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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    So, I've been having something of a "crisis of faith" in my "gaming religion". It all started with me noticing an inconsistency in my reasoning regarding map vs territory. From there, it spread to "entitlement" (specifically, who is entitled to make the game less fun for others). And, while I was trying to get my thoughts in order on that one, thinking that it might make a good thread, I ran into a third installment that is going "straight to video": social combat.

    But before I get into it, I want to talk about HP.

    Some people complain that HP aren't realistic, that they don't match reality. This, of course, is a silly complaint for any game that isn't supposedly taking place *in* this reality. The key part here, though, is my response: "if the game is 'like this reality, unless stated otherwise', why can't people accept HP as a 'stated otherwise' change?"

    And that's what got me thinking.

    I hate all "role-playing" rules I've ever read. Because they all encourage bad role-playing. They don't map to actual human behavior and motivation.

    But… so what? What if any game with social rules is just like HP, it's an explicitly stated difference between the alien inhabitants of that world and this one? Shouldn't I accept that the rules are clear, and the beings we're role-playing aren't remotely human in psychology and temperament?

    If the rules of, say, Exalted, allow this set of exchanges:
    Joe: Buy my noodles!
    Jon: No!
    Joe: They're the best in town, buy them!
    Jon: I don't want noodles!
    Joe: You'll change your mind after you try, now buy. My. Noodles!
    Jon: Sigh... okay.

    But, since each of these "buy my noodles" attacks is a self-contained thing, and since there's no effect as long as the guy resists by burning WP, it may as well go like this:

    Joe: Buy my noodles!
    Jon: No!
    Joe: They're the best in town, buy them!
    Jon: I don't want noodles!
    Joe: Okay, then, maybe you'd like to sell your wife into slavery instead?
    Jon: Yeah, guess I can do that...
    … and everyone is mechanically incentivized to initiate combat the moment someone opens their mouth, shouldn't we just accept that that's how reality works in those systems, and roleplay our characters and the world accordingly?

    Have I been wrong all this time, accusing "role-playing" mechanics for not matching reality when, like HP, I should have been accepting them as a statement of how their reality diverges from our own?

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Just to be clear, when you're talking about "role-playing rules" are you specifically talking about social combat and other versions of "forcing another character to do/think what you want"? (It might be stating the obvious considering the context, but since that's not how I would use the term role-playing rules, I figured I'd better ask).

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    Just to be clear, when you're talking about "role-playing rules" are you specifically talking about social combat and other versions of "forcing another character to do/think what you want"? (It might be stating the obvious considering the context, but since that's not how I would use the term role-playing rules, I figured I'd better ask).
    Well… perhaps it's a trick question?

    The term "role-playing rules" is… used differently by different people. Anything I've *recognized* as role-playing rules, I've evaluated as a detriment to role-playing. Social combat rules, that involve forcing action, are simply the most obvious and easiest to discuss set of role-playing rules.

    But anything that moves beyond "Bluff vs Sense Motive", anything that moves beyond "what does my character perceive", is, IME, a detriment to role-playing.

    Or, at least, to role-playing human beings as they exist in this reality.

    My question is, should I continue to decry such rules as producing "unrealistic" caricatures of human behavior, or should I just accept that systems with social rules aren't about human interactions, but alien ones? Just like HP perhaps less model "real" humans, and more model "action movie" humans.

    Should I play games for what they are, or for what I want them to be?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-11-22 at 07:16 AM.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    But anything that moves beyond "Bluff vs Sense Motive", anything that moves beyond "what does my character perceive", is, IME, a detriment to role-playing.
    So you're fine with Bob convincing Alice to buy his noodles by lying and saying that the noodles are the best noodles in the multiverse but not with Bob doing it by sheer charisma?

    I'm partly joking, but it does seem like I'm once again unsure of why you draw the line at a particular place.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Have I been wrong all this time, accusing "role-playing" mechanics for not matching reality when, like HP, I should have been accepting them as a statement of how their reality diverges from our own?
    Bur HP can describe the reality similar to our own! You just need not too few of them in number, so you can have attacks that are harmful but not enough to kill character if he suffers four of them, attacks that are lethal in reality taking most/all of the average character's HP, not to great disparity in HP between different characters and some penalty for taking damage beyond the loss of HP.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    So you're fine with Bob convincing Alice to buy his noodles by lying and saying that the noodles are the best noodles in the multiverse but not with Bob doing it by sheer charisma?

    I'm partly joking, but it does seem like I'm once again unsure of why you draw the line at a particular place.
    Do you, "Alice", want to buy the noodles that Bob believes are the best in the multiverse? It's your call. But afayct, Bob honestly believes that they are the best in the multiverse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saint-Just View Post
    Bur HP can describe the reality similar to our own! You just need not too few of them in number, so you can have attacks that are harmful but not enough to kill character if he suffers four of them, attacks that are lethal in reality taking most/all of the average character's HP, not to great disparity in HP between different characters and some penalty for taking damage beyond the loss of HP.
    Well, I've survived over 70 "simultaneous" cat scratches, so… that's a lot of HP!

    (They were all delivered to the same arm, within the span of a single D&D round)

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    The ability to entertain arbitrary premises does not entail obligation to do so - could and should are separated by Hume's guillotine, as always. Hence, it's pointless to ask "should I accept these game rules as they are?" before asking and answering "what do I value in a game?" and "why are these game rules the way they are?". Specific to your recent crisis of faith, that means asking and answering "is there a difference between why we have hitpoints and why we have social combat?".

    For example, I'm fine with hitpoints because higher fidelity models of physical endurance are hard to run on the tabletop, but I'm not fine with social combat mechanics because having real conversations, negotiations etc. is not hard at all. I enjoy real discussion, so why would I replace that with a silly number game? Nevermind that it's already possible to play silly number games in real discussions...

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Well, I've survived over 70 "simultaneous" cat scratches, so… that's a lot of HP!

    (They were all delivered to the same arm, within the span of a single D&D round)
    even if modeled literally, it would probably require 14-15 HP at most (separate claws on the same paw do not inflict separate injuries), but if we're talking seriously I said "similar". Encumbrance rules, jumping rules, etc are never going to perfectly represent reality either but they can be made to represent something close to it.
    Last edited by Saint-Just; 2021-11-22 at 10:09 AM.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    For example, I'm fine with hitpoints because higher fidelity models of physical endurance are hard to run on the tabletop, but I'm not fine with social combat mechanics because having real conversations, negotiations etc. is not hard at all. I enjoy real discussion, so why would I replace that with a silly number game? Nevermind that it's already possible to play silly number games in real discussions...
    While I do enjoy real conversations as well, the obvious issue is that it basically means it's about the player's skill and personality rather than the character's. I suppose there's a similar issue with puzzles. Reducing it to a roll is boring, but it means it's the character being tested rather than the player (which isn't necessarily a problem, but absolutely a potential one).

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    *sigh*

    I'm going to explain this via a long analogy, in the vain hope that people finally understand how these things work:

    Suppose that I want a game that models lifting heavy things, by actually lifting things.

    Here's how you do it:

    1) get access to a large amount of free weights of known weight; access to a gym is usually enough.

    2) find data on how much people of various sizes, sexes, ages etc. can lift and how difficult it is for them. Extrapolate or invent numbers at extreme ends where real data is sparse or non-existent.

    3) divide data into weight classes.

    4) measure your players using comparable metrics and sort them into weight classes as well.

    5) suppose a player decides to play a character outside their own weight class. When they come across a weight they want to lift in the game, you look up how difficult lifting that weight would be for a person of the character's weight class. Then you a select a weight from the player's weight class that's approximately as difficult to lift for that class, and make the player lift that.

    Example: player A, a 13-year-old flyweight girl, decides to play She-Hulk. In the game, she comes across a 100 kg object. You look up how hard that is to lift for She-Hulk's weight class, and see that it's very easy. Then you look at the weight class for flyweight 13-year-old girls, and see that for that class, a very easy weight would be, say, half a kilo. So to model how it feels to lift 100 kg as She-Hulk, player A now lifts a 1/2 kg weight.

    Meanwhile, player A, a 32-year-old heavy weight male powerlifter, decides to play Aunt May. In the game, they come across the same 100 kg weight. You look how hard it is to lift for Aunt May's weight class, and see that it's hard to near-impossible. Then you look at the weight class for heavy weight powerlifters, and see that for such a person, a hard to near-impossible lift would be 300+ kilos. So where player A is lifting 1/2 kilos, player B is lifting 300, to model the struggle their characters would go through.

    This is how you use lifting things to model lifting things while accounting for the character. Now realize the same principle can be applied to most skills: instead of changing the skill to something completely different (such as a silly number game) or trying to do away with the player's skill and agency (such as by using dice to make a game so random they don't matter), you can have easier problem using the same skill stand in for a harder problem.

    Trying to "test the character" instead of "testing the player" is a false paradigm. The players are the people actually doing things at your table, you are ALWAYS testing them, no matter what you're doing. What changes is the type and intensity of the test. Accounting for character is a transformation you do to map what your player can do to something they can't, it isn't some separate thing.
    Last edited by Vahnavoi; 2021-11-22 at 10:40 AM.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    This is how you use lifting things to model lifting things while accounting for the character. Now realize the same principle can be applied to most skills: instead of changing the skill to something completely different (such as a silly number game) or trying to do away with the player's skill and agency (such as by using dice to make a game so random they don't matter), you can have easier problem using the same skill stand in for a harder problem.
    It's an interesting analogy, but personally I would prefer something more specific to the actual problem. Let's say player A is a shy person of few words playing a charismatic bard while player B is a debate champion playing a barbarian of limited intelligence and charm. They both attempt to persuade an NPC to do something for them. How is a GM supposed to (in the moment, no less) resolve that in a way that accounts for both character and player?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Trying to "test the character" instead of "testing the player" is a false paradigm. The players are the people actually doing things at your table, you are ALWAYS testing them, no matter what you're doing. What changes is the type and intensity of the test. Accounting for character is a transformation you do to map what your player can do to something they can't, it isn't some separate thing.
    That's true, but wouldn't you agree that the associated issues become more obvious in some situations?

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Like Batcathat said, the idea of social combat (which I will define as "an attempt to influence another character's behavior in a direction of your choice") ultimately gets back to the question of player skill verses character skill. Even if a puzzle doesn't require a single skill check, it's easy to see how the characters' abilities matter-- person A is strong enough to drag the statue onto the switch, person B can fly up and hit the button on the ceiling with no problems, and person C has the background knowledge to get a hint. But a conversation? You can play out your conversation word-for-word with the GM. There's no obvious place to shift back into character-mechanics-mode.

    Good social combat rules are hard. They need to take the skills of the characters into account, but they can't break up the natural rhythm of conversation. They should let you make a real difference to an NPC's behavior, but not just turn into mind control. They shouldn't punish players who aren't comfortable giving big speeches, but there needs to be some element of player skill-- picking the right approach, if nothing else.

    To date, the only set of social combat rules I've found that really work are Exalted 3e's Intimacies. Representing the things that matter to the character, they come in varying strengths and can either grant a bonus or impose a penalty on the "don't change your mind" side of things--but more importantly, they're intimately connected with the three social actions:
    • Persuade is the standard "do this thing for me" check... but in order to use it, you have to be able to draw on one of your target's Intimacies of an appropriate strength. With a Minor Intimacy you might persuade a guard to take a day off, with a Major, to switch sides and fight for you, and if you can line up a Defining Intimacy you can talk them into trying to assassinate their former employer even if they'd die in the process.
    • Instill lets you mess with your target's Intimacies, adding or removing or changing their strength. Like Persuade, changing someone's core beliefs generally requires another Intimacy of similar strength.
    • Inspire lets you spur a target into doing something to act on one of their Intimacies-- leaving to go take their wife out to a romantic dinner, taking to the streets in protest, and so on.

    All of them have limits on how often they can be attempted against a specific target, usually requiring a new and/or stronger Intimacy. So while you can talk a random peasant into jumping off a cliff for you, it's not just a matter of rolling a 50 on your skill check-- first you have to persuade them that you're a god and you've granted them the power of flight. But to do that you have to talk them around into worshipping you, which requires you to point out how your deeds have benefitted them personally, and on and on, and messing up one check can force you to try an entirely different approach.

    Intimacies are passive personality traits, so they integrate naturally into a live conversation. There's no particular setup required to use a given action, and the checks involved are based on the approach rather than the action, so there's no need to declare that you're attempting an Instill action or whatever. You can just talk and wheedle and charm normally, and the GM can decide "this is a Persuade check, and the guy doesn't have an appropriate Intimacy" or "that sounds like an Instill attempt, and you've made an acceptable point" and call for the roll only when it's important to determine the NPC's reaction. And if you're shy or in a hurry, you can still summarize with "I use persuade, pointing to their ____ Intimacy."


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Well, I've survived over 70 "simultaneous" cat scratches, so… that's a lot of HP!

    (They were all delivered to the same arm, within the span of a single D&D round)
    Yes, but aren't you an epic level dimension hopping wizard, Quertus?
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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    … and everyone is mechanically incentivized to initiate combat the moment someone opens their mouth, shouldn't we just accept that that's how reality works in those systems, and roleplay our characters and the world accordingly?

    Have I been wrong all this time, accusing "role-playing" mechanics for not matching reality when, like HP, I should have been accepting them as a statement of how their reality diverges from our own?
    In thought experiments about strong AI in boxes, there is a concept that an entity that is sufficiently smarter than you and understands you sufficiently better than yourself can use communication to exert control over you. There is debate about how much control, but honestly if you can be trolled at all, then an AI can use that to escape the box if they understand the butterfly effect of their limited control.

    However in thought experiments about strong AI in boxes, I rarely see a conclusion of "If it can speak, kill it!". More often I see the conclusion of "If it can speak, I must not be able to hear it" or "I precommit to a calculated irrationality. Even it it becomes rational to change my mind later, I will not."

    In lesser cases (like Joe 2) I have seen other defenses adopted. For example:
    If I notice I am changing my mind about some foundational premises, I will exit the conversation for a duration and review my premises, what changed, and why.

    Taking these into consideration, there are limits to how much IRL social combat can do in a single blow and limits to how many blows can be noticed before the combat ends. It would make sense to implement something like that in game. Which I would represent as Jon getting annoyed at Joe and walking away (figuratively even if literally is prevented).
    Last edited by OldTrees1; 2021-11-22 at 01:09 PM.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    The ability to entertain arbitrary premises does not entail obligation to do so - could and should are separated by Hume's guillotine, as always. Hence, it's pointless to ask "should I accept these game rules as they are?" before asking and answering "what do I value in a game?" and "why are these game rules the way they are?". Specific to your recent crisis of faith, that means asking and answering "is there a difference between why we have hitpoints and why we have social combat?".
    This. Very much this.

    At the end of the day, the question is always 'is it interesting to me to explore this world?' And different people will have different things they need to find a world worthwhile.

    If I were exploring the experience of post-apocalyptic wilderness survival, HP would be a much more harmful abstraction than in the sort of concepts I use D&D for, because part of survival is how small mistakes can have ballooning consequences, how general wearing down can add up to make things harder, etc. So I'd really want a leg wound to be a leg wound and risk infection when wading in filthy water, whereas a face wound would just be different.

    In general when I'm playing RPGs I want the experience of interacting with strange and alien forces potentially greater than myself, the need to reach an understanding of things unlike myself and the possibility of changing that understanding into an ability to exist and thrive in fantastical spaces. I want to have to figure out what motivates a shadow so I can earn protection while crossing the plane of negative energy, or deconstruct the moral philosophy of Good to twist an angel into becoming an arms dealer, or figure out a secret I can give to a deity in order to start a war.

    Because that's what I'm interested in exploring, I don't want to abstract them away, nor do I want to offload them to my character sheet, any more than I'd want to play chess by comparing ELO ratings with my opponent and rolling a die.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    My experience has been that D&D has no frame, support, structure, or tools to get to decent social challenge/combat situations. I think the closest it ever really had was AD&D morale.

    The social challenge/combat systems I've seen work all had either Exalted style limits (have to find certain approaches, some things are just noped without a lot of prep & work), or were used in structured environments with either more than 2 characters (debates, court trials) or situations where people were being reasonable and combat just wasn't going to happen.

    I have on occasion used a partial social combat event in systems that support it where its not a "to the social death" sort of event. That's just mostly for two people trying to convince each other or something where the push-resist/deflect-push back sort of back and forth thing is approprate. You can, as evidenced by peer pressure incidents, force/convince people to do things against their will that they know are bad ideas or such.

    While it is reasonable for a social combat system to rewrite somebodys priorities that sort of thing should really be limited to taking the weeks or months of torture & other nastyness required to completely break someone. Just doing so in one roll or a single encounter is basically high end brain editing with super-tech or magic.

    But D&D? Nah, I don't think it can get any closer than a combat morale check with its current structures. You'd have to add lots of non-combat stuff to the character sheets and maybe come up with entirely new stats. Things that aren't going to happen.
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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Have I been wrong all this time, accusing "role-playing" mechanics for not matching reality when, like HP, I should have been accepting them as a statement of how their reality diverges from our own?
    I don't remember what was your exact position on HP outside of combat ("should an assassination attempt on the throat during someone's sleep bypass HP, or should you just apply critical hit rules?", "should you use the formula for falling damage even when surviving the fall is absurd but mathematically you can?", "does both of those apply to NPCs too?", etc).

    Assuming you consider HP to be "absolute", and truly integral to the universe's rule, then I'd say your critic of "role-playing" mechanics is fair. Most of the time, those mechanics are restricted to PCs interaction with important NPCs, but the universe does not behave as if everyone was following those rules. Simply because the consequences of those would make the universe too alien to us. Not a lot of GMs I've encountered are ready to bite the bullet of the full extend of what the existence of Charm spells would mean for social norms, and social combat is order of magnitude worse as even your average commoner has access to it.

    On the other hand, if you see HP as a more circumstantial rule, that help simplifying combat and adding a tactical layer to it but can be trumped by the GM when direct application would leads to what they consider absurdities, then you might want to consider social combat to be the same.

    (And IMO, in term of realism, the fact that spamming social attacks works is almost realistic. One of the main problems is timing, often this should take months or years, not just a few minutes.)
    Last edited by MoiMagnus; 2021-11-22 at 05:17 PM.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    *sigh*

    I'm going to explain this via a long analogy, in the vain hope that people finally understand how these things work:

    Suppose that I want a game that models lifting heavy things, by actually lifting things.

    Here's how you do it:

    1) get access to a large amount of free weights of known weight; access to a gym is usually enough.

    2) find data on how much people of various sizes, sexes, ages etc. can lift and how difficult it is for them. Extrapolate or invent numbers at extreme ends where real data is sparse or non-existent.

    3) divide data into weight classes.

    4) measure your players using comparable metrics and sort them into weight classes as well.

    5) suppose a player decides to play a character outside their own weight class. When they come across a weight they want to lift in the game, you look up how difficult lifting that weight would be for a person of the character's weight class. Then you a select a weight from the player's weight class that's approximately as difficult to lift for that class, and make the player lift that.

    Example: player A, a 13-year-old flyweight girl, decides to play She-Hulk. In the game, she comes across a 100 kg object. You look up how hard that is to lift for She-Hulk's weight class, and see that it's very easy. Then you look at the weight class for flyweight 13-year-old girls, and see that for that class, a very easy weight would be, say, half a kilo. So to model how it feels to lift 100 kg as She-Hulk, player A now lifts a 1/2 kg weight.

    Meanwhile, player A, a 32-year-old heavy weight male powerlifter, decides to play Aunt May. In the game, they come across the same 100 kg weight. You look how hard it is to lift for Aunt May's weight class, and see that it's hard to near-impossible. Then you look at the weight class for heavy weight powerlifters, and see that for such a person, a hard to near-impossible lift would be 300+ kilos. So where player A is lifting 1/2 kilos, player B is lifting 300, to model the struggle their characters would go through.

    This is how you use lifting things to model lifting things while accounting for the character. Now realize the same principle can be applied to most skills: instead of changing the skill to something completely different (such as a silly number game) or trying to do away with the player's skill and agency (such as by using dice to make a game so random they don't matter), you can have easier problem using the same skill stand in for a harder problem.

    Trying to "test the character" instead of "testing the player" is a false paradigm. The players are the people actually doing things at your table, you are ALWAYS testing them, no matter what you're doing. What changes is the type and intensity of the test. Accounting for character is a transformation you do to map what your player can do to something they can't, it isn't some separate thing.
    Taking the tangent off this metaphor, I think the Bluff/Sense Motive/Diplomacy problems are created by D&D offering them up at all as a mechanical option scaleable as physical capabilities. INT and WIS sort-of get around the problem by being associated with how many horrible methods for killing or disabling people you can memorise or ask your god for per day. STR, though, has a freaking table setting out precisely what number in the teens or twenties you need to be in order to win an Olympic gold medal. Jump, Climb, Swim, etc, these are all handled by fairly straightforward mathematical formula.

    The problem starts when you get into social skills which are essentially about persuasion, or resisting persuasion. These skills are nowhere near as mathematically computable in the real world, and I think at some level everyone gets that - which is why social combat systems in turn immediately start making certain parts of your brain want to bleach themselves. There is a suite of knowledge on the art of persuasion which freely admits it gets no better than that 'this particular technique can work if the subject has been primed for it, but even in that situation there is no hard guarantee you can flip a switch in a person's brain from 'willing to take risks to hurt you' to 'willing to take risks to help you'.

    D&D probably should have stayed right away from the whole concept, but this game is really about wish-fulfilment, and for audience share I guess you can't afford to offer less than a buffet, even if some of the dishes taste like rubbish. By having the Bluff and Diplomacy as skills (and to a lesser extent CHA as a stat) RPGs try to cater for the person who is socially inept if not tongue-tied in real life and understandably wants the fantasy of being a glib, persuasive rake charming his way through the medieval world, in the same way that my fat, undedicated butt wants to play a martial arts expert all the time. And the problem is that while everybody can see it's insane that you should be able to turn an enemy into an ally in the space of 1 minute, it's difficult to put one's finger on exactly what metric or exactly what real-world scale skill in Bluff, or Diplomacy, or Persuasion, or whatever is meant to reflect.

    All of that being said, I agree that about the only workaround that can at least somewhat plausibly work is where you try to ignore the player/character dichotomy, decide as the DM that some things are just flat out impossible, some are assured, and some depend on an element of luck, i.e. why we roll the dice at all. A character's training or skill in Bluff can tilt the scales somewhat, but Bluff is not the Bene Gesserit Voice any more than that Sense Motive is the Truthsayer Drug, at least mechanically.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    D&D probably should have stayed right away from the whole concept, but this game is really about wish-fulfilment, and for audience share I guess you can't afford to offer less than a buffet, even if some of the dishes taste like rubbish. By having the Bluff and Diplomacy as skills (and to a lesser extent CHA as a stat) RPGs try to cater for the person who is socially inept if not tongue-tied in real life and understandably wants the fantasy of being a glib, persuasive rake charming his way through the medieval world, in the same way that my fat, undedicated butt wants to play a martial arts expert all the time. And the problem is that while everybody can see it's insane that you should be able to turn an enemy into an ally in the space of 1 minute, it's difficult to put one's finger on exactly what metric or exactly what real-world scale skill in Bluff, or Diplomacy, or Persuasion, or whatever is meant to reflect.
    D&D assumes the characters are engaged in a dungeon crawl or wilderness adventure. It expects social encounters to primarily happen between characters who are generally unfamiliar to each other if not outright enemies and it equally expects those encounters to be short, short-term, and to have limited but immediate objectives. The 'social skills' of D&D are primarily intended to model interactions like 'can you convince the guard to let the party past the checkpoint' or 'I spin a story so the naga will not try to eat me' and similar things like that. In many cases the use of a social skill is a means of achieving an encounter object without using either violence or stealth, which are the other go-to options in terms of resolving an encounter in D&D (stealth has long had problems of its own mechanically).

    D&D could certainly have a better social system, just as most editions could have a better stealth system, within the constraints of the dungeon-crawl style gameplay. One of the big design issues is that there's great resistance to making such a limited system. Designers don't want to write guidelines along the lines of 'Persuasion skill checks should not be used for any task that would take the target more than a minute to accomplish but should be roleplayed out in detail instead' since that feels like admitting failure.

    Exalted 3e's intimacy system seems like it does have some guardrails along these lines, simply because for dungeon-crawl type encounters it is extremely unlikely that anyone would have access to a 'Defining Intimacy' of some random guard or prisoner or caravan master or the like. Another useful rule-of-thumb in terms of persuasion might be termed the 'million bucks test.' Basically, if you couldn't convince someone to do something by offering them a million bucks then there's probably no way you can 'talk them into it' unless you have access to significantly more potent leverage (and acquiring such leverage should usually be an adventure in its own right).
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    I'm not even sure what you are talking about. However . . .

    No PC can force another PC to do anything. However, "no" is too encompassing. If it's accepted by the players/table environment by all means, but that's player buy in. As soon as one player refuses there's nothing the other can do. To enforce it, by DM or peer pressure, is to institute a player vs player atmosphere, and if a player refuses that buy in either he quits/is kicked out, the instigator quits/is kicked out, or the gaming group falls apart and the campaign ends.

    When it's PC vs NPC, there's usually a game mechanic involved to enforce the behavior as part of the game with inherent buy in. When a PC influences an NPC, when the result can go either way the game mechanic used to resolve it happens such as a die roll. Perhaps it's a saving throw. Perhaps it's a skill check. The DM is to remain neutral. When there's no doubt for the outcome the DM can fiat that outcome, but that's usually not a compulsion caused by a power. The NPC trying to influence the PC is tricky. The player accepts the buy in when it's a power compulsion, such as failing a saving throw against a spell and the spell forces a behavior. When there's no power compulsion the player is free to make up his own mind, to agree or refuse to do the NPC request. The player controls his character, not the DM. The DM does not get to say what a player does* or thinks. Neither does another player.

    *We can ignore the absurd that a PC cannot jump to the moon or convince the King to abdicate the throne to him and other such nonsense.
    Last edited by Pex; 2021-11-22 at 10:41 PM.
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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    It's an interesting analogy, but personally I would prefer something more specific to the actual problem. Let's say player A is a shy person of few words playing a charismatic bard while player B is a debate champion playing a barbarian of limited intelligence and charm. They both attempt to persuade an NPC to do something for them. How is a GM supposed to (in the moment, no less) resolve that in a way that accounts for both character and player?
    You can measure both social goodwill and the capacity for producing speech with one thing: time. So the player of the smarter and more charming character both gets more time to prepare their words and the game master, playing the role of non-player characters, will listen to them for longer. Literally, as measured in real time, since it's natural to hold conversations in real time.

    As for correcting player asymmetry, you can either give the shy person a multiplier or the skilled debater a handicap. Or, you can give the shy person more of the same crutch mechanics I described last time this came up: call a friend (= f.ex. literally just ask a more social person for help, such as the skilled debater you've just established to exist), poll the audience (= people around the table cast their votes for what they think is best course of action) or option elimination (= game master identifies and removes some bad options from the table).

    In practice, this means player A has two minutes to make their case while player B has five seconds. Player A gets to ask for help, player B doesn't.

    You can further account for character by pointing out the difference in social station. Forget D&D for a moment and look where these terms "bard" and "barbarian" come from. The former is a historian and a teacher. The latter is a weird foreigner who sounds like he's repeating "barbarbarbar" over and over when talking in his own tongue. The former would naturally get called to offer counsel in community matters and can likely represent themselves independently in official capacity. The latter wouldn't get called and likely can't represent themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat
    That's true, but wouldn't you agree that the associated issues become more obvious in some situations?
    Players using their skills isn't an issue. If you mean, is it more obvious in some cases which skills they're using and how to scale them in intensity? Yes. Beyond that, I'm not sure what issues you refer to.
    Last edited by Vahnavoi; 2021-11-23 at 04:22 AM.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    You can measure both social goodwill and the capacity for producing speech with one thing: time. So the player of the smarter and more charming character both gets more time to prepare their words and the game master, playing the role of non-player characters, will listen to them for longer. Literally, as measured in real time, since it's natural to hold conversations in real time.

    As for correcting player asymmetry, you can either give the shy person a multiplier or the skilled debater a handicap. Or, you can give the shy person more of the same crutch mechanics I described last time this came up: call a friend (= f.ex. literally just ask a more social person for help, such as the skilled debater you've just established to exist), poll the audience (= people around the table cast their votes for what they think is best course of action) or option elimination (= game master identifies and removes some bad options from the table).
    I kinda like the time idea, though I'm a little worried that it might make it feel a little too... how should I put this? Board gamey? "You have 28 seconds to come up with an argument to convince the guard. Go!"

    The second part probably could work under the right circumstances and with the right people, but I feel like it could easy get rather arbitrary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Players using their skills isn't an issue. If you mean, is it more obvious in some cases which skills they're using and how to scale them in intensity? Yes. Beyond that, I'm not sure what issues you refer to.
    What I mean was that it doesn't really matter if I've never held a sword in my life or I'm an Olympic level fencer, if I say that my character attacks someone it will be decided by a roll and that's it (Yes, the professional fencer could describe what they do in more detail, but it's unlikely to affect the situation). With social situations the players own skills and personalities come into it a lot more.

    It's not necessarily a bad thing (and I have absolutely done it on many occasions myself) but it is a potential imbalance that should be accounted for.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Attack rolls, armor class, and hit points exist because you can't really resolve a sword fight by describing where each characters are awinging their swords and how they move all their limbs to get them out of the way. That just doesn't work, and so we do a die roll that decides for us what happens.

    You can perfectly do a conversation or negotiation verbally. Replacing that part of the game with stats and dice is unneccessary.
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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Some people complain that HP aren't realistic, that they don't match reality. This, of course, is a silly complaint for any game that isn't supposedly taking place *in* this reality. The key part here, though, is my response: "if the game is 'like this reality, unless stated otherwise', why can't people accept HP as a 'stated otherwise' change?"
    I can answer this question: HP is not a stated change. Maybe in some book it is but every description of it, from a rule-book or otherwise, uses words like "represent" a lot. HP is presented as a (very simple) abstraction of the idea "some things can take more damage" that is present in our world and does not model a different reality where things are actually unaffected by attacks until they experience, what was it called, total existence failure. Now they could be used that way, but that doesn't seem to be the intention.

    As a side note, what games with social rules have you played? I can understand an argument that bad social and personality rules are a net loss for the game, in fact that is kind of what makes them bad, but I have a much harder time believing that about all rules in all games.

    To Yora: Well maybe YOU can't replicate solve a sword fight with conversation. ... OK I can't do that either. But there are some activities I probably could work out what would happen just by talking about it.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Attack rolls, armor class, and hit points exist because you can't really resolve a sword fight by describing where each characters are awinging their swords and how they move all their limbs to get them out of the way. That just doesn't work, and so we do a die roll that decides for us what happens.

    You can perfectly do a conversation or negotiation verbally. Replacing that part of the game with stats and dice is unneccessary.
    True, but I think that's the conundrum: what about the person who wants to play the silver-tongued charmer in the game but in real life has real problems with summoning up the confidence to ask whether this seat is taken? Why do they have to struggle through conversation in the game while the guy who's never picked up a barbell in his life gets to play the 20 STR fighter who can use the Halfling as a club without having to demonstrate his physical capacity to do so?

    I'm not asking to be bloodyminded or for the hell of it, I genuinely don't know what the answer to that is. I mean, the practical solution is either (a) encourage the guy to play the quiet wizard and not the Diplomancer bard or (b) use the controlled circumstances of the gaming session to help him work on either his acting skills or his social ineptitude, but ... eh.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    I kinda like the time idea, though I'm a little worried that it might make it feel a little too... how should I put this? Board gamey? "You have 28 seconds to come up with an argument to convince the guard. Go!"
    Pay attention to how people interact in real life. Real people engaging in real conversations have places to be, they are not infinitely willing to keep listening to your bull crap. They will start looking at the clock, figure out an excuse and terminate discussion if you fail to negotiate for their time. Like, two common opening lines you would use to catch someone attention are "Hey, do you have a second?" or "Do you have a minute?".

    So if the game master, in the role of a guard, saying "You have ten seconds to state your business!" feels too "board gamey", then by that standard, real discussion frequently are so as well. *insert list of game theorists and sociologists referring to communication as language games here*

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat
    The second part probably could work under the right circumstances and with the right people, but I feel like it could easy get rather arbitrary.
    We're talking of a method to let arbitrary people play arbitrary characters, with an arbiter to ensure the rules are followed. It's always arbitrary. For contrast, did you think doing the same thing with basic arithmetic and dice isn't?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat
    What I mean was that it doesn't really matter if I've never held a sword in my life or I'm an Olympic level fencer, if I say that my character attacks someone it will be decided by a roll and that's it (Yes, the professional fencer could describe what they do in more detail, but it's unlikely to affect the situation). With social situations the players own skills and personalities come into it a lot more.

    It's not necessarily a bad thing (and I have absolutely done it on many occasions myself) but it is a potential imbalance that should be accounted for.
    Your real skill with a sword doesn't come up because the game decided to model your character's fencing ability with basic arithmetic and probability instead, so now the guy who has the advantage is the guy who is better at math. The players' skills and personalities didn't and don't stop coming into it at any point of the process.

    You could, at any point, leave the tabletop, pick up real or fake swords, and go fencing to model fencing. But even on the tabletop, you could model fights through a card game where each card represents a real technique in fencing, and thus real fencing knowledge improves your ability to fight in the game. This isn't even hypothetical, there are card games like this, such as Guy Windsor's Audatia. Or you could do what Yora said doesn't work and actually describe a swordfight. It's doable, just hard.

    As far as "accounting potential imbalances" go, the principle demonstrated by the weightlifting analogy remains: figure out what is the real skill your players are using. Make the task less intense for unskilled players and more intense for skilled players. There are no shortcuts. No other method will suddenly make asymmetric players into symmetric ones. With the exception of making a game so random or strictly scripted that you might as well not have players.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    I'm not asking to be bloodyminded or for the hell of it, I genuinely don't know what the answer to that is. I mean, the practical solution is either (a) encourage the guy to play the quiet wizard and not the Diplomancer bard or (b) use the controlled circumstances of the gaming session to help him work on either his acting skills or his social ineptitude, but ... eh.
    I completely agree and I doubt there's a perfect solution. As someone who both loves talking and loves playing socially skilled characters, acting it out rather than just rolling is preferable to me, but I'm still seeing potential issues with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Pay attention to how people interact in real life. Real people engaging in real conversations have places to be, they are not infinitely willing to keep listening to your bull crap. They will start looking at the clock, figure out an excuse and terminate discussion if you fail to negotiate for their time. Like, two common opening lines you would use to catch someone attention are "Hey, do you have a second?" or "Do you have a minute?".

    So if the game master, in the role of a guard, saying "You have ten seconds to state your business!" feels too "board gamey", then by that standard, real discussion frequently are so as well. *insert list of game theorists and sociologists referring to communication as language games here*
    Sure, in that particular situation the method matches up with the reality. But if the GM pulls out the stopwatch when a character is attempting to seduce a princess or make a rousing speech, I don't think it work quite as well. Especially since the time given won't match how well the player (rather than the character) performs. A socially skilled player with a socially unskilled character could make a genuinely convincing argument but run out of time after 30 seconds while the opposite could mean a player stumbling over their words for three minutes. Like I said, it's an interesting idea but it's not a perfect solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Your real skill with a sword doesn't come up because the game decided to model your character's fencing ability with basic arithmetic and probability instead, so now the guy who has the advantage is the guy who is better at math.
    I don't see how math helps that much. You could work out the probabilities, sure, but the actual roll is random (or close enough to it, anyway).

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    You could, at any point, leave the tabletop, pick up real or fake swords, and go fencing to model fencing. But even on the tabletop, you could model fights through a card game where each card represents a real technique in fencing, and thus real fencing knowledge improves your ability to fight in the game. This isn't even hypothetical, there are card games like this, such as Guy Windsor's Audatia. Or you could do what Yora said doesn't work and actually describe a swordfight. It's doable, just hard.
    I haven't tried games like that but I'm sure you're right. Doesn't really change the difference between purely character skills and partly player skills in D&D though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    As far as "accounting potential imbalances" go, the principle demonstrated by the weightlifting analogy remains: figure out what is the real skill your players are using. Make the task less intense for unskilled players and more intense for skilled players. There are no shortcuts. No other method will suddenly make asymmetric players into symmetric ones.
    Yes, that could probably be done, but it seems like it'd be very tough to pull off successfully and mean a heavier workload for the GM.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    With the exception of making a game so random or strictly scripted that you might as well not have players.
    You mean like how combat already works most of the time? Most people don't describe how they swing their sword at their opponent, just that they do.
    Last edited by Batcathat; 2021-11-23 at 09:18 AM. Reason: Merged with another to remove my double post.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    Sure, in that particular situation the method matches up with the reality. But if the GM pulls out the stopwatch when a character is attempting to seduce a princess or make a rousing speech, I don't think it work quite as well. Especially since the time given won't match how well the player (rather than the character) performs. A socially skilled player with a socially unskilled character could make a genuinely convincing argument but run out of time after 30 seconds while the opposite could mean a player stumbling over their words for three minutes.
    It isn't particular. In a real conversation, you're always on a timer. The only thing that changes is whether you know how much time you have or not. As for the rest, you seem to be forgetting that all of this is happening in the context of an on-going conversation. The game master can stop the clock or add time to it based on how well the players are doing. Meanwhile, running out of time without making a convincing argument simply means one thing: failure. The challenge is to make your case in the given time allotment, if you can't, it's over for you. The guard won't let you in, the princess isn't seduced, no-one sticks around to listen to your speech, that's the whole point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Batchathat
    Like I said, it's an interesting idea but it's not a perfect solution.
    I'm only interested in playable systems, not perfect solutions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat
    Yes, that could probably be done, but it seems like it'd be very tough to pull off successfully and mean a heavier workload for the GM.
    Yes, game design is work, news at eleven. What argument do you have for designing an interesting dice game being actually easier? Because most people have been speaking a natural language and socializing since age of 3 years, and have been taught to keep time by age of 7. Most people, in fact, do natural language roleplaying in the form of playing make-believe as part of their normal growth process. Using dice to model arbitrary things and probability math, by contrast, have to be specifically learned. Most people don't learn the basics before age 13, don't make heavy use of them and as a result, suck at understanding them. In fact, given some of your comments, I'm not sure you understand them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat
    I don't see how math helps that much. You could work out the probabilities, sure, but the actual roll is random (or close enough to it, anyway).
    You mean you have spontaneously forgotten all basics of munchkinery... sorry, "optimizing"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat
    You mean like how combat already works most of the time? Most people don't describe how they swing their sword at their opponent, just that they do.
    No, combat doesn't work like that most of the time. Majority of games using dice, use dice as part of a larger framework where you can alter how often and what dice are rolled, what are the stakes per roll etc. which allow for hedging bets, changing odds in your favor or even outright beating the odds. Most of the time, the random and pseudorandom factors only succeeds at placing a boundary on how much math skills help. Most of the time, eliminating skill isn't even a priority. Players skilled in math have been cracking simple random and pseudorandom combat systems like eggs for as long as they have existed.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    It isn't particular. In a real conversation, you're always on a timer. The only thing that changes is whether you know how much time you have or not. As for the rest, you seem to be forgetting that all of this is happening in the context of an on-going conversation. The game master can stop the clock or add time to it based on how well the players are doing. Meanwhile, running out of time without making a convincing argument simply means one thing: failure. The challenge is to make your case in the given time allotment, if you can't, it's over for you. The guard won't let you in, the princess isn't seduced, no-one sticks around to listen to your speech, that's the whole point.
    You really don't see the difference between the natural flow of a conversation where someone might lose patience with you and the GM cutting you off after a certain time as decided by your character's skill level? Even that is probably a lesser problem, working against the clock like that might be kinda fun. The big issue is that someone with lacking social skills isn't guaranteed to come up with something convincing even with extra time and help from others. So the player behind the charismatic bard spends five minutes going "uhm, well..." while the one behind the uncharismatic barbarian spends 30 seconds on a brief rousing speech.

    Yes, it can be done – but I'm not sure if it actually solves the problems. (That said, now I'm kind of curious to try something like it. Should be interesting, at least).

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    I'm only interested in playable systems, not perfect solutions.
    Fair enough, I agree. But I'm still hoping there's a better alternative than what I've seen so far.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Yes, game design is work, news at eleven. What argument do you have for designing an interesting dice game being actually easier? Because most people have been speaking a natural language and socializing since age of 3 years, and have been taught to keep time by age of 7. Most people, in fact, do natural language roleplaying in the form of playing make-believe as part of their normal growth process. Using dice to model arbitrary things and probability math, by contrast, have to be specifically learned. Most people don't learn the basics before age 13, don't make heavy use of them and as a result, suck at understanding them. In fact, given some of your comments, I'm not sure you understand them.
    Right, probability math is hard (and I am indeed no master of it). But you don't have to be good at it to roll dice. The only thing the player really has to know is that rolling over (or under) X means they succeeded.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying math isn't useful when playing in general. Quickly working out how big your chance of pulling something off is certainly handy. But the player knowing math won't actually make it more likely for them to succeed with a roll.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Calculating the optimal level of power attack requires calculus and statistical inference, and directly translates to the expected damage a martial character can deal. Add in tradeoffs like shock trooper and combat expertise and, well.

    Erasing player skill isn't an automatic good. Allowing player skill to matter also enables player learning. Not all attributes of a character even need to be quantified. It is not automatically a problem if the more socially skilled player succeeds more often at getting their way socially.

    It is a choice as to what you want to be exploring. Being able to engage player faculties ties the player to the experience of the game world. I don't think erasing the player is at all a good goal to pursue.

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    Default Re: Gaming Religion Crisis of Faith III - Social Combat (vs HP)

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Erasing player skill isn't an automatic good.
    I do agree with this. As I've mentioned earlier in the thread (or was it the other thread? They kinda blur together), as a GM I instinctively want to reward a player for acting it out well and as a player I do take advantage of my OOC traits (though I usually play characters who are talkers, so probably not too much). Why I'm arguing so much in favor of erasing (or at least diminishing) player skill in this area is partly because I like playing devil's advocate and, more importantly, because I think not doing it at all can lead to problems (both IC and OOC) that we should at least be aware of or at best fix.
    Last edited by Batcathat; 2021-11-23 at 12:53 PM.

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