Social Combat

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At times, the social exchanges are too intricate and nuanced to be dealt with in a single roll, and the stakes too complex to be covered by mere success or failure. In these situations, the DM may call for social combat rules. These require the calculation of a new set of temporary stats similar to HP, BAB and AC.

Social HP: Reputation[edit]

Reputation is a measure of how effective a character appears to be in accomplishing their goals, regardless of what those goals are. A heroic knight might be a formidable fighter, but if he has a low reputation, he might be seen as a lout who charges into battle with sword drawn and wits sheathed; people cringe when he offers to help. By contrast, a petty tyrant with an undamaged reputation might be seen as ruthless but effective, and people know to stay out of his way or capitulate quickly.

With hit points, a 10th level fighter down to 10hp out of 70 is in worse shape than a 1st level warrior with 10/10. Likewise, reputation is proportional to a base score, and the proportion is more important than the actual number. A low base score means that, even with undamaged reputation, the character isn't well known for anything at all, while a very high base score means its hard to go anywhere without the character's reputation preceding them. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios.

All characters start with a base reputation score equal to their level plus their Cha modifier, plus the total ranks in Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate. This can increase if the character keeps an intact reputation after receiving Acclaim (see below).

Social BAB: Wit[edit]

The most direct form of attacking in social combat is done with insults, via a Perform check (or Charisma if untrained) against the target's status.

Bluff can be used to conceal an attack in the form of innuendo; the attacker speaks their attack as the secret message behind a more conservative or amiable public statement. If the target or any allies present cannot beat the Bluff check with their Sense Motive, they cannot mount a defense, and the corresponding Wit attack gets a +2 to the roll.

A variety of other actions can be used to create a Gaffe or Blunder, opening up the person to ridicule. This can include Disable Device for pranks, Sleight of Hand to steal something important, or even an attack roll to trip someone.

Social AC: Status[edit]

The DC to damage a person's reputation is called their Status. Base Status is 10+ the target's Cha modifier. This is modified by any relative xenophobia between the participants, and also any disparity in authority, popularity, nobility and manner of dress. Any conditions that modify charisma-related skills can apply to Status. Finally, if the person being attacked is present, there's an additional +2 Status, and they have the option to defend (see below).

Defending[edit]

The majority of social combat takes place gossiping about people behind their backs, but not always. If a character is present when their reputation is attacked, they may defend by deliberately ignoring the attack (Will save DC = 10+ attacker's Cha modifier), or by an immediate counterattack. If they successfully ignore, they did not rise to the bait and take half damage from the attack. If they counterattack, whoever rolls lowest suffers the damage from both attacks.

It is also possible to defend the reputation of another. If that person is also present, this counts as Aid Another for whatever defense action they choose. If they are not, the defender chooses to either ignore or counterattack, but if they fail, they take half of the damage to their own Reputation.

Damaged Reputation[edit]

Because lower proportionate Reputation suggests incompetence, Reputation damage yields social consequences as the score drops in proportion to the base:

  • 90-100%: no penalties
  • 75-89%: -2 to Charisma-based skill checks among those who know their reputation.
  • 50-74%: -3 to Charisma-based skill checks among those who know their reputation.
  • 25-49%: -4 to Charisma-based skill checks among those who know their reputation.
  • 0-24%: -6 to Charisma-based skill checks among those who know their reputation.

Rolling Wit Damage[edit]

While Wit attacks hit or miss based on Perform, they deal damage based on Intimidate. The damage is 1d4 for 0-4 ranks, 1d6 for 5-9 ranks, 1d8 for 10+ ranks. Regardless of the die rolled, Wit attacks always add Cha bonus.

Gaffes and Blunders[edit]

Besides insults, a person's reputation can be damaged by small social mistakes (gaffes) or by public failures (blunders). Besides their own damage, both gaffes and blunders open the character up to criticism, allowing enemies to make a free attack against the character's reputation. It's this last part that makes highly social characters fear even the smallest gaffes. Gaffes are usually the result of failed checks regarding social norms, such as not knowing which fork to eat with, and result in only 1-2 points of reputation damage. Blunders are much more severe, because they involve the character failing to achieve a stated goal, which is a direct reflection on their competence. Damage for a blunder varies, but it's never less than 2d4 points.

Restoring Reputation[edit]

Reputation points restore over time. If someone goes an entire month without suffering damage to their reputation, they return to 100%. Acclaim may also restore a damaged reputation (see below).

Acclaim[edit]

Noteworthy accomplishments that enhance reputation are called Acclaim. This can include anything from public acts of charity to taking credit for the deeds of underlings, and while it's more common for people who deliberately promote their deeds, it happens to anyone regardless. The effects of Acclaim depend on their current reputation. If it's damaged when word gets out, Acclaim restores enough points to move them to the next point up the scale (see Low Reputation, above). If their reputation is already undamaged, they gain additional reputation points equal to one-quarter their current base. This grants additional bonuses, as follows:

  • 125-150% +3 to Charisma-based skill checks among those who know their reputation.
  • 101-124% +2 to Charisma-based skill checks among those who know their reputation.

Like bonus hit points, the bonus reputation is somewhat temporary, but it can leave a lasting effect: any reputation that still exceeds the base after one week becomes part of the base permanently. This means the character no longer has the bonuses for being over 100%, but they have a higher general reputation that makes them harder to damage. To reflect the effects of gradual acclaim on public figures, it's recommended to add at least one point of reputation per year someone has held a public position, unless they are notoriously incompetent.

Social Combat Abilities[edit]

While Dragon 294 originally proposed Wit-based feats, this system is intended to add structure to existing social abilities rather than give new ones, so the following options should be distributed to characters to reflect existing circumstances.

  • Outsider: +2 Status; immune to reputation damage from gaffes
  • Obvious Target: insults often backfire: Succeed at a Will save to ignore, attacker takes the damage.
  • Thorny Reputation: Attempts to insult that fail by 5 or more deal 1d4+Cha damage to the attacker.
  • Stoic: +2 Status; Succeed at a Will save to ignore, take no damage.
  • Rapier Wit: Increase Wit damage die by one rank, up to 1d10
  • Cunning wit: +4 to Wit attacks and to the Save DC to ignore attacks
  • Bully: Calculate base reputation with 3x Intimidate instead of Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate, if higher.
  • Diplomat: Calculate base reputation with 3x Diplomacy instead of Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate, if higher.
  • Sly: Calculate base reputation with 3x Bluff instead of Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate, if higher.
  • Sterling Reputation: Recover full reputation in 2 weeks rather than a month, and Acclaim lasts 4 days instead of a week.