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 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 been updated to include a list of ideals, bonds, and flaws that you can use.

Social Encounters in DnD

During the 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 give hints about the NPC's motivations, ideals, bonds, and flaws depending on how they roll. You could also make this a contested check against the NPC's Deception skill. Depending on how much they succeed by, they can get clues as to how to behave in order to positively affect their disposition.

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.

Determine which social skill the PC should roll (typically Persuasion, Intimidation, or Deception) and have them roll it. 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
0-9Will actively try to hinder the PCs and will accept minor risks to do so
10-19Won't help, but won't harm
20+Helpful but won't take risks or make any sacrifices

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

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

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