Beginning to Doubt That RPG Play Can Be Substantively "Character-Driven"

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lowkey13

Guest
To bring this back to the OP.....I think that any system that lacks mechanics that support the character driven style of play would be a "con" so to speak. It's a weakness of that game as it relates to this goal.

So if someone said "I'd like to play a RPG that is more character focused than adventure focused", which response would be better:

"Here's a game that has tools that will help you create character focused play."

OR

"Here's a game that has no such tools. But it doesn't really have any obstacles if you want to kind of do it on your own while you play."

Obviously, based on the differing stances in this thread, there's no right answer.
Agreed. I had a post a little while ago where I "at'd" the OP, because I'm not sure any of this is helpful to the OP, as opposed to entertaining to the participants... which, you know, I can always go all Maximus ... ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED????

It really depends on what the OP wants. I know that for my own purposes, there are different "types" of character-driven play, and the emergent character-driven play from, say, a long OSR campaign is different than that of a "pure" Amber campaign ... neither is better, but they are different.
 
While there's no right answer, a question might narrow down what'd work for the querent: "What do you find to be more of a stumbling-block, rules or the absence or rules?" The question might need re-phrasing, depending.
I've mentioned something a lot as of late (when I've actually posted over the last few years...which is in spurts...and not much overall...so I guess you would have to tie the thread together over that incoherent long haul) that I think has a lot of explanatory power as to why these discussions can be difficult.

This question you've posed above seems to presuppose something about TTRPGs:

Game systems are discrete tool-kits meant to be deeply curated, to taste, mixed/matched in a modular fashion by x (typically the GM, but sometimes the group).

This zeitgeist seems to be so deeply embedded in the D&D cultural fabric that people just take it for granted that "this is the way, the one truth."

Game systems that are focused or somewhat resistant to hacking become anathema.

There is an alternative:

Game systems are a synthesis of rules, procedures, and principles, the collective of which is holistically bound to an ethos/premise of play.

Your question becomes less/more relevant/fundamentally different with respect to each starting position.

At its core, these two ideas are the yin and yang of the "sum of its parts" concept.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
I've mentioned something a lot as of late (when I've actually posted over the last few years...which is in spurts...and not much overall...so I guess you would have to tie the thread together over that incoherent long haul) that I think has a lot of explanatory power as to why these discussions can be difficult.

This question you've posed above seems to presuppose something about TTRPGs:

Game systems are discrete tool-kits meant to be deeply curated, to taste, mixed/matched in a modular fashion by x (typically the GM, but sometimes the group).

This zeitgeist seems to be so deeply embedded in the D&D cultural fabric that people just take it for granted that "this is the way, the one truth."

Game systems that are focused or somewhat resistant to hacking become anathema.

There is an alternative:

Game systems are a synthesis of rules, procedures, and principles, the collective of which is holistically bound to an ethos/premise of play.

Your question becomes less/more relevant/fundamentally different with respect to each starting position.

At its core, these two ideas are the yin and yang of the "sum of its parts" concept.
This is an interesting post to think about. I don't think I agree with this particular Manichean dichotomy, but it's worth pondering.

May I add a couple of complicating thoughts?

1. Sports.

HA! Really though. I mean, this is probably better to use as an analogy than the difference between European and American Accounting (GAAP, or rules-based, is American, while IFRS, or principles-based, is European).

Traditionally, two different approaches can be seen in the rules for sports. Think of it in terms of American Sports (FOOTBALL!) and European Sports (FUTBOL!).

You can have a rules system that has all the prolixity of a legal code, as in American football. More often than not, this increasing complexity of rules is an attempt to take power away from the referee. However, no matter how complex the rules get, it can never fully capture all the possible permutations of everything than can possibly occur in something so limited as a game- heck, even trying to write what a "catch" is becomes an exercise in frustration (yes, you know it when you see it, but what is a football move?).

On the other hand, you can have a sport that allows for more ... judgment, like soccer (futbol). Which, famously, has only 17 laws of the game (rules).

It's not that a particular ruleset for sports (or for accounting) is better or worse, but they embody different approaches.


2. The reason I'm not sure I agree with your first construction is two-fold; while I think that there was a big DIY component in D&D, I also think that, especially from 3e on there has been an increasing RAW emphasis in D&D. So I don't think that is fully accurate.

In addition, I'm not sure where you're putting the concept of norms. The written rules are part of the puzzle, to be sure, but the norms (the unwritten rules that govern the behavior of the GM and the players, collectively the table) is often just as important as the rules. IME.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I've mentioned something a lot as of late (when I've actually posted over the last few years...which is in spurts...and not much overall...so I guess you would have to tie the thread together over that incoherent long haul) that I think has a lot of explanatory power as to why these discussions can be difficult.

This question you've posed above seems to presuppose something about TTRPGs:

Game systems are discrete tool-kits meant to be deeply curated, to taste, mixed/matched in a modular fashion by x (typically the GM, but sometimes the group).

This zeitgeist seems to be so deeply embedded in the D&D cultural fabric that people just take it for granted that "this is the way, the one truth."

Game systems that are focused or somewhat resistant to hacking become anathema.

There is an alternative:

Game systems are a synthesis of rules, procedures, and principles, the collective of which is holistically bound to an ethos/premise of play.

Your question becomes less/more relevant/fundamentally different with respect to each starting position.

At its core, these two ideas are the yin and yang of the "sum of its parts" concept.
I can see that. As I mentioned earlier (I think) I'm new here, so I probably wouldn't have been able to assemble anything like this from your posts, anywhere near as coherently-put.

I have to say, though, that I don't see this as a strict dichotomy. One might curate or hack a set of rules because of a specific ethos or premise. Or one might run something off-the-shelf, without ... I guess I want to say introspection, or maybe contemplation, about the premises of the game. Doesn't mean what you've described aren't the ends of a spectrum, or that it isn't useful to elucidate them--it is! Thank you!

One could also describe the DIY approach more-inherent in pre-3E D&D as something like an ethos, if not necessarily a premise (I think) and while the ethos of the players--especially the Very Online Players--does seem to have moved to playing-by-RAW, I think the 5E game itself supports hacking and modifying and as much DIY as the DM has time for. There are also games that seem to me to have some very different ideas about how TRPGs work, that still encourage a lot of DIY/hacking.
 

innerdude

Adventurer
@innerdude

So I'm curious- what exactly are you looking for with your post?

Suggestions for TTRPGs that would allow you to play a more character-driven game?

Suggestions for how to play your current games in a more character-driven fashion?

Permission to have more GM FORCE (is that like G Force ..... )?

Or something else?
Very good questions. [Edit] Most of the above, in a sense (other than adding more GM force, which I really have no interest in). [/Edit]

I'm fairly aware of systems out there that shift the focus from "procedural" resolution to "scene-based" resolution (Burning Wheel, Cortex+, Fate, PbtA/BitD, etc.). And I've actually tried Fate Accelerated and Dungeon World, and personally enjoyed what they were doing . . . . but my group was less enthusiastic.

I own Burning Wheel Gold, and in a certain way think that it's probably the closest expression of what I would be trying to get at toward true character-driven/chracter arc-based play . . . but I also know there's almost no chance I'd ever be able to convince the group to try it. One in particular (the GURPS-loving powergamer) would be a hard "no."

I was definitely looking for perspectives and insights into what drives character-arc play, what kinds of expectations people have when they're looking for character-arc-driven play, whether the presence/absence of rules that promote character-arc-driven play is a help or hindrance, etc.

This observation from @Ovinomancer was particularly striking for me, as I've heard this before in writing workshops for speculative fiction:

To have character arcs, the character must be at risk.

This doesn't mean that the character might die, or be hurt, or lose things, but instead that the fundamental nature of the character must be at risk. Something the character believes, or feels, or values as a core conceit must be at risk of being shown false, or different, or even validated through hardship. If you do not risk character, there's nothing that can change that isn't an arbitrary choice by the player or GM. And arbitrary change is fine, although it doesn't meet the desire of the OP to have games that involve character driven play.
The goal for me is to find more tools, techniques, and opportunities to both generate and sustain character-arc-driven play instilled with the kinds of things @Ovinomancer alludes to.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
2. The reason I'm not sure I agree with your first construction is two-fold; while I think that there was a big DIY component in D&D, I also think that, especially from 3e on there has been an increasing RAW emphasis in D&D. So I don't think that is fully accurate.
I think, over time, there's been a growth in the number of systems available, and an improvement in the design of systems, in general, that helps to support the increased emphasis as RAW/RAE, and a bit of a decline in retooling systems.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
I think, over time, there's been a growth in the number of systems available, and an improvement in the design of systems, in general, that helps to support the increased emphasis as RAW/RAE, and a bit of a decline in retooling systems.
I think that's part of it.

I also think that there's a decline in the "DIY" or "punk" aesthetic to the game. It's less of a purely creative and participatory hobby, in some ways, and more something to be consumed.

The two are probably interrelated; increasing professionalism on the production side tends to lead to less production on the consumer's (hobbyist's) side.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I think that's part of it.

I also think that there's a decline in the "DIY" or "punk" aesthetic to the game. It's less of a purely creative and participatory hobby, in some ways, and more something to be consumed.

The two are probably interrelated; increasing professionalism on the production side tends to lead to less production on the consumer's (hobbyist's) side.
I wonder if some portion of it isn't the aging of what seems as though it at least has to be a large chunk of the market for TRPGs. It's harder to be DIY if you don't have the time, and it's easier to pay for professionalism if you have the money. I'm not sure the people getting into the hobby now have anything like role models for the DIY stuff that won't feel old and grognardy to them.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
I wonder if some portion of it isn't the aging of what seems as though it at least has to be a large chunk of the market for TRPGs.
I ..... I ..... I resemble that comment.

sigh

I'm not getting more old, I'm getting more aweome...r...erererer. And old. Mostly old.

It's harder to be DIY if you don't have the time, and it's easier to pay for professionalism if you have the money. I'm not sure the people getting into the hobby now have anything like role models for the DIY stuff that won't feel old and grognardy to them.
I agree. Especially with the alliteration ("pay for professionalism!").

It's my observation that "kids these days" don't have quite the same amounts of free time that we did in the 70s and 80s.

Related observation- while watching Stranger Things, I was asked, "Wait ... kids used to ride their bikes around all day and night .... and their parents didn't know where they where? Isn't that child abuse?"
 
Not going to be able to get to all the responses just yet, but just wanted to clarify one thing:

The distinction I'm drawing can also be summed up as:

"To hack...or not to hack...that is the question!"

So any hacking (at all) falls into the first and no hacking (at all) falls into the second.

You could certainly break down the first into a continuum of hacking, and then ponder "at what point does hacking game x lead to ethos/premise revision?" But that isn't what I'm setting out to do here (and I'm not sure its particularly apposite with respect to this thread). It would probably need a new thread to discuss the nuance of that question.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I also think that there's a decline in the "DIY" or "punk" aesthetic to the game. It's less of a purely creative and participatory hobby, in some ways, and more something to be consumed.
Traditionally, only the GM is in this "punk", and "purely creative and participatory" element of the hobby. Which doesn't sound all that participatory, does it?

Also... there's a very strong argument that this doesn't make it less creative or participatory- it merely shifts where the creation and participation is taking place. I don't have to hack up rules... so I can spend my time in campaign and adventure design, for example.

As for it being punk... with respect, punk is about liking what you like, and making absolutely sure everyone knows that you don't care what they think. There's a public performance aspect to punk which is largely missing in RPGs. When I hack up rules systems, it is for use with my friends - I care so little about what everyone else thinks that don't tell anyone I've done it.
 

pemerton

Legend
It is often happening on so theoretical a level as to be difficult to link it back to actual practice.
There have been many posts in this thread that refer to actual play experience with actual RPG systems.

Who are you suggesting is not drawing on actual experience?
 

pemerton

Legend
One in particular (the GURPS-loving powergamer) would be a hard "no."
I think Burning Wheel can be very enjoyable to power-gamers who like intricate mechanics. This may cause some deviation from the expected/intended play approach (eg a bit less in-character immersion, a bit more meta-gamey "Belief-mongering") but is still a pretty interesting RPG experience.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That seems to be how many are advocating for social interaction with D&D. Relying solely on role play. So why not do the same for combat?
Because when sitting around the table with the other players and GM we can live-action-roleplay the social interactions.

We - or I'd hazard a guess well over 99% of us - can't or aren't in position to live-action-roleplay medieval-style combat in character. Nor are we able to or in position to live-action-roleplay a lot of things that fall under exploration. Thus we need game mechanics to simulate those things for us, in whatever means and manner that system provides.

But we don't need game mechanics to simulate that which we can in fact do ourselves: the talky bits.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Here are some prominent RPG systems I know of that have no rules for resolving chases/pursuits in a way that would make for a satisfying chariot race:

* AD&D (the dungeon pursuit rules just compare movement rates,; the outdoor evasion rules are not relevant to chariot races);

* B/X D&D (ditto);

* Classic Traveller (the referee would have to make up some rules based around the vehicle skill);

* Rolemaster (there are rules for resolving vehicular manoeuvres, but not in the context of a race - the GM would have to make up a system for opposed checks);

* I think RQ also has the RM problem, but I'm a bit less confident about that as it's been a while.
In all of these cases it'd almost certainly come down to a series of dice rolls, maybe modified by various factors e.g. track position, skill, willingness to cheat in the race, etc.

I have no idea what you mean by "resolved in finality". I mean something fairly concrete - an outcome to the present fictional situation is established, by application of the resolution mechanics, and is binding on all participants, most saliently in this context the GM.

Gygax's morale rules in his DMG assume this sort of finality, inherited from wargaming: if a unit breaks than the player controlling it can't just arbitrarily (eg in the absence of some sort of "rally" mechanic) decide that it returns to the fight.
Yeah, this is part of why I'm not a huge fan of those rules and rarely use them.

I also don't use the RAW for how a hench reacts to the treatment given by the employer, instead reacting as that particular character would as a free-willed individual.

Classic Traveller in its rules for NPC reaction rolls expressly provides for finality. From p 23 of the 1977 version:

Reactions are used by the referee and by players as a guide to the probable actions of individuals. . . . Reactions govern the reliability and quality of hirelings and employees. Generally, they would re-roll reactions in the fact of extremely bad treatment or unusually dangerous tasks​

The GM can't just decide that a NPC changes his/her mind after the reaction is rolled for. Something significant in the fiction, initiated by the players (eg bad treatment, dangerous task) is required.

If nothing is binding on the GM, then nothing is character driven via the actual mechanical processes of play as described in the OP. There is only the GM deciding what happens.
If a PC can change its mind (and I'm pretty hard line that, absent controlling mechanics, it can) then an NPC can also change its mind; which is why binding rolls are IMO a very bad idea.

In a different RM campaign a PC met a sorcerer on another plane and helped rescue her. He then set out to woo and marry her. In the end he succeeded in this endeavour, the player having built up the PC's social skills sufficiently to make it possible.
Had the sorcerer been another PC would this have been handled any differently? If yes, there's a problem.

In our Prince Valiant game one of the PCs started play as a squire - the son of a moderately prosperous bourgeois family - and wanted to be knighted. He achieved this by challenging a knight to a joust who was blocking the path and would relent only if defeated in a joust by a fellow knight:


That's a mark made on the gameworld, in virtue of finality of resolution.
It is, but why did it need any rolling? Sir Lionheart was an NPC, right? If he - in your judgment as SL's player - is impressed enough with this squire (via how the squire's been roleplayed) to knight him on the spot then just do it. If not, don't do it; or have SL say something encouraging to the squire as he passes: "You're brave, squire, I'll give you that. When next we meet I fully expect we will joust."

Different systems approach this in different ways:

* In Burning Wheel, this can and normally should be resolved via a Duel of Wits;​
* In MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic it can be resolved via the use of the standard resolution mechanics (this happened in our game on Sunday when the dwarf tried to dress down Gandalf but failed, and Gandalf instead mad him feel ashamed of questioning a wizard's judgement);​
* In 4e D&D there is no system for player vs player social conflict, which takes this mostly out of the ambit of character-driven arcs;​
* In Apocalypse World a player can't force another player to have his/her PC do something, but can make doing something difficult and/or create mechanical incentives (ie XP awards) to do something else.​
And all of these violate the freedom of players to roleplay their characters, which makes them all - simply put - bad.​

In those last two games, the rules are different vs NPCs: 4e D&D has pretty robust mechanics for the players to have their PCs force their will upon NPCs; and Apocalypse World does also. Here's the AW move:

Seduce or Manipulate
When you try to seduce or manipulate someone, tell them what you want and roll+hot. For NPCs: on a hit, they ask you to promise something first, and do it if you promise. On a 10+, whether you keep your promise is up to you, later. On a 7–9, they need some concrete assurance right now. For PCs: on a 10+, both. On a 7–9, choose 1:​
• if they do it, they mark experience​
• if they refuse, it’s acting under fire​

What they do then is up to them.​

All these differences affect the play experience.
And not for the better. Just as a GM can't* take the right to play a character away from a player, the game shouldn't be allowed to either. If I try to manipulate or persuade another PC to do something (e.g. chip in toward a castle) it's on the player of that PC to respond in character.

* - again, absent control mechanics etc.

Once (and as best I recall only once) in our 4e game, when debate about what to do next had dragged on to a point beyond decency, I called for opposed d20 checks, I think with adds on each side reflecting CHA bonuses.

Twice in our Classic Traveller game I've called for opposed checks to settle a debate between the PCs (being played out at the table) with modifiers reflecting noble status (ie Social Standing B+) and Leadership skill.
And here's exactly what I'm talking about: the GM has to allow however long it takes for these debates to play out. They're still arguing three sessions later? Fine. Put yer feet up and let 'em have at it.

Sooner or later the debate will resolve itself in character, and yes this might mean the party splits in two if they truly can't agree what to do next or in what sequence. Been there, done that, it's part of the game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I would make two points in response to this:

1) I think that has more to do with D&D discouraging the players from breaking off combat through its combat mechanical oddities. Even in some of the earlier rules, there were popular "parting shot" or "free swing" variants for disengaging. And that's not to mention opportunity loss of XP/treasure. That is, adventuring parties don't generally retreat from combats. Rarely, if ever, do you see one side "drive off" the other without inflicted devastating casualties. In part, I blame this on the HP system, without a "death spiral" combat really is a winner-take-all affair. The loss of "resources" is so trivial that we constantly see DMs appearing with 5MWD problems. Combat carrying only a singular "finality" leads to all sorts of narrative oddities.
Agreed, particularly when the opponents are intelligent.

And parties not breaking away when they should is typical adventuring fare, reinforced more recently with most encounters being more tailored to the party's capabilities (vs. a true sandbox where you never really know what you're gonna meet).

2) 'No mechanics' actually is something of a limitation. Players (including the GM) are playing a game, they look to the rules to explain/describe how. I've noted that players are often loathe to engage in things that the rules don't cover. Why risk something that may work, when you can rely on your trusty sword for little risk. You can't "game" non-mechanics like you can all the mechanical fiddly bits of a combat system. And when you only have a hammer, everything is a nail.
I think this depends on the specific players.

With some, you give 'em a rule and their first thought is how to get around it. With others, you give 'em a rule and they'll run with it because now they know the limits.

Not being able to "game" non-mechanics is a strong argument in their favour; and I do my best to close loopholes in the rules as I find them to prevent "gaming" the hard-rules bits too. :)
 
L

lowkey13

Guest
As for it being punk... with respect, punk is about liking what you like, and making absolutely sure everyone knows that you don't care what they think. There's a public performance aspect to punk which is largely missing in RPGs. When I hack up rules systems, it is for use with my friends - I care so little about what everyone else thinks that don't tell anyone I've done it.
Um... maybe something is lost in translation? I'm very much discussing the DIY ethos that punk was famous for; from the 70s through and including Fugazi to more modern punk conceptions, this is a pretty standard concept AFAIC.

I mean, we can all come to nebulous concepts like "punk" with different concepts, but I don't think that describing punk as DIY is going out on a limb. Hold on ... googles.

From wikipedia:
Commercial DIY music has its origins in the mid 1970s punk rock scene. It developed as a way to circumnavigate the mainstream music industry. By controlling the entire production and distribution chain, DIY music bands can develop a closer relationship between artists and fans. The DIY ethic gives total control over the final product without need to compromise with record labels.

According to the punk aesthetic, one can express oneself and produce moving and serious works with limited means.[3] Arguably, the earliest example of this attitude was the punk music scene of the 1970s.
Commercial DIY music has its origins in the mid 1970s punk rock scene It developed as a way to circumnavigate the mainstream music industry. By controlling the entire production and distribution chain, DIY music bands can develop a closer relationship between artists and fans. The DIY ethic gives total control over the final product without need to compromise with record labels

According to the punk aesthetic, one can express oneself and produce moving and serious works with limited means. Arguably, the earliest example of this attitude was the punk music scene of the 1970s.
Or a more rigorous look at the punk DIY culture:
 
I've been thinking a lot lately about how despite having a tremendous amount of fun with RPGs over the years, I continue have a sense of lack, or dissatisfaction with one particular aspect of my play experiences---namely, I have found it to be nigh impossible to drift into what I would consider a true "character-driven" style of play.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

I know that most new systems these days have specific focuses on character backstory, personality traits, motivations, and desires. Even D&D, the long-time standard bearer for keeping the game more focused on gameplay rather than character driven needs, added new character-oriented traits in 5e, to say nothing of Fate which goes out of its way to purposefully bring these elements to the forefront of play.

And yes, these new character design features are incredibly useful in helping us as players come to "see" our characters as more "real" within the fiction. But in my experience, even the best of these character "hooks" or inputs don't seem to make a difference in driving an in-play narrative of substantive character change---i.e., the experience of watching a character materially change in ways that are fundamental to their place in the fiction.

It's generally agreed that one of the vital, key elements of great literature is a character "arc"---the observed phenomenon of a character or characters fundamentally coming to view the world and their place in it in new ways. It is these character journeys that create some of the most powerful, compelling moments that cause as us reader-participants to feel emotional resonance---to feel as if we are experiencing something meaningful, even if we are only having the experience referentially.
I'm going to disagree with you about that part of the game, but suggest you've been looking at the wrong games. A fundamental rule of ... quite a lot of things is "Measure what you value or you end up valuing what you measure".

And this is where D&D and a lot of other games fall down. In D&D the numbers basically only go up, and they don't relate at all to the character's place in the gameworld. 5e has the background which helps flesh your character out, but mechanically it's immutable once chosen - it's your background. So the rules in D&D don't do a thing to help create this sort of change other than by getting more powerful. And because rules provide focus this easily gets seen as unimportant. (Dungeon World is not substantially different from D&D this way).

Meanwhile better are games where you can develop sideways. @pemerton has already used as an example the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system which encourages you to make decisions (including romantic ones) - and taking another good example Fate Core has advancements that include re-writing an aspect - in other words fundamentally changing your place in the world.

But the game that has provided the best character arcs to me is Apocalypse World. This is for two reasons:
  1. Your playbook (character class) is literally your place in the world. Which puts a lot of weight on your place in the world.​
  2. There are ways to change it. In specific with XP once you've reached a certain point in the game, and it's one way to come back after you run out of hit points (you can only do this once).​
The setting is post-apocalyptic and playbooks are things like the Hardholder (the town boss), the Gunlugger (the combat monster - one optional move is literally called "NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH" in all caps), the Angel (the post-apocalyptic medic), the Hocus (the cult leader), the Brainer (the creepy psychic), and the Maestro D' (who runs the local entertainment establishment). A lot of those are really tied to the character's place in the world - and as mentioned they can be changed in play under very limited circumstances.

So how does this work in practice? I ran a game for two complete newbies and someone who'd never played Apocalypse World before in late 2018 for six sessions. At the start we had three characters - a creepy psychic who always wore a Hazmat Suit, a confident leader of a disparate group that he called his family, and the hermit who lives in the woods. By the time we were done the brainer had mind controlled the cult leader into leaving his "family" behind and the cult leader (also thanks to an unfortunate snake eyes trying to heal one of his family) felt he'd failed them and was working for someone in the rival town, the near-pacifist cult leader had poisoned then shot the mind controlling psychic, leaving him for dead - and his essence bled out into his mask. An NPC had found the mask, torn parts away, and put it on - at which point he'd been possessed by the essence of the psychic which was whispering dark thoughts into his mind (there's a literal playbook to do this called the Faceless), and the loner in the woods had started looking after the cult because it was quite obvious they couldn't fend for themselves so someone had to look after them. All a consequence of the story progression and the rules as written encouraging character arcs.
 
Because when sitting around the table with the other players and GM we can live-action-roleplay the social interactions.

We - or I'd hazard a guess well over 99% of us - can't or aren't in position to live-action-roleplay medieval-style combat in character. Nor are we able to or in position to live-action-roleplay a lot of things that fall under exploration. Thus we need game mechanics to simulate those things for us, in whatever means and manner that system provides.

But we don't need game mechanics to simulate that which we can in fact do ourselves: the talky bits.
But you’re still pretending. Are all your players professional orators? For your players to replicate skilled court intrigue, all they need to be able to do is speak?

I can narrate my attack on the giant just as easily as I can narrate my attempt to persuade the guard to let me by. Both of these things could fail....why does one have rules to determine success or failure and the other does not?

I think that not having any social based mechanics at all leaves everything up to choice. The player decides how their character feels about everything. The GM decides how the NPCs react to the PCs.

But what about when someone feels something without choosing to?

We’ve all found ourselves provoked to anger. Or overcome by desire. Or stricken with fear.

Sometimes these things are not choices. Having a game mechanic that may help replicate that lack of total control over ourselves seems like a potentially powerful tool for a game.
 

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