In fact, this is one of the reasons some gamers say they don't like social skills - 'They don't make sense!' - and prefer to simply override them at will when the results don't 'fit.' They have a point with respect to the problem, but their solution - to set aside the rules when they feel like it - is, to me, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A better fix, for me, is to use smarter rules.
In Flashing Blades, the base value of a skill is the associated attribute score, which is then modified by possessing the skill, usually increasing the target number by + 1 to + 3, usually assigned at the gamemaster's discretion; frex, a character with a 12 Charm and the Etiquette skill might get a + 2 bonus, giving the player a target number of 14 to roll under on a d20 to impress a countess. Assigning ad hoc modifiers helps to alleviate some of the problems inherent in simply rolling under the attribute number, but I wanted something more holistic.
The first modifier I decided to use was the difference in Social Ranks between characters. This was something I started with Traveller, with the difference in Social Standings as a modifier to the reaction table roll, to better reflect social stratification in the Imperium. For FB, this was even more appropriate; characters with higher Social Ranks already expect to receive deference from their social inferiors, and this would be reflected in the modifiers assigned to social skill use as well.
I also wanted something more personal as well, to reflect a non-player character's individual nature, and for this I adapted a feature from another FB gamemaster's house rules for handling mistresses and courtship. In these house rules, which I discovered somewhere on the intrewebs and can no longer locate, each potential mistress was assigned a value of one to six; this number would be used in determining how loyal the potential mistress was to her lover or husband, should a player character attempt to seduce her away. I decided to expand this into a non-player character stat which reflected how amenable to suggestion that character might be. I called the new stat Tractability.
As with the loyalty rating on which it was based, Tractability is usually expressed by a number between one and six, making it a simple roll of a die to determine for randomly developed non-player characters; I did, however, leave myself the option for numbers greater than seven, for special cases. As with the BITS task system for Traveller, I wanted each score to have a verbal shorthand attached as well.
I made three - Flexible - the default value for most non-player characters. The Tractability score is used a couple of ways; as noted, it can be a modifier to the attribute-plus-skill target number for social skill rolls; it can also be used as a divisor, in keeping with a number of skill checks used in FB's published adventures, for a greater degree of difficulty; frex, Tractability 4 can be used as a - 4 penalty to a roll, or to divide the target number by four. The specific circumstances of using Tractability is the subject of the next post on social skills in Flashing Blades.