A thought about Social Mechanics

dragoner

KosmicRPG.com
It is. Abstracting to just a roll is pretty abstracted.
Whether or not that's acceptable, let alone desirable, abstraction is extremely playstyle dependent.

When I am running D&D in "Dungeon Penetration Wargame" mode, that is the level I use. Bonus for a short but on-point list of key points.
When I am running most other modes, I expect an attempt at improv. I adjust whether or not there's a bonus based upon skill of known players at the improve.
I almost never go to the no-roll mode, tho' if there are certain key things, I may drop the roll for those certain key things - usually things that meet NPC goals. Or that drive the party in directions I want to have them go.
This is similar to my experience. Generally I might throw in a bonus somehow for a good short improv that goes with the roll. Also, up until recently I was part of an established group that had been playing since school, long before I was around. They would freely tell each other to shut up if someone was talking too much. Having a roll sort of short circuits that behavior. The flipside is that also I have run into players that are not all that great at talking so that the roll allows them to be more than they usually could be if they had to talk it out.
 

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I really do not see much significance on whether it is a save or a skill roll. Who physically rolls the dice is pretty inconsequential.

Odds of success being affected by both what the character is saying (player skill) and how convincing the character is (character skill) is fine. I don't see completely eliminating player skill either possible or desirable. It is always present in most facets of play. As long as the game has decisions to be made, and those decisions can affect odds of success, the player skill will matter, And that's a good thing!
 

It seems to me that part of the premise in the OP involves imputing the generation of fiction to the die roll where it does not exist.

E.g. in D&D, an attack roll actually generates only so much fiction:
(1) natural 1 or total < AC means the attack misses
(2) total >= AC means the attack hits
(3) natural 20 means the attack really hits

... and that's it. That's all the fiction that is actually generated by a D&D attack roll.

If players or GMs are generating additional fiction that they then link to the attack roll itself - such as assuming bumbling or incompetence on the part of the attacker, that is on them and not the mechanic being invoked.

The same thing goes for social mechanics, at least in D&D.

E.g. in B/X (if memory serves) you can roll an "ability check" by rolling a d20 and hoping to get a result under your ability score for a success, while in WotC you roll a check and try to equal or exceed the DC. The fiction that the die roll itself generates is just that the effort succeeded, the effort did not succeed, or (depending on the game and GM) there is some sort of mixed result.

If, in WotC-era D&D, the d20 comes up as a "1", no fiction assuming incompetence on the part of the player character has been generated. That's entirely on the players or GM if they assume such fiction is linked to the die roll.

I can't speak to other games. Maybe there are games where the rules tell you that an especially bad roll is "your character done goofed up"? I'm not aware of any. And personally, I would prefer not to have such a strong link - I'd rather be doing the lion's share of work generating fiction. The dice are there to tell me what happens (the attack misses, the Duke doesn't believe your lies or isn't convinced by your attempt at persuasion). Me and the players will decide why, assuming we care to.

IMO when it comes to the premise in the OP, who rolls the die is probably better put as an answer to questions such as, "Who gets to have the tactile experience of rolling dice during gameplay, and when?"
 

Maybe there are games where the rules tell you that an especially bad roll is "your character done goofed up"?

I can't recall specifics but the whole "nat 1s always fail" houserule has been codified in more than a few hacks, and of course you also have the PBTA heritage stuff that isn't necessarily as severe as that but is more or less what happens.

I'd rather be doing the lion's share of work generating fiction.

You still would be. Having guidelines doesn't strictly prevent that, and where it would (ie, respecting a roll) are places where you probably should be trusting what the system is saying.

IMO when it comes to the premise in the OP, who rolls the die is probably better put as an answer to questions such as, "Who gets to have the tactile experience of rolling dice during gameplay, and when?"

Thats pretty reductive. As said, the point is to address a psychological issue and to position whats happening in such a way that the act of rolling to resolve a situation doesn't contradict whats happening in the fiction.

A social interaction in real life isn't something that can be measured as good or bad in isolation; its fundamentally a reactive and subjective experience. A speech or argument is only as good as its ability to convince another person, and that person is required to be involved in order to judge it per their subjective reasoning. The speakers skill can and does influence that, but the act of speaking isn't what strictly succeeds. Even a poorly worded or stuttered attempt can be successful if the listener is still able to be reached by it.

Whereas swinging a sword effectively can be measured in isolation; if you swing the sword right every time, it doesn't matter if you have a target or not, its always going to be as effective as that swing allows (barring externalities like armor or sharpness).

Not so much for social interactions, because social interactions aren't the same thing as performances.

So ergo, the GM making a saving throw lines up better with real life, and because this is assuming a blend of character and player skill, they both contribute to setting the DC. If you wanted to go fully one way or the other, you absolutely could, but I personally prefer the blend and I think most would.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Thats pretty reductive. As said, the point is to address a psychological issue and to position whats happening in such a way that the act of rolling to resolve a situation doesn't contradict whats happening in the fiction.

A social interaction in real life isn't something that can be measured as good or bad in isolation; its fundamentally a reactive and subjective experience. A speech or argument is only as good as its ability to convince another person, and that person is required to be involved in order to judge it per their subjective reasoning. The speakers skill can and does influence that, but the act of speaking isn't what strictly succeeds. Even a poorly worded or stuttered attempt can be successful if the listener is still able to be reached by it.
Speaking of reductive, what's going on in this social interaction? Why is convincing needed? People communicate for several reasons, verbally and non-verbally. Are these factors being modeled in the victim's saving throw, too?

Whereas swinging a sword effectively can be measured in isolation; if you swing the sword right every time, it doesn't matter if you have a target or not, its always going to be as effective as that swing allows (barring externalities like armor or sharpness).
I'm going to need some time to grasp this one.

Not so much for social interactions, because social interactions aren't the same thing as performances.
And this.

So ergo, the GM making a saving throw lines up better with real life, and because this is assuming a blend of character and player skill, they both contribute to setting the DC. If you wanted to go fully one way or the other, you absolutely could, but I personally prefer the blend and I think most would.
Saving throws can line up better with real life social interactions, but that doesn't make it a good rule. A saving throw, if we're talking about the D&D-sacred-cow, is an unlimited defense action that has a separate (clunky) subsystem for no good reason. WotC might tell you that when certain dangerous things happen, it's on the victim to roll and say, "haha I foiled (50 percent of) your fiendish attack!" But you might not get an explanation of why this doesn't apply to attempts to stab the same victim in the face with a pointy stick. " Haha, I didn't have to roll to foil your fiendish attack! "
 

Speaking of reductive, what's going on in this social interaction? Why is convincing needed? People communicate for several reasons, verbally and non-verbally. Are these factors being modeled in the victim's saving throw, too?

What precisely leads you to believe the idea as presented in the OP is intended to be a fully constructed and indepth social system?

Its just a simple change to a common game pattern thats meant to resolve a specific and reoccuring issue. Nothing more than that.

I have given thoughts on how I might integrate it with my own system, but that doesn't make it or imply it is a full system either.

Its fine to want to explore how the idea could be built out into a full system, but approaching it from the angle of what Im reading as "this idea is bad because it isn't more than an idea" isn't very constructive.

Saving throws can line up better with real life social interactions, but that doesn't make it a good rule. A saving throw, if we're talking about the D&D-sacred-cow, is an unlimited defense action that has a separate (clunky) subsystem for no good reason. WotC might tell you that when certain dangerous things happen, it's on the victim to roll and say, "haha I foiled (50 percent of) your fiendish attack!" But you might not get an explanation of why this doesn't apply to attempts to stab the same victim in the face with a pointy stick. " Haha, I didn't have to roll to foil your fiendish attack! "

Case in point, your apparent disdain for DND really has nothing to do with this topic and if you're uncertain of whats meant by the words "saving throw" you can just ask and have an actual dialogue, rather than using the words as reason to soapbox about your grievances.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
What precisely leads you to believe the idea as presented in the OP is intended to be a fully constructed and indepth social system?
Just this:

. . . the point is to address a psychological issue and to position whats happening in such a way that the act of rolling to resolve a situation doesn't contradict whats happening in the fiction.

A social interaction in real life isn't something that can be measured as good or bad in isolation; its fundamentally a reactive and subjective experience. A speech or argument is only as good as its ability to convince another person, and that person is required to be involved in order to judge it per their subjective reasoning. The speakers skill can and does influence that, but the act of speaking isn't what strictly succeeds. Even a poorly worded or stuttered attempt can be successful if the listener is still able to be reached by it.
That looks a little more in-depth than "I think NPCs should roll in social encounters instead of PCs rolling."

Case in point, your apparent disdain for DND really has nothing to do with this topic and if you're uncertain of whats meant by the words "saving throw" you can just ask and have an actual dialogue, rather than using the words as reason to soapbox about your grievances.
I didn't say any ideas were bad ( besides saving throws). I'm saying that if you want to make a mechanism that respects player skill and character skill in social interactions, changing who rolls (using saving throws) isn't the way I'd do it. And I provided some insight on why that's not how I'd do it. Call that a soapbox speech if you want - or a social interaction.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
I'm unconvinced socializing is so different from other actions it calls for a different resolution method, and I find the discussion of improvisational acting beside the point. It's fine if that's how you RPG, but it's hardly integral to the activity!
 

That looks a little more in-depth than "I think NPCs should roll in social encounters instead of PCs rolling."

That isn't the OP, and again you're being very reductive. This isn't just about who rolls and trying to undermine the entire idea by ignoring the point its making is, again, not constructive.

If you don't like the idea you don't have to engage with it, but if you are going to then you need to acknowledge and embrace the premise. That means accepting that why a person is rolling matters, and accepting the conclusion that rolling to see how well you talk isn't a satisfactory way (meaning smooth, intuitive, and non-abrasive) to model social interactions under the assumption that you'll be speaking in character.

I didn't say any ideas were bad ( besides saving throws).

You're contradicting yourself.

And I provided some insight on why that's not how I'd do it.

You didn't provide any insight at all. You provided a non-sequitur about how you don't like what DND specifically does with saving throw mechanics.

I'm unconvinced socializing is so different from other actions it calls for a different resolution method, and I find the discussion of improvisational acting beside the point. It's fine if that's how you RPG, but it's hardly integral to the activity!

Unified resolution tends to result in blandness, and when you drive down more specifically, such as with social interactions, it causes problems due to how the game is structured. A roll is implied to represent a specific action being taken and its result, even in the absence of a degree of success system, imply how well that action was performed. This in turn tends to conflict with in-character acting because there's no actual connection between them, and the roll proceeds the acting.

You could change it to preceding, but then that causes issues with the conversation not feeling natural; ie, people are going to complain that mechanics are getting in the way. (One only needs to look at how PBTA structures its entire system to see why thats a problem people have; PBTA exists to explicitly prevent preceding rolls)

But, this also isn't a case where it isn't a unified method, unless we're assuming that saving throws are using an entirely different resolution method. In DND its all still a 1d20 + Mod roll, as it would be in my own system.

The rule, being that social interactions are resolved via saving throw rather than skill check, is overall different from the norm, but it is all still the same resolution method. Repositioning why the roll is being made and who is making makes a difference in what the roll is introducing into the collective fiction.
 

I think the saving throw idea works in a more elaborate system of social interaction, in a version of D&D that highlights tense audiences with various powers, factions, enemies, and potential allies. Specifically, it would work for if the communicated something that the target would be offended or otherwise triggered by. It would also work for things like trying to appeal to someone's emotions.

However, it fails when it comes to manipulation. Most social interaction has a facet of manipulation, but in a non-negative way. We reflect who we are talking to, try and match their energy, and try and say things that will illicit a positive response from the other person (or a negative response or something similar). Thus, if a player is trying to persuade someone by applying pressure to them or trying to hit a certain button, or is otherwise communicating with a stoic or a creature who has a different language or alternative mode of communication, a skill check is better.

The reason I think both saving throws and skill checks would work in this essentially political-drama version of D&D is because it makes it feel more like a back and forth similar to combat. This is necessary because any social drama system that's mechanically designed needs to be able to simulate the back and forth between two or more people, and this back and forth is essentially conflict, and conflict and combat might as well be synonyms when it comes to storytelling and game design.

You could also bring Intelligence, Wisdom, Strength, and Dexterity into it too in different ways. You could use Intelligence to try back up your points or Wisdom to understand someone's underlying emotional reasoning. You could use Strength for Intimidation and Dexterity for sleight of hand to embarrass someone. You could make these into saves too, where you force an Intelligence save by hitting someone with a riddle or trying to talk them into knots, or force a Wisdom save where the target's failure could cause them to lose their composure, ala L5R 5E. Strength and Dexterity might not require saves in this kind of system, but that's fine -- after all, the focus is on the drama and politics, not so much the physicallity of things (which is a secondary concern, and thus doesn't need the huge depth to it the other three stats would in this kind of system).

A lot of people will argue this is unnecessary. I don't think that argument is worth entertaining at all. After playing games like Mythic Basitonland, I've come to realize that any given rule is unnecessary to a table who plays a certain way. But I certainly can see the appeal in an in-depth political/dramatic D&D, playing out stories like Hamlet, or A Song of Fire & Ice, or even L5R. You could bring in the Honor stat, have mechanics for attacking people's reputations/honor, and give creatures stat blocks that represent their common argument tactics as actions and have bonus actions where they try and triangulate the player with another NPC or a reaction where they snap and force the party to reconsider their direction. This kind of game would be pretty fun IMO.

The issue is that all of this is basically discussing a more in-depth system, one that would be pinned on top of 5E (or any version of D&D). There are some versions of this in the DMG, and other systems have approached this topic from multiple angles, but ultimately, all of this runs counter to the Class design in the game (and only the Class design). Because most classes have almost no dead levels between 1-14, and because all non-combat features are relegated to being ribbons, you would have to use Variant Class Features to achieve this kind of idea. But that would be a very rich game, IMO!

For example, you could have the Ranger have a variant class feature based around remaining calm while in the wilds, which makes it hard to trigger the Ranger or force them into saying or doing something they don't want to do. You could have a Barbarian class feature where, instead of Unarmored Defense, they add their Strength/Con to Charisma checks to impress, intimidate, or recruit others. Spellcasters have an easier time with this because most spells can be turned into some kind of convincing display for a political/dramatic game. For example, you could cast hypnotic pattern when the audience with a dangerous faction goes wrong, or use silent image to distract someone who is debating another PC, giving them advantage. Druid's would be a blast in this kind of game because you could use their insect-shapes to be fantastic spying tools.

Overall, I think this idea is fruitful, and maybe one day I'll find the time and energy to turn this into a formalized system, complete with variant class features, geared towards more political/dramatic D&D. I could imagine this working very well with certain adventures such as Wild Beyond the Witchlight or even a modified Storm King's Thunder that focuses on the Storm Giant's political intrigue.
 

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