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Last session, my DM made me roll a Deception check against another player. I failed the roll, and as a result I was forced to reply a specific way and reveal information I otherwise wouldn't have revealed to the other player.

Now I know player-vs-player social dice checks aren't a thing and players aren't supposed to roll against each other because that takes away the players' choice and autonomy. I rolled it once because I am of the view that you roll with the punches during the game and air out any issues that you have after the session.

I confronted the DM about this, saying I was under no obligation to obey any social checks that he demanded I make against other players. As even Jeremy Crawford has said:

There are three skills in the game that pertain to social interaction, especially when you're dealing with non-player characters. There's the persuasion skill, the deception skill, and the intimidation skill. I often get asked, are these skills meant to be used against player characters? And honestly they're not, because so much of how a player character talks and feels is really just up to the player's decision. We don't want dice to override the characterization that a player is bringing to their character. So these skills are mostly intended to be used on non-player characters, whether by player characters or by other NPCs

(Emphasis mine.)

So I told him that in the future, I will not obey any social checks of this nature that he wants me to make against player characters, as that’s going against the core principles of D&D.

He then said that I do not have to do so, but then I will just auto-fail the check. He didn't expand on what would happen if I "auto-fail".

Is a DM allowed to force a player to make social checks against other player characters? If the player fails, are they mandated to respond how the DM says they must?

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you say you were forced to reply a certain way, do you mean that you, the player, were forced to tell the other player something, or that your character was forced to do/say something against your wishes? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Aug 31 '18 at 6:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a lot of bafflement on this question related to what exactly the DM did, and I think we need more detail. Did he take over playing the character? Did he demand that you tell the truth about something you were trying to hide? Did he just say "No, your deception attempt fails" and let you go from there? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Aug 31 '18 at 16:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I failed the check and he said "you now have to say either your current name is fake or you must tell him your real name". I could not choose any other option, I could not try and twist it. I was told "you say this and thats your only option". \$\endgroup\$ – Seig Soloyvov Sep 1 '18 at 6:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let me ask a little bit of background: it sounds like your character has a secret you want to not reveal to the rest of the party. What is your group's expectation for this? Is your game full of intra-party intrigue, or is knowledge generally shared? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Sep 2 '18 at 1:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's an everyone has a story and goal and everyone keeps some stuff to themselves, we only share information if its related to the job, not personal stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – Seig Soloyvov Sep 2 '18 at 1:40
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Other answers have already dealt capably with your question: Can DM's force skill checks? Yes. Should they do so? Maybe - maybe not.

But, it appears to me that your real issue may not be the skill check itself, it's how the DM dictated your character's response to it.

You said:

Last session, my DM made me roll a Deception check against another player. I failed the roll, and as a result I was forced to reply a specific way and reveal information I otherwise wouldn't have revealed to the other player.

Failing a deception check should not mean that you are 'forced to reply a specific way'. All it means is that the other player's PC knows that you were trying to deceive them. There are any number of reasonable in character responses to being found out in a deception, for example you might:

  • Burst into tears and run away.
  • Blush and refuse to speak on the subject any further.
  • Threaten the other person with violence if they continue to insist you're lying.
  • Acknowledge that you lied but then try to tell a different but hopefully more successful lie.
  • Calmly admit that they've caught you out but that you prefer not to talk about that part of your life any more.
  • Sheepishly admit the truth.

Only you, as the player, should decide what the appropriate response would be for your PC in any given situation. Most of the time that probably wouldn't be immediately surrendering all of the information you were previously trying to conceal.

The DM making you roll a deception check didn't remove your player agency - forcing the other player to take what you said at face value, when they were disposed to be suspicious, might arguably have taken more agency away from them. What removed your player agency was the DM dictating a mandatory response to the failed check. It's of course true that there might be better ways to resolve this situation than anyone rolling at all - but that will be table dependent and isn't relevant here.


Caveat: This isn't to say that your PC could never be forced into admitting information they would normally conceal, there are ways they could conceivably be (Zone of Truth, threatened with death by a powerful NPC etc.), but simply failing a deception check shouldn't be one of them.


So what should you do?

Talk to your DM and explain that you are happy to continue participating in inter-party skill checks as long as they don't take away from your ability to RP your own character. You could explain what you feel went wrong with the resolution of the previous skill check and how you feel your character might have more appropriately responded to being caught in a deception. The DM may acknowledge that a mistake was made and the game may be more fun for everyone going forward.

However, if your DM is unresponsive to this line of reasoning, or a similar thing soon happens again, despite your protestations, it might be time to evaluate how important this issue is to you and whether you'd prefer to play either elsewhere or not at all, rather than with this DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer. It's also not clear to me from the question that the DM actually dictated a mandatory response; Seig Soloyvov may have just meant that all his options had to result in his deception failing (i.e. "forced to reveal the secret"). If the DM dictates the player's specific actions, that's bad. If the DM just says "your deception fails" and lets the player choose how they wish to play out that failure, that's fine. Being sometimes forced to play out a failure instead of the success you wanted, isn't a problem and is the foundation of the game (and rolling dice). \$\endgroup\$ – Andrzej Doyle Aug 31 '18 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not completely explicit but 'as a result I was forced to reply a specific way and reveal information I otherwise wouldn't have revealed' sounds pretty suggestive to me. OP can clarify if I've misunderstood. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Aug 31 '18 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ No he made me respond with only one answer, there was no spells or anything at work. no zone of Truth etc. if zone of truth was in play this would be a none issue to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Seig Soloyvov Sep 1 '18 at 6:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeigSoloyvov Even with a Zone of Truth and a failed save, the victim is aware of the spell and can still choose to be cryptic and evasive with what answers they give, or just clam up entirely. The only thing they can’t do is directly lie. \$\endgroup\$ – sevenbrokenbricks Sep 1 '18 at 17:13
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Sort of?

To start with; remember that the GM is:

  • (Usually) not adversarial
  • The arbiter of all-the-things; including house-rules, rulings, etc.
  • Essentially a story-teller that you are helping craft a story for (and that can't really know the entirety of the story since the dice and player actions will dictate it to some degree

What he probably means

Given that he's decided that he wants to run the game like this, it sounds like the "auto-fail" is that you're essentially not "making a check" against another player.

If you wish to convince another player of some lie and normally you would use a Deception check; he's saying you'll "auto-fail" the check because you're not making one. In his rule-set; he's thusly saying "The other player will choose to believe you or not; regardless of your "check"; because it automatically failed."

He may even decide that the player calls your bluff; but that seems vindictive IMO.

Similarly, if you wanted to convince another player to do a thing; you would be convincing the player and the GM would "auto-fail" your diplomacy check; meaning you "can't convince the character" so to speak; and have to convince the player.

This sounds like the work of a newer DM (I remember doing this when both I and the players were new) and didn't know what to do; "there's rules for bluffing so er.. Jimmy.. roll a deception check against John?" Or they enjoyed the dynamic and kept it around.

Disclaimer: Because these are essentially house rules I have to guess on based on the information provided; the above seems like the most reasonable and charitable interpretation of the GM's dialog with you.

In general, no

While the GM is the "storyteller" they don't typically "take over" your character; however you have probably had cases where they have:

  • fear effects
  • confusion
  • mind-control

And you've probably had some campaigns where it happens for the sake of intrigue, monologues, or moving the story along:

  • Monologue - The players are "frozen in time" artificially while the BBEG rants about stuff
  • Moving the story - The GM "teleports" you between sessions to another area, and then tells you what happened along the way
  • Intrigue - The GM says you were slipped a note and that the person who did it slipped away in the crowd; despite not rolling any kind of check

So in some sense, you're used to this happening already. Personally, for "fun" types of checks where there is inter-character drama of an entertaining kind; I may have a player roll a bluff check on something inconsequential in order for me to "help tell the story"; and it can be light-hearted fun in the moment.

What does this all mean?

First, see what the others in the group think. You probably don't want to go on a crusade by yourself, and they may have reasonable perspectives (it could've even been their idea!)

Second, consider how much these checks matter. If the GM is just facilitating "lol yeah you totally believe Grognard the Barbarian that he has slain a dragon single-handedly" to entertain the group; keep in mind that that's literally the purpose of the GM at the table. If you're not entertained; see the above point (as the others may be.)

Third, it would make more sense to ask for clarification from the GM what they meant given that it seems to be house-rules.

Lastly, remember the rest of this post as you've likely allowed the GM to control your character in non-rule situations; it's part of the contract. As a player you put your fate in their hands, as a GM they put themselves out there and try to make an entertaining game.


Short answer -> The social contract of the GM is to basically control everything; so "yes" they can control your character. "No", in that usually that's not fun for players and thusly the players won't typically agree to that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ They're called Deception checks - or technically "Charisma (Deception) checks" - in 5e. (The skill is Deception.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 31 '18 at 7:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I'm a little fuzzy on it, but in 5e I believe it's always Ability (skill), and it's always called an "ability check" not a skill check. I don't recall whether the DM can mix and match skills and abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – Kamil Drakari Aug 31 '18 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KamilDrakari Yep, you are correct... must have been a module or something that I read that had them backward. But PHB p175 details a variant "Skills with Defferent Abilities". \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 31 '18 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Apologies for the inaccurate language; I obviously had pathfinder on the brain as that's what I'm currently running. Thank you for the correction @KamilDrakari If it makes sense to edit; feel free. I do not quite see where I'd edit to amend that \$\endgroup\$ – blurry Aug 31 '18 at 14:43
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Can they force ability checks?

Yes they can

A few ability checks are explicitly given by the rules, but in general, the GM is expected to call ability checks in situations where they think they are appropriate. So to answer the immediate question, the GM calling social checks against other players is not categorically bad. But it is highly situational.

In the case of Deception, the bigger issue is how the group handles secret information. Most groups I've played in don't hold secrets, or only hold "open secrets" that the PCs don't know but their players do. You need to figure out a scheme that supports the desired level of secrecy that works for your game, and never rolling to deceive another PC might or might not be a part of it.

What about player autonomy?

Forcing a particular kind of a result for a failed roll is omnipresent in DnD. Consider this:

Player 1: I attack PC2.

Player 2: I dodge.

GM: Player 1, roll an attack against PC2's AC.

Player 1 rolls badly

GM: You stumble a bit and your swing goes really wide, PC2 has no trouble dodging.

Resolved with a roll, this is a situation where one player doesn't get what they want, and therefore lose a bit of their autonomy. It's considered normal that the player can't choose that their attack hits, and yet it isn't notably different from this:

Player 1: I want to scam PC2 to get their cinnamon rolls.

Player 2: I try to discern if I'm being lied to.

GM: Player 1, roll Deception.

Player 1 rolls badly

GM: You let slip that you're just looking to get some cinnamon rolls.

Importantly, if you restrict the GM's powers to do this and yet want to include some inter-party lie guessing in the game, you're making the PCs' Deception score less important than their players' skills in fibbing (and conversely, their Insight less important than their players' skills in spotting lies).

Bottom line

Social checks between the members of your party may or may not support your playstyle. It is not categorically wrong for a GM to make these checks. If you are bothered by these checks or their results, talk to your GM and other players about it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Importantly, if you restrict the GM's powers to do this and yet want to include some inter-party lie guessing in the game, you're making the PCs' Deception score less important than their players' skills in fibbing." - You're also making the PCs' Insight scores less important than their players' skills in telling when someone is lying. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 31 '18 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ IMO, there's a difference between "You stumble and your swing goes wild" and "You let slip that you're just looking to get some cinnamon rolls". Maybe the latter for a critical failure, but a regular failure should just be the other person isn't convinced. It sounds similar to the OP's situation. He failed his deception roll, and the DM made him blurt out unrelated, sensitive information (which should really be reserved for a critical fail). It's like if you took a swing at a monster and failed your roll, but the DM ruled that a failure means you dropped your sword and now the enemy has it. \$\endgroup\$ – Omegastick Aug 31 '18 at 9:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Omegastick: It's also worth keeping in mind that officially, a nat. 1 has no special meaning on ability checks or saving throws, only attack rolls (where they are simply an automatic miss). Though, as always, the DM can rule otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 31 '18 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I failed the check and the DM said "You cannot back out of this you have to tell him" basically saying because I failed a check. Yhe only way I can respond is option A. \$\endgroup\$ – Seig Soloyvov Sep 1 '18 at 6:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thing is I did not start the check they came up to me in character. I was then told to roll and when I failed, told I had to respond this way. \$\endgroup\$ – Seig Soloyvov Sep 1 '18 at 8:22
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Can they? Yes.

No matter what the source, a rule serves you, not vice versa. (DMG p.263)

Ultimately it is the DM's game to run as they see fit. D&D isn't the sort of game where the idea of a hard and fast rule not to be broken under any circumstances really makes sense (unless you're playing Adventurer's League).

You aren't obligated to stick around in the game if you're not having fun with it, but the kind of rule-hammer you're asking for here to be used against this one case of DM fiat doesn't really exist. Even if it did, it would be among your worst options (see below).

That said, the rules are not the only things in play here.

Should they allow social skill rolls between players? Maybe.

First, as you describe here, you confronted the DM and told him you simply wouldn't do this thing. This is an overly adversarial approach to take with your DM, and probably contributed to the similarly adversarial response you got about auto-failing in the future.

The better response would be to ask the DM why they handled it that particular way. Without knowing the details about why the check was called for, what information was being divulged, I can only guess at why it was called for and whether or not that was appropriate. It is possible for it to be done well, as far as the check goes.

Critical Role has had a few examples of this, in which one player attempts to fool another, and the DM calls for Deception vs Insight. If the deceiver loses, the DM will ask them, "are you lying?" and the player responds accordingly.

That said, the folks at Critical Role have the kind of respect for and understanding with each other and the GM that makes social PVP possible. Not everybody does, and your group might not be one of them. This is why talking it over with your DM and the other players is so important.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for bringing up Critical Role. A lot of people these days are being introduced to the hobby through them, and that influences expected play styles. They all happen to be actors in real life, and use social skill rolls as improv cues. This doesn't work for all tables, but it's certainly entertaining for an audience. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Aug 31 '18 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand if the players and everyone agrees to this beforehand, my problem is the DM just pulled this out of nowhere, I was never told when we started. "You will be doing PVP Social checks and if you fail you will be responding in a very linear manner". \$\endgroup\$ – Seig Soloyvov Sep 1 '18 at 6:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeigSoloyvov That’s on them, then. But at least now you can tell them “hey, this is the kind of fallout that happens when new rules get sprung on us like this, can we avoid this in the future please?” \$\endgroup\$ – sevenbrokenbricks Sep 1 '18 at 17:26
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Keep in mind that on your own, you can't fail a Deception check. Because it's not a check, it's a contest.

There are a number of skills that are meaningless on their own. It doesn't matter what you rolled for a Hide check if no one is looking for you. Similarly, if you roll low on your Deception skill, it doesn't matter unless someone calls it out with an Insight contest.

If the DM says you will, "just auto-fail the check," it means that he will effectively give a DC 1 to anyone's Insight contest against you. This is taking agency away. If your character has a high Charisma, they should be able to lie their face off with no one the wiser.

As a player, you can answer any way you want, but if anyone else asks, "Is the character lying?" then at this point you roll the contest. If your roll is lower, then the DM can let the other players know by "augmenting" your responses by describing your tell.

"While listening to Ranger Rick describe the events from last night, you can't help but notice his cheeks flush, sweat form on his brow, and he is not keeping eye contact with anyone."

This still doesn't mean you have to reveal the truth, only that everyone knows you're lying (or covering up, or embellishing the truth, or what have you). This way, he is not taking agency away; you can say whatever you want, respond to probes with bold-face lies, and play the character how you wish. As a DM, I would not make the player even roll for Deception until another player asked, "Are they lying?". As mentioned in another answer, this is very similar to how Critical Role handles it.

TL;DR: A DM should not put words in you mouth, but they can tell the story of how those words didn't sound convincing.

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D&D is role-play. If a die roll was performed to decide what your character would do, then it makes no sense and denies the nature of the game. Any action taken by your character should be dictated by playing a role (with minor exceptions).

However, dice rolls may be used to check the outcome of these actions, as in kviiri's examples.

So to answer your question: The DM is allowed to perform such rolls, but your DM used it the wrong way. Though it doesn't mean that the outcome would be different if the checks were used properly.

To me, such a situation should be played like this:

  • CH1: <tries to deceive your character (CH2)>
  • DM: Both roll - CH1 for a Deception check, CH2 for a Wisdom saving throw
  • [It seems that your saving throw roll was lower than CH1's Deception check]
  • CH2: <Believes the lie and acts accordingly>

The last line probably results in the same outcome as your DM forced you to do, but not necessarily. It's up to you really, though it seems like the most probable and realistic behavior.

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Social checks between player characters shouldn't happen.

Let's address how social checks are intended to work.

A lot of players seem to think they can just say "I make a Deception check" to deceive another player character or "I'll roll Persuasion" to convince them of anything, but that's not how it works in the rules. The DM is always the one who calls for an ability check (from the section on Ability Checks):

An ability check tests a character's or monster's innate talent and training in an effort to overcome a challenge. The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results.

So, a player can't take it upon themselves to just declare that they're going to roll dice to affect the world in some way, much less to affect your character's personality against your agency as a player.

Moreover, the rules imply that social checks are meant to be called for by the DM only when interacting with NPCs, not with other PCs (from the section on Social Interaction):

In addition to roleplaying, ability checks are key in determining the outcome of an interaction.

Your roleplaying efforts can alter an NPC’s attitude, but there might still be an element of chance in the situation. For example, your DM can call for a Charisma check at any point during an interaction if he or she wants the dice to play a role in determining an NPC’s reactions. Other checks might be appropriate in certain situations, at your DM’s discretion.

So, unless the DM calls for one PC to make a social interaction check to influence another (which would be antithetical to the social interaction rules), it doesn't happen, and if the DM does call for it then that's not exactly playing by the rules of the game. The rules do not support the DM forcing you to contest social interaction checks among the party.

In my experience, if a DM is willing to allow players to affect each other's characters almost magically by way of ability checks, it leads to player discontentment due to robbing them of their agency. I strongly suggest that a DM should preclude this sort of behavior as follows: 1) don't call for the PCs to make contested social checks unless there's prior player consent, and 2) don't let players call for their own social checks to try to force others into them.

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Note that the GM acting in an uncharacteristic manner could be an indication that something's going on that you don't know about.

Maybe one of the other characters has some ability that alerts them whenever someone else lies to them. Maybe there's something odd about the place you were in, that forced you to tell the truth.

Of course, it's also possible that the GM is either inexperienced, or being actively malicious. For that matter, perhaps your character has been a bit of a jerk and a non-team player, and this is some attempt to overcome that in game. You'd know more about that possibility that we would.

However, I'd apply Occam's razor - if the GM did something unusual without explanation, the reason could be important in-game, and perhaps should be explored.

Worst case scenario - if you're taking up game time and this wasn't supposed to get you to ask in-game questions, you may provoke a response that tells you that.

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