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I've read through the DFRPG book, but I'm still now quite sure how, or when, you should use the social stress track. When should a player take social stress, and what do you roll for the attack and defense? What does social conflict look like, anyway? I would love a basic example of it.

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3 Answers 3

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In the Dresden Files RPG, there are three types of conflict:

  1. Physical Conflict
  2. Mental Conflict
  3. Social Conflict

These three types of conflict are separate, but parallel, and can become a bit confusing when utilizing them, because they can occur at the same time, given the correct circumstances. Physical and Mental conflict were pretty easy for me to get a handle on; someone's body is affected by physical trauma, i.e. diseases, poisons, baseball bats, affecting their physical stability, or assault their mind psychically, i.e. tell them their mother's dead or that there is no Santa Claus, affecting their mental stability.

Social conflict is the same thing- you're inflicting damage to the other person. But in this case, you're inflicting damage to the other person's standing or face or whatever you want to call their place in society.

On p.215 of the Your Story rulebook, there is a whole section on resolving social conflict. One thing to remember is that you have one set of consequences, and combat monsters tend to have low social stress tracks. So while you might not be able to take someone on, if you can appear to have the ability, you can take them out before they ever get a chance to bring their mighty thews to play. And even after the fact, if you can use good enough rationale, you can shift combat from physical or mental to social.

This allows little used skills to come to the fore in combat- Deceit, Intimidation, and Rapport to attack, and Empathy and Rapport to defend. Other skills can also be used if it would be appropriate to the situation; Contacts and Resources immediately come to mind. To a larger degree than with other combat, Social Conflict should be a more fluid thing, as if someone isn't intimidated by your threats, shifting to Deceit might help to bolster that intimidation attempt.

The thing I really love and that is downplayed is the fact that Social Conflict has a longer range than other types of conflict, and can be used by proxy; it's one of the better ways to represent the intricacies of real life systems. An example of this is the use of Contacts or Resources to influence the more ephemeral parts of a character's life, as in the case of Marcone putting pressure on Dresden through the use of his influence without even being in the same room, or the frequent run-ins that Dresden has with others that have more influence manipulating him from afar.

Social conflict is one of the hardest parts of the Dresden Files to adjudicate in my opinion, which is one of the reasons its quite easy to overlook. But when a Social combat monster gets rolling, though you might not die from being taken out, you might just lose everything else.

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Social Conflicts are any conflict where
a. one side or the other gets their way without violence
b. one side or the other convinces a 3rd party of something
c. one side is interrogating/interviewing/intimidating the other.

Social Stress is the normal damage type in social conflicts of this nature, and normally, the result is a consequence relevant to the nature of the conflict.

So, if physical damage and economic damage are inappropriate, social is usually the type of damage to be done. (Tho' some other types exist as well in some flavors of FATE 3.0.)

So, if attempting to use Intimidation to get your way, you'd roll Intimidation, probably against Discipline, but variable depending upon the specific means of resisting, tho' if it's a pissing-match type contest, possibly against Intimidation. If the person has a religious reason to resist the intimidation, conviction instead.

Trying to seduce someone could be done with Rapport or Presence, depending upon how you're doing it, and resisted with discipline (willpower) or conviction (religious based virtue). Tho' intimidation could also be used to resist via the grope, gasp, point and laugh method....

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Just as the name implies, you use the social stress track for damage received in a social conflict. From YS p.215

Social conflicts occur when the opposing agendas of two or more characters are resolved without physical violence, calling upon a different set of skills and trappings to resolve them. The damage done by these conflicts can be highly variable, ranging from simply instilling a false sense of security in the loser to ruining his public reputation and hurting his relationships.

The skills mainly used to attack in a social conflict are Deceit, Intimidation, and Rapport; those three and Empathy could all be used to make social maneuvers. Empathy and Rapport are most commonly used to defend. This list is not exhaustive, however, and depending on the context of the interaction, there might be situations where another skill (such as Conviction or Contacts) may seem a better fit.

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