log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General On Social Mechanics of Various Sorts

Reynard

Legend
I just picked up a copy of Legendary games Ultimate Kingdoms book, and I was reading through the Relationships chapter last night as it is relative to my next campaign (the PCs are going to be crew members of a large "Planejammer" sailing the Astral Sea and they will have to make friends, rivals and enemies among the rest of the crew). It is an interesting system where PCs will earn ranks of friendship with NPCs by a series of individual "challenges" with that NPC --- usually by engaging them on a subject, doing something for them, or giving them a gift, followed by one or more skill checks. I gather from reading it that the system was initially designed for 3.5 or Pathfinder and adapted to 5E, but it seems to work on paper pretty well, with detailed writeups of the example NPCs to show you how to make use of the system in your own games.

Anyway, it got me thinking of social mechanics that can be found in various versions of D&D throughout the years, from reaction rolls to the Leadership Feat, along with the usual Persuasion and Deception checks.

How do you use social mechanics in your D&D games? If the scale of "how much do you rely on social mechanics" is from 0 (never roll; just role-play) to 10 (role-play doesn't impact the DC; just roll), where do your preferences sit on that scale? Does it change from campaign to campaign, adventure to adventure, or even between players?

Thanks.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I tend to not use a system because I don't want to gamify social encounters. People are complex, their reactions and allegiances are complex. I may keep track of general attitude of an individual or faction, but I'll always keep it secret from the PCs.

That, and, with a systematic approach it's too easy to fall into the trap of letting dice run your game for me. I run a game where attitudes are affected by a combination of words, deeds and player skill checks, a mix. It may also depend on how the PCs approach an NPC. A barbarian king my reject "honeyed words" of a persuasion check but be impressed by an intimidation. Another PC might love being flattered or even be impressed with a deception that they know is false.

But I also want to be flexible. I've had plot arcs "spoiled" because the PCs over time won over an NPC that was supposed to be a BBEG through their actions and what they said as much as the results of checks. But it was such a unique tangent, I'm not sure a systematic approach could have accomplished that for me.

I'm interested in what other people do and what their suggestions are, I've just never figured out anything that works better than just keeping notes on interactions and letting things happen organically as best I can.
 

Reynard

Legend
I tend to not use a system because I don't want to gamify social encounters. People are complex, their reactions and allegiances are complex. I may keep track of general attitude of an individual or faction, but I'll always keep it secret from the PCs.

That, and, with a systematic approach it's too easy to fall into the trap of letting dice run your game for me. I run a game where attitudes are affected by a combination of words, deeds and player skill checks, a mix. It may also depend on how the PCs approach an NPC. A barbarian king my reject "honeyed words" of a persuasion check but be impressed by an intimidation. Another PC might love being flattered or even be impressed with a deception that they know is false.

But I also want to be flexible. I've had plot arcs "spoiled" because the PCs over time won over an NPC that was supposed to be a BBEG through their actions and what they said as much as the results of checks. But it was such a unique tangent, I'm not sure a systematic approach could have accomplished that for me.

I'm interested in what other people do and what their suggestions are, I've just never figured out anything that works better than just keeping notes on interactions and letting things happen organically as best I can.
So using skill checks when appropriate to inform your NPCs' response to the role-playing interactions? I think that is probably the most common approach in D&D (and certainly is in my personal experience).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So using skill checks when appropriate to inform your NPCs' response to the role-playing interactions? I think that is probably the most common approach in D&D (and certainly is in my personal experience).
Yeah. I want character builds to matter but not to be the only thing that matters. It's a bit of a juggling act but I try to judge what people say, not how they say it and then adjust target DC or give advantage/disadvantage.
 

Reynard

Legend
Yeah. I want character builds to matter but not to be the only thing that matters. It's a bit of a juggling act but I try to judge what people say, not how they say it and then adjust target DC or give advantage/disadvantage.
I make an active effort not to judge DCs or modifiers based on how eloquent the player is, or how well they do their accent, or whatever. It isn't fair to the quieter, less confident, or simply less acting-talented players. I don't punish role-playing in the third person, either. That being the case, I kind of come down a little more on the side of social mechanics.
 

Stalker0

Legend
my general experience has been…the more rolls the less roleplay.

so I may do a persuasion check at the end of a conversation (or sometimes before to set the tone), but I try not to make it any more complex than that.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I use the social mechanics on page 244 of the D&D 5e DMG. Essentially this involves the PCs trying to modify the NPC's attitude temporarily, then trying to get them to do what the PCs want. Figuring out the NPC's agenda, ideal, bond, and flaw and playing to them can impart advantage on checks made to modify their attitude or getting them to do what they want.

As with any action declaration in the game, the players are expected to make clear their goal and approach so I as DM can decide whether the attempt is successful, unsuccessful, or if there's an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure and thus an ability check.
 

ART!

Hero
I make an active effort not to judge DCs or modifiers based on how eloquent the player is, or how well they do their accent, or whatever. It isn't fair to the quieter, less confident, or simply less acting-talented players. I don't punish role-playing in the third person, either. That being the case, I kind of come down a little more on the side of social mechanics.
I'm a big fan of this approach, so kudos from me to you. It's hard, because it's very easy to think you should reward the rich descriptions, entertaining performances, etc. On the one hand, doing so could motivate the less socially gregarious types to up their game, but I also don't want to create a situation where only very socially gregarious, confident people are welcome at the table.
 

payn

Legend
I prefer these kinds of things to stay under the hood. I dont want players making character choices that are expedient, but at the cost of an NPCs favor, only to gain it back by gifting an equal number of points that is understood via metagaming. Its sort of why I stopped using XP, my players do things mechanically that will give them the best outcomes as opposed to doing things that feel organic to the character.

I do like faction level systems though. If your characters have been a thorn in the side of the city watch, they are not likely to be friendly. I find that sort of thing to be helpful, especially when starting from a strangers relationship point.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm a big fan of this approach, so kudos from me to you. It's hard, because it's very easy to think you should reward the rich descriptions, entertaining performances, etc. On the one hand, doing so could motivate the less socially gregarious types to up their game, but I also don't want to create a situation where only very socially gregarious, confident people are welcome at the table.
I can't recall a time when rewarding "roleplaying skill" actually motivated quiet players to come out of their shells. Usually, it had the opposite effect. So that's why I adopted my current outlook: if there is no pressure to "perform" then the player can focus on what they want their character to do or say, rather than worrying about how they will be perceived by the other players/GM.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm a big fan of this approach, so kudos from me to you. It's hard, because it's very easy to think you should reward the rich descriptions, entertaining performances, etc. On the one hand, doing so could motivate the less socially gregarious types to up their game, but I also don't want to create a situation where only very socially gregarious, confident people are welcome at the table.
I think the reward for that kind of behavior is Inspiration, but only if they're playing to an established personality trait, ideal, bond, or flaw. Goal and approach is all that is needed to adjudicate and flowery language isn't needed for that as long as the player is getting the point across to the DM.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think the reward for that kind of behavior is Inspiration, but only if they're playing to an established personality trait, ideal, bond, or flaw. Goal and approach is all that is needed to adjudicate and flowery language isn't needed for that as long as the player is getting the point across to the DM.
I have actually backed of a focus on goal and approach after a few years of favoring it. I found that it was pulling me as GM and my players out of the game.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I have actually backed of a focus on goal and approach after a few years of favoring it. I found that it was pulling me as GM and my players out of the game.
I'm not sure I see how since that's what an action declaration is when you break it down. "I want to do X to accomplish Y" in so many words.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm not sure I see how since that's what an action declaration is when you break it down. "I want to do X to accomplish Y" in so many words.
It breaks immediacy when you focus too much on the final goal I have found. I have gone back to "What do you do?" as the basic question. It is immediate, and in reality what the ultimate goal is shouldn't matter from a mechanical standpoint -- only what the PC is attempting at that time. It doesn't matter whether the PC wants to kiss the prince sleeping in his chambers, or slit his throat. "I sneak past the guard," is all that matters at this moment.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It breaks immediacy when you focus too much on the final goal I have found. I have gone back to "What do you do?" as the basic question. It is immediate, and in reality what the ultimate goal is shouldn't matter from a mechanical standpoint -- only what the PC is attempting at that time. It doesn't matter whether the PC wants to kiss the prince sleeping in his chambers, or slit his throat. "I sneak past the guard," is all that matters at this moment.
It looks like you're thinking what I mean by "goal and approach" is something else entirely. "I sneak past the guard" is a fine action declaration, given a shared understanding of the context.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
It breaks immediacy when you focus too much on the final goal I have found. I have gone back to "What do you do?" as the basic question. It is immediate, and in reality what the ultimate goal is shouldn't matter from a mechanical standpoint -- only what the PC is attempting at that time. It doesn't matter whether the PC wants to kiss the prince sleeping in his chambers, or slit his throat. "I sneak past the guard," is all that matters at this moment.
Maybe you're analyzing a goal too far out. Sneaking past the guard to kiss/assassinate the prince isn't what iserith is talking about. It's more like sneaking past the guard is the goal and the action is shuffling along the wall behind the tapestry.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I'm a big fan of this approach, so kudos from me to you. It's hard, because it's very easy to think you should reward the rich descriptions, entertaining performances, etc. On the one hand, doing so could motivate the less socially gregarious types to up their game, but I also don't want to create a situation where only very socially gregarious, confident people are welcome at the table.
I do reward excellent roleplay skills ... with Inspiration.

But the for skill checks, it depends on whether the effort sounds like a good idea that should work or not. An idea that sounds like it should work without a skill check, automatically succeeds. A bad idea automatically fails without a check.
 

Reynard

Legend
Maybe you're analyzing a goal too far out. Sneaking past the guard to kiss/assassinate the prince isn't what iserith is talking about. It's more like sneaking past the guard is the goal and the action is shuffling along the wall behind the tapestry.
I was being hyperbolic for effect. The point is I found it immersion breaking to step out of the immediacy of the scene to discuss the goal and approach implementation. It's unnecessary because the end result -- the action the PC takes -- is the same, so it is better, I found, to stay in the moment.
"You see a guard up on the balcony above. He seems to be on watch, but bored."
"Okay, I'll wait for an opportune time and then sneak as quickly and quietly as possible across the courtyard until I am out of sight."
I got to the point where that is all I need. The player and I both are still in the scene, talking about it "in character." That's all.

This is of course a tangent (that I started. oop), so maybe if @iserith or you want to keep discussing it someone can start another thread to which I will happily contribute my thoughts.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I just picked up a copy of Legendary games Ultimate Kingdoms book, and I was reading through the Relationships chapter last night as it is relative to my next campaign (the PCs are going to be crew members of a large "Planejammer" sailing the Astral Sea and they will have to make friends, rivals and enemies among the rest of the crew). It is an interesting system where PCs will earn ranks of friendship with NPCs by a series of individual "challenges" with that NPC --- usually by engaging them on a subject, doing something for them, or giving them a gift, followed by one or more skill checks. I gather from reading it that the system was initially designed for 3.5 or Pathfinder and adapted to 5E, but it seems to work on paper pretty well, with detailed writeups of the example NPCs to show you how to make use of the system in your own games.

Anyway, it got me thinking of social mechanics that can be found in various versions of D&D throughout the years, from reaction rolls to the Leadership Feat, along with the usual Persuasion and Deception checks.

How do you use social mechanics in your D&D games? If the scale of "how much do you rely on social mechanics" is from 0 (never roll; just role-play) to 10 (role-play doesn't impact the DC; just roll), where do your preferences sit on that scale? Does it change from campaign to campaign, adventure to adventure, or even between players?

Thanks.
Heh, at this point, I am just grateful to even have a section of the character sheet with "Bonds".

For Bonds, I feel it is important to distinguish between persons, places, and things. It might be, the place like childhood home relates to persons, like parents. A thing might be a sentimental heirloom. But the relationship to each is different.



Thinking out loud, it is probably ok to gain ones proficiency bonus for any skill checks relating to a Bond. Skills that relate to or test ones bonded relationship are heightened.

There could be other kinds of doable mechanics too.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I was being hyperbolic for effect. The point is I found it immersion breaking to step out of the immediacy of the scene to discuss the goal and approach implementation. It's unnecessary because the end result -- the action the PC takes -- is the same, so it is better, I found, to stay in the moment.
"You see a guard up on the balcony above. He seems to be on watch, but bored."
"Okay, I'll wait for an opportune time and then sneak as quickly and quietly as possible across the courtyard until I am out of sight."
I got to the point where that is all I need. The player and I both are still in the scene, talking about it "in character." That's all.
"Okay, I'll wait for an opportune time (approach) and then sneak as quickly and quietly as possible (approach) across the courtyard until I am out of sight (goal)."

Truly baffled by what you think was meant by "goal and approach." It's simply saying enough for the DM to adjudicate without making a lot of unnecessary assumptions about what the character is doing and trying to accomplish. Here, given the context, it seems like the player's goal is to avoid detection by the guard to while traversing the courtyard with the approach of moving quickly and quietly at an opportune time. Goal. Approach.

I don't think it's necessary to start a new thread on this tangent, but I'll leave it there.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top