Are there any good social guides out there?


Advice


I'm having a little bit of trouble balancing out the perfect balance between role playing, roll playing and "no, I'm sorry, but this is a combat."

I'm running a campaign with a bard that has 20 ranks of bluff and diplomacy. Obviously, I try to give him some social or potentially social encounters, and there are some obvious combat encounters so everyone else can kill stuff.

But there's a middle area where I'm having some trouble. A team of Red Mantis assassins jumped the party to try to get an artifact back. Ruthless, best assassin guild in the world, etc. The bard says he wants to make a bluff to tell them they no longer have it. He's a fairly new player, so I prod him to actually give me the bluff. He gives me a little, but not much, so I decide to let him bluff at a -5 penalty. He rolls a 16 for a 31 total. The Red Mantis assassins don't come close on their sense motive roll.

But the other players actually wanted to do stuff (both combat and roleplay)- so I decide the bluff success caused several of the assassins to not attack that round and wait for instruction from the group leader. The player kind of looked hurt that his high roll didn't solve the encounter.

I'm also having a little trouble balancing the roleplay aspect of social skills with the character skill set. I typically make them roleplay for +4/-4 to the roll, but even that seems strange, since I don't force my players to demonstrate their swimming ability before their characters roll a swim, etc. On the other hand, I don't want the "bluff skill" to get in the way with game interaction.

Anyhow, there's kind of a balancing act here and I was wondering if there's ever been a good list of tips. I've been on the other end too- I had a beguiler in 3.5 that would try to talk his way out of all possible encounters with humanoids. The other players would get annoyed. I switched to a wizard.


The other players could always have their characters attack if they want. What level are the characters at?


I think how you handled it was actually a pretty good way (It caused confusion without shutting down the encounter entirely)

There's also Diplomacy


L10. And I agree, but I will say it does get frustrating if many/most social encounters boil down to the party face attempting to negotiate and everyone else saying screw that and attacking. But a Level 10 bard could probably talk his way out of anything.

Thanks for the link. Pretty much what I was looking for.

Silver Crusade

Giving bonuses (but not penalties IMO) for roleplay before a social skill check is a really good way to promote roleplay. I do it alot behind the scenes, adjusting the DC or giving bonuses accordingly. I don't usually tell the players what the bonus is, I only remind them that "roleplaying can give you huge bonuses to your check." These bonuses can be as high as +10 or more. In this case, having the skill is either a lazy way out of roleplay (not the intended result), or a fail-safe if the wrong thing is said (which is a pretty cool feeling).

Now as far as your example, it sounds like the whole group (with exception to the bard) doesn't want much roleplay. Even in combat-centric groups I've gamed with, most players have wanted to at least talk SOME before fighting if they aren't ambushed. It may just be that a social-centric character like this bard isn't a fit for your gaming group.

You can try to fix this, but a bloodthirsty character and a diplomacy one will rarely get along. You could always have him win over some while others attack. The won-over ones might try to break up the fight, stay out of it, or just flee. Honestly though, the way you did it was pretty good.

Now the trouble: that situation was probably the exact one the bard was built for. Having it not win the fight would be like the barbarian being unable to deal damage to living things. You could have let this encounter resolve with a bluff win, but had the mantis assassins send the PCs after the artifact for them, or else they get killed. The PCs can still choose to fight, or they can go get the artifact, and probably fight other things. The bard's skill buys them a choice, which is useful, but not overpowered.


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My players have a similar issue thinking that bluff/diplomacy/intimidation/sense motive are all powerful.

So imagine this - I see you steal an apple from my fruit stand. I grab you and you make a bluff check (to lie that it wasn't you). You get a 45. Well, that is great, but I saw you steal the apple five seconds ago. Bluff doesn't make me magically less suspicious. In fact, in this case, you're better off throwing down Diplomacy and trying to get me to take pity on you...

Speaking of diplomacy. If I'm a cold-hearted miser of a fruit seller whose sees starving people as nothing but lazy good-for-nothings, then trying to appeal to my soft side with a speech about how you are the eldest of twelve and your dad is dead and your mom works 18 hours a day but can't make ends meet so you have to steal or they will die from hunger... it won't work and probably make me more angry.

Your players may claim this is unfair but it isn't. It is realistic. It won't always work and it should require the players to do some research into what will or will not work. Just like how some monsters are immune to fire doesn't give the fire sorcerer license to get angry when they face one.

In your example, you did a good job. The bluff check to stop the assassins for a round is solid because they are just there to do their job and the working goons have conflicting orders. The group leader may not care that the party doesn't have the item, or knows that the character has a silver tongue that could charm the slither off a snake and has explicit orders not to take anything he says at face value.

The main trouble I've had are players that take just one single setback like above as if I've ripped that section out of the rulebook, burned it, then used the ashes as confetti.


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The point of the bluff and diplomacy skills are to allow for characters to be able to do things roleplay-wise that players cannot.

Players can't cast magic, but that doesn't mean their characters should be penalized for it. Likewise, many players are socially awkward or simply lack the skill or ability to provide a well placed lie or argument. The skills allow their character to do so without the player actually knowing how.

The vast majority of players do not have genius level intellect, yet a lot of us still play wizards with high int. When the wizard has to solve a puzzle by making a knowledge arcane check, we don't make the players solve calculus problems by hand, do we? We don't check to see if players actually know how to perform a trip maneuver (I pity the physically disabled player) or whether they can properly fire a bow (is that a Mongolian or Mediterranean style of firing the bow?).

It's nice to promote roleplaying. It should be promoted (and I particularly like what Riuken suggests). But we shouldn't be punishing players who want to play a charismatic spy simply because the player is unable to be so suave. Especially when charisma-based skills are the only part of the game where we typically do that.


yeah, I actually had the Red Mantis leader counter with a "OK great, one of you go show us where it is" type comment that sort of forced the rest of the party to roleplay, so it actually wound up working fairly well. I was actually expecting that the encounter might be resolved socially, but I hadn't come to a good decision on balancing rolling vs. roleplaying. And I think the player wanted his success to be more than I gave him.

The social skills just give me trouble because A. They are either/or situations. A barbarian does some damage in an encounter. A bard causes an encounter to be resolved in a vastly different manner and B. it's the only type of skill where there's an overlap due to real life interaction.

And, obviously, there are limits to diplomancy/bluffomancy "I'm sorry evil overlord, but my roll of 40 says you should give up your life of evil."


MurphysParadox wrote:

My players have a similar issue thinking that bluff/diplomacy/intimidation/sense motive are all powerful.

So imagine this - I see you steal an apple from my fruit stand. I grab you and you make a bluff check (to lie that it wasn't you). You get a 45. Well, that is great, but I saw you steal the apple five seconds ago. Bluff doesn't make me magically less suspicious. In fact, in this case, you're better off throwing down Diplomacy and trying to get me to take pity on you...

Speaking of diplomacy. If I'm a cold-hearted miser of a fruit seller whose sees starving people as nothing but lazy good-for-nothings, then trying to appeal to my soft side with a speech about how you are the eldest of twelve and your dad is dead and your mom works 18 hours a day but can't make ends meet so you have to steal or they will die from hunger... it won't work and probably make me more angry.

I like these examples. They show how bluff, diplomacy, and sense motive can get massive bonuses depending on the situation. I would give a variable bonuses to the vendor's sense motive depending on the story told. In your example, a huge bonus because the vendor hates those types of people might be in order if that's the story the player wants his character to weave. But perhaps the player stated he was just rubbing the apple on his clothes (he wasn't stealing it, he was checking it for freshness), or the player claimed he was an inspector from the government. Might have a much better chance at convincing the vendor.

Additionally, if a character is particularly intelligent and quick on their feet, and the player is not, I usually allow other players to give ideas on what to say - this represents the character's mind working quicker than our own. Heck, I've asked GMs to allow this for my own high int characters.


But bookrat- let's take your example to the extreme.

You have players interacting, some of them are experienced roleplayers and some are not. The social encounter is resolved. Then for the next social encounter, one player just grunts "I roll a diplomacy."

In the instances where I've JUST allowed high charisma rolls without any roleplaying, I've had other players complain to me afterwards that it hurt the game. In the cases where it is a new player, or someone shy, I don't force them to be suave, but I do encourage some sort of effort on their part.

Your puzzle example was a good one. I'd probably let players make an int or wisdom check for some extra clues, but if I give you a riddle to solve you can bet your butt I'm not just going to let you "roll to solve the riddle." I still think there's a balancing act there somewhere. I'd also reward a smart player/dumb character who could have solved a puzzle in real life but roleplayed not solving it.

Silver Crusade

I think high checks should be allowed to do ridiculous things. If a DC 80 swim check lets you swim up a waterfall, then a similarly high bluff check can convince an elf he's in the matrix and he's really being used to generate oatmeal for his dwarven overlards (purposely misspelled). Not sure how useful it is, but that's the sort of stuff heroic characters do. Of course a 31 isn't an 80, but it is pretty good.

Epic Skills

This is from the D20 SRD. Take a look at what high skill checks can do, especially bluff, diplomacy, and sense motive. It's assumed the characters are epic level to achieve these skill DCs, but high cha + max bluff ranks + class skill + skill focus + glibness etc. can get you there much earlier.

In your "evil overlord, give up your life of evil" example, a diplomacy of 40 won't do, but a 70 might. It will also probably take a speech longer than the evil overlord will give you, tiring of your speech and attacking unless prevented from doing so. How long does a convincing argument take? I'd think more than 6 seconds in most cases...


Sloanzilla wrote:

But bookrat- let's take your example to the extreme.

You have players interacting, some of them are experienced roleplayers and some are not. The social encounter is resolved. Then for the next social encounter, one player just grunts "I roll a diplomacy."

In the instances where I've JUST allowed high charisma rolls without any roleplaying, I've had other players complain to me afterwards that it hurt the game. In the cases where it is a new player, or someone shy, I don't force them to be suave, but I do encourage some sort of effort on their part.

Your puzzle example was a good one. I'd probably let players make an int or wisdom check for some extra clues, but if I give you a riddle to solve you can bet your butt I'm not just going to let you "roll to solve the riddle." I still think there's a balancing act there somewhere. I'd also reward a smart player/dumb character who could have solved a puzzle in real life but roleplayed not solving it.

That can be an issue - that is, players not roleplaying at all. In home games, I try to encourage roleplaying in other aspects as well, such as having the player describe how the character is going to perform the trip maneuver.

I don't let a player say, "I want to solve this by diplomacy." Instead, I have them say how they want to solve it by diplomacy; i.e. "I want to trick the Assassin into believing that we don't have it, I am going to lie and say that we left it with old man George (poor George)." Ok, make a bluff check to see how well your lie is - and I'll roll a sense motive check with appropriate modifiers (for example, if the assassin has physical evidence that the characters had it last week and the characters haven't been to any towns since then, they might get a +10 or +20 to their roll). If the believe the lie, then I'd do what you did - have them threaten the characters to go get it or to lead them to it.

As for the riddle idea, it seems odd to give a reward to a smart player/dumb character who figures it out but roleplays that he can't, but punish the smart character/not-as-smart player because the player can't figure it out when the character would have been able to.

Imagine playing Oedipus, who solved the sphinx's riddle, but as a player being unable to figure out the answer to, "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs during the day, and three legs in the evening?"

What I usually do is give the player a chance to figure it out on their own, and if they can't, then have them roll to see if their character could figure it out. If yes, then I'll give the answer to the puzzle, and have the player roleplay his/her character as if they were figuring it out.

Definitely encourage roleplaying. I just don't think we should be punishing characters because the player has a difficult time with it.


I think we agree more than we disagree here. I'd probably just still like to give clues if some smart char/not-as-smart player couldn't solve a riddle. I suppose the sweet spot in every gaming group between stat immersion and player immersion is variable. I could certainly see an overcorrection where stat obligations eclipse player thinking to make the game less fun. I *like* trying to solve riddles!

From my experience, the people who bother to play bards are at least willing to try to roleplay. The more difficult examples tend to be sorcerors or paladins, who play those classes due to high DPS but also tend to have high social stats. My worst two "phone it in diplomancers" have been paladins.


Sloanzilla wrote:
I think we agree more than we disagree here.

Absolutely. I didn't really disagree with your original post, just throwing in my own beliefs on the subject. :)


I think most people fail to read, and that is their failing. Diplomacy is listed as ineffective against people who intend to harm you or your allies in the near future, as well as in combat. So you want to convert the BBEG to the side of good and light? He's too busy planning how to kill you or in the process of trying.

A bluff is simply a lie. It doesn't change a creatures attitude towards you. If you are a known liar to said person you are likely to take a circumstance penalty on your roll depending on how much experience the person has with you, etc.

The most broken skill is intimidate, and no one has even mentioned it yet. It also has a one minute of conversation clause... so you'll have to find a way to get the BBEG to talk to you for it to work. Still, the DC only goes up with HD or Wis mod, so it is the hardest to counter without simply becoming immune to fear.

My personal feeling on the matter is that if your PC's would always rather fight then talk, that the encounters have been too easy. Start to push those same PC's up against the wall and they'll gladly try and talk their way out of problems rather than fight.

Social action ending an encounter is not more powerful then certain builds wiping out encounters all alone. And like almost everything in the game the can be countered by certain abilities or creatures. Mindless undead don't care how sauve you are, likewise the lawful neutral head of the town guard can't be smited by the paladin for upholding the law, as corrupt as the system may be.

Would you make a player reduce the effectiveness of his combat build because he was so good that the other players didn't get much action in a fight. Everyone loves threads like the DPR Olympics, but when its the diplomancer's turn to shine everyone gets angry that they can't pound on things.

Know your game, know your players. If 4/5 people want combat and are angry at this silly little thing called social interaction then maybe you should be playing a wargame like 40k and not a RPG.


ClintOfTheEasternWood wrote:
I think most people fail to read, and that is their failing.

Don't be a jerk. Not only is it not allowed in this forum, but it could turn around and bite you on the butt.

Quote:
Diplomacy is listed as ineffective against people who intend to harm you or your allies in the near future, as well as in combat.

Where does it say this? I can only see a spot that says "Diplomacy is generally ineffective..." Notice the 'generally' part, which means that it's possible in some circumstances. Even creatures with a hostile intent (which I read as "wants to harm you soon") can be effected, it's just a starting DC of 25.


while clintoftheeasternwood's somewhat pointlessly patronizing tone is a little annoying (why judge me when I flat out started a thread saying I was looking for a good middle ground?), the point that a bluff just means a lie is believed is interesting.

A bluff success just means you made a convincing lie, it does not, unlike the other two social skills, indicate a certain reaction to believing the lie.


I agree with that idea. And I wouldn't automatically say any bluff check autofails (unless it was against a mindless creature, at which point it's irrelevant), but I would give the target a bonus to sense motive.

Remember, a bluff check can also let you feint and send secret messages.


Also notice that there is a limitation of changing somethings attitude by only two steps that has a similar wording on it. So while it may be possible to work your diplomancer magic on the BBEG, he'll realistically only go from wanting to kill you, to not hating you (indifferent). Say you even manage to get him to like you (silver tonged human trait for example), that doesn't mean he is going to not kill you. Ever heard the phrase, "I like you, but I still have to kill you"? He may lament having to kill you, he may want to turn you into his evil apprentice, but no where does it say that liking someone ensures safety. He might even grant a request that he not kill you... for right now. Maybe he'll let you write a will or go say goodbye to your loved ones before he kills you.

Long story short, unless your game has the plot of an anime where love will save everyone and enemies will becomes friends when defeated, good luck with using diplomacy to talk an angry evil guy out of hack you to bits.


ClintOfTheEasternWood wrote:
Long story short, unless your game has the plot of an anime where love will save everyone and enemies will becomes friends when defeated, good luck with using diplomacy to talk an angry evil guy out of hack you to bits.

AM TIME FOR BEFRIENDING!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I want to minmax a friendship build now.


Some good answers here. I especially like Murphy's and Bookrat's.

Don't worry about hurt feelings at the table. The idea is to give the players agency; a feeling that they have control and influence over the world around them, and that it reacts to them.
1. Be firm
2. Be fair
3. Be consistent

...and your players will enjoy and appreciate your world, because they will have agency.

Letting players down easy:
"Your bluff was good, but it looks like this bandit leader has already made up his mind. Who knows? He might just be the kind of guy who was looking forward to giving someone a thrashing, no matter what you said. Roll initiative."

or

"Yep, your bluff was good, but the fact he and his boys are drawing steel might be some indication that they're operating under orders. Maybe the head villain already knows something you don't, and these guys know it too."


Sloanzilla wrote:

A team of Red Mantis assassins jumped the party to try to get an artifact back. Ruthless, best assassin guild in the world, etc. The bard says he wants to make a bluff to tell them they no longer have it. He's a fairly new player, so I prod him to actually give me the bluff. He gives me a little, but not much, so I decide to let him bluff at a -5 penalty. He rolls a 16 for a 31 total. The Red Mantis assassins don't come close on their sense motive roll.

But the other players actually wanted to do stuff (both combat and roleplay)- so I decide the bluff success caused several of the assassins to not attack that round and wait for instruction from the group leader. The player kind of looked hurt that his high roll didn't solve the encounter.

You handled it well. I'm not opposed to a character with who has invested his ability scores, skills, feats, etc. to social skills to affect a combat in a way comparable to making a full attack or casting a spell. Causing one or more enemies to do nothing for a round or so is a great idea.

Ending the combat with a single skill check is as lackluster as ending it with a single spell. Using existing mechanics, the character could affect an enemy for 1 round plus 1 additional for every 5 points he exceeds the target number. It doesn't have to be "does not act" for the whole time. The additional rounds could be a simple as a -2 to attacks or giving them a move or a standard but not both. Alternately, the effect could be cextended with another check each round.

Regardless though, I would require a reasonable story to accompany the Bluff, like you did.


blackbloodtroll wrote:
I want to minmax a friendship build now.

Ew. Sounds icky.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
blackbloodtroll wrote:
I want to minmax a friendship build now.

Ew. Sounds icky.

I am to love and tolerate the sh*t out of you.


My group does that too.

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