I have a NPC that hangs around with the PCs for a while. The players suspect that this NPC is hiding something. They are correct and I have no problem revealing it to them, if they properly manage to reveal it.
But how should I respond when the players attempt to simply brute-force the NPC?
For example, they repeatedly roll their Empathy (or Provoke or Notice, etc) in the hopes that the NPC's Deceive roll will eventually be low enough for them to succeed.
According to the text for Failure in Create an Advantage on an existing aspect (I'm assuming a hidden aspect is considered existing, as long as it's on the NPC's sheet and I don't ever intend to change it - it's an integral part of who that NPC is):
When you fail, you either don’t create the aspect, or you create it but someone else gets the free invoke—whatever you end up doing works to someone else’s advantage instead. That could be your opponent in a conflict, or any character who could tangibly benefit to your detriment. You may have to reword the aspect to show that the other character benefits instead—work it out with the recipient in whichever way makes the most sense.
As far as I can see, I have two options:
- Don't reveal the aspect and no other consequences arise.
- Reveal the aspect "at a cost" (the cost here being that someone else gets the free invoke).
Since the opposition is active and using Deceive to Defend, I can read from that page that only option #1 is on the table for this case (and it happens to be what I would prefer, anyway):
When you succeed at a defense, you successfully avoid the attack or the attempt to gain an advantage on you.
But then, how do I handle brute-forcing?
- Do I suck it up and just let the players do it? This doesn't sound right - we might as well "optimize out" the failed rolls and go straight to the success scenario.
- Do I simply say "no" and ask the players to role-play their characters' failure? After all, the previous roll says that the corresponding PC is convinced.
- Do I mechanically force the players to role-play their character's failure, by giving the PC a "negative" aspect (and possibly give the defending NPC a free invoke on that aspect)? Something like Almost Convinced by X ("you are inclined to believe him/her now, he/she can invoke this for +2 Deceive against you")? It almost works, but it seems implicitly against the rules of the four outcomes.
- Do I do something else entirely?