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I'm running a game in fate core, using the default skill list. My players want to know which situations and types of actions will call for a deceive check as opposed to a rapport check. How can I understand this different better myself, and convey it to my players?

An example in their words, not specific to our campaign:

If the Countess of Lyndham has cooked us all dinner and it's awful, is saying it tastes good a deceive or a rapport check?

I've erred on the side of: if you're trying to mislead someone or make them believe something or see something in a certain way, it's deceive. If you're trying to establish a relationship with someone or persuade them to accept an argument you're making, it's rapport.

My players rightly point out that making a compelling argument and making a misleading argument is a fine line to tread. And I've had trouble so far in this campaign with a player who keeps trying to manipulate people by telling a curated version of the truth and gets upset when I call for a deceive check instead of a rapport check (which he has at +4).

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Let the group decide

When a GM sets up a challenge, players might choose, what skills they are going to use:

That calls for Lore, Crafts, and some kind of social skill — Ryan immediately chooses Rapport.

There are several skills that can be used in social interactions, effectively pushing people to act the way you want them to — Deceive, Rapport, Provoke, Empathy. It is perfectly normal for the group to choose the "right" one — the GM describes the circumstances and presents a challenge, and players choose their way of overcoming it. This choice means, how do players do that.

Not all actions are challenges tho

If the Countess of Lyndham has cooked us all dinner and it's awful, is saying it tastes good a deceive or a rapport check?

I'd say neither. The character is being polite, it is just a conversation, not a challenge.

It is though if something is at stake. Answer these questions when resolving it:

  • What are players trying to accomplish?
  • At what cost?
  • What would happen if they failed?

Difference skills used by players will give you different answers. For instance, failed Deceive check exposes lies and might destroy character's reputation ("he's a cheater"), while Rapport check harms connections with particular people and/or makes that people upset.

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The line between skills isn't that clean.

Especially when you're just free-formin' it and doing some Overcomes for the sake of plot, not really in a C, just hangin'. So let's look at what you can Overcome with Deceive and Rapport, maybe get some ideas. SRD, take me away!

Use Deceive to bluff your way past someone, or to get someone to believe a lie, or to get something out of someone because they believe in one of your lies. For nameless NPCs, this is just an overcome roll, but for PCs or named NPCs, it requires a contest, and the target opposes with Empathy. Winning this contest could justify placing a situation aspect on your target, if buying into your lie could help you in a future scene. You can also use Deceive to do small tricks of sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

-- Deceive, from the Fate SRD

Use Rapport to charm or inspire people to do what you want, or to establish a good connection with them. Charm your way past the guard, convince someone to take you into their confidence, or become the man of the hour at the local tavern. For nameless NPCs, this is just an overcome action, but you may have to enter a contest to sufficiently ingratiate yourself to a named NPC or PC.

-- Rapport, from the Fate SRD

Is there a bright clear line between "bluff your way past" and "charm your way past"? Nnnnnot necessarily. If a guard knows you're not supposed to be somewhere, then getting there is going to involve some kind of... "creative truthtelling", at least. It's going to lean more toward presenting falsehoods and getting the guard to believe in them for Deceive, and more toward making it seem like less of a big deal that a great guy like you is going to go there for Rapport.

Or, to take your example, if it's actually important that the Countess of Lyndham be convinced that the food was delicious, which isn't true, then you have to use Deceive. If the important thing is successfully navigating the social situation, then you can use Rapport, say, by complimenting the presentation or choice of ingredients such that the Countess of Lyndham doesn't care that you didn't directly answer her question.

The more suspicious someone is or the more specific their demands are, the less likely it is that you get by them with the soft fuzz of social grace and the more likely it is that you have to draw a lie and clash. But hey, even if that's the case, the advantage two-step is there to bail you out - when someone's trying to do something helpful but it won't drop something in one go that's supposed to get dropped in one go, they can Create an Advantage and make it easier for the person who actually tells the lie to land it clean.

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Let’s look at the rules

Decieve

Deceive is the skill about lying to and misdirecting people.

Rapport

The Rapport skill is all about making positive connections to people and eliciting positive emotion. It’s the skill of being liked and trusted.

People don’t trust liars. If you are lying you use deceive;

However, people who are tactlessly truthful all the time aren’t likeable and everyone knows there are questions that no one expects an honest answer to and that it’s disconcerting if you get one. For example, how are you? Presumably you are not requiring checks for such routine deceptions and I presume the duchess’ question is not one of these despite looking like one.

Now Fate has mechanisms for pushing boundaries: aspects and stunts.

For your example, call for a deception check but if the player wants to use rapport they need to accept a compel on a new aspect - faithless flatterer and, if they fail, the duchess gets hollowly complimented. The player gets what they want at a price.

Long term, they can take the stunt Flexible with the truth: Twice per session you can use Rapport instead of Deceive.

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