Social Maneuvering & Interrogation
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 Impressions 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|
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.
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.