View Full Version : Diplomacy Variant [3.5][d20m] (Among other things)

2012-05-11, 08:46 PM
There are probably a few good Diplomacy variants around. None of them, however, have really caught my eye or my attention. Maybe because I didn't have a direct hand in creating them. Maybe because they weren't really capturing the essence of what I really wanted. Or maybe that former point--because I just like tweaking and making rules. It's fun.

But it's been a while.

So I've been gearing up for a d20 Apocalypse game, and I was running through the rules. And I remembered for so long that people complained by Diplomacy as being too broken. I was wondering how to fix that. I can make the rolls steeper, but that isn't fun. I wanted to do something... different? with them? So that's what I set out to do. In as few words as possible, it's what I did. Different.

But I didn't stop (nor did I even really start) at Diplomacy. Instead, I started at Interaction Skills. I defined them aptly: They're any skill that has is directly an outcome of roleplaying. Specifically, Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate were all affected by my rampant changing of the core rules.

The core mechanics came about as a direct reflection of Monte Cooke's Resolve Points situation. But then again, for my game, I pulled out Hit Points. Doesn't make sense to give my NPCs points for Resolve if they don't have Hit Points either (instead, I'm using Unearthed Arcana's Injury Variant). The primary idea works the same: You make a roll against a defensive, derived attribute (Willpower), if you pass, the target must make a check against their Nerve. If they fail, the Interaction check will apply.

At first, I thought this might be too excessive. But in essence, this is how the Injury variant works: You make an attack roll against AC, if you hit, the damage is converted into a modifier for a Fortitude save. If you fail, you're hit. If I'm inspired by Monte Cooke's Resolve Point system, then this should work just the same for an abstract system like Resist Injury.

As well, I realized when writing this big long post, the core idea is that it makes Diplomancers impossible. Broken Diplomacy means the target really has no say or ability to preserve themselves from making the roll. I avoided opposed rolls because they can be quite lopsided. By adding a second die roll to see if they even comply, which is entirely independent of the Diplomancer's skill, it adds a level of randomness that can't be rightly controlled by the players outright.

So, without further ado, Social Interactions (and New Diplomacy Rules)

New Numbers
There is one derived stat: Willpower, which is the capacity to resist oneself against manipulation, diplomacy, bullying, and deceipt. It is a derived statistic, equal to 10 + (CR or Class Level (This may be altered into a slightly different chart than a classes Defense bonus, if this proves too much)) + Wisdom modifier.

When a character attempts a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate Check, the DC of that roll is equal to the target's Willpower. If you pass the check, the target is required to make a Nerve check (this is akin to the Resist Injury check); it is a Wisdom save modified by the characte's disposition. A Nerve check DC is equal to 15 + Disposition (see below). Every time a target has to make a Nerve check, he gains a +1 cumulative bonus to that check.

The reason is that the more times a character is persuaded, whether it succeeds or not, he becomes more resistant to further attempts. This assumes that once a character believes, accepts a negotiation, or is intimidated, he is more compliant and there's diminishing return in the attempt; if it fails, chances are given back to the negotiator or whatnot, but the person becomes more resistant towards persistence.

Then, lastly, there's Disposition. Disposition is two modifiers added together. The two modifiers are Compliance and Relationship. Compliance is defined as how willing the target is, or how willing they are to accept a deal. It's a catchall for their baseline attitude at a request, or how they react to a deal. This is what gets modified through the rolls. Relationship is not so easily modified, but still has an effect otherwise. It implies how the target genuinely feels about the character--this should not be developed through dice rolls, but rather through roleplay. It also means that Diplomancers can't make everyone their friend with dice, no matter what.

Compliance: Insubordinate (+4), Unwilling (+2), Neutral (+0), Willing (-2), Subordinate (-4); for Haggling, they are x8, x4, x2, x1.5, x1 respectively.
Relationship: Nemesis (+4), Enemy (+2), Stranger (+0), Ally (+2), Intimate (+4).
The names themselves don't really matter, but should gage a relative strength. It's so that you don't have to think to hard about it. Remember, these modify the Nerve check DC.

Modified Skills

In essence, I had to alter some skills. Some skills stay the same with different rules. Some skills become more useful or have more tricks up their sleeve. I'm leaving such rules as skil synergy out, because d20 Modern rules them more as a circumstantial deal rather than a hardcoded). I've modified Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive (because I had to.)

Bluff (Cha)
Check: You can attempt to con or mislead a NPC, send a secret message, create a diversion, or a bluff your opponent in combat.

Mislead or Con: You can attempt to make a character believe a statement to misdirect their focus or to accept a deal that may not exist. You make a check against a characterís Willpower. If you pass, the NPC is required to make a Nerve check. If she fails by less than 9 or less, she believes the characters and her Compliance is considered Willing for the purpose of the bluff, but she has her doubts. If she passes by 10 or more, she is considered Subordinate for the purpose for the bluff.

A bluff is not the same thing as a lie. A bluff is a quick prevarication intended to distract, confuse, or mislead, generally only for the short term. A bluff is not intended to withstand long-term or careful scrutiny, but rather to momentarily deter an action or decision. Bluffs involve attitude and body language. Bluffs often include lies, but they usually arenít very sophisticated and arenít intended to deceive the target for more than a few moments.

A lie, on the other hand, is a simple misrepresentation of the facts. Body language and attitude arenít a big part of communication. The lie may be very sophisticated and well thought-out, and is intended to deceive a character at least until he or she discovers evidence to the contrary. A character should not make a Bluff check every time he or she utters a lie.

Feinting: A character can use Bluff to mislead an opponent in combat so that the opponent canít dodge the characterís attack effective. To feint, make a Bluff check opposed by your targetís Willpower, but in this case the target may add its base attack bonus to Willpower. If you pass the check, they are required to make a Nerve check. If the target fails, it is denied its Dexterity bonus to its Defense for the purpose of your next attack. Using Bluff in this way against a creature of animal intelligence (Int 1 or 2) grants a +8 bonus on their Willpower. Against a nonintelligent creature, feinting is impossible.

Creating a Diversion to Hide: You can use the Bluff skill to help you hide. A successful Bluff check gives you the momentary diversion you need to attempt a Hide check while people are aware of you. Make a Bluff check opposed by the targetsí Willpower. If you pass the check, the targets are required to make a Nerve check. If they fail, you can attempt to hide.

Sending a Secret Message: You can use Bluff to get a message across to another character without others understanding it. The DC is 15 for simple messages, or 20 for complex messages, especially those that rely on getting across new information. Failure by 4 or less means you canít get the message across. Failure by 5 or more means that some false information has been implied or inferred. Anyone listening to the exchange can make a Sense Motive check opposed by the Bluff check you made to transmit in order to intercept your message (see Sense Motive).

Try Again?: Generally, a failed Bluff check makes the target too suspicious for the character to try another bluff in the same circumstances. For feinting in combat, the character may try again freely, but it has diminishing results (see Determining above).

Special: A character can take 10 when making a bluff (except for feinting in combat), but canít take 20.

A character with the Deceptive feat gets a +2 bonus on all Bluff checks.

Time: Varies. A Bluff check made as part of a general interaction generally takes at least one minute (and is at least a full-round action), but can take much longer if you try something elaborate. A Bluff check made to feint in combat or to create a diversion is considered a standard action. A Bluff check made to deliver a secret message doesnít take an action; it is always part of a normal communication.

Diplomacy (Cha)
Check: A character can attempt to alter a NPCs disposition, give a command, negotiate a deal, or haggle.

Stir the Pot/Garner Favor: You can attempt to move NPCsí willingness to follow instruction, whether itís yours or someone elseís. You make a Diplomacy check against the targetsí Willpower (use the highest value). If you pass, they are required to make a Nerve check. This resolve checkís Disposition modifier is based on whether or not youíre trying to gain favor or stir the pot.

If youíre gaining favor or trying to stir up things for yourself, use their disposition relative to yourself. If youíre gaining favor for someone else, use their disposition relative to that person.

If they pass their Nerve check, they donít believe you. If they fail by 9 or less, their Compliance moves one degree in the direction of your intent for the duration of the scene or encounter. If they fail by more 10 or more, they are moved permanently one degree, but two degrees for the purpose of the scene or encounter.

With the above, you can pick fights. Diplomacy isn't just about adjusting the disposition in your favor (i.e., making friends), but also convincing people that other people are their enemy. Bluff is all about making think what you're saying is true, regardless of whether or not it's false. Diplomacy is about making someone believe and trust in your judgment. Stirring the pot seems like it could be fun.

Give a Command: You can attempt to command someone to do something that may be potentially dangerous. Make a Diplomacy check against your targetsí Willpower (use the highest value). If you pass, the characters make a Nerve check. If they fail by 9 or less, they comply with the instruction as if they were Willing. If they fail by 10 or less, they comply as though they were Subordinate. The Diplomacy check fails automatically if the target considers you to be an Enemy or Nemesis.

This check should not be used to give general orders or commands; those are defined within the allegiance of the character and their structure. Rather, this check should be used only if the target would not comply with the order if it conflicts their beliefs (i.e., telling a pacifist to use lethal force), would endanger the life of the target (i.e., drive a car into a brick wall), or is otherwise Insubordinate or Unwilling to the character.

This is different than Stir the Pot/Garner Favor, mainly because the target in question is just flat-out unwilling to do this no matter if they're subordinate. It's more or less convincing a Paladin to kill a prisoner for the greater good. He can be considered Subordinate for all intents and purposes, but if his morals and code disagrees with you, you have to do this instead. Plus, it provides some nice flavor for the skill.)

Rally: You can rally your allies to follow through. Make a Diplomacy check, modified by the relative danger of the task, against you alliesí Willpower. If you pass by 9 or less, your allies get a +1 bonus to any roll involving that task. If you pass by 10 or more, your allies gain a +2 bonus to any roll involving that task. If the task has no inherent danger, rallying automatically fails. Moderately difficult tasks or creatures suffer a -5 penalty to the Diplomacy roll, Extremely difficult tasks or creatures suffer a -10 penalty to the Diplomacy roll, and Severely difficult tasks or creatures suffer from a -15 penalty to the Diplomacy roll. These are relative to your alliesí skill and ability, and should be called on a case-by-case basis. The bonus granted lasts until the end of the encounter.

Rally exists because of certain flaws in the Resist Injury variant that only rear their head when d20 Modern is concerned. For the most part, damage doesn't scale well. As a result, creatures with a massive Fortitude save are impervious to small arms fire and can resist artillery quite effectively. I've included as a precursor to a feat that'll I'll include later.)

Haggle: A character can attempt to haggle for prices and goods. A Haggle check is a one-time check made for a product or good. This check does not move the merchantís disposition a step, but moves it for the purpose of trading. The trade value of an item changes dependent on his compliance to the deal.

Haggling and bartering is important in d20 Apocalypse as items have a Trade Unit, an abstract measurement. Baseline bartering is that the merchant'll try to sell you his goods for twice its value, so I've encoded how to modify that here.)

There should also be some rules about negotiations, etc., but I think that's covered up above. I need to include somethings about counter-negotiations, however. But it's quite similar to the Giant's own negotiation rules.

Try Again?: Generally, trying again doesnít work. Even if the initial check succeeds, the other character can only be persuaded so far. If the initial check fails, the other character becomes more commited to their ideals. Trying again has diminished results.

Special: A character can take 10 when making a Diplomacy check, but canít take 20.

A character with the Trustworthy feat gets a +2 bonus on all Diplomacy checks.

Time: Diplomacy is at least a full-round action. The GM may determine that some negotiations require a longer period of time

Check: You can force compliance out of an NPC through physical or aggressive means. You can also attempt to rattle an opponent in combat. You make a check against an NPCís Willpower. If you pass, the NPC is required to make a Nerve check. If the NPC fails his resolve by 9 or less, he is considered Willing for the purpose of following a command or haggling. If he fails by more than 10, he is considered Subordinate for following a command or haggling. In addition, the NPC becomes less friendly to the character despite passing or failing, moving his Relationship modifier back one step in regards to you for the duration of the scene.

The effects of Intimidate last for a number of minutes equal to 2d4 plus your Charisma modifier.

Intimidating someone is not a nice action. If you play Good Cop/Bad Cop, there should be some mechanics already in play to justify why one guy is willing to trust you but not the other.

Rattle: You can attempt to a rattle opponent in combat. You make an Intimidate check against their Willpower. If you pass, the creature has to make a Nerve check. If the creature fails its Nerve check, it is considered Shaken for a number of rounds equal to 1d4 plus your Charisma modifier. A create with an Intelligence score of 1-2 gets a +8 to their Nerve check. A creature without an Intelligence score cannot be rattled.

I included Rattle because it seemed appropriate that Bluff had some sort of combat effectiveness, but Intimidate didn't. It's one thing to bully an opponent so hard he listens to you when you say, "Stop fighting," it's another thing to leave them shaking in their boots.

Try again?: Maybe. Even if the initial check succeeds, the other character can only be intimidated so much, and trying again does not help. If the initial check fails, the NPC has become more firmly resolved to resist the intimidator, and trying again comes at a higher penalty. An opponent can be rattled multiple times in combat, but the effects are diminished.

Special: A character can take 10 when making an Intimidate check, but canít take 20.

A character immune to fear effects canít be intimidated or rattled.

A character may add a +2 bonus to his or her Intimidate check for every size category the character is larger than his or her target. Conversely, the character takes a Ė2 penalty to his or her check for every size category the character is smaller than his or her target.
A character with the Confident feat gets a +2 bonus to all Intimidate checks and Nerve checks to resist Intimidate.

Time: An Intimidate check is a full-round action.

Sense Motive (Wis)
Check: A successful check will determine if ďsomething is upĒ (that is, something odd is going on) or to assess someoneís trustworthiness. It can also help look through a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check.

Hunch: This use of the skill involves making a gut assessment of the social situation. You make a Sense Motive check (DC 15 + Creatureís CR). If you succeed, you can get the feeling from anotherís behavior that something is wrong, such as when youíre talking to an impostor. Alternatively, you can get the feeling that someone is trustworthy.

Discern: You can use the Sense Motive to look through a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check. You roll a Sense Motive check opposed to the characterís check. If you pass by 9 or less, you gain a +2 bonus to you Nerve check. A roll of 10 or more provides a +4 bonus.

Bluff used to be opposed by Sense motive. I decided since I wrapped up all three with similar mechanics, it should be useful against all three.

Discern Secret Message: You may use Sense Motive to detect that a hidden message is being transmitted via the Bluff skill. In this case, your Sense Motive check is opposed by the Bluff check of the character transmitting the message. For each piece of information relating to the message that you are missing, you take a -2 penalty on your Sense Motive check. If you succeed by 4 or less, you know that something hidden is being communicated, but you canít learn anything specific about its content. If you beat the DC by 5 or more, you intercept and understand the message. If you fail by 4 or less, you donít detect any hidden communication. If you fail by 5 or more, you infer some false information.

Try Again: No, though you may make a Sense Motive check for each Bluff check made against you.

Special: A character with the Attentive feat gets a +2 bonus on all Sense Motive checks.

Time: Trying to gain information with Sense Motive generally takes at least 1 minute, and you could spend a whole evening trying to get a sense of the people around you.

Afterthoughts and Developer's Feelings

The hardest thing about these mechanics is realizing the true extent of their ramification. Specifically, in d20 Modern, there are a multitude of Advance and Prestige classes that deal a lot with social interaction and Diplomacy, but still in the same, broken manner. These should be dealt with in time (specifically, when I get around to it).

Reputation is also another thing I left out; in some cases, it might be appropriate to add one's Reputation to the mix. Considering I'm not using Reputation as the core mechanic suggests, rather I'm using Allegience-based reputation (which is dependent on the character's actions), I feel comfortable leaving this out.

There's also the issue behind Handle Animal, which may have a similar use in a post-apocalyptic setting (I believe, however, certain classes allow Handle Animal to be used as a Diplomacy check for animals; if so, the rules don't change. Because Intimidate and Bluff can be used in combat, I've coded in Willpower into the stat blocks that I keep on handy 3x5 cards at the game.)

Lastly, I haven't gave much consideration how magic affects this. Anything that improves a Will save improves this mechanic, but why not? A more willful person is less likely to be pushed with words. Charm Person will work the same way: It makes a person more compliant, but moreover it makes them (temporarily) trustworthy. This might move both Compliance and Relationship to Willing and Friendly for the purpose of the spell. Haven't given it too much thought yet, however--mostly because magic isn't really the crux of the campaign.