segunda-feira, 15 de janeiro de 2018

Them Bones of Adventure - XVI: Ambushes and Occluded Rolls

Continuing my exposition on table procedures for common exploration feats & rules, which began here with part one.



Introduction

This time it’s about cornercase addendas, meaning to belabour topics approached in the Stealth and the Rolling Differently entries, supplementing them.

Turns out I couldn’t quite think of everything when laying down the rule apparatus for Stealth, which was concerned mostly with character movement while sneaking about. Here’s the gist of what I’ll try when dealing with static stealthers waiting to ambush a third party. The rest is a refinement to collective and hidden rolls and me ranting about screens.

Far From Sight, Close To Mind

I’ve always been against the institution of the DM screen. The first – and, arguably, the only – necessary reason to put the argument to rest being that it constitutes a barrier to effective communication (if doing things right, body language counts), which, if I may kindly draw notice, is what an RPG is essentially all about, meaning screens are a singularly anti-RPG implement, a profound way of crossbowing oneself in the foot.

They’re also an elitist symbol of unearned status and an invitation to caving in to roll fudging. Even if a referee plays it straight all the way through, statistical unlikelyhoods are sure to crop up and set about the seedings of doubt, depending on how well the players know and trust their referee.

Occluded Rolls

The above statements read that this kind of roll is best avoided whenever possible, the optimum policy being for the mechanics to call for rolls only when a character is already comitted to a course of action. As well, on the chapter of relevance, if a party is making good progress along gentle terrain and provisions are plentiful, there is quite no need to hide the Weather roll from the players, as it will promptly be subsumed into the rolling narrative of the journey anyway and nothing of importance is hinging upon it. If, on the other hand, the party is pressed by time and the gleam of cruel axe heads from an orcish warband looming close by, it will be crucial for the party to know if their tracks in the snow will be suppressed by an incoming storm and an ambush might be feasible… or not.

There will be occasions where knowledge of rolls will warp the running’s immersion and influence decisions that clearly should be made with the players unburdened by external factors. For these occasions I reserve the occluded roll.

When I say occluded, I mean that the roll is indeed made in secret by the referee with the purpose of driving tension and not allowing the players (and hence the characters) information they would not have, but with the particularity that the die roll, having been made in some reserved space, is then not removed or interfered with in any way, that it may be publicly revealed once the situation that precipitated the roll is resolved.

Off the top of my head, this can apply to Random Encounter Checks, Encounter Distance for enemies out of sight, Weather Rolls, Stealth attempts by enemies against the party, Sensorial Perception Range of foes a player character is sneaking upon… or ambushing.



Collective Crimes (Incriminate No One)

As I was squinting at making something with ambush mechanics, feeling like there was a trunk standing in the way of my view of the treeline, I was struck by what follows for a unified method for doling out the modifier to group rolls, one that doesn’t kill the d20’s variance or excessively penalize the whole party by one black sheep not having the prescribed skill.

I am thus disavowing the three examples I gave in the number IX of this series, be kind to pass me the salt before I eat my hat. Again.

So:

Navigation is not a group roll, rather it is an individual check,  albeit one that can only be attempted by one party member at a time, being therefore discounted from serving as an example for group rolls.

Long Chases and whatever other group rolls determined by the referee will abide by the guideline written below, Initiative taking center stage as the quintessential group roll, one that happens to be skill-less.

The Crunchy Bits

Group Roll Modifier

- For each character in the party that has the required skill, add a bonus of their halved Proficiency (rounded down) cumulatively to the group roll, to the maximum cap of the highest proficiency bonus from among those attempting the action.

- For each character that doesn’t have proficiency in the required skill, attach a cumulative -1 to the group roll, down to the lowest modifier present in the group.

- Group rolls not based on skill will account instead for modifiers to the relevant attribute, rather than presence or absence of a skill, with every character with positive modifiers adding and those with negatives subtracting a one point modifier.

- Skill Mastery or Exceptional (18 or better) stats may provide a non-halved proficiency bonus/+2, as well as delicate tasks may imply a -2 from the have-nots.



The Art Of Lying In Wait

- An ambushing side, appropriately ensconced and having previously declared stealth, will lie in wait until the quarry approaches.

- Once the ambushing group’s stealth is challenged by coming into sensorial range of the victims (occluded roll of encounter distance), roll [Wisdom (Stealth)] or, if a party, a group check of [Stealth] vs. the targets’ Passive Perception. A successful roll will ensure the ambushers are not found until their quarry gets to half the sensorial distance, being called anew every time the would-be victims halve their distance again to the ambushers' position.

- If the party has had enough time to prepare the ambush and sort positionings, the roll can be made with [Intelligence (Stealth)] instead or, as a party, [Stealth] but with the best proficiency modifier found in the party, as the time spent in preparation allows the expertise of the cutthroat party elements to guide the whole set up. Note that the roll is still only put to the test once challenged by circumstances.

- Once the ambushers decide to make their move, they make a group roll of [Dexterity (Stealth)] opposed by individual rolls of [Wisdom (Perception)] from the victims – note how asking here for individual rolls is justified as they equate to an individual benefit or detriment for each defending character, whereas asking the same of the attackers makes little sense.

- Defenders who beat the ambush roll will be included in the normal Initiative group roll as combat initiates, those who roll below the attackers’ surprise threshold are caught flat-footed for the round and lose their turn, on a botch a character loses two whole rounds in confused bewilderment; on a critical success, the character may immediately act.



Closing Thoughts – The Pay-off of Preparation & Collective Doubts

The possibility of engaging a different, more cerebral, character statistic for prepared ambushes was the last thing that I added to this entry and it has left me thinking. What else might be prepareable long-term to the point of it enabling (even demanding) a logical switching of statistics and how does that map to the use of the Intelligence stat, by itself the most immediate action-averse attribute on the sheet?

I’m also not happy with how I can’t really define how long is “long enough” in terms of timing for preparation of an ambush and how much benefit it should afford. I’m of the mind that Advantage is to be granted strictly for circumstantial benefits, but should “take 10” be a possibility? What about “take 20”? How well can something as fluid and wildly unpredictable as an ambush really be prepared? Grist for the mill...


terça-feira, 2 de janeiro de 2018

Them Bones of Adventure - XV: Enduring the Seasons (Weather part II)

Continuing my exposition on table procedures for common exploration feats & rules, which began here with part one.


Introduction

The table from the previous post was intended to represent fairly stable weather and, in a pinch, it feels amply sufficient. Just adjudicate a reasonable baseline temperature and roll from there. But one can dig a little deeper even without much effort, it being perfectly possible to adjust all sorts of parameters until we end up with a vastly different weather experience, made to reflect different lands and bring their exoticity into contrast.

Like I said before, considering that one doesn’t roll for weather in a dungeon nor are its consequences usually felt while in town, the Wilderness becomes a lot more of a place once weather has to be contended with. But the ultimate question remains: can the players tell the difference at the table? Therein lies the only answer that matters to me.


Deep Goeth the Rabbit Hole – Ancillary Table for Climate Types, Seasons and Geography

The following table modifies - and significantly complicates - the proposal from last post. I don’t know that I’ll apply all of it, I’m just reaching about and exploring options for now, some of these being markedly more important than others. It’s broken down into the following elements:

Temperature Ranges and Weather Modifiers: A handful of broadly inclusive types of climate, each with a different temperature range, chance of rainfall and timings for checks of temperature/precipitation/wind direction and speed.

Elevation: Exposure to the elements by gain in altitude affects the Temperature Range and the Wind Speed.

Shade and Night: Drops in temperature, including both the nightly drop and that experienced when out of direct exposure to light.

Seasons: Influencing Temperature Range, Turn of the Weather and Chance of Rainfall.

Climate Types & Other Effects

Fighting the Elements: Clothing and Shelter

Wanting to give some measure of accordance to clothing insolation without falling down a precipice of complexity, a table for clothing on Delta’s D&D Hotspot drew my eye and seemed in equal measures practical and robust enough that I coopted it with only minor tuning made to account for 5th.

Clothing versus Temperature Levels

Since I’m cribbing from Delta’s blog and he was thoughtful enough to include a Farenheit scale it’s no skin off my nose reproducing it here as well for the benefit of those concerned.

Clo, a human-biased metric, is here scaled from 0-4 to match the temperature, otherwise the weather’s considered to be either too hot or too cold. One degree of Clo is defined as providing warmth allowing for a human to be comfortable while idle, which means that physical activity should be taken into account.

Shelter is likewise graded as a Clo modifier, though one that can both provide warmth or protect from heat if dealing with a hot climate, with better and more complete shelter being accordingly more difficult to find, as stated earlier.

Implications of Weather

I’ve had it impressed upon me that travelling must have a price tag, waxing prose is both welcome and necessary but relying only upon narration to convey the weight of a journey is simply not enough, there has to be an equipment and Hp tax to be levied for things to gain in gameable substance. 

I also defend that if a party counts a Druid or Ranger amongst its number, they ought to see the weather roll and obtain some measure of foreshadowing of what's coming.


The Hot

If the temperature exceeds the clothing level a character is wearing, he’ll have to shed cloth on the pain of suffering an hourly d4 damage per difference in clothing level, with an additional d4 added to the roll for every passing hour. The die size can be aggravated if labouring under direct exposure to the sun or while wearing armour.

The Cold

If the temperature drops so as to demand a higher clothing level than what a character is wearing, he’ll have to acquire further layers or, again, suffer a mounting pool of d4 points of damage per level of difference. Dice size aggravated for the character being wet.

& the Extremes

Once all of an explorer’s Hp are depleted and the temperature (or other conditions) reach the point of unendurability, the exhaustion rolls come to the fore.

Wind and Water

Once rain or wind speed go past a certain degree, they too inflict Hp loss, generically dealt thusly: every time the condition metrics total up an integer equalling or rounding down to a die's worth, that die is inflicted in Hp loss every hour. For example: a Gale (level 4 of wind speed) along with light rainfall (Precipitation 3) would imply a rounded-down Hp erosion of d6 per hour.


Closing Thoughts – Unhinging the Weather Roll and Worldbuilding (or “Could Hel really freeze over?”)

I reread all the above and get this jolt on my spine: the weather, folks’ll say, as modelled on a 2d6 roll, is much too unstable and chaotic, with the only predictable result being how much of a completely unrealistic clusterfuck this will turn out to be.

I want to adjudicate what I can and dodge what I can't, but I’m left pondering that this same thought might serve as the butressing for the argument that we are to use a fictional world as the setting of our play. We’re not after modelling the world, after all, we’re after modelling A world. Does it feel disingenuous to make an appeal to the ignorance present in the unknowable? Well, here we are.

We can turn to the barrier of human knowledge to find our warm solace in its rainshadow, much like any charlatan from ages past: add a second moon to the firmament, say the world is hollow or flat-out-flat, I don’t care. And neither can classic meteorology from that point on. Unless anyone's versed in computer weather modelling and willing to put in the hours, everyone at the table will just have to accept the fact that winds, rain and temperature will display a far more erratic pattern than any amount of realism would condone.

By this point I’m ready to admit that it might be possible – interesting, even – to build a setting from inference of the front-loaded mechanic effects that rule a world’s meteorology. Kind of like setting funky parameters on a graphic renderer and iterating to see where it gets you.

After all, if it gets hotter as a mountain chain is climbed, colder when descending a fissure in the ground and the winds become wildly unpredictable at night, it can dawn on the players that, in known lands, knowable weather; for Terra Incognita, weather may well be playing free-for-all.



quarta-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2017

Them Bones of Adventure - XIV: Weather

Continuing my exposition on table procedures for common exploration feats & rules, which began here with part one.



Introduction

I’ve been holding off on a big one for some time now: Weather.

I wanted something that allowed for more than just a shrugging off of weather as a game element, for I find a lot of the difficulties inherent to surviving the great outdoors derive not so much from making miles of progress, but from doing it while facing down a gale that hardly even allows one to draw breath. Finding shelter because the party decided it was time to do so is nothing but a chore, having to do it under a torrential downpour before exhaustion piles up and precious hit-points start being washed away is an adventure. I’m here to sign up for that last one.

It’s easy to conclude that this could get icky and complicated pretty quickly if going for an exhaustive approach. Luckily, my scope of interest is bounded by what I’ll need at a table in the heat of the running. I can bear to make do with some a lot of arbitrariness here.

Note that the intention is neither the lazy thinking approach of “I can just dictate whatever weather I need” or “I’m sure there’s an app for that” nor is this the overly self-indulgent “translating a complex weather algorithm into dice-roll notation, complete with subtables for phases of the moon”.

No, this is just plain young me, doing it like Sinatra.

The Safest of Topics

Talking about the weather? Well, not in an RPG context.

Afterthought to some, wooly mammoth of an issue to others, weather generation in a procedural manner is probably well beyond my ability to create and I’ll admit straight at the launchpad: I’m deliberately biting off way more than I can chew here. If there is a practical and convincing take on weather systems out there I’ve yet to see its presentation or meet its author.

Christmas is nigh and I feel like I don't ask for much: I wish for a procedure that is elegant, that preserves the running’s momentum, something that can be done at-a-glance and dispenses with consulting any but the most rudimentary of tables, something eminently usable and that doesn’t feel like it’s been frontloaded to serve the party’s narrative, for detriment or benefit.


Gameable Weather

I’ve consulted with the gogs and magogs of Wikipages, I’ve learned a bit about Köppen climate areas and generally become better informed for it, but I’m not about to define traits for inches of rainfall or miles of windspeed, no, I’m after the gameable fatty portions, not the marrowy numeric hairsplits.

Even for a system that embraces modelling an order bordering on chaos, I’ll still need at least a couple of stable points of comparison, needles with which to spin the thread. For this I choose to turn to the directions of the compass and an array of temperature descriptions, then narrowed by climate type, to base the die-roll’s results upon.

I’ve seen online the whole “Weather as Reaction Roll” and I wish to move past that a bit while shooting to keep the parts that enable the same kind of simplification.

The weather roll, despite some interpretative differences, is then to be distant kin to a reaction roll for the very basis of how the weather is shaped (improves and worsens). Its reading is to be somewhat subjective, its result dispersion to rely on uncle Gauss’s help, its results mainly descriptive. These are still just bare bones, waiting on testing and refinement before table use is forthcoming.

Left to the Seasons’ Random Display

When to make a weather roll?

Being as I’m no climatologist, let me stress once again: I’m not out looking for the correct but rather the game-relevant answer.

Drawing from my rich double-paned-glass-filtered experience with weather, I’m thinking weather rolls might be appropriate (and easier to remember) at liminar junctions during a given day: one daily roll seems plenty good for the parameter of temperature, with partial rolls at every four-hour watch after that being usable for precipitation and the shifting of the wind’s direction, this for a generic temperate climate. When we get to the more tropical latitudes, more frequent rolls for precipitation might be desirable, the opposite applying for the more stable climate types, such as deserts.

Of course it need not be as intensive as this, a single roll can be extrapolated to last for several days and ad-hoc rolls can also be made simply for partial consultation, such as determining just the shift of the wind’s direction or speed, iterating as long as the matter remains important. If the fastidious approach doesn’t turn out so good, I’ll have to think of something else, such as keying weather roll triggers on Wilderness encounter tables. Realism is just a yardstick, one that I’d rather bend than break.

The Crunchy Bits

For the simpler reading, go with just the leftmost columns, growing complexity can then be added by extending the reading to the right, culminating in the use of the ancillary worksheet that tracks the evolution of weather over an extended period of time and which is intended to be used either by the party for record-taking or, more importantly, by me as referee, to plot out a week’s worth of weather in advance.

Anatomy of a Weather Roll

I endeavoured to atomize the constituent elements of weather that I’ve found to be gameable, trying to answer the question of how deep can one mine a simple 2d6 roll for meaning before out pops the Balrog of overcomplexity?

To maximize the possibilities, I started by differentiating the two six-siders used (colours being good for this) and then decided on the categories to decode from rolling the bastards. Note that all of the following have some sort of effect or implication on travel, shelter, survival, vision and combat. Hence me dubbing them gameable elements:

Turn of the Weather: The Reaction Roll’iest part of the roll, as simplicity is better served by a degree of randomization inherent to the roll instead of trying to accurately model temperature drifts like an almanac. In effect, this will mainly determine if the weather is getting warmer or colder, with the effect evenly spread out over the duration until the next roll. 

Though the temptation presents itself, I cannot shirk numeric signifiers – they feel very modern and thus inadequate in the context of fantasy – despite my view that I should avoid conventions common to our contemporary upbringing, such as that of measuring temperature in clearly defined scales, still the implication remains that the referee must get the meaning across, and records of the weather must be kept, in order for the whole system to mean anything. The graded approach is a concession, as I don’t see the verbal descriptions catching on or being sufficient in transmitting the idea of temperature to the players.

Temperature Die: One of the differentiated d6s is used to mark the temperature. This is the most objective part of the roll, keying into the ancillary table that relates the temperature’s descriptive term.

Precipitation Die: The other differentiated d6 is reserved for precipitation, with six different degrees. It only means anything when it rains, with rainfall being dictated by the 2d6 roll.

Prevailing Wind Direction: Determine North as facing the roller. Trace an imaginary line from highest to lowest die result.

Wind Speed: Measured from categories 0 to 5, subtracting the temperature die’s result from the precipitation’s. This works out to a nicely embedded secondary stratified probability curve.

Duration: After a fair while spent experimenting, I settled for slicing time into daily for temperature and once every four-hour watch for rain and for wind. Should one of the durations expire during gameplay, simply recheck the lapsed result if it is at all important, or default into calm air/lack of rain if not.


Larger version


Closing Thoughts – Crucial Extrapolations

Never a slave to the die roll, the understanding is that the weather is only rolled to unearth some bare bones, the interpretation of that which is seasonable, along with some other deductions must all rest on the referee’s shoulders. For example: it is ever obvious that the temperature must drop by 10 to 15 Celsius at night, no matter what.


Careful reading will also yield results for Fog, Sleet, Hail, Cyclonic winds and Snow, as these are all a matter of crossreferencing temperature with precipitation level and windspeed. The present geography too must play a role, as each local climate will imply a different set of expectations regarding Precipitation and Average Temperature. Elevation, presence of an active volcano, mountain chains and shelter in the woodland or deep valleys. There are things no simple table can do for the referee. You just have to know how to play it by ear.

domingo, 10 de dezembro de 2017

Them Bones of Adventure - XIII: Matters of Sinew (Swimming, Jumping, Digging)

Continuing my exposition on table procedures for common exploration feats & rules, which began here with part one.

Introduction

S’funny, everytime I think that I’m scraping the very bottom of the barrel I find myself fashioning a new post wholecloth out of things I thought I could do without or simply had not remembered until recently.

As I was thinking about some of the more tendon-torsion inducing feats I realized that I hate the way the current version of the game pretty much conflates Acrobatics with Athletics, enforcing a feeling of redundance between the Dexterity and Strength attributes, usually to the detriment of the later. 

This post is aimed at fixing some of that by detailing a handful of feats that only those in possession of the gift of athleticism can hope to pull off. Note that I’m not out to expand every damn skill into its own little world, at least not intentionally.

Anyhow, here we go once again, mallet-meets-heart style.

The Crunchy Bits

Adult Swim

Borrowing from myself for once, I’m going to abstractly interpret swimming as a mechanical cousin to my original proposal for climbing, which I might soon revise anyway;

In light of deeper reading from interesting new horizons, I feel like it is a more adequate fit: climbs are more dynamic environments (just picture the mish-mash of difficulties potentially encountered in your average rockface compared to the much more uniform behaviour from a body of water) and the stakes for failing during a climb are higher, thus being deserving of greater player input and agency.

As with climbing, if the waters are still, help is at hand and nothing is truly at stake as the character’s just getting his feet wet, do away with rolls and make do with halving the character’s movement.

If faced with a hazardous or overlong (or overdeep) stretch of water or attempting something risky, such as wading into the murk while carrying weight:

- Extended roll of [Strength (Athletics), DC 2+], success propels the character an horizontal number of feet equal to the result.

- For downward diving movement halve the result and double it for upward motion. While diving, the player is well advised to keep in mind his character's capacity for holding his breath

- The DC is set at two because failures are fairly meaningless in a calm water context outside of Fumbling, the poor progress yielded by a low roll already representing the character’s need to slow down to catch breath. However, choppier waters can and will carry the risk of the character being momentarily overwhelmed by the current, meaning an altered course and higher DCs, with failure dragging the character in the vector of the current’s wake.

- Fumbles mean the character has messed his stroke-breathing pattern and a CON save to prevent Exhaustion must be passed to reestablish a rythm lest he end up drowning in a flailing mass. Being encumbered aggravates the fumble range.

- Lack of training in Athletics indicates the character is not a competent swimmer and will be at a Disadvantage in any but the calmest of waters.

Note that, depending on the current encountered, this activity can count as a demanding or strenuous task.

Power-jumping the Shark

I can say without the least bit of irony that I like the Jumping rules in the PHB. They’re simple, logical, dependable, roll-free and account for differing character traits. Almost a full package.

This is just a small addenda for the concept of power-jumps that the book mentions but doesn’t cover.


- If a character trained in Athletics devotes his action to a jump with the requisite momentum and succeeds on a roll of [Strength (Athletics), DC 10], the jump will carry him an additional number of feet equal to a roll of his Proficiency Die for Long Jumps and half of that, rounded down, for High Jumps.

Digging (for honour and glory)

Finally, we come to the roman army’s weapon of choice. For a game about treasure hunting, DnD features remarkably little digging, whereas LotFP took the time and care to think of the topic. It’s a lovely little gem of a mechanic, so I’ll just coopt it without further ado.

- An adequately equipped character can dig a number of cubic feet equal to one plus his strength modifier in an hour (half of that if lacking proper tools). Negative modifiers imply additional hours to dig a single cubic foot.

quarta-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2017

Them Bones of Adventure - XII: Social Skills

Continuing my exposition on table procedures for common exploration feats & rules, which began here with part one.





Introduction

Social skills and roleplaying games, to the layman an antagonistic relationship.

As last post was growing beardy I made the cutoff, also on account of having found Mythlands of Erce’s Anders Honoré detailing his own efforts at tackling this very same situation and wishing to spatter my digestive juices all over it; as it turns out, unlike Yahweh in the Old Testament, I did not find the effort lacking, rather aiding my cogitations between last post and this one.

Once again, let us get out of the way the fact that fiddling with NPC psychology is one of the warm and moist spaces in a game’s running, which is to say: a terrific breeding ground for GM fiat and its fungal spores of arbitrariness. They cannot be erradicated, but they can be reasoned with: as the guidelines are made clear and the exceptions are well weighted and pondered upon, telling your players that you’re going to test an opposing group of foes’ morale or reaction and then doing it in the open is a surefire policy of transparency that will keep on yielding dividends. And so will the leading of interactions on the grounds of logic instead of whimsy.

Fantastic Social Skills and Where to Find Them

Social rolls are definitely a case of ‘less is more’. I’ll curb the need to roll for most anything bar the initial reaction roll, and let the interactions flow for themselves.

Running NPCs is all about mood and motivations: The Reaction Roll provides the interaction’s initial background mood, much like the random encounter distance provides a tactical backdrop for developing a combat that follows. Past that, it is the motivations, filtered through the mood, that make the interaction sing, for from them flows everything that logic can buy, including the farm if PCs or NPCs alike blunder into the wrong words, die rolls nonwithstanding.

What is more, I must keep in mind that things for which there are structured rules tend to be channeled onto play through that self-same architecture; I don’t want to formalize or restrain social interaction into a straitjacket of game lingo, for I must keep present that PCs and NPCs are divided by a chasming rules assymmetry, one which should be minimized whenever encountered.

Just to illustrate my point, combat – by necessity of its stakes a quintessentially balanced structure – has rules that equally affect players and non-players completely alike whereas social interaction, by dint of freewill extending to ones but not to others, requires a soft hand on the tiller and emphatically not an exchange of d20 volleys between participants.

After all, if a player perceives that the game allows diplomacy attempts to win the day as he tries to reason Death Itself under the table, he’s bound to always try, yes?



The Crunchy Bits

I’m making two proposals on this one, the first one’s more convoluted and d20-oriented, the second, more agile one, is in the closing thoughts.

All of the options detailed below need a solid tangible cause for the attempt to be launched from, which is to say, no rolls can come about without causes and consequences, with the bare minimum of consequence being that the tangible cause forwarded by the player has been resisted, rejected or shot down by way of counteroffer. Discretion is not just advised, but mandatory.


The unforgiving rule of First Impressions – Reaction Cues

The following table is rolled but once at the outset of an interaction and is modified by the speaker/pointsman’s halved Charisma modifier, rounded down, occasionally applying a circumstantial modifier (1-4 points), for perceptible displays of might or meekness from the party, the Charmed condition (+2), as well as any clear markers of enmity (race being a tragically apt instance) or the opposite thereof.

Reaction Table
Persuasion & Animal Handling DCs
2d6
NPC Reaction
Refrain from harm
Minor Favour
Major Favour
2-
Agressively Hostile
25
-
-
3-5
Guardedly Hostile
20
25
-
6-8
Uncertain, Indifferent
15
20
25
9-11
Peaceable, Approachable
-
15
20
12+
Friendly, Pliable
-
-
15

I tried to condense the DMG's nebulous rule proposals for social interaction which almost hint at the use of reaction rolls, but stop just shy of the fact. Even if nothing else, the classic reaction roll can be hitched up nicely with these systems. I admit that the DC numbers above were repeated more for ease of recall, but they can be massaged at discretion’s need. Since 5E’s modifiers are too swingy for the delicate 2d6 structure, this allows me to roll the 2d6 closer to unadultered while the player still gets to push some use out of his character’s bonuses.

The game’s rules are meant to follow the grain of immersion:

Barbarism & Instinct

- The reaction roll as well as its modifiers are public for simple minded creatures or NPCs that are dumb, foreign to deception or simply brutally honest and that wear their hearts on their sleeve.

- Morale checks are made in plain sight and so are the modifiers if any.

Civilization & Cunning

- Deceitful (or civilized) stock will have their reaction rolls made in secret. The characters can’t know what they’re up to and so neither can the players. This can mean they'll be rolling against an unknown DC when attempting persuasion.

- If a character has the Insight skill trained to a higher degree than the other party’s Deception skill, that player alone will be privy to the roll’s result.

Otherness

It is possible that no amount of mundane Insight will hint you to the tells of a creature that transcends the boundaries of your metaphysical nature. Unless, of course, it wants you to know.



Deception

Remember, the reason dice are rolled is to plumb a concrete result from uncertainty. This means rolling only happens in the no-man's land of a social interaction: solid, undisputable facts (in the recipient’s own mindview) and blatant falsehoods are categorically not rolled for.

I’ll only ask for rolls for things that might conceivably be true. The little mundane lies that are the truck of scoundrels and player characters (if you’ll pardon the redundance) everywhere.

This means I’m leaving at the door all the gonzo shit: no telling a guard his pants are on fire or that the characters are envoys of the one true god. Unless they have the trappings to back the claim and a discreet battery of illusion spells at the ready, in which case, let us roll and find out.

- Roll of [Charisma (Deception)] opposed by the target’s [Wisdom (Insight)]

- Ties will be broken by the initial reaction roll. If it too is neutral, the highest natural d20 rolled tiebreaks.

- An NPC lying to a player will be secretly tested against the target character’s Passive Insight.




Persuasion (and Animal Handling)

This is a counterpart to Deception, replacing earnestness for falsehood. Animals can be persuaded if communication can be established by some mean, but a measure of instinctive diplomacy through Animal Handling works as well. This should only ever be rolled for uncertain yet ponderous requests (as outlined in the Reaction Roll’s table) or abstracted occurrences such as Etiquette, Gift Bearing, Securing Audiences through underlings and such. It is in no way a substitute for face-to-face interaction.

- Roll of [Charisma (Persuasion), Variable DC] or [Charisma (Animal Handling), Variable DC]

- The Charmed condition grants Advantage on Persuasion/Handling attempts made upon the recipient;

Disadvantage will come about from language barriers for NPCs or lack of the Animal Handling skill for beasts. Remember that the character doing the speaking is the one who applies modifiers to both the Reaction and the Persuasion.

I’ll endeavour to always draw out as much of an interaction as possible without stumbling back into rolls. Piling requests, successful or otherwise, will tax the other party leading to a shift in the reaction type, fumbles being especially pernicious.



Intimidation

Intimidation – particularly in combat – has always been a thorn on my side since my earliest days in the game. It’s swingy when it hits. Way too swingy, in fact. And also prone to massed attempts, whenever the payoff compensates the action taken.

- Intimidation in combat cannot be attempted on demand, it can only be sprouted as a byproduct of a Critical Hit, a grisly trophy carrying meaning to the target, a momentous circumstance in the ebb and flow of battle or a timely spell or special ability. Displays of fierce strength, breathtaking dexterity and momentous constitution permit the use of a Physical stat for the roll instead of bravado and a threatening mien.

- Roll [Charisma/physical stat (Intimidation), DC of 10 or target’s Charisma or Wisdom attribute total, as appropriate]

- A successful attempt causes NPCs to test morale. Each group of similar creatures rolls a single check, made against the most abundant score or a leader’s score, if one is present; If two morale checks are passed in a combat by an NPC, he is assumed to be inured to intimidation attempts and to fight to the last breath.

I’ve also been very much taken with Anders H.’s take on when to test for morale, meaning I’ll test when a group loses a member or half the side is vanquished and for each quarter-slice of starting hitpoints for a solo creature, plus when a leader is taken down. Retainers in the party’s employ roll individually.

Closing Thoughts – Going Minimalist (and letting the mouth do all the talking)

I can’t yet tell if I’ll conform to the above table and rules, as they may yet prove top-heavy and unwieldy in practice. I’m also not a fan of Persuasion and Deception’s essential mechanic assymetry between PC and NPC. I can make perfectly good headway by just telling a lie and seeing if the player picks up on it or not. Of course, this might leave certain skills out to dry and that might prove unpalatable to some.

With the above in mind, here’s a short-circuit version that relies on just modifying the Reaction Roll’s first two columns and handling the rest of the interaction in bulk, verbally & logically, from that point on:

- Roll for Reaction at the interaction’s outset as usual. If a PC has proficiency in a social skill relevant to the unfolding action, upon its convincing display of use he rolls an additional proficiency die and places it alongside with the reaction roll.

- Uses of Persuasion/Animal Handling/Deception: Add a roll of the appropriate proficiency die to the 2d6 reaction and drop the highest or lowest roll as befits the situation.

- Uses of Intimidation/Performance (for Rallying Cries): target checks 2d6 morale, plus the proficiency die, dropping the highest or lowest roll as appropriate.

- All the reaction dice are capped at a maximum result of “6”, i.e., a d10 added from proficiency that comes up a 7, 8, 9 or 10 is counted as a 6 instead.

- A player can always opt to roll a d4 instead of the character's current proficiency die, when applicable.