Why are we okay with violence in RPGs? - Page 22
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  1. #211
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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post

    If the intended action in a game is "kill things and take their stuff" then yes, your game needs a combat mechanic. If the intended action in game is... "Kill things, and take their stuff... and then persuade the king to not execute your PCs after you killed many of his subjects," then you really should have a social conflict resolution mechanic.
    Not if you want people to talk in character and have what they say be the thing that determines whether the king is persuaded. I am not saying social mechanics are not useful, or are bad. But I mean you don't have to have them just because you want social interaction in the game (especially if you want actual social interaction in the game).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    Not if you want people to talk in character and have what they say be the thing that determines whether the king is persuaded. I am not saying social mechanics are not useful, or are bad. But I mean you don't have to have them just because you want social interaction in the game (especially if you want actual social interaction in the game).
    So, does that mean you probably /do/ want combat mechanics, especially if you don't want actual combat at the table?

    ;P

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    So I think the existence of engaging mechanics for social interaction can actually add to play rather than detract from it. The problem is that the most common social interaction rules aren't really all that engaging.
    More to the point, they tend to be less engaging than the social interaction that they are simulating.

    By the argument that I outlined above, the more detailed the social interaction rules, the less engaging that they will tend to be because the less they will resemble the thing that they are a model for.

    I can foresee this becoming Celebrim's Third Law of RPGs at some point, I just haven't figured out how to phrase it. But I have a strong suspicion that one of the reasons that the systems that try to cover everything using the same mechanical resolution system never seem to catch on is that fundamentally the things that they are trying to model are more different than they are similar. You can hammer every square peg through the round hole in order to get some sort of 'pass/fail' answer, but you can only do so at the cost of increasing abstraction and with that an intuitive and cinematic transcript of play.

    "Cinematic" word I realize has been defined in several ways by tRPG writers, but as I use it I mean a process of resolution that tends to increase the ability of all participants to imagine what is transpiring in the scene in the same concrete way. That is to say, it has mechanics which tend to be self reifying. For example, if your process of resolution of a social encounter primarily depends on holding some sort of conversation, then everyone at the table can easily imagine what is transpiring in the scene in the same concrete way, because the transcript of the conversation (or at least something quite similar to it) is right there for everyone to experience. Thus, holding a conversation is cinematic in a way that, "I try to intimidate the guard.", or "I try to persuade the Baron to lend some of his household troops to assault the lizardfolk", or "I use a conversational feint.", etc. etc. just isn't.

  4. #214
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    "Cinematic" word I realize has been defined in several ways by tRPG writers, but as I use it I mean a process of resolution that tends to increase the ability of all participants to imagine what is transpiring in the scene in the same concrete way. That is to say, it has mechanics which tend to be self reifying. For example, if your process of resolution of a social encounter primarily depends on holding some sort of conversation, then everyone at the table can easily imagine what is transpiring in the scene in the same concrete way, because the transcript of the conversation (or at least something quite similar to it) is right there for everyone to experience. Thus, holding a conversation is cinematic in a way that, "I try to intimidate the guard.", or "I try to persuade the Baron to lend some of his household troops to assault the lizardfolk", or "I use a conversational feint.", etc. etc. just isn't.
    I think it depends on defining what you want the end goal to be in a social encounter, in fact it has to be really. If the end goal is the Duke lends you some of his household guard to trounce that lizardfolk resolution mechanics need to tell us when the Duke acquiesces, does what we want but with a condition, or flat out refuses. But it also needs to let us use the character abilities, and use player input in a way that physical altercations don't.

    Using mechanics to wear the Duke down from his starting Social Points total is probably a bad idea, because as you say it looks too much like combat, but doesn't really let us know what is happening. But if we borrow FATE and start following stress then we can start assigning actual descriptions to what happens. For example, we might pick up a stress description of Insulted the Target, which doesn't go away just because the encounter is over. In a lot of ways that requires the players and the GM determining the outcomes after the dice roll, so if you insult the Duke its between the players and the GM to figure out how that happened.
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  5. #215
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
    To put it in old school terms-

    (1)You can either just RP everything, in which case charisma is a useless dump stat and everything is determined by DM fiat as they judge your performance; or
    (2) you can use a resolution mechanic for social events, in which case RP is just a mechanic.

    There isn't any "right" answer, but these are decidedly different approaches.
    I'm not sure that there is a "right" answer (that is, there is probably more than one good way to do things), but I do think that there are wrong answers.

    In any event, assuming that both of those are right answers, I think that they are also a false dichotomy. It's not true that either everything is determined by DM fiat or else RP is just a mechanic. There are definitely ways to both engage in RP and also have some system for resolving social tests that doesn't depend only on DM fiat. The real question is just how much prep time do you want to engage in in order to minimize fiat during the run time (fiat during the preparation time, such as what monster a room holds is pretty much impossible to avoid), or which gives you a really great return on investment. My experience on this is for most things preparation time in structuring a social test is better spent elsewhere unless the social test is going to involve some sort of multi-session minigame focused on RP.

    But, now moving up to your thief example, the reason you tended to see only Thieves hiding in Shadows is the relatively poor construction of the 1e AD&D rules. There is a tension in the rules. A good rule set tends to have as a meta-rule "Everything that is not forbidden is permitted." However, if you don't outline a good majority of the things that are permitted, there will be a tendency for players to not even try them, simply because they won't be prompted to consider the option. Likewise, if you don't outline a good majority of the things that are permitted, then DMs will tend to find themselves in a bind when propositions don't have a rule that covers them, and the result is likely to be either bad rulesmithing that makes the task too hard or too easy, or simply just saying "No" when they realize too permissive of rulings tend to be vastly more destructive to the game than too restrictive of rulings.

    So, in a sense, climbing a wall had always been permitted. But I'm guessing in practice that prior to the introduction of the thief, a given wall was only climbable if the DM called it out as climbable in his own preparation, by for example noting that handholds could be found if the north wall was closely inspected. The thief allowed a player to propose climbing a more or less sheer wall regardless of whether the DM had called out whether it was climbable. Indeed, the introduction of the thief probably started provoking DMs to do the opposite - calling on it in their preparation when a wall was especially not climbable. And this latter habit would tend to make most walls unclimbable except by thieves unless the DM was of a particularly imaginative sort.

    There were two other things that created problems. First, the system didn't define what a non-thief could do, which meant it was always up to the DM to decide on some number for the chance for a non-thief. And secondly, and this was a fundamental problem with the thief itself, the thief skills at low level already had such a low chance of success that a good thief player basically never used them anyway, since to face a fortune test was to fail and failure was often lethal. Thus, any number that the DM selected for a non-thief using thief skills would be so low as to be basically saying "No" anyway.

    In practice, only M-U's hid in shadows, because they had Invisibility. Thieves had no reliable means of stealth and so rarely utilized it. 'Move Silently' was used, but only because you had to move anyway, so you might as well try to do it moving silently. Ironically though, moving silently had no obvious impact on the Surprise system with its fixed chances of surprise, so unless the DM made some sort of fiat ruling, there was usually little point in doing it.

    The point is that we know you don't have to a climb skill that either relies entirely on fiat or else prevents untrained characters from trying to climb, even though we know that poorly thought out implementations might have either consequence.
    Last edited by Celebrim; Tuesday, 18th June, 2019 at 01:04 AM.

  6. #216
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    So, does that mean you probably /do/ want combat mechanics, especially if you don't want actual combat at the table?

    ;P
    I just think RPGs are generally harder to run without them than they are without social mechanics. Doesn't mean you have to have them. You can just use fiat if you want. But I think you will run into more contention if and when combat comes up if it isn't perceived to be a fair system.

    What I will say is I don't think having zero combat mechanics is the best way to discourage combat. Players can still pursue combat mechanics even if you don't have them (you will just be forced to figure out mechanics on the fly if they push for combat). In my experience the best ways to discourage combat are to make adventures where there are plenty of non-combat solutions, be open to non-combat solutions and use lethal combat systems. If the combat systems are sufficiently lethal, I find players tend to lean on smarter solutions to problems.

  7. #217
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    I just think RPGs are generally harder to run without them than they are without social mechanics. Doesn't mean you have to have them. You can just use fiat if you want. But I think you will run into more contention if and when combat comes up if it isn't perceived to be a fair system.
    You'll run into contention with any unfair mechanic or lack there of. It might take different forms. Bang! Your Dead! Am Not. Are too! for lack of combat mechanics, vs moping and not showing up to the next session when your 18 CHA paladin is humiliated in court for the nth time, because the DM doesn't care for the way you RP him, and it's reflected in his success in social situation, for want of any actual mechanics...

    If the combat systems are sufficiently lethal, I find players tend to lean on smarter solutions to problems.
    Like shooting first. ;P Seriously, the impetus a very lethal combat system gives is not towards pacifism, but towards assassination over "fair" fights.

  8. #218
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    You'll run into contention with any unfair mechanic or lack there of. It might take different forms. Bang! Your Dead! Am Not. Are too! for lack of combat mechanics, vs moping and not showing up to the next session when your 18 CHA paladin is humiliated in court for the nth time, because the DM doesn't care for the way you RP him, and it's reflected in his success in social situation, for want of any actual mechanics...
    Again, I think there is a big difference between combat and non-combat situations here. I've certainly seen people upset about the 18 CHR paladin thing, but that still doesn't require a whole system dedicated to social mechanics. It just requires the GM stay on the ball and fairly incorporate the CHR score. At the same time, I've not seen nearly as many fights and arguments over this sort of thing as I have over combat issues. I just think combat is much more open to contention. And I find it fairly easy to run a game without non combat mechanics.

    Like shooting first. ;P Seriously, the impetus a very lethal combat system gives is not towards pacifism, but towards assassination over "fair" fights.
    That would be a pretty bad strategy long term in a lethal combat system. Most systems don't guarantee you get to go first every combat. Even if you have a high Speed (or whatever is used to determine initiative order) there are always people out there who are fast or faster. If it is a game with guns, and guns can potentially kill in a single hit, my experience is people really hedge their bets when violence arises and they generally try to avoid violent solutions when safer ones are feasible. Obviously if violence is inevitable in a campaign using such a system, shooting first will be the go to move....but that is almost always the case anyways.
    Last edited by Bedrockgames; Tuesday, 18th June, 2019 at 02:38 AM.

  9. #219
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    Again, I think there is a big difference between combat and non-combat situations here. I've certainly seen people upset about the 18 CHR paladin thing, but that still doesn't require a whole system dedicated to social mechanics. It just requires the GM stay on the ball and fairly incorporate the CHR score.
    IDK, couldn't a GM just stay on the ball and consider a combat-bad-ass concept character's bad-ass-ed-ness when adjudication combat?


    That would be a pretty bad strategy long term in a lethal combat system.
    Taking advantage of the system's lethality by killing enemies when the odds are all on your side? It's classic CaW.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    IDK, couldn't a GM just stay on the ball and consider a combat-bad-ass concept character's bad-ass-ed-ness when adjudication combat?
    He could do that, but I think combat is a lot harder to adjudicate in that way than talking (which I explained in an earlier post).


    Taking advantage of the system's lethality by killing enemies when the odds are all on your side? It's classic CaW.
    But if it is genuinely lethal, any time you engage in combat it is a risky proposition. Look, you might have reckless players who do this, particularly if they don't care if their character dies or if the premise of the campaign involves a high level of character death, but for the most part my experience with this has been players are much more cautious using violence and tend to lean on non-violent solutions when they are feasible. If all it takes is one bullet to kill you, you can have the best laid plans and if one little thing goes wrong, you die. You can't get away with that over the long haul if you are doing it all the time.

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