How do you use the ability 'Intrigue' in your games?

In what circumstances do you invoke it, and how do you ajudicate its outcomes?

I'm asking because I'm looking at the bleed-over between various social abilities; there's a lot of them, and there certainly seems to be situations where intrigue seems like it'd be a good fit, but something else trumps it.

Attending a social function and attempting to be the most noticeable person at the party: etiquette
Interrogating people for information: leadership
Canvassing a common-house for rumors: carouse
Military strategy: leadership (?)
Convincing someone to give up an important secret: charm

I'm keen on getting a feel for how other people handle this one.

We use it mainly when the character tries to install / manipulate a web of people, not unlike the votes manipulations in "House of Cards".

PC: "I want to go to the market of the town and find out the latest rumors" - Me, "Roll Cha+Intrigue"

PC:" I want to find the dirt on the Emperor" Me: "Spend 3 days in his court and then roll Int+Intrigue"

The books HoH: Societates and Lords of Men, as well as HoH: True Lineages all have some suggested uses for that skill.

I did some searches on the pbp forums here a while back, and it seems intrigue gets rolled a lot less than the other social abilities. I think it's because it's not concrete like the others, so you wouldn't roll it on an adventure but behind the scenes.

The problem with rolling social abilities, is that they can really get in the way of role-playing. On one hand a player is playing particularly inspired tonight, he's doing all the right things, everyone at the table loves what he's doing and his rolls are just horrible. Do you let the dice decide that, or does the table decide what happens, to heck with the die rolls, or do you something in the middle? Why can't both shape the events? How do both the role play and the die rolling shape events? Shouldn't they both count? Why not give the PC the immediate win, but hold something back to dangle in front of the PC later, something that if only they'd understood what could have been acquired/accomplished earlier, would make their life so easy now... Or something.

Same reason you don't give players "get out of losing fight free" passes for entering a fight dramatically or tying roleplay into the combat well. I'm all for encouraging roleplay, but I don't think it's fair to punish the player's lack of charisma, and you're doing that indirectly by giving the more charismatic player freebies.

You're drawing a false equivalence.

  1. It's the table (i.e. the troupe) deciding to do it, the less charismatic player who is getting "punished" is part of that decision, and it's a consensus decision. It does indeed get old if someone is getting constant advantages for being a good roleplayer, and it's a single person deciding this. It's not. So no, I'm not doing it, we, as a troupe are doing it. By and large though, the freebies accrue to everyone, a rising tide lifts all boats and all that, and what benefits one character player can also benefit other characters in other ways. Living by the die and only the die is really harsh, and in almost every game I've played or SG'd, I've rewarded compelling arguments with bonuses to the die roll, and have been rewarded likewise.

I am with Akriloth on that one. I had on a few occasion a "not so charismatic" player wanted to play the diplomatic guy. So I let him do and he would explain what he wanted to achieve, and then the roll would decide his success. If I had gone with bonus/malus or instant win/loss based on RP, he would have rarely succeeded because this player is rather clumsy with words.

And rolls generate some form of dramatic tension. Recently, in my Ars Modernica campaign, I have players coming with a nice plan, but at the last moment roll a critical failure. I did not find that punishing, it simply drove the story into another direction and everybody still had a good time. In this case, I am a bit more lenient with the critical failure and gave them some useful pieces of information for the good plan, despite the failure to execute it.

This is essential.
Insisting that social situations must be purely handled via dice would be like insisting that combat is handled with sharp swords at dawn, or atleast foam weapons out back.
Now, giving a bonus for good presentation/RP (perhaps along the lines of Stunts from Exalted) works well, but RPGs are escapism, and if the "not so charismatic" player can't escape his/her low charisma score, you're essentially handing the guy in the wheelchair a foam sword. At best.

I said nothing about a malus, nor did I say anything about an instant win. Even the clumsy RPer can be inspired, and if the table is loving it, I'm happier letting them decide where things go rather than have the dice alone be the sole determinant. Your example is no different than what I'm saying; you were lenient with players because they had a nice plan, despite rolling a critical failure. You let table consensus speak over the whim of the dice.

No. They failed and their failure allowed the big bad lady to be aware of their existence as a threat to her project. Yet, I gave them a some info. There is a difference between replacing dice roll with an automatic success, and handling a "consolation" prize after critical failure.

Yet the dice didn't give you any leeway to offer a consolation prize, did they? It was a critical failure. Any information acquired as a result of the roll should be wrong, from the POV of the PCs. Their actions accounted for some modification of the results of the die roll, in some way.
Mind you I never said anything about automatic success in my original post in this thread.

What you mean to say is that it was the character's IRL intelligence coming up with a good plan, or IRL charisma in convincing you that something is the best plan ever, that persuaded the results.

I don't even go that far. You do however well you do, imho. I give people some information while they fail if they, like, fail by three points or something. A botch is supposed to screw them in some meaningful way. Plus, I feel like giving roleplaying bonuses or mitigating failures for good roleplay makes things one-sided, especially in terms of social skills. The Gifted, negative-presence, social skill-less, Imaginem/Mentem spell-less magus can roleplay well enough to become a Broadway actor if he wants, I have no intention of letting him accomplish things socially to the degree of the socialite character unless he gets a few 1s on the die. It would be unfair to the person who tailored their character to that, especially if the character playing the socialite is not himself a socialite.

No, not even that.

So, you can come up with a horrible plan that fails logically and isn't consistent, but if you roll well, then that's all you need, your plan and implementation are ultimately successful, because of the roll, not because of the setting, or how the characters actually respond to the events as created. Perhaps, but see my comment about ease factors below.
I honestly think that the Gift gets under-roleplayed, a lot. I mean the default position is from someone who doesn't like you, doesn't trust you, and on top of that you get a -3 penalty to your social rolls to get him to do what you want him to do. So, IMO, the EF should be higher for magi, and on top of that they get the penalty of the Gift for determining the effect. Blatant Gift should be outright hate, can't stand the person, will never listen, which would put the EF really up there, and then on top of that, they get -6.

Nonetheless, there isn't much guidance on determining what an Ease Factor for things that aren't combat or magic related. More than likely, the EF is determined on a subjective basis anyway, based on the merits of the plan or situation as determined by the SG. So whether you provide a bonus/mallus is masked by the EF you determine the player needs for success. So, that horrible plan the players come up with has an EF of 21, in your opinion, and the players don't really have skill (ability score) or talent (characteristics) to make it happen, but they get lucky and they explode a couple of times and roll a 4, for a total of 16, adding in their talent and skill gets them to 20, and they use Confidence to get them over the hump to make it successful. If they had a better plan, would the EF have been lower? I'll call shenanigans if you say no.

I don't make people roll for "plans," I make them roll for actions. And actions don't get harder just because they aren't good ideas. If somebody wants to run up the rubble-covered hill and try to slip around the boulders tumbling down so they can chase the bad guy, that's going to be harder than staying on the ground and running away, and I'm going to reflect that with the Ease Factors, but I'm not going to deduct an additional idiot tax because I think it's stupid, it's just a significantly harder action to complete. And for fairness, because we obviously don't live in Mythic Europe, I do tend to tell my players when their ideas are stupid, just in case they (as a player) have forgotten an important factor.

Quibble about rolls for "plans" or actions all you like, I think it's clear where I was going.

Actions may not get harder because they aren't good ideas, but there isn't really any sort of standard as far as determining an EF. It's subjective whether climbing up and chasing someone on that rubble strewn hill is an EF of 12, 15 or 24. There's certainly nothing close to an objective measure. So, people being people, you bake in penalties (the idiot tax) to the EF. I mean sure, it's harder than running away, but can you quantify how hard it is, I mean really?
You're not doing anything differently than I'm doing. Will I, as an SG endorse whether something is a good idea or suggest when something is a bad idea? Sure. Because sometimes players forget important factors to their benefit (not always, sometimes, though, and it's happened surprisingly often).

Technically, rubble and hills do have RAW modifications, but I get where you're coming from. I disagree with the assertion that representing a legitimately more difficult task with a higher EF counts as an idiot tax. It doesn't really matter how much higher the EF is raised, either, as long as you're consistent with that EF whenever anybody tries something similar.

Going back to the social example. The less capable roleplayer decides to bribe the nobleman to make him more open to the character's idea. I decide this reduces the EF by, say, 3. The more skilled roleplayer comes along and wants to also try a bribe, but he plays the whole thing out and has us enthralled by his performance. Still reduces the EF by three, and he gets no other special perks. That's all I'm trying to say here.

It's tough to be consistent, I try and I've been caught being inconsistent, and without being intentionally inconsistent. On pbp it's a lot easier to go over how you've ruled in the past, but even there, one can overlook something.

We are cool, so long as you stipulate that I never suggested imposing an idiot tax. My position here has been consistent: inspired role playing should be rewarded (it's often rewarded with Confidence, or at least it's suggested), but a lot of SGs will lower an EF for something that has a good plan, or in their estimation a high likelihood of success. Similarly, something that is stupid, or has a lower likelihood of success will have a greater EF. The determining factor in that, is, of course, the SG at a lot of tables, or optionally the troupe if consensus is needed. If a player is entertaining everyone at the table, and no one feels they are being overlooked or overshadowed all the time, the consensus will be for a lower EF, 9 times out of 10.

I didn't mean to suggest that's what you were doing, you simply threw my words back at me and I was trying to keep the concepts distinct.

Of course, we're talking ideally here. No human is perfect; we all lapse sometimes, usually fairly often. My major point is that, while I might flub occasionally anyway, I do my best as an SG to keep things consistent and to avoid rewarding people for having a better roleplaying skillset or a better understanding of the setting and what the smartest things are to do in it. Likewise, with Confidence, while I may not always (or even mostly) succeed, I try to give points based on a good effort to roleplay, rather than how well the player did, to the limits of my capacity for judgment.

I'm willing to bet your games probably run more smoothly than mine, and it's quite possible that I'm being more defensive about this particular issue on account of having a wider disparity of RPG experience in my troupe.


No bet. I feel as if I'm too inside baseball, so to speak. There is a tendency for Ars to go in this direction, which makes it tough to get people excited about the setting, too. It works alright for PbP games, especially those hosted here on this forum. In other places, it's a bit more of a challenge to overcome.