The specific example I am working with is the Sincerity (Honesty) skill in L5R but there is a certain factor of curiosity for any other system:

How do you really roll to tell the truth and logically fail?

After all, if someone is trying to "sense motive" (to use D&D 3.x terminology), and their target is telling the truth, how does it mechanically work for them not to believe? No books really cover this because they tend to play to the side of discerning a lie, which is easy. The liar needs to win the contest to be believed, and everything works very intuitively.

If I want to convince someone I'm telling the truth, don't I want to flub my sincerity roll so their investigation roll is higher and they know I'm telling truth? That doesn't seem to work especially because better stats make your truth less believable.

Granted, I always want to roll high, but how would the investigation roll be affected? If I win I am obviously telling the truth, if I lose I am obviously telling the truth. So in a well-meaning ruleset, what can be done to go about a character being mechanically bad at telling the truth?

Side Note: For lies I sort of do a blind test. I ask the player what they think going in, let them roll, and tell them whether they feel the same way after the roll. It doesn't tell them if it passed or failed, they only have their roll to guess with.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Not everything needs to mechanically be an opposed roll. This question is premised on the idea that presenting or detecting the truth is always an opposed roll. I don't believe that is the case, and may explain why you are having a difficult time answering the question. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jan 23 '13 at 4:03

There is a slight disconnect between what western languages and what the Japanese associate sincerity with.

This article about decoding asian business codewords explains the difference.

being Makoto (mah-koe-toe) means to properly discharge all of one's obligations so that every thing will flow smoothly and harmony will be maintained. It also means being careful not to say or do anything that would cause loss of face.

Increasing your ranking in the Sincerity skill allows you to maintain that face. An observer who sees through the sincerity would see the indecision and lack of inner harmony behind your statements. Failure at sincerity leads people to believe that your thoughts are incorrect - because they are disharmonious and have caused you loss of face.

A modern example would be a woman asking her boyfriend "Does my bum look big in this?". A man who says "You look wonderful." is being Makoto. His skill at Sincerity will determine how well that is received by his girlfriend. A man who says the opposite of what he really thinks is using deception.

In game terms, the first example is Sincerity (Honesty) opposed by Etiquette (Conversation). If the man fails loses to the girlfriend, the girlfriend thinks that he thinks the opposite and was trying to lie. If he beats her Etiquette roll, she accepts that that is what he thinks in the way it was intended.

Another example comes from internet-based argument. If side A has a factual and logical argument but makes the argument poorly or fails to connect with the emotional bias of side B, then he has rolled poorly on his Sincerity (Honesty). Side B continues to believe as he has been or believes that something is not the truth.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem is, that a truly great investigator will always assume someone is lying then. Let's say we take a rank 1 Kitsuki Investigator fresh out of the box. Without spending points he has a 4k3+FR and emphasis on Interrogation. Your average bushi might have 3k2 for their Sincerity check, so when they try to tell the truth are they almost always lying? Certainly if they try to lie they will do a poor job and the world is right. \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 23 '13 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ If an Investigator is using Investigation (Interrogation) and his target chooses to tell the truth, there is no need for a roll. If someone is trying to be convince a target with the truth and the target doesn't want to be convinced, then there is a Sincerity (Honesty) vs. Etiquette (Conversation), otherwise, there is no roll. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Gill Jan 23 '13 at 15:30

Mechanically, I would say that either it is not an opposed roll (since there is no opposition, just the person trying to put their viewpoint across - this could be rolled with the Sincerity skill, or with some form of Persuasion), or else it is a contested roll to persuade the other person of the truth-telling (which will not involve sincerity at all).

  • \$\begingroup\$ But that sort of invalidates there being a use of the skill towards honesty. I agree that it should be included to the game, but how to quantify it and not just "leave out" something that points get put into. \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 22 '13 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't say that the skill wouldn't be used - if you went the route of making it an unopposed roll, you could indeed use Sincerity as the skill for it. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jan 23 '13 at 4:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Currently teetering on a method that's based on the character's Honor, adding mods for how bad the situation "looks" \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 23 '13 at 15:08

(I've played a lot of L5R 1E and a little 3E, so if things have changed in 4E, my apologies)

Here's some things to consider about truth telling:

  • What happened?
  • Are you telling the whole truth of what you know?
  • Are you telling it in a way to slant it to some angle you've got going?
  • WHY are you telling what you're telling? What's your goal in this?

L5R specifically assumes shady politics as a core part of the game - even people telling you the partial truth, or telling you the whole, but misinformed truth as they understand it, could have grave consequences if you take it on face value.

At the same time, there's also the fact that "truth" is mostly a matter of what the person with the most pull says happened, even if it contradicts common sense.

Sincerity, is not even actually telling the truth - it's "Does the other party believe this thing I'm presenting is my actual motivations?"

So here's what you do - if someone is telling the truth? You roll the investigation roll, the extra raises count towards your Sincerity roll.

What opposes it, if anything? Well, presumably there's someone out there, who is trying to cover their tracks, you roll against whatever political/deception skill applies because they've probably made enough misdirections and insinuations to try to throw people onto the wrong trail.

Add penalties if there's good reasons to suspect you of being involved, or being dirty in some way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Almost none of that answers my core question except for rolling your Honesty against your (potentially mystery) opposition's Deceit, however sometimes it's just a fantastical story and that takes who you're trying to convince out of the equation. In 3 & 4e, skills have "Emphases" which allow you a slight bonus when the skill applies to that use. For example, Sincerity has 'honesty' and 'deceit'. However, my question isn't rooted in just L5R. How do you prove the truth in any game? \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Dec 31 '13 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I am trying to convince this suspicious person of my truthfulness when they have all these reasons to disbelieve me." GM looks at how ripe the odds are against being believed based on the evidence, motivations, etc. of the investigators, sets difficulty. The investigation check + the honesty check go hand in hand as helping rolls, one being a success should be a postive modifier to the other. \$\endgroup\$ – user9935 Dec 31 '13 at 17:28

I see your point there. Thinking about this one a little more it is somewhat tough. You could have a base DC and lower the DC based off the sense motive modifier of the NPC. Raise the DC based off the attitude of the NPC: if the NPC wants to believe the player, subtract 2 from the DC; if the character is known for lying, add some to the DC; and if the PC is known for being honest, subtract +2. I'm not sure how this would work out. Let me know what you think.


Accepting that you know if the player is telling the truth or not, I think there must be two systems: one for detecting lies and another for detecting truths. In the truth system, a person that is good at reading people has a greater chance of acceptance. In the lying system, it's the opposite.

  • \$\begingroup\$ My question relates to establishing the "truth" system. \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Jan 24 '13 at 3:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ well, it could be very similar to the lying system. Suppose the chances of deceiving a person that is good at Reading people is 1/10. The chances of the same person accepting a true statement from the player could be 9/10. it all depends if the game master know if what the player said is true or not. \$\endgroup\$ – David Paulo Jan 24 '13 at 15:48

Considering the L5R tag here, I think there are a couple of things to focus on.

Sincerity isn't just 'telling the truth' as Simon points out, it's presenting a socially acceptable face and providing 'politically accurate' information that you can Sincerely stand behind. Truth in L5R is entirely subjective, based on the relative social standing of those around you. From this point of view, Sincerity fails when your statements are obviously flawed to the people you are talking to, either contradictory or delivered in a way that indicates you do not believe them yourself. This could be the case when you are stating the actual, empirical truth in a faltering manner, or a well considered 'lie' that you cannot quite bring yourself to commit to.

Mechanically I think this translates to:

  • Sincere character selects a number of Raises over a standard TN and rolls
  • Interrogator then either realizes they are not sincere (original roll fails to hit TN) or makes a roll of their own vs the original TN (and spots signs of lack of sincerity if they beat it)

As a GM you could pass some information to the interrogator that might hint at the truth behind the Sincerity, either the Sincere character has let something slip or part of their statement stands out as being presented without complete conviction.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sincerity is an opposed roll, though. It's not a matter of setting and meeting a TN, or this would be simple. When it's the "deceit" emphasis, if you're higher they believe you, if you're lower they don't because they rolled higher and saw through your lies. So with the "honesty" emphasis, how should that work? Why take Sincerity for honesty at all if you always want the interrogator to believe you? \$\endgroup\$ – CatLord Aug 24 '18 at 12:05

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