CameronJay wrote:My players so rarely use intrigue for anything more than trying to sell their loot at higher prices. They mostly fail.
Oh, I know that! My group played D&D for years before I introduced them to SIFRPG and I face this same problem as you do. I've known this system for a while, but only started a campaign about two months ago and I have only played three times with my group, but I noticed some problems and I'm trying to work things out. For now it's working and the players are liking the system, but I warn you that I don't know how this will play in the long run.
For starters, I created a magic system (I don't play in Westeros for now, I don't want to harm such a superb setting with stupid D&D heroes roaming the land in my first play ehehe). The system was mostly adapted from another Green Ronin material, the Dragon Age RPG. I won't go to details, but what I did was simply create three tiers of benefits: Magic Aptitude I, II, and III; exactly like the weapon benefits, but the first required Knowledge Focus (Magic) and each tier granted the character the ability to learn a new set of spells (Initiatie spells, Intermediate spells, and Advanced Spells for each tier respectively).
When Magic Aptitude is bought, the player gains a new ability at rank 1 called Wizardry (that's what I called it, anyway), 3B to buy specialties (basically spell schools), and three initial spells, and can use Experience on it as he see fits. Wizardry alone allow for magic detection and some little harmless tricks, but its specialties and spells are what empower the mage. All mages start with Mana equal to Wizardry x3 + Knowledge x2, and they can buy extra spells like benefits (but each spell cost less EXP), improve specialty, etc.
What I used mostly from Dragon Age material was the Blood Magic and the fact that the game has no gamebreaking spell (at least in Set 1 and 2), all of them are mostly direct and almost all can be imagined as subtle and not flashy as D&D magic. Blood magic simply burns Health instead of Mana, and the mage can use fresh blood to empower his magic as well, making for some bad evil wizards sacrificing people in order to perform more unique rituals and spells.
To cast a spell the mage needs to use the Mana (or Health, but at greater expanse, usually resulting in injuries or wounds if using his own blood), and roll the die like any test. The difficulty is usually the target's passive Will or Endurance or perhaps Combat Defense, and the effects can vary or not with degrees of success. Some spells require the target to make a Will or Endurance (or any other) test against the mage's passive Wizardry (these spells are mainly those with an effect that last a few turns, hours, or days). Dragon Age RPG has probably only 4 or 5 damage spells, and they were all very easy to adapt. The rest of the spells are buffs or inflict negative status, which aren't a problem to deal as well and can keep the game inside a "low magic" zone.
About the Intrigue system... to lure my D&D players I reduced the roleplay value a lot and made it more simple to use. Instead of "What are you going to say to this dumb guard who is reluctant in helping you all?", I sometimes say "You can try to lie something to him, perhaps intimidate, etc" and they roll the Intrigue exactly like they do with combat. When the Intrigue involves characters they like or hate they usually put some effort into elaborating their approach, but most of the time it runs like "I lie to him", "He convinces you to help him in patrolling the streets", "I'll seduce him and offer some ale", etc. It's not exactly what I imagined when I first read the SIFRPG books, but is kinda of working with combat-focused-d&d-players. They simply choose an action and roll the die, like in a combat, but instead of choosing between swinging sword or firing a bow they choose between intimidate, seduce, etc. So one that is playing as a nobleman with lack of combat skills is slowly adapting to the Intrigue system and carrying other players with him (I'm rewarding intrigues with better outcomes than combats too).