Skip to main content

Intimidating your Players (or at least their Characters)

So I'm gearing up for another session of Firefly tomorrow and was reading the rules regarding PC vs. NPC interaction when the rules showed as an example an NPC trying to intimidate a PC.  In the example the attempt failed, because the example was meant to illustrate how a player could jack their die roll total up, but it left me wondering what would have happened in the game if the NPC had successfully intimidated the PC.

Players often intimidate NPC's.  For that matter they also frequently bluff, trick, seduce, haggle, or otherwise bamboozle NPC's in a generally social/intellectual manner.  Sometimes this is done strictly through roleplaying but over the last, oh, fifteen years or so it has been resolved through skills.  Roll high enough and they will believe that the sound was a reactor malfunction but that everything is under control and how are you.

What I don't see a lot of is the flow going in the other direction.  In fact I can't think of the last time I had an NPC attempt to pull a fast one over on a PC and resolve it through a die roll.  I've had players roll "insight" or "detect motive" or some such thing to try to ascertain if their GM is lying his ass off to them, but generally an NPC has to rely on my own roleplaying chops and not on random chance.

I'm trying to imagine a scene where I, as the GM, tell someone "Baron von Shnorkel glowers at you imperiously and demands you tell him the truth. (die roll) He succeeds and you tell him everything you know."  I can imagine the howling that would occur.

"Kneel before Zod!"  "Sigh, okay."
(Is that Bill Cosby in the background?  Now that's damned awkward.)
This is actually a tension I feel about RPG's in general. I get why we stat out physical abilities, because that's how we resolve combat and similar challenges.  I even get intellectual skills, since I can barely jump my car's battery, much less fix an engine.  But social attributes I've always found a little hinky, because at that point you've take a lot of roleplaying out and swapped in a die roll.  I get nonathletic people playing strapping heroes, or liberal arts majors playing starship engineers, but socially inept people playing suave con artists starts to make me wonder why we play the game.

I've gone a little far afield here.  Do you allow NPC's to dictate social or emotional responses in PC's based on die rolls?  Can a group of PC's be conned simply by luck?  How do you, if you're the GM, work that out in your own game?

Comments

  1. Thanks for joining in on the meatloaf post. I'm looking forward to getting to taste it the next time I make it.

    PS: Firefly, very good show. Horrible name. I think had they gone with a less girly name, more would have watched.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A First Look at Prowlers and Paragons

For a long time I've been in the market for a new supers RPG.  Since running Marvel Heroic Roleplaying a few years ago, I've been looking at other games, including some that had been passed by the general public, e.g. DC Heroes Third Edition or Silver Age Sentinels.  This was based on the notion that supers RPG's are so niche and so under-performing as a general part of the RPG world that just because the game wasn't making a splash didn't mean it wasn't good.

Plus, I have my own tastes about what I like in a supers RPG, which I've touched on from time to time here, but to summarize I like a game that feels like a comic book, doesn't get bogged down in too much detail, but allows for PC growth and development in a tangible game-system way.  I also don't want to spend hours on character creation using a spreadsheet.  For that matter, it would be an added bonus if it could also accommodate a large number of players and didn't have glaring options…

Hexcrawling a City, an early look

One thing I've been slowly working on for the last year is another fantasy sandbox campaign.  My prior one was generally map-based, although a city featured prominently in it.  As time went by, it lost a lot of its "sandbox" quality and became more directed on my part.  In the process, I think it lost something.

So, after being away from fantasy for a solid year, it's time to get back to it.  I spent some of that last year thinking about cities.   Some fantasy RPG treat cities on a very detailed level, with maps of streets, etc.  But while that's fun "map porn" for GM's, how often would the players actually be seeing or using a map like that?  And how long would it take for them to just accrue that knowledge by exploring the city.  I've lived in my current city seven years, with a car, and I don't know how all the cities line up.  What I know are areas, neighborhoods, etc. some intimately, others not so much.  And if I was going to a new cit…

Large modular dungeon tiles

I made five 4" by 4" dungeon tiles, which is 80 square inches, almost twice my usual batch of tiles.  When added to what I've done already, this is how big a single room I can make:


14 by 14 squares, with four squares to spare.  That's a pretty big room (70 feet to a side).  If I wanted to mix it up, I could build something like this:


I'm probably going to take a little break from this project.  It has turned out well, but until I'm closer to doing a fantasy game I'm going to focus on the games I'm actually doing.
Speaking of which, it's game night tonight...