Renowned Explorers has made an impression on me.

I wrote a bit about it last week. I’ve been thinking of ways to implement some of its concepts in D&D. Because that’s how I roll.

If the PC Attitudes post earlier looked a little familiar, it’s because I was cribbing some concepts from RE. The main problem I see from trying to implement the system wholesale is the nitty-gritty stuff is better handled by a computer. That’s a death knell for a lot of rules and systems.

So, how to streamline? How to simplify?

First of all, you can drop the combat advantages for Friendly, Devious, or Hostile Attitudes. To be truly valuable, they have to come with extrinsic value.

Sure, sparing a particular NPC might make them available for uses later, but that’s a consequence which must be foreseen — the players have to value that outcome of their own accord. You can’t force it on them.

Also, any rules in place ought to use stuff that already mostly exists. Adding too many new rules muddies the already opaque waters.

So, let’s think.

What already exists within the framework of the game, which could be used to affect how NPC Reactions and PC Attitudes might converge to create diverging outcomes to uh, violent and non-violent outcomes?

I think there’s a clue in a 4e use of the Intimidate skill:

When you employ the Intimidate skill against a “bloodied” (half maximum hit points or less) opponent, they can be forced to surrender during a fight. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s a starting point.

Now, imagine if you could do the same basic thing with “Diplomacy.”

If we get right down to it, there’s a simple way of looking at “Friendly,” “Devious,” and “Hostile” victories. If you just waste ’em, you’re Hostile. If you Diplomacy-away the problem, it’s generally Friendly. And then, if you use some underhanded means to achieve victory — well, that’s Devious.

But what else is there?

An interesting situation arose in our last weekly game.

Our group stumbled upon two groups duking it out — a bunch of dark elves versus a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. Our group ultimately sided with the Misfits and helped them stomp the dark elves. Our cleric wanted to “help” a little more.

See, in the midst of battle, our cleric got buddy-buddy with the Misfits’ cleric, and wanted to drop a heal on him (her?). Our group was kind of divided on the issue, though I think it was largely a non-issue.

It’s always interesting when a player wants to employ an effect outside its general intended usage: see, healing spells are for allies and damage spells are for baddies. How do you interpret the event of healing a “temporary ally?”

This situation arises whenever a healing spell can be used to “damage” the undead. Does the healing spell really counteract the animating force of the creature? That’s a weird metaphysical conundrum there.

Well, I think I may have come to a pretty definitive answer.

Your powers, abilities, and effects should have consistent effects across encounters. You should be able to heal your allies and hurt your enemies. That much is a given. But unambiguous characters should be hurt. Why?

Well, in general because the game should offer a non-lethal option.

Figure that in this case, “healing” our temporary ally perhaps should have rendered him unwilling to fight us. It might have reduced his hit points to 0, “removed” him from the fight, and given us less to deal with.

Call it a “friendly defeat.” What were they called in Mortal Kombat?


But still, there are rules that need to be used to help make all this easy. You want to make the most of your party’s Attitude, and the NPC’s Reaction.

3e gave us flat-footed, surprise, and flanking . . . 4e gave us Combat Advantage . . . and 5e gave us Advantage/Disadvantage. What if, for the sake of argument — any effect that took advantage of the enemy was Devious. Thieves and Rogues.

Let’s extend that to include magical effects that exploit emotion in a negative fashion: typically rage, fear, and despair. That’s pretty Devious.

Charms, though? Those are Friendly. So are any healing effects. Oh sure, you can use them to restore your allies’ hit points, but if they don’t get hurt those spells go unused. Wouldn’t it be nice if your party’s heal-bot could weigh-in on the fight in a meaningful way? Picture a cleric “peace-ing” monsters to death.

If you aren’t charming or healing though, and you aren’t exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses — if you’re doing straight-up damage. That’s hostile, simply put. And these give the players new ways to affect outcomes.

Most everyone agrees that combat is pretty fundamental to D&D, and a lot of people think that something should be done about the non-combat portion of the game. Like, talking to people. Some video games get pretty meta about it.

Final Fantasy Tactics and its Mediators, for example.

I think there’s probably an answer within the rules, requiring a minimum of effort to extract. Let combat be the basis for social interactions and conflicts, and simply tag some effects differently. Hit points are . . . already abstract.