Last session the party met a great deal of humanoids. About half of these weren't immediately ready to kill the party and were prepared to parley. I think I handled this pretty well as a Judge but I've decided a need a more set in stone system.
I bought the book "On the Non Player Character", written by the outstanding Courtney Campbell of recent "Megadungeon" fame. "On the NPC" is a great little book that I use all the time but I'm not sure how Courtney uses it quickly at the table. Based on my readings of his blog, I sense he has a much better memory than me. I used some of the concepts from the book last session, but it was mostly from memory and I know I missed some important elements.
My little chart uses many of the same concepts but I've stripped away some of the things I was unable to keep up with quickly at the table. Behold!:
First, you need to make a Reaction Check when the party first comes across an NPC or Monster. I use this one, which is taken directly from Courtney Campbell's book. You roll 2d6. (Note: "Monsters Feel Stronger" or "Monster Feel Weaker" should be the subheadings. I took out "Feel" for the chart I use at the table, for space purposes. Some monsters, though strong, are cowards and vice versa.)
Each time the player character tries to parley with a monster or NPC, they make a d20 roll adding or subtracting their Charisma (Personality) modifier. I also intend to give the player a bonus or negative to the roll based on their roleplaying of the request/demand. If they want the monster to just leave them alone, maybe it's rolled at +2. If they want the monster to give them their treasure, it's rolled at -4, etc. Language barriers will also cause a negative.
Additionally, diplomacy directed at "Friendly" targets are at +2 and "Helpful" at +4".
As the Diplomacy and parley goes on, the monster or NPC may change it's disposition towards the party, depending on how badly or well each roll of the dice goes.
Enough failures and the monster becomes Hostile and attacks or Flees. Parley's may go on for many attempts, or may end almost immediately. Roleplaying will adjust the chances of things going one way or another but the dice will tell the tale, as I believe it should.
Why not just wing it?
As a Judge, I find that I need the dice to keep me honest and to help me be creative on the fly. If I'm having a bad or less creative day, perhaps I will just fall into the old trap of having the monsters be violent jerks who won't hear the party out. Maybe I'll lean towards having them be too helpful because I know the next room has a big fight the NPC might be able to help with.
It's similar to the way using random encounter tables help shake up the creativity of a Judge or DM.
The Judges of the Spellburn podcast recently had a guest, Steve Bean, who somewhat derided the Gameism aspect of tabletop RPGs. To me, it's very important. This is a game. When the rules are unclear, as they often are with parley and diplomacy, the players don't know where they stand.
I want my players to know I'll give them a fair chance to turn the Ogre into an ally, the shopkeep into a villain, and everything in between.
I'll have a future blog post about the Tabletop RPG game theory that Steve Bean and the Judges J went into on Spellburn.
I hope this chart may prove useful to other Judges and DMs out there. Game on!