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I'm a new DM and have just started a 4e game as Play by Post.

The game has started with one character (Bob) recruiting in a pub and the first response was from another character (Al) wanting to negotiate with the hiring PC for a bigger cut of the spoils / initial pay. The player is new to (offline) RPG's and wants to roll Diplomacy to see if they "Win" the argument and get the agreed pay increase!

Obviously I'm delighted that the players are getting into things and they provided some good description of what they said and how they pitched thier argument. However, I feel it's too simple to simply say: "roll for it" and see if it works, since that doesn't give much agency to the original player. My thoughts on options were something like:

  1. Al rolls diplomacy vs a Hard DC. This seems too simple, too hard and fast.
  2. Al rolls diplomacy, opposed by Bob's diplomacy (or perhaps Bluff if he gives a good retort). This sounds better, giving the other PC a chance to get involved.
  3. Start a "Skill Challange" type affair and do either 1 or 2 above, requiring a certain number of successes before failures. I could see a failure either being 1) A failed roll or 2) letting Bob make skillchecks back at Al in turns. This sounds good in theory, but I want also to keep things moving and not bog down.

How do you suggest I handle inter-character arguments / discussions / negotiations of this sort in a way that allows "conflict" to be resolved via rollplaying, but involving the skills the characters have?

Accepted answer particularly because of the last paragraph

Lastly, I really want to ask (and I wonder this in my group when these situations come up), what purpose does this conflict serve to the narrative? Is it just petty infighting amongst PCs/Players? or does it serve a narrative purpose? If it's enhancing the roleplaying experience for the players than that's great, but if it's just frustrating to all involved then narrate it an move on.

which made me question what I was actually trying to achieve. See my comment on the answer. Many thanks all!

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This is one of those times where the goals of the characters and the goals of the players are at odds. It's perfectly reasonable that the character is going to want a greater share of the treasure, and may take up a hard negotiating position to get it. However, the players (ideally) are looking to get past the negotiation stage and on to the adventure — and with the use of treasure parcels in 4e, the idea of a "percentage of the treasure" is a narrative device anyway; you're all going to get the same amount anyway, more or less. – Jadasc May 22 '12 at 12:01
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Lets start with some caveats, PvP interactions in D&D 4e are poorly defined and effectively mechanized. The second part is that your group's social contract should include the expectations for PvP conflict, the resolution method and whether or not PvP combat is allowed (among other things, there are some good answers about social contracts here if you need more info).

Now, in 4e Diplomacy is always opposed by a DC. However, the DC should be set based on the character's attitude, number of characters influenced and temporary modifiers that depend on what is trying to be accomplished. A suggestion for allowing the opposing player to be involved is to set the DC (a bit lower than you would normally), and allow the Player to roll a check (maybe a Wisdom/CHA Check?) to add to the DC (maybe at 1/2 check).

PvP makes it a bit more difficult to decide a DC. However the amount of leeway given to the DM should allow the DM to decide (based on intended plot) how to set the DC so that either a success or failure is meaningful.

Lastly, I really want to ask (and I wonder this in my group when these situations come up), what purpose does this conflict serve to the narrative? Is it just petty infighting amongst PCs/Players? or does it serve a narrative purpose? If it's enhancing the roleplaying experience for the players than that's great, but if it's just frustrating to all involved then narrate it an move on.

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Thanks for your points, interesting stuff. As a new DM, while I've heard of much of what you talk about, social contracts etc. how to implement them I'm still learning. I also have 2/3 players who are new to ANY RPG, so there is going to be a bit of working-it-out-as-we-go as people grasp what's involved - myself included. Your point about how it serves the narrative is excellent and I guess that should be my focus. Allowing the guys to RP the argument / discussion is fine, railroading them down a Stats / rules based resolution seems restrictive. – xan May 22 '12 at 13:08
@xan you don't need to even write down a social contract. Just take a few minutes at the start of the next session to help your players verbalized and come to an understanding on a few things, what happens when a PC dies, how do we handle PvP conflict, those kinds of things. It doesn't have to be formal, you don't even need to say "social contract" you just need to develop your space so you can all have fun. – wax eagle May 22 '12 at 15:26
@xan if you don't want to railroad them, then narration is your friend. let them decide on their own what the resolution is, if it takes too long, make them decide it between sessions. If their characters are at a true impasses have the other party members intervene to work it out. If you feel like the mechanics are railroading the RP, then step out of them and let the people playing the characters decide. (might help to step out of character, decide resolution first, then RP the scene) – wax eagle May 22 '12 at 15:27
Thanks for your comments everyone. What I've taken from this is that I was looking for a mechanical solution to something which doesn't need it. I have told my players that PvP "arguments" won't be resolved with rolls - the rolls are there for the cases where there isn't another person RP'ing the character! I've encouraged them to RP in character to get what their characters want and be prepared to compromise where it would make sense for their characters (ie: not to become too personally attached / entrenched in a position thier character might be argued out of etc.) – xan May 22 '12 at 15:49
@xan that's the right answer IMO. – wax eagle May 22 '12 at 18:28

To start with I rarely let the dice be the ultimate say in some matters. I have even gone as far as rule a character merely knocked out and not killed when I noticed the PC was have a real bad night with the dice. Or sometimes I let dice be random chance or fate such as a PC wanted to seduce a demi-goddess I told them I would let them succeed if they rolled 6 10's on a d10 (i.e. 1 in a million chance).

IMHO you should let them discuss and talk it out and when need use a skill check/opposed skill such as Bluff,Diplomacy,Intimidate,Sense Motive,Spot (to tell if someone is lying), Knowledge (I allow PCs to take Sociology and Psychology and other advanced subjects if their INT is over 12). And allow this for a period of time or until a certain amount of "points are won"

Example of what I am talking about a fighter (Torg) and thief (Shadow) are discussing who needs a +2 dagger more

Torg - I really can use the dagger (Intimidate - opposed) Shadow - (Sense Motive - opposed) - This is a battle of wits, not muscles Torg - I need it if my sword is taken from me like a few days ago fighting those bandits Shadow - I can do great things with that dagger, daggers give thieves their power (Bluff - opposed) Torg - (Spot - opposed) - I think you are lying Shadow - Maybe we should let the group decide (Diplomacy and Knowledge) Torg - I agree

In the end the party would vote and decide who gets the dagger.

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Your answer looks decent, but this question is tagged 4e, and your answer looks more 3/3.5 (though the problem is really a system independent proble). Would it be possible to update the answer to the 4e skill set? Insight in place of Sense Motive and to tell if people are lying would be the obvious substitution to me. – Simon Withers May 23 '12 at 0:43
Actually I haven't played 4 edition enough times to answer the question using the 4 edition rules. – OrionDarkwood May 23 '12 at 17:36

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