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D&D 5E What is a Social challenge, anyways?

pemerton

Legend
Here's an interesting observation. What move is it in Dungeon World when Aragorn tells Faramir he is claiming the Throne of Gondor? I would argue it is NO MOVE AT ALL. There is no general move in Dungeon World that corresponds to giving a command (or making a demand)! You can Parley when you have something the NPC desires, but I don't see that being the case here! It may be that Faramir desires to see the return of the King, but that isn't what is at question here. What is at question is, will he yield the throne specifically to Aragorn (and accept his claim, which in the logic of this situation are indivisible IMHO). There simply is no move for that. The player would describe his making of the claim, and the GM would then have a choice, he could make a (almost certainly soft) move in response, or he could simply move the fiction on and frame a new scene with either Aragorn being acknowledged/having been acknowledged, or one in which he's not (IE some sort of overt or covert conflict with Faramir probably). So, interestingly, our Indy Low Myth story game isn't leaning on mechanics here (though the SYSTEM does have a lot to say about this scene). Heck, a perfectly appropriate response from the GM would be "I don't know, Aragorn, does Faramir bend the knee, or not?" Or maybe he'd ask Samwise!
Maybe this tells us something about Dungeon World - it's not a game of Arthurian romantic fantasy!

In BW, whether or not a check was required would depend on other matters: whether Faramir is a PC or NPC, what the Beliefs of the different characters are, if Faramir is a NPC whether Aragorn has a relationship to him, etc. The GM might just say "yes" - or the player might insist on a duel of wits! There are a lot of possible options.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I'd note that 5e's writeup VERY much backstops everything with GM decisions, players are entirely limited to describing their character's actions and even then the GM will decide if they get to roll dice, and against what. I think, frankly, its probably pretty close to what the OA authors envisaged, which is standard AD&D 1e reaction checks.
Who gets to call for a reaction check? OA doesn't speak about this - but with so many mechanical elements that presuppose them, it seems that it will only work if the GM doesn't have total fiat here.
 

pemerton

Legend
Anyway, for the most part, social challenges in 5E should be resolved via role-playing as much as possible, not roll-playing, IMO. It is the only challenge we can easily resolve without dice rolling.

<snip>

You can certainly require multiple rolls for convincing the guard, but you can also role-play it out. For a role-playing game, why would you choose to roll? Maybe they are newer players who aren't comfortable with it, but otherwise I would think encouraging this part of the game is sort of the point of it being "role-playing".
I'm talking about the GM's control of NPCs, not the players' play of their PCs.

The player declares their action - they tell the table what it is that their PC says to the guard (maybe in 1st person, maybe in 3rd person - different tables and different players have different moods and different preferences here).

Now the GM has to tell us what the guard says in response. How is that determined? You seem to prefer that the GM decides. That's fine, that's your preference. For a table that adopts that approach, there are no "social challenges" of the sort that might call for a mechanical resolution framework.
 


Love the Venture Brothers. Though the only reason the Summit was resolved was due to Rusty knocking over the game board by denouncing the whole process as immature nonsense, not because of his diplomacy skills (which he has very little of, lol).
Which proves diplomacy shouldn't bulldoze every social situation. Insight and the right knowledges can provide alternative paths in such things.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I think the closest thing that 5e has to social mechanics besides the Charisma based skills and Insight would be the Background Features for some of the backgrounds. They give the players the ability to gain some benefit in certain social situations or with certain social groups.
Skills and background features are elements of 5e social mechanics. I would say though that the core of the 5e social mechanics are the rules and table in DMG244-245. Read together with the rules on using ability scores, the system constrains eventual outcome and guides toward following a number of steps to get there. Any conversation about 5e social mechanics (presence or lack thereof) should start with those pages in the DMG.

One approach to design that can give a good outcome is where the designer declares a core system and then other elements that want to work in that space do so through their interaction with the core. Combat is like that, in D&D. Based on recollection at this moment, I feel like it is right to say that all or nearly-all combat features connect to the combat core system. One sign of the incompleteness (or possibly intentional under-utilization) of the social system is that there are social actions (such as those you are thinking of in backgrounds) that don't use the core system.

I know we've discussed it before, and I raise it here only by way of example and without any intent to relitigate.
FEATURE: RUSTIC HOSPITALITY
Since you come from the ranks of the common folk, you fit in among them with ease. You can find a place to hide, rest, or recuperate among other commoners, unless you have shown yourself to be a danger to them. They will shield you from the law or anyone else searching for you, though they will not risk their lives for you.
That feels like an element of social mechanics, but has no linkage to the actual social mechanics. A version that would link to the mechanics might simply put it that common folk are automatically one step friendlier toward you. That will then play out in what you can reliably ask they do for you. Whether that is a good rule or not is unimportant here: it simply illustrates my comments above.

EDIT It struck me after writing that Rustic Hospitality could be better characterised as part of the stealth and downtime mechanics! Due to its use of the hide and rest keywords. My general point stands, but I thought this angle interesting.

I don’t expect they’ll be making it to whatever iteration of D&D follows the playtest, butI think they’re a decent indicator of what social mechanics could be within the 5e chassis.
Thinking about systems that have come between 4e SCs and 6e (and before, as others have noted!), were I setting the contents list for 6e, I'd favour bringing clocks / progress-tracks explicitly back into the game as a core mechanic. From there, I feel it wouldn't be very difficult to present an enhanced version of today's 5e social mechanics. Probably still in the DMG, consistent with the Basic Rules -> PHB -> DMG pattern of rules expansion.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Here's an interesting observation. What move is it in Dungeon World when Aragorn tells Faramir he is claiming the Throne of Gondor? I would argue it is NO MOVE AT ALL. There is no general move in Dungeon World that corresponds to giving a command (or making a demand)! You can Parley when you have something the NPC desires, but I don't see that being the case here! It may be that Faramir desires to see the return of the King, but that isn't what is at question here. What is at question is, will he yield the throne specifically to Aragorn (and accept his claim, which in the logic of this situation are indivisible IMHO). There simply is no move for that. The player would describe his making of the claim, and the GM would then have a choice, he could make a (almost certainly soft) move in response, or he could simply move the fiction on and frame a new scene with either Aragorn being acknowledged/having been acknowledged, or one in which he's not (IE some sort of overt or covert conflict with Faramir probably). So, interestingly, our Indy Low Myth story game isn't leaning on mechanics here (though the SYSTEM does have a lot to say about this scene). Heck, a perfectly appropriate response from the GM would be "I don't know, Aragorn, does Faramir bend the knee, or not?" Or maybe he'd ask Samwise!
I suspect that Faramir recognized Aragorn's "right" to kingship in the moments where Aragorn saved Faramir's spirit in the House of Healing, plus Frodo had also already forewarned Faramir of Aragorn and his lineage:
'No, not because I choose,' answered Frodo. 'It does not belong to me. It does not belong to any mortal, great or small; though if any could claim it, it would be Aragorn son of Arathorn, whom I named, the leader of our Company from Moria to Rauros.'

'Why so, and not Boromir, prince of the City that the sons of Elendil founded?'

'Because Aragorn is descended in direct lineage, father to father, from Isildur Elendil's son himself. And the sword that he bears was Elendil's sword.'

A murmur of astonishment ran through all the ring of men. Some cried aloud: 'The sword of Elendil! The sword of Elendil comes to Minas Tirith! Great tidings!' But Faramir's face was unmoved.

'Maybe,' he said. 'But so great a claim will need to be established and clear proofs will be required, should this Aragorn ever come to Minas Tirith. He had not come, nor any of your Company, when I set out six days ago.'
Now add onto this Faramir's respect for Gandalf and Gandalf's recognition of Aragorn's claim. We are also told that people can recognize Aragorn's kingship and Numenorian heritage at times. I kinda get the impression that Faramir never once bothered to press any claims. It probably would have been out of character if Faramir and Aragorn entered into any social contest here. There is simply too much "divine right" thinking in Tolkien.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
it's occured to me what has been niggling at me throughout this conversation: the use of the term roll-playing, i admit i had thought it instead referred to characters acting out of character in order to utilise their most numerically effective methods of solving a problem,
when johnny-honest the paladin famed for his truthfullness willingly and unprompted walks up front and centre to bluff all the guards with his +12 deception even though this is still the same character who claimed not even a half-hour ago that they'd rather be run through with a blade than lie if they could help it, 'but they're the one with the CHA bonuses so it makes sense that they'd make the checks right?' says their player.

besides it's not like actually having social resolution mechanics would impede your ability to roleplay, sure the dice might tell you how your actions faire but that doesn't mean they would describe anything about what you attemped, how you attempted it or your response to the NPC's reaction, oh so the dice say they didn't believe you? is that saying your character can't make another attempt to convince them? or turning to intimidation? or offering payment? or walking calmly away to find another wagon? or storming off in a huff yelling about stubborn peasants? No, it's just saying 'you failed to convince them', and is the dice telling you that the kobold rolled high on their DEX check against your attempt to trip them really so different from them telling you that the merchant rolled high on their WIS check against you trying to quicktalk them to let you ride on their wagon for free?
 
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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Skills and background features are elements of 5e social mechanics. I would say though that the core of the 5e social mechanics are the rules and table in DMG244-245. Read together with the rules on using ability scores, the system constrains eventual outcome and guides toward following a number of steps to get there. Any conversation about 5e social mechanics (presence or lack thereof) should start with those pages in the DMG.

One approach to design that can give a good outcome is where the designer declares a core system and then other elements that want to work in that space do so through their interaction with the core. Combat is like that, in D&D. Based on recollection at this moment, I feel like it is right to say that all or nearly-all combat features connect to the combat core system. One sign of the incompleteness (or possibly intentional under-utilization) of the social system is that there are social actions (such as those you are thinking of in backgrounds) that don't use the core system.

I know we've discussed it before, and I raise it here only by way of example and without any intent to relitigate.

That feels like an element of social mechanics, but has no linkage to the actual social mechanics. A version that would link to the mechanics might simply put it that common folk are automatically one step friendlier toward you. That will then play out in what you can reliably ask they do for you. Whether that is a good rule or not is unimportant here: it simply illustrates my comments above.

EDIT It struck me after writing that Rustic Hospitality could be better characterised as part of the stealth and downtime mechanics! Due to its use of the hide and rest keywords. My general point stands, but I thought this angle interesting.


Thinking about systems that have come between 4e SCs and 6e (and before, as others have noted!), were I setting the contents list for 6e, I'd favour bringing clocks / progress-tracks explicitly back into the game as a core mechanic. From there, I feel it wouldn't be very difficult to present an enhanced version of today's 5e social mechanics. Probably still in the DMG, consistent with the Basic Rules -> PHB -> DMG pattern of rules expansion.
There was a discussion about this awhile back, and there was a lot of pushback about such elements, namely:

Feature: Position of Privilege
Thanks to your noble birth, people are inclined to think the best of you. You are welcome in high society, and people assume you have the right to be wherever you are. The common folk make every effort to accommodate you and avoid your displeasure, and other people of high birth treat you as a member of the same social sphere. You can secure an audience with a local noble if you need to.

The idea, apparently, that being noble made random people kowtow to you in a fantasy setting was seen as unacceptable.
 

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