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All Rules in Mastering Intrigue

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Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 102
Jockeying for position and favor is natural part of human social dynamics, as common in the armies of high-minded crusaders as in the courts of wicked nobles. The resulting web of allegiances lies at the heart of any intrigue-focused campaign, with individuals scheming to gain allies while undermining their enemies’ support. To represent these machinations, this section introduces two influence systems: one for individual influence and one for organizational influence. The first system provides a dynamic framework for social encounters in which the PCs gain or lose the favor of key NPCs, as well as a mechanic for calling in debts. The second system models the way the PCs’ actions affect their clout within allied organizations, and how far organizations at cross-purposes with the PCs will go to undermine them.

Individual Influence

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 102
The most common model for social encounters involves a single exchange involving a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check. The following influence system serves as a more robust replacement for that basic system. It also encourages the entire party to participate in a social encounter, and can be used in encounters with multiple NPCs. In the individual influence system, participants try to change the targets’ opinions or court favor by succeeding at a variety of checks unique to each individual target. Known as influence checks, these are usually skill checks, though other types of checks may suffice, as an NPC may be especially impressed by other qualities, such as drinking ability or martial prowess.

In this system, a social encounter is divided into one or more phases. The length of a phase is flexible, and typically lasts 15 minutes to 1 hour—long enough for each PC to perform several minutes’ worth of actions per phase that are unrelated to influence checks (such as investigating a murder scene or surreptitiously defeating an assassin) without forgoing their chances to participate in the social encounter. GMs should determine beforehand how many phases a social encounter will last, thus determining how many chances the PCs will have to influence or learn about their targets—generally two to six. The GM should also determine whether the PCs’ actions can win them additional phases. For example, seducing a baroness or forestalling her carriage may both earn the PCs an extra phase in which to win her favor.

At the beginning of a phase, each PC selects an NPC. During each phase, a PC can either try to directly influence the NPC via an influence check, or attempt to learn more about that NPC with a discovery check—a check to learn about an NPC that can help with future influence checks during the same social encounter. The kinds of checks required for an influence check or a discovery check, known as influence skills, are unique to each individual. The PCs can learn an NPC’s influence skills through successful discovery checks (see Discovery Checks); otherwise, they must guess.

Discovery and Influence Check DCs

The appropriate DC for an influence check depends upon several factors. The table of standard influence DCs listed below provides a baseline for DCs for each average party level (APL). These DCs should be relatively easy for the PCs as a group (particularly those with access to aid another and the benefits from discovery), and they are generally appropriate for the skill that is most effective at influencing an NPC. To generate a typical influence check DC, add 5 to the base DC; add 10 to generate a difficult influence check DC. The DCs for skills in which many PCs have extremely high bonuses, such as Diplomacy and Perception, should be increased further to compensate. An NPC who is hard to influence might use the typical and difficult DCs for her influence skills, or possibly even higher DCs.

If a major event takes place during the social encounter, consider whether any of the NPCs’ influence DCs should change in response to the event. For example, if someone breaks into a sealed vault containing priceless treasures during the social encounter, law-abiding NPCs who suspect the PCs committed that crime become harder to influence.


Using the Individual Influence System

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 108
Individual influence is great for situations such as high-stakes auctions, political lobbying, or convincing a guard to let the PCs go after they are framed and imprisoned. The following example uses the influence rules as the framework for a classic murder mystery.

Organizational Influence

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 109
The organizational influence system provides the GM with tools to track the PCs’ social cachet within organizations. Small organizations seeking to make their mark on society may allow the PCs a great deal of clout within them, but are limited in what they can offer. Large organizations, on the other hand, are typically more difficult to influence, but can bring much more power to bear on an area at large.