Monday, March 17, 2014

GURPS Social Academy: The Reaction roll

This post is part of a the GURPS Social Academy in support of my new campaign The Empress of India.

The later posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.

I consider the reaction roll as a way to turn GMing into playing: you got to be prepared for sharp turns and true tests of robustness of the storyline.

GMing with reaction rolls

The reaction roll determines the attitude of a NPC or a group of NPC towards one or more PCs. It is automatic, done in secret by the GM if the reaction is not already scripted by the narrative. Many of the social modifiers apply to this check. Disadvantages may also be relevant and resisted. The timing of a reaction roll depend on how much time is needed to determine an attitude.

Altering reaction levels

The narrative may alter the reaction level. A player may deliberately alter reaction by performing influence checks. A success should improve the level by 1 category, even of the MoS if the contest isn’t sufficient to do so.

Effect of positive reaction levels

Some levels act as automatic influence checks. Favours scan be granted within specified limits for good and better reactions. NPC with good and better reactions can be purchased as contact, allies and patrons. Neutral NPCs can be purchased with the “minimal intervention” modifier.

Effect of negative reaction levels

These NPCs act as enemies. The commitment of a NPC to the downfall of a PC depends on the story and the level. The GM may allow to purchase an enemy if the NPC may have a lasting effect on the campaign.

Why using reactions

Reaction rolls add a lot of unpredictability for the GM as it may send a story in a wide range of direction. Sometimes, this may be a bad idea, sometime it is just a fun way to play with fire. Most importantly, reaction rolls allow PCs to influence a story by using good role play and their hard-earned social traits. If they spend points for it… They should be able to have fun with them.

Playing with Reaction rolls (examples)

Nathan walks into a bar

Nathan, a military man, walks into a bar which main clientele are Mughal Army officers. Since his Savoir-Faire(military) is 12 or more, he gets + 1 other officers. He doesn’t really outrank anyone (Lt vs Lt on average), but his lord status (3) is one higher than the average (+ 1). However, both English and Mughals are chauvinistic. Nathan fails to resist his (rolls 16) while the clientele does (rolls 5). Chauvinism causes -1 overall because Nathan can’t quite hide his contempt (dirty glass, improper behaviours, etc.). Nathan also has an irritating catch-phrase “Oh, I remember Peshawar…”, he pass his Will check and avoid factoring in this annoying quirk. Finally, one can argue that since Nathan is fat and unfit, he comes across as a poor image of an army man (-1).

The reaction roll is 11 + 0 = 11. The clientele is neutral to Nathan. Good thing that he has a military background or else he would have had a poor reaction (9).

Special case where Nathan has Savoir-Faire(military)-10

Let’s assume a case similar to the example above, but where Nathan doesn’t have 12 in his Savoir-Faire. In this case, Nathan should check against Savoir-Faire(military) in order to make the bonus apply. For flavour, it is possible that a penalty be imposed on the skill if the GM rules that the decorum in the Mughal army is different enough than in the English army. Say, Savoire-Faire(military)-10.

Gene confronts protestors

Gene decides to meet with the protestors outside the embassy. The protestors are chanting against the presence of English on Delhi, and specifically against her presence. The GM sets the reaction to very poor. They want her out, but are not fired up to the point that they would commit reckless acts such as commit crimes just because they don’t like her.

After the session, and because Gene hasn’t appeased them, the GM “awards” the protestors as an enemy group (base: – 10, frequency: 9 or less, watchers) [-2cp]. These may just come back to be annoying later on.

In this case, a reaction roll is likely to throw the story off if the protestors turns out to be friendly. It makes more sense to set a reaction and let Gene performs an Influence check to tune the reaction.

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