Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 4: Subsystems


Source GM Core pg. 187
When the PCs need to gain favor with or sway over an NPC to achieve their goals, sometimes a Deception, Diplomacy, or Intimidation check isn't enough to get the job done. In these cases, you can implement the influence subsystem in a social encounter.

Influence is a short-term subsystem wherein the PCs accumulate Influence Points during a social encounter with an NPC to represent their increasing influence. These encounters are a race against the clock to reach Influence Point thresholds in order to sway the NPC. It's perfect for a single social gathering—whether it's a party, a treaty negotiation, or even an attempt to persuade various members of a panel of judges.

Because of the variety of Influence skill options and the ability to use Perception to uncover more information, every character has something important to contribute in the influence subsystem, as opposed to situations where only one character has Diplomacy.

The influence subsystem divides a social encounter into rounds, with the number of rounds representing the length of the social event. Rounds last any amount of time that you determine, depending on the needs of the narrative, though somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour is typical.

During each round of an influence encounter, each PC can act once to either Influence or Discover.

Influence Stat Blocks

Source GM Core pg. 188
NPCs in the influence subsystem have little need for many of the statistics you'll find in an ordinary creature stat block. However, it might help you to prepare for the social encounter by creating an influence stat block for each prominent NPC. These are optional; if you can keep most information straight in your head, you might skip this step or just write down the first three categories to keep the numbers straight.

Influence stat blocks are flexible and contain only the stats that you are essential to running the NPC during a social encounter, leaving the rest out. The main stats that matter are the NPC's Perception and Will modifiers.

Npc Name

A succinct description of the NPC, such as “Famous musician” or “Popular baron.”
Perception The NPC's Perception modifier, plus potentially relevant abilities such as scent or truesight.
Will The NPC's Will modifier, plus any special adjustments.
Discovery The Perception DC to Discover information about the NPC, as well as any skill checks to Discover their DCs.
Influence Skills The skills the PCs can use to Influence the NPC are listed here with their DCs, in order from the lowest DC (the skill that works best) to the highest DC. If a skill isn't listed but a player gives a strong narrative explanation for using it, you can add it as an appropriate DC (usually the highest listed DC). Diplomacy should usually be on this list, but should rarely be the best skill to Influence an NPC, in order to encourage and reward using Discover to learn and cater to an NPC's interests.
Influence Thresholds The number of Influence Points required to Influence the PC, and the benefits for meeting them. Some NPCs might have multiple influence thresholds, granting the PCs additional benefits or favors as they cross more thresholds.
Resistances Some NPCs are resistant to certain tactics, biased against certain types of people, or may get defensive when a certain topic comes up. Any of these makes it harder for a PC to convince them. For instance, an NPC might find flattery inane, dislike wizards, or bristle at any mention of their ex-spouse. Typically, an NPC's resistance increases the DC of the associated check to Influence by 2 (or 5 for stronger resistances), but it could have farther-ranging consequences, such as losing Influence Points or angering the NPC enough that attempting to Influence them again is impossible.
Weaknesses Most NPCs have at least one weakness that clever and observant PCs can use to their advantage, whether it's a deep-seated insecurity, a desire for power, a favorite hobby, a bias toward a certain group, or a hidden secret the PCs could threaten to expose. When a PC incorporates an NPC's weakness, it typically decreases the associated Influence check's DC by 2 (or 5 for stronger weaknesses), but it could have farther-ranging effects, such as gaining automatic Influence Points or even automatically influencing the NPC regardless of how many Influence Points the PCs have achieved so far.

After the influence stat block, you might want to list important information to help you roleplay the NPC and incorporate the NPC into your influence encounter. You can list any of the following details that are relevant to your NPC: their background (a brief bio focusing on information relevant to the encounter), appearance, personality (this can just be a list of adjectives), affiliations, public goals, hidden agendas, or the penalty for antagonizing the NPC (or possibly for failing to Influence the NPC, depending on the way you structure the encounter).

Setting DCs

Source GM Core pg. 189
When setting DCs, it's often good to start with a noncombat level or “social level” for the NPC and set their DCs accordingly. Use the DC adjustments from page 53 just like you normally would. A good starting place is setting the NPC's Will modifier, then taking that DC and adjusting it for skills that are more or less likely to work.

For instance, for a 3rd-level challenge, you might give an NPC a +12 Will modifier and use 22 as the base DC. You might say that's the DC for Diplomacy but then determine that the NPC is difficult to intimidate, and so you apply the hard DC adjustment to make the Intimidation DC 24. Maybe you also determine that she loves different varieties of wine, resulting in an incredibly easy DC adjustment to get DC 12 for Alcohol Lore.

Running an Influence Encounter

Source GM Core pg. 189
When running an influence encounter, let the PCs be creative and use a diverse set of skills whenever possible. Be open to improvisation, and change the structure of the encounter if something interesting presents itself. The PCs set the pace and choose with whom they interact. It's up to you to make sure every NPC is distinct, react to the PCs' interactions with the NPCs, and lend overall structure to the encounter by making sure it feels like a living, breathing event rather than just a series of skill checks.

Think about how the number of rounds of a social encounter relate to the overall event. For instance, if you have a four-course banquet and 6 rounds, you could have 1 round for introductions before the food arrives, 1 round for each of the courses, and 1 last round of conversations after the final course. NPCs might filter in and out or become unavailable for conversations as they are occupied by various tasks, or become particularly eager to engage a PC. That sort of change help makes the NPC feel a bit more real and helps break up any repetition in your encounter.

Experience Points

Source GM Core pg. 189
An influence encounter is typically worth the same amount of XP as a moderate combat encounter of its level would be.