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Author Topic: "Roleplaying" skill vs Character Skill  (Read 2169 times)
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« on: January 10, 2010, 12:55:45 AM »

This isn't really about my game, but it happened during a playtest, so the rules of the forum regulate that it must go here.

One of my players made a character who's weak in physical conflict but strong in social conflict. But he's a helpless goofball.  When he talks to an NPC, he says the most ridiculous things. I can't think of anything specific, but he might say something like, "There's a man running around town stealing all of the honey, so you should sell me all your honey at a huge discount so you can get rid of it!"

Meanwhile, one of my other players has a character who's strong in physical combat but weak in social conflict.  But she's really freaking clever. The goofball was trying to buy an amulet of strength from a merchant. The goofballs approach was "Look, I only have 150, can't you just sell it for that much?" Now magic items are phenomenally rare, but it so happened chance gave this merchant 3 of these amulets.  One of the other players spent character points to make one of these amulets before they met this merchant.  So the clever gal said that the market was flooded on these amulets and "Hey, look, even this guy has one!" There was more conversation and it was quite impressive.

It is so bad that the clever gal is constantly scolding and condemning the goofball's attempts at being a socialite.

I've always liked how RPGs let me be something I can't be IRL (like a dragonslayer).  But what can you do about a player who's narration is in conflict with his character's abilities?  Nobody ever accidentally describes their character screwing up in combat, but I see players accidentally screwing up their narration in social conflict all the time.
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2010, 09:54:18 AM »

Hi David!

The game you are playtesting has task resolution with fortune at the end? Because this problem is typical of this combination: the player has to "role-play" his character before knowing the kind of scene he is (a scene of failure or a scene of success) and this give often ridiculous results. So there is the temptation of going all "rule zero" from the GM, deciding what happen without using dice, but then you have the character who should be more able with social persuasion who is not able to convince anyone because his player isn't able to do so...

I don't know any real successful solution to this conundrum, in task resolution with fortune at the end, apart from having the players in practice role-play themselves without any social characteristic used by the system.  The true solution in my games was to stop using TR and FatE and going to conflict resolution with fortune in the middle.
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Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2010, 11:10:20 AM »

One of my players made a character who's weak in physical conflict but strong in social conflict. But he's a helpless goofball.  When he talks to an NPC, he says the most ridiculous things. I can't think of anything specific, but he might say something like, "There's a man running around town stealing all of the honey, so you should sell me all your honey at a huge discount so you can get rid of it!"
Okay, so your player's a bit of a dufus. I'm assuming he's actually trying to play and not being purposefully silly. I would probably fix this by telling him that the shop keeper is not going to buy the "Let me rob you blind before the real thief comes" argument. Then I'd have him state his intent, i.e. to get the honey at a discount, and then give him time to come up with a plausible argument for why the shopkeeper would agree to this. If he's truly stuck, enlist the aid of the other players with suggestions or offer up suggestions yourself. Agree and move on.

Quote
So the clever gal said that the market was flooded on these amulets and "Hey, look, even this guy has one!" There was more conversation and it was quite impressive.
Maybe the character is too clever. Clever people can fail socially too. Maybe people just don't trust her. So she says "the market's flooded" and the shop keeper hears something else. "These are rare magic items! You think you can trick me with your fancy talk!! That's it, the price just went up! And to think your friend goofball here almost had me selling it at 150 with his fake charm and innocence. Out of my store!"

Quote
It is so bad that the clever gal is constantly scolding and condemning the goofball's attempts at being a socialite.
Have you ever seen Gascon in Disney's Beauty and the Beast? I have daughters, so I have. That there is a massive goofball, but everyone in town loves him and wants to be with him. If he told the shopkeeper to sell him something cheap before a thief stole it for real, they'd all laugh thinking he was joking and then probably go for the deal!



I've always liked how RPGs let me be something I can't be IRL (like a dragonslayer).  But what can you do about a player who's narration is in conflict with his character's abilities?  Nobody ever accidentally describes their character screwing up in combat, but I see players accidentally screwing up their narration in social conflict all the time.
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James R.
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2010, 12:29:01 PM »

As the rules are written, the player comes up with a strategy and the GM gives it 1-3 "successes".  If the player succeeds a roll, he gets 2 more success. If he fails, he gets +0.  So yes, in a way, it is fortune at the end.

Quote
Have you ever seen Gascon in Disney's Beauty and the Beast? I have daughters, so I have. That there is a massive goofball, but everyone in town loves him and wants to be with him. If he told the shopkeeper to sell him something cheap before a thief stole it for real, they'd all laugh thinking he was joking and then probably go for the deal!

I've thought about this, but most of his plans are meanspirited.  For example, he flirted with a lonely old hag and then told her to meet him on a date which he never attended.  Sadly, the player seems completely resigned to the idea his character "won't ever succeed." He's been this way since the game started.



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NN
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2010, 01:34:08 PM »

But, can Fortune-in-the-middle support the socially skillfully player?






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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 389


« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2010, 10:47:20 PM »

But, can Fortune-in-the-middle support the socially skillfully player?

Well, it depends on what you mean by "support". If you mean "let him use his own personal social skill as a player to win social conflicts without using the character's skill" no, it will not support this. But it will let him use his player's skill to come up with good reasons for his character's lack of successes that will not deprotagonize him. Letting him roleplay his character without the constant pressure to get more successes.

@Simon: with a system like that I would dispose of any social skill in the game, leaving everything to the player's ability to role-play a social conflict and a little luck.  From the description, already the player's strategy is the most important factor for success.
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2010, 11:43:10 PM »

I'm constantly re-evaluating my design decisions, especially ones that I've taken for granted.  I'm glad that I made this thread.
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 07:16:35 AM »

This reminds me of the thinking I was doing in this thread (before it ran away without me!). Basically my idea was that you use the character's mental/social skill as a threshold for problem solving, for the appearance of challenges in a game.

If you don't have a high enough stat or skill, then you just can't bargain. In this way the mental skills select for the type of challenge you want, and if you don't want it, you give some kind of randomised amount of advantage to the enemy, and present it almost as magic: "They surround you on every side" or "They dart in and out of tunnels like shadows, confusing you" standing in for a tactical challenge or "He twists your words around to make it sound like you support the queen" or "The salesman unleashes a blaze of sales patter and you walk out of the shop holding an ornament" for social challenges!

But what about the person who wants to feel that they have skills they don't? Well mechanics can be used to skip over discussions they can't do, like "you say something amazing and they give you this discount".
You could also do the equivalent of powers for social situations, and actually create pre-packed strategies for people to use. This would require the player with the good social brain buying her tactics for her character before she actually uses them (and possibly expanding the domain of powers by doing so).

The only other alternative I know that doesn't break the internal logic for other players is to allow them to suggest dialog for the other person's character. In other words we know his character said something clever, but we don't know what, and we jump out of direct in character play to coach the player in better negotiation! To do this well is quite a feat, and it reminds me of the old challenge of explaining maths to someone next to you in school; without doing it for them or patronising them.
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Callan S.
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WWW
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2010, 09:48:33 PM »

I still don't understand what fortune in the beginning/middle/end means.


Anyway, I've thought a mechanism that captures it is there's a bonus you can get (up to x amount), you roleplay and the GM keeps telling you each time you get a bonus point. It stops once you get to X, or the GM thinks and says your roleplay screwed up, which doesn't lose you any of the bonus you've gained, it just means no more roleplaying anymore, roll the fekkin die.
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David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2010, 01:31:33 AM »

Ok, so I have a new approach that I might try. One thing I should say about this is that I'm trying to not go full blown "Burning Wheel."  As cool as that system is, I want a system that is more of an "accordion." I want it to be short with the merchant and long with the king.

My new idea for resolving social conflict is for each player (and NPC) to have a social 'HP' pool. They declare their goals and decide if they both want to engage in the social duel. If not, they make a compromise or walk away. The player who seems to be making the argument goes first (the initiator). He rolls an attack argument against the defense argument. If the initiator loses, he can spend 1 'HP' to try again or he can accept the loss.

A second round is performed with the initiator on the defense. The "opposition" can choose to either go on the attack or compromise. Whichever he chooses, he make his own attack argument. If he chooses a compromise the argument is over. If he wins the compromise argument, he declares the compromise  (The more reasonable it is, the more likely it will be taken up.) The initiator must accept it or spend 1 HP. If the opposition wins an attack argument, the conflict continues. If the opposition loses his attack argument, he can spend 1 'HP' to try again or he can accept the loss. 

In the third round, the initiator is on the attack again. At this point, HE can choose to compromise and follows the same rules. Or he can make attack arguments.

This continues back and forth until one side gives up, can't continue or compromises.  'HP' are regained as GM rewards and 1 point each scene. If a player has no HP to spend, that's it.

The players are expected to roleplay the results (Before the dice are rolled). The GM can reward 1 bonus HP at the end of the conflict for clever plans or good roleplaying. In addition, there is a blanket rule for the entire game.  If you describe your actions with good flavor, you can get critical successes. Also, if you botch, you don't get any ill effects from the botch (whereas the GM gets to punish you otherwise!)
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2010, 10:02:18 AM »

Barring actual rules that address it, the way I handle character skill vs. player skill is that we, the group, negotiate the player's input until it makes sense for who the character is. "That sounds really goofy to me, are you sure that's what your character would say? Is he being serious, or is he taking the piss here?" Once we have a firm image of what the character is doing, how it looks like to us in the audience and why he's doing it, then we can go to the dice.

Using the above method it really isn't much of a problem if the player is a bad tactician or bad in social situations or whatever, as his real input is to provide drive and choices the character makes - how those choices actually show up in the game itself depends on how they are filtered by the group and the GM. Simply put, I might say that in many games at my table the player doesn't have to tell me how his character is going to haggle, exactly - he'll just tell me of his decision to haggle, we roll dice and justify the result with narration afterwards.

Not all games work like this, of course. Lately I've been playing various D&D-like adventure games in which I've specifically withdrawn the safety net - each player is responsible for whatever idiocy his character might do, so better watch your words in those games.
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David Artman
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Posts: 570

Designer & Producer


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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2010, 12:13:24 PM »

@Simon: with a system like that I would dispose of any social skill in the game, leaving everything to the player's ability to role-play a social conflict and a little luck.
This.

In my own game design (which is for LARPs, so it might have a harder stance on this than you), I simply DON'T have abilities or skills that perform "social" or "metal" "attacks."

For one, it avoids the very problem you face: the suave character played by a goofball.
For two, the combat system is live, and so it makes little sense that one can be a "genius" according to his or her character's stats but another can't be a "martial arts expert" with stats (becasue whether or not one can hit with a boffer/packet/Airsoft has a LOT more to do with net success in combat).
For three, all of the support advice (like JoyWriter's) is a BIG drain on GM or other player time, and I've decided as a designer that I'm not going to make a system which *compels* someone to be helpful to another so that the other can be something they are not. (There's plenty to help newbies with in LARP without ALSO having to help them learn to act, think, or charm.)

I recognize that many of the hurdles I am surmounting with this design decision do not match those of tabletop play. But, as Moreno said, if the system requires RL (real life) ability to *setup* an attempt or to explain or justify *execution* of that attempt, and if the math of the system weights that equal or above the randomizer element, then forget the "skill" element. Dumb players can't play smart problem solvers, period.

Of course, in tabletop play, there's not the obvious symmetry with social v combat effects: no one at a tabletop game is expected to be able to actually run, maneuver, swing, and hit with a prop to be a "combatant." And so you have this weird world: a character can be described with a number of stats and skills, and yet a class of of activities which use those stats (mental/social) requires real-life ability, while another class of activities (combat) doesn't. (Or maybe the latter does require "plausible narration" by the player... and then maybe you're applying a harsher judgment to mental/social "narration of setup" versus combat "narration of setup?")

It's a seriously tough issue in game design, for both computer and tabletop/LARP games--it's called "roll v role play," "soft v hard skills," and  "STAT v DO play" (I coined the latter, viz a vis LARP systems):
* If I have a Deduction or Logic skill (or Intelligence stat) why should I ever try to solve a puzzle or riddle written into a module? Give my Super Genius a roll!
* If I can out-boffer 99% of the folks I face in-game, why should I pay points for additional damage attacks, when I know I can accomplish that damage in hardly more time, with normal 1-damage touches? Keep your high-cost, high-damage abilities!
(And let's face it: in "open play" with a mixed group... who really guns for the hunky guy or the sexy girl as hard as they might for someone less attractive? Good-looking people get their way almost all the time anyway in social situations; why should they pay for some dumb Seduction skill?)

Finding the balance on that continuum from "DO it, or do not, there is no roll" and "roll everything and maybe do some narration if you get a cool idea" is a BIG part of system design, in my opinion. I opt for consistency in my own system (as much as possible while still providing rules for major tropes of popular genres). Others opt for a system in which some stuff is soft (the character) and some stuff is hard (the player)--any game with complex resource management strategies sits around this spot, I figure (you roll character skill to do stuff, but *enabling rolling* requires actual player skill with the resource sub-game). Still others don't sweat the player contributions much at all: it's all in what's on the sheet, and ONLY in what's on the sheet.

What will you decide?
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2010, 10:42:14 AM »

My new idea for resolving social conflict is for each player (and NPC) to have a social 'HP' pool. They declare their goals and decide if they both want to engage in the social duel. If not, they make a compromise or walk away. The player who seems to be making the argument goes first (the initiator). He rolls an attack argument against the defense argument. If the initiator loses, he can spend 1 'HP' to try again or he can accept the loss.

A second round is performed with the initiator on the defense. The "opposition" can choose to either go on the attack or compromise. Whichever he chooses, he make his own attack argument. If he chooses a compromise the argument is over. If he wins the compromise argument, he declares the compromise  (The more reasonable it is, the more likely it will be taken up.) The initiator must accept it or spend 1 HP. If the opposition wins an attack argument, the conflict continues. If the opposition loses his attack argument, he can spend 1 'HP' to try again or he can accept the loss.  

In the third round, the initiator is on the attack again. At this point, HE can choose to compromise and follows the same rules. Or he can make attack arguments.

This continues back and forth until one side gives up, can't continue or compromises.  'HP' are regained as GM rewards and 1 point each scene. If a player has no HP to spend, that's it.

The players are expected to roleplay the results (Before the dice are rolled). The GM can reward 1 bonus HP at the end of the conflict for clever plans or good roleplaying. In addition, there is a blanket rule for the entire game.  If you describe your actions with good flavor, you can get critical successes. Also, if you botch, you don't get any ill effects from the botch (whereas the GM gets to punish you otherwise!)


I've been trying to track down a linkable example, but I have a sneaking suspicion that white wolf does exactly that with willpower in exalted. The problem with this is that they are also used as generic hero-points, so are not as interesting to me.

Don't forget that tactically people might go for compromise when they are loosing/it's costing too much anyway, so you might be able to fit compromises into the system non-mechanically. On the other hand, you might need to include it to balance in case offering a compromise weakens their original position.

There is a snag here though; first of all there's the system "talk and pay not to be convinced", and that seems pretty much just like an addition on top of the existing problem, and then there is the other system, "the roll to hit" for arguments, which could replicate the problems you observed before; the lack of link between the causal chain of the fictional logic, and the dice deciding the effectiveness. You need that link, with one determining the other in some direction, or the disconnect is always going to be potentially there.

I do find the GM critical successes idea interesting, sort of like saying "style is fuel for me to say yes and". It's a rule I've accidentally applied myself in shadowrun, when I wasn't sure what the threshold for "flair" was in success margins, and was more or less lenient depending on the imagination put into description!
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Garbados
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Posts: 19

Good Life Advice


« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2010, 01:24:11 PM »

I've always liked how RPGs let me be something I can't be IRL (like a dragonslayer).

A simple way to deal with this, used by an old system some friends and I messed around with, was that social skills didn't actually make you better at talking, they made you more socially aware. A socially oblivious character would have little notion of conduct, or how to read cues from between the conversational lines, even if the player did. If a player, in the body of a socially oblivious character, attempted to be clever beyond what the character was capable of, the GM would simply say, "You don't know that," or "That isn't apparent to you." Likewise, your goofball playing the socialite could use his social skills to perceive and use social cues. What the player said was still ultimately what the character said, but social skills guided and informed what the player should say. Smaller conflicts, like negotiating with merchants or other encounters you might want to abstract into a simple dice roll, were handled as a simple contest: your skill versus theirs. Whoever won got what they wanted, within reason.

I liked it because it allowed goofballs to play socialites, and forced the clever players to outwit their own ineptitude before they could outwit others. And it glided pretty well between little and big social encounters, so that haggling with merchants took no more than the time to roll a die, while serious engagements like the politicking of a court was more vivid and engaging. Like you said, "short with the merchant and long with the king."
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2010, 05:02:25 AM »

What the player said was still ultimately what the character said, but social skills guided and informed what the player should say. Smaller conflicts, like negotiating with merchants or other encounters you might want to abstract into a simple dice roll, were handled as a simple contest: your skill versus theirs. Whoever won got what they wanted, within reason.

I liked it because it allowed goofballs to play socialites, and forced the clever players to outwit their own ineptitude before they could outwit others. And it glided pretty well between little and big social encounters, so that haggling with merchants took no more than the time to roll a die, while serious engagements like the politicking of a court was more vivid and engaging. Like you said, "short with the merchant and long with the king."

So the skill roll in a haggling situation represents not who has the greater "influence" but who has the upper hand in understanding of their opponent? And then you just skip out actually manoeuvring those advantages and assume they face head to head? That makes a lot of sense to me, something equivalent to assuming perfect play, which is sometimes done in game theory to abstract out opponents. Do you limit the appropriate skills? Or do you just assume that whatever they learn is always appropriate to the situation?

I rather the latter, based on the straightforwardness of The Shadow of Yesterday's basic conflict system.

One thing I find interesting about this is it's focus on making people more socially skilful; if made well it could actually encourage players to try to understand people better in real life! A friend of mine already refers to accidently hurting someone's feelings as as "triggering a woe", I've no doubt the same sort of thing could apply here.

On the downside, it looses the "power of dice" effect when dealing with an uncertain or combative GM, and requires a bit more logic/umpiring from them, but if you include the old standby "roll-off and make the result a house rule" (for disputes about whether something should be reasonable/expected) then you should be fine!
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