For social combat to occur, two things have to happen first.
- The combatants must be in range. Social combat can’t happen if the characters involved can’t hear each other. See Guidelines on the Range of Social Combat below.
- They must understand each other. Social combat works best if the combatants involved are speaking the same language. It can occur if they have a basic level of understanding, through gestures or being able to understand some key phrases due to the languages being in the same language family. See Limits of Understanding below.
Range of Social Combat
This type of combat can only occur if combatants are in speaking distance. Usually, this is within close range (up to two metres) but can also happen at a ranged distance with opponents being up to 50 meters away,
At close range, the character can speak without penalty. Beyond that, apply a -20% penalty to the speaker’s Influence skill. A Master of the Influence skill has learnt to project their voice and does not suffer that penalty.
Beyond fifty metres, the character cannot use Influence to attack targets using social combat techniques, without the aid of magic. The spell Thunder’s Voice is an example of a magic spell that allows Intimidation attempts at up to 100m!
Limits of Understanding
Social combat can only occur if the combatants can understand each other. If the player can convincingly explain how they can communicate their argument using sign language and gestures, they can take -20% to their Influence in Intimidation conflicts. They cannot attempt Fast Talk or Oratory, which requires more elaborate conversational language.
This method of Social Combat is where a character tries to quickly convince another that their point of view is valid or confuse them into accepting something that isn’t true. It’s a quick conversation that lasts a couple of minutes. Roll 1D6 to determine the exact length in minutes if the timing is important. It is also one character against another. Fast Talk also works against small groups of up to ten individuals, where the group has an established leader that the character can aim their attack at, and their subordinates will follow their lead. Fast Talk only works in situations where the target is within clear speaking distance.
The procedure for making a Fast Talk is as follows:
- The player whose character is doing the Fast Talk roleplays what their character is saying and announces what they want the successful outcome to be.
- The character doing Fast Talk makes an opposed skill test using Influence. The target may defend with one of three skills. Their Influence, if they are actively arguing back; their Persistence skill, if they are relying on sheer will power to resist the other character’s persuasion; or a Lore Skill if the character is trying to trick them in an area where they are knowledgeable.
- If the Fast Talker succeeds, they convince the target. The target remains convinced for 1D20 minutes before they realise they’ve been bamboozled.
- If the Fast Talker rolls a critical result the target never realises they’ve been conned and accepts what the character says as the truth.
- If the Fast Talker making the fast talk fails the roll, the target does not fall for their deception. They may try again, using a different argument, and they suffer a cumulative -20% modifier to their Influence each time they try. Until the character’s modified Influence is 0 or below, they can keep on trying. At this point, the Fast Talker has lost all credibility with the target, who can simply ignore them and walk away.
- If the Fast Talker fumbles their roll, the target immediately realises that they are the target of deception. Depending on the temperament of the target this may lead to them launching an attack (see Moving to Physical combat below), a loud denouncement of the Fast Talker or, at the very best, a loss of credibility (-20% with the target on all Influence rolls until they succeed against them).
If timing is important, the whole exchange takes 1D6 minutes.
Note, the Fast Talker is usually the player character who is trying to convince a non-player character. There may be rare cases where the Fast Talker is a non-player character, run by the Referee, and the target is a character controlled by the player. Normally, this is someone who socially outranks the character in an organisation that they belong to and expects to be obeyed, such as high ranking Noble, Priest, Guild Master or Magus. The Referee should be careful when applying the outcome and should not corner the player character into a situation which the player is unhappy with. Even if the Fast Talker rolled a critical, the player character should be allowed to fail forward if they want to.
This is a type of public speaking, where a skilled speaker tries to convince an audience of their argument. Unlike Fast Talk, this is the art of influencing large crowds. This procedure applies to both formal public speaking, such as political debates or trials, or informal public speaking such as an argument between the players’ adventuring group and a group of bandits.
The Orator puts forward their argument over a series of exchanges, which last ten minutes or more, to win over the audience. The Orator wins when all the audience comes over to their side or, if the combat has a time limit, if they have more members of the audience on their side.
Make a note of the size of the audience. As the Orator wins over the audience, members will come over to their side. Conversely, if there is a Defence Orator, they can win back the audience that the Orator is attempting to win over.
Determine how long the oratory will last. Public affairs either have a set time limit, based upon legal tradition, or can be big debates that last as long as it needs for one side to win.
The Referee determines if the audience has a Defending Orator. Normally, this is a non-player character. If you need to make up their stats on the spot, normally they will be a veteran in the Influence Skill (75%) and have a Persistence of about 50%.
- The Orator puts forward their argument, which the player controlling the Orator roleplays out.
- They roll against their Influence, modified by the Referee (see Modifiers for Oratory below).
- If the Orator succeeds, 1D10 members of the audience move over to their side of the argument.
- If the Orator fails, the audience remains unconvinced, and the Orator is at -20% for their next attempt to sway the audience.
- At this point, if there is a defending Orator (see ‘Who the Orator?’ below) in the audience, they get to respond. Repeat steps 3-5 for the defence.
- Look at the state of the audience after the defence has spoken.
- If all the audience is on the Orator’s side, then they accept the Orator’s argument and the Orator wins the combat.
- If the combat is time-limited and the time limit is up, look at the numbers of the audience that have moved over to the Orator, and the number who remain unconvinced. If that number is in favour of the Orator, they win.
- If at any point the Orator or the defence fumble their roll, they automatically lose ten audience members. If they have no audience members on their side, they lose the combat.
- If at any point the Orator or the defence critical their roll, they automatically gain ten of the audience.
- If neither side of the argument has won outright, and there is still time, the combat continues. Repeat the procedure.
Who is the Orator?
Normally the Orator will be the attacking player character, and the defence will be a named non-player character who acts as the leader for the audience.
Occasionally the Orator will be a non-player character. Still, it can be the other way round with the Orator being an NPC who outranks the character in much the same conditions as Fast Talk.
Modifiers for Oratory
The following conditions give a +20% bonus to the Orator’s Influence. Apply only one.
- If the player gives a resoundingly good roleplaying performance when presenting the Orator’s argument.
- If the Orator has another skill which will back up the argument they are putting forward.
- If the Orator has a motive that reinforces the argument they are making.
- If the audience the Orator is facing is sympathetic to the Orator’s argument.
- The following conditions give a -20% penalty to the Orator’s influence.
- The audience is actively hostile to the Orator’s argument.
- The physical conditions are adverse, for example its raining heavily.
Pick one modifier to apply, no stacking.
Where the character trying to persuade another non-player character, or group of characters, using the threat of physical force. This often happens as an action during physical combat, where the character tries to get the other side to surrender or flee. Intimidation may be directed at a single enemy or a group of enemies. It also can occur at the beginning of combat, where the Intimidator challenges their opponents to either surrender immediately or leave the field peacefully.
- The Intimidator’s player roleplays out the what the Intimidator is saying and announces what they want the successful outcome to be.
- They make a skill test using Influence.
- If the Intimidator succeeds, they convince the target(s).
- If the Intimidator rolls a critical result, the target caves immediately, surrendering or fleeing (player’s choice).
- If the Intimidator making the Intimidation fails the roll, the target is not intimidated.
- If the Intimidator fumbles their roll, the target immediately digs in and cannot be intimidated by the character for the rest of the Quest.
Modifiers for Intimidation
- If the character’s motive has a bearing on the Intimidation attempt, give the character a +20% bonus to their Intimidation attempt.
- If the target(s) have a higher Influence or Persistence than the Intimidator’s Influence, apply a -20% penalty to the Intimidator’s Influence.
- If the target(s) is more powerful than the Intimidator or is at full strength if the target is a group, then apply a -50% penalty.
Pick one modifier to apply, no stacking.
As in a Fast Talk contest, the Intimidator is usually a player character. Occasionally the Intimidator will be a non-player character, under much the same conditions as in a Fast Talk contest
Intimidation uses the Basic Skill Test rather than Opposed Skill Test for speed, because it is often used as part of physical combat, which is already heavy with dice rolls.
Prolonged Social Combats
The above procedures, as written, assume that you are resolving small scale conflicts that are of the moment between two combatants put on the spot.
Longer involved social combats, such as political campaign or even the courtship phase of a romance, can be run using one of two methods, that is decided by the Referee after discussion with the players involved, depending on whether the situation is stressed or unstressed.
If the combat is a leisurely unstressed affair, where the opposition isn’t putting up an active resistance, simply use the skill level of the ‘attacker’ to determine the level of a win after a duration determined, using common sense, by both the player and the Referee.
- Between them, the Referee and the player(s) involved agree on a timescale for the combat – the length of time that it will take place over and the number of exchanges that occur.
- Within the combat, each exchange is a sub-combat, which could be any one of the social combat types. Resolve using the rules given above.
- Some exchanges can be magical attacks or physical combats, or even mini-Quests, made up of magical, physical and social exchanges that occur as full adventures. But the number of these must not exceed half of the total of exchanges.
- Critical successes score two points for the character, while fumbles take two points off the character’s score.
At the end of the series of exchanges, the winner is the side who has won the most skill tests.
Magic and Social Combat
Certain magic spells increase the character’s Influence skill, such as the Personal Magic spells, Enhance (Influence) and Thunder’s Voice (which positively modifies Influence in Intimidation tests, as well as boosting the range at which social combat can occur considerably). These spells must be in effect before the character engages in social combat.
Moving onto Physical Combat if Things go Wrong
Targets who win the social combat against the player character may, if the Referee decides it makes sense given the situation and the personality of the target, explode into violence. Failed Intimidation attempts are more likely to result in violence than Fast Talk or Oratory. If they do, the incensed target has a +20% bonus to their first action, which is usually a Close Combat or Unarmed attack.