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Skills in Conflict

Sense Motive

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 188
The Sense Motive skill allows a character to analyze the way another character is acting and figure out if something is off. It also opposes Bluff to determine whether someone is lying, making it an important social defensive skill in an intrigue-based game.

Active and Automatic Sense Motive: Most uses of Sense Motive are active and require a character to spend a minute or more interacting with someone with the intent of using Sense Motive for a particular purpose. The only time that Sense Motive happens automatically is when it opposes Bluff, as it says in the Core Rulebook that a character attempts a Sense Motive check for every Bluff check attempted against him. See the Bluff section on page 182 for guidance on how often to call for Bluff checks.

Noticing Enchantments: Sense Motive allows a character to notice someone whose behavior is being influenced by an enchantment, though as an active check, this takes at least 1 minute of interaction and the intention to sense enchantments. This doesn’t notice enchantments that aren’t actually causing a difference in behavior at the time. For instance, if a creature is under charm person but the caster isn’t around and doesn’t come up in conversation, a Sense Motive check won’t reveal the enchantment.

Hunches: The use of Sense Motive to “get a hunch” mentions getting a feeling that someone is trustworthy or is an impostor, and it lists a static DC. This doesn’t mean to say that anyone who can succeed at a DC 20 Sense Motive check can automatically find an impostor with high Bluff and Disguise modifiers. The DC 20 check assumes that the other character is not opposing the Sense Motive check with Bluff. This is particularly useful in situations with a group of impostors, one of whom is silver-tongued and does all the talking while the others aren’t saying anything but aren’t skilled at Bluff. For instance, a hunch might help against a group of quiet assassins dressed as servants and trickling into the grand hall. The information gained from a hunch is general, not specific, and usually results in an ambiguous inkling. You can get a vague feeling that something is wrong or that someone seems trustworthy, but no more specific information than that. In the example above, a character who received a hunch wouldn’t know that the servants are specifically assassins, but would get a sense that something was off about the servants.

Sense Motive Is Not Mind Reading: Though Sense Motive can help ferret out lies and gain hunches about odd situations, it doesn’t let a character read opponents’ minds and know exactly what they’re thinking or planning. It is a verification tool that works well in conjunction with other skills, rather than a skill that allows a character to ascertain information.