Thursday, June 13, 2013

Social Skills in Flashing Blades

So far, I've written about my approach to social skills and roleplaying, the significance of non-player character attributes, and a new npc attribute - Tractability - I introduced for my Flashing Blades campaign. In this post, I'll introduce the social skills in Flashing Blades in a bit more detail, including how they are presented in the game and how they are used in my campaign.

By my reckoning, there are six non-martial skills which qualify as social skills in Flashing Blades' core rules.
This skill is the ability to haggle and deal to get what one wants. It has greatest effect when buying items in a common marketplace, where haggling is the way things are bought. It may be more difficult to use when buying items with a set price or making special deals. A character with Bargaining skill may get 10% off of the normal price when buying common goods (clothing, food, livestock, etc.).

This skill represents the ability to determine if various officials may be easily bribed and to calculate the amount of money the bribe should be. Most minor officials (Provincial Sheriffs, Court Clerks, Village Mayors, etc.) may be bribed to overlook minor regulations, lack of proper documentation, etc., for 10 to 20 L (Livres). Officials of the Realm (Town Mayors, Court Secretaries, Provincial Tax Collectors, etc.) and Magistrates will be more difficult to bribe, and will not go for less than 50 L. Royal Officials and other high ranking bureaucrats are far more difficult to bribe, and will generally require some sort of special deal or settlement. Characters with Bribery skill have a better chance of bribing officials than those without, and less chance of being reported.

This skill is the ability to lead men in battle and other emergency situations. It is necessary to have Captaincy skill when leading any organized group. Characters with Captaincy skill will be skilled at taking command in emergency situations, giving effective orders, and controlling large groups of men. Captaincy is required for all officer ranks in the military.

This skill represents knowledge of the social graces. This includes bowing correctly, holding silverware properly, dancing, saying the right thing at the right times, etc. Characters with Etiquette skill may hide their rough edges when in distinguished company, and will be sure of behaving properly in the presence of high nobility and royalty. All characters without this skill must live in constant fear of making a social blunder (tripping their dancing partners, or eating dinner with their salad forks, for example).

This skill represents the ability to speak well publicly. Characters with Oratory skill may be able to persuade and convince others, talk their way out of tight situations, etc. Oratory skill may also be used to make Etiquette, Captaincy, and Magistracy more effective in certain situations.

This skill represents the ability to flatter, cozen, and tease the opposite sex into giving information, aid, or various other services. Characters with this skill are adept at courting and are rarely without affectionate companionship. . .
A couple of highlights: first, I like the synergy of Oratory with other social skills; it's the base skill of persuasion, but a character with both, say, Etiquette and Oratory may gain an advantage over another character with just one of the two skills. Second, I like that the Seduction skill is framed in terms of intelligence gathering, with the strong implication that seduction is simply 'intrigue by other means.' In my campaign, Captaincy tends to provide a benefit to attempts to intimidate or otherwise browbeat a non-player character.

Examples of FB's social skills are few in the published adventures for the game. Here are a couple of mentions of the skills as used 'by the book.'
When a Player-Character receives a decoration or field promotion, he may attempt to make a roll against his Luck[/2] or his Charm[/2] (player's choice, +4 to either roll for Etiquette skill). If this roll is successful, he is noticed by the King, and allowed to kiss the monarch's hand. - "The Great Marksmanship Tourney," Parisian Adventure

They could try to trick her out her bonbons somehow (by telling her they are not worthy of a Duchess, and offering to bring her a box of truly royal chocolates, perhaps). This would require a good idea from the players (as judged by the Gamemaster) and a successful roll on Charm (+2 for Oratory or Etiquette skill; +4 for both). - "Scavenger Hunt,"
Parisian Adventure
True to the general description of how the skill rules work in the game, social skills aren't opposed rolls, but rather rolls against the appropriate attribute as modified by possessing a skill. As described previously, my feeling is that this puts the character's attribute in the mode of defining non-player characters' personalities, eg, every character is as bribable as the player character's Wit score allows. To this end, adding the difference between the characters' Social Ranks, to reflect the important influence of class and rank on social interactions in the game-world, and the Tractability score, as a reflection of the npc's receptivity, ameliorate this without expanding opposed rolls beyond what are already suggested in the core rules.

In practice, this means using a social skill looks something like this.


That's a target number plus two to four - in my experience, usually just two or three - modifiers, which I find readily manageable in the heat of the action.

One of the referee's most important jobs in any roleplaying game is determining when a skill check is required, and this is perhaps especially true with respect to social interactions in the game: when does roleplaying lead to rolling a die? I'll dive into that topic next.


  1. More good stuff Mike! I have already snagged the bribery examples to provide a baseline for my campaign.

  2. I really like this summary, Mike. Thank you. I've been groping my way towards this point but a lot of it has become clear in the wake of running The Scavenger Hunt at NTRPG Con last weekend.

    Now I just need to make the time, get "the band" back together, and start running some FB.

    1. Are you going to post something about "Scavenger Hunt" on your blog? I'd love to hear how it went.

    2. No blog at present. I'll probably post a summary at the Alehouse and in G+.

  3. Why limit Seduction to "the opposite sex"? People can "seduce" people of the same sex using not only lust but greed, envy, fear, and other emotions. Seems more appropriate to restate this kind of skill as using flattery, etc. to get what you want by appealing to someone's ego and call it Glibness, Manipulation, or the like.

    That said, I do like your thoughts on social skills. I agree that they're useful and important in a skill-based system. If you want a nice house-ruled alternative to D&D's "bard win button," by the way, see the Giants in the Playground Diplomacy house rule.

    1. I think seduction is intended to cover flirting and romantic and sexual appeal.

      Appeals to greed, envy, fear, and general flattery are covered by other skills: greed (Bribery), envy (oratory or some combination), fear (intimidation), flattery (possibly etiquette or orate).

      That being said, there is no reason to restrict it to the opposite sex. Some rewording would be good here, possibly:

      This skill represents the ability to romantically flatter, cozen, and tease another into giving information, aid, or various other services. Characters with this skill are adept at courting and are rarely without affectionate companionship. . .

    2. And presumably there would be a modifier for a flirtatious match up that does or doesn't appeal to the other party.


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