This is the last of six blogs on designing and executing Social Challenges for your party through a blend of role-play and dice.
Social Challenges 1: The Challenge
Social Challenges 2: Social Skills
Social Challenges 3: Design
Social Challenges 4: Execution
Social Challenges 5: Sample Challenges
Social Challenges 6: More Sample Challenges
In this sixth blog, I will present the last two sample Social Challenges from the first blog. But first, a Word of Caution:
This system is not for everyone. If you choose to use it, please consider the following:
● Number Crunchers and Thespians. Players accustomed to Diplomacy or Bluff checks every time a character speaks and players who enjoy role-playing without any dice may be disconcerted by the (in)frequency of dice rolling. Discuss the system with your players before implementation.
● Party Face. A character purposely built to dominate social encounters should be offered an opportunity to re-train. Because this system encourages a team-based approach to role-playing, it is less rewarding to have one character as the party “face”.
● Social Mavericks. Players who like to go off on their own may not like this system, which encourages teamwork. Here is one way you can deal with mavericks: Allow a maverick to make an independent appeal. Use the PCs’ Skill Check, but impose a -5 penalty (representing the party’s disagreement). If the maverick uses dishonesty in this independent appeal, and the PC is not trained in Bluff, add an additional +5 to the DC. (If he has a Background, feat or item that can grant a bonus to the skill, allow him to make a Skill check against a DC of 15 + ½ level + 1/tier to gain a +1 bonus to the roll, up to a maximum bonus of +3. Each Background, feat or item can be used only once per encounter, even if it grants a static bonus.) The maverick’s success or failure still applies to the party’s efforts as a whole.
Title: May I Pet Your Catacomb?
Level: 19 (12,000 XP)
Complexity: 1 (4 successes before 3 failures)
DC: Bluff (Emotional) – 31; Diplomacy (Logical) – 29; Intimidate (Ethical) – 27
Premise: A valuable artifact may be hidden within the King’s ancestral catacombs. Nobody can pass through the magical wards without the King’s permission. Although the PCs have great renown, none but those of royal blood have ever been within the tombs. Touching the artifact will release demons that will have to be fought. It is unlikely anybody in the kingdom but the PCs could stand up to the demons.
Success: Each success represents overcoming one of the King’s reservations to the endeavor. Note that the DCs have been inflated. Although few successes are needed, they are harder to manage. Complete success is neither expected nor guaranteed (nor necessary).
Failure: If the PCs manage the challenge with no failures, they are allowed free passage. With one failure, the King demands a service from them in the future. With two failures, the King insists the PCs take his priest along to ensure the catacombs are properly treated. (The priest can contribute somewhat, but will restrict the PCs’ options.) With three failures, the King orders the PCs to take his nephew along. His nephew is a minion who imagines himself an adventurer. The PCs must to keep the nephew alive and allow the nephew to believe he contributed to the venture.
Intimidate: Always fails. The Lord is convinced the PCs will not resort to violence. If they do, and defeat the court, the PCs will forever be branded as outlaws.
Gods: The gods look unkindly on those who disturb royal tombs. A demonstration of the proper protocols for ensuring that the gods are not angered can allay the king’s fears.
Need: The PCs must convince the King that the PCs’ needs are sufficiently dire to break with centuries of tradition.
Privacy: The King is concerned that the PCs may learn embarrassing facts about his family past. The PCs must demonstrate that they can be discrete.
Vandals: The PCs must ally the King’s concern that the PCs will be disrespectful to the remains of his ancestors, which could anger their spirits.
Title: The Riddle of the Sphinx Lady
Level: 27 (55,000 XP)
Complexity: 1 (4 successes before 3 failures)
DC: Bluff (Emotional) – 31; Diplomacy (Logical) – 33; Intimidate (Ethical) – 29
Premise: The PCs must travel to an Astral Domain that has been warped by the alien energies of the Far Realm. Normal rituals of travel will not operate here, but the PCs have found a gate to that Domain guarded by a Sphinx Lady. Sadly, the Sphinx Lady has been corrupted by the maddening forces of the Far Realm. Her riddles are nonsensical, but the PCs detect a glimmer of what was once the sphinx’s sanity. If they can reach that small spark, perhaps they can gain passage without having to fight this beast.
Success: Each success represents a mental defense the sphinx has erected so she won’t recognize what she has become. The PCs must overcome each in turn.
Failure: If the PCs reach three failures before the required number of successes, the sphinx will finally succumb to her madness and attack the PCs.
Intimidate: Intimidate may be attempted once this encounter. If successful, it serves as two successes. If it fails, however, it also serves as two failures.
Denial: “I am not crazy – now tell me what has three legs in the morning and sings rain”. The PCs must first corner the sphinx into a logical corner, showing him how her words make no sense. Logical appeals gain a +1 circumstantial bonus here.
Anger: “You! You did this to me!” The PCs must protest their innocence, either with heartfelt pleas, or with reason. Ethical appeals gain a +1 circumstantial bonus here.
Bargaining: “Perhaps if I study the gates… I can find a cure.” The PCs know this will only hasten her ultimate fall, perhaps transforming her into an aberration, or unleashing Far Realm horrors upon the World. The players must convince her not to look directly into the gates.
Depression: “I am lost! All is lost!” The sphinx could turn self-destructive, and destroy the gates as a form of suicide, thus unleashing the Far Realms on the world. The PCs must offer her some form of hope. Either they promise to return and treat her madness, or offer her hope that their quest might close the gates and preserve what is left of her sanity. If successful she will accept her fate and let the PCs pass. Emotional appeals gain a +1 bonus here.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this series of blogs. Please let me know if you use this method in your games and any comments or suggestions you have.