A thought about Social Mechanics

MGibster

Legend
Does the build have to be respected, though? Why even have a social "build" if the good role-play must be respected? Conversely, must a player's physical ineptitude be considered when he rolls a critical hit in battle?
This is something I wrestle with when I run any role playing game. If someone makes a character who is a smooth talker but the player isn't, I sure don't want to make it even more difficult for them to play a smooth talker. I learned from a good GM to ask this question, "What are you trying to accomplish?"
 

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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.

It should be reiterated that the idea as presented is geared towards the one-off checks against a random NPC. Convincing the random town guard of whatever doesn't need to be an elaborate encounter when that town guard is the definition of an NPC in the colloquial sense.

However, this is where my thoughts went as well, insofar as building out the idea into a fuller system, and I actually realized this is basically what my earlier go at making a social combat system was already doing, more or less.

However, I think social interactions as combat is a dead end, at least insofar as gamifying real conversations goes. If one doesn't care about that then it doesn't matter; my idea synthesized with the above could very easily slip into being a straightforward social combat system. Especially if one took my Momentum system from combat and implemented the pattern into social combat.

But I think the real sauce here is that if we want to gamify talking then we need to put the game element somewhere in the emergence of a conversation. We could gamify etiquette.

This is where my systems been trending though I haven't sat down and worked on it properly yet (soon though, which is why its been on my mind lately as I gear up to work through it). I've long since retained the 5-Action set up (Provoke, Appeal, Charm, Deflect, Insight), which is actually 32 actions, and I've been looking towards a combination of that with a specific Reputation system, and now with the reaction based resolution outlined in the OP.

This solution though hinges on breaking some norms in regards to how Skills and such typically work, and it still doesn't involve players rolling skill checks.

Im going to put the breakdown in a quote block as its rather long, and for clarity it is assuming and establishing this system within my own game, so the rules and mechanics are specific to it.

My solution:

1. Each character has an "Energy" called Acuity, which is derived from their Charisma, Intuition, and Luck stats, and it is essentially a measure of their mental sharpness and wit. As an Energy, it comprises one of the 4 possible Saving Throws.

2. Saving Throws have a unique structure: the entity imposing the throw defines the base target number that their target must meet by using the current value of the corresponding Energy they have.

3. At its most basic, any social interaction where something has been requested of another will require an Acuity save be made by the listener, with the speaker defining the target number.

4. To do this, they will first decide if they are going to invoke a specific Skill. The options are Provoke, Appeal, Deflect, Charm, or Insight. The first 4 are self-explanatory, but Insight also opens the options up to all 32 skills in the game, including general Talent values like Intelligence. Altogether they give characters a massive variety of options to approach their interaction, not all of which require any specific investment in charisma.

5. If they do not opt to invoke skill, the NPC simply makes an Acuity save against the players current Acuity, using their own Acuity as a modifier to their saving throw.

6. If the Player does decide to use a Skill, they will simply have to ensure that whatever they say does reflect or otherwise incorporate that skill, and they will be able to add their Talent modifier for that Skill to the Acuity save.

7. Based on what the player says in-character, the GM will then apply an additional bonus to the throws target number to reflect not just the "quality" of the in-character speaking, but also to reflect any elements of leverage or similar that would affect the chances of success, but not strictly be due to the skills involved or the NPCs own thoughts.

8. Whether the NPC makes the save or doesn't, they retain their own agency to still reject the request. This however, represents an "ettiquette" violation, which makes them vulnerable to things like peer pressure or even straight up consequences due to being irrational. However, they can circumvent this if they can identify that the Player was violating ettiquette themselves. For example, if the Player tried to decieve, and the NPC is able to prove it (even if only to themselves), they could resist the consequences of asserting their agency. And even then, they could also just be content in being belligerent, regardless of how this reflects on them socially.

9. These consequences will be reflected and reinforced in a Reputation system that combines rote awareness with sliding scale traits. Characters would have a specific Reptutation value representing how well known they are to others, and could have a number of paired, sliding scale based traits (such as Merciful <-> Ruthless) that act as a measure that those who know of the character judge them by.

This kind of modelling would make general sense and would naturally lead to the desire to find out what sort of person a person is if its important to succeed, but would also be able to be ascertained even in the moment (through Insight) to take the advantage. The different Social Skills could then be leveraged to exploit those traits and the characters Reputation.

While random NPCs like town guards wouldn't provide much of an interesting social interaction in this system (in much the same way that wolves stop being interesting past low level), more distinct or important NPCs would, as of course would the PCs themselves, who would be motivated to cultivate a reputation suitable to their preferences.

Overall, this system I think might just thread the needle on both modelling real life social interaction while also gamifying it in a way that respects both player and character skill. By restructuring how the interaction is resolved and repositioning what the individual dice rolls mean, and who makes them, this should avoid the issue of player and character skill clashing.

As players don't roll, and instead invoke their player and characters skills directly in order to pose a challenge to the NPC, with the values being derived from a mix of character and player skill, players who are good at being social in-character and those that aren't (but want to play a character that is) can coexist and won't overshadow each other or undermine themselves.

This system would also be benefitting from another baseline assumption of characters that, even at level 0 with the most minimal possible stats, every character is assumed as competant in all areas as the typical person in is in real life. Ergo, no matter who you are as a player, your character is always at or above yourself, so you don't have to worry about trying to step down to a lesser person, and if or by the time your character becomes exceptional at social skills, your Stats will carry you through.

While it will still be strictly optimal to do both, focus on social skills and be good at in-character interactions, this should ultimately be fine as the system is structured in such a way that the optimal play is the most immersive way to go, but also not the only way to consistenly succeed.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
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.
There’s no reason to think this other than it’s your preference to do so. My preference is for a resolution mechanic (so e.g. a die roll compared to a target number) to guide the resolution in the fiction of the player's action declaration. The randomness of the die roll in this process can clearly account for more variables in the fiction than how good of an effort the PC made.

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 say the same of an action declaration that doesn't involve any acting. In both cases, I would honor the content of the player's action declaration in determining the range of possible outcomes in the fiction.

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.
And I would agree with them! When I play RPGs, I don't like to feel like I'm following a script, so as a player I wouldn't like that at all. On the other hand, as GM I'm happy to let the dice inform the reactions of my NPCs.
 

There’s no reason to think this other than it’s your preference to do so.

Im sorry but no, this is backwards. You personally may not percieve a dice roll that way, but that doesn't mean others in general don't as well. The biggest RPG on the planet works this way, and its most peoples introduction to the hobby, so you can't act like thats just irrelevant and doesn't color how people percieve dice rolls in these games.

And thats without getting into the nitty gritty of just looking at why the dice are being rolled as part of a system and making the connection that the dice roll is, if not explicitly, then effectively the equivalent of taking an action.

And as such, when a dice roll starts to conflict with that perception (as it often does in social interactions), its going to be abrasive to the people that notice.

Regardless of all this though, its a known issue. There is no shortage of people having this exact issue, so acting like its just one person's pet peeve is completely off base.

You could say the same of an action declaration that doesn't involve any acting.

No you couldn't.

When I play RPGs, I don't like to feel like I'm following a script, so as a player I wouldn't like that at all.

Then you shouldn't be positioning yourself in opposition to the idea in the OP. Entirely plausible you weren't intending to, but thats not how its coming off.
 

aramis erak

Legend
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.
It's only mentioned in passing in Moldvay Basic, in example text. So, kind of.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
The biggest RPG on the planet works this way, and its most peoples introduction to the hobby, so you can't act like thats just irrelevant and doesn't color how people percieve dice rolls in these games.
I assume you're talking about D&D, in which case you're wrong. It doesn't necessarily work that way. It's just your (and others') preference that it does. No D&D rule of which I'm aware requires a failed check to be narrated as a poor effort on the part of the PC

And thats without getting into the nitty gritty of just looking at why the dice are being rolled as part of a system and making the connection that the dice roll is, if not explicitly, then effectively the equivalent of taking an action.
This is false. The dice are being rolled to resolve an action declaration. The result determines the outcome of the declaration. The same action can be taken without anyone rolling dice in situations where a mechanical resolution isn't needed by the table.

Regardless of all this though, its a known issue. There is no shortage of people having this exact issue, so acting like its just one person's pet peeve is completely off base.
Just because it's many people's preference doesn't mean it's not a preference.


No you couldn't.
Yes, you could. If I declare my character makes a persuasive argument to the duke but my check fails, the same "conflict" exists between how well the action was performed (persuasively) and the result of the die roll that you're saying exists when someone acts-out the argument at the table.


Then you shouldn't be positioning yourself in opposition to the idea in the OP.
The ideas in the OP to which I'm opposed are 1) that in-game social situations necessarily involve improvisational acting on the part of the players and 2) that this leads to a conflict between the acting and the results of die rolls that would be resolved by changing who rolls the dice.
 

No D&D rule of which I'm aware requires a failed check to be narrated as a poor effort on the part of the PC

There doesn't have to be a rule. Whats being pointed to is an emergent aesthetic problem that emerges from how the game is designed.

To put it another way, speaking in-character and making a skill check are two separate Actions that can be used to resolve a social interaction. Many, if not most, try to use them simultaneously when they haven't been designed to be combined like that. You may not, and as such, this problem would be invisible to you. Thats fine.

The idea in the OP seeks combine the two Actions, however, by placing the dice roll as a reaction whose target number is passively set by some combination of in-character quality and character skill. Taken together this resolves the aesthetic issue by elimination.

The dice are being rolled to resolve an action declaration. The result determines the outcome of the declaration.
That is the intent. It doesn't always pan out that way in testing nor actual play, and as said, that you personally don't see the problem doesn't mean its not there, and this discussion isn't going to go anywhere if you're unwilling to engage with me showing you where it is and why its there.

The ideas in the OP to which I'm opposed are 1) that in-game social situations necessarily involve improvisational acting on the part of the players and 2) that this leads to a conflict between the acting and the results of die rolls that would be resolved by changing who rolls the dice.

In 5e, Active Roleplaying is presented as an option alongside Descriptive roleplaying. Active Roleplaying, as noted, isn't actually designed to incorporate with how skill checks work for social interactions. There is no procedure in place for a player to determine what the check means in relation to their Active Roleplaying.

In the absence of guidance, most people are going to give an epic speech, fail the roll, and feel like a jackass for bothering.

If you reject that premise thats fine, you do you, but we have nothing to discuss if thats your takeaway.
 

The idea in the OP seeks combine the two Actions, however, by placing the dice roll as a reaction whose target number is passively set by some combination of in-character quality and character skill. Taken together this resolves the aesthetic issue by elimination.
There is practically no mathematical difference between this and the normal way of having the player roll a skill vs the target number influenced by their argument. And as using the standard approach is system aesthetically less jarring, I see no benefit in changing it.
 



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