|"Dramatist" by Open-Clipart-Vectors|
My games often include a lot of courtly intrigue and non-combat situations where words, manner, and standing matter deeply. I have developed a tool based on a mix of OSR NPC Reactions and ICRPG Core 2e mechanics to create a method for resolving complex and nuanced social interactions that I thought it useful to share.
Why Even Have Them?
I'm actually quite leery of social mechanics in role-playing games. I prefer games that are light on rules and where the GM adjudicates based on the described actions and acting of the players. This rule set is designed to favour in character acting, rather then to encourage players to ask if they can "roll diplomacy" to solve their problems.
So why not just throw them out entirely? Two reasons:
Facilitating Emergent Experience
In a good role playing game, the dungeon master is a surprised by what unfolds as the player characters. The DM should get to have an adventure, too. This is why many editions of Dungeons and Dragons have random weather tables, random encounter tables, random adventure generators, Etc. It allows a dungeon master who is willing to think on their feet to be as surprised as the players by the game that is unfolding.
Moves like this for social mechanics already existed in osr games. Morale, loyalty, and NPC reactions all were mechanics to allow the Dungeon Master to randomly determine how creatures were going to act, rather than have to adjudicate it. It can be quite a surprise and challenge to find that the orcs in room 23 of the dungeon are friendly.
Simulating Social Nuance
Appearance, cleanliness, body language, fashion, eye contact, vocal tonality, and timing are all things that cannot be stimulated play-acting at a table or on a webcam. Yes, all of these things have a huge influence on the outcome of a social interaction. Especially with people that a PC has not had a great deal of contact with before.
Having some kind of resolution system for handling whether or not a character is persuasive, such as whether a lie is detected, or whether their impassioned speech is truly moving may not be easy to estimate without some kind of mechanic to help.
|Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay|
Why Not Use Simple Persuasion Rolls?