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Author Topic: Re: The Social Domain - why's it so tough to design?  (Read 1664 times)
Silverwave
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Posts: 9


« on: March 31, 2010, 07:21:48 AM »

I'm digging up a old post, but after reading through this (a really interesting topic), I ended up telling myself : so... how to run social encounter again?

I've been playing RPGs for about 18 years now, and in the last few years, I kind of start questioning myself about everything, mostly why I do things like that in RPGs, and is it appropriate, what can be done, etc. A big reform of everything I though I knew.

It came to me that no RPG system I know adresses the "social encounter" the best possible way. The OP stated some rules that really make sense. Recently, I've read through WHFRP 3rd edition and really enjoyed the innovations in there. One of the subsystem gave me some ideas for social encounter.

The basic idea is to use some "tracker". One tracker is used for time keeping, the other for "social successes". You pick a certain number of rounds. At the end of each round, you move the "time tracker" 1 up. The social successes tracker moves 1 up for every PC success, and 1 down for every NPC success or every PC failure (don't know which one is the most appropriate). When the time tracker reaches the end, the encounter ends and you look at the success tracker to see the final result of the encounter. So it isn't about "success or failure" but mostly about "how much you succeed or fail". The GM would have prepared a table that tell what arc the story takes depending on the number of successes. Here's an example :

Successes                                  Outcome

-1                                                  critical failure effect (breaks into a fight, etc)

1-2                                                x happens

3                                                   y happens

4+                                                 z happens (or x+y happens?)


The social encounter don't have to be PCs arguing against a single NPC. It could be a bigger scene that give every players the opportunity to shine, not only the most charismatic one. For example, it could be a Ball where all the nobles of the city, the prince, rich merchants, captain of the guard, etc. are invited. The PCs have to convince the Prince to give them access to the old mausoleum of his ancestors because they have good reason to believe the king's assassin came from a secret passage down there. One PC could try to directly convince the prince itself, while another could con a merchant telling him they'll get him some ancient artifacts from the graves if he talks good of the PCs to the Prince, and another could try to charm an influent noble widow. The idea is to get everyone involved regardless of their social skills and it takes into account character's skills and "powers" (WHFRP have social talents cards, for example, other games mostly also have social special abilities of sort). The GM should not forget the give bonuses or penalties if the player's action if particularly good/bad, /interesting/boring, original/unimaginative, funny/lame, etc. It must be substantial bonuses to able a poor social skill character that had a really great idea to succeed the check with really good probabilities (in the top of my head, I would say 80%) or a good social character that take really stupid actions to fail (again, at about 80%). In the middle, an average social skill character whose player take average action have still a good chance of success (somewhere between 60%), something like a player that says to his GM : "I try to convince the Prince that helping us will protect him against future assassination attempts.", which IMHO is a somewhat average social action.

So, any thoughts or comments on using this system ?
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Silverwave
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2010, 07:25:47 AM »

(No edit button??)

I've realized that a check failure shouldn't decrease the social success tracker since poor social skilled character would want to stay out of the encounter since they would be nuisance to the party's success. We want every character to get involved.
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Locke
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2010, 12:26:04 PM »

(sorry this was meant for this thread accidentally posted it in another.)

well one thing that confuses me is why don;t people try backing into the system first.  People have ideas, which is fine, but seem to understand how to practically employ them.  For example, you could get with a friend or two and do a social interaction.  Just makeup the rules as you go; play with no rules.  Figure out what what the rules should be.

The two major things to look out for is:
- a character having more intelligence than the player.
- a player having more intelligence than the character.

In the first case, the GM can determine that the character knows or has the ability to do or say something that the player does not.
In the second case the GM has to determine how much the character can do.  This is harder to police for the GM and easier to exploit by the player.  Efforts must taken to determine the extent the character is able to follow the player's command.

Look at my system in sig, you might see something in the Flaw I have come up with that allow a GM some latitude.  I would use a similar system but expand on it.  Give each character like 3 emotional traits.  Maybe one strong one and two subversive ones.  Like:  Pride, Distrustful, and Know-it-all

Pride is the major:  The GM can automatically instill the character to not back down in situations that maybe they should.  If forced to back down they take a penalty of xx to xx because of disappointment.
Distrustful:  The character is generally distrustful of people and situations without extensive knowledge or proven trust.  The GM can force the character to leave a situation where the character doesn't have intimate knowledge.
Know-it-all:  The character thinks he knows everything, the GM could cause a critical failure when the character attempts to roll from something they probably don't know.


just some ideas...  and is simple without having to refer to charts.
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Jeff Mechlinski
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2010, 01:09:24 PM »

I've split this off from The Social Domain - why's it so tough to design? (2008). In the future, please don't post to old threads, please just start a new thread and include a link to the old one.

No big deal, just a little Forge policy and housekeeping. Carry on!

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dindenver
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2010, 03:24:54 PM »

SW,
  Well, there are a couple of games that I think handle social interactions very well.
1) Games with Universal mechanics like PTA, InSpectres, DC Heroes.
2) Dogs in the Vineyard - This uses a universal mechanic, but the fallout is different based on what the format of the conflict is.
3) Exalted - The system is not quite universal, but the social combat system works pretty well. Basically, you have social HPs called WillPower. As long as you have it, you can lose will power in a Social Contest. But once you run out, you have to accede to your opponents demands.
  Of the games that are out there that I have actually played, I think these work best.

  Also, I think the idea that a fight breaks out when you lose a social conflict, seems unusual. Basically, I would have the loser do what the winner wants. Maybe give them a mechanical penalty equal to the amount they lost by for doing anything else.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Silverwave
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2010, 05:41:11 AM »

I've split this off from The Social Domain - why's it so tough to design? (2008). In the future, please don't post to old threads, please just start a new thread and include a link to the old one.

No big deal, just a little Forge policy and housekeeping. Carry on!

-Vincent
site tech admin



Loud and clear. Sorry!
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Silverwave
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2010, 08:02:47 PM »

well one thing that confuses me is why don;t people try backing into the system first.  People have ideas, which is fine, but seem to understand how to practically employ them.  For example, you could get with a friend or two and do a social interaction.  Just makeup the rules as you go; play with no rules.  Figure out what what the rules should be.

Well, it's true that social encounter are, in most RPGs, more or less free-form, but that's what I want to adress. I want to design rules that let things flowing, something that works WITH the rules and not FOR the rules. The difference may seem subtle, but in social encounter, we should let the player RP and make different actions and the rules should be there to reward good RP and good ideas and not have a set of rules that make players want to do that peculiar action because it's the most powerfull option. In the other hand, not having a system at all, making things all free-form don't make into account character's statistics and traits/skills and that's a shame. It only incite min-maxers to ignore social/intelligence stats because they know they are not used or have less impact. A social character should shine as much uin social encounter as a combat oriented character shines in battle, and thay can only be achieve by a good social encounter system.
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Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2010, 08:18:51 PM »

SW,
  Well, there are a couple of games that I think handle social interactions very well.
1) Games with Universal mechanics like PTA, InSpectres, DC Heroes.
2) Dogs in the Vineyard - This uses a universal mechanic, but the fallout is different based on what the format of the conflict is.
3) Exalted - The system is not quite universal, but the social combat system works pretty well. Basically, you have social HPs called WillPower. As long as you have it, you can lose will power in a Social Contest. But once you run out, you have to accede to your opponents demands.
  Of the games that are out there that I have actually played, I think these work best.

  Also, I think the idea that a fight breaks out when you lose a social conflict, seems unusual. Basically, I would have the loser do what the winner wants. Maybe give them a mechanical penalty equal to the amount they lost by for doing anything else.

I would add Burning Wheel and it's variants (Mouse Guard, Burning Empires, Blossoms are Falling) to that list. Also, from what I hear, Diaspora has a very interesting social resolution system.
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James R.
horomancer
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Posts: 54


« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2010, 05:50:21 AM »

I have little experience with most of those systems. Care to list some of the mechanics that make them good at social resolution?
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Silverwave
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Posts: 9


« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2010, 07:05:47 AM »

I have little experience with most of those systems. Care to list some of the mechanics that make them good at social resolution?

x2 !
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dindenver
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2010, 05:01:11 PM »

OK, I'll bite:
DITV - It uses the same mechanic (roll dice and bid them like poker chips), the only difference between Social, fist fighting and gun fighting is the kind of fallout you get if you lose the bid.
PTA - The resolution is completely universal (you draw cards), it doesn't matter if it is a fight, debate, seduction, etc.
InSpectres - All skills are rolled on the same table (6, you get what you want, 1, you are screwed)
DC Heroes - It uses a table to resolve all actions. The rules specify how to interpret the table when you use social skills/powers.
Exalted - Social combat uses the same system as regular skills, but the target's willpower determines how effective you are. If you are out of Willpower, you just have to accede to your opponent's demands.What makes this system interesting is that Willpower is also used to power your strongest charms (magic powers).

  If you want more specifics, please feel free to ask. I have played all of the above several times and can answer most of your questions.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Noclue
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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2010, 10:29:25 AM »

I have little experience with most of those systems. Care to list some of the mechanics that make them good at social resolution?

Burning Wheel uses a Duel of Wits mechanic where you agree to the stakes of an argument and then each side secretly scripts their next three moves (things like: making a point, avoiding the topic, confusing the opponent, insulting them, luring with a false argument). The moves are roleplayed as they are revealed and dice are rolled to determine the effects on each side's hit points (actually Body of Argument). First one to reach 0 loses, the other side gets their stakes, but if they've lost any BoA themselves they have to offer minor to major compromises depending upon how many they lost.
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James R.
Jacob Potemkin
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2010, 09:59:03 AM »

I wish I had some useful comments about making a solid design choice regarding social avenues, but they are so specific to individual circumstance that they can be quite difficult to provide broad, general guidelines, at least in my own experience.

Our homebrew system uses a persuade/deceive dichotomy as the basis for competitive social interaction, with perception or another appropriate skill as a defense; the difficulty of the task can grant bonuses or penalties and may require more than one interaction, depending on what is at stake--however, this is largely determined by the GM, who may or may not rule consistently depending on the players, characters, etc., and because we tend toward simulation, there are relatively poorly-defined limits to the 'realism' of the interaction (i.e., you can't persuade the king to give you the kingdom, generally speaking, no matter how silver-tongued you may be, especially in a single interaction).

I should note, however, that the Song of Ice & Fire game uses a social interaction system as complex as that of the combat system (though neither are particularly rules heavy), in part to reflect the importance of politicking in the books, and I found it to be pretty inspirational when I read through it originally. That said, it has some flaws as well (I don't recall if there was a formal rule for 'disengagement' from the encounter, so people could just walk away if they were losing, but that could be because I am misremembering and don't have the book here with me), but we tend toward modification in most of our games in any case.
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Silverwave
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2010, 06:41:37 PM »

Today I've read the social combat rules for Exalted 2nd Ed. I totally disliked them. Too complex. Too much rules. I don't want the social system to be a system in itself, just a part of the system.
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2010, 09:33:42 PM »

Honestly, I don't think designing the social domain is be hard.

And that's not just me having a dig at the topic, or the numerous designers before me who have stated that it is hard.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that a well constructed game mechanism should work just as well for the social domain as it works for combat or skill resolution. The biggest problem is that most designers ignore the social mechanisms of the game until they've designed everything else, perhaps they think that the social side of things can be handled through freeform play at the table, maybe they've got it ingrained that social mechanisms are too hard and they leave that to the end.

Either way, a lot of social domain mechanisms seem to be tacked on at the end of the design process. The designer doesn't make much attempt to integrate them into the other parts of the game, or they try to shoehorn elements into the gameplay that just don't sit well with the existing mechanisms. Traditionally, far more thought has gone into making combat systems "realistic", or "cinematic". That's just one of the ways games have been traditionally perceived, and luckily it's something that a lot of indie games seem to be experimenting with at the moment. In my opinion, the big games; D&D, Pathfinder, World of Darkness...etc, still follow the old mould of game design, where the confrontation with with monsters is what people play for, special powers help to facilitate it, and the reward cycle is purely linked into it.

The games that aren't quite so big are willing to experiment a bit, and that's where you see the new version of the Warhammer Role Playing Game starting to push the envelope.

(That's just me editorialising and throwing my opinion out there, so don't take it as gospel).

I think a good system should be developed on the basis that it's used to resolve a conflict...regardless of what that conflict may be. Character vs Character...Character vs Outside World. Once you've got your basic conflict mechanism decided, you can throw in elements to flavour it for different situations...social, puzzle-solving, invoking supernatural powers, combat...anything else you think the game needs. Some games already seem to have been designed this way (intentionally or otherwise), a few of those mentioned in this thread can be counted among them (of the ones I've read...Dogs in the Vineyard, Burning Wheel, inSpectres...even look at something like Lady Blackbird). But I guess dindenver already stated something along these lines toward the beginning of the thread.
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