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Author Topic: Social Combat  (Read 15611 times)
Drew Stevens
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Posts: 154


« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2003, 03:32:55 AM »

Hell, I'm willing to help with any such mini-supplement :)  Although more in a research capacity until I've got der full copy.  I've even got a few notes typed out at work on different 'areas' that can be socially attacked, as opposed to just having it be one great whole, and the start of using Fame as both a shield and weapon...

Ahem.  Anyways :)
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Drew Stevens
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« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2003, 11:46:15 AM »

This is not merely meant to cover debates, but all forms of social intrigue.  I'm drawing as my primary inspirations Alexander Dumas' novels (the Three Musketters and the Count of Monte Cristo), the Prince and the Farseer triology by Robin Hobb.  (I'm also explicitly ignoring Jordan's Wheel of Time- while the Game of Houses has the right feel to it... ehh.)  I'm also, sort of, borrowing from Steve Jackson's card game Illuminati! (not the CCG version).  I've also flipped through several websites on Rhetoric and debate techniques- I couldn't find RPGnow's Lace and Steel, and have only recently found a copy of Dying Earth to borrow, which I can't read at work.  Some of these sources will be more apparent is the next version, focused on the tactical scale of intrigue, taking the whole of a court into a single exchange.

Social combat, much as martial combat, falls into three scales- the personal, the Court, and the World (analogious to Melee, Tactical and Strategic).  This supliment will focus primarily on the personal.

In a verbal dual with another, there are two essential positions- for and against ideas.  Someone is for no idea in particular, and devotes themselves purely to attacking another idea, may be wise- but they also can offer no alternative, and so their attacks (however true), will be ignored.  Or at best, incorporated into strengthening the original idea.  So, we deal only with those times when there are two or more competing ideals and those who champion them.

An undeniable aspect of social combat at a personal level is that of social class.  Higher nobility have a true advantage in the court, while even landless titled gentry will overawe most freemen, and so on.  This translates to different ATN and DTN's for different *percieved* social classes- a recently escaped prisoner may have the tongue of a bard and the grace of a courtier, but their rags will see their arguements dismissed out of hand.  Dress the same in the cloth of a nobleman, however... It takes more than clothes, though.  It takes the right attitude, and that can be infinitly harder to convincingly portray.  There is also a certain amount of skill involved, however- the art of rhetoric, the practice of deciet, the ways of judging truth from falsehood.  So Vocational proficiency can also come in, mostly in what Manuvers may be used.

So.

A basic social pool is compsed of Ettiquete and Social, plus any relevant social proficencies.  Your ATN is equal to your opponent's Social or Wits (whichever is greater), plus two for every 'step' (Royalty is normally at least two steps, and landed lords one step, above landless gentry)  of difference between your social classes above you.  Your DTN is your opponent's Social or Wits (whichever is greater).

The most basic offensive manuver is to Argue the point- unchecked successes consult the social damage chart.

Equally easy is to Insult the opponent- which are easier to make (ATN -1), but can be dangerous- in many countries, a person who recieves an Insult with successes equal or greater than their Willpower will try and turn the arguement violent.

Next is the Feint (which requires a Courtier or similiar VR of at most 8).  A social feint involves a sudden change in conversation, which can leave an opponent stunned.  It functions almost identically to a combat feint- discard two dice from the SP, and declare any additional dice you want to add ot the attack. discarding one die for each one you add.

Next in the Stop Short (which requires a Courtier or simliar VR of at most 8).  Stopping Short is essentially just a distraction, a means of throwing an opponent off, such as flattery or even partial agreement.  It has a cumulative cost of 1 die each time it's used, as well as committing some number of dice above and beyond.  The attacker rolls Wits versus his Courtier VR, while his opponent rolls Willpower versus his Courtier VR + however many dice the the attacker committed.  If the attack succeddes, then the defender looses the margin of success from their remaining Social Pool.

So, for example, Geralt (who has a Social Pool of 10, Wits of 4 and a Courtier VR of 7) attempts a Stop Short while debating the merits of the King's invasion of Stahl with his 'friend' Stephen (who has a Social Pool of 8, Willpower of 3 and a Courtier VR of 8).  This is his first Stop Short this conversation, so there is no activation cost.  He spends one die from his Social pool anyways, raising Stephen's total TN to 9 (his VR of 8 + 1).  They both roll- Geralt rolls a 10, 7, 6, and 2 while Stephen rolls a 9, 4 and 1.  Geralt's margin of success is one, and so Stephen looses one die from his Social Pool for the next exchange.

More complex, rhetorically speaking, is the Bind (which requires a Courtier or similiar VR of at most 7).  Binding someone's arguement means anticipating and pre-empting points and counterpoints, or leading one's opponent into a corner or paradox from which the only escape is agreement- it is usally a setup for a socially devistating Arguement.  Make a standard Social attack roll- each point on the margin of success reduces the target's Social Pool by one for the next exchange.

And finally, the Beat (which requires a Courtier or similiar VR of at most 6).  A Beat may only be used in the opening exchange of an arguement, and is an attempt to completly circumvent the entire debate by cutting off further debate through a quick pincushioning of common points and counterpoints to the speaker's advantage.  Make a standard Social attack- each success reduces the target Social Pool by one for the remainder of the debate.

So armed, the Courtier is as deadly an opponent in the Court as a soldier is on the field.  However, there are defenses.

The simpliest is Counter-arguement.  A standard social roll.

The next is to Dodge the question.  The DTN for Dodging is -2 from a standard defensive check, but the defender must win with a margin of two successes to seize the initative.

A full Evasion is the last of the simple defenses.  The defender, rather than answering the question, begs forgiveness as they rush off to a suddenly remembered prior engagement- conceding the debate for the moment, but not neccesarily for long.  The DTN for a full Evasion is -3 from a standard defensive check- although the attacker can always chose to let someone who has attempted a full Evasion go.

More complex is a rhetorical technique (which requires a Courtier or similiar VR of at most 8) of Counter Questioning.  Rather than directly answer the point, the defender instead questions the attacker himself, in a manner not dissimiliar from an veiled insult.  The defender's makes a social check at DTN -1; however, if they have more successes than their opponent Willpower, then the attacker will suddenly feel a most pressing need to draw steel.  This does usally end the arguement...

Another popular technique (which requires a Courtier or simliar VR of at most 8) is Absurdist counterpoint, which exagerates the attacker's point so far out of it's normal scope as to render it laughable.  Absurdist counterpoint costs two dice to attempt, and is otherwise a normal defense roll.  However, each point of margin of success they defender succedes by is a penelty to that attacker's ATN for the remainder of the debate.

For example, Stephen (SP: 8, ATN: 5) and Geralt (SP: 10, DTN: 4) are now arguing over which Duchess has the lovliest eyes.  Stephen has chosen to simply Argue the point with Geralt (with 5 dice), who takes the chance to show how Absurd his friend is being (paying two first to make an Absurdist point, and then 5 more beyond that).  Stephen rolls a 9, 4, 3, 3, and 1- only one success -where Geralt (lucky bastard) rolls a 6, 6, 4 and 2- three success.  Geralt's margin of success is two, and so not only does he take initative, but Stephen's ATN (should he ever get iniative make) would now be 7.

The height of style, however, comes from turning one's own attack totally against them, especially against boorish opponents.  Such Counters (which require a Courtier or similiar VR of at most 7) cost three dice up front, as they are subtle and elaborate and delicate constructs.  However, should the defender succede, not only do they gain initative, they gain bonus dice equal to the total successes rolled by both attack and defense!

Social Damage
Reputation Loss (RL): Same mechanic as Blood Loss, uses an Opponent's Social instead of Health.  Just track the highest RL.
Scandel: Same mechanic as Shock.
Agreement: Same mechanic as Pain.  

An arguement is over when either an opponent has no more Social Pool due to Agreement, or their Social has fallen to 0 from Reputation loss.

Level 0: A bit of a zinger, but no notible effect.
Level 1: A witty line to use later.  RL: 4, Scandel: 2
Level 2: An excellent retort and bit of logic, that!  RL: 6, Scandel: 4, Agreement: 1
Level 3: Bit of a blister there, eh?  RL: 8, Scandel: 6, Agreement: 3
Level 4: A devestating series of arguements of logic!  RL: 10, Scandel: 8, Agreement: 5
Level 5: An arguement so totally connected that refutation seems impropable- and may be impossible.  RL: 12, Scandel: All, Agreement: 7
Level 6: No matter how intractable the opposition or how they personally feel, no one can deny that they have lost the debate.  RL: 14, Scandel: All, Agreement: All
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2003, 11:52:37 AM »

::GRINS::
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2003, 12:05:15 PM »

Oh, sorry I did not know. I am really new here so I hope I was not rude.
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"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
-Roy Batty, Blade Runner
Jake Norwood
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« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2003, 12:14:06 PM »

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Oh, sorry I did not know. I am really new here so I hope I was not rude.


Hey, no problem. No rudeness here. :-D

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Brian Leybourne
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« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2003, 01:23:55 PM »

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Oh, sorry I did not know. I am really new here so I hope I was not rude.


Not at all mate (Assuming you're referring to my reply to your message). If you thought you were rude then you have a pretty harsh view on what's rude :-)

BTW, I really like your .sig, but you left the most important part out :-) Right at the end, he says "Time to die". Really powerful quote IMO.

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #21 on: February 20, 2003, 02:11:24 PM »

Good start Drew.I can see it getting published. While mini-supplement means written by a fan, that doesn't mean it's not a real product. I think Jakes saying that he'd put his imprimature on such a product if well done. Would you Jake?

Couple of notes. For those two maneuvers that can go to a fight, what I'd say is that if they are used, the person suffering from them can avoid taking any damage by declaring that he's escallating to violence, as long as the declaration is made before the roll (the actual roll would indicate that he'd tried to resist first, in which case, it would be too late, the damage would be done). The question of how likely this is for an NPC is purely a question of how the violence is seen in that country (and could be adjudicated by a roll like you indicate if the GM is unwilling to just choose). But PCs should be able to go to violence just like at any other time, with only the potential consequences to consider (killing the Duke may silence him, but it might also get you hung).

That said, there's no reason why such a duel of words can't continue while a fight is on. If both PCs throw white, they do a round of Social Combat if either wishes, and there is an appropraite audience. I'm reminded of the scene in Rob Roy where Neeson duels the fop. The Fop wins the social contest but ends up dead. The outcome of the physical duel should have an affect on the social combat. Depending on the nature it may eliminate all social damage in the combat, or reduce it. Losing might double losses or something. This might extend to all losses sustained in the combat so far, not just ones sustainded during the combat. Cool?

This is how bullies can sometimes remain at court. After taking losses, instead of just "taking it" they escallate to combat, in order to mitigate the effects suffered so far. Again, depending on the rules of the culture, consequences for such fights will vary in parallel with the perception of slight. A really deft social manipulator in most societies can remain out of the "danger zone" where he's a legit target most of the time.

Discussion of these sorts of norms (and perhaps rules for defining societies mechanically along these lines), would make excellent material for a mini-sup.

You know, there are lots of "illegal" techniques that you've missed that logic sites would say are bad ways to argue but often work IRL. I'd like to see rules for Gossip and Rumor-Mongering, and for Backstabbing, for example. Backstabbing would be to speak ill of somebody behind their backs when they didn't expect such. This reduces the opponents pool to zero to defend, and is often devastating. It's also often seen as very obviously conniving, makes people distrust you (might you be talking behind their backs as well?), and is a sure way to make enemies.

Also, lying. Lying is a great way to ruin a reputation.

BTW, mechanically I was thinking about what Reputation is good for. I see it maybe as something like an SA that boosts your social pool (similar to what you have for social status levels). Or something like that. Basically, it sounds like what all the fighting is about in lots of cases.

Cool stuff. I hope it sees book form.

Mike
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« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2003, 02:28:40 PM »

Quote
BTW, I really like your .sig, but you left the most important part out :-) Right at the end, he says "Time to die". Really powerful quote IMO.


Yes Brian it is a powerful quote but I had to trim off the "Time to die" to get under the limit for sigs. :)

P.S. Yes I have a harsh view on being rude. :)
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"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
-Roy Batty, Blade Runner
Drew Stevens
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Posts: 154


« Reply #23 on: February 20, 2003, 02:31:38 PM »

I was actually going to include quite a bit of that in the Courtly (tactical) version, as what I've written so far is mostly aimed for the 'two people get into an arguement/debate'.  And the avoidance of truth versus lies was intentional- I meant to demonstrate how a political situation is as much concerned with who has the more persuasive arguement as who has the factual information.

Although perhaps have such factual information demonstrably on hand should be worth some bonus to your SP...

Also, I like your thoughts on actual violence helping to mitigate the reputation damage- which actually ties in with another realization, that the healing model can be used to show someone who is 'on the outs' at a Court (and so starts any debate with an agreement level equal to their last Social Wound suffered) slowly regaining their old good name as time passes and people slowly forget all those nasty things that Count Ruegen said about you.  Country dependent, an honorable dual fairly won might be treated as though they had won the entire arguement- or their reputation 'healing' might be accelerated by an unprovable yet undenibly linked death of the other side of the debate...

Mm.  Much pondering required. :)
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #24 on: February 20, 2003, 08:09:28 PM »

Mike, Drew, that's exactly what I'm saying.

Drew, when you've got something you feel is about ready to publish, send it my way and we'll work things out.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: February 20, 2003, 08:23:42 PM »

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P.S. Noon I LOVE that idea!!!! My wife walked in on me talking to one of my players on the phone about this post and asked excitedly "When is the book coming out so I can throw my white dice to have small talk with the nobles or my Red to ruin their lives?"


Thanks! Mebe I'll write up some more ideas for it latter. But sadly, with comments about your wife like "she is as socially adept as a stone" I consider you a dead man walking (they find these things out, you know!), so you'll probably never see it! ;) ;)

Edit: Ah, I see that my idea has already been worked on.
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Durgil
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« Reply #26 on: February 21, 2003, 05:28:36 AM »

I just wanted to say that this is one of the best posts I've seen (and that's saying a lot on this Forum!). I had never thought about this aspect of roleplaying before, but now I don't see how I could have gotten along without it. Excellant ideas guys, and I can't wait to see the final product in pdf form. :-)
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Tony Hamilton

Drew Stevens
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Posts: 154


« Reply #27 on: February 21, 2003, 06:34:17 AM »

Hm.

Question- I've started to tinker with the idea of Courtly level social intrigue, and my personal favorite model is to try and find some way of showing interconnectedness (who you know, who you can influence, and who you can control) is the most useful attribute.

Which would mean that people have essentially two forms of power-
Personal power: What that person brings to the table on their own.  Economic, nobility, strength of arms, magic- it would all boil down to personal power.

Peripheral power: Who you know, how loyal/indebted they are, how much of their power (personal and peripheral) they will contribute to your cause.

The problem is, while Personal Power can be roughly modeled as the new basic SP, I have no idea how to factor Peripheral power into this without making what amounts to an entirely new character sheet.  

Further, unlike with normal tactical combat (where there is a few clearly defined sides), social intrigue involves how everyone is acting almost by definition.  OTOH, that can be reasonably modeled with attacks that only reduce your opponent's Peripheral power or attacks that only reduce their Personal power...

Hm.

Has anyone here read Trollbabe? I understand it deals fairly heavily with relationships-as-power/advancement...

Oh, also, I'm definitly gonna have to up the DTN of social combat a bit.  A friend and I had a quick test of two courtiers trying to convince the king of their idea's correctness, and it lasted forever- neither of our attacks ever did damage.
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Valamir
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« Reply #28 on: February 21, 2003, 07:15:35 AM »

Quote from: Drew Stevens
Hm.

Question- I've started to tinker with the idea of Courtly level social intrigue, and my personal favorite model is to try and find some way of showing interconnectedness (who you know, who you can influence, and who you can control) is the most useful attribute.

Which would mean that people have essentially two forms of power-
Personal power: What that person brings to the table on their own.  Economic, nobility, strength of arms, magic- it would all boil down to personal power.


Actually Drew, check out Jakes new game idea La Famiglia.  The family as its own store of chips which individual characters can borrow based on their rank, but they are expected to return them and more or else bad things happen.  Might be a good model for what you're trying to accomplish.  Not so much with chips, but the ability to borrow from your connected peoples personal influence to add dice to your pool.

For instance you might have people you are indebted to.  You might be able to borrow an amount of their SA (depending on how valuable you are to them) but you'd have to return the points plus to them or they put the screws to you.  In other words the borrowing actually spends their points, and you have to use your own points from your own SAs to buy them back plus (i.e. instead of using them to buy up levels you use them to pay back your web of influence).  The advantage is that these people are likely more powerful than you so the dice you roll use their TN instead of yours.

You might also have people who are below you.  The advantage here would be that the obligation to pay it back is less onerous, but since they are likely socially beneath you the TN of their dice aren't as good.  The best situation would be to get the goods on someone above you so you get their TN and yet you're incontrol.

Quote

Oh, also, I'm definitly gonna have to up the DTN of social combat a bit.  A friend and I had a quick test of two courtiers trying to convince the king of their idea's correctness, and it lasted forever- neither of our attacks ever did damage.


I don't know Drew.  Sounds like standard bureaucratic log jam to me.  In an age where messages took weeks or months to send deliberating over an issue for years was normal (during which time the various factions are scrabbling for power...just like congress in slow motion)

What you need I think in stead is to break the issue up into smaller steps, so that the instant gratification of making progress can be felt, but the larger issue itself is still going around and around.
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Drew Stevens
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Posts: 154


« Reply #29 on: February 21, 2003, 07:22:32 AM »

Well, the idea with the Personal level of social combat is that of the old school arguing in front of a large crowd (or a small one, or just between friends- whatever), and so it is /meant/ to be the small step.  Small scale combat should idealy play much like swordplay does in RoS- slow and cautious at start, until one side overreaches themselves and gets savaged- and always fairly quick.  Ideally, it should emphasis how much of a parallel there is between the social games of the nobility and the bloody games of the warriors there is- a sort of 'barbarian at court who claims this form of savagery is worse than his own' thing.

And I'll check on La Famiglia, as it sounds fairly similiar to what I was already thinking.  Thanks :)
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