Simplified Social Interaction (3.5e Variant Rule)
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Simplified Social Interaction
There are a number of problems with the social interaction system as it stands now in D&D 3.5:
- Not everyone can play the social minigame. That is, some people need to sit out while one person is completely the center of attention.
- People sometimes resort to skill checks rather than attempting to roleplay out social interaction.
- Certain characters can have absurd checks to abilities as it currently stands, well over +100 by level 20.
- Situational modifiers from the DM mean very little when characters already automatically pass diplomacy/bluff/intimidate DCs.
- Certain characters are forced to be the party "face", investing in social skills rather than others in which they might prefer investing, simply so that people will like the party.
In order to fix this, the whole social interaction system needs to be overhauled. However, while this might sound daunting, the solution is actually one that's quite simple, and keeps the traditional D&D mechanic of a modifier against a DC. Furthermore, this system allows all characters to RP, rather than simply the party "face".
How it Works
The social uses of Diplomacy, Bluff, Sense Motive, and Intimidate are removed.
For social interaction (not for combat abilities), characters describe what their character does and roll an appropriate ability check of their choice (adding one-half their level to the check) that coincides with the description of what they do against the DC described below according to their level. Thus, for example, a barbarian might impress someone with a feat of strength, while a rogue might dazzle the eye and distract people while convincing them of something by flipping around shiny bits of metal or daggers, and a cleric might perceive a creature's psyche well enough to know exactly what to say in order to convince them to do something. This encourages everyone to participate in social encounters, and makes for a more descriptive challenge, rather than simply having the party face say, "I roll diplomacy. Does that succeed?"
These rules may be used to replicate the noncombat uses of Diplomacy, Bluff, and Sense Motive (but not the noncombat use of Intimidate, which is considered equivalent to Diplomacy). When doing so, a character may, as normal, use any ability for any interaction as long as it is justified in roleplay. However, each skill works best with two particular abilities, and takes a -4 penalty to the check when used with others. The appropriate abilities are...
- Diplomacy: Charisma or Wisdom
- Bluff: Charisma or Intelligence
- Sense Motive: Intelligence or Wisdom
At the DM's discretion, if the specific situation feels appropriate, he may allow Strength to be used for Diplomacy checks in intimidating situations.
Whenever Bluff and Sense Motive would normally be rolled against each other, the player character instead rolls the appropriate check against the NPC's normal social DC. When this occurs between two player characters, the appropriate checks are rolled opposed to each other.
Note that there are times when a character uses something out-of-the-ordinary in order to boost their check, such as a barbarian raging or a druid wildshaping in order to increase their effective ability score. To limit just how far a character can push themselves on the RNG, characters take a circumstance penalty equal to 3/4 their bonus to the check from sources such as class abilities, feats, and similar abilities, though not from items or level boosts. Thus, if a barbarian foams at the mouth while bending a steel bar, someone might be more impressed yet at the same time be alarmed by the character's aggressiveness. If the barbarian in question got a +6 bonus to to Strength from raging (+3 modifier), he'd take a -2 circumstance penalty (3/4 the bonus rounded down) from his startling appearance.
Note that circumstances should change the modifier of the check. On very easy challenges reduce the DC by 4, on very hard challenges increase the DC by 4, and on nearly impossible challenges increase the DC by 8. Characters may not assist others on the check made. The DM should also award a +2 bonus or -2 penalty depending on specific circumstances and roleplaying should he deem it necessary.
Another Use for Diplomacy and Sense Motive
While Intimidate and Bluff have combat uses that are still usable, under this system diplomacy and sense motive become virtually useless under this system. Rather than just throw them away, we'll give them new ability uses in combat.
Changes: Using feint is a move action.
You can use diplomacy to endear yourself to an enemy within 30', having them take pity on you for a moment and throwing their attack off course. To do so, make a diplomacy check opposed by your target's modifier level check (1d20 + their HD + their Wisdom modifier) as a move action. If you succeed, the target takes a -2 penalty to all attacks and DCs of abilities that target you for one round. You can only endear yourself to an enemy who can both hear and see you, and this is considered a mind-affecting effect.
Changes: Using demoralize is a move action, and the Shaken condition from Demoralize does not stack with any other fear effects.
Sense Motive: Study
You can use a sense motive check to gain valuable information against an enemy in order to study them and better penetrate their defenses. To do so, make a sense motive check opposed by your target's modifier level check (1d20 + their HD + their Wisdom modifier) as a move action. If you succeed, you gain a +2 bonus to all attacks and and DCs of abilities that target them for one round. You may only study an enemy who you can see and who you threaten in melee.
Improved Social Maneuver [Fighter]
Benefit: Upon taking this feat, choose one of the social combat maneuvers above (Demoralize, Endear, Feint, or Study). The chosen ability may now be used as a swift action.
Special: This feat may be taken multiple times. Each time, choose a different social combat maneuver to enhance.