Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts V – Diplomatic Attitudes

The basic problem with any form of social influence or negotiation is pretty simple; if you don’t start out offering a fair chunk of what the other side wants and consider their positions, they very quickly decide that you aren’t serious about making a deal and stop listening. After all, people are rarely really listening to anything except the bits they want to hear to start with. They are rather more likely to be thinking about what they’re going to say next, if they want to risk saying something that might get them into trouble, and what they might be able to get away with. Worse, an awful lot of communication (I’ve seen it put as high as 93% in some studies; there’s a reason why “Charades” is a popular game) relies on nonverbal cues, which aren’t likely to translate all that well between wildly different species.

Similarly, reaching an agreement – whether it’s a simple verbal agreement, a written contract, or a full-blown treaty between nations – is no guarantee that either side is going to stick with it. Like it or not, agreements only hold up as long as both sides are reasonably happy with what they’re getting out of them. You can’t rely on a legal system – “international” or not – to enforce an agreement either. Even presuming that there is an applicable authority, that said authority is capable of enforcing the contract and that said authority wishes to bother, that most of the deal is judged to be valid, that it was clearly understood by both sides, that no external pressure was used to procure agreement, that it was undertaken in good faith on your side, and that whatever part you’re trying to insist on is judged to be enforceable… the best you’re likely to get is a penalty payment.

Even in the basic rules… Diplomacy changes attitudes. It doesn’t change obligations and duties, rules and fears, promises and codes of honor, skills and physical capabilities, instincts and bodily demands, or a common-sense understanding of the world – which makes “Attitude” only about one-seventh of the major influences on peoples behavior.

That’s why loving parents sometimes rush back into burning buildings and sometimes just burst into tears; they desperately want to save that kid – but (obligations and duties) are there other kids that they would be risking leaving orphaned? How likely (rules and fears) are they to make it out again and are they being told not to try by the police or firemen? Are they capable enough (skills and physical abilities) to have a good shot saving the kid? Are they (instincts and bodily demands) already having a hard time breathing or hurt? Is it obvious (common sense) that the kid is already beyond help?

Attitude only goes so far. There have been plenty of cases of people doing things that they desperately didn’t want to do to people whom they loved because other reasons overrode that attitude.

Sample Stunts for Craft (Literature)/Diplomacy/Intimidation/Negotiation/Perform (Oratory)/Persuasion/Profession (Law).

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Inoffensive Oration: You may make a lengthy speech that is heartwarming, amusing, easy to listen to, will probably get much applause, says nothing at all, and offends no one except a few cynics who hate empty platitudes.
    • Present Argument: You may present an argument in a calm and reasonably non-confrontational manner, without being drawn into silly arguments, falling for attempts to distort your position, or getting trapped by similar conversational gambits.
    • Rabble Rousing: You may select a target audience and tell them everything that they want to hear – that their resentments are fully justified, that nothing is their own fault, that they have no need to change, that they are entirely in the right and are unjustly persecuted, that they are better than everyone else, and that you can fix all their problems if they just have faith, give you money, and support your agenda. This tends to produce great enthusiasm, but few realistic actions.
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Incite Unrest: Seizing on whatever an areas current problems are, you fling blame, point fingers, and stir up protest. While you can vary your rhetoric to encourage or discourage actual violence, you have little control beyond that. There will be traffic delays, minor to major vandalism, and a great deal of distraction for the local authorities for 1d4 days. You can, if you wish, accept penalties on your check to make yourself more difficult to identify, as this sort of behavior tends to get you into trouble.
    • Janissary: You may raise a child to become a devoted and loyal servant and implement of your will – although every once in a while one WILL go renegade on you. It seems to be inevitable, if rare.
    • Mediation: If two conflicting parties will accept your offer to negotiate, you can keep things calm, sort out what each side is actually willing to settle for, and (presuming that there actually is some space in the middle) convince both sides that meeting in that space is the best deal that they are going to get. The higher the role above this minimum, the longer each side will accept that the deal is the best that they can hope to get. Of course, if there ISN’T some space in the middle, than one or both sides is likely to walk out or get violent.
  • DC 20:
    • Incite Hostilities: You may raise a lynch mob, rile up some witch hunters, or get a barroom brawl going, directing the hostilities at some group of targets. At DC 30 the mob you’ve raised becomes set on serious violence. At DC 40 it can spread to a moderately-sized group, such as a football crowd. At DC 50 you can spread the violence across a city – and probably become a high-ranking public enemy. At DC 60, you may include it’s suburbs and supporting settlements. At DC 75 you may incite wars. At DC 100 you may incite large-scale, multi-country, wars.
    • In Every Port: You may quickly find a party or social event, obtain invitations, and (if you wish) acquire an evenings “companionship” in any reasonably-sized settlement. Within a few days you will be an accepted part of the local social scene and have casual acquaintances all over town. This ability must be invoked at least once per day to function, but may be used as often as you wish to find and join a new social event.
    • Rumor Monger: You may start rumors so juicy and irresistibly titillating that they will swiftly spread throughout a city-sized area. After three or four days you can count on most of the city having heard about it, although few will believe it. The rumors will die down in another 3d6 days as something else grabs the public’s fickle attention.
  • DC 25:
    • A Thousand Words: When you tell a story, utter prophecies, talk about your god, or undertake any similar activity you may clearly show your listeners your envisionment of the events – the flames sweeping over cities, the battles between the gods, the rising of the great dragon – with effects equivalent to them watching a modern movie on the topic. You can easily make a living this way and can even impart a good deal of information. Plus, of course, most listeners will find the imagery far, far, more persuasive than unadorned words.
    • Harmonic Voice: You may use the equivalent of the Command, Liberating Command, or Shatter spells.
    • Venomed Tongue: You may describe a sensation so clearly and persuasively that up to one target per level within medium range must save or feel it clearly – whether it is a voice calling for help, the sound of an approaching dragons wings, the twisting of their stomach as the venom takes effect, their breath going short as the air goes bad, or the terrible rising heat of flames coming ever closer. Sadly, however, visions must be relatively subtle. In dim light you may inspire your victims to see menacing shadows flicking about, but a fully-realized Ogre is a bit much. Victims may be Shaken or Sickened (depending on the creature and the effect used) or may simply react to the apparent situation – going to the rescue, casting light spells and forming a circle to repel the menacing shadows, or similar. This is a full-round action.
  • DC 30:
    • Dog Whistles: You may conceal a powerful message to a particular group in an otherwise innocuous message,
    • Indoctrination: You may spend a week and roll to recruit 2D4 “points” worth of Followers as per the Minions skill, up to a limit of (Your Net Skill/2) “points” worth of Minions. It is advisable to avoid getting demons and such until you can manage a Binding Contract, below. At +20 DC you may reduce the necessary time to one day. (Unlike most stunts this is basically a replacement for the rather badly written “induce fanatic loyalty” epic application of Diplomacy. Yes, your social skills can get you some minions. No, you cannot be a diplomancer and take over the universe).
    • Pierce The Darkness: You may elicit useful information from individuals who are confused, insane, or brain-damaged – coaxing out fragments until you can put some version of the entirety together.
  • DC 35:
    • Stilling The Storm: You may counteract the effects of Incite Unrest or Incite Hostilities. Sadly, such attempts are at +20 DC over the opposing check. It is always harder to calm excited people than it is to work them up.
    • Lesser Binding Contract: You may weave magic into a contract. Provided that it is clearly explained in advance the first one who breaks it will suffer a Curse. If they signed voluntarily, neither a save nor spell resistance applies and it cannot be removed for at least one year. After that it may be removed normally.
    • Whispering Tongue: You may use the equivalent of the Enthrall, Suggestion, or Charm Person spells.
  • DC 40:
    • Bypass Language: You may remove the language-dependence from a language-dependant effect as a free action when you attempt to activate that ability.
    • Inspire Movement: You may create a tale, argument, or similar device so compelling that it will enter popular consciousness, gradually reshaping cultural attitudes – essentially allowing you to exercise your persuasive skill against people who have never met you but have read your book, heard your broadcasts, seen your movie, or whatever – albeit at -20.
    • Rewrite History: You may make your version of events so appealing, so narratively satisfying, and so well fitted to what “ought to be true” that it will soon supplant to truth in the popular consciousness – and from there, over the years, it will leak into popular ballads, scholarly works, and the minds of historians until the truth lies only in a few disregarded tomes. This can be resisted – a popular current ruler will have his own tellers of tales to counter your tale if you try to undermine him or her – but if you wish to conceal some ancient tomb, transform the reputation of a historical figure, or establish some precedent, and have some time to do so, this will do it.
  • DC 50:
    • Gates Of The Psyche: While your target will probably have to be restrained for this to work, you may either cure or cause various forms of insanity by talking to a target for 1d4 hours. In either case, a save applies. Another try will require dd4 hours, a third 3d4, and so on.
    • Shepherd The Wheels: By participating yourself you may push organizations into doing their jobs efficiently and quickly – getting troops or relief supplies dispatched, an investigation underway, permits issued, or similar tasks accomplished in only one-tenth the usual time. The time many be further decreased; each +5 on the check over DC 50 increases the divisor by one thus DC 60 is one-twelfth the usual time and so on.
    • Thematic Pact: You may select two qualities which may be applied to your Minions (from the DC 30 Indoctrination ability) without adding to their effective “cost”. This choice is permanent for any particular character however – so you might opt to be served by “Fanatic Dervishes” or “Demonic Warlocks”, or “Illusion-Spinning Rogues” or “Possessing Spirits” – and so shall it be. You must, however, invoke this effect whenever you are recruiting minions.
  • DC 60:
    • Mutual Advantage: You can overcome prejudice, poor information, limited intelligence, doubts, emotional problems, and similar barriers. If a bargain actually is acceptable and advantageous for those involved they will agree to it in good faith regardless of any irrational objections. This does not, however, overcome rational objections; it simply provides an objective view of the costs and benefits of a bargain.
    • Tongue Of The Worlds Core: You may attempt to convince the spirits of the Elements and/or Nature that major changes need to be made – moving a mountain, creating a fertile region in the midst of a deadly desert, or making major alterations in the weather. This requires anything from a standard action (turning aside a tornado) on up through a day or two (trying to get a mountain moved).
    • Vox Invictus: You may use the equivalent of the Greater Command, Modify Memory, or Mass Suggestion spells.
  • DC 75:
    • Greater Binding Contract: You may weave magic into a contract. Provided that it is clearly explained in advance the first one who breaks it will suffer a Greater Curse. If they signed voluntarily, neither a save nor spell resistance applies and it cannot be removed for at least ten years. After that it may be removed normally.
    • Universal Communion: You may speak with anything with an intelligence score of 1+ as well as with Plants. Activating this ability is a free action.
    • Whispers Of Apocalypse: You may send your words across the barriers between worlds, hearing any replies and opening a link for the transmission of magical energies. In effect, you can send up a prayer which will definitely be heard instead of simply becoming a part of the general babel of the material planes. You may thus inform someone who has been murdered that they have been avenged, try to contact the dead for information, inform Odin that Fenris has been released into the world, try to negotiate with a demon for various services, and so on. While this ability in itself offers no particular influence over such entities, you can try to make a bargain or simply appeal for aid. This is at least a full-round action and usually takes longer than that.
  • DC 100:
    • Contractual Spirit: You may write and fully explain a contract that binds those who understand it’s terms and who willing agree to abide by the spirit of the agreement indefinitely. There will be no bending of the terms, jackass genie interpretations, or similar unpleasant surprises.
    • Sephiroth Of Oblivion: You may give voice to the words buried within the primal levels of reality, touching upon the dreaming thought-reality of the Elder Ones where they sleep within the angles of time. The Elder Ones – Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, et al – are not really hostile. Indeed, they can be somewhat obliging – but they do not understand mortals, mortal desires, or mortal limitations, in the slightest. That which you speak in the primal speech shall be understood. That which you call upon shall hear and answer – and that which you unleash shall do as it wills.
    • Vocal Dominion: You may use the equivalent of a Euphoric Tranquility, Mass Charm Monster, or Feeblemind effect.

Epic Stunts:

  • Dramatic Narration (Research Level 9, DC 46): You may describe what is going on and you and your friends inevitable victory as a free action – invoking a version of the Narrative Manipulation spell that affects one target within 30′ per level of the caster, lasts for up to twenty-four hours, and allows the use of one Maneuver, Trait, or Exploit each round.
  • Voice Of Harmony (Research Level 10, DC 50): You may employ a non-magical Calm Emotions effect across an entire battlefield, city and it’s environs, or similar area, maintaining the effect for up to one minute per level.
  • Paradoxical Utterance (Research Level 11, DC 54): As per Circle of Death, but affects 1d6+1 hit dice worth of creatures per caster level to a maximum of 25d6+25 and can affect creatures with fourteen hit dice or less.
  • Pedagogic Drone (Research Level 12, DC 58): As a full-round action you may attempt to bore anyone within 120 feet with twenty hit dice or less to sleep. Victims cannot be awakened by non-magical means for 3d6 x 10 minutes. The user may continue droning on, affecting anyone new who comes within range, for up to ten minutes per level.
  • Touch The Multitude (Research Level 13, DC 62): You may employ any one standard stunt as an immediate action.
  • Quincunx Of Terror (Research Level 14, DC 66): You gain a Gaze Attack with a 60′ range. Each victim who meets your gaze may be targeted by your choice of Awaken Sin, Fear, Phantasmal Killer, or Rebuke. This overcomes “type” immunities.
  • Enveloping Myth (Research Level 15, DC 70): You may send up to one target per level (this may include yourself, but does not have to) into a mythic or historical realm, there to fulfill a quest set by the nature of the realm before being able to depart. Will saves will negate this if a target opts to make one.
  • King And Country (Research Level 18, DC 82): Provided that you are dealing with the proper authorities on both sides and both sides agree you may make a treaty between tribes or nations fully binding according to its intent. Whichever group violates it first will bring down a Greater Curse upon the entire group and/or the realm in questions – allowing no resistance and lasting for at least one hundred years unless some great quest is undertaken and completed successfully to atone and undo it.
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