How To Lie And Get Caught At It

How to lie as GMBy Mark of the Pixie

In most RPGs, if someone is lying, the GM wants them to get caught at it (eventually).

Lying in RPGs is a bit complex because there is a layer of pretending between us and the NPC. Very little of the body language and tells of lying passes through from GM to the character without deliberate effort.

This forces players to rely on mechanics, because the GM’s body language is sending mixed messages.

If you want a more immersive experience and you want your players, not their dice, to catch you in a lie, then here are some tricks I use to make my lies more obvious.

  • Pointedly avoid eye contact with the players.
  • When you do make eye contact, blink rapidly.
  • Recite the lie as if reading from an internal script.
  • Mumble or speak softly. Most people are embarrassed to lie.
  • Cover or hide your mouth from them.
  • Twitch or fidget. Lying makes most people uncomfortable.

Other ways to make people suspicious:

  • Answer abruptly. People don’t like talking to angry people, so by being abrupt you warn them that anger is a possibility if they continue.
  • Answer with a question. It’s not technically a lie (good for evading truth spells), and you can deflect the conversation back, putting them on the defensive.
  • Actively discourage questions. Intimidation deters most casual questions.
  • Be vague. Never reveal more information than needed. Make them work hard to get every bit of info out of you.
  • Have two person’s statements match word for word. Point out that they are the same. Exactly the same. This makes people suspicious.

Tells not to use:

Hesitation is normally a good tell as the person is mentally checking the lie for flaws before saying it. However, in an RPG it may mean you are working something out or trying to remembering the NPC’s name. So it should not be something you teach your players to interpret as a lie.

Looking up and to the left (if you are right handed) is normally a good tell that a person is lying, because it indicates they are using their imagination to make up a lie. Unfortunately in role-playing, it may well mean you are using your imagination to make up the truth. So I don’t recommend this one either.

I found that players quickly learn to pick up on these cues. At first they may just use them as a prompt to ask, “I this guy lying?” or to make a “detect lie” roll. But soon you will find your players skip that and go straight to, “Your lying. It’s written all over your face!”

Fun times.

Hope you find this useful.

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