A thought about Social Mechanics


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pemerton

Legend
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.
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.
Just to add to these posts (and keeping in mind @GMMichael's point upthread that, in D&D, the victim of an attack does not get a saving throw to avoid the damage): were the meaning of the d20 roll other than what the quoted posters set out, that would seem to imply that no one in D&D ever deftly dodges an attack or blocks it with a shield or whatever, as a miss could only mean that there was some error on the part of the attacker.

Which would be weird!
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
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.
If there's no rule, then what do you mean by "how the game is designed"? Surely, the design is to be found in the rules.

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.
When I play a PC, I sometimes use first-person (in character) diction and sometimes use third-person (out of character) diction to declare my character's actions. This is a different issue from whether I engage in improvisational acting, which I would say is not a goal I have in playing D&D, although sometimes I speak at the table the words that my character says in the fiction. I don't particularly try to speak them convincingly or with the naturalism of an actor. For me, that's just an entirely different activity from playing an RPG.

But I do use first person, in-character diction to make action declarations, and often those action declarations are resolved with ability checks, combining at the table to two actions you've described. The problem is still invisible to me because, as I've said, I don't assume the check is representative of the action. I believe the problem is a by-product of making such an assumption.

I also don't know what you mean when you say they haven't been designed to be combined like that. They're combined in the basic pattern of gameplay which is for the player to declare actions for their character (for which first-person diction is an option) and for the DM to resolve said actions, often by calling for an ability check. That's how the game is designed.

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.
Have you tried solving the problem by playing according to the intent instead of fighting it?

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.
This is where we differ, and I don't think you've convincingly made an argument that this is the case. They combine by the player doing their roleplaying (which may include active roleplaying) and the DM possibly calling for an ability check to resolve the interaction.

There is no procedure in place for a player to determine what the check means in relation to their Active Roleplaying.
Yes, there is, and it's the same procedure in place when only descriptive roleplaying is used. An ability check can be used to determine the outcome of the interaction. The player can determine that their active roleplaying may or may not have played a part in their success or failure in the interaction depending on the circumstances involved.

In the absence of guidance, most people are going to give an epic speech, fail the roll, and feel like a jackass for bothering.
Why? If the the player at the table, performing as their character, truly gives an epic speech, witnessed by the other players who are present, and then fails an ability check called for by the DM to resolve the interaction, what reason would anyone at the table (including the player) have to believe that the player's speech was to blame for the failure?

If you reject that premise thats fine, you do you, but we have nothing to discuss if thats your takeaway.
It seems that I do. Have a good one!
 

If there's no rule, then what do you mean by "how the game is designed"? Surely, the design is to be found in the rules.

Emergence doesn't rely on explicitly written rules. They're things that emerge from the game as designed.

I really can't simplify that. Emergent gameplay isn't written into the game because it fundamentally can't be; it wouldn't be emergent if it was.

I don't particularly try to speak them convincingly or with the naturalism of an actor.

Acting has nothing to do with anything I'm talking about. Referring to Improv =/= acting.

I believe the problem is a by-product of making such an assumption.

Ie the same thing Im saying. Its an emergent problem resulting from the game's design centering almost entirely on task-based resolution which then interacts with the expectation of in-character improv being utilized during social interaction, which regardless of whether its explicitly written into the game or not, is an endemic expectation of the hobby, whether one likes it or not.

This topic and the idea in the OP revolves around the premise of addressing the problem in a context that assumes doing both variants (improv + roll, as physical actions representing a combination of player and character skill) are both going to be and are desirable to have as part of the game.

I also don't know what you mean when you say they haven't been designed to be combined like that.

This was already explained in the OP. A failed roll making otherwise good improv pointless, not just in terms of invalidating player skill but also in depressing the desire to roleplay the interaction at all.

They combine by the player doing their roleplaying (which may include active roleplaying) and the DM possibly calling for an ability check to resolve the interaction.

That isn't the two ideas combining, you're just describing a procedure that puts one before the other.

There is no way to reconcile the simultaneous application of player skill and character skill in games like this that isn't either A) not using them simultaneously or B) making up houserules.

The games were not designed for this.

An ability check can be used to determine the outcome of the interaction

Which again has a high probability of conflicting with what was actually said.

It occurs to me that you don't seem to be picking up on the idea that the problem is in an emergent contradiction, where a person recognizes what they said would under no reasonable circumstance be the same thing as rolling a nat 1 or any other number that counts as a failure.

The point here is to eliminate the possibility of contradiction. Both are utilized simultaneously, and failure rests in the other person's reaction to what was said, which is mechanized through a combination of classic character skill mechanics and a new, independent system to grade improv and incorporate the numbers for both into a target number for the target to save against.

This by the way, more closely models in the broad strokes how real social interactions work.

One could be presenting an idea to fix a specific problem people have, and someone else on hearing their arguments could fundamentally reject their premise and never come around, and it doesn't even have to be because the person speaking is unskilled. It could just be because the other person just doesn't want to agree, and no amount of applied skill is going to change that.

Either way the outcome goes, it doesn't reflect on their attempts. Only they can decide if a lack of skill is the problem or not.

what reason would anyone at the table (including the player) have to believe that the player's speech was to blame for the failure?

Idk, considering that isn't the dynamic that was presented in the example nor any that Ive posted.
 

Something Id pose as a question, particularly to those that got incensed by this topic, if we just put away the idea of there problems with other games, is there an actual issue with the idea as presented, either in the OP or in the post where I break down how my game would incorporate it?

Seems to me a lot of the contention here doesn't actually have all that much to do with the idea, and rather the presentation of it as a fix.

I don't see any reason why that should have been a contentious choice, but perhaps we can try discussing the idea on its own merits (which is ultimately why I started the topic) rather than wasting each others time debating other games using other ideas?
 

This was already explained in the OP. A failed roll making otherwise good improv pointless, not just in terms of invalidating player skill but also in depressing the desire to roleplay the interaction at all.
Nonsense. Good improv is entertaining in itself. People do it because it is immersive any fun, any mechanical benefit is just a nice bonus.

It occurs to me that you don't seem to be picking up on the idea that the problem is in an emergent contradiction, where a person recognizes what they said would under no reasonable circumstance be the same thing as rolling a nat 1 or any other number that counts as a failure.

The point here is to eliminate the possibility of contradiction. Both are utilized simultaneously, and failure rests in the other person's reaction to what was said, which is mechanized through a combination of classic character skill mechanics and a new, independent system to grade improv and incorporate the numbers for both into a target number for the target to save against.

The roll can still at least partly represent the another person's reaction, just like your attack roll doesn't only represent how well you attack but also how well the enemy dodges or parries. You seem to be overtly fixated on who rolls the die, but it really isn't important, except in a sense that players like rolling dice so it is more fun to let them do it.
 

Nonsense.

Thats pretty unempathetic. Its one thing to disagree that the intended design doesn't produce the dynamic, but its another to just straight up deny the emotions resulting from that dynamic.

As a game designer, its fine to take the exclusionary route and just say that how a person is playing the game is wrong. Or you could, as I seek to, adjust the game so no one has to be excluded.

Either way it goes, you can't just deny the emotions. Game design is fundamentally a practice of empathic expression. Denying emotions is bad game design.


Good improv is entertaining in itself. People do it because it is immersive any fun, any mechanical benefit is just a nice bonus.

Its also work, however, and when failure is already guaranteed, going through the motions (or skipping it outright) is more likely to take precedence when special effort has to be put in.

Chess players resign for a reason after all, and this is a much more explicit example of the same dynamic.

You seem to be overtly fixated on who rolls the die, but it really isn't important

See above. Being empathetic to the people having this issue means identifying where the emotions are coming from. The dynamic that rolls = actions that occurs in task-based resolution design is where it comes from, and it doesn't matter if you, me, or the other person gets the same emotions from that dynamic or not.

Others do.
 

TheSword

Legend
My frustration with social mechanics is that it is often framed as them v us. When in truth most social interactions are about finding common goals and understanding. Don’t say why it’s good for you, say why it’s good for them.

I’d like to see the rolls move away from use-persuasion-to-get-the-guard-to-let-you-in. Instead focus on investigation or insight to gather clues about motivations and goals that then can be used as levers to achieve outcomes.

4e Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is very socially driven and uses some extra mechanics to drive social interactions.

- Social Standing (or standing/glory) gives modifiers to various interactions. Good and bad. It is based on the standing you appear to have not.

- Prejudice, animosity and hatred can apply against various groups. Which have mechanical prompts.

- There are a number of Etiquette talents that cover various groups interactions.

- There rules for Bribery, including how much is appropriate and determining who is susceptible to a bribe.

- Even guidance on how to use use social skills as a defense in combat.

Lots of good stuff in there for inspiration. Even if the system itself isn’t to your taste.
 

Instead focus on investigation or insight to gather clues about motivations and goals that then can be used as levers to achieve outcomes.
I know no one reads 5e DMG and it overall is not great, but it actually suggests incorporating this sort of stuff into resolution of social situations.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Nonsense. Good improv is entertaining in itself.
Not to everyone. I don't enjoy 90% of what improv I've seen - admittedly, most of which is due to my wife's love of Whose Line is It?.
Amongst my player base, it's only about half that I don't enjoy. I definitely do not enjoy pure narrative improv as a participant nor a viewer.
But I do so enjoy players figuring out social puzzles - who wants what, who can provide what, and how do we benefit from arranging or disrupting that.
I'm one of those who use D&D as a boardgame more than a true RPG; when I want roleplay proper, I use other systems I find less conducive to minis-mode play.
 

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