“It has to be an effective deterrent, Prime Minister.”
“But it’s a bluff. I probably wouldn’t use it.”
“They don’t know that you probably wouldn’t use it.”
“They probably do.”
“Yes… they probably know that you probably wouldn’t use it. But they can’t certainly know.”
“They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn’t.”
“Yes, but even though they probably know that you probably wouldn’t, they don’t certainly know that although you probably wouldn’t, there is no probability that you certainly would.”
– Sir Humphrey Appleby, Cabinet Secretary, in conversation with James Hacker, Prime Minister, Yes, Prime Minister
While there are a lot of things the Hero System does well, there are a few things that it does exceedingly poorly, and one of those is the Bluff.
There are two skills that seem to cover Bluffing in the game: Persuasion and Acting. Neither is adequate to all the applications that Bluff may be put to in actual play. Blair and I recently reached the point in planning a future adventure in which it seemed inevitable that the PCs would need to Bluff their way into a situation and back out of it, and a quick review of those existing solutions showed that they were completely insufficient. So we set aside working on the adventure and spent the afternoon crafting a solution to the problem – a new subsystem for handling Bluffs within the Hero System. I am so happy with the results that it is also being integrated into my superhero campaign.
But I don’t expect our readers to simply take my word for it. Before I detail our solution (which I am also making available as a standalone free download), it’s only fair that I review those solutions already present and discuss the shortcomings that drove us to create a new game subsystem. Of course, never one to leave well enough alone, I have also had a number of thoughts about taking the system further; our goal when crafting this subsystem was to make it as similar in operation to existing subsystems within the Hero System as we could, so we were deliberately conservative. I’ll conclude this article by discussing the most promising of those further expansions that seemed to me to be a step too far for the Adventurer’s Club campaign, so that if other GMs want to tinker with the ideas, they can do so.
The Existing Rules
The two areas of the existing rules that might be considered to cover bluffing are Persuasion and Acting. The other interpersonal/interaction skills (Seduction, Bribery, Conversation, Interrogation, and so on) and Concealment are obviously not applicable to the problem (concealment is about hiding things on your person or elsewhere).
Champions 5th Ed: “Characters with this interaction skill can convince, persuade, or influence individuals, or tell believable lies.”
Pocket Oxford Dictionary: [Persuade:] Convince (person, oneself) of fact; impel by arguement.
To both Blair and I, that last part of the dictionary definition is the all-important hallmark of what Persuasion, as a Hero Systems skill, is all about. It covers making a thin arguement sound reasonable, or a good line of arguement seem inescapable. A poor Persuasion result can make a reasonable arguement sound ridiculous, and a good one sound “not quite right”. Persuasion is what an Army Recruiter might use to get an enlistment; what a Politician might use to get a vote or to lobby for support for or against a measure; what a used-car salesman might use to get you to buy.
Yes, this includes the art of lying convincingly. But that is not a bluff, though it may add to the apparent veracity of a bluff.
Further, toward the end of the description of Persuasion, the rules state,
“Persuasion is normally only used on NPCs. PCs are usually allowed more latitude with their decisions. However, a successful Persuasion roll should make a PC much more inclined to believe the speaker or do as he requests.”
Bluffing is emphatically not something that can be constrained in this matter.
Champions 5th Ed: “This interaction skill enables a character to alter his physical mannerisms and speech patterns to seem to be another person, to fool someone, or to fake moods and emotions. Characters can use it to hide their true identity or to impersonate another individual.”
In other words, it’s about adopting a specific identity or role and being convincing, about conveying the impression of a specific personality, or about falsely manifesting opinions, moods, or emotions. But that’s not quite a bluff, either – though it, too, may add to the evident plausibility of a bluff.
Some Bluffing examples
The Cambridge English Dictionary: Bluff: “To impose on by a show of boldness or strength” (ignoring the meanings related to personality or geography).
Bluffing is all about bravura, bravado, and chutzpah.
- James Bond wandering around the Villain’s Lab with nothing but a lab coat and clipboard to support his attitude of having every right to be there.
- At the core of the villainous plots of, well, just about all the Die Hard movies.
- James T. Kirk trying to convince a seemingly hostile and far stronger opponent that the enterprise has a mutually-annihilative substance built into its hull that will destroy any vessel that destroys it in The Corbomite Maneuver.
- “Don’t come any closer or I kill a hostage” – when you have no intention of doing so.
- Using non-verbal arguement and misdirection and maybe even a convincing line of patter to convince a third party of your intentions.
- “I’ve got a bomb” when all you have is some painted pieces of dowel and some wires.
- “I know what you’re thinking – did he fire six shots or only five? Do I feel lucky? Well, do you feel lucky, punk?” – when you know full well that you’ve emptied your magazine.
And yes, it’s seeming to have a better hand in poker than you really do. (The opposite situation, pretending to have a worse hand than you really do, or simply being unreadable, is acting).
The whole arena of projecting a false impression can be divided into three overlapping areas: a convincing lie, a good acting job, and bluffing. Acting can suggest that you have the personality or the emotional capacity to do something; a convincing lie can persuade that you think you have good reason to do something; a bluff convinces that you intend to do something (or perhaps, not do something, or that you belong where you are).
It’s clear that some bluffs can be covered by stretching “Acting” a little further, while others can perhaps be covered by considering “Persuasion” a little more broadly, and some can be covered by a combination of the two. If you stretch them far enough, perhaps these will meet in the middle and obviate the need for a new subsystem dealing specifically with Bluffs. And perhaps a Presence Attack can be used to cover whatever is left over.
That’s what we have been doing for several years. I’m sure it’s what the designers of Hero Games thought – that there is no need for “Bluff” because it’s already covered. Unfortunately, on any number of occasions when we have stretched the rules to cover bluffs in this way, it has felt like we were stretching. You never want the game mechanics to so completely intrude into your awareness that it takes you out of character, and the suspension of disbelief was strained to the breaking point by that awareness of stretching the rules.
The interaction factor
A further problem is that there is not a lot of interactivity to the approach. Skill checks are excellent for moment-by-moment resolutions, they don’t work so well over a sustained period – the best you can do is have the results of the last roll stand or persist until the situation changes and a new roll is required. Things get even worse when you’re talking about opposed die rolls and more than a few individuals, all of whom can be dealt with at once.
The obvious approach to a bluff is some sort of skill roll – acting or persuasion – with the other person making some sort of die roll – probably perception – to penetrate the bluff. So how do you handle it when there are ten or twenty people to be bluffed at the same time? Do you have the character doing the bluffing make a separate opposed check for each – so that sometimes he gets a good result (a success) and sometimes a bad one, for exactly the same words and actions? That hardly seems fair. Or do you have them make a single roll that is opposed, one by one, by the targets of the bluff – so that the results tend to be all-or-nothing? That hardly seems fair, either. Or all that realistic. Or very much fun. Or do you assume that their rolls will average out and not have them roll at all, assuming an overall average result? While the most consistent approach, and perhaps the most realistic one, taking all the randomness out of the system denies a fundamental aspect of the fun of the game, the vicarious thrill of rolling the dice, never knowing if the results will be good, great, or disastrous. It drains the game of all tension and excitement. Not to mention all these solutions being incredibly, undeniably, cumbersome and tedious.
And if the bluffing character moves from one room to another, to another, to another, do you really want to repeat all of this multiple times, reducing the game to nothing but a series of interactions not with the characters, events, and circumstances present, but to a never-ending set of game mechanics?
The Shades of Gray factor
Finally, the results of such checks are all black-and-white yes-or-no outcomes. There’s no scope for someone gradually becoming suspicious, or having their doubts allayed, or for degrees of suspicion. It’s too absolute.
There can be no doubt: the existing mechanics can be stretched all out of shape to cover bluffing – and doing so is not a satisfactory answer to the problem.
Design Constraints for the new solution
One of my core philosophies (these days) is that you should always identify and review the shortcomings of the existing solution before devising any new House Rules. This analysis not only serves to provide design constraints for the new rules, and to enable a comparison to ensure that the new proposals are actually an improvement over the current state of affairs, they ensure that there really is a problem that needs addressing by a change to the rules. Never include House Rules for their own sake – a house rule always has to be able to justify its existence by doing something that the existing rules don’t, or don’t do well enough. That ‘something’ might be in the way characters interact with the game mechanics, or the way the rules reflect the campaign, but that justification always needs to be there. And if a house rule is needed but the proposed solution is not an improvement, you need to junk it and start again – or find a way to live without it.
House rules can look great on paper, but they need to function in the real world, as I explained in My Biggest Mistakes: The Woes of Piety & Magic (in particular, the discussion of the Piety system). Over time, I’ve learned the hard way that this approach can save you from at least some of the headaches.
So, what are the results if we apply this principle to determine what is needed from a Bluff system that does not have the shortcomings of the built-in solution?
1. One set of Rolls
The new rules absolutely have to do away with the multitude of die rolls. It has to be persistent in some way without making the game all about the interaction between player and game mechanics.
2. Flexibility of results
The outcome of the rules has to be more varied than a black-and-white yes-or-no.
3. Simplicity of result
At the same time, the results need to quick and easy to interpret.
4. True to the system core
It’s always preferable for a house rule to recognizably resemble other rules within the game, ensuring a consistency of game interface. This is best achieved by ensuring that the new rules are “true to the core of the system” and to the general principles and philosophies that underpin the game mechanics. This can be tricky because they are often not written down anywhere, and need to be derived by backwards-engineering the existing rules – but there is a shortcut that can sometimes be used: modifying the details but not the fundamental mechanics of an existing rules substructure.
5. Flexibility of application
In discussing Persuasion, the 5th Ed Hero System rules have this to say:
“Modifiers are very important for Persuasion.” – and then some vague and (quite honestly) inadequate guidelines are provided as to what modifiers are appropriate and how large an impact they should have.
Flexibility and adjustability are going to be even more important in Bluffing. What’s more, since bluffs usually take place in dangerous situations, while Persuasion attempts only occasionally occur in such situations, the consequences are going to be far more profound to the narrative of the game. It follows that, like combat, there should be less scope for GM interpretation and more precise guidelines provided – in other words, more reliability and definition.
6. Learning to bluff
Characters can learn to bluff. It’s not a stat that all characters have equal access to, it’s more like a skill that can be learned – and improved.
7. The impact of roleplay
Ideally, far from disrupting roleplay, the bluff mechanism should compliment it, contributing to and shaping the narrative events, enhancing the gameplay.
The model of the solution
The key to the solution was suggested by another passage within the description of Persuasion:
“…Use the modifiers listed under Presence Attacks as a modifier to the Persuasion roll (for example, a +2d6 modifier would equal a +2 skill roll modifier).”
A presence attack is very close to what we want the new system to be, provided we add the principles of persistence and depletion to it, and somehow integrate it to operate off a bluff skill check instead of a character’s Presence stat.
The features of this subsystem are a base number of d6, with more dice being added or subtracted according to circumstances and roleplay; these dice are then rolled and compared to the target’s Presence or Ego (whichever is lower). There is no effect if the total is below this target, and several escalating degrees of success for achieving 10, 20, or 30 more than the minimum target. So, right away, we can tick off items 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 from the list of criterion, and have identified the changes that are needed to add items 1 and 6 to that list.
From that point, it’s all a question of details, and a bit of tweaking to how the system integrates with the existing system and gameplay.
We want the one roll to persist throughout the bluff. That eliminates that ever-repeating cycle of rolling dice, moving on, rolling dice again, etc. The randomness is preserved, but the more dice you roll, the greater the probability of a result approaching the average – so all the problems that came with earlier attempts to employ persistent results (described in “The interaction factor” above) go away, leaving only the benefits.
Having the results deplete or wear off or erode with each encounter adds the drama and tension that should be present during a bluff. Will it last long enough? When will the bluff be exposed?
A character succeeds in using a skill by rolling their skill total, as modified by the GM, or less, on 3d6. Increasing the skill total represents learning how to be better at using that skill. Presence attack works on the principle of 1d6 to the base number of dice for every 5 points of Presence. Success magnitudes in skills are smaller, but they exist – so simply adding dice to the Bluff based on how well the character rolls his bluff skill is enough to integrate the two systems.
Circumstantial modifiers to the initial bluff roll have a twin effect: they adjust the average point of the roll relative to success or failure, and the increase or decrease the potential magnitude of a success or failure.
The average of 3d6 is 10.5, so rolls of 10 and 11 are equally the most probable results (13% each), and that 10/- is exactly a 50% chance. A skill level of 11/- means that either of these, or anything less, succeeds, so it is better than a 50% chance of success (it’s actually 62.5%). If there’s a modifier of -2 applied by the GMs, then the roll required for success shifts to 9/- from 11/-, and the two most probable results become failures. Understanding what modifiers do to the chance of success is fundamental to successfully GMing the Hero System.
If the most probable result is 10 or 11, and the mark of success is 11 or less, then the most probable outcome of the roll is a success by 0 or 1. In practice, the probability curve is relatively flat at the peak, so there is only a slightly reduced chance of getting a success by 2 – or a failure by 1.
The greater the distance from the average result, the less probable – and more significant – the margin of success becomes. A modifier of +2, for example, would mean that on a base roll of 11/-, success is achieved by rolling anything below 14 – better than 83% chance. The most probable rolls are still 10 and 11, so the most probable result is a success by 2 or 3. And the maximum margin of success (resulting from rolling a 3) shifts from 9 to 11.
All that means that modifiers of +1 or +2 (or -1 or -2) are far more significant to the outcome than adding an extra +1d6 or +2d6 to the pool of dice to be rolled for the bluff because they can not only increase the chance of success, they increase the chance of a good success, which adds those +1 or +2 dice on top of the increased chance of success. These must be carefully controlled by the GM. But what should they signify?
The significance of skill modifiers
The things that add or subtract dice to the target pool, in addition to the degree of success in the skill roll, are all external factors to the character, or consequences of roleplayed behavior and actions – the environment, the target(s), supporting actions or statements by the character, and so on. It follows that the basis of skill roll modifiers should be only that which is internal to the character – the skill at bluffing, any overall competencies they might have, and the magnitude of the bluff they are trying to pull off.
Presence attacks are measured against the lower of a target’s Ego (representing their stubbornness) or Presence. They are an attempt to awe or intimidate the target into doing what the character wants the target to do – which must be explicitly or implicitly stated as part of the presence attack. Bluff should not be measured against either of these – well, maybe stubbornness – they should be measured against the target’s credulity, i.e. their Intelligence. Or possibly their Perception.
The Bluff Subsystem 1.1
(The following is also available as a standalone download. Just click on the icon to the right)
Bluff: Interaction Skill, 11/- for 2 pts, 8/- for 1 pt; BASE VALUE 9+(PRE/5) for 3 pts, +1 for +2 pts.
Bluff is a presence attack which is intended to give a false impression to the target. It is based on the Presence stat. It is distinct from persuasion which is about convincing a target to act in a certain specific way and distinct from acting which is designed to convince the target of a character’s identity and may last a period of time. Bluff is immediate is aims to convince the target that the character is about to do something or is capable of doing something without any regard to specifying how that target should react to that potential action. Bluff is all about chutzpah and brazening your way out of or through a situation.
To Bluff a target, roll against your skill at a modifier assigned by the referees according to the difficulty and plausibility of the bluff. If you succeed, you then make a presence-style attack with a base of 1d6 for every point of success. Additional dice may be added or subtracted by the referees as follows:
- -1d6 character is in combat
- -1d6 character is at at a disadvantage
- -3d6 character is covered
- +1d6 target is surprised to encounter the character (lasts for 1-2 rounds only)
- +1d6 target is at a disadvantage
- +3d6 target is covered
- +1d6 Target is surprised
- +1d6 Character appears to have a power or technology that increases the bluff’s plausibility
- +2d6 Character is exhibiting or has just demonstrated that technology
- -1d6 Target has a power or technology that might protect them against the threat
- ±1d6 Target is idealistic (+1 if bluff appeals to idealism, -1 if contrary)
- +1d6 Target is naive or inexperienced
- +1d6 Target is in an unfamiliar environment and character looks like they belong in that environment
- -2d6 Target is a zealot or fanatic
Target has a disadvantage (usually a psych lim, berserk or enraged if active) that conflicts with acceptance of the bluff
- -1d6 Moderate
- -2d6 Strong or enraged
- -3d6 Total or Berserk
Target has a disadvantage (usually a psych lim, berserk or enraged if active) that accords with acceptance of the bluff
- +1d6 Moderate
- +2d6 Strong
- +3d6 Total
Character has a disadvantage (known psych lim, berserk or enraged) that accords with the bluff
- +1d6 psych lim
- +2d6 enraged
- +3d6 berserk
Target has a responsibility or duty that conflicts with acceptance of the bluff
- -1d6 slight conflict
- -2d6 strong conflict
- -3d6 extreme conflict
- +3d6 slight commitment to duty
- +2d6 strong commitment to duty
- +1d6 extreme commitment to duty
Character’s Reputation is contrary to attempted bluff*
- -1d6 8/-
- -2d6 11/-
- -3d6 14/-
- -4d6 extreme
* if acting/disguise is in use, reputation is that of the character being impersonated
Character’s Reputation is in accord with attempted bluff*
- +1d6 8/-
- +2d6 11/-
- +3d6 14/-
- +4d6 extreme
* if acting/disguise is in use, reputation is that of the character being impersonated
If the bluff is a threat and the character has just performed
- +1d6 violent action (includes shoving, shots in the air)
- +2d6 extremely violent action (includes physical attack, shooting weapon from target’s hand but not shooting at the target themselves)
- +3d6 incredibly violent action (includes determined physical attack, wounding the target)
- -1d6 has just hesitated
- -2d6 has just exhibited fear or tenderness
- -3d6 has just attempted to hide or flee
- -2d6 if bluff repeated against this target without further demonstration of intent
Character’s demands of target are
- +1d6 reasonable
- +1d6 sensible
- -1d6 unreasonable
- -2d6 ridiculous
- -3d6 dangerous to the target of the bluff
- +1d6 already nervous
- +2d6 fearful
- +3d6 backing away
- +4d6 in retreat
- -1d6 obviously nervous
- -2d6 fearful
- -3d6 backing away
- -4d6 in retreat
Roll these dice and compare the total with the Presence attack table on page 288 of the Champions 5th Edition rules.
Attempting to bluff a crowd:
Attempting to bluff 2 people at once:
- Divide the number of dice as evenly as possible between the two.
Attempting to bluff more than 2 people at once:
- for every doubling of the crowd after the first two people subtract 2 dice i.e. 4 people = -2 dice, 8=-4 dice, 16=-6 dice, 32=-8 dice, 64=-10 dice, 128=-12 dice, 250=-14 dice, 500=-16 dice, 1000=-18 dice, 2000=-20 dice, 4000=-22 dice, 8000=-24 dice, 16000=-26 dice, 32000=-28 dice, 64000=-30 dice, 125000=-32 dice, 250000=-34 dice, 500K=-36dice, 1M=-38dice, 2M=-40dice, 4M=-42dice, 8M=-44 dice, 16M=-46dice, 32M+=-48dice (ie zero or fewer d6 of bluff). This assumes that in any crowd, leaders will naturally emerge and that the character is actually only attempting to bluff those leaders. Mass communications are required to reach more than 250 people at one time.
- If the results are <1d6 per person, there is a minimum result on a successful bluff of 2d6 per person.
The Depletion Options
As you can see, we chose to take a mixed option of splitting the bluff between two targets and then eroding the number of dice to be rolled. We very deliberately wanted to be able to accommodate a politician attempting to bluff an entire population.
What happens with the version of the system described above, and in the PDF, is this: Let’s say that the character is attempting to bluff two people. He gets 17d6 when all the modifiers and adjustments are taken into account. These are split as evenly as possible between the two, giving 9 dice for one target and 8 dice for the other. The player rolls the 8 dice to get a total against the first target and then one extra die to add for the second, getting 33 and 5, respectively, or 33 and 38. These totals are compared with the lower of the target’s INT or Perception Skill (9+INT/5). The targets are both above-average individuals with an INT of say, 12, which also gives them a perception of 12.
33-12=21; 38-12=26. So both are affected in the “target number +20″ bracket, which reads,
“Target is awed. He will not act for 1 full Phase, is at 1/2 DCV, and possibly will do as the attacker commands. If he is friendly, he is inspired and may follow the character into danger; he will comply with most requests and obey most orders. He receives +10 PRE only for the purpose of resisting contrary Presence Attacks made that Turn.”
I would translate that, under these circumstances, as: “Target is convinced by the bluff and will react accordingly. He will obey most orders and comply with most requests and is convinced that the character is supposed to be where he is and doing what he is doing. He will resist attempts by others to convince him otherwise with +10 INT for the purpose. He will almost completely lower his guard (1/2 DCV) and will not question or act to investigate the bluff for a full Phase.”
If, in that time, the bluffing character has moved away from the target (say into another room), the target’s convictions will not be changed.
And what if there are two more people in the next room, to be taken in by the same bluff? Then the character loses two dice of bluff. There are four ways this can be done: removing the two highest-value dice from the roll already made; removing the two lowest-value dice from the roll already made; a proportionate reduction; or rolling two dice and subtracting them from the existing totals. We have not specified a method because (a) we didn’t think of the question, and (b) it permits us to choose which method seems most appropriate to the situation.
In this case, the two were fairly thoroughly convinced, so I would choose the two lowest dice, probably both showing 1’s.
The pool of dice in front of the player thus becomes a visual aide to the erosion of his bluff. With each new person encountered, it shrinks. If the character does something to reinforce the bluff, and we decide that it works, we can add a couple of dice to the total. If the character does something inappropriate to the bluff, like getting a name wrong, or poking around at controls that should not be altered in a manner that suggests he doesn’t know what he’s doing, we can subtract a couple of extra dice. We just have to let the character roll additional dice or remove existing dice as necessary. As the dice pool shrinks, the player should feel the rising tension in the air as his bluff begins to wear thin.
Eventually, if the character keeps encountering new people, the total on the dice will drop the 8-dice target to below the target-plus-twenty range. At that point, the target who was in that range begins to question himself about what he saw, but he’s still in the target-plus-ten range so he will be only very slightly suspicious. When the results range drop to less than target-plus-ten, the character will become even more suspicious, perhaps even enough to ask his colleague – but the colleague was even more convinced and is probably still in that target-plus-ten range. Eventually, the character that was more weakly affected will become suspicious enough (ie the total will drop below a success) that he may report his suspicions to his superiors; the bluff has worn off, but the character is presumably long-gone from the vicinity.
Depletion option #1: High to Low
Take away the highest die results first, and the Bluff will wear thin and fail far more quickly. This approach is most appropriate if the character does something suspicious – asking questions, claiming to be from personnel and then examining the reactor settings, monkeying with the controls, whatever.
Depletion option #2: Low to High
Take away the low numbers first, and the Bluff will persist for a lot longer. This approach is most appropriate when the character committing the bluff does something to allay suspicions, or simply does nothing suspicious.
Depletion option #3: Middle-ground first, rising; and option #4, proportionate reduction
Both of these remove an intermediate amount from the total. The first removes threes and fours as matched pairs; when you run out of one of these, start removing fives, when you run out of the other, start removing sixes. The second is useful if you have recorded the total but not the actual rolls that comprised it, simply dividing by the number of dice that there were and multiplying by the number of dice that there are now. This is appropriate for low-suspicion activities if those being bluffed are already suspicious (a warning sounds over the intercom about an intruder somewhere in the facility, for example) or for asking low-suspicion questions.
Depletion option #5: Roll two dice and subtract the result
This is my favorite option because it is unpredictable compared to the other two. Will the character roll a 12 and lose a lot of their bluff’s effectiveness? or a two, and lose very little? The law of averages still gives a rough idea of how long the bluff will last (without reinforcement), but when you get down to only a few dice in hand over the target, individual results and the vagarity of actual rolls begins to outweigh that law of averages. This can be the appropriate option any time, under any circumstances. And you don’t need to keep the pool of dice in front of the PC, just have a record of the total. The GMs can even roll secretly for the amount of depletion so that the player doesn’t know how weak or how strong his bluff still is – just that the GM keeps rolling dice and doing sums on his scratch pad.
A Direct-Depletion Alternative
That’s the way the present version of the system works. But I’ve been thinking about it subsequently, and have realized that there are a couple of alternatives.
How about if, instead of reducing by a fixed two dice for each doubling of targets, we simply subtracted 1 point from the total for crowds of more than 1 at the time of the initial bluff, and instead depleted the dice pool based on the perceptiveness/INT of each target? 1 dice for every 5 points of whichever one was used as the basis of the comparison for that target?
Erosion by numbers alone would eventually expose the deception, but this means that it’s harder to bluff smarter characters for long periods of time. And easier to bluff characters who aren’t so smart for long periods of time.
The Erosion variant
A further approach might be to erode the totals by 1 per minute, or 1 per hour, or even one per day, depending on the nature of the bluff and how often the bluffer and the bluffed interact. If the daily newspaper is the only source of interaction, one per day would be appropriate. In a real high-security setup, you might even go with 1 per turn.
The Slow-depletion variant
You could also state that the character committing the bluff gets his first turn in someone’s presence free, but that they suffer depletion/erosion for every turn thereafter. That means that asking detailed questions, or inspecting something closely, or being interrogated by a couple of self-important guards, can bring the bluff undone, or at least burn through it more quickly, but if the character simply keeps moving without interacting with anyone or anything, they can last for quite a long time.
While there are a couple of decisions that have not been made regarding these rules, and a few variations on them to consider, the overall system is sound, definitely Hero System in style, and very definitely needed.