Monday, November 28, 2005

Fudge Social Combat

by Douglas Weber (infornific @ aol .com)

Why let the sword swingers and gunmen get all the screen time? With the Social Combat rules, you can Bluff, Charm, Intimidate, Impress, and Persuade your way through the world with all the detail and suspense of physical combat.
Standard Fudge rules allow for detailed outcomes from physical combat - Skill, Strength, armor and chance all play into a well-defined outcome. Social skills on the other hand are not so well detailed. Often players and gamemasters choose to simply act out social interactions, but this can handicap shy players. If a slow, clumsy player can play a lightning-quick, expert swordsman, why can't a shy player run a charming con artist? Fortunately, the standard Fudge combat system can be adapted for social interaction. For the purpose of this system, I'm going to define three attributes, but other attributes may be substituted to suit the gamemaster's tastes.
Wit - A measure of mental agility and speed
Confidence - Presence and mental force
Ego - Mental and emotional toughness
Social skills as you might expect replace combat skills. The above Attributes are used as Offensive and Defensive Damage Factors (ODF and DDF). The various injury outcomes -- Scratch, Hurt, Very Hurt, Incapacitated -- have different definitions depending on what the character is attempting to do -- Bluff, Charm, Impress, Intimidate, or Persuade. The different social techniques include suggested Skills. Players should be encouraged to come up with creative uses for Skills, as long as they can describe a plausible effort. Alternately, the GM may simply use Bluff, Charm, Impress, Intimidate and Persuade as Skills. Choose an appropriate defensive skill based on the attack skill. For example, an attempt to Intimidate using Sword skill might be resisted by a Sword or other weapon skill. If there seems to be no appropriate Skill, simply set difficulty at Fair. As with combat, clever tactics and roleplaying should be rewarded with bonuses. To successfully use a social technique, the attacker must roll higher than the defender, just as in regular combat. In addition, the attacker must roll at least a Poor result. A failed attempt with a social technique doesn't necessarily have negative consequences. However, a roll of Terrible or worse should have repercussions. An effort to Charm offends, an effort to Impress does the opposite, etc. A failed effort to Intimidate always causes a hostile reaction. Add degree of success to ODF, and subtract DDF. If the result is positive, calculate the standard Fudge damage (Scratch, Hurt, etc) and check against the specific technique for the result.

Social Techniques


As the name suggests, a Bluff is an effort to fake something, carried out through sheer force of will. While Persuasion may depend on logic or cunning, Bluff relies on confidence and chutzpah. Outcome depends in part on how plausible the bluff is and in part on how much risk the target takes in believing the bluff. Bluffing your way into a high-security base is difficult in part because the guards will face severe penalties for letting someone through unauthorized.
Skill: Acting is appropriate for pretending to be someone. Courtly Manners or similar skill for pretending to be a noble, appropriate academic skills for pretending to be a professor, etc.
ODF: Confidence
DDF: Wit
Scratch - The target will believe a plausible bluff, if there is no risk to the target.
Hurt - The target will believe the character's implausible bluff if no risk is involved or a plausible bluff if minor risk is involved.
Very Hurt - The target will believe a plausible bluff even at major risk, an implausible bluff at minor risk, or an absurd one at no risk.
Incapacitated - The target will believe a plausible bluff at severe risk (life and limb), an implausible bluff at major risk or an absurd one at minor risk.
Near Death - The target will believe an utterly ludicrous bluff.
Example: Jolene the Fair attempts to crash a noble's party by pretending to be an aristocrat. Met at the gate, she haughtily declares a noble title and demands to be introduced. Jolene is well-dressed and has a noble's manners, so the bluff is plausible. However, the doorman is at some risk in accepting Jolene's word, so the gamemaster decides a Hurt result is needed for success. Jolene has Courtly Manners at Great, while the doorman has the same skill at Mediocre. Jolene's Confidence is Great, the doorman's Wit is Good. Unfortunately, Jolene rolls a -1 and the doorman gets a +1. This gives Jolene a Scratch result - the doorman thinks she's a noble but insists on getting confirmation.


Charm means an effort to make someone like you. It can be helpful in avoiding trouble or helping set up a roll to persuade. An effort to Charm is likely to take some time, unlike other social techniques.
Skill: Seduction or similar skills are appropriate for romantic efforts. Carousing is appropriate for parties, Courtier for high society, and so on. DDF: Confidence
DDF: Wit
Scratch - Target will be mildly more congenial. Efforts to Persuade are at +1.
Hurt - Target will be significantly friendlier than before. Efforts to Persuade are at +2.
Very Hurt - Target is likely to be friendly, even if initially hostile to the character. Efforts to Persuade are at +3.
Incapacitated - Target will be (temporarily) friendly even if the character is normally an enemy. Efforts to Persuade are at +4.
Near Death - Target is putty in the character's hands. Efforts to Persuade are at +5.
Example: Buddy the Cat is trying to convince his human owner to give him some food. He decides to use his Purring skill to Charm his owner first before making the attempt to Persuade. Buddy has Good Purring and Great Confidence. The owner has Mediocre Animal Handling and Good Wit. Buddy rolls, -2 for a Mediocre Purring Effort. Fortunately, his owner rolls -1 for a Poor Animal Handling result, and Buddy just barely succeeds. Adding his Great Confidence and subtracting his owner's Good Wit, Buddy gets a Scratch result, giving him a +1 to Persuade the owner to hand over people food.


Impress is an effort to awe or inspire someone. This could be dramatic oratory, a command in battle or any other similar effort.

Skill: Oratory for speeches, Leadership for commands. Other skills may be used to impress in limited contexts -- a minstrel might use skill with a harp to Impress a potential employer.
ODF: Confidence
DDF: The best of Wit or Confidence
Scratch - The target is mildly impressed.
Hurt - The target is moderately impressed.
Very Hurt - The target is very impressed with the character's abilities.
Incapacitated - The target is awestruck.
Near Death - The target is struck speechless with awe at the character's prowess.
Impress can be used as a complementary technique to Charm or Persuade, as described below. For dramatic speeches, check Persuade for results.
Example: Joe meets Jane at the high school prom and tries to Impress her with his Dance skill. Unfortunately, Joe has only Mediocre Dance skill, but Good Confidence. Jane has Good Wit. The gamemaster sets the difficulty of the attempt at Fair. Joe rolls a +1 for a Fair result -- not quite good enough to get a positive result, but at least he hasn't made a fool of himself.


An effort to Intimidate is like an effort to Impress, but with the deliberate attempt to frighten an opponent. If successful, it may handicap the opponent in combat. Unsuccessful efforts will lead to hostile reactions. This is the preferred social technique of tough guys and angsty superheroes dressed in black.

Skill: Anything that can be used to threaten. Weapon skills could be used to display combat prowess, Courtly Manners to imply you have powerful social connections, Streetwise to suggest friends in low places, etc.
ODF: Confidence
DDF: The best of Confidence or Ego
A character with a significant and obvious combat advantage should get a +1 to Skill, +2 for a Large advantage (for example, ogre vs. normal human). Likewise, a character at a significant seeming disadvantage should receive a -1 or more(a halfling attempting to intimidate a human for example). The advantage or disadvantage must be obvious to the defender.
Scratch - Target is mildly unnerved and will hesitate. If attacked, he will fight normally, but if attacking first, will be at -1 for the first round.
Hurt - Target is frightened and will be reluctant to attack. He will be at -1 in combat.
Very Hurt - Target is very frightened and will not attack first. He will be at -2 in combat.
Incapacitated - Target is terrified and will be at -3 in combat.
Near Death - Target is completely cowed and will either surrender or flee.
If using Intimidate to interrogate, check Persuade for likely results.
Example: Old West gunslinger Deadeye Crane finds himself confronting the self-named El Paso Kid, son of a man Deadeye killed many years ago. Deadeye doesn't want to kill the Kid, so instead tries to Intimidate him with a display of marksmanship. He points to a distant apple tree, draws his pistol and shoots away the stems of two apples. The GM decides that Gun skill is used for both attack and defense skill. Deadeye has Legendary skill (that's why they call him Deadeye) and Great Confidence, for an ODF of +2. The Kid has Good Gun skill, Good Confidence and Fair Ego. Since his Confidence is higher than his Ego, the Kid uses his Confidence for a DDF of +1. Deadeye's RDF is +1. Deadeye rolls a +1, giving him a result of Legendary+1. The Kid rolls 0, for a result of Good. Deadeye's degree of success is 4, +1 for his RDF, gives a result of +5 or Very Hurt. The Kid is badly shaken by Deadeye's display and will be at -2 in any combat.


An effort to Persuade involves coming up with a logical, pseudo-logical, or otherwise cunning argument to convince the target to provide information or follow a certain course of action.
Skill: Diplomacy and Fast Talk are both appropriate. Other Skills may be used depending on the player's imagination and gamemaster's discretion.
ODF: Wit
DDF: Wit. However, if the attempt to Persuade goes against the character's principles, use the best of Ego or Wit.
Scratch - Target is willing to cooperate, if it's something he's likely to do anyway
Hurt - Target will cooperate with suggestions that involve no significant costs or risks, or actions he wouldn't mind doing.
Very Hurt - Target will cooperate with suggestions that may put him at minor risk, involve minor cost, or that he would normally be opposed to doing.
Incapacitated - Target will cooperate with suggestions that may put him at major risk or involve major cost, or that he is strongly opposed to doing.
Near Death - Target is completely bamboozled and will cooperate with truly ludicrous suggestions.
Example: Ragnar the Reckless is trying to talk a town watchman into letting him go after he was caught out after the city curfew. Ragnar hints that he is willing to pay a bribe to get out of trouble. The gamemaster decides this makes the suggestion one that the watchman is inclined to follow, and so Ragnar only needs a Scratch result. Ragnar has Fair Fast Talk and Great Wit. The Watchman has Fair Guile (used to resist Fast Talk) and Fair Wit. Ragnar gets a +1 and the watchman rolls a -1, giving Ragnar a result of Very Hurt. Ragnar gets away with breaking curfew, at a reasonable price.

Repeated Effort and Complementary Techniques

A player may attempt the same technique on the same target, but at a cumulative -1 per effort. Alternately, a player may follow up one technique with a different one. If the first technique is successful, the player might get a bonus to the second technique as follows:
Scratch: +1
Hurt: +2
Very Hurt: +3
Incapacitated: +4
Near Death: +5
For example, if a player gets a Hurt result using Charm, he may follow it with an attempt to Persuade at +2. In the example above from Impress, if Joe had gotten a Scratch result he would have been at +1 to Charm Jane. It is up to the gamemaster to decide whether a given technique is complementary. On the other hand, a failed attempt gives a -1 penalty to a complementary technique. With these rules, social combat can be as detailed as physical combat. Why let the sword swingers and gunmen get all the screen time? This system certainly isn't necessary for Fudge, but can add a lot of detail for diplomats and con artists.

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