The Social Conflict Exchange

Most roleplaying games do not have in-depth mechanics for social interactions. In some, thought has been placed, and there are a few skills covering several types of interactions and even progress rolls, while in others it could be left out to a single personality attribute.
This isn’t so much a problem in social tabletop RPGs where, there is a conversation between two different persons. One, the Game Master, emulating the NPC, and the other, the Player, emulating their PC.
In solo roleplaying this missing link, is even more pronounced, since the GM and Player, both come down to the same person.
While playing some crunchier combat systems I noticed, that sometimes, the increased effort to run them, payed off, as there was ample narrative feedback.
So this is an attempt, to create a social interactions mechanics framework, to drive the conversation, and maybe return interesting results in the process, while reducing mental effort and player bias.
I was very much inspired by several topics discussed in Solo RPGs: Let’s Talk About Dialogues YouTube video by RPG Tips.

Conflict, in the scope of this framework includes major social interactions, not petty squabbles or small talk. It’s what makes or break you. Consider the equivalent of combat, but with no swords drawn.
You try to convince someone, questioning their beliefs, lie to them about a fundamental truth or scare one into betraying their own.

There are three dispositions with two ends of the spectrum each.

The Levels for each disposition go from 1 to 6 for Defiance to Fear, Hate to Love and Suspicion to Trust. You can write them down, but I recommend using three different colored six-side dice to represent each value as it changes through the exchange.
I’d suggest Black for Fear, Red for Love and White for Trust, but go with whatever dice colors you have.


  • A town guard captain searching for fugitives in the player’s description could have the following dispositions: Trust 1, Love 3, Fear 3.
  • A fellow street urchin who saw their escape could have the following disposition: Trust 5, Love 4, Fear 2.
  • A civilian who doesn’t want to be bothered in case they find trouble, and is scared of meeting outlaws could have the following disposition: Trust 2, Fear 4, Love 3.

Level 3,4 borders on indifference.
Level 2,5 has strong feelings.
Level 1,6 is a major driver. It’s what dictates the NPC’s actions towards the protagonist.

You can choose the level of each disposition, roll randomly (1d6), or even hide it and reveal it afterwards to decrease metagaming. In that last option, you can also try to ‘read’ the disposition through the use of a skill such as perception (see further below).

Some game systems have specialized social skills, while others could be so broad as to even have just a generic social attribute. In any case, depending on the success or failure of the attempted skill, and by how much (critical/marginal), the dispositions are modified by one level, as defined in the table below.


So a marginally successful charm attempt would both increase the Love disposition but also decrease Trust. Whereas a failed charm attempt would decrease the Love disposition.

The exchange ends, whenever a disposition reaches (or remains at) level 1 dictating failure or level 6, dictating success. If the result is contradicting, having both 1 and 6 at the same time, then its a draw, and another attempt must be made, until the number of successes doesn’t equal the number of failures.


  • The protagonist tries to Con the town guard captain that they saw the fugitives heading in another direction and fails. This means that Trust remains at 1, and the captain doesn’t fall for their ruse. He draws his sword and sounds the alarm.
  • The protagonist tries to Persuade the street urchin that if they help them escape, they will reward them, and they are successful, raising the Trust to 6. The street urchin decides to risk their skin and take them through the back alleys and lay low in his shack.
  • As they stumble upon the civilian, the protagonist draws his finger across his neck, while making a gesture to stay silent, Intimidating them successfully. Fear increases to 5 while Love decreases to 2. The civilian still considers his options. These guys look scary, but maybe his hatred for outlaws will outweigh his fear and he will sound the alarm.

The dispositions changes are not necessarily long term.
If for example the protagonist tried to Intimidate a close friend into abandoning their cause, and this reduced their Love, it could last only for a few days. Feeling hurt, heal over time, just like wounds in battle.
Likewise, a conned guard who let the protagonist into the compound, won’t still have increased Love disposition once they find out the truth.

While performing the skills, do not forget to add any modifiers, according to the game system.
A bribery attempt would have a bonus or penalty according to the bribe. A persuasion attempt to a close friend would have a bonus. An intimidation attempt when you are outgunned would have a penalty.

Reducing metagaming:
If the player knows beforehand the dispositions of the target NPC, then they can choose which skill to use or avoid the social exchange altogether, thus giving them an unfair advantage.
To reduce this advantage do the following:

  • Before starting any exchange, do a Perception or relative roll, to see if the protagonist can ‘read’ the target’s intentions. Apply any modifiers.
  • If successful, then either decide the disposition, roll randomly, or ask the Oracle. In any case, you know. Optionally, depending on the level of success, you may know only one or two of the three dispositions.
  • If unsuccessful, or partially successful, then if you decide to go ahead with the social exchange, then, run the first round of the exchange, and roll/ask the Oracle for the dispositions afterwards. This way, there is an extra risk involved. It’s implied that after exchanging a few words, you have understood what their disposition is.

Now I need to playtest these rules, and post the results. I’m thinking a high diplomacy, low combat one-shot.