Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Win Friends or Antagonize People - The Reaction Table

His Liaison-5 skill means you're doing it his way.

The Encounters section of Traveller is simple yet flexible, like the rest of the rules, leaving a lot of room for creativity and customization.  Whenever the PCs encounter a significant NPC, whether a patron, law enforcement or fellow adventurer, the referee must determine how that NPC will respond to what the PCs say or do. While some times it helps the adventure along to determine by fiat how an NPC will react, the referee should in most cases consult the Reaction table and just work with what comes.

     The Reaction table, a 2D6 curve, breaks down into negative, neutral and positive reactions. The reactions become more intense further away from the mean of 7, from provoking an immediate attack at one end to genuine friendship & loyalty at the other. 

There are two general DMs given with the reaction table, but the rules text makes it clear that skills, characteristics and role-playing should also provide DMs. 

          Especially that last one, people. This is where role-playing should be front and center. The players should reason, argue or plead with the NPCs for the help they want to get.Think about your PC's position, skills and personal history. Have your PC met or dealt with this NPC, or someone like him, before? Maybe the PC has just come from a stressful dangerous mission and doesn't like this officious blowhard giving him a hard time about the forms being filled out improperly?  Or maybe the PC has just won a large stake off of his Gambling skill, and is feeling generous? A time-pressed or desperate PC should not react the same way as one who has plenty of time and nothing to lose.

"The following general DMs apply; others may be called for by a specific situation." 
           At the very least, this is a place where SOC should come into play. In a society with formal nobility you can expect that noble status gets you at least a little pull with the hoi polloi. Characters from the Bureaucrat career should have an advantage when dealing with official/governmental encounters; PCs with Vehicle or Mechanical skill  should have an edge when dealing with negotiating a vehicle purchase or repair. PCs who came from the same planet or branch of service as the NPC could get a DM for their shared experiences.  In general, associations between the PC and the NPC may provide an advantageous DM.
My SOC is 12, I'm a Baron! You must obey!
         The rules text goes on to note that Veterans get an across the board +1, with vets of the same service, it could be more. High-ranking officers should gain more favor with servicemen or government types. Displays of strength, weapons or the PC's folk dance prowess, depending on the NPC, might motivate a more cooperative attitude. 

          All of this does mean more work for the referee, giving a little color and substance to at least the significant NPCs, so the players have something to work with or against. The encounter rules differentiate between routine encounters, where reaction rolls are not called for, and the more significant Random encounters, which I have discussed elsewhere. Routine encounters, such as store clerks or messengers, can be mentioned in passing, and no further 'color' is needed or desired. If, though, the NPC can exert some kind of influence on the PCs, such as a starport security guard who is searching their ship for contraband, the referee should put some thought into the attitude/behavior of this NPC.  Many RPG rule books or good psychology textbooks will give the referee a listing of personality traits or attitudes that can be quickly assigned to an NPC to give them a bit of depth, and a reason for responding to the PCs in a certain way.

         Players, do not wait for the Referee to decide which skills or characteristics deserve a reaction bonus in a situation - make your case for a bonus, based on the facts of the encounter; like when your EDU-F character is interacting with researchers or academics!

Skills that can affect reactions:
  • Administration - when working with business or government types
  • Bribery - do I really have to explain this?
  • Carousing/Leader/Liaison - the skill descriptions state that it affects reaction rolls
  • Streetwise - the PC can at least appear to share the NPC's cultural background
  • Forgery - if the PCs present faked credentials or authoritative documents
  • Interrogation - specifically when questioning NPCs for information
  • Jack-o-T - Why not? it's a catch-all skill
  • Recruiting - only in the case of hiring NPCs
         In my post about social advancement, I mentioned contacts and reputation. I am not going to propose a table or mechanic for reputation, just that the referee keep in mind how likely it is that the NPC has heard of the PCs by reputation. If they have, that will influence the NPC's reaction, dependent upon the nature of the reputation.

NPC hirelings  are a concept alluded to in the rules but left to the referee to implement. The referee makes a secret roll on the reaction table at the time of offered employment, and notes that reaction as a basis for ongoing loyalty of the hireling. 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/caliorg/6150450715/

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