[RPG] Curing NPC phobia


This is a another version of Curing trap phobia, but as you can guess, the party is now using Insight checks on all NPCs they meet!

I've cut down encounters with unnecessary NPCs, so every NPC they interact with is important, or somehow able to give information or a (mini) quest.

These players have read a lot of DnD stories, and I think they are worried about a quest-giver that turns out to be the bad guy, or hiding something. I have used no quest NPCs like this.

How can I cure their NPC phobia?

Note that in the future, I have a quest about the cliche corrupt mayor who asks for something to be taken care of, but turns out it's for his shady business. I would expect answers that do not simply suggest not using "bad NPCs" at all.

I was thinking about using Passive Insight, but I'm concerned with the low Wisdom the characters have (cleric is going STR build), so there will be no chance of them spotting the hidden agenda.

Best Answer

I read a passage in the DMG the other night that without having the book at hand I think I can roughly paraphrase as

"Each NPC should be built with flaws, bonds, ideals and [whatever the last one is] in the same way as a PC. An insight check gives the PC an insight into one of these so they can use them to craft a convincing roleplay against the NPC"

So you simply don't allow insight to be a lie detector test, you let them find the personality of the individual they are talking to and decide for themselves if the person is trustworthy and if they can use those features to convince themselves.

You also make all conversations grow organically, when they reach a suitable point to ask for an insight check you can allow them, but they can't have insight if they don't engage in meaningful conversation.


Flaw "The mayor is a compulsive liar"

Bond "The mayor will do anything to keep his pet Kangaroo safe".

The PC's chat to the mayor and ask him about something they know. You roleplay the mayor as a liar and say something like "The mayor looks away from you for a second before replying with [wrong answer here]". This is the clue for the PC to ask for an insight check which will reveal the flaw. They now know they are dealing with a liar and have to find a way to get the truth.

You know the only way to get that truth is to threaten the Kangaroo, so the PC's have to do something to either ask about the Kangaroo and insight check the relevance, or see the huge painting of the mayor and his kangaroo frolicking in the pastures and deduce it for themselves.

This relies on you giving more depth to the NPCs however and properly roleplaying them according to those characteristics. How hard this is I couldn't tell you.


Insight isn't a lie detector, it is a clue to the personality of the NPC which will allow them to deduce for themselves. If the NPC has no personality it is hard to do and almost has to be a lie detector test which is where the bad habit comes from.