Recently I was playing in a campaign and I decided to roll insight on an NPC.

I rolled fairly high. But the DM then said the NPC was going to try to roll insight to discern whether I was insight checking them or not?

Is this something that is possible?

Do NPCs get to automatically roll against insight to glean whether I rolled insight to begin with?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on that "unfair" part? You wanted to know if he lied. He wanted to know if you knew he lied. Seems like a normal day for a used car salesman, why would it be unfair in D&D? \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    May 22, 2017 at 11:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I never got to discern anything. I was just told the NPC insight checked my insight check, then the NPC got angry. I feel as if there wasn't valid reason to insight check whether I insight checked the NPC, it shouldn't have occurred. I didn't even get to do/know anything. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2017 at 11:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why did you get angry? I just don't understand your question. Is it possible that somebody rolled insight to check you out? Absolutely. Does that have any impact on your own insight roll? No. Did your DM do it differently? For me there is a large part of the question missing. I get the feeling you assume rules that simply don't exist. What is your exact problem with the NPC rolling for insight? \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    May 22, 2017 at 11:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry I re-read that and I needed to clarify. I didn't get to glean anything from my insight check simply because the NPC out-rolled me on insight. Also, the DM decided that they would automatically counter-roll my insight. I do not think it is fair that the NPC gets to roll against my insight, when I haven't done/said anything or even got to know anything. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2017 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. BTW: I was thinking more about a time of ~24 hours, but accepting an answer is totally up to you. It's your decisison to see if anything helped you. Have fun on the site! \$\endgroup\$
    – Secespitus
    May 22, 2017 at 12:32

4 Answers 4


Insight is a detection skill. You cannot roll insight against insight. That does not make sense.

If the NPC had lied to you, he could have rolled deception with charisma to counter your insight and pass his lie as truth.

He could have rolled insight to read your character after he lied, to find out if you knew he lied. That would not change your roll or result.

And then, there really is no way to "find out" you used insight. Insight is a skill that requires you to look him into the face, process his speech and watch out for body language. That would be normal in a conversation. Everybody does it all the time. An NPC getting angry because you rolled insight is... weird. Now if your character had talked and flat out accused him of lying, that would be one thing, but insight is passive.

So whether it's unfair or not, using insight as a defense against insight is not covered by the rules. Talk to your DM if you want him to play the game closer to the actual rules.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ "An NPC getting angry because you rolled insight is... weird." It'd be like the barkeep kicking you out of the bar because he noticed to putting skill points into deception on your character sheet. Or a Bugbear running in fear because you got out your lucky d20. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2017 at 14:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Shufflepants but then again a barkeep not trusting a word out of your mouth because your name has become the nickname for deception all across the country would be perfectly normal and expected. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2017 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Shufflepants Try staring someone in the face for just 6 seconds and see if they notice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    May 22, 2017 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... and I wouldn't be surprised if a bugbear ran away in fear just after I chop off his arm against all odds. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2017 at 14:19
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Using insight to check "does the other character believe my lie?" is a legitimate use IMO. But that of course doesn't change if that character believes it or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    May 22, 2017 at 15:34

[An] Insight check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone's next move. - PHB 178

The NPC's Insight check seems valid. They are trying to read you to determine whether you were trying to read them, instead of you just (as an example) accepting what they say at face value.

However, I would take issue with you failing to glean any information from your original Insight, as the NPC apparently only rolled its check after yours. Assuming you rolled decently well, you should have gotten some information on your read of it. Negating your roll seems unfair.


Your Wisdom (Insight) check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature [...] Doing so involves gleaning clues fram body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms. (PHB p178)

First: Deciding what checks are rolled and what they mean is mostly in the hands of the GM.

NPC-s can have Insight and they can attempt to use it. They will obviously use it if you try to deceive them, but Insight is not only about lie detection. It is reading emotions and intentions. So rolling for Insight to notice that you are suspicious is perfectly in line with the skill.

Whether you got any info has no bearing on the fact that you tried to get it: eyeing them suspiciously, asking leading questions and so on. Also, do not forget that there may be factors you do not know, eg. that NPC can be chronically paranoid or already suspicious of you for some reason.

One could ask for Cha(Deception) to conceal your intentions, but you could also argue that if you are better at reading pepole, the less you have to do that can be noticed by them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I do not think it was a mistake. The DM was unsure how the NPC would react or if they could notice something, so they made it a roll. He could forego the roll and just decide if he wants, but it is his choice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    May 22, 2017 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I get your point now. Didn't want to lay the "do not question the DM" stuff on too hard. Even though it is true, wouldn't help the tone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    May 22, 2017 at 12:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not advocating "do not question the DM" but rather questioning the DM's choice, which per the other comment, isn't really the character's/asker's issue to resolve. My initial comment, seems to have been off topic. Good answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2017 at 12:54

DM can make any roll they wants

They also is free to interpret the result any way they wants. However, the described situation is either a misunderstanding, or a not very good DM-ing.

NPC don't make rolls, they take actions

DM then said the NPC was going to try to roll insight ...

If the DM literally says "now this NPC are going to make a roll" it is simply incorrect. First, it's the DM who makes a roll, not an NPC. Secondly, usually players shouldn't know what checks are being made by the DM.

Characters don't make rolls (unless they are playing dice). They take actions, they do something in the game world. It's up to the DM how that actions should be resolved in terms of the mechanics. DM can make any rolls they wants, if they think it is necessary. There are no strict rules like "never make a STR check against an intimidation" in 5e, it is all up to the DM. Remember that DM doesn't play "against" players.

PC don't make rolls, they take actions

Recently I was playing in a campaign and I decided to roll insight on an NPC.

Players shouldn't say things like "I want to roll Insight" (and then roll a die). It's the DM who asks a player "make an Insight check", as a response to players describing the character's actions.

It is normally how the game proceeds:

  1. DM describes the situation and asks "what do you do"
  2. Players describe their characters' actions
  3. DM asks players to make rolls, if necessary
  4. Players make these rolls
  5. Basing on the results, DM resolves the situation

If you asks the DM "can I say if she is lying", the DM might ask you to make an Insight check. Or they can use a passive check. Or ask you "how do you do that". But you are always supposed to describe your character's actions, not your rolls.

More information about Insight specifically: How to use, and not to overuse, Insight skill checks?


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