Persuasion and Literacy: The One Minute Conundrum

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In D&D 3.5e, a character who conducts a diplomatic skill roll must take a single minute to do this. However, also in D&D3e, one might use skills through several media, inclusive of spells and writing.

Let us say someone tries to craft a letter to local royalty. This is considered a Diplomacy crafting roll with synergetic effect from Knowledge (Royalty) and perhaps an innate +2 because the royal house is a friend of this character and this character's family.

The first issue is time: it takes more than a minute to conduct this diplomatic effort and may take more or less than a minute to read the letter. Should the letter be too long for the monarch, it might be put aside or be given a lesser official. Should the letter be too brief, even with hours long efforts over every sentence, under D&D rules wouldn't that be less than a minute and therefore ineffective?

Now, with a normal diplomacy roll one might not "take 20", but it's only obvious one can experiment with phrasing and take ones time with such a letter. Should one ever be allowed to take ten or take twenty with a crafting roll, hence taking ten or twenty times the normal period required to craft something -- maybe even ten or twenty times normal cost? Normally speaking, one cannot take twenty or ten on a crafting check nor on a diplomacy roll.

Furthermore, let us put in this fictional case that the character is asking for reinforcements in the form of royal guardsmen (five in number). Should these guards be equipped with masterwork breastplate, halbard and long swords, heavy crossbow plus other considerations the cost can be up to 2000 gold plus 9 gold a day (we must assume two week's time), so up to 2126 gold. The base cost and time taken can be configured in from normal crafting rules. Such a letter should involve a masterwork component in the writing of it at the very least... but since the letter is what is being crafted, would the masterwork component influence the eventual diplomacy result or

Should all diplomatic efforts be similar to crafting? Should all immediate persuasion attempts be charisma checks modified only by opinion of the NPC and situation? Perhaps normal diplomacy that takes a minute should be "taking ten" while most diplomatic rolls are spur of the moment attempts.

The solution might just be to make a diplomacy check and assume that's the letter. Regardless of how long it might take to write the letter it could be assumed that the end result would be one of two possible results, failure or success and no variation between the two. Especially since most rolls do not have different quality results for success (except attacks, which can be critical).

D&D in 3.0 and 3.5 edition might undertake quality difference in any skill roll -- this is standard to many RPG, having first appeared in the SPI role-playing game Dragon Quest, I think, a game line that was purchased entirely by TSR then discontinued.
Taking 10 doesn't take extra time. You can almost always take 10 on a craft check. Probably a diplomacy check too, if guns aren't being waved around.

The "1 minute" figure assumes you're talking in person. If you write a letter to diplomacy, it takes as long as it takes. You can't take 20 on the letter because you can't know how good the reaction will be until you get a reaction, and by then there's a penalty for failure.

As for the guards... why does it matter how they're equipped? The letter also isn't really being crafted, and there's not really a masterwork component. Why assume 2 weeks? What do you base the figures off of? If you're a royal friend and you ask for guards they'll probably be equiped with standard stuff for whatever kind of guards are sent (patrolmen, castleguards, castle elites, king's personal guards, etc).

Does that answer everything?
Just so there is little further misunderstanding, my real and stated problem is with the limits of diplomacy and the way social interactions are undertaken in D&D 3.5e. My hope is that this is remedied for D&D 4th edition.

Taking 10 doesn't take extra time. You can almost always take 10 on a craft check. Probably a diplomacy check too, if guns aren't being waved around.

You're right about that. I forgot -- it's been some time since I've had time to play.

The "1 minute" figure assumes you're talking in person. If you write a letter to diplomacy, it takes as long as it takes. You can't take 20 on the letter because you can't know how good the reaction will be until you get a reaction, and by then there's a penalty for failure.

There is still a design problem in 3.5e with using skills in written products -- or in crafted products of any sort, one which you breeze past. If there are skill rolls at all, and there should be, D&D needs quality of result determination that is both aimed for at outset and in some cases of better or worse result than initially expected.

To write a letter should be a crafting check for reasons I delineate soon in this very response.

As for the guards... why does it matter how they're equipped?

It matters in cost (and hence crafting DC), it matters in what armour and weapons the guards have, whether or not they arrive in style and with extra rations and tools should these be needed.

The letter also isn't really being crafted, and there's not really a masterwork component.

We must realize that a request is in effect a crafted element. In writing as one speaks, this is no more than autodictation. Eloquence can be impressive. Masterwork writing must be viewed as of rarity.

We assume that the diplomacy is a rational request: to assist in handling an issue that is regarded as problematic to crown as well as adventurers undertaking a mission for an alarmed and confused mayor. As a rational seeming request, or a request written to appeal to reason, one must think about the form of the letter and the wording. One must craft it.

Why assume 2 weeks? What do you base the figures off of?

Something approaching a guess as to what might be necessary. Two days might be appropriate if they are mounted and hurrying. One could mention any number and come up with more numbers. It's not a specific and real situation, it's an ambiguous example to illustrate a concept.

If you're a royal friend and you ask for guards they'll probably be equiped with standard stuff for whatever kind of guards are sent (patrolmen, castleguards, castle elites, king's personal guards, etc).

Yes, but this could figure into the DC of the letter crafting in which cost must be evaluated. The target might very well be non-cost related (such as an attempt to raise morale or to engage a person's affections) but this in itself is not an entirely quick process unless it's a rare situation shared by semi-illiterates. "DEEER NO ONE, BEEE MEERYST SUN!" and such isn't quite an effective exercise of diplomacy but could serve to cheer a person.

Does that answer everything?

Not really, but it illustrates some approaches to D&D -- not my favorite.
But you're not crafting anything! You're not expending money and skilled time to gain something of market value. You're "crafting" in this case as much as you're "crafting" when you make a diplomacy attempt in person. The only difference with a letter is that if the advisor whispers in his ear some secret info to keep the king from helping you, you don't get another try to win him over, since he's already read the letter.

Diplomacy already has "degrees of success" built in, there's a handy chart where you check to see how high your roll is against their current attitude and you see what attitude they're at after the attempt (usually the same or higher).

I suppose if you ask that the guards have special weapons (flame swords to fight trolls, maybe) then it'll make the DC go up because you have to be more convincing, but in general, you should probably just assume that if you have level 3 guards sent to help you they have level 3 appropriate gear. If level 5 guards are sent to help you they get level 5 appropriate gear. Unless you're going to kill them and take their stuff, what they have will just come and go with them, so the king isn't going to charge you extra for it.
I have an issue with taking 20 in writing a letter. Basically, it is the same reason as to why one cannot take 20 on a disguise check. It is an opposed check, and you cannot possibly know how well the recipient will react to your letter until you have sent it out, and he has received it.

You can keep rewriting it, this would be represented by multiple attempts, each with their own check (which is hidden from you, since you cannot know how well the opposed check will go). You can randomly pick one which you feel is best (but this is a gut feel at best, and is ultimately no different from rolling a d20 and accepting the result at face value).

At best, I can see ad-hoc competence bonuses to your check because you are taking the time and effort to flesh it out properly.

Besides, I don't see what crafting has to do with this. You are basically writing down what you would have said anyways.
Calling it crafting makes little changes to the end result.

Lets reverse your example.

I want to make a breastplate, but I'm not sure how difficult it would be. My character has never attempted it before, but has seen a breastplate, and is aware of the basics of construction.

IE, I do not know the successful DC.

I therefore do not have a target, and I am essentially in the same position as my scribe, toiling for hours over the perfect phrase.

Essentially, I guess I am saying that this can be covered in ad-hoc bonuses, and that you cannot truly aim for a DC, without other preliminary work in determining the likely hood of success.

I generally award bonuses for extra effort.. but you also must realise that no amount of extra effort is going to make up for an actual lack of skill. And a higher skill can(And will) easily translate into better skill with assembling a letter.

I suppose I'm some what lost as to why you think there is an issue.

Diplomacy is one of the skills you can play straight off the dice, or extend to the table, and I tend to allow some bonuses for particularly impassioned speeches, etc.. but just because I or my fellow players have a silver tongue, does not mean their characters do, so I tend to keep these bonuses quite limited.

In the particular idea of a letter, I would probably be more inclined to remove the CHA bonus from the Diplomacy roll, and replace it with an INT/WIS bonus, as it matters little how physically attractive/charming/forceful a person is, when represented only via text.
There is a difference between having a DC which you are simply not aware of, and not even having a DC to meet in the first place.

In your case of a breastplate, there is a set DC (as listed in the PHB). That you do not know what it is does not negate the fact that a DC exists nonetheless.

Conversely, at the time when you are writing the letter, you are effectively making an opposed diplomacy check with the king. However, there is no DC for you to meet, since the king will not have made his check yet (since he has not even read your letter yet).

Likewise, I am not sure if diplomacy is even the appropriate skill to make here.

But to be honest, I am not sure what I am exactly arguing against either. Just that somehow, your proposal seems problematic. I just can't put my finger on it yet...
I really like the idea of using dipolmacy (or 4E equivalent) with letter writing to secure better results.
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