I knew the system was good when it started solving problems for me, without my having to come up with additional stop-gaps and fixes. Yesterday, shlominus proposed a problem that I must admit had me scratching my own head for awhile. That question is essentially this: If you address enough people at one time, won't the odds ensure results right across the board? If, for example, I stand up in a street square and speak to 36 persons, with a 1 in 36 chance that one of those persons will fanatically change sides in my favor, doesn't that guarantee that I can walk away from every like situation with friends, followers and fanatics?
As I said, that worried me. And then I realized I was looking at the world as a static entity, as though the players were the only participants in it. Generally, D&D is presented as though the world were made up of a bunch of cardboard figures that only come alive when the party speaks to them. It's a habit that's been exacerbated over many years of poor design.
Any crowd I speak to is already going to be friends, followers or fanatics of someone else! I began this description two days ago by saying that the system cannot compel anyone to do anything they would not be willing to do. That is because the interactive is not a charm person spell. And I have been making the point that all of the interactive results are temporary. In other words, the guard in the previous post who might have become infatuated with the party, or that 1 in 36 person in the crowd, might, for the space of five minutes, become infatuated with your character as he or she speaks openly in the square. And then they'll remember that they have a wife, or kids, or that their mother wouldn't like it.
The point being that the interactive cards are not designed to just randomly influence people walking by on the street. The cards are there to resolve conflicts. The party can create a conflict by stopping people and then insisting those people do something the party wants instead of their own agenda, and while they are in the presence of the party they may acquiesce. But given a chance to be alone, and to remember their actual obligations, they will probably just run away. They have to be given a real reason to stay - like pay, good treatment, a recognition of their needs and so on - to make them want to stay and obey.
Emotions are fluid things, and what one feels watching a big tough adventurer speak eloquently to the crowd can cause infatuation. But unless it is done with a lot of modifiers, it will also cause many of the people in the crowd to get angry, and throw things. Let me point something out that may not be recognized.
Let us say that Caleb puts his modifiers together and, using Jest, decides to amuse a crowd as a comedian. As before, he gets his +4 and he speaks to the 36 people as mentioned.
We'll say the dice fall exactly according to the odds, so that he rolls a 2 against one person in the crowd, and a 3 against two others. The 3 becomes a 7 with his modifier, but ... if those persons have any bonuses to their resistance, they can at will drop that 7 back to a 6, and they will be angry too. And if any of the three people Caleb rolls a modified 8 against has a +2 resistance, well they will be angry too.
It is a mistake to think that Caleb will simply need to roll modified 10's for every person in the crowd. Chances are that most of the people will have a +1 or a +2 resistance for various reasons, and Caleb will have to roll modified 11s and 12s just to get some of the crowd accepting of his humour. Something near to half the crowd won't be that impressed, and chances are someone in that crowd is going to have just as many Purpose cards (actions and modifiers) as Caleb. A deacon, say, or a town official. One that already knows everyone in that town, and who has already gotten a +1 or +2 bonus with them, just as Caleb might have gotten with Danielle two posts ago.
Thus, that Deacon is going to be able to turn back a lot of the people Caleb influenced, reducing them to non-entities in the conversation, which will become a back and forth between Caleb and the Deacon ... which is exactly what happens in real life. Most people listening in a crowd will take no part and have no influence whatsoever. Anytime you try to convince a crowd of people, you always wind up arguing with just one or two ... the ones who don't like you.
Tackling a crowd without a lot of cards and modifiers is a dangerous thing. You're more likely to make enemies, and those enemies are more likely to stir a strange crowd against you than you against them. Sure, there might be one or two in the crowd who really like you, but they are likely to be the ones with the least resistance, and therefore those who have little or no power to influence anyone else. In other words, you'll pick up the easily swayed, while the hard-biters will eat you for lunch.
As ChicagoWiz pointed out, players will have to be a lot more cautious around NPCs. Jumping up and calling attention to yourself may not be a good idea ... at least not until you know a lot of the crowd too, and you have the cards to back your play.
The next stage in this process is to get a round idea of the cards that are available, and that will take me some time yet. I will ask the reader to please bear with me. I meant to have something up last night, but I let myself get distracted for some hours. I propose to have a list of cards up later today.