Social Encounters

Non-lethal interactions with NPCs tend to be much less well regulated in many RPGs than the simple and paradigmatic combat situation. However, they offer much more interesting opportunities to actually roleplay within your role-playing game. Here are some proposals how to mechanically structure these types of encounters, drawing heavily from the Fate System Toolkit.

Intentions and Motivation

Any given NPC, Creature or Group you can encounter has a certain intention, something they want to achieve in the given scene. These intentions are often plainly visible unless the NPC tried to deceive you. Intentions are situational Aspects which can change quickly, but as long as they persist can be invoked.

Intentions don’t exist independently, but always have to be based on an NPC’s Motivation. Every NPC had one aspect that describes their primary motivation for being here and doing what they do. The motivation is a character aspect and therefore more general and less prone to change than intentions. Motivations aren’t usually about the player characters or the current situation specifically, but more about the life goals and some of the NPC.

The main focus when trying to change an NPC’s behavior without fighting them is to change either their Intention through friendly persuasion, create new and overriding Consequences through manipulation, or forcibly change their Motivation through Mental Power.

Argumentative Persuasion

In order to persuade an NPC to change their intention, you must try to find out their underlying motivation and then use that knowledge to advertise a different course of action and show them that it better fulfills their motivation. As long as you don’t know someone’s motivation and use it to persuade them, they can invoke it against your attempts.

Uncovering Motivation

To prevent an NPC using their motivation aspect against your attempts of persuading them, you must try to uncover what it is and then use it yourself. Use your Empathy, Charm, or Dominance skill to find out why they have their current intentions. Roll against their active opposition, and if successful, get one or two free invokes on their Motivation Aspect.

Warning: if you fail, you might just reveal your own motivations and grant your target a free invoke!

Changing Intention

Next you can try to replace the NPC’s current intention with a new one that is supported by their motivation. You can invoke their motivation against them, for when you do so, they can no longer invoke it themselves anymore. Use any skill that allows you to make your case and roll an Overcome action against their active opposition. If successful, their original intention is replaced with your newly proposed one and the NPC will act accordingly.

PC Persuasion

An NPC can also attempt to persuade a player character using the same methods. Once they know your motivation, they can invoke it against you and you are blocked from invoking it yourself. The difference lies in the final step. If an NPC succeeds in persuading you, the GM gets to do a decision based compel for free — in the form:

“You have a … [Motivation] … in … [Situation] … , in which the NPC convinces you that it makes sense to decide to … [Intention] …”.

The GM can also pay a Fate Point and add a “… and things go when … happens” to spice up the deal. You can still deny the compel and pay a Fate Point, but where is the fun on that?

Emotional Manipulation

When you don’t want to bother with persuading an NPC that some different course of action is in their best interest, you can also try to focus their attention on something different than following their motivation by forcing them to take a mental consequence.

To do so, initiate a mental attack — try to intimidate or frighten them, or make them worry about something distracting. If you succeed against their active defense you can inflict your shifts as mental stress. The goal is to inflict a mental consequence, because that will override their motivation momentarily and force them to change their intentions accordingly.

Note that if you take them out completely, they might become so frightened or confused that they will no longer be of any help to you whatsoever.

This form of trying to change an NPC’s behavior is very aggressive and can easily escalate and start a conflict. It can either be a social conflict wherein the NPC fights back with same measures or provoke them into using physical force.

Mental Power

Full Article: Mental Power

The casting off Mental Power can either be used to inflict a distracting Consequence add described above, or to entirely change the NPC’s motivational Aspect altogether.

Social Encounters

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