Variant Social Rules

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Revised Social Conflict for Exalted 2e, based on Luke Crane's "Duel of Wits" for The Burning Wheel as well as this:



Characters do not have Appearance, Charisma, and Manipulation. Instead they have Charisma, Manipulation, and Composure. These correspond roughly to Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina.

Many Abilities can be used, depending on what you want to achieve, how you want to get it, and who you want to give it to you:

  • Presence - Used in one-on-one arguments. Use this if there isn't an obvious alternative.
  • Bureaucracy - Used when debating points of law or in haggling: court proceedings, legislative motions, trade negotiations
  • Integrity - Defensive only, used vs. interrogation, can be used vs. Presence
  • Investigation - Used when interrogating, or when looking to trip someone up
  • Performance - Used when competing to convince an audience
  • Socialize - Used when planting rumors, attempting to sway a group's opinion, or in propaganda.
  • Linguistics - Used when writing, as in a duel of letters.

Other Abilities can be used with a Stunt. Be careful to differentiate when arguing with another in front of a crowd: Presence will sway him, but Performance will move the crowd.

Social Defense Value is one half of the sum of Manipulation and the Ability used to defend. Essence isn't added in: neither attackers nor defenders have weapons to use. It is modified by Intimacy, high Virtue, or Motivation, but not by Appearance or Linguistics.

This happens in the timescale of fights or wars, as appropriate.


As each character Joins Debate with a Wits+Awareness roll, his player specifies what will happen if this character wins unreservedly.

AT: Why Cha+Wits? Rolling two Attributes in Exalted is very weird, and I'm not sure why Cha is most appropriate for determining initial timing. I think the standard Wits+Awareness is fine.
BTS: Because I misremembered ordinary Join Battle as Per+Wits. It's Wits+Awareness, as you note. This probably should be too.
AT: Is there a negotiation of Stakes between the parties, the way there was in Burning Empries? Can I refuse to join a Debate if I don't like the stakes? If everyone gets to set their own stakes without negotiation, there's lots of room for abuse, particularly in the case of multi-character conflict. I.e. I'm arguing over where to go to lunch, then suddenly someone joins in and sets his stakes as "you're my love-slave".
BTS: I generally assumed the same way out as Burning Wheel, but know that I need to be more specific: what if you don't want to argue? Can you just refuse? Can you then beat on somebody without falling prey to his words? I'm not sure what the right answer is there.
AT: In particular, if you want combat and social conflict to mix, then you don't have the normal way out of refusing to enter the mechanic, or escalating from social to physical. I don't think the system can work without either the right of refusal, or a set of pre-fixed stakes (similar to the current "compel behavior for a scene"). Mixing combat and socializing is definitely also asking for more than 2 sides of a debate.

These are the Stakes he is fighting for. He also determines his Convincedness, a sort of temporary Health Level track. Your Convincedness is equal to the sum of your temporary Willpower and any successes on a reflexive Composure+Integrity roll. Note that it's temporary Willpower: if you're worn out from a fight, you'll be easier to talk to. Willpower spent or regained during the conflict does change your Convincedness.

AT: I think it may make sense for Virtues to be involved in this value somehow. I'd actually considered a fixed amount of WP+Conviction (maybe plus Integrity) for social HP, perhaps substituting another virtue if appropriate. Health Levels are a fixed value, after all.
BTS: They are: your two highest virtues are your Willpower. More seriously, your Virtues are helping your defense---maybe they ought to help Soak instead, but I've tried to ensure that each stat only counts once here. That makes it easy to figure out what each does.
AT: What happens with overlapping multi-character arguments? Do you have a separate Convincedness for each topic under discussion, or just one on the theory that too many people talking to you at once makes you easy to overwhelm? Do we need any notion of social damage lasting between conflicts, the way that HLs do?
BTS: The GM complains at you and forces you into the mass-combat mechanic, possibly. Note that when anybody hits 0 right now, he's lost and the debate is over. So if the PCs gang up on somebody, they don't risk convincing him of many things, and are no more effective than if they picked one issue to work on. The only place I worry is that you can wear someone down by arguing that they should support their own Motivation... then switch to something nasty for the last point of Convincedness. But that's not a problem unless somebody tries to break the system---and I think that'll be a problem for any social conflict mechanic.
AT: I don't think you have to intend to break the system for that to happen. You get unintentional "kill stealing" if two people are trying to convince one target of different things at the same time. I think there should probably be a separate "Convincedness" pool for each topic or opponent.

TODO: Replace the word Convincedness. Composure, Resolve, Willpower, and Conviction are right out.

AT: Social HP is really anti-convincedness anyway - it's the degree to which you're not convinced by your opponent. Stubbornness would be closer. Suggestions based on a Thesaurus scan: resolution, certainty, determination, perseverance, steadiness, constance, indomitability, conclusiveness, intention


Players now make their arguments as usual. If this is overlayed with a Battle or War, a social attack has a speed of 5 and a defense penalty of -1. Defense penalties are not segregated between social and physical actions: they're all summed together, including Onslaught for someone who shouts three nasty things at you and then stabs you.

AT: That last part is somewhat odd. If you have a Dodge Charm which removes onslaught penalties, does it apply only when dodging physical attacks, only to the onslaught applied by physical attacks, or always?
BTS: I think it probably supplements a reflexive Dodge action, so it only works when that Dodge is applicable. It probably also only removes Onslaught penalties from your Dodge DV, which is not this. If you have a Dodge Charm that nulls Onslaught penalties without restriction, good for you. It works great to negate Onslaught of arguments. This may sometimes lead to actions having physical and social consequences, but I think that's OK.
AT: To clarify, if someone hits me with a Flurry of Taunt + Taunt + Stab, the Stab hits with an Onslought penalty of -2, applied to my Dodge DV. So my hypothetical Dodge Charm which cancels Onslaught penalty to my Dodge DV applies. A hypothentical Integrity charm which cancelled Onslaught pentalty to my Dodge MDV would not apply, since my Dodge MDV is not involved.

Social attacks are rolled with Manipulation + the appropriate Ability. Anything beyond a spare "I convince/overawe/interrogate him" is a Stunt. Add Charisma to the rolled successes and hand the number to your opponent. He subtracts his own Composure, then rolls the remaining dice as a damage pool. Any successes are subtracted from his Convincedness.

Resolution and Compromise

When one party has lost all his Convincedness, he is out of the argument. The Debate ends. In a new debate, everybody gets a fresh pool of Convincedness. But first, whoever took this character out of the debate gets what he wants---to some extent.

If the winner lost only one point of Convincedness, there is no compromise necessary.

If the winner lost less than half of his Convincedness, he must compromise. The loser doesn't get all that he wanted, but he does get something small or related.

If the winner lost half or more of his Convincedness, he must give the loser one major concession: about half of what the loser wanted. Alternately, the loser can get nothing and the winner gets half of what he wanted.

If the winner had only one point of Convincedness left, he must grant a very major compromise.

If both sides mutually hit zero, then they all get what they want.

These compromises should be negotiated among the players or mandated by the GM---this isn't an in-character discussion. By and large, the loser gets to set his own compromise unless others show that he's being greedy or off-topic.

AT: Does the Duel of Wits mechanic from Burning Foo deal with duels with more than 2 sides at all? I'm not sure how you'd negotiate the compromise in that case. Or do the participants pair off and pool their Convincedness values for their shared side somehow?
BTS: Yes. It says to avoid them when possible, and force DoW to be one-on-one with helpers unless you're really sure about the consequences for the game. Paired arguments, each with their own un-pooled Convincedness values, also work.
AT: I think that works fine as long as players are willing/able to make the narrative negotiations to make the situations happen like that. It doesn't work if you want social attacks to be freely mixed in the middle of physical combat, where the layer of abstraction is no longer high enough to permit the freedom to negotiate.


AT: This is a placeholder for the fact that interactions with Charms will need to be discussed/adjusted for this to actually be a usable system. I think a lot of Charms can be used as-is. Certainly the use of Excellencies on attack/defense are clear enough, as are the existing social attack/defense charms. You'd need to specify whether Charms which refer to "Dodge MDV" mean the old definition (with Essence and WP) or the definition used above (presumably Manipulation+Integrity). There's also a need for a set of Integrity charms which work like Resistance charms in social soak. For Solars it could be a copy/paste of Charm trees. For Siderials, there should probably be more social soak charms then there are physical ones.
BTS: Yes, I think most work as-is. This SDV is much lower than Dodge MDV. Some Charms are written to rarely work; they probably do need a different comparison method.
AT: Also note that this system lacks an Armor analog, which will affect the balance when compared to physical combat. Maybe that's where Virtues and Motivation come in? If a virtue is opposed by an argument, use your Virtue as extra soak. If your Motivation is opposed, it counts as some large amount of soak (Essence+Integrity maybe)?
BTS: It also lacks a weapon analog. I think those cancel out---but it needs to be tested in play. I like your Soak idea a lot, though. Maybe instead of DV buffs, Intimacies give +Essence soak, Virtues give their own value, and Motivation gives +Willpower. That does interesting things at high Essence.
AT: Hadn't thought about lack of weapons - I think those probably do cancel. I do think that either Soak or Health Levels are the place to apply Virtues, Intimacies, and Motivation.
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