When making an opposed skill check, must the passive participants take actions to oppose the active participant's skill check?

For example: A creature makes a Bluff skill check to lie to the PCs. Must each PC take some kind of action to make the opposed Sense Motive skill check? Or does each PC automatically and without taking an action get to roll a Sense Motive skill check to oppose the Bluff skill check made to lie?

Note: strongly preferred but not absolutely required.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 3.5e in its SRD addresses this specifically, but Pathfinder doesn't seem to have incorporated that portion of its forebear's rules. Would a citation from the 3.5e rules be useful, or will only Pathfinder material do? \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2018 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I certainly would embrace 3.5e, even a link for personal use would be great. The GM in this case is of the belief that only pathfinder rules are relevant. Sorry for the inconvenience this will surely cause. \$\endgroup\$
    – Simon
    May 28, 2018 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rules about this from the SRD for 3.5e that, for some unknown reason, are not in Pathfinder: "Some skill checks are instant and represent reactions to an event, or are included as part of an action. These skill checks are not actions." \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2018 at 21:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan those rules are in Pathfinder, just not exactly written like that. Each skill describes what kind of action, or how long it takes to use that skill. Sense Motive simply is in error here and doesn't describe the action properly. Perception, for instance, says: "Action: Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action." \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    May 28, 2018 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras O, yeah, but the SRD's general rule is absent even when it could've been included. My concern is that, without that general rule, the asker's GM is tacitly forced to concoct house rules when the rules are silent, and suddenly every turn out of combat, folks move at half speed because they're all taking the ready action, picking the action take a free action to make a Sense Motive check and the trigger when I hear someone speaking. And heaven forbid more than one person talks to the dude in a round! (That would be a really weird campaign!) \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2018 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


It really depends on the ability being used

The game has many abilities that allow opposed checks, some will say that the opponent can make a check to resist, allowing us to understand that they may refuse and automatically fail should they desire to, while other abilities will say that they must make a check to resist the effect, so they don't have an option and are required to make a check.

For instance, the Sleight of Hand skill has two uses that both are automatically resisted and may be resisted. A character trying to Hide an Object or Take Something Unnoticed is automatically opposed by whoever is observing them in action. While when trying to Palm a Weapon the observers can make an opposed check to notice what you are doing normally, but if they are actively observing your character (carefully observing), they will gain a +4 on that check.

The Perception, on the other hand, is mostly reactive, unless the character is actively looking for something, like a rogue searching for traps and/or secret doors. So when a character is attempting to sneak past another using the Stealth skill, that check is automatically opposed by the Perception skill of the guard. But if this guard is searching behind the bushes for someone quietly hidden (who succeeded on the previous check), he must spend a move action to make his Perception to notice that someone is hiding there.

Sense Motive

For Sense Motive it depends on what kind of action is being used against the character, some will require some action, which normally takes a minute of interaction, while others will happen automatically in response to another action, such as being lied to. This was somewhat confusing in the Core Rulebook, but was later clarified on Ultimate Intrigue (pg 188):

Active and Automatic Sense Motive: Most uses of Sense Motive are active and require a character to spend a minute or more interacting with someone with the intent of using Sense Motive for a particular purpose. The only time that Sense Motive happens automatically is when it opposes Bluff, as it says in the Core Rulebook that a character attempts a Sense Motive check for every Bluff check attempted against him. See the Bluff section on page 182 for guidance on how often to call for Bluff checks.


In the Core Rulebook, under the section "Skill Checks", it indicates that the outcome of an opposed skill check is dependent on the user's result and the target's result.

Some skill checks are opposed by the target’s skill check. When making an opposed skill check, the attempt is successful if your check result exceeds the result of the target.

And the first sentences of the Bluff skill say that

Bluff is an opposed skill check against your opponent’s Sense Motive skill. If you use Bluff to fool someone, with a successful check you convince your opponent that what you are saying is true.

In other words, the result of a liar's Bluff skill must be opposing someone's Sense Motive skill result. There is no universal DC; the liar must be lying to somebody, and so their Sense Motive result needs to be accounted for. In most cases, this means that the opposing creatures should be prompted to make a Sense Motive check.

There may be exceptions with other types of opposed rolls. But by default, the opponents (in this case, the PCs) should be able to automatically make rolls in response to the attempt, not as separate actions.


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