Alloy: Task Resolution part 2
There are five different social skills because there are different styles to achieving ones goals through interactions. Each of these operates in a similar way, but the targets can vary and the potency of the effects can differ as well. Essentially when making a social roll to change someone else’s mind or position on an issue, you are seeking to either bring them to your way of thinking (Negotiation, or Persuasion) or you are seeking to force a change through threat of force (Intimidation) or trickery (Manipulation).
As group styles differ, and social interaction is a more fluid opposed task than building an item or searching for an answer, there are options for how things resolve. Groups that prefer to role-play scenes may minimize the influence of these rules, while ones who like to strategize but not carry on long conversations will use them more strenuously.
For simple interactions one roll suffices. These include situations in which you need to convince a guard to let you past, or you are trying to capture the eye of an attractive bystander. They are not meant to cover significant results, although they may be prerequisites to attaining other goals. You decide the approach you will use, then you roll versus the target’s susceptibility to temptation and fear (Resolve + Discipline), gullibility (Perception/Intellect + Insight) or good sense (Intellect + Negotiation).
If you best their total you shift their natural stance, the better your roll, the fewer consequences or complications this shift entails. Persuasion on groups often functions like this regardless of the topic or venue because the audience’s mood generates a TN as an environmental function and is not really an opposed test.
For complex interactions, you perform a sustained opposed test with a goal based on the difficulty of attaining a full shift. Such interactions are often limited in duration, thus the Game Master will often set a maximum number of contests to determine success. Goals for interpersonal interactions are often factors of 3 rather than factors of 5, but otherwise they function similarly to other sustained tests. Only one person on each side can interject on a single contested roll, but that person and indeed the approach can change with each roll.
Lying expertly to the Prince of a nation in order to drag his country into a skirmish which sparks a war is a prolonged social battle. One which his advisors may want to step in and prevent. So the hero picks their stance, Charisma + Manipulation rather than Intellect + Manipulation because they want the Prince to think his decision is his own, and minimize complications later. The Prince uses Perception + Insight to determine if he believes your lies. When his advisor chimes in he uses Intellect + Insight instead. The goal is set to 6, as the nations have a rocky history to begin with but war is a serious step, and the Game Master sets a limit of 5 rolls.
Example, Larissa’s Charisma + Manipulation pool is 5. The Prince has a pool of 3 and his advisor a pool of 4. The Game Master puts the advisor versus Larissa first. She rolls 6, 3, 5, 2, 2 vs 3, 6, 2, 1. That is 3 versus 2, for a total of 2 successes. Even if they had tied, with Larissa being the aggressor she would have gained 1 success towards her goal. The Prince takes the next round for the following rolls: 6, 1, 4, 4, 4 vs 2, 1, 3. This is a total of 5 successes, and Larissa handily completes her goal with a clever turn of phrase against the Prince’s shaky misgivings.
Lastly, there is the possibility of a multi-staged interaction. Usually this happens when you are entreating a person whose personal beliefs refuse the outcome you desire, or you need to convince multiple people. The Game Master sets a number of favorable interactions necessary to achieve your goals. She also decides if any of the interactions are mandatory.
For example, convincing the Prince that the war is necessary is mandatory. Convincing his top general, his advisor, or the Dowager Princess would be beneficial. Lastly, there are a host of nobles, old and young, who are not tied directly to the royal line who might be helpful to convince. The game master sets a minimum of 5 favorable interactions, with the Prince being mandatory.
Resolving the Interaction’s Aftermath
What to do when heroes are the target of persuasion, intimidation, seduction or trickery? You present the case to them and state the dice outcome. Usually players are good sports about their characters being roped into certain situations, but the goal isn’t to force a response. Even when the heroes use social influences on a story character and win the opposed roll, the individual is not forced to do whatever the heroes desire.
The character’s attitude changes and an appropriate response or action is chosen based on that. The same applies to heroes. Whenever a hero is backed into a corner by a social interaction, they can either go with the flow, react negatively but appropriately to the interaction, or they can ignore it and go on with their role-play. The first two are worth an extra Experience Point at the end of the session if the most expected response would be odious to the player.
To be fair, this rule is not meant to earn the players 5+ experience points per session. If the heroes are asked to step aside while the villains put their plan into effect, it doesn’t earn them extra experience whether they comply or not. It doesn’t directly affect them, and the task isn’t odious by definition. However, if a hero is the target of a seduction attempt and giving in might harm his reputation, it is personal and potentially odious. Essentially, if you can be blackmailed for carrying out what the other party wants then the task is odious and personal and worthy of a reward if you go along with it.