Monday, July 6, 2015

Houserule: Parley

This procedure was developed in the wake of reading the social mechanics put forward by +Courtney Campbell in On the Non Player Character. It is not meant as a replacement for the rich, nuanced, and highly-gameable content of that book. And I think what is presented below is mechanically distinct. But I'm not trying to steal anyone's lunch money. If Campbell has any objections, I'll yank this post down, no worries. EDIT: Got the all-clear from Campbell! Read on with a clear conscience.

Upon an Encounter
When PCs encounter NPCs in a dangerous environment, such as the Underworld or Wilderness, the PCs have a number of ways they can respond, including: attack, flee, stealth, or communication. If the PCs choose to communicate, they enter Parley.

There are three broad outcomes possible from Parley:
         1. Combat
         2. Help
         3. Leaving each other alone.

Unless they have a specific mission relevant to encountering a bunch of adventurers, a group of NPCs is unlikely to immediately leap to either attack or help the PCs. They will typically be uncertain, and willing to engage in some degree of social interaction before they make up their minds. This is modeled through a series of Reaction Rolls.

The Initial Reaction Roll
This roll may be modified by circumstances of as much as +/-2. For instance:
The NPCs discover the PCs looting their holy site (-2);
The PCs have weapons drawn and appear aggressive (-1);
The PCs have moderately greater numbers than the NPCs (+1)
The PCs have had amicable dealings with these NPCs before (+2).

This roll is not modified by Charisma or any other character stat.

This initial roll determines:
         1. Basic attitude of the NPCs.
         2. How long the NPCs are willing to spend in the PCs’ company (Number of Parley Turns before NPCs disengage).
         3. How receptive the NPCs are to what the PCs have to say (Difficulty of CHA check before next Reaction Roll).

2d6     Reaction
2         Attack!
           No opportunity for Parley.
3-5      Undecided: Unfriendly, ready to attack.
           Parley Turns: 1
           5d6 CHA check.
6-8      Undecided: Neutral.
           Parley Turns: 2
           4d6 CHA check.
9-11    Undecided: Positive, will listen to offers.
           Parley Turns: 3
           3d6 CHA check.
12       Helpful!
           NPCs will actively help the PCs until they fail a Morale check or until their own goals take them elsewhere.

Parley Turns
Each Turn dedicated to Parley allows for a new Reaction Roll. These give the PCs an opportunity to push the NPCs towards Helpful, and to risk them choosing to Attack.

If the NPCs are still undecided at the end of the number of Parley Turns determined in the Initial Reaction Roll, then they will withdraw, going their separate way.

CHA Checks
The PCs may attempt to impress, intimidate, ingratiate, or otherwise influence the NPCs. At the end of the turn, a single PC from the party should roll a CHA check, rolling under the prescribed number of d6’s.
A successful CHA check allows for a new, advantaged Reaction Roll.
An unsuccessful one forces a new, disadvantaged Reaction Roll.

CHA Check Modifiers
The PCs should describe their behavior towards the NPCs, and the GM may assign modifiers of +/- 1 or 2 as a result. Sometimes the same behaviors will produce different modifiers, based on the psychology of the NPCs. F'rinstance:
A fearsome display of combat skills or magic (+/-1)
Sharing drink with the NPCs (+1)
Providing aid to wounded NPCs (+2)
Groveling (+1 or -2)
Insults (-1)

A successful WIS check from anyone in the PC Party can read the NPCs and gain insight into how to get the best reaction out of them. +1

A successful INT check may provide useful facts about the culture or species of the NPCs. +1

Failed WIS or INT checks provide equivalent penalties. The GM should ask the player to make up some horrible advice to pass on to the character attempting the CHA check.

Subsequent Reaction Rolls
If the Reaction Roll is advantaged, roll 3d6 and keep the highest two.
If the Reaction Roll is disadvantaged, roll 3d6 (or even 4d6 is the GM feels it is warranted) and keep the lowest two.
2d6      Reaction
2         Attack!
3-5      Undecided: Unfriendly.
           5d6 CHA check.
6-8      Undecided: Neutral.
           4d6 CHA check.
9-11    Undecided: Friendly.
           3d6 CHA check.
12       Helpful!

A Parley Turn takes as much time as an Exploration Turn (about ten minutes). Continue checking for Wandering Monsters!

If the NPCs disengage with the PCs, and the PCs pursue them, Parley can begin again. However, instead of rolling the Initial Reaction Roll, the NPCs automatically begin with a reaction one step more hostile than their previous Reaction Roll.

I think this should work for unintelligent monsters and animals as well a intelligent ones. You just don’t have as many opportunities to affect the next reaction roll. Pretty much food. Or if you have a character with a special proclivity for animals, such as a Ranger, Druid, or Bug Collector, that might be good for some sort of bonus.