I'm GMing a D&D 5e campaign, and my party is about to participate in a noble ball. I'll use an analogy to make my question clear: there are nobles and people in this ball with valuable information and things the players want. Think about those as treasures in a dungeon. I'm having a hard time thinking about how to put monsters and traps to make getting to the treasure room a non-trivial task. I could, of course, design the encounter so that if people are nice to the nobles they simply get what they want. But that's dull.
But I want to design an encounter that contains two somewhat conflicting aspects:
- (i) does not reduce the whole activity to a simple Deception/Intimidation/Persuasion check or something like that. I would like something that rewards good observations and decisions, making the activity fun and engaging for the players.
- (ii) It must be something that is easier for sociable characters to do. After all, maybe I got terrible social skills, but the bard I'm playing is a different beast entirely. I think a successful check should make the activity easier for the player, but not exhaust the situation.
I was thinking in something in the following lines: a good check in Insight might make me, as a GM, explicitly tell the player that the NPC they are engaging has a specific characteristic, like pride, vanity or shyness. But from there I'm having a hard time to think how to make the encounter interesting.
How can I do this within the existing mechanics of the game?