Hey Mister, Can I Have Your Gun…?

I have been doing some thinking regarding the use of Charm or Leadership or relevant Social Skill when interacting with NPCs.

And, adjacent to those thoughts, is a general revisiting of how many and what kind of the difficulty / setback / challenge dice brought into play for these scenarios.

[If this scenario seems ridiculous and not worth the time and effort of reading…give me a chance. It will get interesting as new layers are added.]

Scenario 1: A child (we’ll go with a human child for this - easier to visualize) maybe 10 or 11 years of age walks up to a PC and asks for the current time. Nothing major - an easy check of the chrono worn by most galactic citizens. BUT, the PC is distracted by this annoying request from this kid as the party is setting up a “complicated escape and rescue op…” or some such, and this kid is hampering the execution of the plan. And for some reason, the PC’s Chrono (watch) isn’t readily available.

NPC child is persistent, so a dice check is called for. Kid has a Presence of 2 so a yellow (cuz he / she is kid, and dang if they can’t be charming / annoying sometimes) and a green. OK. Now the difficulty dice. PC has a Willpower of 2 and no ranks in Cool. So the Difficulty is two purple dice.

GM states that the kid seems alone and frightened, tugging at the heart strings of the PC. So a blue Boost die is added. PC argues that his character is focused on the complex operation that the party is setting up and a Setback dice should be added. OK, all agree that is fair.

Total pool: 1 Proficiency, 1 Ability and 1 Boost dice opposed by 2 Difficulty dice and 1 Setback dice. Roll is made. Let’s say for the sake of argument, that the NPC child prevails (with advantage even!) and the PC is forced to begrudgingly smile at the kid’s tenacity and the Chrono is produced from the depths of a combat pack and the time is given. Child walks away happy with the knowledge that it is 3:52 PM.

The end.

But wait.

Scenario 2: Let’s do some substitutions of the actors involved. Switch out the NPC kid for a PC Rebel Pilot - currently on planet, but missing his trusty blaster. Maybe the PC was shot down and was stripped of gear, so wearing civilian clothes as to “blend in with the locals” in this remote village. Unfortunately for this PC Pilot, the Empire is hot on his trail and has dispatched a company of Imperial Stormtroopers to this part of the countryside specifically to hunt for this Rebel Pilot. PC Pilot was earlier informed that at EXACTLY 3:52 PM, he was to make a mad dash for the edge of town where a grav train would be departing from the station and Alliance friendlies aboard would hide him from the Imps before the train could be searched etc., etc. [I know…this is kinda weak, but stay with me.]

So, the PC Rebel Pilot dressed as a local walks up to a local to ask for the time - but realizes that this part of the Outer Rim, many folks are impoverished so Chronos are harder to come by. They are a luxury~

The only choice the PC Rebel Pilot has now is to walk up to one of the Stormtroopers and ask him for the time. [With their armor, the Stormtroopers undoubtedly have some kind of chrono display that they can easily access.]

PC Rebel Pilot has a 2 Presence and one rank in Charm. So, one yellow Proficiency and one green dice.

The Stormtrooper has a Presence of 1 and NO ranks in Cool. So one Difficulty die.

GM decides that this is a potentially risky situation for the PC to walk up to the very people hunting for him, so a Setback die is introduced. Also, this is NOT your average Galactic Citizen the PC is approaching. This is a highly trained, very disciplined shock trooper of the Emperor’s military. And, this Stormtrooper is NOT off-duty or lazing about the barracks; instead this particular trooper has a mission to hunt for a shot down Rebel pilot attempting to flee into the wilderness. So…this trooper is FOCUSED!! GM decides to add two more Setback dice for a total of 3 Setback dice. [Should these be Difficulty dice instead…? Challenge Dice…? … THIS alone could be good fodder for discussion! Should MORE dice be added IN ADDITION TO the sole Difficulty dice representing the Stormtrooper’s Presence of 1…???]

Pool is formed and dice are rolled!

PC prevails, with a Success!

The Stormtrooper pauses from his task, and gives the Rebel Pilot PC the current time of the day. It is 3:52 PM! Time to head to the edge of town and jump on that grav train before it swiftly departs!

OK, now let’s add to this scenario:

The PC Rebel Pilot is feeling a bit HUNGRY as well…

“Hey, Mister Trooper, sir…could I have your ration pack…?”

Assemble dice pool as depicted above.

The PC Rebel Pilot once again SUCCEEDS!!! Now he is happily munching on standard issue Imperial ration sticks!!

OK, now let’s add to this scenario:

The PC Rebel Pilot is well aware that he had to drop his blaster pistol in the forest outside of the village when he was first confronted by the angry father whose peasant daughter [endowed with huge tracts of land!] found the unconscious pilot when he parachuted from his damaged fighter…blah blah blah - he doesn’t have his pistol!

“Hey, Mister Trooper, CAN I HAVE YOUR GUN….?”

Assemble dice pool as depicted above. [Uh, are you sure about that GM…? Shouldn’t this be A LOT MORE DIFFICULT - I MEAN BY FACTORS OF “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!?!?!” You want the Stormtrooper to just HAND OVER his blaster rifle!?!?!”].

OK, so …two more Setback dice…? [WHAT!!!??? Shouldn’t this default to a Formidable or Impossible difficulty level with FIVE PURPLE or even SIX PURPLE difficulty dice…? And what about introducing the vaunted RED Challenge DICE!!!?? You might think so. But, it says in the core rule book that Charm checks are opposed by the target’s Cool - nothing more [outside of additional Boosts or Setbacks]

The PC Rebel Pilot SUCCEEDS once again! He now has the Stormtrooper’s blaster rifle!

“Thanks Mister Trooper, you have been really helpful today.”

So the crux of my “question” is this: Can situational circumstances OVERRIDE the rules for opposed Charm rolls…? OR, can the target’s Presence (or COOL if they have ranks in it) dice EVER BE ADDED IN ADDITION to the general difficulty of the check being made…? So, target has Presence of 1 BUT the request being made is [“give me your gun!”] unthinkable for the target to comply with normally so Formidable (1 + 5 Difficulty dice for a total of 6 PURPLES!!)…?

What do you all think??

As before, thanking everyone for their thoughtful and respectful responses ahead of time :slight_smile:


Short answer is don’t roll for everything, as some things do not need a roll.

A roll should only be necessary if there is a chance of failure, a chance of success, and the outcome is narratively relevant or interesting.

So, take scenario 1. Kid asks PC for time.
No roll, as it doesn’t pass the above test (and it unnecessarily removes player agency, which is bad).
However, if the kid was only asking in order to distract the PC from his current op for a breif moment, make a roll. But… make the PC roll his Cool, with the Kid’s charm as difficulty. The results will tell you if the kid’s distraction worked.

Now with you final scenario, “Can I have your blaster?” Clearly the answer is no. No roll necessary, it does not pass the above test. The thought that a PC can Charm a Stormtrooper into giving up his weapon is ludicrous, and rooted in a million Bard rolls nat 20 memes.
However… Just asking the Stormtrooper could still have some Narrative consequences, so I would make him roll, but I would make it clear that the ST is not going to give up his gun, and ask what the actual goal is here. Because, Threat, Advantage, Triumph, or Despair, could buy the PC a moment of the ST being distracted, or earn him a “sure you can have my blaster. In your face!”.

But yeah, don’t fall into the trap of making everything need a roll. That way madness lies.


That’s the short answer.

Longer answer, it depends:
What’s the purpose of the attempted Charm?
If the kid is asking for the time and all he wants is the time, let the PC RP it. If it’s a distraction, then roll for it. That brings up what @GM_SteMac said:

While I agree with most of the rest of his post, I disagree with this (with a caveat). In this case, the acting character is the kid attempting to create a distraction. Besides that just being how things are supposed to be, PCs may have talents that affect the roll when they are the difficulty, or vice-versa. Those should be properly sequestered. Let the kid roll his skill against the PC’s difficulty.

The caveat is if the kid is really just asking for the time. If the PC needs to stay focused and this is just an “environmental distraction,” then have the PC roll Cool at a set difficulty.

Now, in the case of the character asking for the time as part of a broader attempt to ingratiate himself/inspire sympathy, then asking for the time is not the Charm check. The Charm check is for the attempt to inspire sympathy etc., asking for the time is just a means, or incidental to the interaction.

In which case, opposed Charm. But characters will still be very limited in what they are willing to do.

Another important question: What is the scope of a Charm check? I do not think that it is always (or even usually) “can I has thing?”, but more often what the CRB describes as “persuading… …to make a special exception to his usual practices.”

I would usually play this out as ingratiate yourself, and the character will respond accordingly, within character.

Here’s how the interaction with the stormtrooper would go with that approach:
PC: I’m going to ask the stormtrooper for his gun! (flat success, despite Setbacks)
Twi’lek pilot: *bats eyelashes*
Stormtrooper: "Aw, shucks, ma’am."
Twi’lek pilot: "Can I has blaster?"
Stormtrooper: "Of course not! I should report you for even asking! But I’ll let it slide this time."

So the Twi’lek charms the stormtrooper, and he reacts in-character to her requests.

Seduction is a different matter, which I will not get into. As a fighter plane, I simply do not understand human mating habits. They are perpetually perplexing.

Here’s another scenario:
A young street urchin walks up to Borrak. “What time is it?” he asks nervously. (Success, two Advantage)
Borrak has a soft spot for kids, so even though he’s supposed to be keeping an eye on the bar, he reaches back into his pack and pulls out a chrono. “1515, kid.”
“Thanks.” The kid doesn’t leave, but bites his lip, awkwardly looking at the ground.
(GM whispers: With the two Advantage, Borrak feels inclined to help him)
Borrak’s heart by now has melted. They’re in this fight to help kids like this, aren’t they? “Are you hungry, kid?”
“Oh yes, mister! I haven’t eaten in days!”
Borrak hands him a ration pack and they talk some while they eat, the burly Corellian/Hapan-Zeltron/Dantooinian still keeping an eye on the bar.
After the kid finishes wolfing down the ration pack, he asks for the time again.
“1535, kid.”
“Mister, can I borrow your gun? I’ll bring it back, I promise!”

Now, Borrak knows better than to give the kid his gun. No matter how charming he is. But, he’s very sympathetic to the kid and so another Charm check is called for. How well can the kid attract his sympathies, and persuade him to pursue a side mission? Success! Borrak is receptive and doesn’t just tell him to scram.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, you want to what? Why do you want a gun?”
*insert sob story and reason why the kid needs a gun until 1600*
Borrak’s PC, wiping away tears: “Borrak would definitely help. I know we’re supposed to watch the bar, but this kid’s sister could be killed! He tells the others that he has to go help.”

As for increasing the difficulty, yes. I would increase the difficulty of any Charm checks targeting certain characters, above and beyond adding Setback. For example, I would likely put any Charm checks targeting Stormtroopers at 3 base difficulty, regardless of their stat in that regard (call it using Willpower, if you want). Or sometimes, I might just say no. An example of that would be battle droids. If you try to charm a tin can, you won’t get very far. I know from experience! (Okay, I lied. Flattery works very well on me, if it’s the right flattery. I’m very vain of my model’s war record. But that’s different! I’m sentient!)

So… yeah. I do sometimes (although rarely) increase the difficulty of Charm (or even more rarely, other social) checks, but that should generally be accomplished by Challenge dice or Setback. I usually apply Challenge dice as a result of previous interactions. Like if it was the stormtrooper’s ex trying to wheedle his blaster from him, he might just take the excuse to shoot her in the face. Setback is more about conditions that make the check more difficult than it would normally be.

But Charm is NOT Negotiation! Make sure you remember that Charm is much less cause-effect than Negotiation is, and there is much more room for roleplay within the confines of the dice results. It is, after all, a much more personal interaction than haggling over the price of aviation fuel.


I agree with mostly everything above me and I would add another option.
Disclaimer: Remember social checks are not brain washing!
I usually decide beforehand if the request is acceptable or not before the roll. If it is not (like the kid asking for the gun) I’d still make it roll a Charm. A successful charm checks in this case means the PC is moved or deeply disturbed by the kids heart-breaking story and gets the appropriate number of strain per social combat check (for example the story reminds it for its childhood or whatever). The PC still has the agency to do whatever it wants, but the kid made an impression in him.