D&D General On Social Mechanics of Various Sorts

Quickleaf

Legend
For me it's a question of structured social scenes (e.g. parlay, court room, tense negotiation over peace treaty) VS unstructured social scenes (uh...everything else).

The former generally are where I attach mechanics. Though I do have sections, for example, where I'll write "in parlaying with the baron, if a player gives a good response to this question leveraging the baron's RP traits, that can earn an automatic success in the skill challenge."

The later is where it's a lot more freewheeling.

So they're not mutually exclusive, but that's the general trend I've adopted when I DM.

EDIT: Structure often (but not always) corresponds to narrative weight / importance to the main quest.
 

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pemerton

Legend
How do you use social mechanics in your D&D games? If the scale of "how much do you rely on social mechanics" is from 0 (never roll; just role-play) to 10 (role-play doesn't impact the DC; just roll), where do your preferences sit on that scale?
Playing original OA AD&D, we used the rules for families and social rank - which generate reaction roll modifiers - and also embraced the orientation towards rivals, duels etc. (Implied by various classes such as kensai, as well as the Honour rules.)

Playing 4e, we mostly used skill challenges to resolve contested social interactions (maybe the odd single check as well). Where there was no contest, free narration (which is basically "saying 'yes'") was sufficient. Whether or not there was contest depended on what the PCs wanted compared to the notes on the NPC.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I use the same framework as I do for all skill checks, that I developed kinda by accident.

The player clearly and openly states their:
  • Goal: I want to negotiate a better payday
  • Method (which, in social interactions, mostly means leverage): I want to negotiate a better payday by emphasizing cold facts -- it's a very risky operation, and while we're friends, I don't want to freaking die for 500 gold pieces the fact that it's a very risky operation, and despite the fact that we're friends, I don't want to freaking die for her
  • Ability and Skill: I want to Persuade her for a better payday by Intelligently emphasizing the cold facts -- it's a very risky operation, and while we're friends, I don't want to freaking die for 500 gold pieces

The GM then clearly and openly states:
  • Requirements (what the character needs to do before even making an attempt): in this case, I didn't have any, but if the PC wasn't the NPC's friend, I'd say he needs someone to wouch for him.
  • Risk (what will happen on a failure, always something more than "status quo remains"): Ok, I tell you what. If you fail, she will take her business to your competitors. Yeah, you're her friend, but she doesn't want to freaking starve for you...
  • Reward (what will happen on a success?): ...but if you succeed, she will double the pay.
  • Price (what will happen regardless of the result): She won't be happy, though. I'll start a 6 segment clock "Sarah is fed up by your crap", and mark 2. When it fills, you will be demoted to a mere business partner.
Then I call for a roll with static DC -- 1-10: fail, 11-17: both risk and reward happen, 18+: it's all good.
You had me up until static DC. This is otherwise very similar to how I handle it.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I just picked up a copy of Legendary games Ultimate Kingdoms book, and I was reading through the Relationships chapter last night as it is relative to my next campaign (the PCs are going to be crew members of a large "Planejammer" sailing the Astral Sea and they will have to make friends, rivals and enemies among the rest of the crew). It is an interesting system where PCs will earn ranks of friendship with NPCs by a series of individual "challenges" with that NPC --- usually by engaging them on a subject, doing something for them, or giving them a gift, followed by one or more skill checks. I gather from reading it that the system was initially designed for 3.5 or Pathfinder and adapted to 5E, but it seems to work on paper pretty well, with detailed writeups of the example NPCs to show you how to make use of the system in your own games.

Anyway, it got me thinking of social mechanics that can be found in various versions of D&D throughout the years, from reaction rolls to the Leadership Feat, along with the usual Persuasion and Deception checks.

How do you use social mechanics in your D&D games? If the scale of "how much do you rely on social mechanics" is from 0 (never roll; just role-play) to 10 (role-play doesn't impact the DC; just roll), where do your preferences sit on that scale? Does it change from campaign to campaign, adventure to adventure, or even between players?

Thanks.
I'm probably a 5 or 6. If the players roleplay a convincing reason for the NPC to do something, they will either get big bonuses to the roll or often just succeed. If the outcome is in doubt, I will roll. If they're trying something super outrageous and the NPC would never do it, they fail.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
My philosophy, whether in social interaction, exploration, combat, or whatever else, is that the character gathers information, the player draws conclusions from it; the player formulates strategies, the character executes them. The player has to be the one to tell me what they want from the NPC they’re interacting with and how they try to get it from them - how they tell me doesn’t matter. They can put on a voice and speak in first-person as their character, they can speak in third-person and tell me what their character says, they can tell me in abstracr terms what their goal and approach are (e.g. “I spin a sob story to try and get him to lower the price”), whatever they’re comfortable with. All that matters is that they clearly communicate what they want and what their character does to try and get it. I will use that information to determine if success and failure are possible and if failure has a consequence, and if all three are true, what the difficulty of the check will be.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I make an active effort not to judge DCs or modifiers based on how eloquent the player is, or how well they do their accent, or whatever. It isn't fair to the quieter, less confident, or simply less acting-talented players. I don't punish role-playing in the third person, either. That being the case, I kind of come down a little more on the side of social mechanics.
All of my players talk in first person, so that's not really a thing that I have to worry about. To me the idea the player is trying to get across is more important than how smoothly the player delivers it. A player who stumbles and stammers, but gives a compelling reason is going to have a good chance of success. I also run what the players say through a charisma filter. If that stumbling player has a PC with an 18 charisma, the NPC is going to hear a more eloquent version of what was said. Similarly, an eloquent player running a 5 charisma PC is going to have the speech downgraded in quality due to the charisma filter.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I have also had players who are keen to play say a Bard or Sorcerer but find speaking up intimidating.
I've had players like that. I've also had success in going to them specifically and asking them, "What would you like to do?" and "What would you like to say?" They're much more likely to speak up at that point and after a while they become more comfortable with it and speak up on their own.
 






mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
How do you use social mechanics in your D&D games? If the scale of "how much do you rely on social mechanics" is from 0 (never roll; just role-play) to 10 (role-play doesn't impact the DC; just roll), where do your preferences sit on that scale? Does it change from campaign to campaign, adventure to adventure, or even between players?
I'm a 9 or 10 on the scale, and it should come as no surprise that I use the rules for resolving interactions found in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Player skill is super fun and enjoyable, accounting for most interactions where the adventurers aren't trying to shift a creature's attitude, or aren't asking a creature to take some sort of risk by way of request, demand, or suggestion.

Character skill ultimately moves the dial when resolving interactions where shifting attitude and risk are involved. The conversation plays out quite naturally, but the outcome is determined by dice.

What I like most about the core rules is that goal-driven conversation isn't a social combat filled with transactional ability contests, which always made conversations with non-player characters feel very choppy to me in previous editions.



How do you guys feel about this? Makes more prep, but man it sounds like a fun way to run a social encounter.
Great share! I don't get into this much detail, but I certainly pencil in a few notes about a creature's personality characteristics, attitude (including what might change it for better or worse), and what constitutes risk for the them.

It's difficult to keep those things firmly defined when you have savvy players who missed their calling as career diplomats. LOL
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
You had me up until static DC. This is otherwise very similar to how I handle it.
I have very hard time with setting DCs in any system that has it (D&D, Fate, whatever). I don't think about fiction in terms of numbers or even Easy-Hard scale, and no matter how much I tried, it never became easy. So I sidestep my problem.

If you don't have it, go ahead and set DCs for every roll.
 

ART!

Legend
I have very hard time with setting DCs in any system that has it (D&D, Fate, whatever). I don't think about fiction in terms of numbers or even Easy-Hard scale, and no matter how much I tried, it never became easy. So I sidestep my problem.

If you don't have it, go ahead and set DCs for every roll.
I'm the same way - there's too much going on in my head to decide where in a 20-30-point scale how hard every last thing is that requires a roll.
 

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