Diplomacy; Flex It or Leave It?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


As it stands, Diplomacy is a player-only skill that's far too simple for my taste. After some discussion with friends who are old hands at not only Pathfinder but DnD style games in general, I'm starting to feel like Diplomacy should go one of two ways:

Make Diplomacy into full fledged social combat a la Exalted, and making it applicable to both players and NPCs with the same caveats as Exalted (no unacceptable suggestions, such as things players are clearly uncomfortable with out of character or things the character would just absolutely never do such as a character who has opposed killing their whole life being told to kill someone without the aid of mind controlling magic.)

Or, do away with Diplomacy altogether and treat it as fiat as is often done when PCs get into discussions/debates with the NPCs, leaving the result up to the DM whether they feel the arguments/offers presented are enough to sway the NPC.

Even mundane applications of diplomacy can be simplified into fiat or a single roll decision, such as looking for information being a percentile roll, etc

Diplomacy as a skill just doesn't sit well with me as a player only tool when it has no opposition to it, such as Perception vs Stealth or Bluff vs Sense Motive.


You should look into better incorporating the conditional modifiers to the PCs rolls based on their actual response to a given NPC. If they say something the NPC doesn't like, give them the appropriate penalty to convince the NPC of their diplomatic ways. Similarly, if the PCs pose a well-made argument that the NPC would greatly consider, then the PCs would get a bonus, which can be especially helpful against NPCs that already don't like them (i.e. minor bad guys they have to team up with to stop a greater evil).

Also keep in mind that Diplomacy isn't like a Dominate effect, where the person does whatever they say or request. Sometimes simply having amazing Diplomacy won't change a person's mind, actions, and so on, or even if they roll great, it won't grant any useful information simply because being diplomatic to a target who doesn't have anything useful to say is helpful (which is where Sense Motive comes in).

Limiting the overall power/potency of Diplomacy would make it so that in certain instances, it just won't work and another skill or option is in order, and in other instances (incorporating modifiers of course) being quite worthwhile to have it pumped into the stratosphere, otherwise that act of Diplomacy would be damn near impossible.


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Hey Grockthak, How longs he been talking to us?

54 seconds Pyros.

FLAMING HAND OF FIERY DOOM!


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There's a system that may be like you describe in Ultimate Intrigue. I don't think it's very popular.


I use a variant diplomacy system in my game, and it's been reasonably effective. It works alongside the Hero Point system.

======================================================================

Making a Deal

The wheedling rug salesman offers you the moon on a string. You've hear he's untrustworthy, but he is very convincing... Diplomacy is the art of wheeling and dealing, of making people want to do as you say. It's a powerful skill in anyone's arsenal, but it does have its limits - namely, it cannot make anyone do anything. The other party is free to walk away at any point in the proceedings, even after the deal is concluded, so most wheelers and dealers use Diplomacy to assist them in their dealings, rather than depending on it entirely.

The dealmaker rolls Diplomacy against a DC of 10+Encounter CR, and upon hitting the DC and for every 5 above it, they can offer .2 Hero Points. If the person being persuaded agrees to whatever they're being asked to do, they receive these Hero Point slivers.

Nothing stops the person from turning the offer down, and nothing stops someone from deciding not to accomplish the task they promised. Going back on a deal causes the welcher to lose any Hero Point slivers offered, however.

The request must be something that costs the character something in the way of effort, resources, time, or possibly dignity. Asking a friend to go fetch an ale is not likely to apply, unless said friend doesn't want to feel like a lackey and really doesn't want to fetch the ale. Multiple characters can work together to offer Hero Points to a single person, to make for especially enticing deals.

PCs cannot roll Diplomacy against other PCs without extenuating circumstances / special permission from the DM (this extends to cohorts, familiars, or other close allies as well).

Getting What You Want wrote:

Making a Deal is described mostly in terms of negotiations, but the same system applies to any situation where you are trying to persuade another person to act in a certain way. It applies equally to haggling with a merchant in a bazaar, trying to get a pretty elf out of his clothes, pleading for one's life with a Baatezu, or conducting high-level treaty negotiations.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there is a limit to how much Making a Deal can do on its own. A character on the receiving end of persuasion considers the offer as a whole, and if the prison guard is convinced that the warden will have him fired and thrown in jail if he lets you out, then all the Diplomacy in the world won't help. On the other hand, if you can convince the guard that the warden never needs to find out, and/or offer the prison guard a share of the treasure, then Making a Deal might just tip the balance.

=================================================================== ====

The main perk of this system is that it lets you roll Diplomacy against PCs, but it also gives a sense of value and heft to PC Diplomacy. A Hero Point, or even part of one, can be pretty valuable.

Obviously, you can tweak the math here based on how often people roll Diplomacy / how often they get or spend Hero Points.

Shadow Lodge

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You might be interested in the Alexandrian's system, which is similar to NeoTiamat's deal system but doesn't use hero points. This means that like the main rule it's not useful on PCs. On the other hand, it does both limit the scope of a Diplomacy check and codify situational modifiers in a way that I find useful.

Note the "Overcome Intransigence" application, which is meant to provide a "defense" for powerful NPCs who wouldn't normally listen to the party - without making it more difficult for PCs to ask favours of powerful NPCs who do have a reason to listen to the party. As alluded to in the design notes, you want it to be hard to convince the BBEG to consider a truce, but not hard for for a toddler to ask their grandmother the 11th level cleric for a cookie.

Personally, I wouldn't want to get rid of the Diplomacy skill because I think it's important for players to have a way to mechanically represent a character who is persuasive, even if they aren't very persuasive themselves. I'm also pretty skeptical of systems that take control of the PCs' actions away from the players. As a GM, I'm very light-handed with charm and compulsion effects.


I for one, loved a certain DM's take on Diplomacy... In order to use the bonus, you, as a player, had to make your case out loud IRL. You did not have to be as eloquent as your bonus dictated, but you had to make a verbal effort to get that bonus.

Made the game so much more satisfying and prevented lazy game play of, "I use Diplomacy."


While I appreciate the suggestions, the caveat still remains that having the NPCs try to use Diplomacy on the PCs is always going to be taboo despite the fact that the same rules apply; Diplomacy is not mind-control.

No matter how high someones Diplomacy is, the other party can just say 'No thank you' and walk away, making any sort of modifier pointless. At the end of the day the NPC/DM or PC determines whether or not a Diplomacy roll would work on them, based on context.

This turns Diplomacy into a needless skill sink. If I beat someones Stealth check with Perception, they can't go 'No you didn't'. The success can't be denied. Again, while a successful Diplomacy check isn't mind-control, it should still be able to sway someones actions no matter how small the degree.

To sharpen my point, Diplomacy needs not only be made more robust and complex to account for the intricacies of an actual conversation between two opposed parties ('I want to buy this for half off!' vs 'I want to sell this for twice its worth!') but be agreed upon by players that it shouldn't be a player-only skill.

That or do away with diplomacy and stick to just having in-character conversations. While I understand that not everyone is a wordsmith, there's at least a bare minimum of being able to tell the DM what you want to ask for from someone and what you're going to offer in return.


mardaddy wrote:

I for one, loved a certain DM's take on Diplomacy... In order to use the bonus, you, as a player, had to make your case out loud IRL. You did not have to be as eloquent as your bonus dictated, but you had to make a verbal effort to get that bonus.

Made the game so much more satisfying and prevented lazy game play of, "I use Diplomacy."

Jiminy Christmas, I once played with someone like that who kept on throwing Diplomacy dice at NPCs not to kill him over and over. He even tried to do it to my friend once.


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Opuk0 wrote:

While I appreciate the suggestions, the caveat still remains that having the NPCs try to use Diplomacy on the PCs is always going to be taboo despite the fact that the same rules apply; Diplomacy is not mind-control.

No matter how high someones Diplomacy is, the other party can just say 'No thank you' and walk away, making any sort of modifier pointless. At the end of the day the NPC/DM or PC determines whether or not a Diplomacy roll would work on them, based on context.

This turns Diplomacy into a needless skill sink. If I beat someones Stealth check with Perception, they can't go 'No you didn't'. The success can't be denied. Again, while a successful Diplomacy check isn't mind-control, it should still be able to sway someones actions no matter how small the degree.

To sharpen my point, Diplomacy needs not only be made more robust and complex to account for the intricacies of an actual conversation between two opposed parties ('I want to buy this for half off!' vs 'I want to sell this for twice its worth!') but be agreed upon by players that it shouldn't be a player-only skill.

That or do away with diplomacy and stick to just having in-character conversations. While I understand that not everyone is a wordsmith, there's at least a bare minimum of being able to tell the DM what you want to ask for from someone and what you're going to offer in return.

Most GM's don't ignore high diplomacy checks, and if they do there is nothing stopping them from ignoring other rules either.

Before I go any further I was saying that reasonable request with respect to the situation are not ignored so diplomacy is not a skill sink in most games.

I am sure you have some railroading GM's out there, but rules can't fix that.

As for it not working on players, that is a good thing. The player knows what his character would do more than the GM does, just like the GM knows how an NPC would respond more than the player does.

Even if the PC has been playing his character a certain way that doesn't mean he can be talked into doing something similar.
------------
GM:Your character would definitely murder this innocent hobgoblin because he killed a goblin, and in your backstory you said you didn't like any goblins.

Player: You are missing the entire context of that situation. It's not the same.

GM: Yes it is, and you are going to _____.
-------------
Feel free to insert another situation, but the point is that diplomacy should not take away player agency for various reasons.

As for stealth vs perception the GM can certainly overide a higher perception check in many situations. He can not roll in front of players or change the modifier. The players dont have access to NPC stats in most cases. Then there is always the GM who make up BS answers to have his way or lets you have your way, and then comes up with another way to make what he wants happen anyway.

Grand Lodge

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Opuk0 wrote:
While I appreciate the suggestions, the caveat still remains that having the NPCs try to use Diplomacy on the PCs is always going to be taboo despite the fact that the same rules apply; Diplomacy is not mind-control.[/b]

The same rules actually don't apply.

Diplomacy wrote:

Influence Attitude

You can change the initial attitudes of nonplayer characters with a successful check.

The players are meant to be able to make up their own minds about individual NPCs, not have to have their attitude towards them changed with a roll. Changing the system so that NPCs can roll diplomacy vs PCs would destroy player agency.

On the other hand, diplomacy as a skill with hardcoded DCs and modifiers for changing someone's attitude towards you is a great tool for players who aren't especially eloquent IRL, as it allows them to actually play a charismatic diplomat.


wraithstrike wrote:

Most GM's don't ignore high diplomacy checks, and if they do there is nothing stopping them from ignoring other rules either.

Before I go any further I was saying that reasonable request with respect to the situation are not ignored so diplomacy is not a skill sink in most games.

I am sure you have some railroading GM's out there, but rules can't fix that.

As for it not working on players, that is a good thing. The player knows what his character would do more than the GM does, just like the GM knows how an NPC would respond more than the player does.

Even if the PC has been playing his character a certain way that doesn't mean he can be talked into doing something similar.
------------
GM:Your character would definitely murder this innocent hobgoblin because he killed a goblin, and in your backstory you said you didn't like any goblins.

Player: You are missing the entire context of that situation. It's not the same.

GM: Yes it is, and you are going to _____.
-------------
Feel free to insert another situation, but the point is that diplomacy should not take away player agency for various reasons.

As for stealth vs perception the GM can certainly overide a higher perception check in many situations. He can not roll in front of players or change the modifier. The players dont have access to NPC stats in most cases. Then there is always the GM who make up BS answers to have his way or lets you have your way, and then comes up with another way to make what he wants happen anyway.

We're no strangers to dice fudging, and there's nothing saying a DM can have the NPC pretend to agree to the Diplo check only to betray the PCs later.

If a request is reasonable with respect to a situation, then there's no need to roll for it is there? The NPC either agrees to it because its the obvious answer or is too deadset in their ways to see reason. Either way, all those points in Diplomacy are as useful as underwater basket weaving.

If the PC knows exactly how they'll act at every given moment, and likewise for the NPC, then there's no point to diplomacy as a skill. Skill checks imply there is a chance at failure due to random elements. Someone might stutter while talking, but that's hardly enough of a failing margin to completely ruin a conversation. Character motivations are also too complex to let it all be determined by a single roll. Just as you don't slay a dragon in a single hit unless you get amazingly lucky with a x4 crit (or use magic which I'm staying away from because this is purely a mundane problem), you don't convince someone to do something with just a request.

"Go kill these hobgoblins, you hate goblins don't you?"
"Yeah?"
"Well off with you then!"
"Will I get rewarded?"
"What?"
"What do I get in return?"
"You get to kill something you hate-"
"But what about the quest I'm already on? Those hobgoblins are on the other side of the country."
"But you-"
"And who's gonna take care of the quest I'm doing?"
"I-"
"Do I even know you?"

On Stealth vs Perception, that sounds to me like overriding player agency as well and making their skill investments a moot point. Why should I put skill points into anything if my success depends on the whim of the DM? Why make a character at all if I can't interact with the world in a fair way? I believe in an even playing field for both players and DMs. Yes, the DM will obviously have access to an entire world to shape and mold to form a story, but if they completely ignore rules and only let players interact when the script calls for it, then that seems very disingenuous.

I'm not advocating for NPCs being able to mind-control players via Diplomancy, I just want to either do away with the whole charade or make it into something more engaging than a single dice roll.

@Jurassic Pratt: I apologize, I meant to word that as I how I see it should be, not how it is currently. But yes, as is, diplomacy only works on NPCs, and when was the last time a DM rolled Diplomacy between two of their own NPCs?

On destroying player agency, then that means DMs should never fudge dice and always roll out in the open, right?

And again, I'm not asking everyone to become a wordsmith in the case of doing away with Diplomacy, but at the very least be able to ask for what you want and what you'd give in return. I can't imagine any interaction consisting of:

"You are greeted by the king!"
"I roll Diplomacy, 42."
"Uh, okay? What do you want?"
"Not sure, just wanted to Diplpmancy him."
"You succeed?"
"Awesome, so who is he again?"


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I think it works fine.

There is no opposition skill to diplomacy because it's something that affects NPC's only.

It's simple enough to use, you set DC's for diplomacy. If the Bard walks into town with astronomical diplomacy he can get free board with a low diplomacy check and using perform, he can convince people he's an honest person and that they can trust him with rumors and gossip, there is no DC to get them to declare him god emperor.

If the Bard stays in the town for week he can perhaps convince people that someone in town is a spy for an enemy nation.

If he stays there for a few months he can become the local cult leader with some towns folk willing to do whatever he says.

This is of course generic town with generic NPC peasants, the townsfolk could be devote to a particular way of life and can't be persuaded at all.

The DM sets the bar on DC's and what seems reasonable as long as the PC makes it a reasonable suggestion.


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Opuk0 wrote:

We're no strangers to dice fudging, and there's nothing saying a DM can have the NPC pretend to agree to the Diplo check only to betray the PCs later.

If a request is reasonable with respect to a situation, then there's no need to roll for it is there? The NPC either agrees to it because its the obvious answer or is too deadset in their ways to see reason. Either way, all those points in Diplomacy are as useful as underwater basket weaving.

If the PC knows exactly how they'll act at every given moment, and likewise for the NPC, then there's no point to diplomacy as a skill.

You are taking my words out of context. The NPC in question is not being talked into doing anything he would not already do. He is being persuaded to do something that is already within him to do.

As an example if I try to let the guard to let me into a private ball for the king, and I say "Let me in", he is likely going to say no.

If I make the same request, throw him some gold to bribe him, and word the request in a better way what he would do did not change. I just made it more appealing to him.

At the same time if he had a really high level of loyalty to the king, maybe he would never let them in. Most low level guards that dont even had a name are not going to be that loyal, but ideally it could happen.

As far as PC's the GM may not know what motivates them enough to do something they may not want to do, but the player would.

As an example from a real game a local rule of a town tried to get the PC's to work for him. Nothing I tried could get them do the job. I(GM/NPC) even offered a ridiculous amount of money/gold and they said no. Since they had taken money based request before I could have assumed that diplomacy would work, since it worked before. They would have been well within their rights to be mad at me as a GM.

Did I get them to take the quest? Yes, I did.

How? I had the NPC admit that he was not a good guy, but he was the lesser of two evils, and even if they didn't want to help him they should do it for the town. They didn't even take the money. They did like money but having a large number of people die was a bigger thing. Based on how they pried up everything in a dungeon before you never would have known that though.

Quote:


I'm not advocating for NPCs being able to mind-control players via Diplomancy, I just want to either do away with the whole charade or make it into something more engaging than a single dice roll.

You can make it more than a single dice roll, by having them try to make it into a conversation at the table, but if the player is poor with social skill in real life have the dice decide the final outcome. That way his skill ranks are not wasted and he is not punished for not being as charismatic as someone else.

As for you wanting to have the player's be influenced by the PC's I would run the idea by the players. You can use set DC's that already exist by the rules, and you can ask the players would the PC's ever agree to <insert request>. Instead of trying to figure it out like I did in my above example, you can ask them out of character. That way you can apply the check and no player agency is taken away.


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Opuk0 wrote:


I can't imagine any interaction consisting of:

"You are greeted by the king!"
"I roll Diplomacy, 42."
"Uh, okay? What do you want?"
"Not sure, just wanted to Diplpmancy him."
"You succeed?"
"Awesome, so who is he again?"

I don't know how I missed this, but I never seen anyone do this. It doesn't even make sense.


wraithstrike wrote:
Snip

Overall it seems to me that doing away with Diplomacy is better than trying to expand it, and letting people put those skill points in something more usable and less ambiguous.

Yes, I understand that people who play tabletop games are not usually public speakers, but I would hope that getting across what they want to do is still doable for them. As long as you can tell the king that a horde of orcs is coming his way and bring him proof, then I don't need an essay of purple prose from you to convince him of the matter.

Edit: About your other reply wraith, that's what I imagine every time I hear of DMs requiring their players to present their arguments in order to use diplomacy. I'd assume that should already be obligatory without needing to point it out.


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Opuk0 wrote:

I can't imagine any interaction consisting of:

"You are greeted by the king!"
"I roll Diplomacy, 42."
"Uh, okay? What do you want?"
"Not sure, just wanted to Diplomancy him."
"You succeed?"
"Awesome, so who is he again?"

You can try to GM around this kind of lazy player:

GM: "You are greeted by the king!"
Player: "I roll Diplomacy, 42."
GM: "So, you're trying to Influence Attitude?"
Player: "Yeah, sure."
GM: "Well, that's enough to succeed. What are you doing? Introducing yourself? Flattering him?"
Player: "Um... The second one."
GM: "OK, so you tell him that it's a great privilege to gaze upon the radiance of his majesty and to know that the nation is in good hands. That OK?"
Player: "Awesome, so who is he again?"
GM: "He's the king. The king of the country you live in."

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