NPC Reaction rolls are a pretty good deal, I think.

But something’s missing. I think a lot of people can sense this.

And I think that’s part of the reason that — even groups accustomed to negotiating with NPCs and monsters will sometimes look for rules systems for social interaction. Certainly, it’s a bugbear of mine.

I think perhaps a component of the problem is the inherent one-sidedness of NPC Reactions. The GM rolls for the reaction, and it’s done, right? The players have to go from that point, wherever negotiations may take them.

Well, I came up with something that might help.

I forget where I read this — I know, that’s a tired excuse by now — but someone pointed out in conversation or in a blog post that while carrying around weapons wasn’t necessarily a big deal, wearing armor was.

Why is this?

Well, carrying a weapon doesn’t indicate an intent to use it. You can assume whatever you like, and sure it might create some tension, but armor? Nobody wears armor unless they expect they’re expecting a fight.

And the assumption in that case is clear: you don’t need armor unless you plan to create a problem. It’s that extra layer of premeditation on the part of the armor-user that ultimately damns them.

So you need concealed armor. Or you need to go without.

That is, if you want to create a good impression. And good impressions are what “PC Attitude” is all about.

Attitude comes in three flavors: Friendly, Devious, and Hostile.

We all assume the party is “Friendly” from the beginning. Your intent is indicated by your preparations. If anyone in your group is wearing armor, you are considered “Devious.” Likewise if you have weapon in hand.

If anyone (and I do mean anyone) in the group is wearing armor, or anyone is openly carrying weapons: the party’s Attitude shifts two steps to Hostile. Just about anyone is going to see your group as a threat. It’s a fact.

Face it: you aren’t getting into the king’s court in your +5 full plate.

Now this mechanic has a lot of use right out the door. First of all, your unarmed, unarmored monks and wizards are going to be able to travel just about anywhere without appearing to threaten anyone. Awesome, right?

Also, it provides a feedback loop for players to indicate whether they’re wearing their armor or holding their weapons. A problem I’ve had for an age and a half is getting players to take that minor action (4e) to draw weapons.

I mean, what is even the point of a skill or feat like “Quick Draw” if everyone is always holding their weapons! I ask you. It’s boring, is what it is! How do you achieve get a “standoff” situation like that?

Among other things, it means the GM has to justify less when a bunch of ninjas attack the party. And as a player (who occasionally cares when the party gets randomly attacked), I like to be able to point to reasons.

“Dude. You have a FLAMING SWORD. Why do you THINK they attacked?”
“Blood-red, spike-covered armor. How come I didn’t think of that.”

It helps the party know where they stand. “We look like a bunch of blood-stained lunatics. We shouldn’t expect better just because we’re Lawful Good.”

But it gets better.

See, I’ve been coming up with mechanics to play into this — also drawing from existing mechanics — that can aid a party in “looking better.”

For starters, there are paladins. What is a Code of Conduct good for? I’ll tell you. Paladins exist to protect people. They stand for justice, among other things. They are above suspicion, as classes go. You can recognize a paladin on sight.

That means paladins can wear their armor wherever they go.

They’re trusted. Paladins are a big deal.

Suddenly, there’s like a very good reason for that “Summoned Armor” enchantment from 4e, which seemed for the most part to be an entirely cosmetic effect (and thus more than a little worthless by magic item standards).

Hey, and concealed weapons are a great big deal.

The ability to produce a weapon without alerting anyone to the danger means you can enter encounters armed to the teeth while hapless NPCs are making overtures on uh, the virtue of sharing map information.

These things had a use before, but the justification was weak.

Now, the justification is strong with this one.

But wait! There’s more! I’ll let you know the next best part… next.