Social Combat occurs when a character or group attempts to influence the opinion of or gain some favor from another character or NPC. In general, the Social Combat rules should only be used for significant conversations between important individuals; not every exchange with a street vendor needs to be a full-blown Social Combat. Social Combat is intended to provide another means of facilitating role-playing and as such is intended not get in the way. Social Combat should also be fairly quick, and flow naturally as there aren't a million and one actions to consider, only what you intend to say, how you intend to say it, and perhaps whether you want to spend Dapper on the subsequent test or not (see below).
- 1 Social Combat Overview
- 2 Intent or Request
- 3 Winning and Losing
- 4 Order of Social Combat
- 5 Ego Points
- 6 Dapper
- 7 Bonuses and Penalties
- 8 Group Social Combat
- 9 The Inherent Disadvantage of the Player Characters
- 10 Meta: Social Combat Core Concept
Social Combat Overview
During Social Combat, both sides are attempting to get the other's Ego points down to zero with the goal of achieving something. Each character or side involved will state what their Intent or Request for the engagement is to the GM. Note that this is an 'out of character' action for the GM's benefit in determining the final result of the engagement. NPCs engaging in Social Combat need not announce their intent, but it should be clearly defined by the GM before the engagement begins.
Once Social Combat begins, each character or side will raise a point, counterpoint, argument, or other similar action. Both sides will roll the appropriate skill test for the action their side takes, taking into account any bonuses or penalties. Whoever rolls higher deals damage equal to the difference between the tests to their opponent's Ego; ties result in both sides taking 1 point of Ego damage. Once one side is out of Ego, the Social Combat is over and the winner is determined.
Intent or Request
At the start of Social Combat, each side should determine what they intend to get out of the engagement. This should always be something the other side is actually capable of giving and should ideally be a reasonable request; unreasonable requests will result in bonuses for the opposing side during the engagement.
Intents can be simple or complicated, however if the Intent is too simple, it should probably be decided by a simple one-off roll. More complicated Intents should probably be broken up into multiple smaller ones where possible. For example, major geopolitical discussions or large, complicated trade agreements are probably better handled by a series of Social Combat encounters to hash out the major details and not a single engagement.
Winning and Losing
Once one side is out of Ego points, the other side wins the engagement and the spoils of victory should be determined. The GM will determine the final results based on how many ego points the winning side has left.
If the winning side has 75% or more of their starting Ego left, then they have achieved a "Total Victory" and achieve whatever their stated Intent was without any compromise.
If the winning side has between 26% and 75% of their starting Ego points remaining, then they win with a "Minor Compromise". This is up to the GM, but should be something minor related to the loser's Intent. Often potential compromises will come up during a Social Combat so the GM should choose or take suggestions from those offered during the engagement.
If the winning side has 25% or less of their starting Ego points remaining at the end of combat, then they win with a "Major Compromise". The exact nature of this is up to the GM, but should resemble both sides receiving most of what they want at around a 60/40 split, favoring the winner.
If both sides run out of ego point at the same time, both sides have won and an "Even Compromise" and each side should receive roughly half of what their intent was.
Winning/Losing Quick Reference
Winner's remaining Ego points are:
- 75% or greater: Total Victory
- 26% to 50%: Minor Compromise
- 25% or less: Major Compromise
- 0: Even Compromise
Order of Social Combat
The GM will grant bonuses based on how well each side presented its points and how well it was role-played out; in general, the GM should not grant NPCs bonuses of this sort. Each side will then roll an Opposed Skill Test using the social skill most appropriate to the dialogue they chose, including any bonuses from good RP and Dapper; the GM has the final say on which Skill test should be used by each side. Whichever side loses deducts a number of Ego Points from their current total equal to the amount that they lost their opposed skill test by.
Social Combat Order Quick Reference
- Both sides make clear to the GM what they hope to gain out of the Social Combat.
- Both sides make points, counterpoints, or other Social Combat actions; order does not matter.
- GM assigns RP Bonuses based on how well each side argued and Role-Played their side.
- Each side rolls opposed skill test of most appropriate social skill as determined by the GM.
- Loser deducts number of Ego Points from their current total equal to the amount they lost by; on a tie, both sides subtract one ego point.
- Repeat 2-5 until one side or the other is out of Ego Points.
Social Combat uses a special form of ‘wounds’ called Ego Points. Ego Points represent how well a character is able to defend their position in conversation, how stubborn they are, and how quickly they’re willing to relent in an argument or debate.
A character’s Ego score is equal to their (Intelligence + Willpower + Charisma)/2 [rounded down] + any miscellaneous bonuses. Common bonuses include a character's rank in a Profession; but only in situations directly involving that Profession. For example, if a character has the Profession (Merchant) skill and was selling something at a personally owned shop, then they would be able to add their rank in the Profession (Merchant) skill to their Ego Points for any Social Combats that took place in their shop about wares, shop details, etc. If however, the character has the same Profession (Merchant) skill and they are attempting to purchase something from a merchant, they would not get to add their ranks in the skill to their Ego Points.
Other sources of Ego Points might come from Feats or Talents, be situational, or come from having a certain rank or standing within a group or guild. GMs should also feel free to hand out Ego Points, either permanent or temporary, as rewards for hard won Social Combats or for completing quests for important individuals; which would certainly increase one’s opinion of oneself and others opinion of the character.
When engaging in Group Social Combat, all participating members of a side will average their Ego scores together to come up with the Ego for their group.
Dapper represents the appearance, social confidence, and standing of a character which plays a tangible role in Social Combat. Just as in real life, how one dresses matters when engaging in social situations and Dapper is intended to represent that. More than just appearance however, Dapper also represents displays of power or status, which can obviously affect the power dynamic during social interactions.
Dapper is gained as a result of attaining a level of wealth, status, power, or prestige. As a general rule, the more wealthy or powerful a person is, the more Dapper they have. GMs should hand out Dapper as a reward for accomplishing goals, missions, or campaigns. Gaining, or purchasing lands and/or titles should likewise come with an increase in Dapper.
A character that has more Dapper than their opponent gains a +1 success to opposed rolls against that individual. For every 3 dapper more that a character has than their opponent, they gain an additional +1 bonus to all social interactions. Dapper can also be spent to provide bonuses to a character’s opposed social combat rolls. Spending a point of dapper grants a +1 bonus to the next opposed skill test that the character undertakes. A character can spend up to 3 dapper at a time. Spending dapper and determining bonuses provided by dapper must be done before either opponent has rolled their opposed social combat roll.
Once a Social Combat is over, a character regains any Dapper they spent during the engagement.
Dapper can be "burned', as in removed permanently, for a major bonus of some kind. Exactly what this bonus is and what it entails for a character is up for the GM to work out with the character's player.
Dapper can be lost in a number of different ways. Typically, this comes from a loss of status or title, but it could also occur for a variety of other reasons, such as a character becoming disgraced. GMs should be careful not to strip Dapper too easily, quickly, or drastically. Characters often have to work hard to attain the wealth and status they have; losing it for no good reason could be devastating to a character's sense of worth.
Groups and Dapper
When engaging in Social Combat as a group, only one character's Dapper may be used; typically whichever character has the highest Dapper.
Meta: Dapper Reasoning
The reasoning behind Dapper isn't 100% logical, for many of the same ways that social interactions with other people aren't 100% logical. The idea behind dapper came from the idea that, "An armani suit is the social combat equivalent of an assault rifle." The idea is that shows of wealth, status, or power have a pronounced effect on social interactions. Such displays tend to put the displayer's opponents on the back foot and make it much harder to get something out of someone that does not see you as being on an even footing.
Translating that into gameplay in an interesting way however, is a bit of a challenge. The result was Dapper.
What probably makes the least sense about Dapper is that it's most useful benefit is in the spending of it during Social Combat. Logically, it doesn't make sense that a character's appearance or displays of status would diminish over the course of an engagement. What might change, however, is their opponent's perception of it. Effectively, a person that draws attention to their displays of power, wealth, or status during a conversation is going to find that continuing to do so has a diminishing return, hence why Dapper is spent during the course of an engagement.
Bonuses and Penalties
Common Bonuses and Penalties
As with any debate, argument, or negotiation, one way that characters can gain an edge during Social Combat is by making arguments, actions, or statements that have a more profound effect. Conversely, characters can hurt their position by making weak or repetitive arguments or statements, offending or insulting their opponent, or making social faux pas. Below are some common bonuses and penalties that may be applied by a GM to a character's opposed roll during social combat. GMs should also feel free to come up with their own bonuses or penalties as appropriate to the situation. Some characters may also have Feats or Talents which confer additional bonuses or penalties.
- Intimidation: Using a threat of force or consequences. Confers no bonus to the opposed roll, but deals +2 points of Ego damage if successful. A character must be able to back up whatever it is they're saying, otherwise they are deceiving.
- Deception: Lying, cheating, or otherwise misrepresenting information or facts. Confers no bonus to the opposed roll, but deals +2 points of Ego damage if successful. However, if the deception is ever discovered, the deceived character should expect some fallout.
- Supporting Facts: Using supported, factual evidence to support a claim or statement. Confers a +1 bonus on the opposed roll. The evidence must be true, demonstrable, and relevant.
- Promises: Offering something to the other side of the exchange. Confers a +1 bonus on the opposed roll. The offering character must be able to make good on their promise, otherwise they are deceiving.
- Good Terms: Opponent is on good terms with the character, generally due to favorable previous engagements. Confers a +1 bonus on all opposed rolls. Characters should take care not to sour the relationship with their opponent during the course of the engagement; falling out of favor will result in immediately losing this bonus for the current and future Social Combats.
- Spending Dapper: Confers a +1 bonus per point of Dapper spent, up to 3.
- Repetition: Repeating the same point that has been made at least once during the engagement. Imposes a -1 penalty to the opposed roll.
- Caught in a Lie: A previous deception was uncovered. Imposes a -2 penalty to the opposed roll for the rest of the engagement.
- Bad Blood: Opponent particularly dislikes the character. Imposes a -1 penalty to all opposed rolls during the engagement.
- Unreasonable Request: The character or group is asking for something outrageous; something their opponent is only capable of with great hardship to themselves. Imposes a -3 penalty to all opposed rolls during the engagement.
A core part of or Role Playing Games is the act of engaging in actual role play. As such, Social Combat should encourage good role-playing and furthering character development. GMs should encourage this by giving out bonuses on Social Combat rolls for good role play. Some general guidelines for RP bonuses are listed below.
- 0: No Bonus; below-average RP. I.E.: Just stating what the character says, giving no significant inflection, not describing the character’s non-verbal actions, etc.
- 1: Minor Bonus; average RP. I.E: Stating what the character says and giving some inflection to the words, perhaps describing minor, non-verbal actions, etc.
- 2: Moderate Bonus; good RP. I.E: Speaking in the character’s voice, giving inflection and attempting to convey how the character stands, their expression and other non-verbal actions.
- 3: Major Bonus; excellent RP. I.E. Speaking and motioning as the character, using in-character knowledge to effect, conveying the character's unique personality and choosing a method of social interaction most likely to have a greater effect on their opponent; really going above and beyond.
Group Social Combat
Groups engaging in Social Combat function effectively the same as two characters engaging. One major difference is that multiple characters can speak for their side and offer arguments, statements, etc. The second major difference is that instead of each character using their own Ego, opposing groups will use a single Ego score for their side which is an average of the Ego points of every character that is participating on that side plus any "leadership" bonus. The last major difference is that in Group Social Combat, only one character's Dapper from each side will be used; typically whichever character on that side has the highest Dapper.
Not every character on one side of a social combat need be part of the engagement. Any easy example might be the case where a broker has bodyguards in the room with them and someone taking notes. In this instance, the bodyguards and note-taker probably would not be part of the engagement, as they are simply silent observers and so the broker is effectively by themselves for the purposes of Social Combat. If, however, the broker had their business partner in the room, and both of them were contributing to the engagement, then they would count as a group and operate during the Social Combat engagement as one, using their averaged Ego score as normal, again excluding the bodyguards and note-taker. However, as a general rule, it should be assumed that all Player Characters present for the engagement are taking place. Even if some of them promise to sit quietly and say nothing, their mere presence is usually enough to affect the course of the engagement.
Participants Joining Mid-Engagement
It is possible for new participants to join in a Social Combat engagement partway through. When this happens, the side that the participant joins needs to re-do their Ego point calculation, then deduct any Ego damage they had taken up to that point. Depending on the Ego of the character that joins their side, having them come in mid-engagement could be either beneficial or harmful.
Some Feats or Talents may bestow benefits to a side during a group social combat. Most commonly, these will grant a group additional Ego points if that character is participating in the Social Combat as a group, but other types of benefits are also possible. See the relevant Feat or Talent for more information.
The Inherent Disadvantage of the Player Characters
In Social Combat, player characters are frequently at a disadvantage, sometimes significantly so. This is generally because the types of NPCs which can give the PCs what they desire are usually individuals of significant status, power, or wealth. These NPCs are likely to have higher than average social skill and dapper. For instance, convincing a king to lend the PCs a battalion of soldiers when it's not immediately to the king's benefit is likely to be difficult. The king will most assuredly have a higher dapper than the PCs, and likely be a skilled negotiator, or at least employ someone who is to work on his behalf. While this won't always be the case, it should be understood that when PCs go into negotiate with an NPC, they're likely going to be on the back foot. As such PCs should endeavour to gain all the mechanical and role-playing bonuses they can. Likewise, GMs should seek to open up opportunities that Players can take advantage of to gain said bonuses. For example, perhaps in order for the PCs to get the battalion of soldiers from the king, he has a task for them to complete first that they are best suited for, which would put them in a more favorable position to negotiate in the future.
Meta: Social Combat Core Concept
Use social skills as a form of combat. Players should role play out their characters’ actions and the the GM should determine what skill the character is using based on the described actions. GMs should be encouraged to offer bonuses and penalties for good role play and inform their players that they will be providing these bonuses.