Influence Challenges

Some of the most important encounters that adventures face are battles of wits and words, during which they must convince great kings to take action or gently ease secret information from guarded lips. Influence challenges are powerful transitional encounters that allow the GM an opportunity to provide exposition, create tension, and potentially introduce or reacquaint the PCs with friend and foe alike. Influence challenges are a specific type of progress-based or success-based skill challenge in which one or more characters attempt to earn the favor of other characters to meet some greater objective, such as learning a secret or gaining support in a war effort. Influence challenges can be progress-based or success-based and follow the same rules for running them as standard skill challenges, but they consist of several different stat blocks, have a significantly different list of elements, and have additional special qualities not found in standard skill challenges. In addition, there are special actions that only apply to influence challenges. Unless otherwise noted, assume that influence challenges follow all of the standard rules associated with skill challenges with the same completion method (progress- or success-based), such as the sequence for which characters act during a cycle and how initiative is determined.

Running an Influence Challenge

Although influence challenges follow the same rules for running them as standard skill challenges, all influence challenges possess a minimum of two stat blocks—one for the skill challenge itself and one for each character being influenced during the skill challenge. A character’s stat block during a skill challenge is different from its stat block during combat—this stat block lists the character’s goals, desires, the methods by which it can be influenced, and the benefits for successfully influencing it.

Characters can participate in an influence challenge for up to 8 hours per day without suffering any ill effects. Characters wishing to influence other characters for longer periods of time may attempt to as described in the Running a Chase Challenge section of the Chase Rules but few characters will tolerate such long-winded attempts at influencing them and often disengage from the influence skill challenge, which may impose a penalty of the GM’s choosing on the overbearing character or cause her to fail the influence challenge outright.

Influence challenges follow this sequence:
1. When the skill challenge begins, all characters roll initiative.
2. After all characters acting in the influence challenge roll initiative, they can attempt a relevant Knowledge check or a Sense Motive to recognize target NPCs. The DC for this check is equal to 13 + the influence challenge’s CR. If a character succeeds on this check for an NPC, she and all of her allies gain a +4 bonus on discovery checks involving that NPC. This bonus doesn’t stack.
3. Characters act in initiative order (highest to lowest).
4. When everyone has had a turn, the next cycle begins with the character with the highest initiative, and steps 4 and 5 repeat until the skill challenge ends (either because the characters succeeded or failed).


Earning completion during an influence challenge is generally the same as earning completion during any other progress- or success-based skill challenge with one notable exception— characters must guess what skills they can use to attempt to earn completion with an NPC in an influence challenge. Characters generally gain no benefit or hindrance when using a skill that cannot influence the NPC, though the GM may rule that multiple fumbling annoy the target and impose penalties on future rolls. Characters can learn which skills can be used to earn completion with an NPC by making discovery checks. In an influence challenge, “influencing a target NPC” is synonymous with “earning completion,” and an “influence check” is synonymous with, “a skill check made to earn completion.”

Unlike most skill challenges, a skill challenge isn’t necessarily cleared when the PCs manage to gain the listed amount of progress or successes with a target NPC. Instead, an NPC’s completion lists the amount of progress or successes needed to gain sway with an NPC (see Sway, below), and characters clear an influence challenge by completing the objectives listed under the skill challenge’s scene and objectives.

Special Actions

In addition to the list of special actions that you can perform during a standard progress- or success-based skill challenge, there are several special actions that you can take during an influence challenge that are unique to this type of skill challenge. This section discusses all of the various actions that you can perform during an influence other than attempting to earn completion or using one of the special actions detailed in the standard skill challenge rules. In addition, the rules for discovery checks function differently during an influence challenge.

Counter Sway

During an influence encounter where opposition is present, a character can attempt to lower an enemy’s influence level over an NPC rather than raise her own. This functions exactly like attempting a skill check to earn completion, except a successful influence check allows the character to lower an enemy’s sway over the NPC instead of gaining progress or successes. The sabotaging character gains a +2 bonus on her influence check if she has minor sway over the NPC, a +4 bonus if she has moderate sway, or a +6 bonus if she has major sway.

Sabotaging an NPC’s influence level requires as much progress or as many successes as the enemy would need to increase her influence level with that NPC. A sabotaging character who knows of an NPC’s strengths can use that knowledge to ascribe unfavorable characteristics to the enemy she hopes to sabotage. If these disparaging descriptions are true (or if the NPC believes them to be true), the saboteur gains a +2 bonus on influence checks per strength on influence checks to counter her enemy’s influence. Generally, you can make an NPC believe such remarks are true as a half-cycle action by making a successful Bluff check. The DC for such a Bluff check is equal to 15 + the target’s CR, and this DC increases based upon the lie’s believability, as if the target NPC were making an opposed Sense Motive check. (See the Sense Motive skill in Chapter 4 in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook.)

This mechanic is appropriate when the saboteur and the enemy she is trying to sabotage are on roughly equal footing, or when the saboteur has a high level of influence. A saboteur wishing to erode the influence of a far more trusted individual, such as a group seeking to convince a queen that her closest advisor is betraying her, either cannot attempt to lower the trusted individual’s influence level without first gathering substantial evidence against them, or might not be able to lower their influence at all in some circumstances.


During an influence challenge, a character can attempt a discovery check to discover information about an NPC that she is attempting to influence. This can be represented in a multitude of ways—socializing with the target NPC, gathering information about the target NPC through friends, eavesdropping, or rumormongering, or quietly observing the target NPC’s actions from a distance. Attempting to discover information about a target NPC is a half-cycle action.

Before attempting a discovery check, a character chooses whether to try and learn the target NPC’s strengths, the NPC’s weaknesses, or the skills that can be used to influence that NPC. Each NPC’s stat block lists a number of skills that can be used to make discovery checks, as well as their DCs and difficulties. When a character attempts a discovery check, the GM should tell her the possible types of skill checks for each kind of discovery check (though not their difficulty or DCs), and let the character pick which to attempt. Discovery checks that rely on a Knowledge skill requires observation in the current moment, not static knowledge.

A character who succeeds at a discovery check learns one of the skills that can influence the target NPC (starting with the skill with the lowest DC), one of the target’s biases, one of the target’s strengths, or one of the target’s weaknesses. For every 5 by which the character’s result exceeds the DC, she learns one additional influence skill, bias, strength, or weakness.

At the GM’s decision, skills other than those listed as discovery skills may be applicable, though the difficulty is always one step higher then the highest difficulty list. For instance, characters might be able to steal information using Sleight of Hand, search for it using Perception, or intuit it from bystanders using Sense Motive.

Locate Objective

When participating in an influence challenge, it is often necessary for characters to split up to search for target NPCs, uncover mysteries, or perform other objectives that they need to fulfill during the gathering.

A character can locate any objective present during the influence challenge as a cycle action. This action includes time spent moving around looking for the objective, allowing a character to interact with the desired objective on the round after she locates it. Alternatively, a character can attempt to locate an objective as a half-cycle action instead of a full-cycle action by attempting a Diplomacy, Knowledge (local) or Perception check with a DC equal to 11 + the influence challenge’s CR. If the character knows what her objective looks like or has been there before, reduce the DC to DC 11. If a character fails this check, she fails to locate her objective as a half-cycle action, and instead takes the entire cycle locating it. GMs can use this action to simulate the time required to move across large areas or throughout the area where the influence challenge is taking place. For example, the GM might require a character attending a coronation at the king’s palace to use the locate objective action to move from the dining room to the vizier’s study.


Although opposition isn’t a defining feature of an influence challenge, an opposing party of NPCs with goals that conflict with, or outright oppose, those of the PCs can place additional pressure on both parties to complete their tasks. In this regard, the opposition exists not to directly compete with the PCs and their allies (though this can certainly be the case), they can provide an additional layer of difficulty and urgency during the skill challenge.

During an influence challenge, anytime a character succeeds on an influence check against a target NPC, that character’s opposition takes a cumulative –2 penalty on influence checks against that NPC. If she and her allies have any penalties on further influence checks to influence that NPC as a result of their opposition’s successes, a successful influence check also reduces such penalties by –2. As a result, characters might feel inclined to change tactics upon noticing that an opposing character is successfully influencing a target NPC. For instance, if Kyr’shin notices a rival talking with a particular NPC, he would have to decide whether to try and influence that NPC himself, thus foiling his rivals’ efforts at undermining him and potentially ruining further attempts to sway that NPC for his rivals, or yield that NPC to the opposition and focus on influencing other NPCs instead.

The opposition is never referenced in an influence challenge’s stat block, but nevertheless it is important for the GM to have stat blocks for the opposition to determine their skill check bonuses and special abilities. The CR for any character or characters acting as opposition in an influence should always be equal to or less than the influence challenge’s CR.

Scene and Objectives

In an influence challenge, the scene refers to the location where the skill challenge is taking place, while the objectives refer to the specific goals that character(s) must complete in order to clear the influence challenge successfully. This stat block also notes the consequences of successfully clearing or failing the influence challenge. A skill challenge’s scene and objective forms its own stat block, and is described in-depth below.


During an influence challenge, the objectives are often directly tied to swaying one or more NPCs to perform a special favor or service or some kind. In longer-term social engagements, the PCs may need to succeed at multiple influence challenges to build towards larger goals. Characters start with having no sway over most target NPCs. Each time a character sways a target NPC during an influence challenge (gaining the amount of progress or number of successes listed in its stat block), they increase their influence level over that NPC by one step.

No Sway: The NPC treats the character as any group of strangers with the character’s fame or infamy (if any). If the NPC speaks of the character, it is often off-hand or in passing, and the NPC places her own plans above the character’s own.

Minor Sway: The NPC might perform small favors for the character that do not involve a significant expenditure of resources. The NPC speaks favorably about the character to others, and the NPC does not interfere in the character’s plans unless they conflict with her goals.

Moderate Sway: The NPC might perform favors for the character that require some of her own resources or are time-consuming, as long as they do not threaten the NPC’s overall interests. The NPC actively seeks to convince people to work with the character, and if the NPC’s plans conflict with the character’s goals, the NPC tries to work with the character to find a mutually acceptable resolution to the conflict.

Major Sway: The NPC assists the character with tasks that pose a significant risk to her position or status, and depending upon the circumstances, may risk her safety for the character. The NPC advocates for the character, even when doing so is unpopular, and she undermines the character’s enemies. The NPC concedes a personal goal in order to allow the character to move forward with one of their plans, as long as the character provides a suitable alternative.

Elements of the Scene

All scenes, regardless of location, have the following elements: CR*, setting, objectives, phases, frequency*, benefit*, and penalty*. Some influence challenges might also include optional elements, such as special qualities. Elements marked with an asterisk (*) use the same rules as standard skill challenges.


An influence challenge’s setting is a short summary of the abstract location where the influence challenge is being held. Typically, an influence challenge’s setting entry is several sentences long and lists only the most important facts and information. For instance, if the setting is a wedding, the influence challenge will likely list the settlement that the wedding is taking place in, as well as important details about the wedding. The influence challenge would typically refrain from noting information like the nation, plane, or planet that the influence challenge takes place on unless the this location is a drastic departure from where the PCs had been previously adventuring or provides special qualities or other features that affect the influence challenge’s scene stat block.


During an influence challenge, all characters have specific objectives that they must accomplish in order to successfully clear the influence challenge. Under most circumstances, these objectives are achieved by gaining enough sway with one or more target NPCs, but at the GM’s decision clever PCs might be able to find other ways to accomplish these objectives during the influence challenge.

Objectives can be general or specific to one or more characters. If opposition is present during the influence challenge, the opposition’s objectives are also listed.

Phases and Cycles

Influence challenges occur in cycles, just as standard skill challenges do. Where influence challenges differ is in how these cycles are organized. In an influence challenge, cycles are grouped together into phases, which generally represent what is going on during the social event that the influence challenge is taking place in. For instance, the phases of an influence challenge that takes place during a typical wedding might be broken as follows: arrival, ceremony, cocktail hour, newlywed’s arrival, toasts, dinner, first dance, cake cutting, second dance, and farewell. The phases of any influence challenge, however, are ultimately determined by the GM and can be combined, subdivided, or altered as necessary to create the desired encounter and atmosphere.

Each phase lasts a specific number of cycles, which is noted next to its name in parenthesis. Different phases might consist of a similar number of cycles, or they might be starkly contrasted. Some phases are so brief that they don’t allow for much socialization—these are noted as having 0 cycles.

SQ (Optional Element)

Influence challenges can possess numerous special qualities—specific qualities that use standard rules that are referenced (but not repeated) in skill challenge stat blocks. Influence challenges can possess any of the following special qualities available to a standard skill challenge: imbued, individual completion, limited completion, specific completion, specific skills, variable difficulty, or special.

Events (Optional Element)

Special happenings often occur during social encounters, and the events optional element records all scripted happenings that occur during an influence challenge. In many ways, the events optional element functions like a standard skill challenge’s thresholds, except events don’t advance based on how much progress or completion is earned during the skill challenge, they’re determined strictly by phase. Events create circumstances that make certain target NPCs harder or easier to influence, create effects that hinder a character’s ability to participate in the influence challenge, and similar complications.

Each event is associated with a specific phase count, such as “1st Phase” or “4th Phase”. When the phase indicated by the influence challenge’s phase counts begins, the event takes effect. Events can take effect immediately when the phase count begins, or they may take effect after a number of cycles, as described by the specific event. Events also list how long they last, with ‘one or more cycles’ or ‘until the end of the phase’ being the most common.

For example, a wedding might list that during phase 3 (the cocktail hour), several target NPCs get into a scuffle, and characters have the opportunity to take sides. The event might describe how siding with one target NPC grants characters sway with her, but reduces sway with the other target NPC.

Influence challenges list events in ascending order based upon their phase count. Since phases pass sequentially, this means that events are listed in chronological order—the first event happens first, the second event happens second, and so on. If multiple events happen in the same phase, multiple events are listed with the same phase count, with those events being listed in chronological order from first to last.

Events describe the scenario that takes place when the event occurs, followed by any effects or consequences based upon potential character action. A consequence can be anything from combat breaking out to a skill challenge starting, to gaining or loosing sway with a target NPC.

There is no limit to the number of events that an influence challenge can have—influence challenges have as many events as are needed to set the scene that the GM wishes to provide to the players, and the GM shouldn’t feel like she has to plan every event that occurs in advance (though having a list ready, especially for plot-relevant events, is useful). Typically, events are sporadic in low-count phases (no more than 1 or 2 every few phases) and tend to increase in frequency to help build a sense of urgency in the characters participating in the skill challenge. Other influence challenges may not have a single event, or others might have events that are contingent upon the character’s prior actions. For instance, an event might dictate that a vizier returns to his room to powder his nose during an influence challenge’s 5th phase, and upon doing so, has an opportunity to notice if anyone has rifled through his belongings. Should he notice, the event triggers. Ultimately, the purpose of events is to give the GMs tools to make target NPCs feel alive and active, rather than caricatures that only exist when the PCs choose to humor them.

Scene Stat Block

In an influence challenge, the scene and objectives receive their own stat block separate from those of the target NPCs. This is done to make it easier for GMs to keep track of the setting as well as participating characters’ overarching goals, both of which often extend across multiple target NPCs. A scene stat block is organized as follows.

Name and CR: The name of the location or event where the influence challenge is taking place is presented first, along with its Challenge Rating (CR). An influence challenge’s CR is a numerical indication of what the Average Party Level (APL) of a group of characters should be before they attempt the influence challenge, and all target NPCs and opposition use the CR noted in their corresponding scene stat block to determine their skill DCs and other effects dependant upon CR.

Setting: Listed here is a general description of the location(s) where the influence challenge is taking place. Each location receives a brief description that includes the size of the area, the function of that area, and any important information about that location. As this listing is part of a stat block, more in-depth descriptions of these locations should be located elsewhere, such as in the GM’s notes or within the body of an adventure.

Objectives: Listed here is a general description of the objectives that each character participating in the skill challenge is attempting to complete. This does not include the objectives of target NPCs, who have a separate section within their stat block to summarize their personal goals. Instead, this section lists the goals for characters who are actively attempting to influence those target NPCs—namely the PCs and their opposition (if any).

Benefit: This is the reward or boon that each character or characters who are actively attempting to influence the target NPCs gain for completing the influence challenge. The PCs’ boons are always listed here, and if they have opposition, the opposition’s boons are listed here as well.

Penalty: This is the consequence that each character or characters who are actively attempting to influence the target NPCs gain for failing to complete the influence challenge. The PCs’ consequences are always listed here, and if they have opposition, the opposition’s consequences are listed here as well.

Events: This notes any events that occur as the influence challenge progresses.

Sample Scene

The following scene is designed to be used in conjunction with the sample target NPCs.

Would-Be Wedding (CR 9)

Setting After Kyr’shin narrowly bested Gea, a would-besuitor, in single combat, both their kingdoms are hosting lavish celebrations in anticipation of Kyr’shin and Gea’s betrothal. At the end of the party, the two are expected to announce whether or not they will be married, and the conditions of the marriage.

Objectives Each character participating in the would-be wedding has the following objectives.
Dyne The gathering of so many minds from foreign nations has provided Dyne with a unique opportunity to try and gleam ancient about a forgotten foe from the jungle’s ancient past from the natives.
Kyr’shin Whether or not Kyr’shin wishes to marry Gea, the wedding provides him with a unique opportunity to interact—and potentially smooth over—political ties with a foreign nation. Additionally, Kyr’shin needs to determine the arrangements of the wedding and decide whether or not to marry Gea, or whether to potentially strike some other bargain with her outside of the normal stipulations of her peoples’ matriarchal society.
Inquisitor Sala’dean Kyr’shin’s political ties represent a financial investment from Sala’dean’s employers, who have gotten wind of an assassination attempt on Kyr’shin’s life during his wedding. Sala’dean needs to not only find and route the assassins without alerting them to his presence.

Phases 5; Cycles 3 each
Frequency 20 minutes
SQ individual completion
Benefit The characters can gain the following boons and rewards if they successfully influence the target NPCs.

Dyne can glean additional insight and information regarding his studies, and potentially enlist help in doing so.

Kyr’shin can potentially create stronger ties with foreign nations and negotiate a more favorable political deal with Gea, which may or may not include marriage.

Sala’dean can dampen or outright thwart the assassination attempt on Kyr’shin’s life.

Penalty The characters take the following consequences if they fail to influence the target NPCs.

Dyne fails to gain any additional insight or information from the locals, or could potentially burn bridges with some of the region’s most influential mages and historians.

Kyr’shin accidentally gets himself caught in an unfavorable arrangement with Gea and her people, or could incite hostilities from a foreign nation.

Sala’dean fails to hamper the assassin’s progress, allowing them to attempt to assassinate Kyr’shin unopposed.

Elements of a Target NPC

Target NPCs have a variety of elements, based upon the nature of the character and their role during the influence challenge. All target NPCs have the following elements: vital statistics, appearance, recognize, background, goals, skills and saves, discovery, primary skills*, secondary skills*, strengths, weaknesses, completion (progress- or successes-only)*, benefit*, and penalty*. Some target NPCs might also include optional elements, such as biases or hidden agenda. Elements marked with an asterisk (*) use the same rules as standard skill challenges.

Vital Statistics

A target NPC’s vital statistics is a summary of the following,
in order: alignment, age category, creature or race, classes and levels. Included with the target NPC’s classes in parenthesis are any archetypes that the target NPC possesses for those class levels. If the NPC has racial Hit Dice, its total Hit Dice are also noted here.


The target NPC’s appearance is briefly listed here. This entry notes physical attributes of the target NPC (such as their race, sex, and defining features) as well as their current dress. A target NPC’s appearance focuses on the NPC’s physical appearance, behavior, and social presence, rather than their personality or other purely mental attributes of the character.


A target NPC’s recognize entry lists the skill DC required to recognize the target NPC by reputation, fame, or similar descriptions. The skill or skills used to recognize the NPC are based upon her personal accomplishments and profession. For instance, identifying a target NPC as a renowned extraplanar scholar might require a Knowledge (planes) check, while identifying a high-ranking noble might require a Knowledge (nobility) check. The DC for the check is always equal to 13 + the influence challenge’s CR, although certain special qualities can adjust this DC, as noted in their description. All target NPCs can be recognized using Sense Motive, but the DC is sometimes higher than it would otherwise be with a more applicable skill.

Characters participating in an influence challenge attempt to recognize target NPCs at the start of the skill challenge, after initiative rolls are made. If a character succeeds on her check to recognize a target NPC, she and all of her allies learn the target NPC’s background (see below), which grants them a +4 discovery checks involving that NPC. This bonus doesn’t stack.


A target NPC’s background is a brief summary of their history, status, and significance to the influence challenge. A target NPC’s background normally centers around their reason for being involved in the influence challenge, as well as their relevance to the influence challenge’s objectives. This often includes the target NPC’s honorifics, profession, family heritage, and similar information. Characters can learn a target NPC’s background by successfully recognizing the target NPC (see above), and doing so grants the character and her allies a bonus on discovery checks involving the target NPC.


This section notes the target NPC’s personal goals as they related to the influence challenge. In many ways, a target NPC’s goals are their own objectives while at the influence challenge, but often they are irrelevant to the influence challenge or aren’t applicable. If a character’s objectives is at odds with a target NPC’s goals, she will likely need to earn significant sway in order to convince the NPC to assist her. At the GM’s decision, learning a target NPC’s goals through sleuthing or good roleplaying may allow afford the character up to a +8 bonuses on skill checks to influence that target NPC should she use this knowledge to actively further the NPC’s goals.

Hidden Agendas (Optional)

In an intrigue-heavy influence challenge, it is unlikely that every target NPC will be entirely upfront about their goals. If a target NPC has any secret objectives or hidden agendas relevant to the events of the influence challenge, they’re found in this section rather than the goals entry (see above). At the GM’s discretion, uncovering a target NPC’s hidden agenda could provide a character with up to a +12 bonus on skill checks to influence the target NPC should the character use this information to her advantage, often by helping the target NPC accomplish their hidden agenda or through blackmail.

Although simpler and ultimately unlikely to negatively impact the character during the influence challenge in which she blackmailed the target NPC, blackmailing target NPCs is likely to have negative consequences after the influence challenge ends, such as by shifting the target NPC’s attitude towards the character to unfriendly or even hostile.

Skills and Saves

It is crucial to have the skill and saving throw bonuses of target NPCs at hand because characters will often try actions against them that requires opposed skill checks or saving throws. For example, a character might try to steal a target NPC’s brooch with a Sleight of Hand check or charm an NPC with charm person. Although it is helpful to have a full stat block for each target NPC you use, it isn’t fully necessary. Instead, target NPCs list their total skill bonus in relevant skills (such as Knowledge skills, Perception, Sense Motive, and social skills like Bluff or Diplomacy) and their total saving throw bonus for each of their saves. Also included here are any noteworthy feats, items, or abilities that the target has that are related to her skill bonuses or saving throws, such as the trapfinding ability or a belt of physical perfection +2.


In an influence challenge, target NPCs don’t simply walk up to characters and explain in detail precisely the most effective way to sway their thoughts and actions. Instead, characters must analyze a target NPC in order to discover which skills can be used to sway them. The NPC’s discovery lists the skills that can be used to discover the target NPC’s primary skills, biases, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as the DCs of those skills.

Biases (Optional)

Most characters have biases—subtle attitudes that influence their behavior and world view. Target NPCs likewise have biases, and they can influence the outcome of an influence challenge. For example, a target NPC may think favorably of half-orcs and be suspicious of elves. If the target NPC’s biases affect a character, apply a +2 circumstance bonus to the character’s influence checks if the bias works in her favor, or a –2 circumstance penalty if the bias works against her. These modifiers may be even greater for extremely strong biases, up to a +8 for a favorable bias or a –8 for an unfavorable bias.


Target NPCs may be impervious to certain social tactics; such tactics are referred to as that NPC’s strengths. For example, a target NPC with little patience for flattery may think less favorably of someone who showers her with compliments. A character who incorporates a target NPC’s strength into an influence check made to sway them through roleplaying or circumstance takes a –4 penalty on the check. Knowledge of a target NPC’s strengths can also be used as a powerful tool for sabotaging the opposition’s attempt to gain influence over a target NPC, as described under the counter influence special action above.


Target NPCs often have at least one weakness—a social tactic that is particularly effective against them. A weakness can manifest as a deep-seated secret or insecurity, a hobby that the target NPC could talk about for days on end, or a type of flattery or interaction that quickly arouses the trust and sway of the target NPC. A character who incorporates a target NPC’s strength into an influence check made to sway them through roleplaying or circumstance gains a cumulative +2 bonus on the check for each weakness she incorporates.

Favor (Optional)

The target NPC might ask a favor of a character he trusts. Oftentimes completing such favors award additional sway with the target NPC, counting as a number of successful skill checks made to sway them. The precise amount of influence garnered from such tasks varies from individual to individual, but it often depends upon the difficulty of the task and the margin of success the character manages in completing it. For instance, convincing a rival into an unfavorable contract is likely to count for more influence over a target NPC than compromising with that same rival on more mutual terms. This task doesn’t necessarily need to be socially-based—a target NPC might just as easily call for a political rival’s assassination, assistance in dealing with some kind of a threat, or a few well-trained baby sitters to watch their kids for the night. In any case, these favors should always be run as either a type of skill challenge or as combats, with the number of encounters needed factoring in heavily when determining how much sway is earned for completing the favor.

A target NPC’s favor entry always lists the nature of the favor required, the amount of process or successes earned from completing it, and how many skill challenges or combat encounters are needed to complete the favor.

Events (Optional)

Whether literal or symbolic, events are likely to occur throughout an influence challenge. Events can be as blatant as moving from dinner to a cake-cutting ceremony during a wedding or as subtle as a saboteur spiking a buffet with poison. These events are often planned out in advance and are listed in the influence challenge’s scene stat block, but actions taken prior to the influence challenge may also be listed here, such as a note of how the target NPC responses based upon a prior engagement with a character or how rumors and the like have spread about her, based upon her conduct.

SQ (Optional Element)

Target NPCs can possess numerous special qualities—specific qualities that use standard rules that are referenced (but not repeated) in skill challenge stat blocks. Influence challenges can possess any of the following special qualities available to a standard skill challenge: critical fumble, individual completion, limited completion, specific completion, specific skills, variable difficulty, or special.

As a general rule, if a special quality can appear in both a scene stat block and a target NPC stat block (such as individual completion or limited completion), it doesn’t need to be listed in the target NPC’s stat block if it is already listed in the scene stat block unless that special quality functions differently for the target NPC then it does for the overarching influence challenge, in which case both apply if applicable; if they conflict, the target NPC’s special quality takes precedence over the scene stat block’s special quality.

Target NPC Stat Block

In an influence challenge, each target NPC receives their own stat block separate from that of the scene. Social stat blocks are very flexible, and can influence any information relevant to the influence challenge, though commonly included information is listed below. A target NPC stat block is organized as follows.

Name: The name of the target NPC is presented first. The target NPC’s CR does not appear in its stat block, as the skill DCs needed to influence a target NPC are based on the influence challenge’s CR rather than the NPC’s CR, as noted in the influence challenge’s scene stat block.

Vital Statistics: This entry lists the target NPC’s alignment, age category, creature or race, classes and levels.

Appearance: The target NPC’s physical appearance, including their apparent age, race, sex, and garb, is described here.

Recognize: The skill DC to recognize the NPC’s significance at the start of the influence challenge is noted here.

Background: A brief detailing of the target NPC’s background, as it pertains to the characters participating in the influence challenge, is described here.

Goals: This is a list of the target NPC’s goals.

Hidden Agendas: If the target NPC has a hidden agenda, it is noted here.

Skills and Saves: The target NPC’s saving throw bonuses, as well as their bonuses in any socially pertinent skills, is noted here.

Discovery: This entry lists the skill DC of any discovery checks made to attempt to learn the target NPC’s primary skills, biases, strengths, or weaknesses.

Primary Skills: This lists the skills that the PCs can use to sway the target NPC, as well as the difficulty and skill check DC associated with each skill.

Secondary Skills: This lists the difficulty and skill DC of all skill checks that are attempted sway the target NPC with skills that are not primary skills. The GM is the final arbiter of which skills can be used to sway a target NPC, and they can choose to allow a particularly applicable secondary skill to instead act as a primary skill with a skill DC of their choosing.

Biases: Any biases that the target NPC has, as well as any circumstance bonuses or penalties that a character gains from including them in their influence check, are listed here.

Strengths: Any tactics that the target is invulnerable to, as well as the penalty that a character gains from including them in their influence check, are listed here.

Weaknesses: Any tactics that are particularly effective against the target NPC, as well as the bonus that a character gains from including them in their influence check, are listed here.

Completion: This entry outlines the amount of completion (progress or successes) that a character needs in order to sway the target NPC.

Benefit: This is the reward or boon that the PCs gain for successfully swaying the target NPC.

Penalty: This is the consequence that the PCs incur should they fail to sway the target NPC.

Favors: This lists any favors that characters can do for the target NPC in order to sway them faster or more effectively.

Events: This notes any reactions that the target NPC has to the events of the influence challenge, as noted in the influence challenge’s scene stat block.

Sample Target NPC

The following target NPC is designed to be used in conjunction with the sample scene.

CN Venerable elf expert 9
Appearance This ancient elf’s age is belied by her grace and beauty, hinted at only by her delicate, silver hair. Countless elven tattoos cover her wiry frame, and a cunning intellect hone by centuries of intrigue glitter within her gray eyes. Recognize Knowledge (local) (easy, DC 22) to recognize as one of the two leaders of the local jungle elf tribes.

Background Nearly seven centuries old, Nolliss has lead her tribe for longer than most civilizations have existed and knows countless secrets about her homeland’s ancient origins. Although required to attend the wedding by tradition, Nolliss opposes Kyr’shin and Gea’s wedding because she doesn’t believe that it’s fair for Gea to straddle Kyr’shin to jungle elf traditions that ultimately move too slowly for the shortly-lived races to ever truly benefit from. Goals Although Nolliss opposes the wedding, she’s content to let the ‘children’ make their own mistakes, as she sees Kyr’shin himself as the only person with anything to lose from the wedding arrangement.

Skills Bluff +15, Diplomacy +15, Knowledge (history) +18, Knowledge (local) +18, Sense Motive +15; Saves Fort –1, Ref +0, Will +12

Discovery Sense Motive (easy, DC 22)
Primary Skills Diplomacy (average, DC 27; Nolliss is no stranger to diplomacy, and responds well enough to it.), Knowledge (arcana) (average, DC 27; Nolliss is well-versed in the arcane, and respects those who take more than a passing interest in it); Knowledge (history) (easy, DC 22; Impressing Nolliss with knowledge of the ancient past is a surefire way to earn her respect.); Knowledge (nobility) (easy, DC 22; As leader of her tribe, using the proper airs when dealing with Nolliss is a surefire way to earn her respect.)
Secondary Skills difficult, DC 32
Biases Although she harbors no ill towards them, Nolliss is somewhat racist against races whose maximum lifespan is less than two centuries, believing their world view to be too short-sighted and ultimately treating them like children. A PC who belongs to such a race takes a –2 penalty on checks to influence Nolliss.
Strengths Because of some trauma in her past, Nolliss is completely immune to threats or intimidation. A PC who includes a threat in an influence check against her takes a –4 penalty on the check.
Weaknesses Centuries of leadership have inflated Nolliss’s ego, and she respects those who show her the proper respect. As a result, acting submissively around Nolliss is an easy way to get her talking. A PC who submits to Nolliss as an authority figure or as a more knowledgable individual gains a +2 bonus on their influence check.

Successes 4
Benefit If Kyr’shin sways Nolliss, she fully discloses jungle elven marriage tradition to him, which provides him with enough context to know whether or not it benefits him to go through with the engagement. If he decides to marry, this knowledge gives him a +10 bonus on Diplomacy checks to negotiate the terms of the marriage.

If Dyne sways Nolliss, she provides him with the ancient history of the jungle, specifically regarding an ancient evil that once dwelled in the land. Nolliss confirms and refutes parts of Dyne’s theories, and her first-hand information grants Dyne a permanent +5 bonus on Knowledge checks made to research this evil, and points him towards avenues and repositories of research that were previously unknown to him that he can better use to further his studies and defenses.

If Sala’dean sways Nolliss, he is able to determine that no one in her camp is suspect as Kyr’shin’s assassin. Furthermore, Nolliss has seen shady humans lurking around the camp of the local human representatives, and points Sala’dean’s investigation in that direction.

Penalty If Kyr’shin fails to sway Nolliss, she maintains her composure for political reasons and doesn’t mislead him, but she doesn’t provide him with any information regarding elven traditions. In fact, she decides that she can rest easy at night, knowing that, “At least that thick-headed fox’ll get what’s coming to him.”

If Dyne fails to sway Nolliss, she simply refuses to engage him in academic discourse. If Dyne fails while simultaneously evoking one of Nolliss’s strengths into his discourse, Nolliss is so offended that she decides to play a prank on the abrasive elf, feeding him a falsehood designed to muck up his research. Dyne must immediately make a Sense Motive check opposed by Nolliss’s Bluff. If he fails, the next time he attempts to research any topic that Nolliss is knowledgable he takes a –5 penalty on his check. If he fails, there is a 50% chance that Dyne will instead uncover factually incorrect information, as determined by the GM. If Sala’dean fails to sway Nolliss, he takes no penalties— she refuses to engage him in further conversation, and he can simply investigate another target NPC.

Favors Nolliss is interested in the many happenings in the world, especially those that her insular jungle elves would otherwise be ignorant of. Any character who provides Nolliss with information that would have a Knowledge DC of 20 or higher immediately increases their sway with Nolliss by 1 step. A character can repeat this favor multiple times, but each time the minimum Knowledge DC increases by 5 for that character (DC 25 for the second increase, DC 30 for the second increase, and so on). Characters do not earn sway with Nolliss if the information that provide is not relevant to her or her interests, as determined by the GM.

Designing an Influence Challenge

Influence challenges essentially run like standard progress- or success-based skill challenges, and as a result designing an influence challenge is similar to designing a standard skill challenge. When designing an influence challenge, you follow the same steps and guidelines as you would when designing a progress- or success-based standard skill challenge with several exceptions. First, you must design the target NPCs that will be present in the influence challenge. Next, you must design any events that will occur during the influence challenge, and describe how your target NPCs will react to them. Finally, you must design any opposition that will be present during the influence challenge. Tips and guidelines for designing appropriate events, opposition, and target NPCs are detailed below.

Determine Events

Events make your influence challenge feel alive and vibrant, and ultimately it is encouraged (but not required) for your influence challenges to have special events that occur. These events can be festivities that have been planned in advanced, or scripted encounters or events that happen during the course of the influence challenge. Whatever the case may be, forcing the PCs to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and complications makes for a more interesting and exciting event.

When choosing events that occur during an influence challenge, it can be helpful to design your target NPCs and opposition first, as well as define the setting of your skill challenge. Most events can be flavored to fit anywhere and many PCs enjoy a good surprise, but events are often more satisfying when they are a predictable surprise. In other words, events work best when they don’t expect them, but they aren’t so random that they couldn’t have potentially predicted their occurrence. Furthermore, events should be driven by the NPCs that the PCs are interacting with (or who are capable of being interacted with). While it is perfectly acceptable for a dancing event to occur at the behest of some random party attendant, the start of an event is better used to draw attention to an NPC that the PCs have not engaged with yet, or to provide further information about an NPC that the PCs might have already met. For instance, the PCs might be able to figure out that they can sway a particular target NPC with Perform (dance) if they see her ushering in a dancing phase at a gala even if they haven’t successfully discovered that about her with a successful discovery check. Such occurrences encourage and ultimately reward your players for paying attention to the things that the target NPCs are saying and doing during the skill challenge.

The circumstances imposed by an event should be able to benefit or hinder the PCs, but never by so much that they make the influence challenge trivial or impossible while the event is happening. Offering the PCs a +2 bonus or a –2 penalty based upon conditions that arise during the event and how they react to them is appropriate. Likewise, events should last long enough that all players have some time to try and take advantage of them, but they shouldn’t last so long that the players become comfortable with their presence. Allowing an event to last three to five cycles is often a fair range of time for the PCs to try and gain their bearings and take advantage of the situation.

Determine Opposition

When your PCs are participating in an influence challenge, you may deem it necessary for the PCs to have opponents present who are actively working against them to complete their own goals during the influence challenge. Opposition NPCs can provide a multitude of rules—they might seek to discredit the PCs by reducing the PCs’ sway over target NPCs, or they might have their own goals that the PCs are actively working to undermine. You can design your PCs’ opposition either before or after designing the skill challenge itself. Ideally, you’ll want to assign NPCs to your influence challenge who stand a fair chance at winning, but who aren’t so competent that the PCs stand little chance of defeating them.

Although having full stat blocks for the opposition can be helpful if your PCs get into a brawl with them (and could be necessary based upon the events that occur before or after the influence challenge), the most important part of designing good opposition for the PCs is determining their skill bonuses. When choosing the opposition’s skill bonuses, the opposition should be able to succeed on most easy skill checks by rolling a 5 or higher and on most average skill checks by rolling a 10 or higher. The opposition should be able to succeed on at least one-fourth of challenging skill checks by rolling a 10 or higher, and should be able to succeed on at least one difficult skill check by rolling a 10 or higher. The best way to determine the minimum bonus needed to accomplish this is to reference Table: Skill Challenge DCs by CR and subtract the minimum d20 result that you want to result in a success from the skill DC for the desired difficulty and use the remainder as the opposition’s DC.

For instance, if your PCs are participating in a CR 9 influence challenge and you want to create opposition for them, you would begin by consulting Table: Skill Challenge DCs by CR and listing the skill DCs for each skill check difficulty for that CR. In the case of CR 9 encounters, the target DCs are easy (DC 22), average (DC 27), challenging (DC 29), and difficult (DC 32). To determine an appropriate bonus for easy DCs, take the easy DC associated with the skill challenge’s CR (in this example, DC 22) and subtract 5. The remainder, 17, represents a good target bonus for the opposition, which will allow them to reliably clear easy skill checks in the skill challenge. Continue this process for each remaining difficulty and desired result (rolling a 10 or higher on average DCs, rolling a 10 or higher on challenging DCs, and rolling a 10 or higher on difficult DCs). This will give you a good list of bonuses to build for when designing the NPCs, or you could simply note the target bonuses and the skills they apply to and use them that way.

Sometimes, you may not want a skill challenge that is fair for the PCs. For instance, when the PCs are attempting to upset the efforts of the local mafia. In such instances, you should adjust the CR of the skill challenge accordingly, reducing the CR of the skill challenge by 1 if the opposition is weaker than the PCs or increasing the CR of the skill challenge if they are more powerful or skilled. This may also apply to a powerful opponent who is inconvenienced by the nature of the skill challenge (such as a charismatic inevitable attempting to win over support at a human gala). In such instances it is acceptable, even encouraged, to give the opposition circumstantial bonuses or penalties that place them on more even footing with the PCs.

Determine Target NPCs

Target NPCs are essential to influence challenges, and designing them is as important as building the skill challenge stat block for a standard skill challenge. The number of target NPCs in an influence challenge varies, but it should correlate to the amount of time that your PCs have to complete the influence challenge. For instance, don’t expect your PCs to fully sway one target NPC in two cycles, let along a contingent of four or five target NPCs!

When you create a target NPC, the character’s skills and saves should be generated in the same manner as a member of the opposition, while discover and influence check DCs are generated using the rules for determining skill DCs for a standard skill challenge. This occurs because such skill DCs are better thought of as the circumstantial difficulty of engaging the NPC in that particular moment, rather than a static number that does not change from scene to scene.

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