"Persuading" the PCs into interesting choices

This is my maiden post here. I’m new to 2d20 Conan but an old hand at forcing players to make interesting choices. I have a question about how to mechanically supplement a Persuade attempt by NPCs.

How does Persuade work against PCs to force them to take a course of action?

My idea for a scenario is that the party has stumbled upon a village in the Cimmerian Highlands that is being raided by Hyperboreans. After fighting off the raid they learn that the village has lost all their men to war and only women remain. Due to a storm they are snowbound for a period and the womenfolk take the opportunity to use Feminine Wiles to Persuade the heroes to stay long enough to protect them from the overwhelming raid that is sure to come once the storm lifts.

How can I use “feminine wiles” and the game’s mechanics to up the ante of this dilemma? The coming raid is overwhelming (nevermind how they know). The party has an important job to do elsewhere that doesn’t involve dying for a lost cause.

Can the women make a “mental attack” where the damage is somehow conditional? If the heroes abandon the women they suffer Trauma. If they stay and fight they risk death and the abandonment of their duties.

I know that good RPers will probably play along. But I want to see if I can use the mechanics to add that extra “oomph” to really twist the knife and make it a tough choice.


I guess what I’m asking is how do you stat out a damsel in distress?

My game is rated M for Manly. No apologies.


In Conan, this is not supported by the rules. - The Infinity 2d20 RPG does indeed have such a thing as social combat that allows PCs getting “socially damaged” into being forced to perform certain actions.

You can, of course, use the Threaten attack mechanics to do the same in Conan. You probably could add the Intense quality to such an attack to cause another Trauma, if it caused at least one Trauma.


If you mechanically force Trauma on your PCs, they will be hindered in ALL their mental activities, they might need to perform during the following battle. That means, all Awareness, Intelligence, Personality, Willpower tests are made at higher base Difficulty by +1 per Trauma.
That makes a lot of character concepts less effective or even ineffectual over all.

You are intending to mechanically FORCE your players to do something, by damaging their characters, so that they have to start a battle, they didn’t want in the first place, and being damaged already they have to fight quite significantly handicapped. - Are you sure that this is OK with your players?

I would walk out if that happened in a game where I was a player.

A different approach could be, offering the players Fortune Points to agree to help the women. If they accept, they do something they didn’t intend to do, but have a player resource, Fortune, to help them out of this situation.
The latter approach has the chance that the players say “No, thanks” to this offer.
And in any roleplaying game that should be fine.
The players make their decisions for their characters and live with the consequences.

Having a “decision” forced upon them takes away their agency.

You could simply talk to your players: “look, I have prepared an interesting adventure, that requires you to stay here and help the women, how about we play that now?”

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A lot of this depends on how your table handles dice rolls in social interactions. Some tables don’t and prefer to act out the scene. Some tables say the dice matter and both characters and NPCs are bound by those results. Others say you can use social skills on NPCs but not PCs so as to not take away player agency. So I’d ask myself what did we agree to when we talked about this. If your table hasn’t then definitely do so and make note for your next game to include this topic in the session zero.

Rather than using social skills - give the PCs a reason to stay and give the players a reason as well (the aforementioned Fortune point). A reward of some nature is 100% fitting with the more mercenary nature of most Conan groups. Make the reward worthwhile but troublesome enough that they can’t just steal it. I like livestock for this - it’s worth considerable money when sold but you can’t easily make off with a herd of cattle.


Thanks Frank and Grendel for your responses.

Just to be clear I wouldn’t want to force them to do anything, but I am trying to force them to make a difficult choice. I would be prepared for it to go either way. I believe the best thing about RPGs is making interesting choices which is why as GM I try to set them up.

But I’ve never played 2d20 and am currently reading through the rule book and taking notes. Hence the questions… How would you represent the pangs of remorse that a character would feel if he’s contemplating walking away? In another game I play, City of Mist, you can give characters free-floating statuses of any kind, e.g. taking the status Affection-2 might be the result of an NPC’s persuasion. If later action would be hurt or helped by that status, you can rule that it comes into play and affects a roll. If they walk away it might turn into Remorse-2 (and hinder them later) or if they stay and fight it might turn into Now-its-personal-2. I’m wondering if anything similar is possible in 2d20. I wouldn’t want to handicap my players with Trauma that worsens all mental skill tests, I’m just wondering if there’s something in between.

Awarding a Fortune Point is an interesting idea and I hadn’t thought of that. Although it seems like Fortune Points are kind of cheap since they reset to 3 at the beginning of each session.

XP is another option. I wouldn’t want to make XP rewards explicit, like “do this and you’ll get XP”, but maybe I could make clear to the players at the outset of the campaign that I reward good RP that’s faithful to the character. Then when they’re contemplating the decision I could ask each of them explicitly how their character would feel about it, referencing their characters’ natures and backgrounds.

A reward like livestock is also a good idea and could set up another difficult choice later: will they really accept it when this village is so poor anyway?

How does social combat in Infinity work?

Another idea I had is… why is there no mental or emotional equivalent to Fatigue? Physical fatigue reduces your max vigor and thereby makes you tire quicker in battle. Maybe there should be an equivalent for mental stats?

Appreciate your thoughts,

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That is called “Despair”. It works just like Fatigue for reducing Vigor maximum, and it reduces the Resolve maximum.

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Bingo! I missed that.

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As a player, I do not as a rule enjoy being forced or coerced into taking a particular action. However, I do think there is a little bit of provision for this in the Conan RAW. I say this because there are certain Talents which give PC bonuses in resisting Persuade tests (for example, Wary from the Discipline tree). Why would this be the case if the PCs were not subject to the same conditions as NPCs are? So yeah, as a GM, I would allow a successful Persuade roll, or rolls, from the women in the village to mean that the PCs are required to roleplay as if they have succumbed to their “womanly wiles”. In effect, I see this as no different to NPCs scoring a successful hit in combat and the PCs suffering the consequences. However, as Frank points out, this could have implications for them in upcoming encounters with the real baddies. Perhaps treat such “wounds” in the way illusions wounds are treated in the rules? Can’t remember the page ref, but you’ll find it in the Sorcery section in a side bar somewhere. Also, I would consider house-ruling an adaptation of the Social Combat rules from Infinity. They definitely would help in this situation. I like how that isn’t just one roll of the dice, but an ongoing “battle” in which a target’s resistance is gradually whittled away.


Pretty much the same as physical combat, which is also pretty much the same as in Conan.
You make Persuade attacks against the mental stress track of the defender, but instead of Trauma, you inflict “Metanoia”.
Trauma is an actual mental damage such as fear, desperation or something like that. Metanoia is also a “Harm” by the rules, but there is no real limit to the number. Each Metanoia actually forces you to do something you would not normally have: help a stranger, betray your friends, etc.
The difficulties for attack and defense in social combat are very detailed, and some people require more than one harm inflicted to gain a metanoia.
You can do it with very little problem in Conan and reserve the Conan system for pure combat situations.


I’m firmly, firmly, firmly in the camp that social skills and rolls need to be treated just as combat ones are. You can’t argue with the GM that a successful attack roll doesn’t inflict damage because “your character wouldn’t take that” and yet we let that slide with social rolls. The roll determines things that are possible, if something is not possible then you don’t roll. No Persuade roll in the world may convince a character to harm or injure a friend - so no roll is made. Helping out some folks? With the possibility of a reward? That’s definitely possible and so a roll is allowed.

This is obviously something discussed in a session zero but I hate when a player no sells an imposing NPC with all the social stuff to back it up “because my character wouldn’t do that”.


The important thing is, that Persuade tests, even if extremely successful, are NOT “mind control”.
That is what the Sorcery spell Enslave is for.
And that does not change the moral values and outlook of a person, it only forces certain actions, usually immediate actions (within the duration of the spell).

A negotiation or a plea for help would not be able to “mind control” any character, no PC and no NPC.
So I think having the NPCs simply make a roll and the characters with low Discipline not resisting it (as is to be expected) is a form of “non-sorcerous” Enslave spell, which should not work.

In Infinity every character has different lines that cannot be crossed, called “Intransigence”.
If you want to convince a bouncer to let you into a bar, that might only be a single “Harm”, to overcome the Intransigence of 1.
If you want to convince a poor farmer to sell you her last few chicken she needs to pay the tax collector off, that might make two “Harms” necessary to overcome her Intransigence of 2.
If you want to convince the fanatical bodyguard of a fanatical religious sect to allow you to enter their sanctum sanctorum, that does not work EVER.

In Infinity player characters have a default Intransigence of 4 versus any NPC social attacks. As Infinity has quite an array of different Harm effects, Metanoia, you could - over time - accumulate sufficient Metanoia to convince even a PC to do something, or to become your trusting friend or to see the truth in your narrative or such. That usually takes time and other characters might intercede and “heal” your Metanoia by pointing out the flaws in the persuader’s arguments and make the manipulation obvious.

If the women in this situation start to pull mechanical strings in making persuade attacks against the player characters, that could be - at least for some character types - considered an act of aggression, to be answered directly with the sword.

I can understand that a GM wants to have some “leverage” on the PCs, but the usual ones: Gold, Fortune (points) and fame (Renown!) should suffice.


I have definitely used this technique on a few occasions . . . But it really did seem appropriate for the situation . . . It was the end of the adventure and the NPC had been safely delivered to the sorceress out in the oasis. Her minions transformed by her sorcery hid in the jungle and having provided them with a luxurious retreat from the outside world, my constant hints of movement and watching and whatnots had them quite curious. So when she used persuade (with her atrociously high personality) and asked, nay BEGGED the PC’s to stay out of the jungle, it seemed the best way to convey that sincerity was to let them take some damage. The damage was easily avoided by believing her and NOT going in to the jungle!

Now, please don’t get the above bit wrong . . . Provoking a fight in this manner with my players was deliberate. They were new characters being played and the last group were totally and thoroughly evil. This was a trap to set a tone for the adventures they would face in the future!

I try not to overuse it . . . Or at least only when it really seems right but I certainly fall on the side of this is OK, especially considering how tough PC’s are in general. The intrasigience idea might be something I should consider about incorporating . . .

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Do you have a source for that? I don’t have my Core book atm, but I think I remember that PCs don’t really have any better Intransigence than NPCs with an option of allowing the players to set their intransigence.
I was actually thinking about starting a set of defined intransigences (persuade, seduction, intimidate etc.) at 1 and give the players 2 of their choice at 2 with the rest having to be bought up by spending XP. Haven’t gotten beyond putting it on my list of things to think strongly about :slight_smile:

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Core book p.131

Most of the time, the Intransigence will be equal to 1. Metanoia Effects which would force a
character to stop taking actions during the current encounter (like panicking and running away from combat) will usually have an Intransigence of 4 for PCs and Nemeses, 2 for Elites, and 1 for Troopers.

And take a look at the text box on the following page about “PSYWAR AND PCS”.

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So you made the “Trauma” she inflicted conditional on whether they did what she wanted. That’s a pretty good system.

I think I might do something similar except make it Despair. The womenfolk use their feminine wiles to wear down their resolve then inflict Despair, where the Despair will be healed if they do what they want. If they stay and fight they’re back to tip top condition; if not they suffer ongoing despair until they get over it somehow.


I know we have had this discussion already in another other thread, but I still don’t see why you say never. Given time and opportunity, a very persuasive person might indeed convince the fanatically loyal guard. How do you think they became fanatics in the first place? By being suggestible and having a highly charismatic leader persuade them. This is exactly why I like the Infinity social combat rules. They allow for situations like this, but there is the option of making it extremely hard — higher Difficulties, Morale Soak, assists from non-targeted allies, etc. Getting the guard to betray his master? Well that might be impossible for a neophyte with poor social skills, but doable for a skilled operator. How do you think intelligence networks turn enemy agents to betray their own countries, even if they are fanatically loyal? And this happens in real life. You just need to find the right buttons to push.


I’m guessing he doesn’t mean never ever, just in the context of what is feasible for adventurers on the spot.
Yes, you can absolutely convince almost anyone to betray almost anyone, but that takes time, resources and pre-existing knowledge about their target and possibilities of of blacmail that spies spend a lot of time accumulating while at the same time trying to remain covert. That is not really the PCs style in my experience and can also slow the game down… I mean, do you want to wait a few weeks to recue the (potential) princess while the PCs look for the one guard willing to betray the Dark Lord? Who knows, in the meantime the Dark Lord might persuade the princess to serve him from now on.
So, while it might be possible to turn nearly anyone, it is absolutely ok to tell the players that the door guard can not be persuaded, bribed or blackmailed without more knowledge about him.
I mean, go ahead and try walking up to the Royal Guards guarding Buckingham and see how far your attempts at persuading one of them to leave his post get you. There is a reason why leaders in real life don’t get assassinated all the time. It’s one thing to share information while people think they won’t get caught, entirely another to leave your post or otherwise physically betray trust.

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But that’s not a default Intransigence of 4 versus any NPC social attacks, just against a very specific circumstance that would pretty much cause a dead end in the encounter.
In all other instances, the intransigence is still usually 1, the way I read that. So I might continue working on my idea :slight_smile:

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Exactly. If you have a 5-year-plan that could work, but no convincing a person of strong conviction on the spot.

Insight tests might give away the weaknesses of an individual, so while all guards normally have high Intransigence, this one here has a gambling habit and that could be leverage on him.


“this one here has a gambling habit and that could be leverage on him.”

Huh . . . The one on the right is a pot head and the guy at the desk cheats on his wife . . .