(Originally posted April 2009)

The intrigue (social combat) system in the A Song of Ice and Fire RPG seems pretty good… good enough to simplify and repurpose for D&D. I included the options that made the most sense for D&D (and were simplest to convert when I was staying up late trying to do it).

D&D Intrigue System

Traits and Defenses

Intrigue Defense

3e: Total of mental modifiers (Int, Wis, and Cha) + Level + 10

4e: Will Defense

Composure

3e/4e: Highest mental trait

Influence

3e/4e: 1d6 (+1d6 for every 5 margin of success over Intrigue Defense)

Basics

An intrigue is a social exchange between two or more characters attempting to gain advantage. Typically, an intrigue only occurs if all characters in the intrigue want something that they believe can only be provided by social interaction with the opposing side (characters that know they only stand to lose from an intrigue will typically fight or flee instead of negotiating). There are three levels of intrigue:

  • Simple: A single exchange of tests is made, with the winner achieving his or her objective. A simple intrigue typically only happens when one party is easily cowed.
  • Standard: Several exchanges are made, until one side loses or exits the intrigue. Standard intrigues cover most intrigues.
  • Complex: Several standard intrigues are played over an extended period, with victory going to the side with the highest net successes. Complex intrigues cover long-term plots and machinations, often between whole factions.

When beginning an intrigue, both sides should determine objectives, scene, leaders, and disposition.

Objectives

All intrigues require both sides to have a general objective (such as making friends, gaining information, exacting a service, or sowing lies). A side’s objectives determines what tactics make sense for the exchanges and, more importantly, which skill is used in the exchange:

  • Diplomacy: If your side genuinely expects the results of an intrigue to be mutually beneficial (or at least not seriously detrimental to the opponent) and plans to deal fairly, then use Diplomacy.
  • Bluff: If your side expects to lie and cheat when dealing with the opponent, likely resulting in far more benefit to yourself than the opponent would expect, then use Bluff.
  • Intimidate: If your side expects to use fear and threats (of direct harm from you or from some other impending doom), but otherwise deal honestly with the opponent, then use Intimidate.

If objectives shift midway through an intrigue, a different skill might be used for the remainder.

Scene

The setting of an intrigue can impose a circumstance bonus or penalty to rolls for tactics that are very appropriate or inappropriate. This bonus should normally be the standard plus or minus two, but might go as high as 10. For example, a seduction is much easier in a tavern than in a church. In addition, offering something the opponent wants might grant a circumstance bonus, while offering a very poor deal could apply a penalty.

Leaders

Each side of an intrigue must designate a leader that will be the primary speaker. In two-person intrigues, these leaders are easily chosen. When more than one individual represents a side, whoever will be doing the talking and making the decisions will serve as leader, and allies can use actions that assist (but cannot directly affect the opponent’s Composure).

In some circumstances, leadership may be split between a speaker and a decision maker (such as a major domo speaking for a lord). In this case, the speaker rolls against the opponents, but the opponents roll against the decision maker.

Sometimes, multiple intrigues will occur simultaneously that involve a group of allies. In this case, a different leader should be selected for each intrigue, with non-leaders able to float between intrigues and assist different leaders from exchange to exchange.

Disposition

Both leaders in an intrigue should determine their dispositions to one another. A disposition is a summary of how the character feels about his or her opponent. Disposition generally persists between meetings, but can be modified by the results of the intrigue. A character that likes an opponent is easier to influence, but finds it easier to deal diplomatically with that opponent. A character that dislikes an opponent is harder to influence and finds it easier to intimidate or lie to that opponent, but finds diplomacy much harder.

Find your character’s disposition on the chart below. Subtract the DR entry each time Influence is applied to your Composure. Add the listed modifiers to skill rolls you make.

Disposition

DR

Bluff or
Intimidate

Diplomacy

Affectionate 1 –2 +5
Friendly 2 –1 +3
Amiable 3 0 +1
Indifferent 4 0 0
Dislike 5 +1 –2
Unfriendly 6 +2 –4
Malicious 7 +3 –6

If you have just met a character, you begin as indifferent to one another. If the character makes his or her status and deeds known to you before the intrigue, roll an appropriate knowledge skill to see if you know whether these facts are true (DC is equal to the target’s level + 10). If you fail, raise your disposition by one level friendlier.

Your opinion may also be adjusted by obvious features of your opponent. If applicable, adjust your disposition by the levels indicated in the chart below:

Factor Modifier
Opponent is attractive +1 step
Opponent is known for honor +1 step
Opponent is known to be just +1 step
Opponent is from allied group +2 steps
Opponent is ugly –1 step
Opponent is known for decadence –1 step
Opponent is known for cruelty –1 step
Opponent is hideous –2 steps
Opponent is known for treacherousness –2 steps
Opponent is from enemy group –2 steps
Opponent is from a distant land –1 step

Exchanges

Each exchange represents several minutes (possibly up to an hour or more) of conversation, or whatever length of discussion seems appropriate from a roleplaying standpoint. Leaders and allies should roleplay what their characters are doing in the conversation, or simply give a general idea of their conversational techniques to the GM. This roleplaying will help determine the choice of tactic, and can give a circumstance bonus or penalty to the roll (up to plus or minus six).

Initiative is not tracked; Composure losses are not tallied until the end of the exchange. If both sides are defeated in the same exchange, both sides achieve their goals if not mutually exclusive. If only one can win, a tie goes to the side with higher social status (represented by actual status, level, or pure Charisma).

In each exchange, the leader will likely engage in a tactic (but may choose a support action) while allies engage in support actions. Tactics are the only way to reduce the Composure of the opponent, but support actions assist in this goal.

Tactics

There are seven main tactics in an exchange. Characters will generally use the same tactic for the duration of the intrigue, but might switch based on circumstances within the conflict. After attempting a tactic, roll the appropriate social skill against the target’s Intrigue Defense. If successful, roll the Influence dice, subtract the opponent’s DR (from disposition), and apply the remainder as damage to the target’s Composure. If the target is reduced to 0 Composure or below, the effect of the tactic occurs in addition to any other roleplaying gains from the intrigue.

Tactic Effect
Bargain Target gives discount or exchange based on disposition (see chart below)
Charm Improve target’s disposition by one step and +2 on tests against target in next exchange
Convince Target assists in a particular task or trial, but (with low disposition) may be looking to betray you
Incite Target’s disposition to another target drops by your Charisma modifier
Intimidate Target flees if possible (becomes Amiable if not) for the scene, then drops to Unfriendly or worse
Seduce Improve target’s disposition by Charisma modifier and engage in carnal acts if friendly and compatible; target’s disposition drops by one rank per day until one less than original unless maintained
Taunt Target performs taunted action (if reasonable for disposition) then disposition drops by one step
Disposition Bargain Effect
Affectionate Target gives you the goods or service for nothing in exchange.
Friendly Target gives you the goods at discount (Cha mod × –10%) or for some minor service in exchange.
Amiable Target gives you the goods at discount (Cha mod × –5%) or for a very easy service in exchange.
Indifferent Target gives you the goods at discount (Cha mod × –2%) or for a service in exchange.
Dislike Target gives you the goods at discount (Cha mod × –1%) or for a service in exchange. The target may renege on the bargain if the demanded service is dangerous.
Unfriendly Target gives you the goods at normal price or for an equal service in exchange.
Malicious Target sells you the item at normal price but foists off a shoddy or damaged good. Target may perform the service but renege if he or she can get away with it.

Secondary Actions

Allies (or leaders seeking an advantage not available through tactics) may use their actions in an exchange to try secondary actions. These actions modify the tactics of the leaders.

Action Effect
Assist Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate (same as leader’s skill) vs. target’s Intrigue Defense; if successful, apply a +2 to leader’s next roll (cumulative from multiple allies)
Fast Talk Bluff vs. target’s Intrigue Defense; if successful, apply a -2 to target’s Intrigue Defense until the end of the next exchange (not cumulative from multiple allies)
Fight Intrigue ends and combat begins
Mollify Diplomacy vs. target’s Intrigue Defense; if successful, target’s opponent regains Composure equal to your Charisma modifier
Quit Leave intrigue (with possible social ramifications)
Read Target Sense Motive/Empathy vs. target’s Bluff +10/passive Bluff; if successful, learn target’s current disposition and planned tactic for the next exchange

Resolution

Once one leader is reduced to 0 or less Composure during an exchange, the intrigue is over. The winner achieves his or her goal, at least for now.

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