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I'm running a campaign with a few nonviolent characters. I understand how to handle physical fights, but am a bit at a loss how to deal with "social conflict", where characters need to overcome some resistance from NPCs to achieve their goals.

As Provoke is intended to harm others, it doesn't seem to be a good choice for nonviolent characters. Rapport seems to be a better fit for characters that try to convince the NPC to hand out that piece of information that was supposed to remain a secret. However, what would be the opposed skill? Empathy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I edited out your question about how to make Rapport vs Empathy an interesting contest. It's really a separate question (and probably opinion-based). Feel free to revert it, though, if you disagree! \$\endgroup\$ – Red Orca Sep 12 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ What edition of Fate/FATE is this about? I'm guessing Fate Core? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 12 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fate core/condensed. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonas Sep 13 at 20:16
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In a conflict, you intend to harm your opponent

A conflict isn't simply conflicting goals; instead, the Fate SRD section on conflicts says:

In a conflict, characters are actively trying to harm one another.

This is followed by some examples of mental conflicts:

It could also be a tough interrogation, a psychic assault, or a shouting match with a loved one.

In all of these examples, Provoke is likely the means of attack, defended by Will.

In a contest, you don't attack, you overcome

Based on your description, it sounds like you need a contest:

Whenever two or more characters have mutually exclusive goals, but they aren’t trying to harm each other directly, they’re in a contest.

In the simple example of one PC and one NPC engaging in an extended conversation with opposing goals, the PC and NPC would each make an appropriate skill roll; highest roll wins that exchange. By default, they both take the overcome action. Both might use Rapport, reflecting a civil conversation. The NPC might use Resources to distract the PC with wealth, while the PC uses Investigate to pick out the artifact they need amongst the clutter. If both the NPC and PC are hiding their true intentions, they might use Deceive.

The key takeaway is: contests allow for effectively any two skills to "oppose" one another, since they rely on overcome instead of attack/defend. The contest example in the SRD pits Lore (for casting a teleportation spell) against Athletics (for reaching the caster before they finish the spell).

Contest participants can also use create an advantage, which is defended as normal. However, direct attacks signal the end of a contest and the beginning of a conflict.

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It depends on the type of social conflict.

If Empathy is to be used in a social conflict as an "against": it's usually that Deceit would be rolled against empathy. You are attempting there, to use your empathy reading to tell if someone is deceiving you or not. In turn, a PC trying to lie would be their deceit vs the other character's empathy roll.

But for what you are specifically saying: How I run as GM, usually (there are exceptions depending on the conflict), is that you would rolling against Will, to convince someone to do something. As it is trying to convince them against their conviction not to.

Rapport (ability to talk someone into) vs Will (ability to hold your decision/will to not spill the information).

To back up this assertion, the fate website (fate-srd) lists a "will stunt", specifically for social sort of situations:

Indomitable: +2 to defend against Provoke attacks specifically related to intimidation and fear.

Speaking of: Provoke is also essentially intimidation, it doesn't have to be physical harm. It's a social skill/riling someone up through that:

Provoke is the skill about getting someone’s dander up and eliciting negative emotional response from them—fear, anger, shame, etc. It’s the “being a jerk” skill.

And so, provoke could still work: it would still be pitted against will. It's just a matter of what kind of approach to convince is being used.

"You better tell me you coward" (provoke) / "Listen, here's why you should tell me" (rapport).

Here is more on what the website has to say, as an example of a provoke vs will social situation:

Okay, Fine!: You can use Provoke in place of Empathy to learn a target’s aspects, by bullying them until they reveal one to you. The target defends against this with Will. (If the GM thinks the aspect is particularly vulnerable to your hostile approach, you get a +2 bonus.)

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