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14 January 2014 @ 06:18 pm
Social System for Novus  
This is primarily intended for the Novus RPG, but strip out the skills and use Charisma rolls and you could probably import it into the OSR ruleset of your choice.

Skill List
By default, Novus has ~20 skills for hitting people in the face and one skill for talking to them (called Influence). This is not innately a problem, since it worked fine in D&D for a decade, but it's not really the way I like to play my games. Because I am lazyefficient, I'm going to borrow the skills I use in my ORE games:
Command (Cha): Giving orders and having them be followed effectively.
Deceive (Cha): Influencing other people's opinion by being less than truthful.
Empathy (Wis): Figuring out what other people are feeling, telling if they're lying, or trying to discover ulterior motives.
Intimidate (Str): Scaring people into doing what you want.
Negotiate (Cha): In addition to buying low, and selling high, it also covers trade deal and so on. Has some aspects of persuasion, but not exactly the same.
Persuade (Cha): Trying to convince people to switch to your point of view.

This is pretty much the standard list of social skills, and isn't particularly realistic--there are people who can't lie, sure, but the smooth liar who starts tripping over themselves when telling the truth doesn't really exist--but you have to break it down somewhere.

The System
The problem with social skills is that they're usually either treated as a binary result, where someone doesn't care until you succeed and then they're your fast friend, or they go even past that into mind control--the Diplomancer problem. I already wrote about this, so I'll direct you there where I elucidate some of the ways it can go horribly wrong.

However, there's this game called Weapons of the Gods, and through its existence it solved social skill use forever. A strong claim, I realize, but the benefit of WotG's social skills is that they merely influence, not compel. For a simple explanation, you can give someone Hyperactive Crimson Chi as long as they keep eating spicy food or require them to waste time frolicking in the fields to burn it off, a Jade Chi condition that drives them into fits of anger in the presence of their enemies, or their combat skills are penalized because they are acting against orders in attacking, or whatever. But it's the affected player's choice whether to perform the action and gain the bonus or whether to ignore it and accept the weakness.

It's easy to convert that into Novus's 2d10 + boon/snag mechanic. Roll your skill vs. the appropriate counterskill or save (Deceive vs. Empathy, Intimidate vs. Deceive, Negotiate vs. Negotiate, etc.), and if you win, then the target gets a bonus or penalty to a certain kind of actions. Probably just ±2 at a time, with boons and snags increasing the possible change from a single roll. There also has to be a way to avoid the bonus or penalty through performing or avoiding some action

For example, a penalty to the target if they oppose the PC's attempts to undermine the duke is easily avoidable, because they can just stand aside. A penalty to the target's sword skills would have to have some catch, like train more to shore up their confidence or have their weapon inspected by an authority or stop drinking. Or maybe just a penalty when fighting the PC to encourage surrender? That might be a good way to handle in-combat trash talk.

So, how to keep track of all these bonuses and penalties?

The name comes from Reign and Runequest 6. I'd divide them into Influences, which arise from social rolls, and Passions that are chosen by the player based on some mechanic. Passions would be things like "Loyalty to the Duke +6" or "Hatred of Elves +2" or "Maintains Code of Honor +4," and then would function as a bonus on social rolls to advance the object of a Passion or a bonus on rolls to resist any attempt to create an Influence that's opposed to a Passion. So the guard with "Loyalty to the Duke +6" is going to be really hard to convince to look the other way while the players sneak into the Duke's private chambers.

Passions also act as buffers against negative Influences, so even if an Influence is successfully created, the target can ignore the mechanical penalties as long as they're equal to or less than the opposing Passion. I'll cap Influences and Passions at ±10, which prevents them from getting out of hand and lets someone set a Passion at +10 and have an unshakable conviction about something.

As for durations for Influences, I'm not sure. That's the kind of thing that will really need playtesting, I expect.
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