The Greek gods were cruel in their punishments. The princess Cassandra of Troy was on the receiving end of one of the worst. After she spurned the sexual advances of Apollo, he granted her the gift of prophecy but cursed her so that her warnings would not be believed. Her predictions about the Trojan war fell on deaf ears. No matter what she tried, she could not persuade her people to believe her.
Unless they to have been cursed by a god, our player characters at least get some chance to be believed. That chance has a lot to do with the setting. In worlds where the fantastical is more common, NPCs are going to be much more willing to accept wild tales of impending doom or derring-do. If owlbears exist, then the imagination can stretch to there being an evil werewolf cult. Conversely, if there’s no way to travel between the stars, the FBI aren’t going to be tolerant of your attempts to prevent an alien invasion.
How the conversation itself is handled depends on your system – varying from a single dice roll to an hour’s roleplay. It’s understandable why many GM’s prefer to just roll the dice and say “you’ve convinced the chief of police that there’s a conspiracy of chocolate manufacturers”. Persuasion is a fine art that balances believability, evidence and language. The player/player character has to put together an argument that makes it in the NPCs interest to take as truth or believe them honest. The player has the advantage of investment in the plot and a deeper understanding of what’s going on. How the NPC reacts to this will depend on their stake in plot. If the chief of police doesn’t like chocolate, then he’s not going to care about confectionary shenanigans.
As a GM, a common part of the collective story that I find difficult is this detail. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time filling in short use NPCs with the detailed needed, so we paint with broad strokes. Perhaps this can leave these encounters lacking. It’s certainly something I want to develop as part of my game.
Image Credit – Convesation by Jim Pennucci – (CC-BY-2.0)