Friday, October 9, 2020

Rough Drafts: d10 Core Resolution System



I probably run more games for people who have never played a RPG before in their lives than I do for any other type of group, these days, and I’ve found that one of the big stumbling blocks people can have is a sort of overloading-from-the-unknown. Roleplaying is an unnatural enough activity that people’s brains easily overheat with the uncertainty of how everything is supposed to work, and even extremely simple rulesets can be extremely hard to remember.

In an attempt to mitigate this somewhat, I usually start off sessions for new players with this extremely simple rules explanation: “The only mechanic is that you try to imagine what your character would do in this situation, and then you say what they do. If what would happen is obvious, it happens. If it’s uncertain, then I’ll tell you to roll a die and get a certain number or higher in order to succeed. Depending on what the die roll represents, there might be game mechanics that tell the GM what die size/target number to pick, but otherwise you just ask yourself ‘on a scale from 1-10, how likely is this to go wrong?’ and then try to roll over that number on a d10.”

I really like that “on a scale from 1-10” rule. It’s easy to visualize, pretty easy to be fair with, and really gets to the heart of what RPGs are to me--simulating an interesting situation and seeing what kinds of trouble you can get into inside of it. It’s flexible--it works just as well for player-driven actions (“I try to hack the computer”) as it does for stuff beyond player control (“What are the odds it’s raining today?). You can use it as a binary answer (“below is a failure, above is a success”) or as a sort of gradient of results (“on a 1, the worst thing I can think of happens, on a 10 the best thing I can think of happens”). It just lets the dice jump into the game, insert some chaos, and duck out again as elegantly as possible. 

I figure most GMs already do this, to some extent or another. I think it’s useful to label it as a formal mechanic, though.

Here’s my take on a core resolution system that tries to hew as close to that core “on a scale from 1-10” system as possible.


Core Resolution System


Setting Difficulty: Whenever a character tries to do something, decide how likely it is that something would go wrong if an ‘ordinary’ person tried to do that thing on a scale from 1-10. 1 means automatic success, 10 means near-certain failure. They then roll a d10--if they get that number or higher they succeed, otherwise they fail.


Skills: Every character has a list of things they’re good at. These could be anything from “Athletics” to “Smelling out Lies” to “Nursing Small Animals Back To Health”. If they have an even loosely relevant skill they roll the d10 twice and choose the result to use. If they have an extremely relevant skill they roll the d10 three times and pick the result. Freshly made characters should probably have 4-6 skills.


System Commentary


Appropriate Skills: The one-reroll bonus should be given if the character has any skills that are relevant and helpful to what they’re doing, even if the skill is very specific. 


“Athletics” would give 1 reroll to any checks involving running, climbing, swimming, etc. This is a pretty common RPG skill and works more or less as you’ve probably seen before.


“Nursing Small Animals Back To Health” would give 1 reroll in situations where the character is using skills related to nursing small animals--treating simple wounds (even of humans) or illnesses, earning the trust of animals, calming animals & people down with tone & body language, cooking simple but nutritious meals. It would give 2 rerolls when nursing a small animal back to health.


Extra-specific skills, like the nursing animals one, often live in between multiple other more generic skills (in this case, medicine, animal handling, diplomacy, cooking). When deciding if one of these is relevant to a situation, try to imagine when it wouldn’t be useful. “Nursing Small Animals Back To Health” would give no bonus to--advanced medical procedures like surgery, giving orders to or intimidating animals or people, cooking tasty or impressive meals.


Encourage Specific Skills: Note that, even with these restrictions, the hyper-specific skill covers as many 1-die situations (if not more) as the general skill, and also gives a 2-die bonus in some limited situations. This is good and intended--players are encouraged to go specific and creative. It adds more flavor to the character and is just generally all-around more interesting.

“Pole Vaulting” should give a 1-die bonus to basically the same situations “Athletics” does, but also can occasionally grant a 2-die bonus and also says way more about the character.


Ultra-Broad Skills: Skills that are too broad can be rejected by the GM. “Good At Everything” is not a valid skill. If it’s hard to imagine situations where a skill couldn’t be used (“Lucky”, “Doing Things While Angry” when the player gets to decide if the character is angry or not), or if it’s too easy to call on the skill (“Being In A Dungeon” in a dungeon crawling game), it should be limited. If you’ve played other RPGs, you should have a good sense of what a good level of specificity is for a skill. A game that uses this system should include lots of examples.


Skills Don’t Stack: If you have two skills that are both relevant to a roll, you only benefit from one of them.


Analogue Rolls: Die checks don’t strictly need a difficulty rating, based on the situation. The GM should feel free to come up with a range of possible outcomes to a player’s action, loosely assign each to a number, and then use the player’s roll to determine which happens. The player should be able to gain and use rerolls as usual.

I.e.-A reaction roll on running into an orc in a dungeon. On a 1-2 the orc attacks outright, 3-4 the orc demands gold and attacks if not paid, 5-6 the orc demands to know why the players are here, 7-8 the orc doesn’t care about the players, 9-10 the orc has a problem and thinks the players might be able to help.


Relevant And Helpful: Players should only get extra dice to roll when using a skill that is both relevant and helpful. If a player recites a poem while attempting to lift a heavy object, they don’t get an extra roll just from having the “Poetry” skill. Additionally, remember that difficulty levels are set based on how player’s description of their actions--a player who attempts to do a backflip in order to convince the king to spare the life of a prisoner may or may not get their die bonus for their “Doing Backflips” skill, but in either case they are likely to have a much higher difficulty number to hit than a player who appealed to the king’s sense of mercy instead.


Possible Mods


Stats: Each character starts with one or two ‘stats’--extremely broad skills that are going to be relevant to huge swathes of rolls. These might be the types of physical or mental traits that are normally stats in a RPG--“Strong”, “Quick”, “Charming”, “Smart”, or could be more like personality traits--“Methodical”, “Death-Defying”, “Cowardly”. When rolling, a PC can get one extra die to roll if they have a relevant stat (beyond what they get from their normal skills). This makes PCs a good deal stronger (a player doing something they’re good at is likely to be rolling 3-4 dice instead of 2-3), and may be appropriate for more heroic games.


Legendary Skills: Some skills can be marked as ‘legendary’, and grant +1 die when invoked. This allows for a bit more growth in PC ability as they gain levels--getting even better at what they’re already good at--, instead of purely growing ‘sideways’ by gaining new skills.


Thoughts

  • As always with things tagged “Rough Drafts”, these are cocktail napkin notes I’m putting together for future playtesting. At this point, it feels like I have a whole system coming together with these ideas.

  • My hope is that “how likely is this to go wrong on a scale from 1-10” is straightforward and intuitive enough that it erases some of the pervasive feeling of “am I doing it wrong?” that I see from some novice GMs. Trying to figure out what the “actual” DC is of kicking down a wooden door can feel simultaneously very abstract and also like there’s a formal “correct” answer that the GM needs to find. I want to avoid that.

  • I love weird custom write-in skills, but I’m a little worried that they might slow down or derail games with too many arguments over whether a skill “counts” or not. I’ll keep my eyes out for that, and ways to help people agree on rulings.

  • This feels more appropriate for games with relatively slow power creep. There isn’t any big mechanical difference between a brand new character and a ‘high level’ one other than that the ‘high level’ one would probably have more skills. Using the Legendary Skills optional rule might let you have a bit more power creep, but the system isn’t really built to accommodate characters who have radically different abilities at a campaign’s start and end.

  • I’m a little worried that judging difficulty based on how likely it would be for an ‘ordinary’ person to succeed at an action might feel weird--I feel like I might be tempted to subconsciously lower difficulties for characters who are in-narrative skilled at what they’re attempting, even though that’s already accounted for in the extra rolls. I’ll see what kind of framing tools I can add to help with this.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Rough Drafts: Less Lethal Combat



 One obstacle I’m finding with faction-play is that conflicts in RPGs have a nasty tendency to have resolutions that are, to put it euphemistically, final. The default way to resolve a conflict in a game like D&D is to have a fight, and the default resolution of a fight is that one side is completely dead (usually the NPCs). At best, you’ve killed the vast majority of the NPCs, and a few ran away with their lives. It makes repeated dealings with the same NPCs difficult to pull off, and makes good relations with factions a bit all-or-nothing.

Here’s my take on a Wounds system that takes a little bit of that pressure off. It’s made to be graftable onto most systems that use HP, although it’s probably going to work better on ones with relatively quick combat and low HP totals. If I was going to use this system in something like 5e I might try out halving everyone’s HP totals and tweaking some of the numbers here.


Also, I wouldn’t use this in a campaign with a lot of throwaway fights. If those goblins only exist as a road bump on the path to treasure, nobody really cares whether they get defeated with nothing more than a bump on the head, lose a hand, or die. It works best in situations where your opponents are people using force to try to block you from your goals, but where neither side really wants the other dead or is willing to die for their cause. Think territorial goblins trying to make you leave their lands, bandits shaking you down on the highway, city guards who caught you trying to sneak in, or wild beasts looking for an easy meal.


Credits to Into the Odd and Dogs in the Vineyard as primary sources of inspiration.


Less Lethal Combat System


Quick Summary: Whenever an attack brings you to 0hp or less, gain 1+ Wounds and then try to roll over your number of Wounds on a die. If you pass, you shrug the blow off, but if you fail you keep making the same roll again until you pass. The more times you fail, the worse your injury is.


HP: HP is treated more like your stamina/defense and less like health--it’s assumed that attacks against you that don’t reduce you to 0hp don’t actually land in a meaningful way; you parry them, dodge them, they lack the force to penetrate your armor, etc. Hitting 0hp means you’re defenseless--you no longer have the stamina to dodge, parry, etc. Enemies with weak motivations will try to run away once they hit 0hp.


Wounds: Whenever you take damage and are left at 0hp, you gain 1 Wound. Additionally, for each 5hp of damage taken past what was needed to bring you to 0hp you take an additional Wound. You then roll for harm.


Roll for Harm: Try to roll over your number of Wounds on a die. The side of the die depends on how deadly the attack was (see Deadly Attacks table). If you fail, roll again until you succeed. The more failures you get before succeeding, the worse the consequences of the attack are (see Harm Table). Note that some attacks might have alternate harm tables.


Pulled Punches: An attacker can choose to make their attack one less step deadly (increase the Check for Harm die size by one step). This is the norm in most battles that aren’t life or death--if the goal of the NPCs is ‘drive the PCs away’, ‘capture the PCs’, or ‘rough up these strangers who came into my favorite bar and then insulted me’, they typically pull their punches. It’s a good idea to remind your PCs of this at the start of your first few fights using this system.


Healing: A good night’s rest (the type that’s hard to get while camping) will heal 1 Wound. This subsystem probably works best in situations where HP is fairly easy to regain outside of combat but hard to regain in combat.


Deadly Attacks Table

Die Size

Type of Attack

1d8

Non-lethal weapons. Punches. Most improvised weapons (pool cues, large sticks, cast iron pans, etc)

1d6

Most weapons. Swords, spears, maces, etc.

1d4

Especially deadly attacks. Axes, lightning bolts, dragon’s breath, etc.

1d4-1

A cursed sword that rots the flesh it cuts. Hellfire. A chainsaw?


Harm Table

# of Failures

Result

Passed First Time

No effect! You shrug off the attack.

1 Fail

Injured! Roll on the Injury table and gain the corresponding condition. Enemies who aren’t making a desperate last stand will run away at this point.

2 Fails

Knocked Out! You’re unconscious for the duration of the fight. When you wake up roll 1d8--if the result is equal to your Wounds or lower roll on the Injury table.

3 Fails

Dying! You’re unconscious. When you receive medical attention roll 1d8--if the result is equal to your Wounds or lower you have died. If the medical attention is within a round of the attack or if it comes from someone with medical training you can roll twice and pick the better. If it’s both within a round and from someone with medical training, or if you receive magical healing you pass automatically. If an hour passes without medical attention roll twice and pick the worse--if you still pass you wake up.

If you aren’t dead, roll another 1d8. If the result is equal to your wounds or lower roll on the Injury table.

4+ Fails

Instant Death! You die dramatically--your head cut off, your heart run through, your body torn apart. 


Injury Table

1d10

Body Part/ Symptom

Base Effects

1

Leg

Movement speed drops to 5’/round

2

Arm

Disadvantage on all attacks or relevant skill checks

3

Head

Dazed. Can only take one action/round (ie-move OR attack)

4

Chest

Treat your Wounds as 2 higher for all checks.

5

Trouble Breathing

Can’t go above 0hp

6

Eyes

Blinded. Your system probably has a way of handling this

7

Bleeding

Gain 1 Wound (and roll Harm Table) each round until someone takes an action to bandage you. 2-in-6 chance of bleeding resuming each time you exert yourself or get jostled.

8

Scared

Make a save or run away/refuse to act whenever put in danger

9

Angry

Make a save or attack berserkly whenever provoked/take damage

10

Confused

Whenever you have to choose a target (who to attack, what direction to go, which chalice to take, etc) make a save or pick randomly without realizing it. If attacking, pick target normally and on a fail you target a random person within reach (if melee) or within 10’ of target (if ranged).


Injury Duration Table

Works just like the Harm Table--roll 1d8 and try to beat your Wounds total. Reroll until you pass and count failures. Rolled when you take a 10 minute rest (don't slow down combat by doing it right away).

# of Failures

Result

Passed First Time

Painful, but no real damage. Symptoms end after a 10 minute rest.

1 Fail

Bruised. Heals with a night’s rest.

2 Fails

Sprained. Heals with a week’s rest.

3 Fails

Broken. Heals with 2d4 weeks’ rest.

4+ Fails

Permanent. Will not heal without magical assistance.


Other Rules

  • If you roll max value when Rolling for Harm but still fail, reroll but with two dice instead of one. If you do so, get max value on all dice again, and still don’t roll high enough reroll with three, and so on.

  • If the type of injury an attack would inflict is obvious, just go with that instead of rolling. Some attacks probably inflict injuries not even on the list--maybe a bolt of pure chaos causes mutations instead of injuries.

    • Maybe a centipede’s bite causes nausea on one fail, debilitating vomiting on two fails, and choking on one’s vomit at three fails, and cardiac arrest on four fails. Modify things as desired.

  • While NPCs generally pull their punches by default, this stops being the case very quickly if the PCs don’t do it, too. If the PCs escalate beyond what the situation calls for roll (even unintentionally) morale for their opponents. On a failure they run away/surrender. On a pass they get mad and start fighting seriously. Decapitating someone during a bar fight either ends the bar fight instantly or makes all hell break loose.

  • Characters at 0hp are vulnerable to improvisational fuckery. PCs can declare that they’re doing something before they make their attack, and if the attack lands it does no damage but the fuckery succeeds. This could be kicking them off a cliff, putting them in a headlock, disarming them, putting a blade to their throat, etc.

    • NPCs can also do this. An ogre might grab a 0hp player and hold them hostage. A wyvern might grab a 0hp player and try to fly off with them. A goblin might push a 0hp player in front of a mine cart to cover their retreat (forcing an ally to rescue them rather than chase down the goblin). A huge frog might swallow a 0hp player whole (gain 1 Wound per turn in stomach until rescued). PCs being at 0hp is the GM’s license to get creative in ways that might feel unfair at other times.

  • Most poisons don’t have any immediate effect, but if you get hit with one at 0hp then you gain (potentially multiple) Wounds after the fight ends and must make a Check for Harm. They’re more for making sure your target dies than for winning fights.

    • There are lots of different types of poisons, though. Some work instantly, or after 1d4 rounds, or inflict status effects rather than wounds.

Additional Notes

  • This is my first draft! I’ll come back and write more about this once it’s gotten some playtesting in.

  • It’s not super explicit in the rules, but a huge part of this system is the idea of ‘how much are you willing to risk for your convictions?’. Most enemies will run away or surrender long before they’re actually killed.

    • Enemies without any real conviction will be ‘defeated’ as soon as they hit 0hp. These might be bandits looking for easy money, goblins who don’t like humans showing up in their territory, bullies looking to show some out-of-towners who’s boss, or a tiger looking for prey.

    • Enemies with something to fight for will generally be ‘defeated’ once injured. These might be goblins defending their lair, criminals fighting over territory, soldiers/guards on the job, or a tiger on the edge of starvation.

    • Enemies who are cornered or are making a desperate last stand will only be ‘defeated’ once rendered unconscious. These might be parents trying to buy their children time to escape, brainwashed cultists who have been whipped into a frenzy, or cornered goblins who know the PCs will just kill them anyway if they surrender.

    • ‘Defeated’ enemies will by default retreat to a safe distance and shout encouragement at those still fighting, although obviously different types of enemies will probably act differently depending on the situation.

  • Try not to corner players. Make it possible for them to run or surrender without it just being a TPK every time. The goal is that this system should make it relatively hard to die by surprise, but easy to die if you keep fighting past your limits.

  • Another goal of this system is to flip the players goals from killing their enemies and towards defeating their enemies without killing them.

    • Maybe you have to trespass on gnoll territory to reach the Water Shrine. If you can drive them off without killing any of them they’ll probably forget about you as soon as you leave. If you fireball them into charred corpses you’ve got enemies for life, and you can forget about asking them for help when the Goblin King’s armies come knocking at your door.

    • If you slit the throats of a bunch of guards when you break out of prison to prove your innocence you might be able to prove that you were framed, but you’re still going to be stuck as outlaws for all that murder you did.

  • Part of the fun of this is that things can go wrong on a moment’s notice. With bad enough rolling, a single punch can make a character fall badly and fatally break their skull. Let shit go off the rails when these things happen. The dice are just taking your adventure in an unexpected new direction.

  • Don’t slow down the game with a bunch of rolling on the injury table/etc for NPCs if they’re not going to try to keep fighting through it. If these are NPCs you’re going to have repeated relationships with then you can just roll a die or two after the fight to get a sense of how many of those goblins should show up to next week’s diplomatic meeting wearing eyepatches or holding crutches (or not showing up at all).

  • This system probably wants a custom morale system to pair with it--it already touches on morale in some places, and so weaving it into a bigger picture would probably help. This has already gotten pretty huge, though, so maybe not today.

  • I’m pretty sure my next RPG project is going to be a game about adventurer-diplomat-naturalists.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Rough Drafts: Negotiation System

I’ve been thinking a lot about how murder is such a default activity in RPGs.


Combat’s really fun in most games! We’ve gotten really good at building systems that take a fight and cram it full of strategic choices to make, give it compelling (if not especially interesting, usually) stakes, and smooth it out with excellent pacing. In fact, it’s so fun that killing has become this kind of super hard to escape gravity well within game design (both tabletop and digital). People pining for a RPG that makes talking to people or exploring as mechanically robust and interesting as combat is basically a cliche in RPG spaces.


So recently I’ve been trying to think of how to bring that pacing, strategy, and stakes over to things that aren't committing war crimes on goblins. I’ve seen a bunch of takes on ‘social combat’ over the years, and something about them has just never fully worked for me*, despite the idea being super compelling on its face. I’ve been mulling over what about them just hasn’t clicked for me, and it’s resulted in a rough draft of a negotiation system.


Note that this system is wholly untested or balanced, and just one stage more refined at the moment than notes taken on the back of a napkin. Hopefully I’ll have an iterated-on, playtested, more mathematically solid version to post in the future.


*There are lots of RPGs that don’t involve combat that are super fun and work super well for me. They just tend to either keep the mechanics away from softer topics like negotiations, or they give people abilities that can give them an upper hand in discussions (say, the ability to detect lies), but don’t get too involved when it comes to larger flow of the discussions.

Negotiation Subsystem


This subsystem is meant to be used when the players get involved in a back-and-forth negotiation with a NPC, and is basically just a framework for letting the GM adjudicate how much convincing the NPC needs before they give in or the negotiation falls apart. It’s fairly abstract and open to on the spot tweaking, which is important because conversations and arguments can get weird and are hard to put in a box sometimes. As always with subsystems I make, the fiction takes precedence over the mechanics--this is a metric for making rulings much more than it is a set of hard rules.



  1. Negotiation Begins: When the players request something from an NPC (and the NPC’s response is uncertain/interesting to resolve in depth) it kickstarts this subsystem.

  2. Roll Reluctance: The NPC rolls their Reluctance--the stat that represents how much convincing they’d need to give into the request. The more the request goes against their interests the more dice you roll.

    1. 1d6 if they have no good reason not to give in

    2. 2d6 if giving in would cost them something

    3. 3d6 if giving in puts their life or livelihood in danger/would go against their core beliefs/motivations

  3. Roll Patience: The players roll the NPC’s Patience--the stat that represents how willing the NPC is to continue the negotiation. The roll is based off their opinion of the PCs

    1. 2d6, take the lower if they dislike or distrust the PCs

    2. 1d6 if they have no opinion of the PCs

    3. 2d6, take the higher if they like the PCs

  4. Negotiation Rounds: The negotiation takes place over several rounds, in which both parties are making cases for their sides and negotiating prices. These repeat until the NPC runs out of either Reluctance or Patience.

  5. NPC Action: At the start of each round, the NPC gets to say something. If they have anxieties or desires in relation to the request they can make a request/express a worry, which the players can address in their response.

    1. If their ask relates to one of their core beliefs or motivations the players must address the ask or automatically fail the negotiation

  6. Player Argument: The players then get to make an argument as to why the NPC should do what they want. They then roll a die based on how convincing the argument was and subtract that much from the NPC’s Reluctance.

    1. 1d4 if the argument was empty

    2. 1d6 if the argument makes a point

    3. 1d8 or more if the argument was genuinely convincing

    4. The argument could be an offer of payment, a promise to do something for the NPC, an appeal to the NPC’s morality, an attempt to convince the NPC that it’s in their own best interest, or pretty much whatever.

    5. Note that offering payment/promising a service tends to be a strong argument. If the PCs are giving something up as payment (and it’s something the NPC wants) you should be generous with the die size given

  7. NPC Concession: If the players rolled a 5+ on their argument die the NPC makes a Concession to them.

    1. This is often a compromise version of the player request--either only giving a portion of what the players wanted or offering an alternate way they could help the players achieve their goals.

    2. The players can just accept the Concession if they want. They’ll be on the hook for any payments or favors they’ve promised so far, but the NPC will attempt to live up to their end of the Concession version of the agreement.

  8. Are They Convinced?: If the NPC’s Reluctance is at 0 or less they give in--as long as the players honor whatever payments and favors they’ve promised the NPC will do what the players requested. The negotiation ends.

    1. If the players want to push their luck they can make a further request. If they do so, roll 1d6 for the NPC’s new Reluctance.

    2. If the new request is more dangerous/inconvenient than what the NPC has already agreed to, add additional d6 to their Reluctance as appropriate.

  9. Player Payments: If the players offered to give or do something concrete for the NPC as payment for their request they get to add a die roll to the NPC’s Patience

    1. 1d4 if NPC isn’t excited about the payment

    2. 1d6 for a reasonable payment

    3. 1d8 or more if the payment is especially valuable/is something the NPC especially wants

    4. Lose Patience as appropriate if the player’s argument was insulting in some way

    5. Threats and intimidation can be treated like a sort of bizarro-payment, and add to the NPC’s Patience (if the threats are credible). This comes as a big cost, however--if the negotiation falls apart due to hitting zero Patience, the NPC will typically respond badly in the appropriate manner (attack, call the guards, etc). 

  10. Loss of Patience: At the end of each round the NPC loses a die’s worth of Patience with the negotiation. The die size is based on how well the players addressed their requests/worries from step 5.

    1. 1d4 if the NPC made a request/expressed a worry and the players addressed it satisfactorily 

    2. 1d6 if the NPC didn’t have a request/worry, or the players only half-addressed it

    3. 1d8 if the NPC had a request/worry and the players ignored it

    4. The negotiation fails if the NPC had a request/worry tied to their deeply held beliefs/motivations and the players insufficiently addressed it

  11. Are They Done?: If the NPC has 0 or less Patience left the negotiation is over. Any agreements made so far stand, but the players are not bound to make any payments for agreements that were not finalized (unless they choose to take the NPC up on a standing Concession).

  12. Repeat: If the NPC has both Patience and Resistance left, go back to step 5 and repeat..


Further Thoughts/Advice

  • This should only be used for negotiations big and interesting enough to be worth shining a spotlight on. For smaller negotiations a single roll is probably fine (or just saying yes/no, if the outcome is obvious).

  • If the NPC has deeply held beliefs that conflict with the player request, I typically would have their request auto-fail unless the players could invoke another equally important belief of the NPC as an argument for why the NPC should give in.

    • A king’s loyal advisor would not normally be willing to enter into a negotiation where the players try to convince him to betray the king, but might be willing if the players convinced him it was for the king’s own good/blackmailed the advisor with a disgraceful secret/etc.

  • What die sizes to use for which arguments/requests/payments/etc are all up to the GM’s judgement. The measures I’ve given are default yardsticks, but feel free to mess with them however seems appropriate.

    • A patriotic veteran might only have 1d6 of Reluctance when asked to join the war effort, even though the request is dangerous, since it aligns with their values

    • Orcs that hates the players might start the negotiation with high Patience if the players have the drop on them/are clearly stronger than them

    • A poor adventurer offering to pay someone ten thousand gold might count as a 1d4 argument/payment, since it comes off as a lie.

  • The fiction also comes first. If the players do something wild feel free to end the negotiation mid-way

    • If a player stabs the merchant they’re buying rations from as a negotiation tactic, maybe the negotiation automatically fails and combat breaks out

    • If a player offers a beggar 1000gp in exchange for information, maybe the negotiation automatically succeeds without a need for further rolls

    • If a Wandering Monster Check goes off mid-negotiation, maybe combat and the negotiation end up running in parallel. Saving the NPC’s life seems like a strong argument to me.

  • Concessions are a chance to throw some real fun twists into the negotiation. Get creative with them!

    • A boring but totally adequate concession would be “instead of giving you 100 swords, I can give you 10”

    • Creative solutions can be real fun here--”I don’t have any men at arms to loan you, but how about a pack of hounds?”

    • Or you can even use this to throw them out of the frying pan and into the fire--”I was going to kill you for trespassing on our sacred lands, but you’ve convinced me to take you back to the village to stand trial instead”

    • Hell, you can even potentially offer something more valuable than what the players were asking for, if that’s more in line with the interests of the NPC--”100 gold is nice, but instead of working as your torchbearer and risking being torn apart by monsters, why don’t I just tell you where The Immortal Lich’s secret tomb is?”

  • If the players fail to live up to their side of an agreement, handle that however feels appropriate. The consequences could easily be anything from getting shit-talked at the tavern, to being thrown in debtors’ prison, to being cursed, to getting away scot-free, depending on who you screwed over and how.

    • I’d go light on having NPCs screw the players over, though. Like, if the situation drastically changes maybe the NPC rolls to see if they bail on the agreement, but by default you should have NPCs stand by what they agree to

    • This is significantly less true of negotiations made under duress. If the PCs said “act as our guide or we kill you” to the goblin and the goblin agreed, it’s totally reasonable for the goblin to turn on the players the moment reinforcements arrive.

  • You might notice this whole system doesn’t use skills or stats at all. That’s for a few reasons

    • First off, it makes this system-agnostic

    • But also, I really want to center the offers being made. You win a negotiation by offering the other side what they want in exchange for what you want much more than you win it by just being real good at talking

    • That said, there are all sorts of ways you could integrate skills/etc into this system. Maybe a successful Persuade check can turn a 1d4 argument into a 1d6 one, or a successful Deception check can convince the NPC that you’re good for gold that you don’t technically have access to yet.

    • Hell, maybe a successful athletics check lets a player crush an apple with their bare hand and turns a d6 argument that the players are strong enough to keep them safe into a d8 argument. Be flexible

  • This whole system is asymmetrical. Why don’t the players have their own Resolve score?

    • This whole system is meant to be guidance, helping a GM adjudicate a NPC’s actions fairly. It’s not meant to be the physics of the game world. The players are perfectly capable of roleplaying out their characters’ own convictions.

    • Also, I’m big on the “rules light for players, lots of modular subsystems for GMs” style of play. You could probably hide all dice and numbers information from the players and it wouldn’t affect their ability to negotiate all that much

    • The goal of this system is to improve the pacing of intense negotiations, let good ideas made by the players have big impacts on how the negotiation goes down, and create a structure for generating twists come from the NPCs getting to make their own requests/compromises. The fact that it has to use mechanics to pull that off is nothing but a downside, and if I can spare the players from that then that’s all the better.

  • I also have ideas for a combat system loosely built around this model, where most violence is less about trying to kill your enemies and more about trying to intimidate them into giving into your demands. Isn’t most violence just a different mode of negotiation, anyway? If I can whip that into something half-legible I’ll post it here as well