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Resolving conflict and achieving outcomes without combat

pemerton

Legend
Another thread has had me thinking about this topic. What sorts of things can be achieved via non-combat, social or near-social means?

In the film Battleship Potemkin (SPOILER ALERT for a nearly 100-year old film), at the climax the mutineers find themselves confronted by the Tsarist fleet. How do they survive this? They raise the red flag and sail between the lines of the other vessels - whose sailors refuse to fire, and who cheer in solidarity!

My impression is that this sort of thing is not all that common in RPGing. Am I correct?
 

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Esau Cairn

Explorer
Everything except physical combat!

No.
fpbp.


What sorts of things can be achieved via non-combat, social or near-social means?
Subterfuge. Persuasion. Spying. Impressing. Gathering information. Sneaking. Lying. Intimidation. Oratory. Bartering. Bargaining. Fast talking. Blending in to avoid conflict. And many, many other examples...

In the case of Battleship Potemkin, public display of solidarity (e.g. the thousands of salt of the earth folk who come by to view Vakulinchuk's sacrifice, as well as the sailing against the battleships, as you cited) could be considered an achievement of bravery and/or audacity without combat (albeit, on the Odessa steps, dodging--or more often--not dodging bullets).

My impression is that this sort of thing is not all that common in RPGing. Am I correct?
If your games on over-reliant on combat and you are dissatisfied with that, perhaps you might enjoy other rpgs. I've played in & run a half dozen different rpgs where entire sessions go on with, at most, only the threat of physical violence, and perhaps the stress of mental violence. Which, in context, is sometimes far worse than open combat.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Another thread has had me thinking about this topic. What sorts of things can be achieved via non-combat, social or near-social means?

In the film Battleship Potemkin (SPOILER ALERT for a nearly 100-year old film), at the climax the mutineers find themselves confronted by the Tsarist fleet. How do they survive this? They raise the red flag and sail between the lines of the other vessels - whose sailors refuse to fire, and who cheer in solidarity!

My impression is that this sort of thing is not all that common in RPGing. Am I correct?
Using daring and social maneuvering to turn a potential combat into a scene about something else is frowned on some, because it negates why some players come to the table, I guess?

Personally I encourage such improvisations.

fpbp.



Subterfuge. Persuasion. Spying. Impressing. Gathering information. Sneaking. Lying. Intimidation. Oratory. Bartering. Bargaining. Fast talking. Blending in to avoid conflict. And many, many other examples...

In the case of Battleship Potemkin, public display of solidarity (e.g. the thousands of salt of the earth folk who come by to view Vakulinchuk's sacrifice, as well as the sailing against the battleships, as you cited) could be considered an achievement of bravery and/or audacity without combat (albeit, on the Odessa steps, dodging--or more often--not dodging bullets).


If your games on over-reliant on combat and you are dissatisfied with that, perhaps you might enjoy other rpgs. I've played in a run a half dozen different rpgs where entire session go on with, at most, only the threat of physical violence, and perhaps the stress of mental violence. Which, in context, is sometimes far worse than open combat.
I’m 100% certain pemerton is not someone in need of that particular advice! 😂
 

pemerton

Legend
If your games on over-reliant on combat and you are dissatisfied with that, perhaps you might enjoy other rpgs. I've played in a run a half dozen different rpgs where entire session go on with, at most, only the threat of physical violence, and perhaps the stress of mental violence. Which, in context, is sometimes far worse than open combat.
I’m not worried about too much combat. But am curious about expectations around outcomes of non-combat and especially social action declarations. In the thread linked to in the OP, I was surprised by the scepticism of other posters towards a “conversion” event that occurred in a session of The Green Knight that I GMed.
 

Another thread has had me thinking about this topic. What sorts of things can be achieved via non-combat, social or near-social means?

In the film Battleship Potemkin (SPOILER ALERT for a nearly 100-year old film), at the climax the mutineers find themselves confronted by the Tsarist fleet. How do they survive this? They raise the red flag and sail between the lines of the other vessels - whose sailors refuse to fire, and who cheer in solidarity!

My impression is that this sort of thing is not all that common in RPGing. Am I correct?
Given sufficient character time, sufficient character money, the correct skills, and player willingness, almost anything the physics of the gameworld will support.

Most games don't much define that "physics" - some games did, tho'. Especially the Science fiction settings of the early 80's to early 90's. Traveller. Star Frontiers. Space Opera. Other Suns. Mechwarrior. Even Mekton, Cyberpunk and Shadowrun.

But those games tended to be written from a simulationist point of view.
Time to go write up my session...
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Another thread has had me thinking about this topic. What sorts of things can be achieved via non-combat, social or near-social means?

In the film Battleship Potemkin (SPOILER ALERT for a nearly 100-year old film), at the climax the mutineers find themselves confronted by the Tsarist fleet. How do they survive this? They raise the red flag and sail between the lines of the other vessels - whose sailors refuse to fire, and who cheer in solidarity!

My impression is that this sort of thing is not all that common in RPGing. Am I correct?
Basic D&D has a thing called 'Parley' happens before initiative and combat. You talk, negotiate and maybe avoid a fight. Happening at my table since 1980. ;-)
 

pemerton

Legend
Everything except physical combat!
That seems tautological.

But I don't think it's that common for a Battleship Potemkin-like event to occur - ie the declared action against antagonists is one that engenders peace through solidarity. In the other thread I mentioned, a lot of posters seemed doubtful about allowing a check to determine whether an attempt to convert a hunter to vegetarianism might succeed.
 

pemerton

Legend
Given sufficient character time, sufficient character money, the correct skills, and player willingness, almost anything the physics of the gameworld will support.
In Battleship Potemkin, the time is a few minutes. The money is we're in possession of a battleship. I'm not sure what the skill is. No talking takes place.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I’m not worried about too much combat. But am curious about expectations around outcomes of non-combat and especially social action declarations. In the thread linked to in the OP, I was surprised by the scepticism of other posters towards a “conversion” event that occurred in a session of The Green Knight that I GMed.
I think non-combat ways to skirt or co-opt an encounter have come.up fairly regularly in the games I've played. (Most commonly trying to talk or bargain instead of fighting, sometimes trying disguise or subterfuge).

The big thing feels like how the difficulty level is assigned. In D&D it's what the DM thinks is reasonable. So if the PCs say they're raising the flag to capitalize on the sense of relief the other ships would feel at not needing to fight (or whatever, like the fleet of the dead in LotR's affect on the morale... but fake), the DM might think it's brilliant and set a low difficulty or auto success. Trying to convince a life long meat eater to go vegetarian after a five minute talk might be viewed as vastly improbable and assigned a high or impossible difficulty. Maybe if the character knew about the farmer or the local religion - or DMs views - they could splice some compelling justification into the story to change that though. Part of that case feels like it depends on how the DM views high charisma and persuasion in D&D, if it's essentially comic book or pulp serial level of power then it (and lots of other things) would have a much better chance of succeeding. Or if quick changes of belief and revelation are a part of the theme of the world then that would be a lot more reasonable. If a big theme in the world at large is infiltrators and disguise and looking for it, then would it be really hard to not have the Potemkin be boarded instead of just sailing through?

It's felt helpful sometimes when the DM telegraphs that something seems doubtful to succeed when they've pretty much decided it's ludicrous (to avoid the party spending a lot of time making an elaborate plan that just won't work based on their conception of the game world - the social equivalent of doing something physically impossible).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In Battleship Potemkin, the time is a few minutes. The money is we're in possession of a battleship. I'm not sure what the skill is. No talking takes place.
Yeah this brings up a thing Ive been thinking about.

I think maybe D&D could use some sort of skill for moxy.

But the example is an odd one. First, you’d need a character with deep ties to their home/people, and you’d need the right socio-political situation, and for the PC to occupy the right place within that socio-political situation, and then yeah it’s just a matter of nerves.
 


Campbell

Legend
I think there is a general issue where most role players (including GMs) hold onto their conceptions of the characters they play far too tightly and don't really chew on or deeply consider what they might do. That tends to make genuine changes of heart even more rare than they are in meatspace and substantially more rare than they are in fiction.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Another thread has had me thinking about this topic. What sorts of things can be achieved via non-combat, social or near-social means?

That depends a bit on the mechanics you have to use. In some games, there are few reliable, rules-based non-combat ways to resolve conflict. One issue is that having the fully-fledged combat system gives players a solid handle on a problem. We, as GMs, don't usually give players handles for non-combat. We expect them to make up handles on their own. In a game with life-or-death stakes, one reaches for solutions one has a grasp of.

In the film Battleship Potemkin (SPOILER ALERT for a nearly 100-year old film)

How about we use some more recent media references? In the Netflix shows Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, and She Ra and the Princesses of Power, while there is physical conflict, the important things are resolved by having empathy.

My impression is that this sort of thing is not all that common in RPGing. Am I correct?

Define "common". I am sure most people here will say, "Oh, no! We solve things non-violently all the time!" But the description of "kill things and take their stuff" rings true for a reason. I daresay that, over all RPG play, resolving conflict through violence is the dominant mode.
 

My players in my 5e campaign often do everything they can to avoid fights, especially with humanoid opponents. It's charming!

The campaign is structured around a quest to kill the BBEG (based on Strahd), and so many of the players like to try to convert smaller villains to their cause. It means that many combats I plan for get resolved through negotiation rather than 0 hit points.

As a DM, I now plan out Plan B resolutions for combat. I think about what the enemy would want, and how to make that ask as challenging as combat would have been.
 

"We raise the red flag and sail between the lines of the other vessels..."
GM: Okay, you're acting under fire - you realise that if this doesn't work you're surrounded by a hostile enemy fleet?

Player: Sure

Acting under fire roll: 11

GM: Okay, the Tsarist fleet refuses to fire at you and the sailors cheer as you pass by.

That's how it works in Apocalypse World, with absolutely no need for the GM to predetermine the whys or wherefores of any of the potential outcomes.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
GM: Okay, you're acting under fire - you realise that if this doesn't work you're surrounded by a hostile enemy fleet?

Player: Sure

Acting under fire roll: 11

GM: Okay, the Tsarist fleet refuses to fire at you and the sailors cheer as you pass by.

That's how it works in Apocalypse World, with absolutely no need for the GM to predetermine the whys or wherefores of any of the potential outcomes.
What determines how high the roll needs to be?
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
But the description of "kill things and take their stuff" rings true for a reason. I daresay that, over all RPG play, resolving conflict through violence is the dominant mode.
IMO it mostly “rings true” due to history and memes, but YMMV.
It means that many combats I plan for get resolved through negotiation rather than 0 hit points.
Another thing D&D, and many other games, lack is a way to use social skills, empathy, and other non-tangibles, during a fight. Which is odd, considering how much talking happens in a fight in fiction.
What determines how high the roll needs to be?
The resolution system always has the same target numbers. Mixed success has a floor of 6or 7 (it’s been like a year since I played a pbta game. We barely games this last year), and total success has a floor of around 10.
 

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