D&D 4e and social conflicts?

21 September, 2009 at 10:49 pm (roleplaying-games) (, , , , )

Way back when 4e was previews and rumours I remember there was some talk of social conflict system. I haven’t heard much since, which is no surprise, as I don’t really follow most blogs focusing on 4e. Friend asked about the subject, so now I’m asking you:

  1. Is there a distinct social conflict subsystem in 4e? Particularly, distinct from skill challenges and skill rolls.
  2. If yes, is there some nice summary available somewhere? I have PHB and do not intend to spend any money on the other books and further I do avoid illegal (though morally justifiable) actions.
  3. If not, are there good examples of social skill challenges available online? I do not subscribe to the Insider and do not intend to do, so it is not very interesting for my purposes.
  4. Any good quality actual play reports featuring social conflicts that are handled mechanically would also be appreciated.

Thanks for help.


  1. DeadGod said,

    I think they were referring to skill challenges back in the “preview days.”

    This is a spectacular discussion of skill challenges (both social and non): http://www.critical-hits.com/features/skill-challenges/

    I’m going to toot my own horn here and offer up something from my blog. We banged out (but never tested) a system that treats social conflict like combat. It is in two posts:


  2. Gregory Weir said,

    There is no social conflict system outside of skill challenges. Typically, a complex social situation would be handled by a skill challenge or group of skill challenges with key skills being things like Diplomacy, Bluff, and Insight.

    I’d consider it fair use to summarize one of the social skill challenges presented in the DMG; if you consider it illegal, feel free to ignore or remove this part of my comment.

    Interrogation (Complexity 1 challenge; 4 successes before 3 failures)
    Primary skills:
    Bluff (moderate DCs): used to trick a prisoner into revealing something. Failing at Bluff eliminates its use for the rest of the challenge and increases other DCs to hard.
    Diplomacy (moderate DCs): used to bargain with the NPC. If you earn 3 or more successes at this, you must hold up your end of the bargain (the book is unclear how this is enforced).
    Intimidate (moderate DCs): used to threaten the NPC. Failing at Intimidate eliminates its use for the rest of the challenge and increases other DCs to hard.

    Success at this challenge would mean that the prisoner provides the desired information; failure would indicate false information or silence.

    Wizards has released a free preview of an interesting social skill challenge from the DMG2, no Insider subscription required:

    Two interesting social skill challenges online:

    And a long list of skill challenges, many of them social:

    All this is with the caveat that I have not yet gotten a grasp on skill challenges and how they are best used… or even if they are useful. They certainly seem useful, especially if you tend toward several connected low-complexity skill challenges, but I have yet to be satisfied with a skill challenge I’ve actually run in-game.

    The most important thing that I’ve found about skill challenges is that the mechanics must take a back seat to the roleplaying. Skill challenges do not take the place of roleplayed encounters; they provide a way to keep score mechanically. Essentially, the GM proceeds with the interaction as if it was being roleplayed normally, and uses the skill challenge rules to decide when the conflict has reached its conclusion and what conclusion has been reached.

  3. Tommi said,

    Thank you for information; it is appreciated.

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