The Most Important Rules in My Game

Originally published at Mob | United | Malcolm | Sheppard. Please leave any comments there.

These are my translations/simplifications of the DMG’s social systems — the ones I use in The Hundred Millionth Day game. I basically converted these to a d20 from d%, made a few implied things explicit and matched up tables that were already very similar, but made few (not none, but not many) changes that affect the actual output of the system or the in-game factors that influence it.

These rules determine what NPCs do in my game. I use them frequently. Using them has completely changed how AD&D feels. The game has an edgier quality and an understanding that enemies don’t just fight to the death, but for as long as they can stand the stress. Monsters don’t always attack. Allies matter.

I didn’t invent this system. I just adopted and tweaked it after ignoring it for over 20 years.

So:

Social Systems

The Social Check Table below governs NPC actions in situations where they are not determined by well-developed motives or story logic. The DM uses these as is, or uses them as one factor when it comes to deciding NPC actions. Checks occur at break points: occasions where a roll is warranted due to an important event or condition. Like other rolls, a natural 20 applies a +5 bonus and a natural 1 earns a -5 penalty.

Optionally, players may use these systems as well to help them decide how to react in a particular situation. They are never required to obey the results of these rolls.

To simplify things a bit, checks are generally designed so that rolls of under 20 can be considered “failures” (NPCs dislike PCs, flee battle or are disloyal) and rolls of 20 or higher are considered “successes” (NPCs make friends, stay in the fight or remain allies). You may use this to simplify rolls into Yes/No binaries.

Types of Checks

Reaction Check: A reaction check is used to determine the attitudes of one or more NPCs to a group of characters.

  • Roll 1d20 + 10 + Medium Charisma Bonus + Modifiers
  • Roll once per break point for the group
  • In an encounter, the party designates a leader. (This can change from one break point to the next – players’ choice if it makes sense.) The leader’s modifier is used to determine the disposition of the encountered group or individual. If there is more than one individual in the encountered group, other characters may prompt additional checks interacting with individuals.

Morale Check: Use morale checks to determine the disposition of enemy forces – whether they will fight, flee, or surrender.

  • Roll 1d20 + 10 + Modifiers
  • The DM rolls at each break point and adjusts results if they cannot be easily rationalized.

Loyalty Check: A loyalty check is used to determine the trustworthiness of henchmen, hirelings and allied NPCs.

  • Roll 1d20 + 10 + Small Charisma Bonus
  • The DM chooses whether he/she or the leader’s player rolls at each break point. The DM may keep the roll or some modifiers a secret.

Break Points

Break points trigger social rolls. A DM may call for a social roll at any time or ignore a break point, but unless he or she intentionally exercises that privilege he or she should make the appropriate check when its break point arises.

Reaction Break Points

  • Start of encounter
  • Non-leader PC engages individual for the first time
  • Each organized offer in parley/bargaining
  • Significant fact revealed (character possesses desirable magic item; NPC learns PC allies are nearby; servant of an important NPC reveals himself, etc.)
  • Dramatically appropriate occasions (as DM judges)
  • End of encounter

Morale Break Points (And Modifiers)

  • First enemy down (Note: “Down” indicates flight, surrender, incapacitation or death); +1
  • First ally down; -1
  • Enemy leader (as perceived by NPCs) down; +3
  • Own leader down; -3
  • Frightening combatant  revealed (monster, paladin, etc. – based on NPC standards); -2
  • Horrific event (devoured by monster, weird spell, etc.) claims ally; -4
  • Quarter of own force down; -2
  • Quarter of enemy force down; +2
  • Half of own force down; -4
  • Half of enemy force down; +4
  • Enemy force routed or broken; +6 (determines pursuit and surrender opportunities)
  • Enemy revealed as greatly superior (each round this holds true); -1
  • Dramatically appropriate occasions (as DM judges)

Loyalty Break Points

  • Offered a bribe
  • Coerced to act against leader or leader’s allies
  • Opportunity to steal
  • Leader breaks a promise
  • Leader or ally insults NPC
  • Horrific encounter
  • Ordered to help new ally
  • Argument with other ally
  • Ordered into danger
  • Put into danger without consent
  • In combat with superior foe
  • Offered surrender terms
  • Leader down
  • Forced to diminish personal resources
  • Dramatically appropriate occasions (as DM judges)

Check Modifiers

Reaction

  • Characters are invaders: -4
  • Language barrier: -2
  • Place of business; visitors expected: +3
  • Civilized region: +2
  • Characters threatening or insulting: -1 to -5
  • Characters polite or kind: +1 to +5
  • Characters appear tougher than encountered group: +1 to +5
  • Characters appear to be weak: -2
  • Misc. DM modifiers

Morale

  • See Morale break points
  • Charisma check to Intimidate: +2 on a success (1d20 + Cha, score 20+)
  • Misc. DM modifier

Loyalty

  • Misc. DM modifier
  • Casual ally: -2
  • Captured and coerced: -3
  • Slave: -6
  • Henchman: +1
  • Long term hireling: 0
  • Occasional help: -1
  • Association of less than a month: -1
  • Association one month to one year: 0
  • Association over a year to five years: +2
  • Association more than five years: +5
  • 0 level, not trained to fight: -4
  • 0 level: -2
  • 0 level, veteran: 0
  • 1st level: +1
  • 2nd or higher level: +4
  • No pay:  -4
  • Inconstant and low pay: -2
  • Partial share: 0
  • Equal share: +2
  • Gets performance bonuses: +2 (in addition to usual pay adj.)
  • Per step difference in alignment: -1
  • Leader good aligned: +2
  • Leader lawful aligned: +2
  • Leader or allies generally fair: +1 to +5
  • Leader or allies generally callous or unfair: -1 to -5
  • Leader/allies coerce through threats: apply adjustment of 2 to 6 based on threat. Add this to rolls of 20+ and subtract from rolls of less than 20. NPC will always attempt to escape harm through the most expedient means regardless.
  • Treatment of other NPCs: average best and worst morale modifiers among other NPCs and halve the result.
  • Other adjustments: See DMG(1st Edition) for guidelines

Social Check Table

Adjusted Roll Reaction Roll

  • Spokesperson PC Player rolls Reaction Check that applies to NPC group.
  • Other PCs roll Reaction Checks to affect individuals.
  • Opportunities as per Break Points
Morale Check

  • DM rolls 1d20 +10 + Adj.
  • For entire force or individual as called for at Break Points
Loyalty Check

  • DM or PC Leader rolls Loyalty Check at Break Points
11 or less Very Hostile

  • Immediate Morale Check at +2 to attack
Flee Recklessly

  • Runs with no concern for allies, may blunder into danger
Hateful

  • Despises leader
  • Will desert, betray or harm at earliest opportunity
  • Morale Check at +2 to attack leader or allies
12-15 Hostile

  • Will threaten or deceive
  • Morale Check to attack
Organized Retreat or Surrender

  • Organized fighting withdrawal
  • May surrender for few to no terms
Disloyal

  • Will betray if it brings advantage at minimal risk
  • Roll next Break Point at -4
16-19 Uncertain and Negative

  • Will take advantage of characters if there is little risk
  • Reroll when dramatically appropriate at -2
Fight Defensively

  • Will not press the attack
  • Reroll next round at -2
  • May surrender or parley for honourable terms
Fairweather

  • Will betray to avoid harm
  • Roll next Break Point at -2
20-21 Neutral

  • Reroll when dramatically appropriate
Fight for Now

  • Reroll next round
  • Open to parley
Typical

  • Will support leader and take moderate risks
  • Obeys orders but shows little initiative
22-25 Uncertain and Positive

  • Will provide trivial help
  • Reroll when dramatically appropriate at +2
Fight On

  • Will pursue if it is tactically sound
  • Might accept a surrender
  • No Morale Check until next Break Point
Loyal

  • Will take same risks as leader
  • Obeys orders with some enthusiasm
26-29 Friendly

  • May help for compensation or for little risk
Regroup

  • Will pursue
  • Will not accept an easy surrender
  • Ignore next Break Point
Very Loyal

  • Will take serious but not suicidal risks for leader
  • Obedient and thorough
  • Roll next Break Point at +2
30 or more Very Friendly

  • May help for no compensation and some risk
Ferocious

  • Will not accept surrender
  • No more Break Points
  • Fight to the Death!
Fanatical

  • Will take suicidal risks
  • Proactive and absolutely obedient.
  • Roll next Break Point at +4
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