The Art of the Lie in RPGs

Over six months ago, I was playing in a spy game. That in itself is not a big deal, what was a big deal was the art of the simple lie. A strange phone call comes in, my character answers. The NPC A (on the phone) asks to speak to NPC B. My character tells NPC A that NPC B is not at home. At this point, the GM tells me to make a Bluff roll. Which my character fails because he has no bluff skill. NPC A demands that he speak with NPC B that he knows is home. Needless to say the adventure was sort of all downhill for me after that.

Something about the exchanged really bothered me. So much so, I still think about it even today. While the GM was mechanically correct on requiring a bluff roll, I was wondering if it was logically was correct. Now before you go off full kilt and call "shenanigans", allow me to explain myself.

First off, we all lie. That's right, we all lie. When a women asks a man if something makes her look fat, what man is going to say "Yes"? Now if you are thinking well, it's a just a white lie, then yes you are right it is. Funny thing though is that in the study of lies, there are lies and then there are LIES! A simple way to look at it is that there are lies that we say not hurt someone and there are lies we say that could hurt someone. Basically, you have to look at the intent of the lie.

Secondly, we tend to believe what we are told provided we no reason to suspect that people lie to us. Ask someone the time for example, do you expect the person you ask to lie to you? They may have the wrong time but chances are they didn't know it. On the other hand, you think someone has done something wrong and you ask them about it. In many cases you actually expect them to lie about. You many even think they are being untruthful even when they are because it's not what you think happened.

So by now, you asking yourself, can you get to the point already? What has this to do with RPGs? Well, RPGs are funny thing. Characters interact with NPCs all the time. They have pseudo-conversations. They players may lie to the NPCs and the NPCs lie to the players. The real question is when do you need to have skill interactions, deception checks, or whatever else you need done? Some will argue all the time. Generally a GM will allow players to make checks to see if the NPC is lying anytime they question the truth of what an NPC is saying. After all most GM will just sit there and have a little chuckle while the PC waste die rolls. But when should a GM require it? That I suppose is the big question here. After all the GM already knows if the players are lying or not. I'm sure I have a 100% good answer for myself.

Let's take a look at a few questions about the lie.

• Is the lie appropriate to the situation?
• Is the lie believable? If you are telling someone you are a sword master, you shouldn't be the one that can't hold a sword.
• Does the lie contain something that NPC knows is false? No telling someone the sky is green when it's blue.

I guess what I'm saying is that a little common sense should apply. So going back to my original situation, should a die roll been called for? I still not sure. Why would NPC A think that NPC B would be home? After all, if someone calls your house and asks to speak to someone there and you say they are not home even though they are don't most people believe that?

I guess in the end, I'm wondering what you our gentle readers would do in this situation? Please let me know.

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