”. Always end with this question in any negotiation.






Psychology. B216 A successful skill roll will allow you to predict the general behavior of a person or a small group.


The Collins GEM English Dictionary Definition of Behavior is Manner of Behaving. It defines Behave as acting a particular or functioning in a particular way.
General Behavior is a pretty broad term, its up to your GM to adjudicate when how far does it go.
A few Examples of a General Behavior that I could think of: Favor, Like, Dislike, Repulsed, Disgusted, Honor (the verb), Praise, imitate, Deny, Deceive, desire, Pleases, Takes/Draws Pleasure, Satisfies, Depend and Abuse.
Here are some useful questions you can ask to predict a certain kinds of behavior that would be relevant in an adventure.
  • "Will he favor flattery?". Ask which influence approach can best be used. Flattery would likely be Savoir-Faire or Fast Talk.
    • Will he favor X - Flattery, Bribery, Seduction, Principle, Religious motivation, Idealistic motivation. Etc. Etc...
  • "Will he favor a Bribe?". A very useful question in tight situations where you try to predict if this person be averse, insulted, or react negatively or positively to a bribe. I think Streetwise would be the best skill to Haggle over the price, if it is the best course of action.
  • Will this person likely betray us in our deal?”. Deviant behavior is still behavior, and the possibility of an NPC breaking an agreement can give the PCs a chance to void an agreement or to count on that betrayal.
    • You need to get to know your target. have them for dinner, entertain them. basically tell the GM your taking that person out for a good time and to get to know them. Have X budget. Get wingman with good Social Skills and basically end with that "action".
  • How far will he go to honor our deal?”. This is a good follow up question to any negotiation. They might honor the deal but will come back on the first sign of trouble. Depending on the context you can already tell this person is Honest or with a Strong Code of Honor.
    • Well you need to know that
  • "Will he try to screw me over?". If you are negotiating and you should ask this to determine if the person is the type to make unfair demands. This really helps when you are not as skilled as a merchant as your opponent. If your a skilled merchant then you may already know what kind of person you're dealing with before agreeing to anything.
    • This is why i like to get Psychology-18+ why 18, because typically its a contest against a superior deceiver. Even having a single character with 18 Psychology
  • "Are they open to negotiations?" Instead of guns blazing, you may want to talk it through. This is helpful for GMs to give a clear "OK" sign to start shooting.
  • "Isn't he trying to get something out of this deal?" If something is too good to be true, it probably is. When negotiations should be challenging and faces odd or no resistance, this should be a question the player should ask the GM asap.
  • Will he try to Hide it?”. Asking a question you already know the answer to can reveal more information depending on how the person behaves when answering. If the person shies away from the topic, vehemently denies, feigns ignorance, tells parts or the whole truth may give possible motives, connections, relations, unusual circumstances that may give the PCs a clearer direction where to go.










Observation. Other than detecting anything deliberately concealed from the character observation Is mainly used to appear inattentive in a situation where you have to conceal your interest. It allows the character to use Detect Lies, Body Language and Psychology without raising suspicion.  
This was a long debated topic, because the wording gave a certain impression and that not a lot of GMs have the same Intel policy or process. In short you really have to ask your GM about how he adjudicates information gathering. I think this is a very fundamental Game-Theory element in GMing, how your gm handles information will determine the optimum strategy to proceed.

Psychology, Body Language and Detect Lies. These skills used together are a triple threat against deception. Any anomaly detected by either skill raise doubt and be helpful against any possible critical failure .   

  • Note; All strategies above can be reversed. So the GM can use the same skills to for NPCs to find out more about PCs. This is a great way to "Feed" disads.
  • Behavioral Schticks are Awesome because you can pretend to be someone else despite having your guard down. Typically everyone's guard is down, being Paranoid should be a negative reaction penalty to people... why: because it affects common good. Once people start mistrusting and that mistrust becomes "contageous" much of trade and communication will slow down. GM's should not allow for Behavioral Schticks that "bring Up" the guard of a character this is represented by Paranoia and there should be a negative repercussion to paranoia.
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