Rage against the God-Machine
These rules replace the standard rules for Social actions in the World of Darkness Rulebook. They assume your character making effort toward getting another character or a group of characters to do what she wants. Social actions within this system may be direct or subtle, complex or simple. For example, your character may shout at another and demand he gets out of the way, or your character may subtly offer clues suggesting someone needs to vote for her.
It is not always possible to get someone to do what you want. For instance, no amount of Social maneuvering is going to convince the chief of police in a large city to hold a press conference and admit to murder, even if the player has a dice pool impressive enough to make it happen. This system is designed to allow characters to manipulate or convince other characters to perform favors or undertake actions, but it does raise the question: Is one character dictating another’s actions, and how much of that should be allowed in a role-playing game?
Or, put a different way, can one character seduce another with this system? Under a strict read of the rules, yes.
The goal is “get that character to sleep with my character,” the number of Doors is decided as explained below, and impressions and other factors play into the final result. This is not too different from how seduction and other, less carnal, forms of persuasion actually work — the persuader tries to make the offer as enticing as possible. But because it’s the persuader’s player making the rolls, the target is left without a way to say “no.” As such, it’s our recommendation that this system be used by player-controlled characters on Storyteller characters rather than on other players’ characters. If one player’s character wants to seduce, persuade, convince, or intimidate another, leave it up to roleplaying and let players make their own decisions about what their characters do.
When using a Social action with this system, the first step is to declare your character’s intended goal. This is as simple as stating what you want the subject to do and how your character is going about making it happen. You need only announce the initial stages, as the effort will likely occur over multiple rolls, reflecting different actions. At this point, the Storyteller determines whether the goal is reasonable. A character might, with time and proper tactics, convince a rich person to give him a large sum of money. He probably isn’t going to convince the wealthy individual to abandon all of his wealth to the character (though it might be possible to get him to name the character as heir, at which point the character can set about speeding up the inheritance process).
Once you’ve declared your character’s goal, the next step is to determine the scope of the challenge. We represent this with “Doors,” which reflect a character’s resistance to coercion: her social walls, his skepticism, mistrust, or just a hesitance toward intimacy. It’s abstract and means different things in every given case. The base number of Doors is equal to the lower of the character’s Resolve or Composure. If the goal would be a breaking point for the character, add two Doors. If accomplishing the goal would prevent a character from resolving an Aspiration, add a Door. Acting in opposition to a Virtue also adds a Door. Doors may increase as the effort continues and the circumstances change. For example, if the goal seems mundane at first but the situation makes it reprehensible, it may increase the number of Doors required. If your character gives up on the goal and shifts to another, any Doors currently open remain so, but assess Aspirations, Virtues, and Integrity in case of a potential increase. Doors must be opened one by one. Each successful roll — not each success — opens one. Exceptional successes open two. Also, Doors are specifically a one-way relationship between two characters. They may each have Doors to one another or Doors to other characters.
First (and later) impressions determine the time required between rolls. The Storyteller sets the first impression based on any past history between the characters, the circumstances of their meeting, the nature of the favor being asked (if the acting character is asking right up front — sometimes it’s a better idea not to lead off with what you want!) and any other relevant factors. “Average impressions” call for weekly rolls, which makes the process very slow. Through play, your character may influence the interaction for a “good impression.” This may mean meeting in a pleasant environment, wearing appealing clothing, playing appropriate music, or otherwise making the situation more comfortable. This should not require a roll during a first impression but requires one if attempted later. An excellent impression requires a roll to influence the situation. For example, you may use a Wits + Socialize to find the right people to invite to a party. Perfect impressions require further factors. It may involve leverage or playing to a character’s Vice (see below).
Hostile impressions come from tense first impressions or threatening pitches. These interactions require you manipulate the impression or to force the Doors (see below).
If your character knows her subject’s Vice, she can use it to influence the interaction. With an offer that tempts that Vice, move the interaction one step up on the chart. As a rule of thumb, if by agreeing to the temptation the target were to gain Willpower, it’s a valid temptation.
Soft Leverage (Gifts and Bribes)
Soft Leverage represents offers of services or payments in order to lubricate social interaction. Make the offer. If the recipient agrees, move the impression up once on the chart. Mechanically, this can be represented in certain Merit dots. For example, a bribe may be represented by a Resources 3 offer, or an offer for service may be reflected by Retainer 3. By default, these bribes give the recipient use of the Merit for a designated amount of time.
Impression – Time per Roll
Perfect – 1 Turn
Excellent – 1 Hour
Good – 1 Day
Average – 1 Week
Hostile – Cannot roll
At each interval, you may make a roll to open Doors and move closer to your character’s goal. The roll might be different each time, depending on the character’s tactics. Some of the rolls might not even be Social. For example, if your character is trying to win someone’s favor, fixing his computer with an Intelligence + Computer roll could open a Door.
As Storyteller, be creative in selecting dice pools. Change them up with each step to keep the interactions dynamic. Similarly, consider contested and resisted rolls. Most resisted actions or contested rolls use either Resolve or Composure or a combination of the two. But don’t let that stand as a limit. Contested rolls don’t require a resistance trait.
For example, Wits might be used to notice a lie, Strength to help a character stand up to threats, or Presence to protect and maintain one’s reputation at a soiree. Failed rolls impose a cumulative –1 on further rolls. These penalties do not go away with successful rolls.
When the player fails a roll, the Storyteller may choose to worsen the impression level by one. If she does so, the player takes a Beat. If this takes the impression level to hostile, the attempt cannot move forward until it improves.
Aspirations are quick routes to influence. Find a character’s goals, wants, and needs, and they can help move interactions forward. If your character presents a clear path and reasoning for how they’ll help a character achieve an Aspiration, remove a Door. This doesn’t require follow-through but it does require a certain amount of assurance. If the opportunity presents itself and your character pulls out of an offer, two Doors close. Failure
A Social maneuvering attempt can fail utterly under the following circumstances:
- The player rolls a dramatic failure on an attempt to open a Door (the player takes a Beat as usual).
- The target realizes that he is being lied to or manipulated. This does not apply if the target is aware that the character is trying to talk him into something, only if the target feels betrayed or conned.
- The impression level reaches “hostile” and remains so for a week of game time. The character can try again during the next story.
Once your character opens the final Door, the subject must act. Storyteller characters abide by the intended goal and follow through as stated. If you allow players’ characters to be the targets of Social maneuvering, resolve this stage as a negotiation with two possible outcomes. The subject chooses to abide by the desired goal or offer a beneficial alternative.
Go With the Flow
If the character does as requested and abides by the intended goal, his player takes a Beat (see p. 157).
Offer an Alternative
If the subject’s player chooses, he may offer a beneficial alternative and the initiator’s player can impose a Condition (see p. 180) on his character. This offer exists between players; it does not need to occur within the fiction of the game (though it can). The alternative must be beneficial and not a twist of intent. The Storyteller adjudicates. The initiator’s player chooses a Condition to impose on the subject. It must make sense within the context of the scenario.
Sometimes, waiting and subtlety just aren’t warranted, desired, or possible. In these cases, your character can attempt to force a character’s Doors. This method is high-risk, high-reward. Forcing Doors often leads to burnt bridges and missed opportunities. When forcing Doors, state your character’s goal and her approach and then roll immediately. The current number of Doors applies as a penalty to the dice roll. If successful, proceed to resolution as normal. If the roll fails, the subject is immune to further efforts at Social maneuvering from your character.
Hard Leverage represents threats, drugging, intimidation, blackmail, kidnapping, or other heavy-handed forms of coercion. It drives home the urgency required to force open a character’s Doors. Hard Leverage that requires the character to suffer a breaking point removes one Door (if the modifier to the roll — not considering the character’s breaking points — is greater than –2) or two Doors (if the modifier is –3 or less).
Influencing a group works in the same way using the same system. This generally means that influencing a group requires at least an excellent level impression or forcing his Doors, unless the group meets regularly. The Storyteller determines Doors using the highest Resolve and Composure scores in the group. She also determines three Aspirations, a Virtue, a Vice, and a relative Integrity score for the group. When resolving the influence, most members will abide by the stated goal. Individual members may depart and do as they will, but a clear majority does as your player suggests.
After opening all Doors and resolving the action’s goal, your character may wish to influence the same person or group again. If successful, subsequent influence attempts begin with one fewer Door. If the attempt failed or if Hard Leverage was employed, successive influence attempts begin with two more Doors. These modifiers are cumulative. No matter what, a character will always have at least one Door at the outset.