RQ6E/Mythras Social Combat

The Clash of Cleverness

Overview and Purpose

Setting stakes: The first thing that happens in any Clash is that each side says what they want if they win. Stakes should not simply be contradictions of one another. “You should give me the money” versus “I do not give them the money” is boring. What does the person on the “no” side want if they win? An apology? An agreement to perform labor for them? Stakes should also be roughly in proportion: if one side asks for something that would result in serious damage to the reputation of their opponent, the opponent will surely ask for something equally weighty. Stakes are discussed and negotiated out of character.

IMPORTANT: these rules will work best if used in situations where two characters (or two sides) are trying to convince a third party of their point of view, and/or to convince the opposition to take a desired course of action. For matters that are mainly philosophical and abstract, there is no need to roll. In other words, it is rarely a good idea for one character to roll to talk another into changing something they believe. (On the other hand, people go along with plans they have reservations about all the time in the real world.)

Also, note that the results of a Clash are binding on all present. The losers may not attempt to raise the matter again, nor may the winners ask for anything further on the subject, unless and until circumstances dramatically change.

Once the stakes are set, the opponents roll for their Bodies of Argument, which are essentially the Hit Points of their side’s position. Initiative is determined, and the side with the higher Initiative chooses their first attack Approach. The two sides exchange verbal blows until one side (or both!) has been reduced to a Body of Argument of zero. Then, compromises are negotiated, and the Clash is concluded.

New Derived Stats

  1. Preeminence: Average of INT and CHA; add 1 for Gentry, 2 for Aristocracy, 3 for Ruling

  2. Incisiveness: Take sum of INT and POW: ≤5: -1d8, 6-10: -1d6, 11-15: -1d4, 16-20: -1d2, 21-25: +0, 26-30: +1d2, etc. (Ranges get wider beginning from 51-60.) Equivalent to Damage Modifier in physical combat.

Example Clashes:

  1. Brigita: I want the Children of Shadow to show me, Ivar, and Karolis where the Vale is and allow us to travel there, versus Children Leadership Council: We want Brigita to desist from this quest, and to cease aiding Ivar and Karolis in it as well. They were speaking to the audience The Children of Shadow in Turmantas. (Ivar and Karolis were not present in the scene, and thus could not be bound by the Clash’s result.)

  2. Brigita and Bendai: We want Oksana to acknowledge that what the Children did at the altar in attacking the pilgrims was justified, versus Viltautas: I want Oksana to declare the Children of Shadow to be outlaws. Their audience was Chieftain Oksana and the Court.

  3. The Abbott of the Green Diamond: I want the academic community to acknowledge the validity of our version of the history of the two faiths, versus Ivar: I want the Green Diamonds discredited and their funding cut. Their audience is the scholars and deans of a major university in Viévis.

Blow-by-blow

To determine Body of Argument: Roll 1d6 and add to half of Preeminence (in the case of a team, take the Preeminence of the team member with the best score in that stat). Initiative is not rolled; each side’s Initiative is simply the Preeminence of the team member with the highest rating in that stat. In the event of a tie, the older character speaks first.

When you attack or defend, you choose your Approach. Approaches are analogous to weapons in physical combat. Note that your roleplaying must match your intended Approach and skill. The GM is well within their rights to require you to roll the skill that best fits your presentation, even if it is one you are not trained in.

One major difference between the Clash of Cleverness and regular combat: if an offensive action is being opposed by a defensive one, both sides take turns roleplaying their speech, with the attacker speaking first, before any dice are rolled. After the in-character speaking phase, each side declares what Approach they were using, and then rolls. 

Another major difference: every team has the same number of Action Points per round, 3.

Finally, note that all rolls are opposed, not differential, except as noted in the tables below.

Approach

Skill Used

Clash Maneuvers

Damage

Special

Logic and Persuasion

Influence, Oratory

Lingering Condemnation (Critical Only), Tone Policing, A Real Debate… On the Issues!

1d8

Demagoguery

Oratory, Lore (Politics or Religion only), Devotion

Triggering, Trip-Tongue (Critical Only)

1d10

Cannot be defended against with Logic and Persuasion, nor Factual Citations; on a failed Demagoguery roll, take 1d4 damage to your own BoA

Insults

Acting, Oratory, Customs or Culture

Bon Mot (Critical Only), Provocation, Triggering

1d6

Factual citations

Appropriate Lore or professional skill such as Lockpicking

Lingering Condemnation (Critical Only), Trip- Tongue (Critical Only), A Real Debate… On the Issues!

1d4

Upgrade difficulty to defend against this Approach with Misdirection or Insults  

Misdirection

Acting, Deception, Seduction

Provocation, Trip-tongue (Critical Only)

1d4

Dismissiveness

Deceit, Oratory, Willpower

Bon Mot (Critical Only)

1d12

If use of this Approach does not finish off opponent’s Body of Argument, your team loses its next AP.

Defense also uses Approaches, but the list is slightly different.

Approach

Skill Used

Clash Maneuvers

Special

Active Listening

Insight, Perception

Discern True Motive, Gather My Thoughts

This Approach offers no defense, but your roll is unopposed, and your next action is rolled at one lower degree of difficulty.

Misdirection

Acting, Deception, Seduction

Provocation, Tone Policing

Insults

Acting, Oratory, Customs or Culture

Provocation

Logic and persuasion

Influence, Oratory

Fortress of Reason (Critical Only), Stinging Rebuttal, A Real Debate… On the Issues!

Take the moral high ground

Courtesy, Customs or Culture

Discern True Motive, Tone Policing, A Real Debate… On the Issues!

Not usable against Logic and Persuasion, nor against Factual Citations

Factual Citations

Appropriate Lore or, rarely, professional skill such as Lockpicking

Fortress of Reason (Critical Only), Gather My Thoughts

If both teams ever use the same Lore or professional skill against each other on the same opposed FC roll, that skill may not be used again during this Clash, unless the most prominent audience members are also trained in it.

If any team uses the same Approach twice in a row when on offense, or ever repeats an argument they’ve already made, the difficulty grade of their roll increases by one. (If a team uses the same Approach three times in a row, the difficulty is upgraded twice, etc.)

List of Clash Maneuvers (and categorization as Offensive, Defensive, or both)

A Real Debate… On the issues! This maneuver, called ARDOTI for short, forces the opposing team, at least briefly, to stay focused. On their next action, any Approach other than Logic and Persuasion or Factual Citations has its difficulty upgraded once.

Bon Mot (Offensive, critical only): Your attack was particularly well-worded. Do an extra die of damage to the BoA, of the same size as the Approach you attacked with.

Discern True Motive (Defensive): You look for the telltale signs that your opponent is hiding some aspect of their real intentions, so that you can call them out on it. Roll Insight, opposed by your opponent’s Deceit or Willpower, whichever is higher. If you succeed, your opponent’s player must then tell you something they have been hiding or that they hope you won’t bring up; if you do use what you’ve unearthed, then the relevant roll is downgraded in difficulty once. May be used a maximum number of times equal to the number of speakers on the other team.

Fortress of Reason (Defensive, critical-only): You construct an ironclad proof of the rightness of your position. The next successful attack against your BoA has its damage halved, and cannot finish you off–your minimum remaining BoA after the next attack is 1.

Gather My Thoughts (Defensive): You take a deep breath and refocus. Make a Willpower or Meditation roll. If you succeed, you cancel the effects of any ongoing Tone Policing or Lingering Condemnation and regain 1d6 points to your Body of Argument (1d10 on a critical success).

Lingering Condemnation (Offensive, Critical Only): The full weight of your argument takes awhile to sink in. Your opponent loses 1d4 from their BoA at the end of every round until they make a successful Gather My Thoughts maneuver.

Provocation (Both): Your opponent(s) roll Willpower against your original roll; on a failure, they must take the Insults Approach the next time they speak. Note that Provocation overrides Tone Policing.

Stinging Rebuttal (Defensive): Your defense is so effective that it also functions as an attack! Do 1d3 damage plus your Incisiveness to your opponent’s BoA.

Tone Policing (Both): renders the other team unable to use a particular Approach of your choice until they make a successful Gather My Thoughts maneuver.

Triggering (Offensive): you mention something the other team finds deeply uncomfortable. They must roll Willpower at a grade of Difficult, and on a failure, both of their next two rolls are at one higher degree of difficulty.

Trip-tongue (Offensive, Critical Only): Your opponent(s) roll Willpower opposed by your original roll; on a failure, they lose their next action.

Who Gets to Speak?

If there is more than one participant on a side, then each member of the team must take turns spending actions for offensive moves, but any member of a team may spend an action to activate a defensive move. Whoever is the leader of a team, as determined by the fictional circumstances, rolls for the initial Body of Argument.

Winning the Duel, Compromises and 0-0 results

The duel ends when one side has been reduced to a zero Body of Argument, or in the rare case that one side concedes before that point. Compromises are then negotiated, out of character. The winners owe the losers a minor compromise if their BoA has been damaged but is still at or above ? of its original value, a medium compromise if reduced to around half its original value, and a major compromise if reduced to ? of its original value or below. Compromises must not prevent the winner from fundamentally getting what they want, though they can reduce the magnitude (reducing a punishment from execution to exile, for example). Often the most interesting compromises are the ones that are seemingly unrelated to the original subject of the Clash. A good example would be an agreement between the two sides for a marriage to take place between their heirs, in order to heal the ideological rift.

If a team is suffering from Lingering Condemnation, then it is possible for a 0-0 result to occur. In that case, neither side gets what it wants, but each owes the other a major compromise.

Advancement

PCs may increase each skill from a maximum of one failure during each Clash of Cleverness.

***

Brainstorming for more Maneuvers:

Bait – (Def/Off) – make the opponent talk about what you want them to talk about. Effect: Opponent must incorporate Alicia Machado the topic you brought up on their next Action. If that topic is not a natural fit for their overall argument, their roll is at one grade higher difficulty.

Establish Expertise – (Def/Off, intended for use with Factual Citations) – You have laid firm claim to the mantle of knowledge of a particular topic. Your opponent rolls at one higher degree of difficulty any time they mention your established domain, until they perform a Gather My Thoughts.

***

New Approach: Interrupting (Def)

A very risky Approach! Uses Influence, a Charisma-based skill, because the trick here is to look charming doing it rather than like a douchebag. (See Joe Biden’s 2012 debate vs. Paul Ryan, on the one hand, and Clinton/Trump 2016 debate #1 or Pence/Kaine on the other.) You interrupt your opponent while they are speaking their Attack! Roll an opposed skill check, but your Influence is at one higher degree of difficulty! If you win, do damage and choose a Maneuver as normal, but your opponent also has one higher degree of difficulty on their next roll. If you lose, however, take 1d4 damage to your BoA. Damage: 1d8

Maneuvers: Stinging Rebuttal, Tone Policing

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *