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Eldan
2011-12-14, 06:07 AM
Not an ideal thread name, but the best I could think of. What I mean is this systems for resolving social interactions in roleplaying games.

There is a sentiment I've heard, on this board and elsewhere, that more complicated social interaction systems are somehow better for the roleplaying. Which sounds strange to me, as I've had almost the opposite experience.

Let me elaborate. My first game, and the one I still play most, was D&D. First 3.0, now 3.5. I always resolved social conflict with a few minutes of talking, followed by a diplomacy, bluff or intimidate check, as appropriate and extensively modified by what was said.

Other people have told me that other systems, however, are much more conductive to social roleplaying. Games where every argument made has its own rules to resolve, where discussion is resolved in a similar fashion to combat in more combat-rules-heavy games like D&D, with dozens of dice rolls going back and forth, with bidding, aspects, traits, tokens, resources, consequences and other such mechanics, as appropriate to said game.

Now, I've tried maybe half a dozen systems with such mechanics, and many that were specifically recommended to me by other people. My experience with them is that, quite simply, I find them distracting. While talking, I like people to talk, not bid counters, flip cards, roll dice or whatever else they do. Perhaps a single die roll at the end is overly simplistic, but I find it much more conductive to a fluent game. (Ironic, really, as I also prefer rules-heavy combat).

So, what do people think? Which systems do you prefer for your social conflicts?

Yora
2011-12-14, 06:37 AM
I never understood why lack of rules for social interaction should be a drawback. Talking to people is pure RP and serves only to advance the plot of the adventure. Using skills like in 3.5e is a nice addition for the GM to see how well the PCs present their arguments, but in the end, that's where you really get into cooperative storytelling.
State your arguments and the GM will decide if the NPC feels convinced or not. For an interesting story, this should depend the most on what would be the most plausible and interesting result, without any random die roll determining the plot.

starwoof
2011-12-14, 06:43 AM
I agree with you completely, Eldan. Any kind of token, marker, or die roll is going to distract me from my main purpose: playing my character. Adding another set of rules to manage and optimize is just unnecessary, I feel.

Earthwalker
2011-12-14, 07:13 AM
I see lots of sides to this and how social interation is handled.

In the example of OP it punishes people that want to play a charismatic character but are not charismatic themselves, which is odd as you never get a situation where someone that is weak in real life gets told not to play a strength 18 character.

Adding a bonus for being persuasive as a player means that the character mattes less, in fact dump charisma and social skills and just persude the GM to get a good bonus.

It is also odd that if you have a player, we will call Mongo the Half Ork. Mongo has 8 charisma,8 int, and 8 wis no ranks in bluff. When trying to blag his past a gate guard Mongos player speaking for him, start coming up with a complicated bluff involving needing to be inside and speak to the Duke as he has vitale information for the Dukes ears only. The player is persausive and aloquent. The GM gives him a bonus and he rolls and succeeds. What the GM has done is give Mongos player a bonus for in fact playing against his character, Mongo is dumb and has low force of personality, yet the player is playing him the oppersite way, as a reward for not playing his character the GM gives a bonus ?

Totally Guy
2011-12-14, 07:22 AM
It depends on what the game is about. Some games simply don't need them.

Other games are about testing the character's social abilities and social mechanics enable those games to do that.

These days I prefer games that are about social abilities on some level. Games that cater towards that give me feedback that my choice to be good or bad at social interaction is meaningful as I succeed or fail or compromise accordingly.

Eldan
2011-12-14, 08:16 AM
I see lots of sides to this and how social interation is handled.

In the example of OP it punishes people that want to play a charismatic character but are not charismatic themselves, which is odd as you never get a situation where someone that is weak in real life gets told not to play a strength 18 character.

Adding a bonus for being persuasive as a player means that the character mattes less, in fact dump charisma and social skills and just persude the GM to get a good bonus.

It is also odd that if you have a player, we will call Mongo the Half Ork. Mongo has 8 charisma,8 int, and 8 wis no ranks in bluff. When trying to blag his past a gate guard Mongos player speaking for him, start coming up with a complicated bluff involving needing to be inside and speak to the Duke as he has vitale information for the Dukes ears only. The player is persausive and aloquent. The GM gives him a bonus and he rolls and succeeds. What the GM has done is give Mongos player a bonus for in fact playing against his character, Mongo is dumb and has low force of personality, yet the player is playing him the oppersite way, as a reward for not playing his character the GM gives a bonus ?

I think this one needs some answering specifically, to better explain what exactly I do.

When a player tries to convince an NPC, I see it as resolving the action in a manner similarly to how I resolve all actions. The player describes the action as well as he can, then a dice roll is made to see how well the character enacts that action. There is, fundamentally, little difference between saying "Jack the Rogue climbs the wall to the third story window" and "Hello, Mr. Guard, I'm so sorry, but I seemed to have dropped this purse of silver. Would you mind picking it up for me and in the process not look in that direction for a minute?"

Both are a description of what the character does, first, then a roll of the dice to see if it worked. One describes climbing, the other a conversation. However, I think that a well-done conversation is much more important for the atmosphere of the game than a well-described climb and to encourage that, I give a small bonus to having a good argument. Never a bonus large enough that the dice themselves, or the points invested in them. It is, actually, pretty close to the Giant's diplomacy overhaul here on this site.

It's the same with any action, on some level. If the player describes that he tries to jump 30 feet over a chasm, despite knowing that he'd need an 18+ on a d20 to succeed at it, that is a difficult check. It would be just as difficult to convince someone to agree to an unfavourable trade. In both cases, a good roll and skill points help, but a fundamentally stupid action will always remain stupid and difficult.

Totally Guy
2011-12-14, 08:46 AM
So this isn't about whether there shouldn't or should be social mechanics but instead we're discussing the level of complexity of those systems.

Complex systems need to justify their complexity both in the behaviour they create in play and in the granularity of results.

Eldan
2011-12-14, 08:51 AM
My point is that I like some mechanics, but I like them unobtrusive, yeah. A single roll is usually quite enough.

That said, feel free to argue for freeform resolution. Not my cup of tea,but certainly some people's.

Saph
2011-12-14, 09:12 AM
I agree with Eldan: when it comes to social interaction, the less mechanics the better. One dice roll is more than enough, and most of my favourite in-character conversations have been the ones where no dice were rolled at all.

The few times I've tried more complicated social resolution systems, I've found them very frustrating, because in-character talking keeps getting interrupted by dice rolls which break up the flow of the conversation.


It is also odd that if you have a player, we will call Mongo the Half Ork. Mongo has 8 charisma,8 int, and 8 wis no ranks in bluff. When trying to blag his past a gate guard Mongos player speaking for him, start coming up with a complicated bluff involving needing to be inside and speak to the Duke as he has vitale information for the Dukes ears only. The player is persausive and aloquent.

That's really an example of bad roleplaying, though. The player of Mongo isn't making any effort to RP his low mental stats or lack of social skills. You can't really stop players doing this, any more than you can stop them metagaming, but you shouldn't design your system around it.

Totally Guy
2011-12-14, 09:25 AM
My point is that I like some mechanics, but I like them unobtrusive, yeah. A single roll is usually quite enough.

I like a game called Apocalypse World. In that you roll 2d6 plus a modifier for everything. It features social mechanics.

It's clever, if you are threatening someone with a gun the game pretty much asks you whether you'll actually pull the trigger or not before you roll. If the player knows what they're going to do the GM doesn't even need to ask.

Apocalypse World is a great example of a game where the mechanics and roleplay riff off of each other whilst keeping the complexity of resolution to a minimum. In terms of obtrusiveness it's on the same level as someone saying "Roll to do it". (You can figure out a lot of the game just by seeing the character sheets and the moves sheet.)

A single roll is definitely viable for a lot of games. The one above is just one that stands out as particularly good.

Shoot Da Moon
2011-12-14, 09:41 AM
GURPS has a few good rules about social interaction, and a whole supplement devoted to social stuff.

NichG
2011-12-14, 10:02 AM
My preference is for social systems where the only things the system brings into it are 'above-and-beyond' effects. That is to say, a character with no powers/no exceptional social stats is the base template of 'whatever the player says is what was said'. Then, social effects add to this and give advantages that the player can make use of. For instance, the ability to take back one thing just said, the ability to read emotions, the ability to predict how the person will respond to a certain offer, mental domination, etc.

I think such things are fine for immersion so long as they're active - that is, nothing forces anyone to bid a point, roll a die, whatever over the course of the conversation, so if they aren't needed they don't come up.

It's because, I suppose, that I like games where the game situation and scenario is sort of a puzzle to figure out. Not literally a puzzle like sliding blocks, but where the 'gaming' part is figuring out how to take the situation and push it towards a good outcome or achieve something. NPC interaction, physical challenges, detective work (figuring things out), etc are all part of this puzzle. A 'go fish' kind of barrier like 'jump the chasm or fail to cross the chasm' makes for a boring puzzle if its the only way, but if you can be clever and make a rope bridge, find another way across, etc, then it becomes an actual element to figure out again.

Rorrik
2011-12-14, 10:06 AM
I see lots of sides to this and how social interation is handled.

In the example of OP it punishes people that want to play a charismatic character but are not charismatic themselves, which is odd as you never get a situation where someone that is weak in real life gets told not to play a strength 18 character.

Adding a bonus for being persuasive as a player means that the character mattes less, in fact dump charisma and social skills and just persude the GM to get a good bonus.

It is also odd that if you have a player, we will call Mongo the Half Ork. Mongo has 8 charisma,8 int, and 8 wis no ranks in bluff. When trying to blag his past a gate guard Mongos player speaking for him, start coming up with a complicated bluff involving needing to be inside and speak to the Duke as he has vitale information for the Dukes ears only. The player is persausive and aloquent. The GM gives him a bonus and he rolls and succeeds. What the GM has done is give Mongos player a bonus for in fact playing against his character, Mongo is dumb and has low force of personality, yet the player is playing him the oppersite way, as a reward for not playing his character the GM gives a bonus ?

I think, in addition to Eldan's reply(perhaps in further explanation if I understand correctly), just like if the player says "I climb the wall' and fails the roll I say "you fall", in Mongo's case I would say if he failed the roll, instead of saying "good sir, I have great haste. I bear urgent news for the Duke's ears only concerning the progress on the western front." Mongo get tongue-tied and forgets the argument and says "you, uh, let me through the gate I need to see the duke... right away." given his low force of personality, the gatekeeper is not impressed and does not let him through.

I find I prefer rules light social aspects. I've tried WoD and found conversations were less real when you knew you had to roll after each line or each five minute stint. Light rules on the diplomacy side I find encourage roleplaying and the player and DM making decisions based on what might really happen.

Earthwalker
2011-12-14, 10:21 AM
[snip my comments]

That's really an example of bad roleplaying, though. The player of Mongo isn't making any effort to RP his low mental stats or lack of social skills. You can't really stop players doing this, any more than you can stop them metagaming, but you shouldn't design your system around it.

You are correct Mongos player was just role playing badly. I do feel this has revelance to the discussion tho. I am having trouble with the term encourages role playing.

People have said in this thread that rules light encourages role playing. I aren't sure it does. The examples given not having to break the flow of the conversation to roll dice / play cards what have you encourages talking. I don't think it encourages role playing (I don't think it prevents role playing either)

Talking != Role playing.

Are you trying to say the right thing as a player to solve the problem you think the GM has created, or are you saying what you think your character would say. Are you saying things based on what your character wants or believes not what you as a player just thinks is the solution to some puzzle ?

Eldan
2011-12-14, 10:40 AM
I wouldn't say it encourages roleplay, necessarily, and it isn't really about that. Roleplay is most of all connected to whether the players make an effort to try it. What it encourages, however, is flow and mood, which, I am very much convinced, makes existing roleplaying more satisfying. Some systems I've played very much played out as:

PC: "Hello good Sir! I, the great Gorblarg (*roll reputation check*) would like to see the king immediately! (*roll charisma check*)"
Guard: "I see! (*roll reaction check*) Would you perhaps be willing to pay a donation to the Watchman's fund for the abandonment of unnecessary bureaucracy? (*roll hidden meaning check*)"
PC: (*roll check on understanding the hidden meaning*) "Ah, yes, my good fellow. Would a donation of five gold pieces perhaps be appropriate? (*roll diplomacy check*)"
Guard (*roll reaction check*) "Certainly, and it is very welcome!"

That kind of thing just annoys me. To me, it doesn't add much over a simple check, but massively interrupts the conversation the people around the table are having, interrupting the mood. Which is not conductive to good roleplay and tends to lead to a certain frustration. The result may well be that instead of talking in character, people eventually just give up say "I bribe the guard" and quickly make all their rolls.

Totally Guy
2011-12-14, 11:21 AM
That situation sucked. All those rolls hardly mattered.


I ran a Burning Wheel one time where the player character was Bob Sporrington the incompetent wizard and his evil ex-master Mordak of many faces who was working on his evil scheme.

Bob was hopelessly outgunned, his party was split and injured and there was just him and the big bad he'd been trying to stop for half the campaign.

The player said that he wanted to talk him out of his evil plans of conquest. "I want you to realise your evil ways and abandon your lunatic plan."

At this point I as the GM could say that Mordak would walk away from such a proposal or I could propose something for the the player to be bound to should he lose.

I said "You still belong to me. You will help me with the plan."

At this point the player would have to choose whether to walk away from the argument or not, knowing that whoever won would be bound to the statement.

He stuck to his guns and finally the comic relief wizard was roleplaying out points, rebuttals and really getting into it. I played my wizard and I played to win.

After maybe 6 or 7 rolls it was over. They got a perfect draw.

So we merged the two statements as best we could which is as the rules intend. Mordak would continue the plan unhindered but would also work with Bob's assistance to craft a moral compass that would show him the way. As players we both knew that if they could craft this compass then he'd drop the plan.

As the final arc to the campaign then started with Bob trying to redeem the wizard and his friends trying to kill him. We'd not anticipated this direction and it was amazing. Both the characters felt very real in that there were logical options that their emotions wouldn't let them take.

The best thing about this session was that we knew the results were binding and that should either of them have lost then their opponents statement would have come to pass. It makes the stakes high and very real.

Dimers
2011-12-14, 11:58 AM
just like if the player says "I climb the wall' and fails the roll I say "you fall", in Mongo's case I would say if he failed the roll, instead of saying "good sir, I have great haste. I bear urgent news for the Duke's ears only concerning the progress on the western front." Mongo get tongue-tied and forgets the argument and says "you, uh, let me through the gate I need to see the duke... right away." given his low force of personality, the gatekeeper is not impressed and does not let him through.

This is my ideal. Mechanics do exist ... mechanics are simple ... results of mechanics give direction to roleplay. So you make the roll first and base your interaction on how well the roll indicates your character speaks. This has four major benefits:

allows charismatic play for uncharismatic people
keeps the relevant stats meaningful (either positively or negatively)
encourages roleplaying of both successful and unsuccessful interactions, including imagining reasons why
precludes a certain type of internal struggle for the DM, who otherwise to be fair must give bonuses and penalties based on factors the players don't know (e.g. the player's speech makes an appeal to love of family but the NPC hates his family right now)


I feel that overall this leads to a more varied, realistic, and therefore immersive social world.

Of course, for my ideal to come to pass, the social mechanics have to actually work. And it presupposes that the rest of the gaming group isn't shooting for heroic levels of success -- that they're okay with social failures some of the time. Having this sort of system might also lead some groups to rely on a 'face' character, though for myself, I almost always take some degree of social ability in any character I create. The rest of the party can be bards and I'll still want some Diplomacy and Insight myself.

Terraoblivion
2011-12-14, 12:32 PM
Whether social mechanics are desirable ultimately relies on two things. One is whether you want to keep the game as a game with the struggle, uncertainty of outcome and so on that implies. The other is how important social interactions are to the specific game being played.

lf you want to play the different characters in a collaborative story, there is no need for social systems as discussing the scene and how it should go almost invariably makes for a better story. If social interaction is fundamentally irrelevant for the game in question there is no need to bog things down with complex social systems, just work it out so the plot keeps moving in the desired direction.

However, if you consider social interactions an important part of the story and try to keep things open-ended and uncertain, you will need some sort of rules to apply to them. For that, the single roll at the end is probably the worst way around it, as it tends to end up highly arbitrary and make a single stumble determine success or failure, with no chance of saving the situation. This is especially the case in games that are otherwise rules heavy and with complex systems for other interactions with the gameworld. Doing that, under those circumstances both say that social interaction is not important, no effort was put into detailing it, while also providing an odd lapse in an otherwise very thorough rules system. Finally, if a conflict isn't meaningful and cannot affect the progression of the story meaningfully, there is no need to apply any social system to it even if the game makes use of it. This includes things with an element of conflict, such as attempting to seduce a girl in the bar or, in most systems, trying to bluff your way into a discount on something minor.

Beyond this, there is also the question of what you really want to do with the social system. Is it just for simple negotiations and immediate problem solving, as in the example of trying to talk your way past a guard, or does it want to engage more deeply with the plot and the social reality of the world? In the former case, I honestly don't have an idea what would work best as it is the kind of boring roadblock to the plot that I hate dealing with, but I guess that just using a single roll for a mostly trivial encounter like that would work. Or you could make a judgement call given that it is a trivial encounter that ultimately has no bearing on the plot, there is no need to break out the dice for everything.

For the latter, however, you need something rather more elaborate than just a check to see if you can get an immediate response. For that I think that the Courtier's Arts of Weapons of the Gods and, presumably, its upcoming sequel Legends of the Wulin are an excellent example of a social system that does it right. While it can be used to convince people here and now in a debate, it's real direction is towards longterm changes in attitude and beliefs, through bestowing bonuses for following the social reality created by the courtier or penalties for opposing it. As such it works through the manipulation of what is essentially longterm status effects that can be both beneficial or harmful, often both, all derived from the knowledge and understanding of the prior state of mind of the affected character. As a simple example, reminding a grieving widow of her dead husband and her duty to staying true to him could be used to give her a bonus to resist attempts at seduction. It could be used to give her penalties if she doesn't behave within socially accepted norms for widows as nagging guilt distracts her from what she is doing.

So to summarize my view, social mechanics has a place but only insofar as you consider both the social side and the game side of the game relevant, but if you do use it make use of it with an eye towards the full complexity of social interactions and only when there is a conflict with genuine ability to change the story.

Eldan
2011-12-14, 01:25 PM
Interesting. I actually consider the social side of the game far more relevant. In general, combat bores me, especially if it goes on for more than two or three rounds, or equivalents. And I still prefer combat being rules-heavier and social situations rules-lighter. I can't really say why.

Zorg
2011-12-14, 02:38 PM
Rogue Trader/Dark Heresy has a pretty nifty system where you make an opposed check, but there are several skills you can select to make it from - intimidate, charm, blather, fellowship (group X) etc. Having a relevant skill can give you bonuses, or at least make them more receptive - chosing a wrong skill can make thigns backfire.
There are degrees of success and whatnot, but it's a flexible system that I think encourages some RP, as a player would have to stick more to their chosen tactic (charming/intimidating etc) to play their strengths.

Dimers
2011-12-14, 03:46 PM
Interesting. I actually consider the social side of the game far more relevant. In general, combat bores me, especially if it goes on for more than two or three rounds, or equivalents. And I still prefer combat being rules-heavier and social situations rules-lighter. I can't really say why.

Whaddya bet that if you acted out all the combats, you'd want them rules-light too? You did say before that the social mechanics tend to make you feel interrupted from taking part in the gameworld ... heavy combat rules will make you feel more a part of the gameworld, unless and until you're LARPing. They get you closer to the level of detail that you understand inherently when doing a social scene.

As for why you find social stuff more interesting than numbercrunching conflict, well, human beings are physiologically and emotionally designed to be social creatures, not combatants.

Rorrik
2011-12-14, 03:58 PM
Whaddya bet that if you acted out all the combats, you'd want them rules-light too? You did say before that the social mechanics tend to make you feel interrupted from taking part in the gameworld ... heavy combat rules will make you feel more a part of the gameworld, unless and until you're LARPing. They get you closer to the level of detail that you understand inherently when doing a social scene.

As for why you find social stuff more interesting than numbercrunching conflict, well, human beings are physiologically and emotionally designed to be social creatures, not combatants.

Yea, I'm pretty sure if I played a game where combat was decided with like practice swords, I'd be pretty ticked if I kept having to stop and make a roll to see if I really did knock the enemy off balance.

NichG
2011-12-14, 04:22 PM
Having this sort of system might also lead some groups to rely on a 'face' character, though for myself, I almost always take some degree of social ability in any character I create. The rest of the party can be bards and I'll still want some Diplomacy and Insight myself.

This is kind of an important point. Social interaction can be as big a part of the game as combat (or much bigger in many cases). As such, its important that if social interaction depends strongly on mechanics, there should be as many varied ways of contributing socially as there are in combat. Furthermore, every character type should be socially competent in some way or to some degree. Just like you wouldn't want to be the guy who sits out every combat but is wonderful at talking to people when combat takes up 50% of the game time, so too should 'Murgo the Orc with no social ability' be discouraged as a character concept in games where social mechanics are important.

Terraoblivion
2011-12-14, 10:09 PM
Interesting. I actually consider the social side of the game far more relevant. In general, combat bores me, especially if it goes on for more than two or three rounds, or equivalents. And I still prefer combat being rules-heavier and social situations rules-lighter. I can't really say why.

My preference is essentially the same. However, the important thing behind that is that the question of whether the characters succeed doesn't interest me. What matters to me is having an interesting story and getting into the head of my character and acting them out, which is quite different from trying to achieve something in a social situation. In fact, I consider the need for determining success or failure, rather than keeping a close watch on my character and behaving appropriately in character, an annoyance. This is to the degree that I hate investigation scenarios since they're so focused on trying to achieve something when dealing with other characters instead of on the character portrayal.

As an example of what I mean, I offer a scene from a game I am currently in. The scene takes place in an alternate reality 1883 where steampunk is the norm, sexism isn't much greater than today and all of Europe west of the Rhine has been captured by aliens. In recognition of the characters managing to steal some superior alien weaponry and already winning a few battles thanks to it, they have been invited to a fancy party for the top brass of the alliance of European nations fighting to halt the aliens.

At the party my character gets approached by the old bully from her academy days and some verbal sparring ensues, leading to his humiliation at the insinuation that he was only awarded his rank because of the favor of Bismarck's wife, with the obvious implications being very much intended. However, the main thrust of the scene is Bismarck's plan on appropriating the alien weapons for research and eventual mass production, despite the failure of even getting the most basic understanding of their workings by studying destroyed ones captured in the past. That is further compounded by the fact that these weapons are the only thing that has managed to stand against the aliens with any real success, suggesting that having them in the field is vital. So we resist and thanks to the support of the representatives of nations other than Germany, we manage to force Bismarck to step down, but with a clear impression that it is just a tactical retreat.

Through all this, not a single dice was rolled, nor was one for the British anarchist stealing fancy food from the buffet or the nerdy engineer trying to make a good impression at the party, because the outcome was never in question. No matter what we had said and done, the scene would have ended with us making an enemy of Bismarck and being forced to head into exile in the no-man's land between human and alien lines until the forces of politics can get to work constraining him. It did, however, provide plenty of space for us to showcase our characters and develop them in an environment that they had not previously been in.

Focusing on my character, I know the goals for her the best after all, I got to show off a number of traits that had been hidden before. The first of these is how she is a noble and possess genuine training in and understanding of the social workings of the upper class, even if she despises it. I also got to show that the distaste is mutual, as well as how she deals with being looked down on for failing to make any kind proper career. Further I got to develop the romance between her and another party member. Finally, I got to put some cracks in her normally cool, controlled and quite aloof facade as she got increasingly drunk from the discomfort of her present company and her anger and hatred for Bismarck over the orders that sent her into Paris to suppress the Paris Commune during the Franco-Prussian war. In short, I achieved much in terms of characterization from a scene completely devoid of meaningful influence of the outcome of the scene and I did so without social systems.

As a bonus I also got to show her of in a pretty dress and have a swordfight while wearing it, for some personal cool points, but that isn't really related to the social value of the scene at all.

The situation is quite different when the outcome isn't fixed, then suddenly the focus of the scene isn't on developing character, at least not solely, but also on achieving a favorable outcome. Lacking rules for how to handle achieving your goal in this situation creates a situation where it is solely the GM's call whether you succeed or not. It also strongly invites trying to play the arguments that you can come up with to the hilt, regardless of whether it would be fully in character, as failure carries real consequences, often in the form of aimlessness and the plot being cut off, leading to things not really being fun for anyone.

A more insidious problem, however, crops up in systems that are otherwise rules heavy. It gives the impression that a victory through social means is somehow less legitimate as it didn't interact with the system and rather relied on the goodwill of the GM in ways that would not have been extended in other situations. On the GM's side, it means having to chug all the rules preparation you did make in favor of what the players convince you to do. Together this tends to relegate it to less important conflicts as opposed to the big ones of the story, essentially giving other means of conflict resolution primacy over social means.

Finally, the presence of a social system in a rules heavy game focuses attention to social interaction in the game and suggests that it is an important part of the game. Basically what the rules present as the game shapes the expectations of the players and guide them to focus their attention in some directions. This happens both overtly by making them spend a lot of time developing a certain aspect of their character and more subtly by telling them what is important and what isn't in the game by simple illustration of what the system itself cares about.

Of course, these dangers are not universal and will not strike all players, but with the amount of stories of players who play paperthin characters in D&D and far more fleshed out ones in systems catering more to social interaction, I do think it is safe to say that it is quite common. So as far as I'm concerned, if you want social interaction to matter and want it to be a locus of conflict on the level of the players and GM, as opposed to the characters, you will need a social system in order to make it work. Now making a good social system is hard, but that is another question than whether it is a desirable thing to have.

Ravens_cry
2011-12-14, 10:44 PM
The only purpose, in my opinion, for a social system is to allow a player to play something they are absolutely not, yet want to play, as and to provide adjudication for things where one has an out of character vested interest in the results, like trying to lie to someone and trying to detect that lie.
Otherwise, role play is just fine.

kaomera
2011-12-14, 10:48 PM
So I played a lot of games with very free-form social interaction back when I was a kid - as in, basically no dice at all. And I have to say that I really don't think that personal charisma and speaking ability really had anything to do with it. Players did have to be willing to actually play / talk out their roles - I've met a fair number of players who just aren't comfortable with this and that's fine, they shouldn't be forced into it. But we roleplayed just for the sake of it, and I still think I like the play of an RPG at least as much as the game part. The actual results of the interaction where pretty much defined by the fiction of the game.

Even given that I think I would be unlikely to handle things that way again. Part of that is just not finding many players who are interested anymore, but part of it I think is that when I was 8 or 10 years old (or even a bit older) it seemed like I was liable to be playing in that same D&D campaign-world forever. Nowadays there is much more pressure on my time, even if I really wish there wasn't. And I find that a good system, applied well, makes play that much more efficient, even if it does make it more of a game.

Totally Guy said:

These days I prefer games that are about social abilities on some level. Games that cater towards that give me feedback that my choice to be good or bad at social interaction is meaningful as I succeed or fail or compromise accordingly.
and I definitely agree with that, but I find that simply having some social rules really isn't enough. It's far too easy to end up with the rules and specifically they way that the players / GM respond to the results really undermine the choices the players have made. Social situations in particular are really complex and you really have to think about how things are going to play out for any given result.

The example Totally Guy gave from Burning Wheel is a good example. It works because the player and the GM both understand what's at stake and know a lot about the possibilities of the outcomes beforehand, and accepted them as reasonable results within the story. I've found that it can be a hard thing to actually reach that point, especially with systems that don't require explicit stakes to be set before the mechanics are invoked. But I think that just in general many of the players I end up gaming with aren't going to be really happy with a compromise, let alone actually sucking up the consequences of failure.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-15, 12:11 AM
IME, Social Systems tend to reduce interaction to the same level as combat... "I do this." "I bluff him." "Is he lying to me? Sense Motive." "I'm going to intimidate him. 24." And what about the guy who has excellent reasons for things, but he rolls poorly? He's overshadowed by the person who says "Cause I said so" but rolled a natural 20.

Dimers
2011-12-15, 12:39 AM
IME, Social Systems tend to reduce interaction to the same level as combat... "I do this." "I bluff him." "Is he lying to me? Sense Motive." "I'm going to intimidate him. 24." And what about the guy who has excellent reasons for things, but he rolls poorly? He's overshadowed by the person who says "Cause I said so" but rolled a natural 20.

That's why I prefer to describe after the mechanics have determined the result. Just getting the result lacks flavor, and describing before rolling makes the roll much harder to represent quickly/accurately/even-handedly in a mechanical system.

caden_varn
2011-12-15, 07:51 AM
The problem with having a single roll for social interactions is that every social interaction becomes a make or break deal, whereas one bad roll in combat is unlikely to make you lose the fight.
If you fail, that's basically that - you need to go and find another method to get whatever you were after, you can't just wait til the next round and try again.
It's especially bad with a system like D&D, where the d20 roll is a huge variable which tends to overshadow the modifiers for skill ranks etc., at least in the groups I play with.
I would prefer to either have no rolling for social skills, or a system that allows multiple rolls so I can recover from a single bad roll. It does not need to be a complex system IMO, just one that allows the skills and abilities I have invested in have more of an impact than the random roll of the dice.

It also depends on what you and your group want out of s system. If you all enjoy roleplaying and are all reasonably decent at roleplaying characters with high social skills you don't really need a social resolution system at all. On the other hand, if your group prefers the problem-solving or combat tactics side of the game, you probably need some form of social interaction rules, and in that case, I would prefer one that does not hinge on a single dice roll every time. It is just too swingy for my tastes.

As with most things of this nature, it really comes down to what you want out of the game. Despite us calling them role-playing games, role-playing is only one aspect of the game. The important thing is to get a system (and a group) that wants broadly the same thing out of the game, or you aren't going to have a lot of fun.

Terraoblivion
2011-12-15, 08:27 AM
That is in no small part due to using a really bad social system as an example, Mark Hall. D&D is by and large awful for everything that isn't combat due to how the system is structured and any kludges for it are liable to not really work without breaking the D&D framework. In a wider sense I think the problem of the example in question is that it portrays the conversation as a battle, which just isn't a very accurate depiction of human interaction. A good social system should expand character portrayal and utilize narrative options, not just be a series of pass-fail tests like that.

Again I point to the Courtier's Arts in Weapons of the Gods, though from the sound of it, Burning Wheel would be a good example too. It's all about the approach to social systems you take. And a realization that social systems are awfully hard to make well and that there is little theory or prior examples to work with for them, unlike for combat.

Totally Guy
2011-12-15, 09:06 AM
Itís worth pointing out that the full Duel of Wits subsystem from Burning Wheel is only used for climactic arguments that really need to be looked at in more detail. The GM or the players can lobby for it if they think itís appropriate. In most cases a single roll will do the job using the base game mechanics. These have happened in our games about once every 3 sessions.

In the base mechanic if you want something and the other person just wants to say ďnoĒ itís pretty hard to do (you've also got to have a circumstance where the other guy can't "walk away"). If the other person wants something too it tends to be easier but more risky as you could end up doing something you didnít want whilst not getting the thing you wanted. You could walk away in each case but then the argument doesn't happen.

Eldan
2011-12-15, 09:08 AM
How about treats, torture, intimidation, blackmail and so on? Does that count as an argument? I.e. I want the information, you want the pain to stop. Is that a deal?

Earthwalker
2011-12-15, 09:42 AM
How about treats, torture, intimidation, blackmail and so on? Does that count as an argument? I.e. I want the information, you want the pain to stop. Is that a deal?

Oddly this hits on one of my pet peeves with role playing and role players (and other media), interogation doesn't work like that. Tell me something or I will hurt you, does make the victim tell you something.... it doesn't make him tell you the truth. You need some skills (or spells) to get this to work properly.

Totally Guy
2011-12-15, 09:44 AM
Those things are best handled with a single roll. Torture is it's own skill, soothing platitudes is a skill, ugly truth is a skill.

There are a whole array of social skills that can be used in that game.

The player states what they want to achieve (the intent) and how they shall do it, (the task). In most social parts the RP is the task. The GM then determines if the intent and the task match up and if so he says which skill the player needs to test. The results are binding by another rule.

So torture works similarly.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-15, 10:55 AM
That is in no small part due to using a really bad social system as an example, Mark Hall.

The thing is, I used d20 as an example because it's something of the local lingua franca... most folks understand references to it. But I've seen it in extended negotiations in Shadowrun and WoD (old and new), as well.

In many ways, the social combat systems I've seen are about giving up player autonomy... characters can have their minds changed against the will of the player, not because the other side has better arguments, but because they have better social stats. I don't object in physical combat, because physical combat is all about imposing yourself on others via better stats. But social combat more or less removes the player's ability to say "No".

Terraoblivion
2011-12-15, 11:43 AM
Social systems only when handled awfully. Also, Shadowrun and WoD essentially use the same system as D&D, just adapted to their specific diceroll mechanics. At its core it is still a system about clobbering others with force until they submit and do what you want, which is a rather inaccurate portrayal of social interaction. This also means that you can't really use D&D terms as a stand-in for social systems in general as it is far from an accurate portrayal of what can be done with social systems. It just doesn't prioritize it and chooses a specific angle on it, which has time and again been proven to not be accurate, interesting or easy to use in a meaningful sense.

Proper social systems, as opposed to single rolls added as an afterthought to another system, are a very new thing and mostly exists in smaller games, less well-known games like Burning Wheel or Weapons of the Gods, the two examples we've used. In both cases the system isn't aimed at simply clobbering others with arguments until they act the way you want, there is ambiguity, wider ranging effects and agency on the part of the target of an argument.

As for the part about player agency, the game is about external effects on the characters and how they react to those effects. Combat is obvious, if you take enough damage to die in a battle, then you die no matter what you want your character to do. Not just that, if a door blocks your way, you have to interact with it rather than just walk through. Interacting with the world is about letting it have an effect on you, there is no difference in principle between letting social situations do it than letting physical ones. The need for social systems is simply to treat social interaction as being equally valid as physical challenges and find a way of adjudicating social conflict with narrative significance other than a quick judgement on the part of the GM.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-15, 12:13 PM
I see an essential difference, however, between force and argument. Force can require you to comply, if not agree. A door in your way is force... you must comply with it, unless you can work your way around it. A combat is force.

Argument, in every example I have seen of social combat systems (q.v. Totally Guy (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=12375070&postcount=16)) can force your character to agree. And if there's something I learned from the Internet, there are some people who will never agree.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-15, 12:22 PM
Not an ideal thread name, but the best I could think of. What I mean is this systems for resolving social interactions in roleplaying games.

There is a sentiment I've heard, on this board and elsewhere, that more complicated social interaction systems are somehow better for the roleplaying. Which sounds strange to me, as I've had almost the opposite experience.

Let me elaborate. My first game, and the one I still play most, was D&D. First 3.0, now 3.5. I always resolved social conflict with a few minutes of talking, followed by a diplomacy, bluff or intimidate check, as appropriate and extensively modified by what was said.

Other people have told me that other systems, however, are much more conductive to social roleplaying. Games where every argument made has its own rules to resolve, where discussion is resolved in a similar fashion to combat in more combat-rules-heavy games like D&D, with dozens of dice rolls going back and forth, with bidding, aspects, traits, tokens, resources, consequences and other such mechanics, as appropriate to said game.

Now, I've tried maybe half a dozen systems with such mechanics, and many that were specifically recommended to me by other people. My experience with them is that, quite simply, I find them distracting. While talking, I like people to talk, not bid counters, flip cards, roll dice or whatever else they do. Perhaps a single die roll at the end is overly simplistic, but I find it much more conductive to a fluent game. (Ironic, really, as I also prefer rules-heavy combat).

So, what do people think? Which systems do you prefer for your social conflicts?

It's not merely the pure volume of social rules...it's the proportion of the rules.

If 90% of the rules are all combat, combat, combat, it will skew the focus of people reading and using those rules.

So, both aspects are important. If almost all xp is gained by combat, char builds are all about combat, etc, then making a purely social char is a very difficult thing to do well.

And of course, volume of rules is a very different thing from quality of rules. I dislike diplomacy not because it is a simple rule...but because it leads to problems. It's very, very easy to have wildly differing diplomacy scores within a party, and thus, what is a challenge for one char will necessarily be impossible for the rest. When this occurs, social encounters resemble hacking encounters in shadowrun. The specialist basically does everything until the encounter is over.

Mark, one way around this is found in the 7th Sea system. It has social mechanics, including, of course, the ability to convince people of things. However, it has a fairly inexpensive advantage called Iron Will, that makes your char quite notably harder to convince to an opposed viewpoint. It's useless for other social things, but it's relatively low cost makes it a reasonable addition to a stubborn, not particularly social char, and thus, even the most skilled of talkers often can't convince everyone.

Totally Guy
2011-12-15, 12:29 PM
Argument, in every example I have seen of social combat systems (q.v. Totally Guy (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=12375070&postcount=16)) can force your character to agree. And if there's something I learned from the Internet, there are some people who will never agree.

It's totally a game convention. Those internet arguments go nowhere and aren't really a lot of fun. The stuff I did went somewhere concrete and was all risky with explicitly high stakes. And I know which I'd rather have at the table.

I must say nobody in that situation was forced into it even if they were forced by the results. Both my villian and the player character entered it willingly.

NichG
2011-12-15, 01:28 PM
Iron Will is a bad example I think. Doesn't it just give you something like +2k0 on contested social rolls? Thats like a feat that gives you a +4 bonus on saves versus Compulsion in D&D terms.

A better example might be the way that L5R and 7th Sea handle fear. If you fail a check against Fear it doesn't force you to run away. Instead, it makes you take penalties if you decide to stay (though you don't take penalties if you run). Essentially it says 'you still have complete agency, but one path has just gotten a lot harder'. It's sort of like some of the aggro mechanics in 4ed, where it doesn't force you to attack a specific target, but instead levies a consequence for failing to do so.

Another way you could do 'full agency' social combat would be if you separate the world into 'Movers' and 'Moved'. 'Movers' are important individuals who essentially have the advantage that they cannot be forced to act as a direct result of social force. 'Moved' are everyone else, and are subject to being manipulated numerically. You'd attack a Mover socially the same way you'd have a Noble vs Noble fight in Nobilis, by influencing their environment to put pressure on them. That is to say, you could get their father to disown them unless they do what you say, get their allegiances to betray them, etc. But you couldn't simply force them to act directly like some kind of social mind control.

To make this work, you really need people who are connected to the world. Sure you can do the 'convince the guards to arrest him' ploy, but if you're using social combat against a hermit orphan with no connections, its just not going to be very successful. So there have to be positives that everyone gains but can be denied if you choose to not be vulnerable.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-15, 01:50 PM
Iron Will is a bad example I think. Doesn't it just give you something like +2k0 on contested social rolls? Thats like a feat that gives you a +4 bonus on saves versus Compulsion in D&D terms.

Numbers scale entirely differently, though. A fairly specialized orator will likely have a 10k5(5 oratory, 5 wits), and frankly, you likely won't encounter someone that good at it until at least a good bit into the game. An additional 2k0 to resist is a very notable boost. A notably non social char would likely have no ranks whatsoever in oratory, and only a few points in wits(though the latter is far from guaranteed). So, it's not enough to make up a huge gap entirely by itself...but being non social, you probably have no better place to spend your rep die, which add 1k1 each.

With a mere three rep die, that puts you at 8k5. Four puts you at 9k6, which should favor you slightly. This is an investment that the social char probably *can* match if he really, really wants to, but is very costly for him since he has so many more uses for rep dice.

And that's a worst case scenario. If you use wits for active defenses and the like, you might be much, much closer to on par.


A better example might be the way that L5R and 7th Sea handle fear. If you fail a check against Fear it doesn't force you to run away. Instead, it makes you take penalties if you decide to stay (though you don't take penalties if you run). Essentially it says 'you still have complete agency, but one path has just gotten a lot harder'. It's sort of like some of the aggro mechanics in 4ed, where it doesn't force you to attack a specific target, but instead levies a consequence for failing to do so.

True...though I hesitated to use fear because it's VERY powerful in 7th Sea, and some regard it as broken as a result.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-15, 02:12 PM
Another way you could do 'full agency' social combat would be if you separate the world into 'Movers' and 'Moved'. 'Movers' are important individuals who essentially have the advantage that they cannot be forced to act as a direct result of social force. 'Moved' are everyone else, and are subject to being manipulated numerically.

In essence, that's the default option, though. PCs are "Movers". Everyone else is the "Moved", and can be manipulated through the numbers.

NichG
2011-12-15, 04:21 PM
In essence, that's the default option, though. PCs are "Movers". Everyone else is the "Moved", and can be manipulated through the numbers.

Well, it could also apply to major NPCs. Maybe even every NPC worth directly dealing with. In essence, die rolls would be used for offscreen or fast-forwarded interactions that change the situation around the RPd interactions with the central actors.



True...though I hesitated to use fear because it's VERY powerful in 7th Sea, and some regard it as broken as a result.

Yeah, I know this very well since I have a PC right now in a 7thscape (my 7th Sea variant) with a Fear Rating of 4. It can get really silly, and the other PCs have been joking that they need to buy up their Resolve to 5 just to get near the guy.

Terraoblivion
2011-12-15, 04:38 PM
You framed it as a matter of player agency, a door limits player agency just as much as a clever argument humiliating the character, forcing you to portray that. There is no meaningful distinction between the two, other than people treating one as legitimate and the other as not being so. They both shape what you can and can't do, frame events of the story and guide the players down one path rather than the other, so why is it that people find it naturally that the GM has the authority to say that a door blocks you or that you're dead due to the essentially arbitrary numbers on a paper, but not that an argument is particularly clever and persuasive and your character needs to react to it somehow rather than just brushing it off?

If I were to make a hypothesis, I would say that it is due to a wider social discourse of personal autonomy and choice overriding all else, making the idea that words can sway you uncomfortable. Yet, it is hard to argue that people are in full control of their feelings and reactions when in a heated argument or being pressed by clever arguments. It is only a bad system that allows a player no input on what are dearly held ideals, sore spots and so on for their characters and allow that a meaningful effect on how a social system plays out.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-15, 07:08 PM
You framed it as a matter of player agency, a door limits player agency just as much as a clever argument humiliating the character, forcing you to portray that. There is no meaningful distinction between the two, other than people treating one as legitimate and the other as not being so.

This is not the case.

A door does not limit player agency... it limits character movement. The players have a number of options regarding the door... they can pick the lock, they can break it down, they can take off the hinges, they can ignore it.

A clever comment that FORCES you to do something removes player agency. They have no choice. If the outcome of "social combat" requires you to do something... come to an accomodation with someone, meet the halfway, or capitulate because of the cleverness of their remarks (represented entirely through systems, not through actual arguments), it is removing player agency, because they cannot choose otherwise. It is analogous to that other big remover of agency, death.

I'll develop further when I get home.

Totally Guy
2011-12-15, 07:29 PM
I feel the same way about mind control.

Terraoblivion
2011-12-15, 07:50 PM
That only happens when social influence is used as blunt force, which is not the way to model it and thus an example of a bad social system. Not just that, a proper social system will have it work with previously established characterization to be effective, it should be much harder to convince a coward to stand and fight for some ideal than it should be to convince a zealot of said ideal.

Also, even so, it is only a specific thing it tells the character to do, it doesn't remote control it. Intimidating someone so they run away only forces that specific action, it doesn't say what they do after they run away, nor where they run to or how they do it. It also doesn't tell you how your character feels about having run away or tries to explain it to others. In short, it enacts an influence on the character, but it is still up to the player to choose how to react to it.

NichG
2011-12-15, 07:52 PM
The removal of player agency is a little different in the social case because in principle not only does it say 'this doesn't work right now' but can also mean 'your character is permanently altered' with no clear way of resolving that alteration.

A closed door: the PC can walk away and come back with a battering ram, teleport, etc. On facing the obstacle, the player can essentially and with full legitimacy put their mental resources and actions towards resolving the obstacle in a way that is satisfying to them. If those things fail, it just means they have to try something else, but they can keep trying. Even if stuff moves on, the building blows down, an army shows up, etc, the player can (perhaps foolishly) decide that their PC is absolutely obsessed with that door.

Defeat in a social conflict can mean that the PC agrees to something. Faced with that, there's not really an obvious 'try again' that is legitimate to try. I mean, if you're defeated in social combat and made to believe that the guy who wants to sacrifice a thousand children to summon Cthulhu has the right idea, where do you go from that? If the numbers say 'whatever your character's personality, this is what he believes now', then how do you RP that schism or even continue to play the character meaningfully. If it were a closed door you could try to address it in a different way, but with the social failure you're not even supposed to try to escape it because your character now agrees with the idea.

Thats a grandiose example, but in a lot of these systems there's the problem that not enough dynamic range is given to things you could be convinced of and the corresponding difficulty of doing so, either because its fixed DC with no defense possible (D&D 3.5ed by-the-book Diplomacy) or because relative to how severely the social combat skill can be maximized, the modifiers are negligibly small, e.g. in the 7th Sea case if you had two PCs in social conflict the attacker could basically just hold onto their drama dice and wait for their target to have spent his, then bid Drama Dice to make the TN astronomical.

So I think this is a very fundamental difference that needs to be addressed in the creation of any system with social combat rules that make use of removal of agency. Temporary, reversible, etc are important aspects to address - permanent defeat is in many ways far more severe than character death in a lot of systems.

Randomatic
2011-12-15, 07:52 PM
This is not the case.

A door does not limit player agency... it limits character movement. The players have a number of options regarding the door... they can pick the lock, they can break it down, they can take off the hinges, they can ignore it.

A clever comment that FORCES you to do something removes player agency. They have no choice. If the outcome of "social combat" requires you to do something... come to an accomodation with someone, meet the halfway, or capitulate because of the cleverness of their remarks (represented entirely through systems, not through actual arguments), it is removing player agency, because they cannot choose otherwise. It is analogous to that other big remover of agency, death.

I'll develop further when I get home.

Since the above comments specifically mention Burning Wheel, I'd like to point out that if you run into something that is completely against your characters personality, motivations, etc., or that you just can't stomach as a player you can always refuse to engage in the Duel of Wits. It's often referred to as backing down, but it can also be represented by obstinate refusal to listen to your opponents points.

You could roleplay out an entire "debate" that way in game, and not use the game's social conflict mechanics at all, and there wouldn't be any chance you'd be stuck committing to something that you weren't going to play later. You also wouldn't have a chance of convincing you opponent of anything that would be mechanically binding, but humans are social animals. We have a sense when somebody isn't listening to us, and usually don't take those people seriously ourselves.

Terraoblivion
2011-12-15, 08:13 PM
I'm talking about social systems as a general principle, NichG, not necessarily the specific ones around. Let me get this clear, D&D, WoD, Shadowrun and so on does social systems awfully. Far worse than playing it completely free form and relying solely on the debating skills of the players, these are not a way of handling social systems I will in any way advocate. However, there are social systems that are not completely binary, half-assed and arbitrary like that. Burning Wheel doesn't do that, especially not since you have to agree to use it and run the risk of getting changed by it. Weapons of the Gods doesn't focus on forcing specific behavior but rather on influencing beliefs and attitudes. Both work and both take existing character attitudes and beliefs into account.

Not just that, the field has barely been explored so realistically speaking we don't know how good social systems can potentially get with more work. It's like looking at the imbalances and uncertainty of early 80s RPGs and concluding that combat would never be done well, we really are only starting to explore the possibilities so we don't know.

NichG
2011-12-15, 08:56 PM
Please don't take my posts as a condemnation of the idea of having social conflicts, but more as trying to point out design considerations in coming up with a social conflict system that isn't horrible. Everyone seems to come back to Burning Wheel and its opt-in aspect on agency, so I'd say thats probably a very good starting point for developing social mechanics that are decent. It ultimately gives the player control over what they risk as far as agency, which I think resolves the agency issue to a good degree.

So far, then, we have (as far as things these social systems shouldn't be):

- Unobtrusive. The system shouldn't force itself to be used, but should rather be called on only when mechanically binding resolution is necessary. It should also occur with a minimum number of interruptions to the RP.
- Not binary. Success or failure should come in stages, not just be decided with one roll.
- No arbitrary removal of agency. If character agency is removed, it should be because they decided to put it at risk. Preferably greater and lesser shades of this risk would exist.

So this says what they aren't, but what then are they?

- Should the system act to replace player skill at conversation with character skill (and how to do this without conflicting with Unobtrusive)?
- Should the system be a 'tactically' complex thing like combat, creating a sort of social minigame to play above and beyond the scenario?
- Should the system do something else (as well or instead of...)?

Tyndmyr
2011-12-16, 08:47 AM
Thats a grandiose example, but in a lot of these systems there's the problem that not enough dynamic range is given to things you could be convinced of and the corresponding difficulty of doing so, either because its fixed DC with no defense possible (D&D 3.5ed by-the-book Diplomacy) or because relative to how severely the social combat skill can be maximized, the modifiers are negligibly small, e.g. in the 7th Sea case if you had two PCs in social conflict the attacker could basically just hold onto their drama dice and wait for their target to have spent his, then bid Drama Dice to make the TN astronomical.

Here's the problems with that strategy.

1. Drama dice are worth xp. You are literally draining your char of precious, precious scarce xp in order to do this. This is not D&D, xp is not a river. Unspent drama dice are a source of about half of your xp. This means that most players are fairly unlikely to dump them all on unimportant things.

2. Rep dice work as drama dice...but only for social actions. All players get them. Players who do not do social things will likely ignore theirs entirely 90% of the time...but it means they always have them on hand if they need them. Socially focused chars are much more likely to use theirs.

3. Thanks to explosions, there is notable variability in dice results. Yes, you CAN make something extremely unlikely due to ridiculous TNs, but you need a fairly good dice gap for this.

4. If you're using the repartee system, no knacks are involved. So, if it's the example condition of "I'm going to convince your char to believe this", it's a LOT harder for a social char to pull it off. Iron Will's bonus is, in this situation, remarkably brutal, and it is purely defensive. So, most social conflict is going to take other forms besides directly changing the targets mind via die rolls.

Need_A_Life
2011-12-16, 09:12 AM
I think it depends on the tone of the campaign.
I've played D&D where rolling social skills would have been unnecessary and others where the group lived and died by them.

When I've played oWoD, I could have not cared less what people had for social skills. The whole point of the games has always been "create totally unfair leverage to force someone to do this and then making sure they know it." In such a game, whether you're a smelly Nosferatu or the most eloquent Ventrue wouldn't have mattered, although people tended to do their exposition in a manner consistent with their character anyhow, so that's hardly the best example.

A system that has excellent social combat rules is FATE. I'm currently running a DFRPG game and I like how social, mental and physical combat are all equally valid and the "tricks" people pull to bring the conflict in question into their area of expertise.
Big, bad bruiser who could survive being rammed with a truck (losing) in social combat? Invoke your "Looks like a fool" consequence and bash his face in!
Social monster with more connections than the Yellow Pages being attacked by someone? See if your reputation won't make those brutes reconsider!
Deranged psychomancer feeling left out? Wield that mental power like a sledgehammer and turn enemies into minions!

Of course, it's been a long time since I could stand playing a character without social skills. Tried it not too long ago in Dark Heresy (thanks to random rolling stats and no switch-outs) and tried to embrace the Feral World Guardsman whose one attempt at subterfuge quickly became: "Nevermind, I'll just massacre these ten people. Someone else can try sweet-talking these heretics into giving up their suppliers." :smallyuk:

NichG
2011-12-16, 12:00 PM
4. If you're using the repartee system, no knacks are involved. So, if it's the example condition of "I'm going to convince your char to believe this", it's a LOT harder for a social char to pull it off. Iron Will's bonus is, in this situation, remarkably brutal, and it is purely defensive. So, most social conflict is going to take other forms besides directly changing the targets mind via die rolls.

So I just looked this up, and its both better and worse than I was worried about. Better in the sense that it explicitly says you can't Charm someone to go against their deep ethics or to permanently change point of view, so that makes the result of the social combat strictly temporary and makes a lot of things forgivable.

On the other hand, Charm looks like its a fixed passive TN rather than an opposed roll, which means the defender can't Drama Die or Reputation Die to defend against it. The TN to convince them in one shot is basically 5x(Wits+Resolve-1), so even against a character fairly resilient against this the TN is only going to be something like 35 (for Resolve and Wits both at 4). If you're a social character with Wits 5 and burn 2 Reputation dice/Drama dice, you can hit this on average (you need 3 for Wits 4, 4 for Wits 3, etc). If it were permanent that'd be pretty awful since it means for 2xp you just crush someone's will forever. As it is, its a temporary success so not that bad.

Edit: Also, because its not an opposed roll, Iron Will ironically does absolutely nothing to help you defend here.

horseboy
2011-12-20, 03:52 AM
Well, social skills are skills like any other skill. If it's going to be relevant then it needs to be measured on the character sheet. If it's unfair for me to use my knowledge of chemistry to create explosives to blow up the castle, then it's wrong for me to use my customer service skills to talk around a guard.

That being said, the next question to ask is: Are social skills necessary for the style of game being presented by the mechanics. If it's D&D and I'm just off killing things and taking it's stuff, then it's best that they not be there at all than to make a mess of things.

If they are going to be useful then I need to be able to have some way of measuring the effect of asking my opponent if his momma's kisses taste different after I was done with her last night.

Of course, that then opens up other questions. How are said "social skills" being used? For things like taunting and the like I generally like Earthdawn's rules where it imposes ever increasing penalties to the target until they just can't eventually do anything effectively.

As far as long, protracted arguments, then maybe something like Hot Chick's rules for psychological damage where your Will stat is eroded kinda like Hit points. You can see that you're loosing and pull out of the "fight", essentially throwing your hands up and shouting "Whatever, you're retarded and I don't want to deal with you anymore!" while walking away. You know, like real arguments.

Jay R
2011-12-20, 10:59 AM
It is also odd that if you have a player, we will call Mongo the Half Ork. Mongo has 8 charisma,8 int, and 8 wis no ranks in bluff. When trying to blag his past a gate guard Mongos player speaking for him, start coming up with a complicated bluff involving needing to be inside and speak to the Duke as he has vitale information for the Dukes ears only. The player is persausive and aloquent. The GM gives him a bonus and he rolls and succeeds. What the GM has done is give Mongos player a bonus for in fact playing against his character, Mongo is dumb and has low force of personality, yet the player is playing him the oppersite way, as a reward for not playing his character the GM gives a bonus ?

This is a subtle situation that requires careful judgment about far more details than can be given in a written post. Consider two other characters.

Fflego the wizard is out of combat spells, and has just been seen by the ogre. There's no way out, so he draws his dagger, and attempts to fight the ogre.

Roger the Fighter is alone in a room when he hears footsteps coming up the stairs. There's nowhere to flee, and he cannot get caught. He runs over to a shadowy corner and tries to hide.

Mongo, Fflego and Roger are all three "playing against character" in the sense that they are doing what they have little or no skill in, but are forced to try anyway.

If Fflego's player comes up with an excellent battle plan, it should improve his rolls. If Roger's player comes up with a good idea for where to hide, it should improve his chances. And for the exact same reasons, if Mongo's player is clever enough, it should help him too - otherwise you are treating conversation skills differently than any other skills.

But how much is too much? Fflego cannot use a sword, Roger cannot turn invisible, and for the same reasons, there should be limitations on what Mongo can do by talking. But he is not "playing against his character" to try what he isn't very good at. And clever player ideas should help his chances.

Ideally, the DM says something like, "OK - his charisma gives him a -3 (or whatever it is in the system being used). His INT and WIS give him a -2 on the attempted speech, which he sort of stammers out haltingly, since he can't think as fast as you can. I'm giving you a +3 for the ideas in the speech, for a total of -2 on the attempt. <rolls dice> OK, he lets Mongo in."

Also, far more often than the players realize, the DM knows in advance that the guard has been told to let anybody in who gives a reason, or is expecting a spy, or is half-drunk, and so the roll actually had no effect.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-20, 11:51 AM
So I just looked this up, and its both better and worse than I was worried about. Better in the sense that it explicitly says you can't Charm someone to go against their deep ethics or to permanently change point of view, so that makes the result of the social combat strictly temporary and makes a lot of things forgivable.

On the other hand, Charm looks like its a fixed passive TN rather than an opposed roll, which means the defender can't Drama Die or Reputation Die to defend against it. The TN to convince them in one shot is basically 5x(Wits+Resolve-1), so even against a character fairly resilient against this the TN is only going to be something like 35 (for Resolve and Wits both at 4). If you're a social character with Wits 5 and burn 2 Reputation dice/Drama dice, you can hit this on average (you need 3 for Wits 4, 4 for Wits 3, etc). If it were permanent that'd be pretty awful since it means for 2xp you just crush someone's will forever. As it is, its a temporary success so not that bad.

Edit: Also, because its not an opposed roll, Iron Will ironically does absolutely nothing to help you defend here.

Honestly, that's not bad. Burning two dice for...slightly over a 50% shot at a short term charm? I'll grant that it being a passive TN is somewhat awkward, and I would prefer it were an opposed roll, but in practice, charm only seems to come up seldomly, and then only when a wits char can pull it without notable investment(Say, vs henchmen with marginal stats). The limitations on charm make it a fairly reasonable thing, all things considered...though I do wish Iron Will applied, and think it's fairly logical that it should.

Totally Guy
2011-12-20, 01:00 PM
Also, far more often than the players realize, the DM knows in advance that the guard has been told to let anybody in who gives a reason, or is expecting a spy, or is half-drunk, and so the roll actually had no effect.

Those aren't the situations that we need a good social system for.

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-20, 01:55 PM
Well, social skills are skills like any other skill. If it's going to be relevant then it needs to be measured on the character sheet. If it's unfair for me to use my knowledge of chemistry to create explosives to blow up the castle, then it's wrong for me to use my customer service skills to talk around a guard.

This always gets brought up in these discussions, though usually with the first example having to do with combat rather than chemistry. My question is this: why?

Why do such a large number of people think that it is inherently bad to treat social interaction completely differently than you treat the rest of a game?

Rules exist for several reasons, and these are the big 3 as far as I'm concerned:
1) as guidelines for what can and can't be done,
2) as a way of arbitrating conflicts without devolving into "yes I did!" "no you didn't!" without requiring prior player agreement
3) as a way of determining results when the players want to have uncertainty when committing a character to an action

All other reasons for rules are mostly irrelevant to me. You can have complex or simple systems that can address these reasons equally well, and the more complex the system, the more emphasis you have on the "game" aspect (in general). There is also the "role playing" aspect, which can be emphasized or de-emphasized depending on how you want to play the RPG. By having placing the focus on treating social encounters the same as you treat other encounters (assuming you have somewhat complex rules for other encounters), you are placing more emphasis on the "game" aspect during social encounters. There is nothing wrong with this. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with delegating very little "game" aspect to social situations either!

Essentially what I'm saying is this: There is no reason to say that RPGs in general should treat social interaction similarly to how they treat other interaction. You might want a particular game where they are, in which case you go find an appropriate RPG; but that doesn't make RPGs that don't treat them similarly somehow inferior in their handling of social skills, nor does it make people who hold social interaction to different standards than combat somehow hypocritical.

(For what it's worth, I think the D&D rules as written for social skills are really bad, but that's just because I think it takes away player agency to have things be so binary and entirely based on your character stats... I don't like it's social system in large part because it does treat "I climb the wall" and "I bluff the guard" the same way when I think they shouldn't be.)

Closing note: People who are playing contrary to their character without regard to the fact that they're doing so (like are brutish M-something-orc-whatever above) are, in fact, playing the game wrong in the same way that players who fudge die rolls in combat are. They are cheating, regardless of whether that would benefit them/their character or not, and it should be addressed as such. On the flip side, those who play contrary to their character completely unintentionally by fault of not actually having the requisite social skills or intelligence that their character is supposed to... have two options: 1) let someone else [either other players or the DM/GM/whatever] help them by gently nudging them along ("your wizard with 18 Int and 12 Wis and several fireballs in reserve would realize that running up and trying to punch the three trolls to death would not be a good idea" "Because of his adeptness with people and his suave manner, your bard realizes that there are a few really good options for how to talk his way past the guard, which are ...") 2) not play characters that they are completely incompetent at portraying. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's a "role playing" game, and if you don't have any "role playing" skills for certain concepts, I fail to see why the system should act as a crutch for you.

horseboy
2011-12-20, 02:32 PM
This always gets brought up in these discussions, though usually with the first example having to do with combat rather than chemistry. My question is this: why?

Why do such a large number of people think that it is inherently bad to treat social interaction completely differently than you treat the rest of a game? Most systems don't care how well your character knows the stats of their favorite athletic team ether as they're considered "inconsequential" skills. Are "social skills" consequential or not? If they're not consequential (D&D) then they should be left out like knowledge of RBI stats. If they are then they need a form of measurement.

As to why they need to follow the same/very similar mechanics is mainly ease of use. Trying sitting down a brand new player and telling them "Combat is handled this way. Social skills handled this way. Driving this way. Crafting this way. Magic this way. Taking a whiz this way." They're already overwhelmed, there's no reason to add more to it. It's unnecessary complication.



Closing note: People who are playing contrary to their character without regard to the fact that they're doing so (like are brutish M-something-orc-whatever above) are, in fact, playing the game wrong in the same way that players who fudge die rolls in combat are. They are cheating, regardless of whether that would benefit them/their character or not, and it should be addressed as such. On the flip side, those who play contrary to their character completely unintentionally by fault of not actually having the requisite social skills or intelligence that their character is supposed to... have two options: 1) let someone else [either other players or the DM/GM/whatever] help them by gently nudging them along ("your wizard with 18 Int and 12 Wis and several fireballs in reserve would realize that running up and trying to punch the three trolls to death would not be a good idea" "Because of his adeptness with people and his suave manner, your bard realizes that there are a few really good options for how to talk his way past the guard, which are ...") 2) not play characters that they are completely incompetent at portraying. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's a "role playing" game, and if you don't have any "role playing" skills for certain concepts, I fail to see why the system should act as a crutch for you.
How do you know if you're playing contrary to character if you don't have a measure of their skill? I've been in retail for 10 years. One of my buddies started a cult just to see if they could. It's not a crutch, it's a governor to remind us that our characters aren't as good as we are. Much like they're (usually) not as good at blowing stuff up as I am, or coming up with off the wall knowledge that's suddenly relevant as I am.

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-20, 03:21 PM
Most systems don't care how well your character knows the stats of their favorite athletic team ether as they're considered "inconsequential" skills. Are "social skills" consequential or not? If they're not consequential (D&D) then they should be left out like knowledge of RBI stats. If they are then they need a form of measurement.

As to why they need to follow the same/very similar mechanics is mainly ease of use. Trying sitting down a brand new player and telling them "Combat is handled this way. Social skills handled this way. Driving this way. Crafting this way. Magic this way. Taking a whiz this way." They're already overwhelmed, there's no reason to add more to it. It's unnecessary complication.


How do you know if you're playing contrary to character if you don't have a measure of their skill? I've been in retail for 10 years. One of my buddies started a cult just to see if they could. It's not a crutch, it's a governor to remind us that our characters aren't as good as we are. Much like they're (usually) not as good at blowing stuff up as I am, or coming up with off the wall knowledge that's suddenly relevant as I am.

I'll respond to the latter part first. I'll do this in spoilers for length.

It's quite simple: you're not playing the game by yourself. You have other people playing with you, who can act as brakes if need be. If you honestly aren't aware that you're being particularly eloquent (for instance) compared to your average person in that setting when your character is supposed to not be eloquent, other players can inform you of this and you can learn from it in order to dumb yourself down in the future. If all the other players are absolutely fine with your level of eloquence and think that it isn't particularly eloquent because that's what they're used to as well, then it doesn't matter how eloquent you are. The standard for eloquent-ness is set by your play group, after all, not by some objective determination. If your character is supposed to be not very eloquent, you should consciously be trying to be not very eloquent. If you are accidentally more eloquent than you should be, your fellows should call you out on it (nicely, of course). If they don't call you out on it because they don't see anything wrong with it, then there isn't anything wrong with it, because it's all subjective.

That deals with where you are better than your character: you should try to be consciously aware and modify your behavior when you are better than your character is. If you honestly slip up, your fellow players should kindly bring your attention to it so you're less likely to slip up in the future. If you have no problem with it and your fellows have no problem with it, then it isn't a problem by definition, since the point is having fun, not being painstakingly accurate to some objective standard to the detriment of having fun.

My "crutch" comment was directed toward those who are worse than their characters at social abilities. And the same things apply. If you're doing a poor job of living up to the character, then your fellows can help you out. If you're doing a poor job of living up to the character (despite efforts) and your fellows don't see that as a problem, then so long as your DM/whatever reacts to your effort rather than your result (as he should if this does not prove detrimental to the enjoyment of the game for you or others), there is no problem. If you don't want help and your fellows do take issue, then don't play that character; the system should have no obligation to be your crutch.


As to why they need to follow the same/very similar mechanics is mainly ease of use. Trying sitting down a brand new player and telling them "Combat is handled this way. Social skills handled this way. Driving this way. Crafting this way. Magic this way. Taking a whiz this way." They're already overwhelmed, there's no reason to add more to it. It's unnecessary complication.

Response in Spoiler.

Is there something inherently worse about D&D 3.5 for saying "Using physical weapons in combat is handled this way. Casting spells as a wizard is handled that way. Casting spells as a sorcerer is handled this way. Climbing and swimming are handled this way." versus D&D 4E "swinging your sword and casting spells are handled exactly the same way, they're practically interchangeable"? Because based on that line of thinking, you're saying so. I happen to disagree. It may be more complicated, but that certainly doesn't make it inferior, or even unnecessary, depending on what your priorities are.

Furthermore, if you have a rules heavy system, handling all aspects (combat, social, so on) of the game the same way is actually more complicated, not less, than taking one element and using a smaller, different ruleset for it.

Additionally, I wasn't just referring to mechanics, but also the mindset. Why should I even be obligated to think about a character's ability to swing a sword in the same terms as their ability to persuade a crowd? Just because you can doesn't mean you have to. And it certainly doesn't mean that it's somehow hypocritical or unfair not to.


Most systems don't care how well your character knows the stats of their favorite athletic team ether as they're considered "inconsequential" skills. Are "social skills" consequential or not? If they're not consequential (D&D) then they should be left out like knowledge of RBI stats. If they are then they need a form of measurement.

Response.
Consequential is not the relevant term. It makes it seem as though you're implying that a character persuading someone, bluffing someone, or intimidating someone is irrelevant to the activity of engaging in the RPG to say that they are "inconsequential," as you have for D&D. This, while it may be true for a hack/n/slash game, is utterly naive to say about all gaming groups playing D&D, which is what is meant when you say that it is irrelevant in D&D. If you mean to say that the rules for it don't significantly intersect with the other rules, then that's pretty much a circular argument.

I also take issue with the idea that if they are important that they need to be measured in a similar manner to all other character aspects. A character's greediness might be significant to how that character interacts with the world, the party, and combat circumstances, but I would hazard to say that most games don't have a "greed" statistic that you put points in. (I'm sure there are some, but I think that's rather unnecessary.) It is not needed for you to roll your persuasion, perception, and bribery rolls against a guard's poker face, loyalty, and greed rolls to see if you can bribe him to let you through. While some people might enjoy a game that has rules like that, I wouldn't, and to say that unless we have those kinds of rules that we're doing it wrong is, well, wrong.

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-20, 03:23 PM
Double post, sorry.

horseboy
2011-12-20, 04:18 PM
I'll respond to the latter part first. I'll do this in spoilers for length.
Wall of text
I'm 37. Everyone in my group is at least 30. It's really hard for us to remember what it's like being a young, starting out hero. Well, those of us that want to remember. ;)
If you've got rules for how hard the mechanics think it is to make C4 then a handy guide for how hard they consider it to be to fast talk a guard was when they play tested is very helpful.


Is there something inherently worse about D&D 3.5 for saying "Using physical weapons in combat is handled this way. Casting spells as a wizard is handled that way. Casting spells as a sorcerer is handled this way. Climbing and swimming are handled this way." versus D&D 4E "swinging your sword and casting spells are handled exactly the same way, they're practically interchangeable"? Because based on that line of thinking, you're saying so. I happen to disagree. It may be more complicated, but that certainly doesn't make it inferior, or even unnecessary, depending on what your priorities are. Pretty much. There's no reason to make them different, therefore making a whole different rules set for no reason other than "because" makes the game itself more convoluted, and makes more work for a new player to learn, for no added benefit.


Furthermore, if you have a rules heavy system, handling all aspects (combat, social, so on) of the game the same way is actually more complicated, not less, than taking one element and using a smaller, different ruleset for it.Uh, no. Because the player only has one mechanic to learn. Learning one mechanic is easier than learning five or six.


Additionally, I wasn't just referring to mechanics, but also the mindset. Why should I even be obligated to think about a character's ability to swing a sword in the same terms as their ability to persuade a crowd? Just because you can doesn't mean you have to. And it certainly doesn't mean that it's somehow hypocritical or unfair not to.[/SPOILER]
Because you already do. "Attack adds", "Defending a position," "verbal sparring."


[quote]
Consequential is not the relevant term. It makes it seem as though you're implying that a character persuading someone, bluffing someone, or intimidating someone is irrelevant to the activity of engaging in the RPG to say that they are "inconsequential," as you have for D&D. This, while it may be true for a hack/n/slash game, is utterly naive to say about all gaming groups playing D&D, which is what is meant when you say that it is irrelevant in D&D. If you mean to say that the rules for it don't significantly intersect with the other rules, then that's pretty much a circular argument. D&D is a hack n slash game. Anyone trying to do it differently is homebrewing something anyway, as the existence of this very thread supports.


I also take issue with the idea that if they are important that they need to be measured in a similar manner to all other character aspects. A character's greediness might be significant to how that character interacts with the world, the party, and combat circumstances, but I would hazard to say that most games don't have a "greed" statistic that you put points in. (I'm sure there are some, but I think that's rather unnecessary.) It is not needed for you to roll your persuasion, perception, and bribery rolls against a guard's poker face, loyalty, and greed rolls to see if you can bribe him to let you through. While some people might enjoy a game that has rules like that, I wouldn't, and to say that unless we have those kinds of rules that we're doing it wrong is, well, wrong."Social Defense," "Professional Rating," and/or "Greedy" flaws are not at all uncommon in good systems. Someone who's "greedy" would receive an additional modifier for bribe. It's not as hard as you're wanting to make it.

NichG
2011-12-20, 04:45 PM
D&D is a hack n slash game. Anyone trying to do it differently is homebrewing something anyway, as the existence of this very thread supports.

It is quite possible, even common, to have elements in a game for which there are not explicit rules. The argument you're hinting to here is a little bit odd - if I follow it to its logical conclusion it suggests that freeform RP games don't exist, which is simply counterfactual.

Just because D&D doesn't have good rules for social interaction (or more generally because a system does not have any rules for it) does not mean that a D&D campaign/arbitrary system campaign cannot be predominantly about social interaction. It just means that the rules are not necessary for the interaction that does occur. It is the same way that many campaigns have riddles or puzzles that do not interface significantly with the rules - thats not homebrewing, thats game content.

horseboy
2011-12-20, 05:21 PM
It is quite possible, even common, to have elements in a game for which there are not explicit rules. The argument you're hinting to here is a little bit odd - if I follow it to its logical conclusion it suggests that freeform RP games don't exist, which is simply counterfactual.

Just because D&D doesn't have good rules for social interaction (or more generally because a system does not have any rules for it) does not mean that a D&D campaign/arbitrary system campaign cannot be predominantly about social interaction. It just means that the rules are not necessary for the interaction that does occur. It is the same way that many campaigns have riddles or puzzles that do not interface significantly with the rules - thats not homebrewing, thats game content.
No, you're homebrewing how to handle that situation. There's nothing really wrong with that.
Good Rules are best, but hardest to find.
Bad rules are worst, as they are easily abused *cough*jumpamancer*cough* or so confusing that the players purposefully shy away and just swing their sword at it because it's easier.
No rules can work, but it requires an experienced GM with a good "feel" for the system. Such things would be easier if in the GM section/book there was a section where the designers just talked to you about "This is what the Hell we're thinking, and about what we tested and expected." Sadly this is more rare than good rules.

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-20, 05:41 PM
It is quite possible, even common, to have elements in a game for which there are not explicit rules. The argument you're hinting to here is a little bit odd - if I follow it to its logical conclusion it suggests that freeform RP games don't exist, which is simply counterfactual.

Just because D&D doesn't have good rules for social interaction (or more generally because a system does not have any rules for it) does not mean that a D&D campaign/arbitrary system campaign cannot be predominantly about social interaction. It just means that the rules are not necessary for the interaction that does occur. It is the same way that many campaigns have riddles or puzzles that do not interface significantly with the rules - thats not homebrewing, thats game content.

This is indeed what I was saying in response to horseboy's odd claim about D&D. horseboy seems to have some views that I find rather strange, including taking the existence of metaphorical/non-literal language and multiple possible uses for the same word to mean that we automatically see arguing and physical combat as direct parallels.

I've already put way too much effort into this thread. I'll just end my input by saying this: I'm not ragging on people who want certain kinds of rules or views about social interaction in their games, I just want them to stop insisting that their views are somehow objectively right or superior when that's completely false. It all boils down to what works in someone's personal experience and game, and what that person likes. It's subjective; it's opinion based. I want them to stop being so closed minded. All I'm saying is that the views I hold are not wrong; not that others' views are wrong. Two opposing viewpoints can both equally be not-wrong when the topic is entirely based in subjective experience, you know.

Oh, and lastly, to address horseboy's comments about developers - who cares what the developers intended? That's not the point. That was never the point. Unless all you ever do is run unmodified modules, I don't see how what the developer intended for balancing social skills versus non-social ability makes any difference. It's not as though the written rules are actually binding anyway - they are guidelines, as I said earlier. Yes, playing with things balanced differently from what the developers intended can provide something of an upset, turning what by the rules should have been easy impossible and vice versa (though I have some trouble seeing this happen with simplifying social skills to rely more on actual role playing than on stats). I fail to see how that's a problem unless you're running modules to the letter. A DM/GM should be continuously attempting to improve his/her ability through experience, and if something is breaking, take steps to fix it. If the DM is bad at that, well, experience should make him/her better at it; there's nothing wrong with having difficulty with something, and despite what anyone says, there's a learning curve with everything regardless of what the rules are, even freeform, depending on your starting point.

horseboy
2011-12-20, 09:47 PM
It matters in that not understanding RAI led to the creation of CoDzilla in 3.x.

GnomeWorks
2011-12-21, 12:53 AM
System influences player choices and character design.

In a combat-heavy game, such as 4e, most players will build characters that are capable in combat. Other tasks - dealing with traps, dealing with people, etc - become secondary to the idea that everyone needs to be at least useful in a combat situation.

In a game with a "social combat" system that is at least roughly equal with the combat system in terms of options and complexity, you no longer wind up with a combat character put into the role of "face man" because he has the highest Charisma. Now you have an entirely different subsystem that requires being proficient with (both as a player and as a character), for which you need a dedicated individual to deal with.

Single-roll resolution in social situations is no more satisfying than single-roll resolutions for combat. A more complex system is necessary.

This is, of course, assuming you want to give social situations equal mechanical shrift as combat ones. If you prefer to just RP it all, go nuts. For me, however, fluff should be backed up by mechanics. It isn't enough to say that your character has an 18 Charisma: if you are good at social situations, there needs to be more to it.

horseboy
2011-12-21, 02:20 AM
Yeah, pretty much.

Well rounded characters keep players more engaged in the story as a whole. In systems like D&D the fighter's player is just sitting there, doing nothing while they're in town. At best he's either power drinking alone it the corner waiting for everybody else to get done or paying full retail for his new gear. There's only so many times you can do that before you're bored. If he had social skills he could continue to contribute. Heck if he had any skills he could contribute, but that's another issue.

If he has the skills to taunt his enemies, flirt with secretaries, or not make a complete ass of himself at the fancy dinner party he stays interested in what's going on and is less likely to start playing "Angry Birds" at the table.

Without measurable skills then it again becomes a binary "Can he do this Y/N". It's a bit less arbitrary, granted, but without occasional, unexpected, failure you start hitting Stu area.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-21, 03:32 AM
Without measurable skills then it again becomes a binary "Can he do this Y/N". It's a bit less arbitrary, granted, but without occasional, unexpected, failure you start hitting Stu area.

Not necessarily. Without measureable skills, it can also boil down to "Will he do X", not "Can he do X".

For example, if you've got a party going to talk with the High Muckity Muck, it's likely that, in a skill-based game, everyone will say "Don't let the fighter talk; he'll mess everything up"... even if he has an average stat and no real outstanding penalties. Why? Because the numbers say the fighter is bad at talking, even if he's reasonably intelligent, passably wise, and not unpleasant to look at or be around... The Rogue or Bard, however, are good at talking, by the numbers.

In a real adventuring party, who would you rather be talking: The Bard, who likely has great ranks in Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and Bluff, on top of a stellar charisma, or the Fighter, who has a good charisma, but has cross-class ranks in those skills, if that? By the numbers, you want the bard talking, even if he's a bit of an idiot, because the numbers determine what will succeed and what will fail. With sufficient numbers, the bard can overcome his being an idiot, while the fighter's well-reasoned arguments wind up failing against the skill checks of a high-level Aristocrat.

If you take away the numbers, or just use a general likeableness score (i.e. Charisma), then someone who is not specced for those things can take part. If the player chooses not to take part, it's his choice... but he's not forced out because the numbers make it impossible for him to have a positive impact.

In many social systems, the non-specced character isn't the rogue in combat... capable of one trick and that's it, and reliant upon others to set up said trick... he's the wizard-out-of-spells in combat... a sack of HP you only hope doesn't get in the way of real participants.

horseboy
2011-12-21, 03:55 AM
Actually, in my Earthdawn campaign the troll tank is the talker. The high cha Illusionist took "stealthy" skills instead. The elementalist relies on spell buffs (in large part because he's an MMO player and gets bored if he's not killing things). The Nethermancer started off the "Dark, anti-social" type, but he's actually opened up and started learning social skills, in large part to help deal with the Horror that lives in town and the personification of the mad passion of vengeance that's been milking him like a space marine level cash cow. The increase of skills helps create a self feeding loop showing his progress that keeps the player interested.
Yeah, they're going to go talk to Charcoalgrin tomorrow. So social skills are going to be a matter of life and death, literally.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-21, 08:23 AM
In a real adventuring party, who would you rather be talking: The Bard, who likely has great ranks in Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and Bluff, on top of a stellar charisma, or the Fighter, who has a good charisma, but has cross-class ranks in those skills, if that? By the numbers, you want the bard talking, even if he's a bit of an idiot, because the numbers determine what will succeed and what will fail. With sufficient numbers, the bard can overcome his being an idiot, while the fighter's well-reasoned arguments wind up failing against the skill checks of a high-level Aristocrat.

Well...it's not quite that simple. Even playing diplomacy by RAW(a frequently painful process that I'm *trying* to do for one of my current campaigns), you have the good ol' circumstance modifier. +/- 2 is not immense, but it means that great and terrible arguments DO have a numerical bonus or penalty associated with them.

Furthermore, you have flat DCs for changing attitudes. Even a fighter can frequently make these, if he's got at least something for stats/skills that's relevant.

Lastly, we have the biggest difference. Determining WHEN, and with who to make the diplomacy checks. Two sessions ago, I had the diplomancer make a 50+ roll to convince the commoners to "fight the power" of their evil government. In the town square. With the shadesteel golem guards watching. It went...poorly for him. Oh sure, he started some rioting and such, but that was fairly trivial compared to the rapid, hostile response.

A high diplomacy mod does not entirely compensate for a lack of thoughtfulness.

NichG
2011-12-21, 01:25 PM
Circling around to it again, this is why I like active 'If you have this, you can do this thing above and beyond' style mechanics in social systems rather than 'Go Fish' style mechanics where its basically 'you must have pumped this stat at least this much to participate'.

It means that even without any social mechanical boons, every character can still talk and think and come up with stuff. But if you have the boons you can do a bit more, get useful info, set up things, etc.

An example of this from my 7thscape system:

- The Chessmaster advantage lets you N/game say 'I had this set up ahead of time' with an offscreen action (things you could accomplish without the need to run a scene). Thus you could say 'Okay, so retroactively: I had a private detective dig up some dirt on this guy, which I pull from a folder in my briefcase'.

Another example:

- There's a Dance power that lets you appear to someone as whatever or whomever they most desire.

Another example:

- The Spin skill lets you do information control on a community-scale level. So you can make a Spin check to have the actions of that heroic band of adventurers be interpreted as violent hoboism that is disruptive to society, or that they're the best thing since sliced bread. It covers an action that in essence would be dozens of small RP scenes or clever plans (that someone without Spin would be able to accomplish but they'd have to RP it out exactly, and as such it would have much more chance of failure). It also lets you find out if information has been doctored or manipulated and who the likely people are that did it.

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-21, 02:06 PM
Okay, I lied, I just couldn't stay away from the thread :smallsigh:. I don't have a whole lot more to say, but I would like to comment on a few things.


System influences player choices and character design.

In a combat-heavy game, such as 4e, most players will build characters that are capable in combat. Other tasks - dealing with traps, dealing with people, etc - become secondary to the idea that everyone needs to be at least useful in a combat situation.

In a game with a "social combat" system that is at least roughly equal with the combat system in terms of options and complexity, you no longer wind up with a combat character put into the role of "face man" because he has the highest Charisma. Now you have an entirely different subsystem that requires being proficient with (both as a player and as a character), for which you need a dedicated individual to deal with.

Single-roll resolution in social situations is no more satisfying than single-roll resolutions for combat. A more complex system is necessary.

This is, of course, assuming you want to give social situations equal mechanical shrift as combat ones. If you prefer to just RP it all, go nuts. For me, however, fluff should be backed up by mechanics. It isn't enough to say that your character has an 18 Charisma: if you are good at social situations, there needs to be more to it.

Bold is the most relevant part. THANK YOU! "Assuming you want to give social situations equal mechanical shrift as combat ones." Right. And as I've been trying to say (and you agree) not everyone does want to give them "equal mechanical shrift" and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And there is absolutely nothing about not giving them "equal mechanical shrift" that automatically makes them less important or significant to the game, which is why I didn't like the use of the word "consequential" above. I do happen to be one of those who would rather "RP it all," maybe with a few side rules for help in adjudicating situations if needed. (Note that I think as written the D&D social skill rules are bad for that, so I usually houserule something when I run a game). There is also nothing wrong with wanting "fluff [to] be backed up by mechanics," as you said you preferred. What irritates me is people who speak as though they think that that should be universally true and that those who don't want their social skills ruled by mechanics are somehow either making social skills less important or are playing wrong. And that any game system made that suits the non-mechanical ruled social situations is somehow lesser for not suiting their preferred way of handling things.

So thanks for saying something.


Yeah, pretty much.

Well rounded characters keep players more engaged in the story as a whole. In systems like D&D the fighter's player is just sitting there, doing nothing while they're in town. At best he's either power drinking alone it the corner waiting for everybody else to get done or paying full retail for his new gear. There's only so many times you can do that before you're bored. If he had social skills he could continue to contribute. Heck if he had any skills he could contribute, but that's another issue.

If he has the skills to taunt his enemies, flirt with secretaries, or not make a complete ass of himself at the fancy dinner party he stays interested in what's going on and is less likely to start playing "Angry Birds" at the table.

Without measurable skills then it again becomes a binary "Can he do this Y/N". It's a bit less arbitrary, granted, but without occasional, unexpected, failure you start hitting Stu area.

Disagreed. It CAN work out that way, but it certainly doesn't HAVE to. Now, if you play the D&D social rules exactly as written with no modifications whatsoever... yes, you're going to run into those problems. D&D social mechanic as written is horrible. Most people who run social heavy games in D&D don't use them as written.

ESPECIALLY disagreed on your last paragraph. First off, unless every person playing the game has exactly the same amount of control of situations (i. e., there is no DM equivalent) the person who is in the more authoritative role/controlling NPCs is under no obligation to allow a PC to be a Mary Sue. And if they do allow it...that's not a fault of the game system, that's a purely OOG problem with the people playing (unless all people involved want Mary Sue characters and get them, in which case there isn't anything wrong so long as they're not stealing enjoyment from the other players, which is again not a system problem).

Secondly, see the next quote.


Not necessarily. Without measureable skills, it can also boil down to "Will he do X", not "Can he do X".

For example, if you've got a party going to talk with the High Muckity Muck, it's likely that, in a skill-based game, everyone will say "Don't let the fighter talk; he'll mess everything up"... even if he has an average stat and no real outstanding penalties. Why? Because the numbers say the fighter is bad at talking, even if he's reasonably intelligent, passably wise, and not unpleasant to look at or be around... The Rogue or Bard, however, are good at talking, by the numbers.

In a real adventuring party, who would you rather be talking: The Bard, who likely has great ranks in Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and Bluff, on top of a stellar charisma, or the Fighter, who has a good charisma, but has cross-class ranks in those skills, if that? By the numbers, you want the bard talking, even if he's a bit of an idiot, because the numbers determine what will succeed and what will fail. With sufficient numbers, the bard can overcome his being an idiot, while the fighter's well-reasoned arguments wind up failing against the skill checks of a high-level Aristocrat.

If you take away the numbers, or just use a general likeableness score (i.e. Charisma), then someone who is not specced for those things can take part. If the player chooses not to take part, it's his choice... but he's not forced out because the numbers make it impossible for him to have a positive impact.

In many social systems, the non-specced character isn't the rogue in combat... capable of one trick and that's it, and reliant upon others to set up said trick... he's the wizard-out-of-spells in combat... a sack of HP you only hope doesn't get in the way of real participants.

Thanks for explaining a few things that I would probably have had some trouble explaining.


Circling around to it again, this is why I like active 'If you have this, you can do this thing above and beyond' style mechanics in social systems rather than 'Go Fish' style mechanics where its basically 'you must have pumped this stat at least this much to participate'.

It means that even without any social mechanical boons, every character can still talk and think and come up with stuff. But if you have the boons you can do a bit more, get useful info, set up things, etc.

An example of this from my 7thscape system:

- The Chessmaster advantage lets you N/game say 'I had this set up ahead of time' with an offscreen action (things you could accomplish without the need to run a scene). Thus you could say 'Okay, so retroactively: I had a private detective dig up some dirt on this guy, which I pull from a folder in my briefcase'.

Another example:

- There's a Dance power that lets you appear to someone as whatever or whomever they most desire.

Another example:

- The Spin skill lets you do information control on a community-scale level. So you can make a Spin check to have the actions of that heroic band of adventurers be interpreted as violent hoboism that is disruptive to society, or that they're the best thing since sliced bread. It covers an action that in essence would be dozens of small RP scenes or clever plans (that someone without Spin would be able to accomplish but they'd have to RP it out exactly, and as such it would have much more chance of failure). It also lets you find out if information has been doctored or manipulated and who the likely people are that did it.

And I would have absolutely no problem playing in a game where the social mechanics were dedicated toward this kind of thing; in fact, I think it's the only area where it's even really needed to have any hard rules for social mechanics (for my playstyle, of course). This seems like the ideal.

Dimers
2011-12-21, 02:46 PM
The Chessmaster advantage ... a Dance power ... The Spin skill ...

I put something very similar to Spin into my game system, too -- intimidate, diplomacy and guile don't cover it all. I really like Chessmaster! Very good for smart and inventive players. It's a lot like "gizmos" in GURPS, except about in-character awesomeness instead of utility belt gadgetry.

Chessmaster gives more ways to get bonuses to rolls, reducing the need for extreme skill. The Dance skill power is an example of allowing a non-social skill to be used for social purposes. Other ways of increasing characters' ability to act in social situations:

Things that bypass checks altogether, like military rank. I don't care if you like me, I don't care if you're not scared of me, you're still going to do what I say!
Things that increase social prowess AND something else. In nWoD, being famous makes you harder to 'lock onto' magically, so you're less vulnerable to scry-and-die ... and of course, being famous lets you try things socially that other people just couldn't.
Requiring some degree of social ability as a prerequisite for combat or other non-social powers. If you want to give your team combat bonuses via commands or a cunning plan, you need to be the kind of person people look up to.


I really like having this sort of option in a game. I guess it doesn't matter if it's in the game system, though if it's not, then the GM is going to have her work cut our for her to adjudicate fairly and needs to have the trust of the group. If para-social options don't exist in the game at all, that's disappointing and unrealistic.

Hmm. Reviewing my thoughts today in the context of the OP, I'd say that I want a system that's quick to execute (one roll per situation, not one per sentence), granular enough to give realistic options, and mechanistic so that it doesn't require you to have either an ideal GM or an off-the-charts OOC Charisma score.

horseboy
2011-12-21, 03:43 PM
Disagreed. It CAN work out that way, but it certainly doesn't HAVE to. Now, if you play the D&D social rules exactly as written with no modifications whatsoever... yes, you're going to run into those problems. D&D social mechanic as written is horrible. Most people who run social heavy games in D&D don't use them as written.

ESPECIALLY disagreed on your last paragraph. First off, unless every person playing the game has exactly the same amount of control of situations (i. e., there is no DM equivalent) the person who is in the more authoritative role/controlling NPCs is under no obligation to allow a PC to be a Mary Sue. And if they do allow it...that's not a fault of the game system, that's a purely OOG problem with the people playing (unless all people involved want Mary Sue characters and get them, in which case there isn't anything wrong so long as they're not stealing enjoyment from the other players, which is again not a system problem).
Sure, and I CAN win the lottery but it certainly isn't probable. Well, at least we agree that bad rules are the worse option.
The GM is the first among equals. Them saying "Because I said so" is unacceptable as I'm over the age of 12.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-21, 04:46 PM
Sure, and I CAN win the lottery but it certainly isn't probable. Well, at least we agree that bad rules are the worse option.
The GM is the first among equals. Them saying "Because I said so" is unacceptable as I'm over the age of 12.

Semi-disagree. The GM has a way more responsibility for the game than any other person at the table... and sometimes, the only thing they can tell you without ruining the game is "Because I said so", or it's cousin, "I have a reason, but I can't/won't tell you now."

Jayabalard
2011-12-21, 05:41 PM
I agree with Eldan: when it comes to social interaction, the less mechanics the better. One dice roll is more than enough, and most of my favourite in-character conversations have been the ones where no dice were rolled at all.

The few times I've tried more complicated social resolution systems, I've found them very frustrating, because in-character talking keeps getting interrupted by dice rolls which break up the flow of the conversation.I couldn't agree more.

I've never had a situation where more intricate rules about social resolutions helped. Rolling dice generally just detracts from the roleplaying.

I am ok with systems that social/roleplaying related rules and material, just not stuff that comes in at the resolution level very often. Say, stuff like social disadvantages in gurps... you don't role dice very often unless you're playing against the nature of the character (as you've defined it), and if you're roleplaying well, then you're not doing that very often.

Jay R
2011-12-21, 06:04 PM
Those aren't the situations that we need a good social system for.

True. But that doesn't disagree with my point, which is that often the players think the social system failed when it did not.

horseboy
2011-12-21, 06:29 PM
Semi-disagree. The GM has a way more responsibility for the game than any other person at the table... and sometimes, the only thing they can tell you without ruining the game is "Because I said so", or it's cousin, "I have a reason, but I can't/won't tell you now.""I have a reason" will placate if I've pulled some sort of off the wall shenanigan that clearly caught them off guard. It doesn't stop the conversation, as it then shifts to more of an above board conversation to find out exactly where the taboo area is. Eather way

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-22, 01:15 AM
Sure, and I CAN win the lottery but it certainly isn't probable. Well, at least we agree that bad rules are the worse option.
The GM is the first among equals. Them saying "Because I said so" is unacceptable as I'm over the age of 12.

Regarding your first sentence: I think you're overstating. With horrible mechanics slavishly followed... yeah, I'll agree with you. But a game that puts mechanical emphasis on things other than social doesn't necessarily lead to that. We could even leave the superbad rules intact and just invoke them less frequently, and that would solve the majority of such "I can't really do anything in social situations" cases for that fighter. Just don't invoke the mechanics when he's taunting the enemies, flirting with the secretary, and making small talk at the fancy dinner party; wait until it's actually time to lie through his teeth to the guard when he's caught at the party uninvited, smooth-talk the grand duchess, or terrify the prisoner into talking. (This wouldn't solve the OTHER problems with the social mechanics, but it would help with THAT PARTICULAR problem).

Yes, we agree that bad rules are the worse option.

No, the DM/GM is not "first among equals," which is a completely meaningless phrase. If you're equals, you're equals, there is no first or not first. The DM is an authority figure, which in no way implies he's better or allowed to get away with misbehavior, but he has not only more but different responsibilities than the other players do. There is a certain amount of "what the DM says goes" involved; there has to be in a game where the DM has responsibilities that are not governed by mechanics. (I'm aware that games exist where the person in that role doesn't have responsibilities not governed by mechanics. I really don't have much interest in playing an RPG like that, to be honest, because I feel that having the rules be set in cement and controlling everything is stifling to gameplay, but that's a personal opinion. I'm not really a believer in game mechanics moderating player behavior, and things like Mary Sue-ism are really a player issue, not a character issue.) Ideally, there won't be very many times that a DM has to invoke his authority to settle a player-problem situation, because everyone will be mature about it. Not everyone is mature, unfortunately.

By the way, if a DM says "Stop using foul language every other sentence with your character, please. It is bothering me/another player/the people in the nearby vicinity," do you think that he's overstepping? Do you think that if he says "Okay, no your character does not moon the king. We're not playing that kind of game," that he's overstepping (this is closer to the reigning in a Mary Sue thing I mentioned)? Because I don't. I'm not entirely clear on whether your comment on "because I said so" was about a DM reigning a player in or something else, so I based what I said on the assumption that it was that which you were referring to. In fact, I consider it his responsibility to say/do those kinds of things.

With great power comes great responsibility and all that.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-22, 09:05 AM
No, the DM/GM is not "first among equals," which is a completely meaningless phrase. If you're equals, you're equals, there is no first or not first. The DM is an authority figure, which in no way implies he's better or allowed to get away with misbehavior, but he has not only more but different responsibilities than the other players do. There is a certain amount of "what the DM says goes" involved; there has to be in a game where the DM has responsibilities that are not governed by mechanics.

*shrug* There's a lot of games in which the DM(using this as a general term atm) does not necessarily have more to do than the players, or in which a notable portion of his duties are ungoverned by mechanics. I suspect you're coming at this from a D&D-biased perspective here(though yes, some other games also toss lots at the DM).

Nobody will argue that the DM's role is generally DIFFERENT than the players, but that does not imply that he necessarily has a greater or more important role in the narrative than others do. In some cases, such as when running an already published adventure, he may have notably less freedom than the players do to affect the narrative.

In short, your conclusion appears to be drawn from a limited perspective on RPGs, and is not always the case.

Jayabalard
2011-12-22, 11:34 AM
*shrug* There's a lot of games in which the DM(using this as a general term atm) does not necessarily have more to do than the players, or in which a notable portion of his duties are ungoverned by mechanics. I suspect you're coming at this from a D&D-biased perspective here(though yes, some other games also toss lots at the DM).I'd say that the majority of RPG's have that sort of design, so the idea that the DM has more time invested in the game doesn't seem to be a conclusion drawn from a less than broad perspective on RPGs... it is, in fact, something that's pretty common across RPGs

horseboy
2011-12-22, 09:18 PM
Regarding your first sentence: I think you're overstating. With horrible mechanics slavishly followed... yeah, I'll agree with you. But a game that puts mechanical emphasis on things other than social doesn't necessarily lead to that. We could even leave the superbad rules intact and just invoke them less frequently, and that would solve the majority of such "I can't really do anything in social situations" cases for that fighter. Just don't invoke the mechanics when he's taunting the enemies, flirting with the secretary, and making small talk at the fancy dinner party; wait until it's actually time to lie through his teeth to the guard when he's caught at the party uninvited, smooth-talk the grand duchess, or terrify the prisoner into talking. (This wouldn't solve the OTHER problems with the social mechanics, but it would help with THAT PARTICULAR problem).

Yes, we agree that bad rules are the worse option. By trash talking the ogre I piss it off to the point that it looses discipline and starts swinging wildly, making it more likely that I survive the encounter. By distracting the secretary with advances I distract her while my party member plants the evidence. By being a gracious and interesting party goer I don't have to worry about not being invited.


No, the DM/GM is not "first among equals," which is a completely meaningless phrase. If you're equals, you're equals, there is no first or not first. The DM is an authority figure, which in no way implies he's better or allowed to get away with misbehavior, but he has not only more but different responsibilities than the other players do. There is a certain amount of "what the DM says goes" involved; there has to be in a game where the DM has responsibilities that are not governed by mechanics. (I'm aware that games exist where the person in that role doesn't have responsibilities not governed by mechanics. I really don't have much interest in playing an RPG like that, to be honest, because I feel that having the rules be set in cement and controlling everything is stifling to gameplay, but that's a personal opinion. I'm not really a believer in game mechanics moderating player behavior, and things like Mary Sue-ism are really a player issue, not a character issue.) Ideally, there won't be very many times that a DM has to invoke his authority to settle a player-problem situation, because everyone will be mature about it. Not everyone is mature, unfortunately. The GM's respect comes from him pulling bajillion duty, running multiple interesting characters, not from him being an arbitrarily decided authority figure.


By the way, if a DM says "Stop using foul language every other sentence with your character, please. It is bothering me/another player/the people in the nearby vicinity," do you think that he's overstepping? Do you think that if he says "Okay, no your character does not moon the king. We're not playing that kind of game," that he's overstepping (this is closer to the reigning in a Mary Sue thing I mentioned)? Because I don't. I'm not entirely clear on whether your comment on "because I said so" was about a DM reigning a player in or something else, so I based what I said on the assumption that it was that which you were referring to. In fact, I consider it his responsibility to say/do those kinds of things.

With great power comes great responsibility and all that.
I swear the least of anyone in the group, so, yeah, I'd give him a quizzical look since the guy who brought his kid swears every other word. Things like that is an out of table problem and should be addressed out from the table by the person with the problem. As to situation 2, well, he's not wearing armor, back, surprise, so that's AT 1, no Defensive Bonus, +50 and they get to use their Ambush. I feel no remorse when players kill their characters doing something stupid.

GnomeWorks
2011-12-23, 12:08 AM
And there is absolutely nothing about not giving them "equal mechanical shrift" that automatically makes them less important or significant to the game, which is why I didn't like the use of the word "consequential" above.

You need to reread the entirety of my post, then. My entire point was that, in a game system, what you have mechanics for will influence player choices and character design.

An RPG without a solid mechanical system for social encounters will wind up with characters that aren't good at it, and players (depending upon their RPG experience) will not necessarily consider it an option for resolving situations.

System matters.


There is also nothing wrong with wanting "fluff [to] be backed up by mechanics," as you said you preferred. What irritates me is people who speak as though they think that that should be universally true and that those who don't want their social skills ruled by mechanics are somehow either making social skills less important or are playing wrong.

By not having a more mechanically-involved social system, you are making social skills less important.

Consider 3.5. A fighter can choose to specialize in a weapon; choose to specialize in armor; choose to focus on Strength-based attack patterns (Power Attack, etc); choose to focus on Int-based attack patterns (Combat Expertise, etc); choose to focus on Dex-based attack patterns; so on and so forth, not even getting into ToB or other splats.

A character that chooses to be more socially-focused can do... what? Put points into Diplomacy, Bluff, Sense Motive? Note the lack of a class that focuses on this. Yes, the bard does theoretically, but the bard also comes with a bunch of other baggage and no small amount of abilities directly purposed for combat situations. Where are the diplomat's options to be more focused on Diplomacy, or on Bluff? Where does the diplomat get to make options about the kind of social interaction they focus on?

The fewer choices the player can make, the less important that aspect of the game is.

I'm not saying it's wrong to not include social mechanics. The game system I'm working on expects a very basic level of social mechanics present (same with combat ones), but allows you to tune how important they are. You could run a game in my system focused entirely on social encounters, with no combat. You could also run a game focused entirely on combat with no social encounters. There isn't a wrong way to play or design a system, but when designing a game, you have to understand what impact your design decisions have on those who will play it.

Fiery Diamond
2011-12-23, 12:47 AM
By not having a more mechanically-involved social system, you are making social skills less important.

The fewer choices the player can make, the less important that aspect of the game is.

These are the points I'm really disagreeing with. "The fewer mechanical choices a player can make, the less important that aspect of the game is" is a statement that I think is false.

LibraryOgre
2011-12-23, 01:54 AM
These are the points I'm really disagreeing with. "The fewer mechanical choices a player can make, the less important that aspect of the game is" is a statement that I think is false.

And I have to agree. We did just as much, if not more, RPing in 2e when the mechanics were more or less limited to "My charisma is X". We have some great stories about when the mechanics worked out for some funniness in 3.x (like an argument among our spellcasters leading to the halfling rogue becoming visible right as he stood in front of the guards... and pulling off a bluff with "Ta-da!")... but those were hardly essential mechanics in the session.

GnomeWorks
2011-12-23, 02:05 AM
Roleplaying != social encounters.

Mechanizing roleplaying is unnecessary and probably harmful to the nature of the game. I'm not advocating that.

What I am advocating is that, if you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, they should have mechanics to back them.

horseboy
2011-12-23, 02:41 AM
And I have to agree. We did just as much, if not more, RPing in 2e when the mechanics were more or less limited to "My charisma is X". We have some great stories about when the mechanics worked out for some funniness in 3.x (like an argument among our spellcasters leading to the halfling rogue becoming visible right as he stood in front of the guards... and pulling off a bluff with "Ta-da!")... but those were hardly essential mechanics in the session.
First and second falls into category three, no rules. Since the dice rolls are used 'only' for things that would be physically dangerous for (discounting the option proficiency system in 2) it creates a point of delineation. All players have a point where we say "Screw it, it's just a game." The mechanics of a system need to be clear where they drew the line. Sure I make fun of Spacemaster's "Situation Awareness (X)" skill, but it makes it clear where on the line it is. 1st edition not listing really anything other than making stat rolls for anything else makes it clear where it is. The biggest problem with that method is that you either have to start throwing out stat increases over time or your character never learns anything and stays static.

Gnome is right about roleplaying and social encounters. There's more to roleplaying in this hobby than just the part where you talk to each other in stupid accents. It's not just how good with magic/weapons/sneaking it is. It's not just talking to your buddy of ten to twenty years and knowing all his buttons to push, it's more. The easier you make it to flesh out a character the more fleshed out the character is going to be.

Sure you can just pretend that your character knows what you know, and expresses himself as well as you do, but you're not playing your character, you're playing a self insert Mary Sue.

kaomera
2011-12-23, 02:49 AM
What I am advocating is that, if you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, they should have mechanics to back them.
This idea (for any item X that you want to play a prominent role in the game) gets thrown around a lot. It's a decent design methodology - what the mechanics are ''about'' is a decent way to communicate what you want the gameplay to be focused on. However, in actual play it relies on the players wanting to actually focus on that element. Players will look for a game system that ''supports'' their preferred style of play, but unless everyone at the table is taking that same approach then it doesn't really work.

Game systems aren't ''about'' a particular part of play in the same way that actual games played with those systems can be. Systems can encourage specific play styles, but they aren't a great way to communicate what a game is supposed to be ''about''. Setting and fiction can do a much better (well, more direct / obvious, imo it's better...) job of this, but even then there will be players who will simply ignore it.

But what this all boils down to is: 1) If you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, then communicate that fact as plainly as possible. Having mechanics that are supposed to support social encounters is not enough in and of itself. And, 2) Not everyone actually wants / needs mechanics to back up what they want to do or focus on in a game. There's a lot of talk about what a given system supports or rewards, but both rely on unilateral definitions of what amounts to support or a reward. And unless the players happen to agree with that definition, the claims are basically meaningless.

turkishproverb
2011-12-23, 03:14 AM
Roleplaying != social encounters.

Mechanizing roleplaying is unnecessary and probably harmful to the nature of the game. I'm not advocating that.

What I am advocating is that, if you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, they should have mechanics to back them.

IN philosophy I tend to agree. I know more than a few socially weak people who like playing bards and party faces. I tend to have them roll it and Role-play it. If I think they're putting forth an effort, I tend to give them a bonus. If they're not I tend to give them a penalty to the roll.

GnomeWorks
2011-12-23, 03:50 AM
This idea (for any item X that you want to play a prominent role in the game) gets thrown around a lot. It's a decent design methodology - what the mechanics are ''about'' is a decent way to communicate what you want the gameplay to be focused on.

Yes and no.

If mechanics to support a given thing are present, players are free to ignore it (much as you pointed out in the part I snipped from your post), or to pursue it, at their leisure. Indepth and complex crafting rules, for instance, may grab one player's attention, while everyone else gleefully ignores them.

The issue isn't if they are there, and everyone ignores them. The issue is if they're not present, and someone - anyone - wants to investigate that part of play. If you have someone who wants to play a dedicated faceman, but your system has no real social encounter system... how do you deal with that? The GM either has to tell that player to engage the system to its limited degree, that the system doesn't support it, or that that kind of thing "isn't important" in the game, so the player can just do whatever because it's not important.


Game systems aren't ''about'' a particular part of play in the same way that actual games played with those systems can be. Systems can encourage specific play styles, but they aren't a great way to communicate what a game is supposed to be ''about''. Setting and fiction can do a much better (well, more direct / obvious, imo it's better...) job of this, but even then there will be players who will simply ignore it.

Interesting point. However, the games played with a given system cannot be "about" anything the system doesn't cover. A game of Risk cannot be about the economic aspects of warfare, any more than a game of Monopoly can be about politics.


If you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, then communicate that fact as plainly as possible. Having mechanics that are supposed to support social encounters is not enough in and of itself.

Well, of course. I think any GM that is starting up a game will have an idea of what sort of game they're going for.

The system provides the field of play; the GM determines where in that field of play the game will happen, be it a small portion ("we're going to run a game focusing on combat and dungeon crawls; no towns and stuff"), or the whole thing.


2) Not everyone actually wants / needs mechanics to back up what they want to do or focus on in a game. There's a lot of talk about what a given system supports or rewards, but both rely on unilateral definitions of what amounts to support or a reward. And unless the players happen to agree with that definition, the claims are basically meaningless.

"Reward" is different than "support."

IMO, an RPG should have support for many different things. Combat, social encounters, crafting, exploration... all kinds of things. Because the more things the system supports, the more things you can choose to do within the system. Reward is sort of irrelevant, IMO. If the system supports it, you can choose to play with it or ignore it; if the system doesn't support it, you're hosed if you want it. It makes more sense to me for a system to have mechanical support for lots of things and let players and groups figure out what they want to do with it, than to have a very focused game that is limited to one or two concepts.


IN philosophy I tend to agree. I know more than a few socially weak people who like playing bards and party faces. I tend to have them roll it and Role-play it. If I think they're putting forth an effort, I tend to give them a bonus. If they're not I tend to give them a penalty to the roll.

If you ignore the player, the character is just a mechanical engine, incapable - really - of taking initiative.

If you ignore the character, there is no reason to have characters in the first place.

In order to have a functional social encounter system, IMO, you must engage both. Thus I have envisioned a system wherein character skill matters, but player involvement also matters. There really isn't a way around it, I don't think. But if you acknowledge this, then you can incorporate that concept into the design itself, strengthening it, rather than treating actual RP as a crutch.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-23, 07:50 AM
This idea (for any item X that you want to play a prominent role in the game) gets thrown around a lot. It's a decent design methodology - what the mechanics are ''about'' is a decent way to communicate what you want the gameplay to be focused on. However, in actual play it relies on the players wanting to actually focus on that element. Players will look for a game system that ''supports'' their preferred style of play, but unless everyone at the table is taking that same approach then it doesn't really work.

Sure, in theory, you can use any game system to run anything if you try hard enough.

In practice, if you're using Call of Cthulhu to run a game about realistic flower gardening, it's probably not going to work terribly well.

Jay R
2011-12-23, 09:30 AM
We roll dice to simulate a Fireball because it's the best simulation available. The only other way to simulate a Fireball uses up too much propane and messes up the living room.

We roll dice to simulate combat because there's no other good way to simulate combat in the living room. (In the backyard, yeah, but not in the living room.)

We tend to simulate conversation with conversation because it is a superior simulation.

In fact, when I started playing (in the 1970s) the phrase "role-playing" specifically meant acting out the role of your character, rather than merely rolling dice. We particularly disapproved of the people who wanted to roll a die to see if their character could solve the puzzle, instead of trying to solve the puzzle themselves.

Then people pointed out that intelligent people (we were playing at a high-level private engineering school) were being much more intelligent than their characters. This started a long discussion about how to balance the desire to play the game with the desire to make the actions fit what the stats said this character could do.

But there's no way to avoid the fact that an intelligent person plays intelligently. You can roll dice for specific encounters, but the players still decide what goals to pursue, which encounters to flee, etc.

We never found a clear answer that met everyone's objectives.

Nothing's been said on this thread that wasn't said back then, and we won't find a clear answer here either.

NichG
2011-12-23, 09:51 AM
It's interesting that Mary Sueism is being thrown around so much as the thing that mechanical systems can be used to avoid. I'd argue instead that a lot of games focus on characters that are mechanically by default better at everything than the person playing them.

I mean, if we're to believe 3.5 D&D's statistics then anyone not heroic has at best a 15 as a high stat (Elite array), which isn't much different than the average of 10. And at higher levels, stats get superhuman thanks to magic items and the like, not to mention linearly increasing skills that offset the more slowly increasing stats.

Other games have this to greater or lesser degree. Call of Cthulhu characters are probably more human-range, but play Exalted or even 7th Sea and you're talking about characters who are probably wittier, smarter, etc than everyone at the table.

In these games of superhumans, people often choose a low stat because they want to play it, not because they're forced by the system to do so or excessively rewarded (I mean, an 8 instead of a 10 buys you a 12 in D&D, but it won't even get you from 17 to 18).

Tyndmyr
2011-12-23, 09:59 AM
In these games of superhumans, people often choose a low stat because they want to play it, not because they're forced by the system to do so or excessively rewarded (I mean, an 8 instead of a 10 buys you a 12 in D&D, but it won't even get you from 17 to 18).

Meh, this sort of inflation happens. Just as often, a low stat is because mechanically, it doesn't make sense for the class.

Inflation doesn't fix things though. I've seen players playing their char as dumb because his int was "only a 12".

LibraryOgre
2011-12-23, 11:36 AM
What I am advocating is that, if you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, they should have mechanics to back them.

I disagree. If you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, your best option is to reward people for social encounters, whether or not there is a mechanical backing. Rewards can be overt ("You get a bonus if you can resolve this without bloodshed"), more subtle ("Well, since you didn't fight, you didn't lose HP or break this valuable Ming vase that was hiding in the corner."), or simply not disincentivising them ("You convinced the orcs to stop attacking, which is as good as defeating them, so their XP is included.")

People tend to do what they're rewarded for, especially vice what they're punished for. If you want them to have social encounters, you don't need mechanics... you need to make sure that the players are aware that solving things socially is as rewarding (if not more rewarding) than busting things up.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-23, 11:50 AM
I disagree. If you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, your best option is to reward people for social encounters, whether or not there is a mechanical backing. Rewards can be overt ("You get a bonus if you can resolve this without bloodshed"), more subtle ("Well, since you didn't fight, you didn't lose HP or break this valuable Ming vase that was hiding in the corner."), or simply not disincentivising them ("You convinced the orcs to stop attacking, which is as good as defeating them, so their XP is included.")

People tend to do what they're rewarded for, especially vice what they're punished for. If you want them to have social encounters, you don't need mechanics... you need to make sure that the players are aware that solving things socially is as rewarding (if not more rewarding) than busting things up.

You need both, ideally. Rewards are important, but rewards without mechanics is going to be very subjective, vary a lot from table to table, and tend to be dominated by whoever is actually good at talking in real life(or, for particularly broken systems, whoever munchkins up the mechanics).

Mechanics without rewards tend to be ignored or under-used.

It's a combo.

Manateee
2011-12-23, 02:13 PM
I disagree. If you want social encounters to play a prominent role in the game, your best option is to reward people for social encounters, whether or not there is a mechanical backing.
I agree that rewards may encourage in-depth social encounters, but do believe that system affects the depth of the interaction.

I am not convinced that rich in-depth social systems allow deeper interaction than freeform systems, but I do believe bad social systems can permit worse social encounters than good or freeform systems.

For example:

Fiasco, for instance, forces extended social encounters between its various players, but is largely freeform in its resolution system. They are not necessarily deep, interesting or engaging, but they are necessarily acted out. Players are forced to play their parts, even if they aren't very good at it. This requirement can (and often does) promote good social roleplaying just because it's the entire scope of the game, but that's not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that players will put time and energy into their social scenes.

Contrast with d20 Modern, which does not forbid excellent roleplay, but which places the resolution of encounters on a single die roll. Players are permitted to become deeply engaged with their roles and are encouraged to do so (though the +2 incentive is minute). But because the resolution mechanic can essentially be reduced to the single roll, player involvement is not required. The system permits players to gloss past the scenes with minimal roleplay.

The difference is not in the upper end of the quality and depth of RP allowed (both can be made very deep and engaging), but it is in the low end - where Modern permits scenes to be brushed over or treated flippantly, while Fiasco wouldn't work without the scenes being played out meaningfully.

horseboy
2011-12-23, 05:08 PM
This idea (for any item X that you want to play a prominent role in the game) gets thrown around a lot. It's a decent design methodology - what the mechanics are ''about'' is a decent way to communicate what you want the gameplay to be focused on. However, in actual play it relies on the players wanting to actually focus on that element. Players will look for a game system that ''supports'' their preferred style of play, but unless everyone at the table is taking that same approach then it doesn't really work. Not everyone plays a spell caster, just the people interested in magic. Yet, without a magic system if someone says "I want to be able to cast magic," the whole system becomes extremely difficult to referee.


Game systems aren't ''about'' a particular part of play in the same way that actual games played with those systems can be. Systems can encourage specific play styles, but they aren't a great way to communicate what a game is supposed to be ''about''. Setting and fiction can do a much better (well, more direct / obvious, imo it's better...) job of this, but even then there will be players who will simply ignore it. Yeah, a good setting, one with many built in player hooks, can truly make or break a game. Especially if it's wandering off the well beaten path of killing things and taking their stuff.




IMO, an RPG should have support for many different things. Combat, social encounters, crafting, exploration... all kinds of things. Because the more things the system supports, the more things you can choose to do within the system. Reward is sort of irrelevant, IMO. If the system supports it, you can choose to play with it or ignore it; if the system doesn't support it, you're hosed if you want it. It makes more sense to me for a system to have mechanical support for lots of things and let players and groups figure out what they want to do with it, than to have a very focused game that is limited to one or two concepts. Yes. It's the Elder Scrolls approach. Give me a game about chasing butterflies and picking flowers and I'm going to laugh you out of my house. Give me a game in which I also pick flowers and chase butterflies and I'll do it for days.

You need both, ideally. Rewards are important, but rewards without mechanics is going to be very subjective, vary a lot from table to table, and tend to be dominated by whoever is actually good at talking in real life(or, for particularly broken systems, whoever munchkins up the mechanics).

Mechanics without rewards tend to be ignored or under-used.

It's a combo.Exactly. This was 1st editions biggest problem.

I agree that rewards may encourage in-depth social encounters, but do believe that system affects the depth of the interaction.

I am not convinced that rich in-depth social systems allow deeper interaction than freeform systems, but I do believe bad social systems can permit worse social encounters than good or freeform systems. It's not really about in-depth vs free form, it's more "Obtrusive" vs "Unobtrusive". Obtrusive mechanics, systems being in the way of things, are clunky, slow and pull the player out of the game. It doesn't mater if that system is social, magic, crafting or combat. Unobtrusive systems function, but without pulling the focus away from what's going on. These are becoming more and more common for combat and magic, as these two systems are the main ones for killing things and taking their stuff, but it's really only recently that other systems have started showing up so the hobby is trying to find ways of doing them efficiently.

kaomera
2011-12-23, 09:07 PM
The issue isn't if they are there, and everyone ignores them. The issue is if they're not present, and someone - anyone - wants to investigate that part of play. If you have someone who wants to play a dedicated faceman, but your system has no real social encounter system... how do you deal with that? The GM either has to tell that player to engage the system to its limited degree, that the system doesn't support it, or that that kind of thing "isn't important" in the game, so the player can just do whatever because it's not important.
I just don't see where ''not supported'' ends up equaling ''not important''. If it's important to the players, then it's important to the game. I have seen a lot of comments to the effect that D&D is about ''killing things and taking their stuff'', and supposedly at least that's what the system supports. But taking that view seems to require a lot of willful disregard for what D&D players actually want and do with the game.

Not every player plays the game with the intent or the goal of ''engaging the system''. I'm not saying that engaging the system is a bad thing - I did pretty much feel that way at one point, but I've moved on from that point of view. But what I want even more is to engage the other participants in the game, and to engage the fictional world that the characters exist in.

Having a social system isn't enough for me, it has to work in cooperation with the fiction / setting, and the other players / GM have to be already engaging it in an interesting way. Without those factors I will avoid the system even when I want to do what the system is supposed to do. And a lot of players I've met seem to feel the same way.

Interesting point. However, the games played with a given system cannot be "about" anything the system doesn't cover. A game of Risk cannot be about the economic aspects of warfare, any more than a game of Monopoly can be about politics.
How do you find that Risk is not about economics and Monopoly is not about politics? While Risk is highly simplified, an not in any way a simulation, it is exactly about economics. Monopoly I suppose can be played without including politics, but when I've played it auctions and deal-making have pretty much been the deciding factor in most games.

Aside from that: If I assume the above defines ''game'', then I would reply that I really could care about the game part of an RPG. I come to the table somewhat for the role, but mostly for the play. It's Cops and Robbers (or, well, Wizards and Dragons usually...), but with more complex rules for figuring out who fire-balled whom than just ''who can shout the loudest''.


"Reward" is different than "support."
True, but they usually go hand-in-hand, and for good reason. Rewarding players for actually engaging the system is a pretty awesome idea, imo, because it gets them actually using the system. The problem that I have found is that most RPGs don't handle rewards well at all.

EXP, for example, tends to be a really poor reward / motivator, and that's traditionally been the ''carrot'' you hang in front of the players to get them going in a particular direction. ''Story XP'' in older editions of D&D would be a great example, and it even worked to some extent at the time. However all you're really offering up is the pacing of the game, and players are smart enough to figure that out. Ideally you give out something that gives the players more / better agency, because that's something you should want to encourage anyway.

In practice, if you're using Call of Cthulhu to run a game about realistic flower gardening, it's probably not going to work terribly well.
System-wise, the BRP percentile system that CoC makes use of is probably at least as good as any other system for handling a Gardens and Gerberas game. It's the fiction and the setting material that tend to steer a CoC game away from planting cycles and towards being driven mad by elder horrors. Replace the creatures and lore in CoC with references on horticulture and such, and you're there.

horseboy
2011-12-23, 11:40 PM
I just don't see where ''not supported'' ends up equaling ''not important''. If it's important to the players, then it's important to the game. I have seen a lot of comments to the effect that D&D is about ''killing things and taking their stuff'', and supposedly at least that's what the system supports. But taking that view seems to require a lot of willful disregard for what D&D players actually want and do with the game.

Saying that if it's important to the players it's important to the game is like say if speed is important to the driver it's important for Renault. Sure you CAN do road speed, if someone is willing to hang out of the window of Le Car and hold down the hood.
Trying to make a "character" rather than just a board game piece means you spend more time fighting the mechanics trying to force it to express things it simply isn't designed to do than you would fighting the denizens of titular dungeon.

kaomera
2011-12-24, 01:07 PM
Saying that if it's important to the players it's important to the game is like say if speed is important to the driver it's important for Renault. Sure you CAN do road speed, if someone is willing to hang out of the window of Le Car and hold down the hood.
No, because the car is not the action of driving.

Trying to make a "character" rather than just a board game piece means you spend more time fighting the mechanics trying to force it to express things it simply isn't designed to do than you would fighting the denizens of titular dungeon.
This is exactly the set of attitudes that I just don't get. For some players it's obviously not more important what they want, and I can't really explain why that is; but for most players creating the characters and the world that they inhabit is significant enough that if it's not happening, then they aren't having any fun. It frustrates me that a number of people that I'd love to play D&D with (because they're fun, creative, and they actually think about stuff) insist that D&D might possibly be fun, if only we can get away from anything but pure hack and slash. Because that's not D&D to me, and from their other play I don't see how they would actually enjoy it. I'd be much more satisfied (if not actually happier) if they just said they didn't want to play D&D.

(Part of this is, I'm sure, that for me D&D makes a really terrible boardgame. You can hack it so it's better - Castle Ravenloft and such are pretty good. But if I want tactical play I reach for Catan or something, D&D doesn't offer me the tools and opportunities to do anything interesting with that kind of thing.)

Also: I don't spend much time fighting the system because the system is a pushover. It can't fight back, and I feel no compulsion to tie my own hands to make it anything of a fair fight. I spend much more time dealing with the system-player interaction (I'd say shepherding rather than fighting) when it does try and address important issues in play. If the system is good then I at least am not having to mangle it in play to get halfway reasonable results, but I still expect to have to do a fair amount of work to get everyone on the same page with the results, because that kind of communication is not something most systems are really generally good at.

horseboy
2011-12-24, 04:43 PM
No, because the car is not the action of driving. If you like to drive (game) and you like to go fast (RP) you CAN buy a Neon (D&D) spend twice what you invested in it in aftermarket parts (3rd party splat) then spend countless hours laboring to force it all together (Homebrewing) for something that at the end of the day is still just going to be a Neon. Or you can just buy a Mustang and enjoy going fast from the start.

This is exactly the set of attitudes that I just don't get. For some players it's obviously not more important what they want, and I can't really explain why that is; but for most players creating the characters and the world that they inhabit is significant enough that if it's not happening, then they aren't having any fun. It frustrates me that a number of people that I'd love to play D&D with (because they're fun, creative, and they actually think about stuff) insist that D&D might possibly be fun, if only we can get away from anything but pure hack and slash. Because that's not D&D to me, and from their other play I don't see how they would actually enjoy it. I'd be much more satisfied (if not actually happier) if they just said they didn't want to play D&D.

(Part of this is, I'm sure, that for me D&D makes a really terrible boardgame. You can hack it so it's better - Castle Ravenloft and such are pretty good. But if I want tactical play I reach for Catan or something, D&D doesn't offer me the tools and opportunities to do anything interesting with that kind of thing.)

Also: I don't spend much time fighting the system because the system is a pushover. It can't fight back, and I feel no compulsion to tie my own hands to make it anything of a fair fight. I spend much more time dealing with the system-player interaction (I'd say shepherding rather than fighting) when it does try and address important issues in play. If the system is good then I at least am not having to mangle it in play to get halfway reasonable results, but I still expect to have to do a fair amount of work to get everyone on the same page with the results, because that kind of communication is not something most systems are really generally good at.
Well, my usual example is my first 3.5 fighter. I'd spent years away from D&D playing other systems. Then I moved back to my old stomping grounds and found all my old friends are all about Living Greyhawk. They talked me into playing. 1/2 way through reading the PHB I'd figured out the trip monkey build. No one else in the retinue was playing a fighter (should have been my first warning). So I agreed to take point.
I began to try and build a character around the armature. Well, he's a fighter and using a block infantry style weapon. Clearly he's military. Why? Well, it's feudal so it's either be a farmer or join the military. Huh, Profession (farmer) and knowledge (nature) are cross class. Weird. Well, guess we now know why he didn't become a farmer. Well, let's move on to boot. Gonna need enough first aid to be able to stabilize his buddy (and to call Dominoes in case the healer goes down). Going to have to be able to stand watch, so spot, search, listen. Gez, why do they need three of these? Needs to be familiar enough with heraldry to know who he's fighting. Going to need to be able to tell the Baron his plan isn't going to work because of X,Y and Z without being thrown in the brig, so some diplomacy. Wow. Everything I need is cross class. WTH? This is the most fundamental fighter archetype and it can't even support it? I can't even cover the basics, let alone any of my normal quirky fun skills that would distinguish him from anyone else in his unit. This sucks. Subsequent characters were met with equal resistance from the system.

Infernalbargain
2011-12-24, 10:42 PM
One thing that has had some mild success for me is to have the players roll and then describe their trai of thought. When they see that they have rolled poorly, it is easier for them to role play that poor roll.

kaomera
2011-12-24, 11:31 PM
If you like to drive (game) and you like to go fast (RP) you CAN buy a Neon (D&D) spend twice what you invested in it in aftermarket parts (3rd party splat) then spend countless hours laboring to force it all together (Homebrewing) for something that at the end of the day is still just going to be a Neon. Or you can just buy a Mustang and enjoy going fast from the start.
OK, it's still kind of a bad analogy, but: I can sit in my car and make driving noises and say I'm going fast and you can legitimately say that I'm not. If I can get four other guys in the car making driving noises with me and leaning into the ''turns'' I make it probably doesn't matter to any of us what you say. Now imagine we're playing D&D instead of pretending to drive.

I'm not trying to say that system support isn't a good thing. Maybe I should be trying harder not to say that, idk. But it's simply not enough, a lot of the time.

For the number of skills and the limits on them that D&D 3.x / 4e hand out they really might as well not have skill systems, at least for what you appear to want them to do. And for the record, I think what you want is reasonable and would be a decent way of running things. But there are fundamental flaws that seem, ime, to affect even the better systems out there.

What your describing, imo, is an illustration of how D&D tends to exaggerate the problems I see in pretty much all of the systems that support a specific ''thing'' in RPGs. And I feel like your focus on character-creation over play (which I feel is already something of a problem) just exacerbates the issue. To me pointing out that you ''can't'' play a farmer because you can get a bunch of ranks in the farmer skill seems a lot like saying that because D&D has the Dexterity ability, that serves to quantify the character's agility and bodily coordination, that you must make Dex checks to avoid falling when walking around under normal conditions, in order to ''support'' the difference between characters with a high Dex and those with a low one. The ability of the player to control their character to the extent of being able to determine how and where they move under normal circumstances is far too fundamentally important to the ability to actually play the game to be rolling dice for.

But this discussion is specifically about social systems; and I find that the above applies in particular to such things. It's just far, far too common, imo, for social systems (even the ones that I believe are among the better ones - and maybe I'm just wrong about that) to simply produce results that defy the fiction and setting of the game. Now, personally, I feel that fiction / setting should generally come first, but just in general, across pretty much all of the players / GMs I've encountered, I've seen that this causes problems. They often can be overcome, with a greater or lesser amount of effort, but imo you shouldn't have to be doing that - and it especially should not become seriously disruptive to the game.

Let me give you an example: The PCs have recovered a MacGuffin that is meant to be a gift to an NPC that they are already on good terms with to support his position, since they would like to be able to rely on him in the future. The players* wanted to make the trouble they had gone to in retrieving this item (which amounted to a proxy for social skills - although they where not actually deficient in that regard, just not awesome) and expected that the way to do that was to engage the social system present.

So, a simple roll, with several bonuses, but the players' luck just completely abandoned them. In fact the results where so bad that the PCs relationship with the NPC should be made worse - and the players knew it. Now, here's the thing: I think that, ideally, having made this roll, we ought to have taken the results as ''what happens next'' and no more or less than that. Clearly something had gone wrong here, but the PCs hadn't actually done anything wrong - that was an established ''fact'' of the story at this point.

The PCs had acted politely and appropriately, we had only played the meeting out briefly but there was really nothing that could be pointed to that would have caused any problems. And the players really wanted to insist that the results of the roll define how well they had done - that idea lay behind their entire understanding of the system, and probably gaming in general. It was what let them establish facts about their characters in a way that made sense to them.

I ended up changing some of the facts; the theft of the MacGuffin had been noticed, despite previously establishing that it shouldn't have been, and this caused problems, etc. But it was a kludge and the players knew it and they where not happy with the results. Really, imo, a big part of the problem was that the players made a die roll without really considering if they would be OK if it came out poorly for the PCs. But they made that roll because they felt that they where doing a social thing and the system needed to support that.

And personally (nowadays more so than in the past) I think that having support for social stuff (or whatever) is awesome, but it's not always enough by itself. And the idea / statement that ''you can't do X unless the system supports it'' seems to me to be exactly what leads to this kind of problem.

*As an aside, having been ''burned'' by social systems before I, as GM, tried to argue against actually bringing the system into play here. Ideally I would have been able to figure out some other way to apply the system that would not have had the same possible repercussions, but I couldn't find one at the time. I'd hope that I've gotten better than this, but it really should not have to be such a bother nor should you have to learn from so many mistakes to finally get it right. Had I been a player in this situation I think I would have run the risk of being a ''told you so''.

One last thing: I also feel that if you can't engage the other participants in the game, then engaging the system isn't really going to do much anyway. There are times when you need to be able to say ''Hey, my guy is a farmer.'' or such and the rest of the group should be willing to support that or else to figure out exactly what part of that is going to be worthwhile to deal with in terms of system. Bring it to the table - this is vitally important, you can't hide behind the system on this issue. The whole point of having social skills or whatever for your character is to be able to make an impact on the game with your character. If you are just establishing fiction, then you really ought to be able to just speak up and that should be enough.

horseboy
2011-12-25, 01:29 AM
If something is in the book then it needs accounting for. That is, unless the DM is throwing it out completely. If, for example, he wants to get rid of the profession skill then so be it. If he's not then it needs to be accounted for.
As far as your example goes, that's why multi-dice systems tend to be better *to a point*. That and there are several ways of dealing with it. Like they stole a decoy instead of the real one, or a Freudian slip, or inappropriate flatulence, slipping and calling him "your ladyship." If you need a moment there's nothing wrong with calling a smoke break while you come up with something.

That being said, always remember that you can overwrite any mechanic for the sake of "story". If it was a cinematic scene then no roll was necessary.

kaomera
2011-12-25, 02:30 AM
If something is in the book then it needs accounting for. That is, unless the DM is throwing it out completely. If, for example, he wants to get rid of the profession skill then so be it. If he's not then it needs to be accounted for.
I disagree. If it's brought to the table, then it needs to be accounted for (and that includes anything on your character sheet). The GM shouldn't generally be throwing anything out as an option without good reason, but just because it's an option doesn't mean it needs to be exercised.

And this is one of the reasons that profession, etc. where removed in 4e. As a player the idea is that you can't be sure that a given profession skill will actually factor in any way into the game. Personally I'd rather see it viewed in the light that taking that skill obligates making it important, but 4e would rather preserve the ability of the players to make characters with basically no communication with anyone else required.

As far as your example goes, that's why multi-dice systems tend to be better *to a point*. That and there are several ways of dealing with it. Like they stole a decoy instead of the real one, or a Freudian slip, or inappropriate flatulence, slipping and calling him "your ladyship." If you need a moment there's nothing wrong with calling a smoke break while you come up with something.
Well, this was Shadowrun, although I don't remember exactly what edition (probably 1 or 2). And yes, there where a lot of ways I could have dealt with it, I chose the least offensive one but it still wasn't very much fun. As Infernalbargain brought up, rolling first would have changed things, but I don't really know that doing things that way would have been very satisfying either. The players wanted to be able to play out ''getting the dude his thing'', and the way they played it out did not include any kind of faux pas.

In fact I'd go so far to say that this sort of thing is really very obnoxious. In particular I am definitely opposed to stomping on the facts the player has established about their character just because of a bad die roll. None of these characters could just flat out not handle themselves in a social situation - that's part of how the game got to that point in the first place. Suddenly making them out to be rude or worse making the failure slapstick would have been the equivalent of deciding that their cyberware was suddenly something other than what they had bought and recorded on their character sheet.

In real life everyone has a bad or off day, and stupid things happen for little or no reason sometimes. But an RPG is not real life, and using a bad die roll as an excuse to abuse the players by the proxies of their characters is really no fun, in the end. And I want to be able to reward the players for doing cool things and actually think about the game, without having to ask the dice permission.

That being said, always remember that you can overwrite any mechanic for the sake of "story". If it was a cinematic scene then no roll was necessary.
No roll should have been necessary, imo. However the players saw things differently. They had done something cool and they wanted the system to support it. Which is great as far as it goes, but I don't think that system was really going to handle exactly what they where doing as written. It would have been easy for me to hand-wave things, but the players wanted to roll because that's what they thought the system wanted them to do.

Again, I'd like to think that having had this experience I would catch this issue and more forcefully suggest a work-around before the players had a chance to roll, perhaps lay out exactly what the consequences would be for a failure up front. But I still do not believe that it should have been a real issue in the first place. The problem, to me, was that the players simply thought that the rules and the dice where on their side. I want to say (without having a 100% complete and accurate recollection, mind you - this was 15 years or more ago) that the players may even have felt a bit defensive when I suggested that maybe they not roll. Because players keep getting told that the dice / system is there to support them, instead of being told the truth: that they can support them but only if used responsibly.

NichG
2011-12-25, 02:25 PM
Its true that players will feel annoyed or slighted if they invest character resources into something that never comes up. The problem though is, as with other things in this thread, D&D is being overused as an example.

D&D's combat system and skill system are two very different beasts. In D&D's combat system, stuff you invest in generally gives you new things you can do. You can take a feat to make a certain kind of combat move, or improve the potency of some move you can already do. You can take class levels to get spells, or Sneak Attack, or other such things. In short, when you invest character resources into combat in D&D, what you gain is either versatility (more options) or enhancement of existing options (increased BAB, etc).

The Skill system on the other hand seems to focus more on things where 'you need X to succeed' in most cases. That is to say, a situation comes up and the DM says 'okay, everyone roll Spot and tell me if you beat X'. Or 'Everyone roll Hide and Move Silently against the guards' Spot and Listen'. Or 'Give me a Diplomacy check', 'Give me a Balance check', 'Give me a Swim check', etc.

So what this does is that it creates a situation where the more skills there are (say, by breaking skills into more specific subskills):
- The harder it is to allocate character resources in a way that will come up, since you're trying to guess which 4 of N skills are going to be important.
- The more expensive it is to create a character with the base compentency you feel they should have.
- The more the DM will have to make Skills not essential, due to the chance that no one in the party actually has the one needed.

It's essentially a game of Go Fish. 'Do you have Diplomacy?' 'No, go fish.' In such systems, it is entirely up to the DM to make something important, whereas in something like the combat system of D&D its usually up to the player to make their particular abilities come forward and be significant (Sneak Attack also suffers from Go Fish for this reason, since whether or not it will work at all is mostly dependent on DM choice of monsters).

So I think a lot of this 'does the system need to engage X/if its in the rules it should be prominent/etc' discussion is hinging on the specific flaws of the D&D skill system, where other systems may not share the same flaws.

kaomera
2011-12-25, 05:58 PM
So I think a lot of this 'does the system need to engage X/if its in the rules it should be prominent/etc' discussion is hinging on the specific flaws of the D&D skill system, where other systems may not share the same flaws.
OK, there are some systems where what you're talking about is not an issue. Dunjon would be one, I think? Where if you make a successful roll for something it's automatically important - the example I've heard a lot is that if you make the roll to find a secret door then you've effectively created a secret door in the fiction.

But in most systems (and I am not and have not been specifically talking about D&D - this is a much more general issue) you have to have some way of determining what is and what is not important to the game. And most systems that I've encountered lack a specific mechanism for dealing with this.

I think that ideally there needs to be communication about why a given character does or does not have a given mechanical ability / option. If I say that I want to play ''the face'', then that says something about what I want to see in the game (or at least it should unless I'm very confused, imo). If I then do not take advantage of options within the system that would support this I think it would be reasonable and typical for the GM (if not the other players) to ask why that is the case.

Things get a bit more complicated when a player takes a given option (or options) and does not say why. If a player is making sure their character can address social systems in the game on a mechanical level, then there are several possibilities of what exactly is the thought behind this. The player may want to see social encounters figure prominently in the game (and this is typical), but the player might also be assuming that social encounters will have some impact on the game no matter what, or be playing ''go-fish'' and think that it's a decent guess.

In fact, in the later two examples, you sometimes end up with players taking social abilities so that they can limit the amount they have to engage in social situations in play as players. This is the ''falling and drowning'' problem - no-one is liable to be interested in playing out their characters drowning or falling to their deaths, and so they take options that will seek to prevent this if they think it's a likely outcome of play. (That's really kind of a silly example, but it's one that I've seen thrown around.)

I personally like the idea that if something is on your character sheet, or you otherwise ''bring it to the table'', then that thing should be important, and should be one of the focuses of the game. This is a bit problematic, because usually you end up addressing issues in the game that are not entirely based on the players' character sheets. But in that case I think it's simply a matter of coming at the issue in a different way.

So I actually will bring up D&D here, because I think it could be a good example of how to make this work in a positive manner (there are a number of other systems that would work in the same way). When you look at pre-printed D&D character sheets (especially 4e), pretty much all of the skills are on there. The problem is that your bonus with a skill that you haven't focused any of your character-building resources on is going to be on an entirely different scale from what that you have (particularly at higher levels), and you need a way to address both scales.

You generally already do half of this with skills that everyone is going to be rolling against at the same time. Typically in such cases the standard DCs result in a case where some of the characters have a decent chance to succeed, while others have little or none. When the result is some kind of a bonus (when you aren't simply hosing the characters with lower skills) this is OK. But I think that you need to address the other side of the equation at some points in the game, having challenges that anyone in the group could succeed at, even if it means that some of the more expert characters will auto-succeed. This overall system allows you to deal with the other side of the equation: the choice not to focus on a particular area with your character.

But I don't think things should ever devolve into simply ''go-fish''. The game should be about meaningful choices that the players make, and imo that means informed choices, not just guess-work. And I don't think there is an absolute need to include every skill / power / ability option the PCs might have taken any more than there is a need to make sure that every single monster ever published somehow finds it's way into the game.

horseboy
2011-12-26, 01:37 AM
I disagree. If it's brought to the table, then it needs to be accounted for (and that includes anything on your character sheet). The GM shouldn't generally be throwing anything out as an option without good reason, but just because it's an option doesn't mean it needs to be exercised. That's putting the cart before the horse. Step 1) Create character. Step 2) Play character. GM's saying "Don't worry about diplomacy means you don't spend resources on things not likely to come up.


And this is one of the reasons that profession, etc. where removed in 4e. As a player the idea is that you can't be sure that a given profession skill will actually factor in any way into the game. Personally I'd rather see it viewed in the light that taking that skill obligates making it important, but 4e would rather preserve the ability of the players to make characters with basically no communication with anyone else required. This is one of the reasons I like 4th better than 3rd. (In much the same way I'd rather have my toes stomped than be kicked in the nuts) No system is better than a bad system.
If the player says "I'm the son of a farmer." Then he knows farming, should it ever come up.

I want to say (without having a 100% complete and accurate recollection, mind you - this was 15 years or more ago) that the players may even have felt a bit defensive when I suggested that maybe they not roll. Because players keep getting told that the dice / system is there to support them, instead of being told the truth: that they can support them but only if used responsibly.


Its true that players will feel annoyed or slighted if they invest character resources into something that never comes up. The problem though is, as with other things in this thread, D&D is being overused as an example. D&D is the gaming lingua francas. It's why it gets used as examples.


D&D's combat system and skill system are two very different beasts. In D&D's combat system, stuff you invest in generally gives you new things you can do. You can take a feat to make a certain kind of combat move, or improve the potency of some move you can already do. You can take class levels to get spells, or Sneak Attack, or other such things. In short, when you invest character resources into combat in D&D, what you gain is either versatility (more options) or enhancement of existing options (increased BAB, etc).

The Skill system on the other hand seems to focus more on things where 'you need X to succeed' in most cases. That is to say, a situation comes up and the DM says 'okay, everyone roll Spot and tell me if you beat X'. Or 'Everyone roll Hide and Move Silently against the guards' Spot and Listen'. Or 'Give me a Diplomacy check', 'Give me a Balance check', 'Give me a Swim check', etc. Combat and skills are both d20+/-modifiers+/-skill vs Target Number. Since D&D is about killing things and taking stuff more detail is devoted to killing things and taking stuff.


So what this does is that it creates a situation where the more skills there are (say, by breaking skills into more specific subskills):
- The harder it is to allocate character resources in a way that will come up, since you're trying to guess which 4 of N skills are going to be important.
- The more expensive it is to create a character with the base compentency you feel they should have.
- The more the DM will have to make Skills not essential, due to the chance that no one in the party actually has the one needed.

It's essentially a game of Go Fish. 'Do you have Diplomacy?' 'No, go fish.' In such systems, it is entirely up to the DM to make something important, whereas in something like the combat system of D&D its usually up to the player to make their particular abilities come forward and be significant (Sneak Attack also suffers from Go Fish for this reason, since whether or not it will work at all is mostly dependent on DM choice of monsters).

So I think a lot of this 'does the system need to engage X/if its in the rules it should be prominent/etc' discussion is hinging on the specific flaws of the D&D skill system, where other systems may not share the same flaws.
In a good system a GM doesn't have to worry about what to make important or not. A GM should focus on what's going on in the rest of the world. It's up to the players to come up with a plan, using the skills their characters have. Because the minute you start thinking for your players is the minute they'll miss the obvious and go off into left field with a hair brained idea.
I just leveled up my Rolemaster character. I spent 42 development points, not worrying if ride: dolphin will ever come up again. Why? Because I have 42 development points, not 2-8. The more character resources you have the more "margin for error" and more "zany, characterful" skill choices you can have. Besides, we're on a tropical island and I can turn my staff into any animal I want. I can make sure that skill comes up again. :smallwink:

NichG
2011-12-26, 04:40 AM
D&D is the gaming lingua francas. It's why it gets used as examples.
Combat and skills are both d20+/-modifiers+/-skill vs Target Number. Since D&D is about killing things and taking stuff more detail is devoted to killing things and taking stuff.


D&D combat has never been about d20 +/- modifiers +/- skill vs Target Number since Wizard became a class. The DM doesn't poll the table asking for their 'Use Tactics' rolls or 'Optimize Spell Combination' rolls.


Besides, we're on a tropical island and I can turn my staff into any animal I want. I can make sure that skill comes up again. :smallwink:

This is sort of my point. When you as a player can make something come up, that leads to one type of system (one I prefer). When on the other hand it is the DM's responsibility to make things on your sheet come up (or alternately, if the players are essentially playing a guessing game to figure out what the DM will ask for) thats a distinct type of system. D&D combat is the first (if you've got a good grapple check you can force it to come up by, well, attempting a grapple). D&D skills are the second (if you have an epic Spot check it doesn't matter if there's nothing trying to hide from you).

kaomera
2011-12-26, 08:46 AM
That's putting the cart before the horse. Step 1) Create character. Step 2) Play character. GM's saying "Don't worry about diplomacy means you don't spend resources on things not likely to come up.
What you are suggesting is that character creation has no bearing on play, and if that was the case then none of this would be an issue. When you create your character it has a big impact on the game - you're designing one of the most important pieces of the game world. The GM and/or the other players can and should help add direct to the process, but collaboration certainly doesn't make it less significant as part of the game. So you're already playing your character when you create him or her, it's not a separate step.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-26, 11:31 AM
System-wise, the BRP percentile system that CoC makes use of is probably at least as good as any other system for handling a Gardens and Gerberas game. It's the fiction and the setting material that tend to steer a CoC game away from planting cycles and towards being driven mad by elder horrors. Replace the creatures and lore in CoC with references on horticulture and such, and you're there.

Only if you want encounters with large old trees to possibly drive you mad. There's nothing wrong with the d100 system in general, but as written up for CoC, it's rather narrowly focused on one kind of game. It does that kind of game rather well, but it's not so hot at games well outside of it's focus area. This is pretty common in general. Paranoia is another system that illustrates this well. It's fantastic for creating a very specific type of free-wheeling, backstabbing, humorously paranoid game, but using the system to run, say, your standard D&D game would require enough modifications that you're basically brewing up a new game.

It is a *lot* easier to grab a game that's focused on the things you like for a starting point than it is to start with a game focused on wildly different things. I feel like D&D is the most commonly abused system for this since many people literally haven't played other things and are unaware of all the options.

horseboy
2011-12-26, 02:49 PM
D&D combat has never been about d20 +/- modifiers +/- skill vs Target Number since Wizard became a class. The DM doesn't poll the table asking for their 'Use Tactics' rolls or 'Optimize Spell Combination' rolls. BAB and Saves are skills the system automatically advances for you. Granted magic makes use of an "Active defense" instead of an "Active Offense" (Discounting SR), but that's the only difference.



This is sort of my point. When you as a player can make something come up, that leads to one type of system (one I prefer). When on the other hand it is the DM's responsibility to make things on your sheet come up (or alternately, if the players are essentially playing a guessing game to figure out what the DM will ask for) thats a distinct type of system. D&D combat is the first (if you've got a good grapple check you can force it to come up by, well, attempting a grapple). D&D skills are the second (if you have an epic Spot check it doesn't matter if there's nothing trying to hide from you).
Unless you're attacking the darkness you can only grapple when there's something to grapple. Part of this problem is the railroading nature of D&D, and part of it is the limited scope of the skill assortment.

What you are suggesting is that character creation has no bearing on play, and if that was the case then none of this would be an issue. When you create your character it has a big impact on the game - you're designing one of the most important pieces of the game world. The GM and/or the other players can and should help add direct to the process, but collaboration certainly doesn't make it less significant as part of the game. So you're already playing your character when you create him or her, it's not a separate step.That doesn't make sense. It's like claiming the engineer running a car though a wind tunnel exercise is involved in my driving it now. No, he facilitated my running to Home Depot.

NichG
2011-12-26, 06:17 PM
BAB and Saves are skills the system automatically advances for you. Granted magic makes use of an "Active defense" instead of an "Active Offense" (Discounting SR), but that's the only difference.

Unless you're attacking the darkness you can only grapple when there's something to grapple. Part of this problem is the railroading nature of D&D, and part of it is the limited scope of the skill assortment.

Since we're talking about the combat system, I don't think its too much a stretch to consider that combat is occurring when we're talking about this (just like in discussing social systems, we don't consider it a stretch to think that maybe someone might be there to talk to).

Active elements of D&D combat:
- Spellcasting: The choice of what spell to cast is PC-driven not DM-driven.
- Combat maneuvers: Grapple, Disarm, Sunder, Trip, Charge, and to a lesser extent AoOs. These are all things the PC actively decides to do and can build for.
- Tome of Battle maneuvers: See spellcasting
- Many many augment-style class features. This is to a lesser extent, but there are tons of classes that have abilities that are actively pushed by the PC. For instance, Factotum spending of their point pool to do all sorts of things, abilities that swap stats around, abilities that buff other PCs like Bardic song, etc.
- Movement. Choose where to go, how to move, etc. The ability to teleport is an active ability.
- Target selection. This is actually a somewhat non-trivial active element.

It's all these active elements that make the system complex and compelling. The fact that BAB is a number that is added to a d20 roll when you try to hit something is really not the core of the system, its a footnote. A character built for D&D combat purely on the idea of 'I'll have a large BAB and large saves' will be very underwhelming and tends to be somewhat dull.

So for a skill system or social system to actually make the mechanics worthwhile rather than just an annoying little buzzing that says 'no you can't succeed because you didn't think to invest the right combination of character points', they need to have this sort of active complexity.

I agree strongly with what was said earlier in the thread though: the combat system is complex because we ask it to simulate something that is hard to simulate for us as humans. On the other hand, one can obtain infinitely more social interaction complexity by allowing humans to basically be humans and 'simulate' it with genuine reaction rather than trying to codify the interactions with rules. Turning social interaction into combat is a surefire way to reduce the possible complexity of things. Humans are instinctively far better at simulating themselves than any set of codified rules we as a species have ever been able to come up with.

kaomera
2011-12-26, 07:54 PM
It is a *lot* easier to grab a game that's focused on the things you like for a starting point than it is to start with a game focused on wildly different things. I feel like D&D is the most commonly abused system for this since many people literally haven't played other things and are unaware of all the options.
I potentially disagree with how emphatically you seem to be making this point, but what you are saying is generally sound. What I'm really saying is that communication is key, and system support of a given topic is an imperfect way to communicate what you expect the game to be about. It can work, but to generally assume that it will seems like a poor choice to me. CoC is, imo, an example of doing this right as there's tons of lore which points you in the right direction. However, even then, I've run into a lot of different ways to approach the game, and they're often pretty incompatible.

As a particular example, I was excited to get into a CoC game with some friends at one point, only to find that they were playing it more like Scooby Do... And they knew this, and it was a conscious decision on their part, they just didn't actually stop to think that it might be appropriate to tell me this before I started playing. My expectations for the game were not met, and it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I enjoyed being able to get together with them and all, I just probably would have had more fun if we were just hanging out and not trying to play a game that really didn't feel like CoC to me.

Now, arguably, they were just playing the game ''wrong'', but to me the more important issue was that we were all expecting that saying ''We're playing Call of Cthulhu'' would give me all the information I needed to figure out what was going on. And the thing is you're supposed to take an RPG and find your own use for it, to an extent. If you were always just playing the exact game the designers tested (same characters, same scenario, same decisions) that would be boring (or, at least, a movie or book would do that better, usually).

What I'm saying, in relation to this thread, is that having a good mechanical social system does not guarantee good (or even any) social play, and not having one does not disallow social play (or even good social play). Players will do with the system what they are going to do with it; and from a design standpoint I can totally understand that you simply cannot even try to address every possible permutation of that in a game. But I also don't think that simply pretending that it's not true is a great idea, either.

That doesn't make sense. It's like claiming the engineer running a car though a wind tunnel exercise is involved in my driving it now. No, he facilitated my running to Home Depot.
I'm sorry, but I really don't understand where this analogy is coming from. You create the character that you will play, for your own personal use. It's not a mass-produced item, and you don't have hundreds (or more) total strangers working on it (and you probably shouldn't be doing it in a wind tunnel).

What I'm saying is that if you personally designed and built a one-off car for your own personal use, then you are pretty much responsible for it's performance characteristics (if we want to continue with this analogy we'd have to assume that you would probably be using a certain number of per-fabricated sub-assemblies from a limited stockpile, so you wouldn't actually have complete control over the results). If you install a three-speed transmission with no reverse gear, then that was your choice. Does that make more sense?

Now, with relation to RPGs: because we aren't dealing with reality we have some room to make things less worse, and I think it's reasonable and responsible to do so. You can create your character in a vacuum, but I personally don't find that's the best way to go about it. When you are making choices that are supposed to be meaningful to the game, you should ought to be able to make an informed decision as to which way you want to go. Meaningful, informed choices are basically what the game should be about - anything else is really just screwing around.

Now, one thing I thought about while I was at work today: I am neglecting character creation after the start of the game. You brought up a great example of this with your Rolemaster character. Now, personally, I don't really like most leveling systems much; I prefer to be able to make a completed character and then get to play that character for a significant amount of time without re-writing the character's capabilities much or at all. However, the leveling process does offer the opportunity to make much more informed decisions about how the character is developed, assuming that you have significant (on a reasonable level) resources available of course. You actually know what has been going on in the game and can make a good guess at what's to come. I still think this is more useful when you communicate with everyone as to exactly what changes you are making and why, but regardless of that it does go a decent way towards mitigating the need to really have a ''well aimed'' character from the word ''go''.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-27, 02:43 PM
I potentially disagree with how emphatically you seem to be making this point, but what you are saying is generally sound. What I'm really saying is that communication is key, and system support of a given topic is an imperfect way to communicate what you expect the game to be about. It can work, but to generally assume that it will seems like a poor choice to me. CoC is, imo, an example of doing this right as there's tons of lore which points you in the right direction. However, even then, I've run into a lot of different ways to approach the game, and they're often pretty incompatible.

As a particular example, I was excited to get into a CoC game with some friends at one point, only to find that they were playing it more like Scooby Do... And they knew this, and it was a conscious decision on their part, they just didn't actually stop to think that it might be appropriate to tell me this before I started playing. My expectations for the game were not met, and it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I enjoyed being able to get together with them and all, I just probably would have had more fun if we were just hanging out and not trying to play a game that really didn't feel like CoC to me.

Right. If they invited you to a game of Toon, then your expectations would likely be more in line with what they're doing. In addition, the rules would probably support their wacky hijinks than CoC's does. I mean, sure, you can always change or ignore rules to fit, but it's just a matter of what the easiest thing is. Usually, picking a system to match the type of game you're going to play just makes life easier in general.

There's nothing at all wrong with subverting genre expectations to a certain degree...but the more changes to the system you have, the harder it gets to catch a new person up. Many, many tables don't actually write all their house rules down, which frequently leads to them taking for granted something a new player doesn't actually know.


What I'm saying, in relation to this thread, is that having a good mechanical social system does not guarantee good (or even any) social play, and not having one does not disallow social play (or even good social play).

Those are both absolute statements, and, like all absolute statements, probably have some exceptions somewhere, and thus, end up being fairly useless.

It's more useful to ask "Does a good mechanical social system encourage good social play?" I'd have to answer yes to that, of course.

horseboy
2011-12-27, 03:22 PM
Since we're talking about the combat system, I don't think its too much a stretch to consider that combat is occurring when we're talking about this (just like in discussing social systems, we don't consider it a stretch to think that maybe someone might be there to talk to).

Active elements of D&D combat: Wow, you really missed it. "Active offense" is when you pick up a dice and roll.
"Passive Offense" is when you don't pick up a dice, but just choose an option.
"Active Defense" is when you pick up a dice and roll to protect yourself.
"Passive Defense" is when you pick a defense option and don't roll.
Melee is Active offense, and passive defense.
Magic is Passive offense and Active defense.
Other than that it's what your rolling the d20 to do.



So for a skill system or social system to actually make the mechanics worthwhile rather than just an annoying little buzzing that says 'no you can't succeed because you didn't think to invest the right combination of character points', they need to have this sort of active complexity. The core problem with D&D's skills is that it's a tacked on afterthought three editions too late. Magic makes most of those choices obsolete since, for two editions that's how things were fixed. If you got rid of most of the utility spells, expand the skills and augment the character resources available then you'd have that level of active, viable choices.


I agree strongly with what was said earlier in the thread though: the combat system is complex because we ask it to simulate something that is hard to simulate for us as humans. On the other hand, one can obtain infinitely more social interaction complexity by allowing humans to basically be humans and 'simulate' it with genuine reaction rather than trying to codify the interactions with rules. Turning social interaction into combat is a surefire way to reduce the possible complexity of things. Humans are instinctively far better at simulating themselves than any set of codified rules we as a species have ever been able to come up with.Tell that to sociologists and add agencies.


As a particular example, I was excited to get into a CoC game with some friends at one point, only to find that they were playing it more like Scooby Do... And they knew this, and it was a conscious decision on their part, they just didn't actually stop to think that it might be appropriate to tell me this before I started playing. My expectations for the game were not met, and it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I enjoyed being able to get together with them and all, I just probably would have had more fun if we were just hanging out and not trying to play a game that really didn't feel like CoC to me. Scooby Do in that they were wondering around chasing people in masks through the old amusement park or Scooby Do in that they're wondering through an old amusement park that the hall of mirrors sends random people in between dimensions to be devoured by eldrich abominations? Cause the first one isn't particularly CoC, the second is a "low key" CoC that's actually much closer to the source material.

What I'm saying, in relation to this thread, is that having a good mechanical social system does not guarantee good (or even any) social play, and not having one does not disallow social play (or even good social play). There are no guarantees in life. What good rules do is provide a common ground between multiple people. If you want to do X, you know how X is going to be done, not having to precognitivly guess what the GM may or may not feel like handling it that way that day.

Now, with relation to RPGs: because we aren't dealing with reality we have some room to make things less worse, and I think it's reasonable and responsible to do so. You can create your character in a vacuum, but I personally don't find that's the best way to go about it. When you are making choices that are supposed to be meaningful to the game, you should ought to be able to make an informed decision as to which way you want to go. Meaningful, informed choices are basically what the game should be about - anything else is really just screwing around. It depends on how you want to define "Informed" I might tell the group, "I wanna play a 1/2 elf archaeologist." That's just to stake a claim on a specialty for the group. The DM can you "Neat," or "This is going to be more D&D 'killing and taking'. That might not work for this one." Unless one of the other players is going to try playing my brother or something then everything else about my character is going to be out of character information during character creation.

kaomera
2011-12-27, 10:06 PM
Scooby Do in that they were wondering around chasing people in masks through the old amusement park or Scooby Do in that they're wondering through an old amusement park that the hall of mirrors sends random people in between dimensions to be devoured by eldrich abominations? Cause the first one isn't particularly CoC, the second is a "low key" CoC that's actually much closer to the source material.
It was not ''low key'', that's for sure. I'd say it was something like pulpy 1920s BRP, but almost painfully cheesy. I'd almost say it was what a Republic serial based loosely on Lovecraft would have been like, but I think Republic would have been more subtle about it...

I was only there for one session - I spent the first part making a character, but stopped when it became clear that I was making the wrong character for this game. What had tipped me off was that the investigators where involved in a big car chase with literally a dozen cars full of Chinese thugs, and they seemed to literally be in no danger - when something went wrong for them the Keeper just narrated some stunt to get them out of trouble. I dubbed it ''Scooby-Thulhu'' after they literally ripped a rubber mask off of a cultist, and they enthusiastically agreed with me. I also don't think they where actually using the rules for hit points or sanity in any way (even their car seemed indestructible, as no record whatsoever was being kept to account for any kind of damage to the PCs whatsoever). In retrospect I probably should have given it a chance, but I was rather jarred by the difference from my expectations.

There are no guarantees in life. What good rules do is provide a common ground between multiple people. If you want to do X, you know how X is going to be done, not having to precognitivly guess what the GM may or may not feel like handling it that way that day.
I agree that good rules are a helpful tool for communication. However, I dislike the statement that ''If you want to do X, you know how X is going to be done'', personally. My experience is that while it ought to work that way it does not always - as you say: ''There are no guarantees in life''. But the problem that I have with that statement is not that it's not 100% true - it's generally true enough, and I think that most people ought to be able to understand the potential problems that may come up, but in practice I see players who simply believe that everything in the game is going to work exactly how they expect it to if they just follow the rules.

Take my Shadowrun example for instance. The players felt that the way to ensure that their decisions had value in the game was to roll the dice. But, there was nothing really at stake, and the ''currency'' of a game is more the facts of the fiction (wow, that's an awkward phrase...:smallconfused:) than the die rolls. What they really wanted to do was trade the fact that they had the MacGuffin for the fact that they had given it to that dude. (So: more pure strategy than gambling.) I think that at some point the designers should have realized that the ''I roll the dice'' social ritual is more potent than the ''I write this own in my notes'' ritual and that, therefore, they really did not need to encourage players to grab the dice. In fact I think it would be better to try and make simple resource trades seem more significant. (Possibly by co-opting the die-rolling? I suppose we could have found something to roll for, perhaps some kind of rating of the significance of the fact in question?)

But, idk, I'm not convinced I am / would be a great game designer. I know what I like and what I want (to an extent, anyway), but I'm not always the best at making it happen.

It depends on how you want to define "Informed" I might tell the group, "I wanna play a 1/2 elf archaeologist." That's just to stake a claim on a specialty for the group. The DM can you "Neat," or "This is going to be more D&D 'killing and taking'. That might not work for this one." Unless one of the other players is going to try playing my brother or something then everything else about my character is going to be out of character information during character creation.
I think this is just a difference of personal opinion. I have run into a lot of problems arising from players making information that the GM or the other players really needed to actually play the game well ''privileged'' because it was ooc. It can be a sticky issue, but I'd rather err on the side of giving a player information their character would not have, and even allowing the player to act on that information, rather than ruin the fun of the game.

Personally, as a GM if you tell me you want to play an archaeologist, then that tells me something about the kinds of adventures I should include in the game. It tells me that you are interested in having your character explore ruins and unearth / puzzle out ancient mysteries. And that's cool, because I want you to be interested in the game. Likewise I feel that if I make that statement as a player the GM should either take it into consideration or else tell me it's inappropriate. And if another player makes that statement it should tell me something about what kinds of adventures we are going to go on, and I think that I would be well served to come up with a character idea that works well with that.

I think that when the whole group collaborates in this way in coming up with ''what this game is about'' the results are generally a lot more awesome than they otherwise would be, and I think that RPGs should be awesome.

NichG
2011-12-28, 12:05 AM
The core problem with D&D's skills is that it's a tacked on afterthought three editions too late. Magic makes most of those choices obsolete since, for two editions that's how things were fixed. If you got rid of most of the utility spells, expand the skills and augment the character resources available then you'd have that level of active, viable choices.


More skills makes things worse, not better. It means more chances to 'guess wrong' and pick something that can't come up. You have to not only change the allocation but fundamentally how skills work/what they do. Skill tricks are a good example of an active thing arising from the skill system. Autohypnosis is another example of a good active skill: If you have this, then you can memorize something, give yourself DR, etc, etc. If UMD had 'cause magic stuff to go on the fritz' applications, that'd be nice and active. Let Spellcraft be used to figure out and apply alterations to existing spell effects (so you can turn a Forbiddance into a Guards and Wards and mess up the people in the fort), etc, etc...



Tell that to sociologists and add agencies.


Both use people rather than (or at least in addition to) computers to do their work, because people are just better at it. I've yet to see anyone come out with software that can hold a reasonable conversation, figure out people's emotional response to an image/sound/section of text, or anything even approaching that level of prediction. Humans can do all of that with minimal or no training.

horseboy
2011-12-28, 04:26 PM
I dubbed it ''Scooby-Thulhu'' after they literally ripped a rubber mask off of a cultist, and they enthusiastically agreed with me. I also don't think they where actually using the rules for hit points or sanity in any way (even their car seemed indestructible, as no record whatsoever was being kept to account for any kind of damage to the PCs whatsoever). In retrospect I probably should have given it a chance, but I was rather jarred by the difference from my expectations. LOL. But yeah, rules don't work when you don't use them.


I agree that good rules are a helpful tool for communication. However, I dislike the statement that ''If you want to do X, you know how X is going to be done'', personally. If there's rules for something then you know how that thing is going to be handled, unless the GM says otherwise. The GM needs to say otherwise so players don't have false expectations.


Take my Shadowrun example for instance. The players felt that the way to ensure that their decisions had value in the game was to roll the dice. But, there was nothing really at stake, and the ''currency'' of a game is more the facts of the fiction (wow, that's an awkward phrase...:smallconfused:) than the die rolls. What they really wanted to do was trade the fact that they had the MacGuffin for the fact that they had given it to that dude. (So: more pure strategy than gambling.) I think that at some point the designers should have realized that the ''I roll the dice'' social ritual is more potent than the ''I write this own in my notes'' ritual and that, therefore, they really did not need to encourage players to grab the dice. In fact I think it would be better to try and make simple resource trades seem more significant. (Possibly by co-opting the die-rolling? I suppose we could have found something to roll for, perhaps some kind of rating of the significance of the fact in question?)
Negotiation
Negotiation Skill governs any interactions in which each side seeks to come out ahead, either through careful and deliberate bartering or through fast talk. It uses the adversary's Willpower Rating as a target number.
Concentrations: Bargain, Bribe, Fast Talk Unless they were trying to renegotiate their contract by holding back the McGuffin, then no roll was necessary.



Personally, as a GM if you tell me you want to play an archaeologist, then that tells me something about the kinds of adventures I should include in the game. It tells me that you are interested in having your character explore ruins and unearth / puzzle out ancient mysteries. And that's cool, because I want you to be interested in the game. Likewise I feel that if I make that statement as a player the GM should either take it into consideration or else tell me it's inappropriate. And if another player makes that statement it should tell me something about what kinds of adventures we are going to go on, and I think that I would be well served to come up with a character idea that works well with that. It certainly explains what I'm doing in a dangerous, trap and monster filled ruin better than "I'm a dangerous hobo." :smallamused:

More skills makes things worse, not better. It means more chances to 'guess wrong' and pick something that can't come up. You have to not only change the allocation but fundamentally how skills work/what they do. Skill tricks are a good example of an active thing arising from the skill system. Autohypnosis is another example of a good active skill: If you have this, then you can memorize something, give yourself DR, etc, etc. If UMD had 'cause magic stuff to go on the fritz' applications, that'd be nice and active. Let Spellcraft be used to figure out and apply alterations to existing spell effects (so you can turn a Forbiddance into a Guards and Wards and mess up the people in the fort), etc, etc... If you take craft: ceramics, you can complain that you "guessed wrong" or you can choose to use it to, oh, make duplicates of the McGuffin to deliver to both sides wanting it, get paid from both of them and keep the awesome, world shattering power for yourself. The only skills that aren't going to come up are the ones you choose not to bring up.

NichG
2011-12-28, 06:31 PM
If you take craft: ceramics, you can complain that you "guessed wrong" or you can choose to use it to, oh, make duplicates of the McGuffin to deliver to both sides wanting it, get paid from both of them and keep the awesome, world shattering power for yourself. The only skills that aren't going to come up are the ones you choose not to bring up.

Alas, it was made of carved gemstone. Or metal. Or wood. Or wax. Or epoxy. Or anything that isn't a ceramic.

If instead of having to take Craft: Ceramics I could just take, say, 'Forgery', then I could still use my skill actively in the situation. But if I have to guess the material, its more chances that I just guessed wrong. Enough choices, and the chance that I guess right goes to zero.

kaomera
2011-12-28, 11:02 PM
LOL. But yeah, rules don't work when you don't use them.
I don't think, in this case, that the rules had much chance of ''working'' even if they where applied. I don't think there was any specific conscious decidion to set up the game this way, in fact I think that usually this sort of hack comes about organically. But someone decided that it would be cool if the PCs didn't die and/or go insane so much, and a group consensus of how to handle this was reached. That kind of decision-making makes it much harder to get new players into the game, but it's a trade-off. It also certainly creates a better game for the players actually involved in the decision (at least when it's a good decision that actually achieves the desired end) than any off-the-shelf system.

If there's rules for something then you know how that thing is going to be handled, unless the GM says otherwise. The GM needs to say otherwise so players don't have false expectations.
That may be true of certain very basic rules, but in general any rule that is built on the assumption that it will just magically be applied correctly is a bad rule. Players do not need the GM to create false impressions; GMs certainly aren't immune to this themselves, but players can and do create false impressions all by themselves.

Unless they were trying to renegotiate their contract by holding back the McGuffin, then no roll was necessary.
To the players, a roll was necessary, because the system was telling them that if they did not roll then they had no other recourse to change the fiction. And this was definitely an ''interaction in which each side seeks to come out ahead'' - the PCs wanted to come out ahead by giving the MacGuffin to that dude, and that dude wanted to come out ahead by getting the MacGuffin. Both sides wanted the same thing, so there was no reason for them to be in opposition, but that's not handled by those rules. Common sense could have and should have prevailed, but unfortunately the rules won out.

If you take craft: ceramics, you can complain that you "guessed wrong" or you can choose to use it to, oh, make duplicates of the McGuffin to deliver to both sides wanting it, get paid from both of them and keep the awesome, world shattering power for yourself. The only skills that aren't going to come up are the ones you choose not to bring up.
Definitely, the GM is not the only one who decides what happens in the game. As a matter of fact, if the players and the GM communicate with each other about what they want to do in the game the end results are even better.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-29, 08:52 AM
To the players, a roll was necessary, because the system was telling them that if they did not roll then they had no other recourse to change the fiction. And this was definitely an ''interaction in which each side seeks to come out ahead'' - the PCs wanted to come out ahead by giving the MacGuffin to that dude, and that dude wanted to come out ahead by getting the MacGuffin. Both sides wanted the same thing, so there was no reason for them to be in opposition, but that's not handled by those rules. Common sense could have and should have prevailed, but unfortunately the rules won out.

Sometimes such a scenario goes poorly in real life or fiction as well. Not nearly as often, granted, but a spectacular failure there could easily be spun into a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, etc that add complications to things in the future.

horseboy
2011-12-29, 02:05 PM
Alas, it was made of carved gemstone. Or metal. Or wood. Or wax. Or epoxy. Or anything that isn't a ceramic.

If instead of having to take Craft: Ceramics I could just take, say, 'Forgery', then I could still use my skill actively in the situation. But if I have to guess the material, its more chances that I just guessed wrong. Enough choices, and the chance that I guess right goes to zero.
It doesn't have to be MADE out of ceramic, it just has to look like it's made of whatever the original is made out of. Gemstones, metal, epoxy are wax would be easily replicated. Wood would be slightly harder because of the detail needed in the wood grain.
More choices are better because it gives you more things you can be mechanically competent at.

NichG
2011-12-29, 02:26 PM
It doesn't have to be MADE out of ceramic, it just has to look like it's made of whatever the original is made out of. Gemstones, metal, epoxy are wax would be easily replicated. Wood would be slightly harder because of the detail needed in the wood grain.
More choices are better because it gives you more things you can be mechanically competent at.

And now we come to it, because I've never seen any system where there are explicit rules for using Craft: X to emulate an object of type Y (or forge an object at all). So you might be able to make the world's best reproduction Ming vase, but when it comes to paintings or crowns or whittled dogs or whatever you can't do anything. Mechanically, taking Craft: X gives you skill at exactly one thing - making objects of type X. Pushing that to cover cases where you needed Y is going outside the explicit rules into the land of 'well it makes sense that...' which is exactly what you've been arguing against. It's literally not using the rules that are right there - the ones that say, if you want to make a carved gemstone the skill to use is Craft: Gemstones.

I realize this is being somewhat pedantic, but its kind of my point. Massive massive skill lists covering everything usually means that the rules become much more strict on what can be used for what, in order to preserve a mechanical distinction between the guy who took 100 points of Craft: Ceramic and the guy who took 100 points of Craft: Jewelry. You wouldn't want to make that mechanical choice moot by letting them do eachother's work, which means that basically you're going to run into a lot of situations where you have this neat idea but the rules get in the way because they say 'no, thats reserved for the guy who took this slightly different skill'.

Edit: To be specific as to my point: fewer but more open-ended skills engage player creativity more than many carefully segmented skills, as they allow for clever player ideas to not be accidentally forbidden by a rule somewhere. Too few rules and the player might feel adrift (too many options, no indication of what could or couldn't work) but too many and they'll be stifled.

MukkTB
2011-12-29, 06:23 PM
If it was possible to easily set up a rules system for how conversation went, and construct a framework for it's use, we would have AIs that could pass the Turing test with flying colors. Instead we have cleverbot. I would much rather have a vague ''how well did I do? skill'' than complicated rules that don't even simulate real conversation.

kaomera
2011-12-29, 09:38 PM
Sometimes such a scenario goes poorly in real life or fiction as well. Not nearly as often, granted, but a spectacular failure there could easily be spun into a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, etc that add complications to things in the future.
I get what you're saying, the problem is that there was no actual recognition that making this die-roll was putting the fiction or really anything at stake, until after it had already been made. I could have just annulled the roll altogether, but at the time that seemed like an even worse solution. No matter what happened it was not going to be a satisfying result.

I do not believe this was the fault of the system. I screwed up, as GM, in not recognizing the problem before the roll was made and insisting on handling the situation without a roll. And the players screwed up by insisting on a die roll, but they had what they thought were good reasons.

Pretty much all of the advice on being a better player that is out there is or boils down to: ''know the system, and then you'll know how things are done''. Ideally this does not occlude the fact that the fiction and the players' decisions are also very important to the game (equally important, idk, but I'm not prepared to point at any one of them as the most important). Unfortunately for most players ''know the system'' becomes everything they expect to have to know or think about in the game.

It works, much of the time, because these three things overlap to a great degree. And I don't think that priming players to be ready / able to think about the fiction and/or their decisions would be that likely to actually reduce the number of issues that crop up in RPGS. But I do think that it would definitely make those issues easier to deal with.

If it was possible to easily set up a rules system for how conversation went, and construct a framework for it's use, we would have AIs that could pass the Turing test with flying colors. Instead we have cleverbot. I would much rather have a vague ''how well did I do? skill'' than complicated rules that don't even simulate real conversation.
There's a definite point of diminishing returns when it comes to system design / writing. I don't expect and don't think it's fair to expect the system to handle everything. But I think that just makes going to the system first every time anything comes up in the game an even worse idea.

Actually: this tends to be a big issue with social stuff, but not with combat. Combat in most traditional-design RPGs tends to be a very big ''thing'' in the system. And that works, I think, in large part because of how gamers in general think about it. The issues tend to be more obvious, and the results more straightforward, but perhaps even more important I think that players are in general more forgiving of combat systems, albeit in an odd way.

What I've seen is that players are, basically, willing to assume that many issues in most combat systems don't exist. Many very abstract system elements are seen as being very representational or even realistic, even when they really don't make much sense in that light. Obviously various players are going to have differing limits of verisimilitude, etc. But I've noticed that, for example, I can rattle off any number of arguments as to why hit points can't possibly map directly to wounds (among other issues) and yet it's very easy for me to slip into that mode when playing D&D.

Basically the issues do not come up in play because I've internalized the quirks of the system to the point that I'm not really noticing any dissonance between the system and the fiction. At the same time, I'm not 100% satisfied with the amount / quality of description / fiction in most fights I play through - I seem to get too sucked into the mechanics. But I'm not sure if that's really related or not, because it seems to happen in every system I play.

horseboy
2011-12-29, 10:23 PM
And now we come to it, because I've never seen any system where there are explicit rules for using Craft: X to emulate an object of type Y (or forge an object at all). So you might be able to make the world's best reproduction Ming vase, but when it comes to paintings or crowns or whittled dogs or whatever you can't do anything. Mechanically, taking Craft: X gives you skill at exactly one thing - making objects of type X. Pushing that to cover cases where you needed Y is going outside the explicit rules into the land of 'well it makes sense that...' which is exactly what you've been arguing against. It's literally not using the rules that are right there - the ones that say, if you want to make a carved gemstone the skill to use is Craft: Gemstones.
No, I'm talking about using your Craft: Ceramics to make a piece of ceramic that looks like a gemstone.

DigoDragon
2011-12-29, 10:40 PM
I always resolved social conflict with a few minutes of talking, followed by a diplomacy, bluff or intimidate check, as appropriate and extensively modified by what was said.

Pretty much this is what I do. Modifiers will depend on how in-character the player is with their RPing, but otherwise, simple is best.

NichG
2011-12-30, 02:54 PM
No, I'm talking about using your Craft: Ceramics to make a piece of ceramic that looks like a gemstone.

So what do you do when you say 'I do this' and the DM tells you 'no, the rules for that skill doesn't say it does that, you need Forgery'?

horseboy
2011-12-30, 04:06 PM
So what do you do when you say 'I do this' and the DM tells you 'no, the rules for that skill doesn't say it does that, you need Forgery'?

I point to a "gem" I made out of polyresin and ink on the mini. Then I mention that I should be getting a circumstance bonus for actually having the thing that I can make a mold out of it so it looks EXACTLY like it.