Daring Adventures: Character Soveriengty
I have seen plenty of role-playing sessions where characters are seduced, intimidated, or charmed into doing all manner of things they don’t want to do by single die rolls at a table. Most players of interaction specialists will claim that this is good because it provides exact, concrete results for the benefits of them using meta resources (experience or character build choices) to select these powers and abilities rather than combat related ones. Still, every player hates being told, “Hey, the warlock charmed you. You don’t suspect anything is wrong and will do even unreasonable requests if asked by him. In fact, he’s asking you to give him the key to the nobleman’s daughter’s private wing….”
So I thought, there should be some way to handle this which doesn’t remove player control over their actions. What I came up with is attitudes in interactions. Whenever a character seeks to change someone’s mind, or gain their favor, they role-play as much as they want to, then roll. The outcome of the roll, if successful, is to shift the character’s opinion or attitude a step, or more if the Result is high enough. Shifting a character’s attitude doesn’t let you control their actions, it doesn’t make them an idiot, nor does it make them forget the context of the change. They can still do whatever they want to, but it is colored by their attitude at hand.
Let’s do an example to explain: In the scene above, the warlock is trying to worm his way into the guard captain’s graces. You don’t know what his goals are, he may be looking to kidnap the nobleman’s daughter as a sacrifice, or he may wish to provide her a valuable gift in private. What you do know is he is trying to make you go from Neutral, to Favorable, so that you will look the other way or help him in his endeavors here tonight.
Even if the GM succeeds and shifts your attitude several steps, that doesn’t mean you have to hand over the key. It means that you feel for him, and might think he’s a decent guy, so maybe you’ll go out of your way to get him a private audience with the nobleman to plead his case for access to the girl. But the obvious role-playing result is no longer obvious, because his request conflicts with your character’s established duties.
Now let’s say the GM has the Warlock cheat, and he ensorcels you. This gives you a status of Entranced, which means that you find yourself with a favorable attitude towards the Warlock immediately, regardless of what it was before, and you actually take a -2 situational penalty based on guilt if you do something you know the warlock wouldn’t like. He’s basically your good friend, even though you didn’t realize it until after he finished his snare.
So would you rather avoid the penalty and help your friend, or stick to your duty and suffer a distracting nagging guilt. You as the player of the character still get to decide. If the Warlock was truly powerful and Dominated you instead, he could request the key, which would give you a -6 situational penalty for all actions unless you comply with your interpretation of the spirit of his expressed wishes. You still don’t have to give up the key, even in this situation, but your incentive to do so is much higher.
So the best way to think of things is this: you are always in control of your character, but you can be crippled with statuses which enforce another character’s wishes upon you, and you can have your attitude changed. However, playing along with a changed attitude or role-paying a realistic response to the dilemma of serving exterior controller’s desire and your own desires can earn you plenty of in-game rewards. Still, the controller of each character maintains sovereignty over that character’s actions at all times.