Social Combat - Duel of Wits

Duels of Wits are not used for simple questions but for significant outcomes what, while not a melee, deserve as much attention as a combat. There is a “question” or “position” each side favours and tries to support to the exclusion of the other side’s position.

In a “Duel of Wits” or other Social Combat played out over rounds (using social initiative), a character has a Shame Threshold which, much like Wound Threshold, represents their ability to continue to be effective in the encounter. Once a Shame Threshold is exceeded, then the Character must “withdraw” and cannot argue in support of their position.

Shame Threshold = Willpower.

Insanities count as permanent Shame Points (e.g., the equivalent of having wounds when starting a fight) as they automatically undermine the ability to succeed in social encounters (note the truly Mad no longer suffer this penalty).

Shame is inflicted through actions which “influence” the target or through using a social skill and the Perform a Stunt card to represent acting without a specific card. Only particular action cards permit inflicting more than one point of Shame (have multiple “influence” outcomes).

Houserule: Guarded Position may be used as a Social Action in arguments by a character who wishes to focus on negating the opposing party’s arguments. It is resolve exactly the same way except it is “Social Actions” that suffer the penalties. Improved Guarded Position may not be used this way unless a specific advance is spent to improve one’s debating skills.

Houserule: Devastating Points – all Social actions that inflict shame damage (have an “influence target” effect) are effectively “attacks” . All such actions have an additional generic standing option of “Comet: inflict two additional shame”.

Shame is recovered similar to Stress. At the end of a Social Encounter, Shame equal to WP is recovered, with a similar amount at the end of an Episode and first rest after an Episode ends. Blessings and other actions that recover Stress do not affect Shame.

Houserule Shame Soak

Characters have a “shame soak” value, being an ability to reduce Shame suffered, no more than to a minimum of one, from a single event or action. Noble Rank (number of noble career ability cards possessed) gives innate confidence in “being right” and thus acts as “shame soak”.

Career traits also provide “shame soak”, stacking with Noble rank, in an encounter that involves that trait, the eligible traits are: Academic, Arcane, Bureaucrat, Combat, Devoted, Fanatic, Rogue, Menial, Military, Noble, Religion, Rural, Social, Urban. For example, arguing about magic means the Arcane trait assists whereas in an argument over principles of faith relevant traits are Devoted, Fanatic or Religion. This reflects how a priest may be as hard to move as a noble on a religious matter. No more than one point of Shame soak can be obtained from a career trait at a time.

Losing the Duel – Withdrawal

When Shame Threshold is passed and withdrawal is required, a Player chooses how to show that outcome. Withdrawal may literally be walking off in a huff, a fit of rage, tongue-tied stuttering or shamed staring at the floor – a Player can choose but what they cannot avoid is that just as when Wounds exceed their threshold they have NO ability to influence what continues to take place. It can mean actually being convinced of something but only if the Player wishes or (for NPCs) the GM views it as appropriate. One argument is very unlikely to change someone’s worldview though it might change their opinion on one subject.

Having to withdraw and being unable to continue to advance or maintain your views usually means losing whatever was at stake in the argument (e.g., the judgment in a trial, a petition before a noble, a rivalry before an object of affection, convincing a daemon you’re not tasty treat).

Players are not obligated to “follow through” on the outcome of lost duels of wits. Agreeing to help the villagers doesn’t stop the PC from sneaking off and leaving them to their fate. They are just now the sort of person who promises to help and does not. Consider this the same as in real life falling for a high pressure sales pitch that you later realize “why did I agree to the extended warranty”?

Multiple Participants in Duel

Houserule: it is difficult for more than one person to argue in favour of a position, supporting characters are better off using Actions that support (e.g., offering Trivial Knowledge or Sage Advice or making a helpful Quip). Every person who participates on a side of a question suffers Shame whenever any of them does – sometimes this is literally “I’m ashamed my ally is so inept”. Regardless of the number of people on each side, the chance to speak always alternates. Four PCs do not get to all make rolls before one NPC does nor vice versa.

Houserule: in situations where one side of an argument is outnumbered, the outnumbered side regains 1 Point of Shame whenever any participant in the majority side is forced to withdraw.

Houserule: Compromises and Concessions -

If the victorious side of an argument has lost at least half (rounded up) of their Shame during the argument they must offer a concession of some sort but do not have to “give up their central point”.

For example, the court might still find the defendant guilty but sentence them to exile not death or might still find them innocent but only really in the “guilt not proven” fashion and everyone believes the accused did it; the patron might still view this work as part of the initial agreed contract but recognize it’s more difficult and raise payment a small amount; the barmaid might still prefer him but have a friend for you.

This concession requirement is ignored if no concession that doesn’t negate winning can be agreed on.

Note on Edits – Feb 25th shifted to “soak approach” and added “devastating points”.
July 5/16 added social use of Guarded Position.

FYI – list of social actions


1. Big City Bravado
2. Conundrum
3. Devious Manoeuvre
4. Exploit Opening
5. Fake Out
6. Fear Me!
7. Fluster
8. Formal Diplomacy/Informal Carousing
9. Honeyed Words
10. I Thought We Were Friends
11. Inspiring Words
12. Scrutinize
13. Staring Contest
14. Steely Gaze
15. Trivial Knowledge
16. Twisting Words
17. Winning Smile

Lure of Power
18. Bad/Good Witch Hunter
19. Berate/Belittle
20. Blather
21. Bolster
22. Bribery
23. Compose Yourself
24. Crack a Joke
25. Don’t you know who I work for?
26. Feel for the Moment
27. Flirt
28. Impersonate
29. Incite/Calm down
30. Intuit Intention
31. Me First
32. Obfuscate/Elucidate
33. Perfect Gift
34. Quip
35. Sage Advice
36. Sermon
37. Skeleton in the Closet
38. Style and Grace
39. Twist the Knife
40. Teller of Tales

Black Fire Pass
41. Litany of Grudges – Dwarf only
42. Social Drinking
43. Dwarf Stubbornness – Dwarf only

Social Combat - Duel of Wits

After the Storm valvorik