The Thousand Streams of the River Country
Social Combat Primer
This game will mostly use the standard social combat rules of Exalted. Since many games have used variations on these rules and there are some things about them that are unintuitive I want to give a primer on how these rules work, as well as call out where the rules will be different.
Social Initiative & Ticks
Social initiative and ticks work the same general way as martial combat initiative, rolls are made and characters are placed on the battlewheel. The roll for initiative is house ruled to be Wits + Socialize. The ticks in social combat represent roughly a minute of time, the same as in mass combat.
In general characters will be involved in social combat to convince someone of something or get someone to do something, these require social attacks. There are a variety of other actions that can be taken during social combat (see Main Book p. 170) but the important ones are attacks. Much in the same way that the pool used for a physical attack is determined by the nature of that attack, the means and ends of a social attack effect what pool is used.
- Charisma: This attribute is used if the character is being honest and direct.
- Manipulation: This attribute is use if the character is being deceitful or sneaky.
- Presence: This skill is used to convince or compel a single target with the character’s force of personality, as a social weapon it has Rate 2 and Speed 4.
- Performance: This skill is used to convince or compel everyone present through the character’s oration or demonstration of skill (theater, dance etc.), as a social weapon it has Rate 1 and Speed 6.
- Investigation: This skill is used to compel information from a single target, as a social weapon it has Rate 2 and Speed 5.
Much as in combat each character has two social DVs.
- The Mental Dodge DV is the character’s ability to simply ignore social pressures, it is based on (Willpower + Integrity) / 2.
- The Mental Parry DV is the character’s ability to refute arguments and deflect the social attacks through engaging it is based on any combination of the same attributes and skills as social attacks, with the same general flavor.
For example if a character bases their MPDV on (Charisma + Investigation) / 2 they have a talent for asking prying questions to which they honestly don’t know the answers, thus deflating their opponent’s arguments. Any character can change which attribute and skill they use for their parry DV at any time, often a stunt will indicate what kind of defense the character is using. In the same fashion that characters can get a reputation for using their signature move in martial combat, they can be known for a particular attack or defense in social combat; while this has no mechanical effect, do not be surprised if characters become annoyed when continuously ignored (overusing MDDV) or always find themselves saying yes to you when talking with you alone (overusing Charisma + Presence).
Much as in martial combat the circumstances of the combat can effect the outcome of an engagement. In social combat the two main factors are the predispositions of the characters and their poise. In person Appearance is the poise stat while at a remove (writing a letter etc.) Linguistics is the poise stat; the defending character applies a modifier to their DV equal to the difference of the respective poise stats (the terminology of poise stat is mine, but these rules are stock). The predispositions of a character are based on 3 things, intimacies, virtues and motivation:
- Intimacies: These are the things the character wants and believes in, most characters have many, up to a limit of Willpower + Compassion. These govern the character’s day to day actions, when a social attack works with or against an intimacy the defender gets +/-1 to their DV.
- Virtues: When 3 or greater any of the four virtues can dictate the character’s overarching personality as well as exhort the to actions in the moment. When a social attack works with or against a 3+ virtue the defender gets +/-2 to their DV.
- Motivation: This is the overarching goal to a person’s life and what separates heroes from everyday folk. When a social attack works with or against the defender’s motivation the defender gets +/-3 to their DV.
Social Attack Effects
Each social attack has an intended effect from one of the two below. When a social attack is successful, the defender has two options: pay the associated willpower cost to resist (default 1) or suffer the effects of the attack. The most lasting effect of social attacks is to build or remove intimacies. To remove or build an intimacy a character must have had it eroded or bolstered in a number of scenes equal to that character’s conviction virtue (again, the terminology is mine, but the rules are stock). A character can have the same intimacy eroded and bolstered several times over the course of a given social combat, at the end of the social combat tally the effects to that intimacy to determine whether the scene as a whole eroded or bolstered that intimacy.
Types of Attacks
- Convince: This type of attack is a purely theoretical debate, it bolsters or erodes up to two intimacies of the effected character. For example one of the followers of the Goat-headed God of the Woods could debate theology with an Immaculate priest, attempting to both erode the priest’s intimacy to the immaculate faith and bolster a nascent intimacy to the Goat-headed God.
- Compel: This (more common) type of attack asks the target to perform some specific task. If successful the target must perform the action requested until circumstances significantly change or one scene. Additionally, this attack may bolster or erode up to 1 intimacy. For example the Immaculate priest could compel the Goad-headed acolyte to reveal the location of their sacred grove, this is also counts as eroding his intimacy of faith since the Goat-headed had requested secrecy.
In the case that more than the allowed number of intimacies are relevant the defending character chooses which ones will be eroded or bolstered (there is no explicit rule in the book as to how this intimacy overflow works, so this is sort of a house rule).
Social Attack Limits
- If not augmented by a charm that explicitly states that it is an unnatural mental influence a character is never required to spend more than 2 willpower in a given scene. If they have already spent that willpower, they have the option to ignore any further social attacks as if they had spent the willpower to do so. This limitation can be circumvented by using a stunt to change the topic of the conversation to something completely unrelated to the previous combat.
- If not augmented by a charm that explicitly states so one scene of social combat can only bolster or erode a given intimacy once, no matter how many individual social attacks erode or bolster it, and how many successes they have.
- If not augmented by a charm that explicitly states so, a social attack is intended to Compel a target to reveal information it must be made with Investigation.
- 1 Die: The player speaks in character, rather than simply stating ‘I seduce her’ or ‘I convince them’.
- 2 Dice: The player speaks in character and invokes the particular environment of the social combat. This can be a good description of their character’s physicality or calligraphy or a particularly incisive argument personalized for their particular opponent.
- 3 Dice: The player does everything for a 2 die stunt so well that the whole table says, “Nice!”.
In general I anticipate that most social attacks will be 1 die stunts, and in general I will propose a roll to be made. If I propose a roll that is less than optimal for you (even after the stunt bonus) you should feel free to opt out of the stunt bonus and roll any of the pools legal for that attack. The same applies to DV. I request that you just do this (don’t even need to mention it) rather than bog down social combat with a discussion of the particulars of the attack.