View Full Version : Ebon H4wk's 5ed Social Conflict System

2018-05-08, 04:00 PM
Hello forum,

I am hoping for some constructive criticism for a set of social conflict mechanics that I adapted to 5ed. My group runs into a few problems when we try to "get social" with NPCs. Maybe your group has similar issues!

1. Quiet players never get involved. But quiet gamers are still gamers! They like dice rolling and strategy and participating on their terms. So by incorporating some structured mechanics, I hope the players that sit in the back will find some enthusiasm to participate and do some role playing!

2. Our social engagements always seem to fall into unproductive circular conversations that get the players frustrated. The frustration leads to violence and initiative rolls. A system that provokes some thought and planning might provide the group with some focus in social situations. The system gives the roleplaying some direction and clear goals.

3. Lastly, Social encounters to date have generally been a single charisma based skill test. Roll the die. It comes up a pass or fail. It's pretty 2 dimensional, and when 1 bad die roll spits in the face of good roleplaying, it doesn't do much to encourage social solutions to problems. This system turns a conversation into more of a battle, and adds some more crunch to a traditionally less gamey part of D&D.

We gave this a test run the other night, and it went really well. It is essential that the players think about the action that they are about to roleplay when their turn comes up. Trying to uphold the speaking requirements of the action they chose made it quite a bit of fun.

Conflicts are different than the usual skill checks to overcome everyday adventuring obstacles. In a conflict, there are multiple dice rolls instead of just one or two, and how we make them is different. Here is a Summary of the Social Conflict Procedure:

1) Select 1 to 3 characters out of those present to be participants for each side (in total, between 2 and 6 participants)

2) State the Terms of Victory for both sides.

3) Calculate Disposition for both sides.

4) Identify Leverage and State of Mind for both sides.

5) Choose three Actions secretly, representing the party’s strategy in Act I. The DM does the same.

6) Reveal the first Action for both sides, and then announce any Skill Tricks. Roleplay the Actions, guided by the Action chosen.

7) Make Social Rolls. Adjust Disposition for each side. If either side’s Disposition is reduced to 0, the Conflict Concludes.

8) Reveal and test for the second Action, and then the Third before proceeding to step 9.

9) Proceed to the next Act, or if Act III has resolved and both sides still have a positive Disposition, the Conflict Concludes.

Dice Rolls: Social Conflicts depart from typical Dice Rolling. For each of the 4 Social Skills, characters will roll a pool of D6’s equal to their skill modifier. For example, what is normally a Persuasion check of 1D20 + 2 (Proficiency) + 4 (Charisma Modifier) becomes a dice pool of 6D6. In social rolls, a roll of 5 or higher on the die is a Success. Some results cause a Dice Success Modifier. If this occurs, the number needed to roll a success on the die will change... perhaps getting worse by 1 (so a 6 on the die is needed for a success) or better by 1 (a 4,5, or 6 is a success)


A Social Conflict is made up of up to 3 Acts, in each of which are 3 Actions. Each side may include 1, 2, or 3 participants. Other characters may be present for the conversation, but a maximum of 3 may be part of the conflict, with each participant being responsible for at least 1 of the Actions in each Act.

Social Conflict only breaks out when somebody wants something. In this step, the Party must state what they get if they win, and the DM will state what happens if the Party loses. When choosing terms, it is a discussion between players and DM - not a character based conversation. Possible Terms for Victory include favours, information, or resources.

Your Disposition is a measurement of the evidence and material supporting your side of the conversation. As the conflict progresses, each party will try to chip away the other’s Disposition until nothing remains to be said. The players begin the conflict with a Disposition of 4. Indifferent NPCs also have a starting Disposition of 4, while Hostile NPCs have a starting Disposition of 6. To this number, both sides will add a Mental Ability Modifier - Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. Only well rounded conversationalists can march into a social conflict with confidence… others may find themselves less able to defend and advance their position and their strategy. To determine which Ability modifier to use, both sides secretly select which Tone of Conversation they would like to engage in. If both sides select the same, that is what will be used. If the two sides select a different Tone of Conversation, both sides instead use the third, unselected option.

Leverage is ammunition that you bring into a social conflict - information that is relevant to the subject of discussion. Each item of Leverage must be presented to the DM, along with a statement as to why it is relevant to this Social Conflict. The DM will rule case by case if it is valuable. Each valid piece of leverage adds a +1 to Disposition.

State of Mind can increase the difficulty of having a coherent and effective conversation, especially with respect to the pressure generated by a social conflict. State of Mind is hampered when a participant suffers any of the following conditions: Hungry or Thirsty, Agitated or Angry, Injured or Ill, and Tired or Weary. For each Condition that applies to a participant, reduce Disposition by 1. Individuals that do not feel up to a conversation are likely to walk away from a Social conflict, so highly favourable Terms may need to be offered to entice them into the engagement.

There are only 4 available actions to be selected, and each may be selected more than once. Persuasion, Insight, Deception, and Intimidate. Some types of action, you and your participating allies will be more skilled at using, but be wary about simply hammering at your opponent using social actions in which you specialize. Not only will such an approach make you more predictable, but you may also find your favoured tactics being outplayed. Each action has a different effect on how you test. And each action interacts with the other actions in a different way.
There will be three Acts, and in each Act, there are three Actions that will clash with the Actions chosen by the DM. Secretly select your side’s 3 Actions while the DM secretly selects 3 for the opposing side. Consider how you will verbally deliver each Action, because roleplaying them will go more smoothly if your Action selections follow some conversational logic/strategy. Feel free to make a couple notes to remind you of what points you want to touch on during your turn.

The DM says, “Action 1,” and both sides reveal their first action for the Act. At this time, both sides may declare the use of a Social Skill Trick. Once the actions are declared, roleplay the conversation, and be sure to follow the requirements for “Speaking the Part”. Only one person speaks during each Exchange, and that player is obligated to engage the opponent in a manner that fits the style of his chosen Action. The side that initiated the Social Conflict always speaks first in Act I and Act III. The other side speaks first in Act II.

First, the DM may rule that the player failed to meet the requirements of his Speaking Part. His team’s Disposition goes down by 1 (or more). Note that this system is intended to be a fun variation on traditional social roleplaying, so as long as some effort was made, participants should not be judged too harshly. Especially in cases where the opposing Speaking Parts are particularly contrary in nature.
Both sides then refer to the Action Resolution Table matching their Action, referencing the “Versus” that matches the opponent’s action. Opposed Actions will be reduced by the opponent’s successes, with only the side with a positive net result gaining any benefit. Independent rolls occur apart from the opponent, and are not reduced by the opponent (but may observe special rules defined in the Action Resolution Table).

ACTION 1 - Persuasion
Persuasion lets you deliver a clear, direct point, and engage the opponent in discussion. It can serve to focus or refocus the conversation, or simply restate your position. Persuasion is the most direct way to win Social Conflict and is the most straightforward tactic in conversation.

Speaking the Part: As the core of conversation, Persuasion is very simple - just make some sort of point. As long as you say something of interest (not just agreeing, or making small talk) your job is covered.

Persuasion vs Persuasion Opposed Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your net successes.

Persuasion vs Insight Independent Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your total successes. If you roll at least 3 successes, you Recover 1 to your Disposition.

Persuasion vs Deception Opposed Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your net successes.

Persuasion vs Intimidate No Roll No Roll is Permitted

ACTION 2 - Insight
The Insight action protects and strengthens your position by better understanding the direction of the conversation. Through Insight, you read body language, pick up on ticks and tells, and read all manner of subtext and emotion.

Speaking the Part: Insight is very defensive. As part of your action, you must show some understanding of your opponent’s comments.

Insight vs Persuasion Independent Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your total successes.

Insight vs Insight No Roll No Roll is Permitted

Insight vs Deception Opposed Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your net successes. If you win by 2 Successes or more, your opponent suffers a -1 Success Modifier to Deception for the remainder of the Social Conflict

Insight vs Intimidate Opposed Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your net successes.

ACTION 3 - Deception
A Deception represents a misleading or deceitful point used to get your opponent to say something foolish that you can use against him. It attacks and defends with insinuation, assumption, misdirection, or lies.

Speaking the Part: Deception requires that you say something that is either untrue, or conceals the truth, or tricks the opponent with some confusing wordplay.

Deception vs Persuasion Opposed Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your net successes. If you win by 2 Successes or more, you may convert your opponent’s next Independent Roll into a No Roll.

Deception vs Insight Opposed Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your net successes.

Deception vs Deception No Roll No Roll is Permitted

Deception vs Intimidate Independent Reduce your opponent’s Disposition by your total successes.

ACTION 4 - Intimidation
The Intimidate action is used to push the opponent around, gaining a temporary advantage over him. It could be overbearing confidence, bullying, a really really discomforting stare, or even threats.

Speaking the Part: Intimidation is very aggressive. “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”. Be a bit of a bully (flail your hands - find some energy), or be imposing (use a gravelly voice - give a squinty skunk-eye).

Intimidation vs Persuasion No Roll No Roll is Permitted

Intimidation vs Insight Opposed Consult the table below with your net successes

Intimidation vs Deception Independent Consult the table below with your total successes.

Intimidation vs Intimidate Opposed Consult the table below with your net successes. If you win by 3 Successes or more, you may trade your table result for the following effect: Discard 1 of your opponent’s successful dice in every Opposed Roll for the remainder of the Social Conflict.

1 Success Impede -1 Disposition
2 Success Gain Momentum Increase the Dice Pool on your next roll by total/net successes
3 Success+ Disarm Apply both Impede & Gain Momentum effects

Both sides reveal their Action for the second, then third Action, each time resolving the actions and making rolls as required (Steps 6 & 7)

Repeat Steps 5 to 8 for Act II, and then again for Act III

As soon as one side is reduced to a Disposition of zero, or all 3 Act III Actions are complete, the Social Conflict ends.

Stalemate: If both sides still have Disposition remaining at the end of the Social Conflict, (i.e., the social conflict concluded at the end of Act III) or both sides are reduced to 0 during the same Action, the Conflict ends in a Stalemate and both sides propose Compromised Terms (each side grants the other either a No Compromise, Minor Compromise, Modest Compromise, or a Major Compromise). It is possible that both sides receive their full Terms!
Victory: If one side is reduced to 0 and the other has a positive Disposition remaining, it is a Victory, and the winner receives his full terms, and the loser is granted Compromised Terms.

Compromised Terms Once the conflict has ended, the first thing you do is compromise. The loser makes an offer to the winner, “Fine, you win, but…”. The degree of the compromise should be appropriate to how much Disposition the winner lost. The results of the conflict are set—the winner achieved his goal, the loser did not. Now discuss an appropriate middle ground for compromise. A suitable compromise can be based on granting some of the loser’s Terms, or reducing the winner’s Terms.

No Compromise: Converse Like a Boss
If the winning side loses nothing from their Disposition, they are not compelled to offer any sort of compromise. They have their Terms met entirely (within the opponent’s best ability to meet them) and the loser should consider investing in Social Skill proficiency.

Minor Compromise: Rock Solid Disposition
If the winner ends the conflict with a Disposition of 6 or more and lost no more than 2 points of Disposition, he owes the loser only a minor compromise. (roughly 25% of the set Terms).

Major Compromise: Shredded Disposition
If the winner’s disposition is reduced to 1 or 2 points, he has won a very narrow victory indeed. The opposing side has poked all sorts of holes into the winner’s argument, and he must grant a major compromise to the loser. (roughly 75% of the set Terms)

Modest Compromise: Agree to Disagree
In any other situation, the winner owes the loser a significant concession. Many strong points were made, but ultimately, the winner had all the right counterpoints and an overall stronger delivery. (roughly 50% of the set Terms)