Thursday, August 11, 2016

Passive Insight

One of my take aways from GenCon this year was the concept of Passive Insight. The term comes from D&D 5th edition. On the D&D character sheets there is a place to write down your Passive Perception which is effectively your perception skill + proficiency bonus + ten. It represents your normal, non-active, perception. If someone is trying to stealth around you, or hide, they have to beat your passive perception. Passive Insight is that same concept, just with the Insight skill. Today, I want to talk about that.

What Does Insight Do?
Insight is D&D 5th ed's answer to "social perception." You use insight to determine if someone is telling the truth. You use insight to determine why someone did a thing. You can use insight to get hints/clues to solve riddles. Effectively, Insight gives you, well, insight into a problem. Mostly though, as I said above, it's your "social perception" in the same way that "Cool" and "Discipline" is for the new Star Wars system, or the Awareness trait works in L5R.

How Does Passive Insight Work?
Passive Insight works exactly like Passive Perception, and it's why I love it. Are you running a social scene and the evil Baron is lying to the PCs? Roll the Baron's deception, and compare it against the Passive Insight of the various party members. If the Baron beats that number, he successfully lies to the party. If he fails that roll, the GM tells the players that the Baron isn't telling them everything, or that he is flat out lying about something.

Why I Love It?
I love Passive Insight for several reasons.

First, it's fast but fair. You don't have to roll for the Baron, then have the players roll, then compare all the numbers to see what is going on. You don't even have to interrupt the conversation if you have the Passive Insight written down on your GM screen. Just roll your dice, compare the numbers, and go forward with things.

Second, it prevents gaming the system. Even groups that don't metagame will respond to poor checks. It's not unusual to call for a Perception check, have a person roll low, and immediately have someone else request if they can check. With testing against Passive Insight, everyone already 'rolled' a check.

Third, I feel it fits how both the real world and fiction work better. You don't often see wildly varying degrees in how a person reads a room or detects lies and untruths. Passive Insight normalizes this, while still allowing characters invested in the skill to be really hard to lie to. Players can still roll for active scrutinization, but just catching things? That they can do passively.

Applying It To Other Games
The tricky part now is applying it to other games. FFG's Star Wars more or less has this built in. You always roll difficulty, and so you always roll. There are no passive numbers to check against. 7th Sea also has this built in to the system. L5R though does not. So how to handle it there? Does it even need to happen there?

If it happened, I'm of two minds. The first is to take the average roll the person would have. This generally works out to the number of dice rolled & kept times 6, plus 1 or 2 for every rolled but not kept die. Alternatively, just set a base TN off the person's awareness (i.e. awareness 4 = TN 25) and go from there.

It's something to ponder.For now, I just really like the idea.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts, I like passive perception too and should use it more when I GM.

    Sorry I missed you at GenCon this year. Next year we definitely need to get together (if we are both going).