Of Storms and Stone
Game Mechanics - Social Influence
This is a brief overview of the social influence system. For more information, see pg.213-224 of the Exalted 3rd Edition rulebook.
The social influence system is used for resolving interactions where characters are trying to manipulate, persuade or coerce each other. The core of the system are influence rolls and their interaction with a character's intimacies.
Intimacies represent a character's relationships, beliefs and goals. Social influence that opposes one of a character's intimacies will be more strongly resisted, while influence that aligns with an intimacy will be much harder to disagree with.
Without exploiting an Intimacy, persuasion isn't possible. No matter how charismatic you are, a stranger isn't going to join your cause you just because you say so. There must be a reason for them to do so. Perhaps they trust and respect you, or hate someone you oppose, or seek to further their own goals, or stand up for what they believe in. All of these motives are Intimacies.
The strength of an Intimacy is described by its Intensity – Minor, Major or Defining.
- Minor Intimacies are notable relationships or beliefs that have some influence over a character's actions but are not an integral part of who they are. They do not have a strong influence outside their direct context. Characters will usually let their Minor Intimacies dictate their behaviour in directly relevant situations, as long as it does not act against a stronger Intimacy or their own self interest.
- Major Intimacies are relationships or beliefs that influence the way the character acts in many areas of life. Major Intimacies influence the character's behaviour even in situations where they are only indirectly relevant and might lead them to act against their own self-interest if the consequences are not too severe.
- Defining Intimacies represent the most important things in a character's life, the relatoships and beliefs that they place above all else and refuse to compromise. Defining Intimacies influence the character's behaviour in many situations, and may be enough for them to die for.
Influence Rolls & Social Actions
Influence Rolls are used to alter a character's feelings or beliefs, or convince them to do something for you. These rolls always use one of the Social Attributes (Charisma, Manipulation or Appearance), though the Ability used vary depending on the situation.
Influence rolls are made by taking Social Actions. Social actions represent conversations, speeches, threats, interrogations, seductions, dramatic performances, letters, poems, and any other form of social interaction. They are defined within game mechanics by what they do:
- Instill: Instill actions change the feelings and beliefs of others. This may be an attempt to believe or feel something new (creating a new Intimacy), or alter something they already believe or feel (weakening or strengthening an existing Intimacy).
- Persuade: Persuade actions convince others to do something for you. Persuading someone without a supporting Intimacy is limited to trivial and risk-free actions, and more serious actions require the support of stronger intimacies. eg. A Major Intimacy of patriotism is enough to convince a farmer to join a militia and fight for his country.
- Bargain: Bargain actions are similar to persuade actions, but don't depend on Intimacies. Instead, you must offer a bride, gift or favor that the character believes is worth the task.
- Threaten: Threaten actions are similar to bargain actions, except instead of offering a boon in exchange for the action you threaten consequences for failing to comply. This can be effective but tends to have negative consequences for the character's opinion of you.
- Inspire: Inspire actions incite emotions and strong passions in the hearts of others. You choose what emotion you wish to inspire, but do not control how the character acts upon it. Inspire actions most often use the Performance Ability, and do not suffer the usual penalties for attempting Social actions against groups.
- Read Intentions: Read Intentions actions allow you to discern what a character wishes to achieve during an interaction, or it may be used to attempt to identify the character's Intimacies. Unlike other Social Actions, read intentions actions do not use a Social Attribute.
Guile, Resolve and Appearance
Guile represents a character's ability to conceal their thoughts and feelings. It is used to defend against Read Intentions actions.
Resolve represents a character's strength of will and ability to resist influence and persuasion. It is used to resist instill, inspire, persuade, bargain and threaten actions.
Appearance may also overawe and impress the targets even when it is not being used as the Attribute in an influence roll. A character gains a bonus to instill and persuade actions if their Appearance Attribute is higher than the target's Resolve.
Resisting Influence Rolls
Even a character's Resolve is overcome by an influence roll, they are still able to take action to resist the effects.
If the influence roll was an attempt to change how the character feels (eg. an Instill or Inspire action) this can simply be resisted by spending Willpower. The character can continue resisting influence as long as he has Willpower to spend.
If the influence roll was an attempt to make the character do something, they enter a Decision Point. They must choose another of their Intimacies of equal or greater intensity than the one which supported the influence roll, that cannot have been used to increase Resolve against the influence roll. If the Storyteller accepts that this chosen Intimacy would make him reject the influence, the character may spend Willpower to resist the influence rolls. Otherwise, resistance is impossible.
There are limits to what can be achieved with social influence. Requests that are so antithetical to the nature and personality that they cannot hope to succeed are said to be unacceptable influence. A character may resist unacceptable influence without spending willpower or facing a decision point.
A player may choose that their character follows the course of action put forward by the unacceptable influence, but the character cannot be coerced into it.
Unacceptable influence includes:
- Any Instill action to strengthen or weaken an Intimacy, that does not exploit an appropriately strong Intimacy.
- Any persuasion attempt which doesn't exploit an Intimacy strong enough to support the task.
- Any bargain attempt which fails to offer a properly enticing incentive, or threaten action which is insufficiently threatening.
- Any influence that would cause the character to kill himself or do something he knows would result in his death.
- Any influence that would cause a character to completely abandon or end a Defining Intimacy.
- Any seduction attempt that violates a character's sexual orientation.