Through some advice from someone on writing, I am now going to write about something I know and am feeling a bit passionate about right now. Something that's been on my mind and itching to get out. Diplomacy. For any of you unfamiliar with DnD 3.5, it's a skill the player gets and improves as they level. Specifically it improves the target's impression of the character. I've had some good and bad experience with this in the past, with one specific occurrence bothering the most.
Roughly put the following is my interpretation of diplomacy and how I've conflicted with others, or when I feel it's worked well.
Firstly and most importantly. I see diplomacy when used beyond just improving the reaction of the target to actually negotiate as simply operating to improve the reaction level of the target in regards to a specific request. Which means, it is limited by the same limitations of all reactions. The upper limit being, willing to risk harm to themselves to help the player. This is a very fine distinction and should be carefully noted. The willingness is AT MOST to RISK harm to themselves. This means they will not by default harm themselves. Also, this does not mean they will risk harm without at least using their brain first. If the player tells them to shoot their grandma, they will A: not do it as that would be harming themselves (an extension being things very important to them) and B: would likely ask why and or try to guide their friend to a different alternative.
Furthermore, this does not cover the area of over time interaction. Imagine for a moment a bucket. The amount of water in the bucket is how much the NPC is willing to do for the player. Diplomacy puts water in. However, prejudices, past experiences and reputation can cause another effect. For every negative prejudice, past experience and reputation the Player has for the NPC put sand in the bucket. For every positive take sand out. There's an upper limit to what Diplomacy can sanely do. Furthermore, some personalities and NPCs are just plain stubborn, and won't budge as much to diplomacy. Take experienced and diligent guards, Dwarves (the race not the other kind) and other difficult to impress beings. Those are basically like using a smaller pipe to bring the water to the bucket.
My major conflict I can't get off my mind with diplomacy is this. It was used to persuade a large group of people to begin burning their own city to the ground. If my best friend turned to me and said, "Burn this city to the ground." my first question would be why. My second thought and expressed being would likely be, "No, because I live here." Under my diplomacy interpretation, you cannot get an NPC to actively harm themselves without magic or some extreme situations. Such as implying something very much worse is going to happen if they don't. After this point, I was penalized alignment wise for killing 'innocent' people after ensuring they were not magically motivated. Alignment issues aside, the intent was to penalize me for drawing a conclusion that I found logical, people burning down a city I am to protect while not under magical compulsion are the enemy. Oh well.
However, there have been times that diplomacy has gone well for me. Currently I am in a campaign with a VERY diplomatic character. I think the GM is becoming a bit wary of it, but I think they should approach it from the same perspective. As long as I'm not requesting self harm, and am not tapping the bucket too much, there probably shouldn't be a problem. And so far, I've gotten about the expected responses for most NPCs.
Anyhow, this is really just more a look into my mind on Diplomacy and 'friendly' social skills. There's an upper limit. Anything more than that, well they have spells for that.