Social Scores- Best Practices


(John Coleman) #1

Hi all! I’m hoping folks are willing to share some of their best practices and ideas on how to run engaging Social Scores.

The crew in my game is a group of Hawkers, and they tend to need to negotiate a lot…whether it’s to set up a sale, or to broker a truce, or create an alliance…several of our scores have wound up consisting of them sitting down with another Faction and trying to work a deal.

So after having run a few of these, I’ve found that I struggle to come up with cool ideas to keep them interesting. They often feel like they should consist of one roll…mostly Sway, but sometimes Consort or maybe even Command…and then be done. I try to make it consist of at least a few rolls, and use Clocks to determine success or failure.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to spice things up a bit? Do you have any suggestions on good complications to introduce on either a failed roll or on a 4-5? I feel like I’ve resorted to the target asking a favor in the form of having our crew eliminate a rival of theirs once too often. I’d like to keep things varied a bit, and also not lean too heavily on things devolving into a fight.

Thanks in advance for any advice!


(Spenser (he/him)) #2

The next score my players have planned is social and the things I’m planning on leaning on are clocks (as you mentioned) but I’ve also been asking myself, “Who would be upset by this? Who loses if negotiations go well?” Success in Doskvol is a zero-sum game, so if the PCs are doing well, it’s at someone else’s expense. I have a couple factions in mind who may interrupt things depending on how it goes—not necessarily coming in guns blazing, but who will definitely need to be dealt with one way or another.

Something I have in the back of my mind for down the road is also spicing up social score with internal power struggles within the other party—maybe it’s not so clear who’s in charge anymore and the PCs need to pick a side and fight or hope they can seal the deal before things fall apart. Or maybe the struggle was settled before they even get there and they’re forced to deal with whoever the new management is.


(Tim Denee) #3

I try to break it down like I would a thieving or fighting heist; a series of obstacles, and some potential complications. You usually wouldn’t open a theft heist with the crew cracking the final safe, or an assassination with them about to pull the trigger on their target.

Like those other heist types, I would start with the target and then build outwards from there. So let’s imagine it’s a social score to set up a sale of narcotics to the Billhooks. Checking the faction’s details in the book, I see that their leader Tarvul is in prison, so this is going to be about organising the sale with Erin, his daughter and the current captain, in their butcher shop HQ. She’s listed as confident, deadly, ambitious.

I would put down an 8-clock across the score called “the deal falls through”, that can be ticked by any number of failed rolls; social faux-pas, bad luck, suspicion raised, etc. If the clock fills, Erin gets paranoid and calls the deal off.

Then I would set up a few clocks.

  1. Talk your way into the butcher shop HQ (depending on the plan and engagement roll, once you roll up to the butcher shop you have to talk your way past the guards).
  2. Gain Erin’s full attention. Maybe this can be during a walk-and-talk to the slaughter-house down the street. There’s no reason social scores have to be physically static, so let’s say that Erin has a short attention span and a low opinion of the PC crew, so she gives them five minutes of her time in between appointments to make their pitch.
  3. Seal the deal. The third and final clock - as a power-move, Erin is likely to seal the deal in the slaughter-house where pigs are being noisily slaughtered. If you can fill this clock, the deal’s on.

Then I would just have a list of potential complications to make things more interesting, or to use on miss or mixed-success rolls:

  • Erin’s brother Coran shows up (fierce, loyal, quiet - he wants to take over the gang instead of Erin). He’ll try, either subtly or not so subtly, to get the PC crew to deal with him instead - and he’s willing to offer a better deal than Erin to get it. Whoever they choose to deal with, the PC crew will piss off the other sibling.
  • A bluecoat patrol shows up in the street. The presence of bluecoats will make Erin suspicious; what do you do?
  • A rival hawker crew has made, or makes, a better offer to the Billhooks. What do you do?
  • One of the Billhooks thugs gets rowdy, trying to shove a PC around, insulting them. The Billhooks don’t deal with pushovers, so they’ll want you to settle this with a quick round of bare-knuckle boxing. What do you do?
  • Erin steps down to the slaughter-house floor, wrestles a pig and cuts its throat herself. She throws the knife at the feet of the PCs - can one of you step up and prove yourself? It will impress her.
  • A faction who dislikes you shows up - they’re going to cause trouble. Better shut that down quick or you might blow the deal.
  • A faction who likes you shows up and takes one of the PCs aside - they warn you to cancel the deal, that the Billhooks can’t be trusted. What do you do?

Basically what I’m looking for are:

  • Literal complications; hard decisions for the PCs
  • Small diversions that could blow up into big problems if they’re not dealt with
  • Opportunities for non-social PCs to have something to do; opportunities for a bit of physical action, even if that’s just wrestling a pig. You can also then cut between the social negotiations and the physical side-show, alternating action rolls, which has a nice dramatic effect.

(Breckon Neat) #4

This would not work for all social scores but I do think the Alaxandrian post about party planning has great advice for scores involving social events.
https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/37995/roleplaying-games/game-structure-party-planning


(Phill Cameron) #5

Thank you for sharing that; I run Blades and 5e and your posted article was helpful for both. ^^
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