How to do Social Encounters in D&D 5e

First, determine the NPC's initial disposition. For allies of the party this can be Friendly, for any enemies that don't attack on sight (more info in Monster Desires below) it should be Hostile, and for everyone else Indifferent is fine. This can be further modified by how the PCs interact later, but never more than 1 step in a single encounter, so an NPC won't typically go from Friendly to Hostile or vice versa in a single encounter.

Next the players will actually engage with the NPC and RP out the conversation. This has no effect on the roll itself, but determines how the NPC will react to the roll based on how much they like the PCs from conversation first. Friendly NPCs will end up being more helpful, while Hostile NPCs may end up intentionally trying to hinder their plans. Take note of the NPC's ideals, bonds, and flaws and when the PCs say things that either appeal (making them friendlier) or conflict (making them more hostile) with their personality. The NPC Generator has a list of ideals, bonds, and flaws that you can use.

Social Encounters in DnD

During extended conversation, the players may also want to make Insight checks to get more information about the NPC or how they're acting. This shouldn't function as a catch-all lie detector, but can instead be used to learn one of the NPC's motivations, ideals, bonds, or flaws. You could also make this a contested check against the NPC's Deception skill, or set a DC equal to 10 + Challenge Rating. Roll the PC's Insight check secretly, success reveals one of these traits, while a failure of 10 or more reveals a false trait. Knowledge of these traits can also be learned from close friends of the NPC, or from letters or journals using the same process.

After the conversation has played out, it's time for the actual skill check. First, determine the NPC's modified disposition, either moving up one (from Hostile to Indifferent, or Indifferent to Friendly) if the players roleplayed well and appealed to the NPC's ideals, bonds, and flaws, or moving down one (from Friendly to Indifferent or Indifferent to Hostile) if the they clashed with the NPC's personality. It can also stay at the baseline disposition if no significant progress was made in the conversation. This could also result in immediate combat if they were already Hostile.

The PC chooses which social skill to roll based on how they roleplayed and what they want to accomplish: typically Persuasion to trade favors, Intimidation to get them to back down, or Deception to trick them. If they were being assisted by someone else, then determine if that other PC's contribution will give the roll Advantage or Disadvantage, depending on if they got along with or clashed with the NPC's ideals, bonds, and flaws.

Compare the result of the roll with the tables below to determine how the NPC reacts to the skill check and whether or not they'll be helpful, or what extent they're willing to help with whatever the PC's request is.

Friendly Disposition
0-9Helpful but won't take risks
10-19Take minor risks to help
20+Accept significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked
Indifferent Disposition
0-9Won't help, but won't harm
10-19Helpful but won't take risks
20+Take minor risks to help
Hostile Disposition
0-9Actively hinder the PCs and take minor risks to do so
10-19Won't help, but won't harm
20+Helpful but won't take risks or make any sacrifices

A note on rivals: A result of 0-9 on the Hostile Disposition table may result in immediate combat, but when it doesn't (or when they survive) they will become a rival (see Downtime Events for rival activities).

You can also get a quick reference of the above at the Skill Breakdown.

Monster Desires

In order to parley with monsters out in the world, the PCs may need to fulfill that monster's desire. Doing so can grant Advantage on the above check, or may be required to parley at all if the monster is attacking. Note that "Hostile" means an enemy that doesn't attack on sight, like a condescending noble. Violent enemies therefore can best be made Hostile based on the rules above, and will likely need their desire fulfilled. Most randomly rolled monster encounters are assumed to be Violent unless they're a similar alignment to the PC, or you can roll a d8 on the monster personality table:

d8 Personality
1 Cowardly; looking to surrender
2 Greedy; wants treasure
3 Braggart; makes a show of bravery but runs from danger
4 Fanatic; ready to die fighting
5 Rabble; poorly trained and easily rattled
6 Brave; stands its ground
7 Joker; taunts its enemies
8 Bully; refuses to believe it can lose

Depending on the desire, you may need to share a common language. A PC can make a skill check based on the creature type (shown in parenthesis), with a DC equal to 10 + Challenge Rating to learn its desire. On a failure, they'll have to guess. If the PCs are unable to fulfill the monster's desire, it attacks. You may want to make the PCs Surprised, or give the monster Advantage on its Initiative roll to represent the risk in parleying. Roll a d4 on the following table based on its type to determine its desire:

Aberrations (Arcana)
1 The brain of a rare creature
2 Flattery and obedience
3 Secrets or lore it doesn't know
4 Putting a strange organic graft onto your body
Beasts (Animal Handling)
1 Fresh meat
2 Soothing melody
3 Brightly colored beads, cloth, or feathers
4 A stuffed animal or soft trinket
Celestials (Religion)
1 A heroic tale
2 An oath to do three charitable deeds before dawn
3 The crown of a defeated tyrant
4 A holy relic or treasured family heirloom
Constructs (Arcana)
1 Apply oil to the construct's joints
2 A magic item with charges
3 A vessel infused with elemental power
4 Adamantine or mithral components
Dragon (Nature)
1 Gold or gems
2 Something from a draconic rival's hoard
3 Antique passed down at least three generations
4 Flattering artwork of the dragon
Elementals (Arcana)
1 Valuable gem
2 A very pure sample of a same element
3 A portal to the elemental's home plane
4 Performing a dance from the elemental's home plane
Fey (Nature)
1 The memory of your first romance
2 The color of your eyes
3 An object of deep sentimental value to you
4 Reciting a sublime poem
Fiends (Religion)
1 Your soul
2 A desecrated holy object
3 Blood from a loved one
4 Breaking a sacred promise in the fiend's presence
Giants (History)
1 A dwarf admitting giant-craft is superior
2 A strong working animal
3 Multiple barrels of ale
4 Treasure stolen from a rival giant
Humanoids (History)
1 A lost item of great importance to their culture
2 Challenging them to a friendly contest, such as dancing, singing, or drinking
3 Recovering something they've lost
4 Information on a foe's secrets or weaknesses
Monstrosities (Survival)
1 Dislodging a stuck nuisance in the creature's body
2 The creature's favorite food
3 Driving off the creature's rival
4 Making movements that mimic the monster's mating dance
Oozes (Survival)
1 A vial of putrid liquids
2 A cloth bearing a noxious odor
3 Bones or metal, which the ooze absorbs
4 A gallon of a fizzy liquid
Plants (Survival)
1 A pound of mulch
2 Water from a Feywild spring
3 Clearing invasive vegetation from the creature's territory
4 Destroying all axes and fire-making implements the party carries
Undead (Religion)
1 A brain or vial of blood
2 A personal memento from the creature's past
3 Repair a crumbling mausoleum
4 Complete a task the creature was unable to finish in life

Need more help with your campaign? Check out all the other tools, generators, and articles: kassoon.com/dnd/

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