Combat is well defined in B/X, but not always the best, first option. Here is a way to connect the numbers on the character sheet with overcoming challenges through persuasion or deceit instead of force.
While this can be used in difficult circumstances, like confronting pirates and persuading their captain to take you aboard, it is also designed to be of use in situations where combat should be out of the question. For example, delivering a speech to a noble court, trying to get the butler to give the characters better rooms, or gaining access to the archives guarded by a crusty bureaucracy.
Here is a draft of a system to make persuasion more viable and less a decision or totally random roll.
- Reaction is rolled or assigned based on circumstance, including Charisma modifier.
- Character tries to change reaction by rolling 1d20 + [Charisma Modifer] or [Intelligence Modifier]. Difficulty is [20-current reaction].
- If rolling under 5, reaction worsens by 1.
- If rolling over the difficulty, reaction improves by 1.
- If adding both modifiers in a passionate attempt, reaction under 10 is -1, and under 5 is -2.
- The roll is modified by time spent in the attempt.
The reaction roll remains the same, modified by the Charisma modifier of the spokesperson. In the case of persuasion instead of just reaction, the DM may allow an Intelligence modifier to be used instead.
The DM can handle reaction normally with a roll, or assign a reaction result based on the default of the situation. Door guards are supposed to be surly, not helpful. A noble confronted with a ragged blood-crusted killer is unlikely to want to be friends. Likewise, a character in silks with a hooded falcon speaking to a rummy man-at-arms can expect a certain level of civility.
The character rolls the die, with a difficulty of [20-(current reaction)]. A success moves the reaction one position more favorably. On a failure, the reaction remains the same. If the result is less than 5, with modifiers, then the reaction decreases one position.
The character modifies the d20 roll with the character’s [Charisma modifier or Intelligence modifier], and a time modifier.
1 round: -5
1 minute: -3
5 minutes: -1
10 minutes: 0
30 minutes: +1
1 hour: +2
If the character is desperate, the character can add Charisma and Intelligence modifiers together for persuasion. However, any result under a 10 reduces the reaction by 1, and under 5 reduces the reaction by 2.
The DM may rule that subsequent attempts in one day are -1 each for repetition.