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  1. #1

    Discussion: How is the diplomacy skill used at your game table

    This thread needs to be moved to the commons, sorry wrong topic!


    Okay guys - I like my players to be able to solves quests through the use of at least the following three basic techniques: combat, stealth and social skills. Players seem to enjoy using both combat and stealth, but less so when using social skills.

    So for a long time I have been mulling over the idea of some sort of social combat that engages players during their diplomacy checks. I have seen house rules that expand the use of diplomacy into sort of a turn based combat mode where each person uses verbal jabs, lies, etc. to "win" the combat. The "winner" then gets the benefits that are normally obtained using a single diplomacy roll. So if you won verbal combat with a guard he might let you pass a gate, or if you won verbal combat with a pirate captin you might be elected the new captain, etc.

    Of the verbal combat systems I have seen, I really liked them because they gave the players interesting choices and tactics to use during a social encounter (rather then saying "I roll another diplomacy check.." However, the systems I have seen seemed too complicated to easily toss into a campaign. Anyway, I was looking here to see if anyone had one that worked well - and to share a simple one that I came up with.

    EDIT - the first solution I posted involved concurrent play. I am posting a second solution for turn-based social combat, which is more inline with D&D's turn based combat and somewhat more forgiving for PCs that have specialized in a single social skill (e.g a fighter that has put ranks only in intimidate)


    Psuedo rock-paper-scissors social combat.
    When the PCs enters verbal combat with one or more NPCs, both the PCs and the NPCs select a character to do the talking for each round and which social skill they want that character to use. Intimidate is Rock, Diplomacy is paper and Bluff is scissors. If the PC selects a skill that beats the skill selected by the NPC during the psuedo Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) check, the PC then gets to make an attempt with that skill normally. If the NPC wins the RPS check, the NPC gets to make an attempt with his selected skill on the player. If neither person is successfull with the attempt or the RPS check is a draw, both the PCs and NPCs select skills again for another RPS check match to see who gets to use their selected skill. This continues until someone succeeds on an attempt with their social selected skill. At that point, social combat wins and the winner (PC or NPC) is affected as appropriate by the DM.

    EXAMPLE (one on one concurrent social combat)

    Here is a quick example of how this system plays out in operation. Let's say Alice the Bard wants to convince the theif Bob to give back the money he stole from her without a fight. Social combat ensues:

    1. Alice knows that Bob is a thief and probably has a good bluff (scissors) skill so she would be best off choosing Intimdate (rock) for the psuedo RPS round). However, Alice knows that Bob the theif is not a great fool and knows that Alice knows that he is a theif and so maybe Bob will choose Diplomacy (paper). But Bob must have known that Alice knew he is not a great fool and maybe he would compensate by choosing bluff (scissors) after all? After some of this pondering Alice decides to just go with her gut choice Intimidate (rock). Bob ends up choosing Bluff (scissors) and losses the psuedo RPS check).

    2. Since Alice won the psuedo RPS check, she gets to make a check with her selected skill (intimidate). Bob's opposed intimidate roll succeeds so there is no clear winner of round 1.

    3. Round two starts and Alice decides to go with what worked last time Intimidate (rock). Bob figured Alice might stick with what worked last time so he tried Diplomacy (paper) this time even though he stinks with that skill. Bob wins the psuedo RPS check for round two.

    4. Since Bob won the second psuedo RPS check, he gets to make a check with his selected skill(diplomacy). Bob gets lucky and wins the opposed skill check! Since Bob scored a hit the social combat is over. The outcome is that Alice failed to convince Bob the theif to give back the money using her social skills. Fortunately Alice is accompanied by Carl the fighter and so the PCs can always fall back on violance to solve this problem In any case, Bob hasn't been convinced with words to give back the money.

    If you must fit the above sequence into a roleplaying frame, you could say that Bob started by trying to lie that he was not the theif. This didn't work on Alice and she told Bob that he was the theif and that he should give back the money before she gets mad. Bob was not intimidated by this threat and responds that he knows Alice probably stole the money to start with so he has just as much right to it as her. If Alice wants it back, she is going to have to try to take it back!

    EXAMPLE (cooperative concurrent social combat)

    This time three friends Alice the thief (who has a high bluff skill), Carl the fighter (who has a high intimidate skill) and Dan the bard (who has a high Diplomacy skill) are planning on burgarizing the house of Bob the aristocrat. They start picking the lock on Bob's front door when he catches them. Bob walks up and almost sees what they are doing, and being extremely suspicous tells Alice, Carl and Dan that they better have a good explanation or he will call the guard. Alice, Carl and Dan enter social combat with Bob.

    1. The DM secretly picks what skill Bob is going to use for round 1.

    2. After the DM has secretly picked, the players for Alice, Carl and Dan decide which one of them is going to step forward to deal with the situation. The players decide that Bob, being an aristocrat might be good at diplomacy (paper), so they decide the best tactic is to use bluf (scissors). Therefore, they elict that Alice will enter round one using bluff (scissors). Since Alice meets Bob's diplomacy (paper) with bluff (scissors), the PCs when the RPS test.

    3. Alice rolls her bluff check opposed by Bob's sense motive check and so the attempt doesn't succeed. So the combat moves onto round two.

    4. The DM secretly picks what skill Bob is going to use for round 2. Bob decides that he didn't like what happened the first time, so he is going to try and intimidate (rock) by saying that he will call the guards if they don't tell the truth.

    5. The players consult and decide that they had better change tactics. This time Carl is going to step forward and use intimidate (rock). Since Bob and Carl both selected Intimidate (rock), this round ends in a draw.

    6. Round three starts and the DM secretly picks bluff (scissors), bob is going to lie that the guards are coming around the corner to reveal whether the PCs are afraid of the guards and therefore doing something wrong.

    7. The players consult and decide that Carl the fighter should use Intimidate (rock) again to tell the aristocrat that if he ever reports their activities he will be killed. Since Intimidate (rock) bests bluff (scissors), the PCs win and Carl gets to make his intimidate attempt.

    8. Carl the fighter rolls a good intimidate check that overcomes Bob's opposing roll. Social combat is over. Bob decides to let the Alice, Carl and Dan leave without any further trouble for the time being. Since an intimidate victim gets mad later per the intimidate skill, Bob the ariscrot may try to report the incident at a later time once his fear of Carl diminishes somewhat.


    To decide who goes first, the PC that wants to engage in social combat rolls a d20 modified by their CHA modifier. The representative NPC does the same and the person with the higher modified roll goes first. The winner of the initiative gets to make an attempt with any of intimidate (rock), bluff (scissors) or diplomacy (paper). If the attempt is successful, the social comabat is over.

    If the attempt is not successful, any person in the second party gets to respond with an attempt. The second party's choices of which skills they can use are limited by what the first party chose for the first round. If the first party chose Intimidate (rock), the second party may choose either intimidate (rock) or diplomacy (paper) but not bluff (scissors). If the second party wins in this attempt, social combat is over. If not, the first party goes again and his skill choices for that third round are limited as previously explained based on which skill he is responding to.


    Anyway, that's what I came up with for a simple system that gives players some interesting choices when attempting to solve a problem with words instead of violence or stealth.
    Last edited by longarms; April 2nd, 2007 at 01:10.

  2. #2
    I like it, I just don't know how this can be incorporated in FG. Maybe a small window could be selected that has the three choices. The DM (NPC) would open a window that he would share with everyone. He would then select which PC he would square off against. The other player characters could watch but not participate. Then using the lua script the result of the round would be displayed when both DM and the PC made their choice. I think this could be done using lua (in FG2). I'll add it to one of my things to do.
    You could make it so that it could be used between two player characters if you wanted. You know if say one player wanted to convince another player to go do something for them.

  3. #3
    Opps, this was supposed to be in the commons not the tavern. I always mix those up

    If a board monitor could move this thread, I would appreciate. This obviously has nothing to do with FG, but rather with gaming in general...

  4. #4
    It's late and I am tired but I recall a game system that used social "combat" so to speak that was similiar to what your were proposing. If I can remember it I will let you know as it was a good system IIRC. This would make things more interesting I agree but you need to be cautious where you use it or you could bog down a lot of social encounters.

  5. #5
    Stuart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    United Kingdom
    At a quick glance the rock/paper/scissors seems a tad too much like metagaming and draws on all three skills such that some character classes that only have one of the skills as a Class skill are going to be disadvantaged very easily. If I read it right .... I play a Samurai, a class that has as a feature, bonuses to Intimidate ... it sounds as if as soon as any character "pulls out" the Diplomacy skill, my character fails ?

    I'm not sure the system is "broken" - it depends on using the right skill in the right role playing circumstances.

  6. #6
    That is helpful input Stuart. See if the slight underlined modification and the additional example addresses your concerns about the chances for a character with a single skill to be successful.
    Last edited by longarms; April 1st, 2007 at 08:51.

  7. #7
    Oberoten's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Älvsbyn, Sweden
    A suggestion on how to solve :

    Keep track of the level of sucess, IF if they beat their Basic DC (Which might be low for simple intimidation tactics, or higher for more impying versions) this keeps getting added up to a "sucess pool" or similar.

    To sway someone they will need a certain amount of the scuess pool (Maybe they need to collect 25+ sucess pool over several discussions to finally convince this person that they should help them... If done with Brute force against a coward the base DC would be low. Maybe a five? With a synnergy bonus for Intimidation skill. A failed roll substracts from the pool as they manage to insult or find the VERY wrong angles) a few good rolls manages to find JUST the right things to say to make this person trust the PCs... or at the least trust that if he doesn't help he will end up seeing his own insides.
    For your Ars Magica needs :

    Atque in perpetuum frater, Ave atque vale.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart
    At a quick glance the rock/paper/scissors seems a tad too much like metagaming and draws on all three skills such that some character classes that only have one of the skills as a Class skill are going to be disadvantaged very easily. If I read it right .... I play a Samurai, a class that has as a feature, bonuses to Intimidate ... it sounds as if as soon as any character "pulls out" the Diplomacy skill, my character fails ?

    I'm not sure the system is "broken" - it depends on using the right skill in the right role playing circumstances.
    Maybe, but the samurai where notorious to follow orders to the letter and fell more then once pray to the diplomacie checks to put them in line.
    'Would you presume to deny the futur head of the Maruyama household his desire?"
    "Ah... show me the man who would and I will cut him down at ounce!"
    Pulling rank IS diplomacy after all

    I found the system quite refreshing and well tought off pertaining to what symbol is associated with what skill.
    I will surely try it at my next game session.
    Always keep it in perspective!

  9. #9
    Stuart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    United Kingdom
    Pulling rank is intimidation.
    One of the most famous samurai legends (The 47 Ronin) is a testament to not following orders but rather, following a "correct" code of conduct and honouring one's master.

  10. #10
    Hmm...The system there just doesen't sit well with me. What I usually do is use Rich Burlews style of Diplomacy. It's on www.giantitp.com under gaming. It makes the skill a little bit more reasonable and I usually force my characters to roll their skill and then try to speak their way into or out of situations. Depending on what they're trying to say determines the DC using Rich Burlews system. So after I know the DC I give them the NPC answer.

    In Unearthed Arcana there's a thing about using complex trap checks where you have to use disable device more than once to disable a trap and each time it has a higher DC. You can also do that with diplomacy I think. You'll just have to make the conversation sort of dynamic.

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