• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

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

hawkeyefan

Legend
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.

I think it's possible to do so. Something like clocks or a progression track would be pretty easily implemented into the rules. I use them pretty often when I GM 5e (which has now been a while).

But I'll be surprised if they make it into the new edition.

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?

What interests me is how people don't view combat in the same way.

Somehow, rolling in combat is perfectly fine. Often accompanied by elaborate descriptions of actions. "I swing my sword low, and then spin and bring it up high, slicing him across the chest!" and similar. Somehow, the rolls in combat are either perfectly acceptable as is, or are otherwise not an obstacle to narration.

But rolling for a social encounter? Suddenly the rules "get in the way".
 

log in or register to remove this ad

dave2008

Legend
I'm just waiting for someone to actually post an example of a SC scenario that would be significant enough to warrant that sort of time during a session. Role-playing through it is more fun for me, and certainly when a check is called for it to determine the direction it takes, roll.
The only mistake I think is your separating role-playing from the SC. Role-playing is still central to it IME. Role-playing can also be central to combat too for that matter. If your just rolling dice, well it is more like a board game than an RPG to me.
 

dave2008

Legend
There are lots of ways you could do this, certainly, but to what point? At this level, IMO, you are just breaking down role-playing to a series of roll and numbers, which is already what we do in combat, so why doing it to social? What do we gain?
The point is to have fun. Different people find different things fun. As a DM, I found that I sometimes enjoy letting the dice make decisions for me and then I have to improve what I didn't expect. If I have all the answers beforehand, it is not as fun for me. I like to be surprised too and it has helped me be a better DM!

Additionally, I found some of my players became more involved and interested in social interactions when we started adding more dice rolls. They like that there is uncertainty in the dice (and they can influence them) vs me just telling them how the NPC acts. Once I noticed that, I started to use it more and more. So, again, the point was to have more fun and it as succeeded!
 

A lot of people say they want the game to focus more on Social interaction and roleplaying. Or decries that there aren't Social mechanics. But what would that even look like?

Would we have "Social monsters" with a "Social CR" and care taken to ensure they have level-appropriate Social abilities? Would you earn xp for "defeating" a social encounter? How does one define victory?
to put this in perspective the 1st game of my spelljammer campaign (this week) had 0 fights...

Campaign Hook: they are smugglers with a small nonspelljame capable under a ton 'puddle jumper' saving up to get a bigger ship.

they start by walking into a den of thevies... I introduce another smuggler (with a real spell jammer) an assassin and a mercenary as main NPCs and describe 3 other NPCs but they don't know or interact with them (all of them have basic backgrounds and hooks)
They talk to both the smuggler and the merc and try to figure out what each is hiding... the other smuggler is masking a fear that one of them picks up on, but they don't know why,
The merc they can't read.
They go to the assassin who they talk into giving them a lead on a job.
the job is to take big vials (about the size of 2 milk jugs on top of each other) of hallucinogenic gas to a nearby moon and get it past customs.
They then go to pick up the cargo, and negotiate pay.
they then got to teh dock where there ship is and run into a group of goblins with some kind of pot/cauldrens of tar... instead of interacting with them they ask the guy who runs the docs and bribe him for info... the goblins have 3 ships like the PCs (Goblin BLade) and that tar is one of many modifications they made to there puddle jumper...
THey load up and spend 10 days going to the moon... we use this time tio BS more or less out of character but explaining what each other know about the others to simulate all tallking for days.

They get to the moon and need to talk fast to get past an inspection... during that they learn that there is a major food shortage, since pirates are sacking lots of deliveries... and the king of the moon is putting together a fleet to go pirate hunting... and that tells the PCs both what the merc and the other smuggler where hiding, they must have already known both about the pirates and the new fleet.
they get pasted thse customs agents and head into the capitol of the moon... looking for there delivery contact, when teh autognome PC is stopped by racists cops that don't like constructs... they need to be careful and talk through this. However they find out that there is a warforged/autognome terrorist cell in the area...
they get to the spot and it is an old orphanage but with few kids... the woman that runs it takes the gas and gives it to two warforged who take it under into the basement... then pays the PCs half in gold half in platinum and now they are worried they are supply Ras Al Gul fear toxin... but they can't get any ill intent form her at all. In fact she hires them to play delivery/messenger to bring a scroll sealed to the place they came from and give it to a bartender she knows...

They leave make up a cover for why they were there and head back to the asteroid they were on to start...

8 encounters all social... technically 2 exploration i skipped here as well..

10 encounter and not quite enough xp to level but real close (we started at 4th level)
 

Right but, if that's the average social encounter, then when people say "I wish the game focused more on roleplaying" or that characters have more social abilities, what does that even mean?
for me it means givingg a mechanic for fast talking, bluffing and finding out information. right now we have skill checks and spells that auto do them... but i want non spell casters to get cool things too.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
The only mistake I think is your separating role-playing from the SC. Role-playing is still central to it IME. Role-playing can also be central to combat too for that matter. If your just rolling dice, well it is more like a board game than an RPG to me.
That certainly might be to a point... perhaps I am too focused on the discussion of the mechanics to resolve SC (the old failing to see the forest through the trees thing...).

The point is to have fun. Different people find different things fun. As a DM, I found that I sometimes enjoy letting the dice make decisions for me and then I have to improve what I didn't expect. If I have all the answers beforehand, it is not as fun for me. I like to be surprised too and it has helped me be a better DM!
Well, it isn't as though I have everything scripted LOL! When I don't care about the result for something, I like to just roll and see what happens as well.

For myself, one of a few different scenarios will determine A) if I ask for a roll and B) the result of success.

1. If I don't have an agenda when the PC wants to get a ride to Port Royal (or whatever), the PC will get them there. (no check)
2. If the players want a ride but the adventure is about them taking time (e.g. walking) so as to present a time constraint later on, then they walk and the NPC can't help them (no check).
3. If part of the adventure is a stop-over in Haxel for an encounter or two, then the NPC can only take them as far as Haxel on a success, and they are walking to Haxel (on their way to Port Royal) on a failure.

Additionally, I found some of my players became more involved and interested in social interactions when we started adding more dice rolls. They like that there is uncertainty in the dice (and they can influence them) vs me just telling them how the NPC acts. Once I noticed that, I started to use it more and more. So, again, the point was to have more fun and it as succeeded!
We roll plenty of checks for social encounters as well as role-play them, I just don't see how complicating a rather straight-forward process into a series of rolls and interactions is much fun. But tastes differ...
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
to put this in perspective the 1st game of my spelljammer campaign (this week) had 0 fights...

Campaign Hook: they are smugglers with a small nonspelljame capable under a ton 'puddle jumper' saving up to get a bigger ship.

they start by walking into a den of thevies... I introduce another smuggler (with a real spell jammer) an assassin and a mercenary as main NPCs and describe 3 other NPCs but they don't know or interact with them (all of them have basic backgrounds and hooks)
They talk to both the smuggler and the merc and try to figure out what each is hiding... the other smuggler is masking a fear that one of them picks up on, but they don't know why,
The merc they can't read.
They go to the assassin who they talk into giving them a lead on a job.
the job is to take big vials (about the size of 2 milk jugs on top of each other) of hallucinogenic gas to a nearby moon and get it past customs.
They then go to pick up the cargo, and negotiate pay.
they then got to teh dock where there ship is and run into a group of goblins with some kind of pot/cauldrens of tar... instead of interacting with them they ask the guy who runs the docs and bribe him for info... the goblins have 3 ships like the PCs (Goblin BLade) and that tar is one of many modifications they made to there puddle jumper...
THey load up and spend 10 days going to the moon... we use this time tio BS more or less out of character but explaining what each other know about the others to simulate all tallking for days.

They get to the moon and need to talk fast to get past an inspection... during that they learn that there is a major food shortage, since pirates are sacking lots of deliveries... and the king of the moon is putting together a fleet to go pirate hunting... and that tells the PCs both what the merc and the other smuggler where hiding, they must have already known both about the pirates and the new fleet.
they get pasted thse customs agents and head into the capitol of the moon... looking for there delivery contact, when teh autognome PC is stopped by racists cops that don't like constructs... they need to be careful and talk through this. However they find out that there is a warforged/autognome terrorist cell in the area...
they get to the spot and it is an old orphanage but with few kids... the woman that runs it takes the gas and gives it to two warforged who take it under into the basement... then pays the PCs half in gold half in platinum and now they are worried they are supply Ras Al Gul fear toxin... but they can't get any ill intent form her at all. In fact she hires them to play delivery/messenger to bring a scroll sealed to the place they came from and give it to a bartender she knows...

They leave make up a cover for why they were there and head back to the asteroid they were on to start...

8 encounters all social... technically 2 exploration i skipped here as well..

10 encounter and not quite enough xp to level but real close (we started at 4th level)
So, which of these did they fail on???

It seems like just reading the Merc was a failure, which didn't matter to the adventure since the Assassin was the one who gave them the job tip.

Now, maybe if they had been able to read the Merc, they would have gotten the job from them, or perhaps a different job/adventure hook.

Ultimately, what was the consequence of failure?
 

Everything came crashing down the time I played GURPS.
for me it was world of darkness that changed my view point but yeah GURPS is the same example
Things went well for some time, when one day, we were faced with an obstinate guard, and I wanted my swordsmen to intimidate him, so I roleplayed thusly. The GM asked me to make an Intimidate skill roll (which wasn't even a skill in the core book but in a splat!) and it broke my mind. "Roll a die...to roleplay?" I was flabbergasted.
this is the exact opposite of my reaction... and why of all the changes 3e brough the social skills are my favorite.

just because YOU can know the right things to say and how to say them isn't proof your character can.
I still think of myself as 'old school' and am more leniant if you RP but nto that you can have a cha 8 no social skill characteer and be more able to talk to people then the cha 20 bard with social skills just cause out of game you are better at it...
just like I wont ask you to jump to see how far or high your character can jump
I might get a lackluster roll, and my acting in character falls flat on it's face.
that just means your character isn't as intimadating, or charming as you want...

imagine if I describe a perfect crit hit and that i kill the dragon... but I roll a 2 to hit... I still miss,
Or the other extreme, the shy player makes a character with Charisma because they want to know what it's like to be liked by most people. They say "uh, i'll try to talk to the noble" and the DM goes "well, what do you say?"; and more often than not, I've seen the DM shake their head and gatekeep the attempt because they can't disassociate the player's roleplay from the character's ability.
this is a HUGE red flag for me... I have found in the 20ish years we have been useing social systems we have gotten more of those shy nervous RPers to act things out... cause once they know that if they say something wrong or dumb but roll well the character still comes off swauve and cool... so they trry, and the more they try the les shy they get (in general we have woman that is still shy years later)
Most tables, I feel, are probably somewhere in the middle.
100% agree with this
 

So, which of these did they fail on???
they failed to get a read on the mercenary and the other smuggler, so they were not pre warned about the piorites
they also ffailed to figure ANYTHING out about the people they deliveried the gas too... but they have some guesses.

other then that much like combat failures are not the most common outcomes look at the screen name, my players have pretty good skills abilities and concepts
It seems like just reading the Merc was a failure, which didn't matter to the adventure since the Assassin was the one who gave them the job tip.
correct on that failure... but it meant they didn't learn what he was doing... and that could have been a different plot hook (actually 2 potential ones)

from teh end point (what they did) it didn't matter, but if they succeeded it could have and most likely would have changed the session drastically.
Now, maybe if they had been able to read the Merc, they would have gotten the job from them, or perhaps a different job/adventure hook.

Ultimately, what was the consequence of failure?
the consquince is simple... they don't have thee whol picture of what is going on
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
they failed to get a read on the mercenary and the other smuggler, so they were not pre warned about the piorites
Which didn't seem to have any impact, did it? They found out when the got to the moon about pirates and the king's new fleet. So it delayed them getting the information, but they got it anyway.

Now, if during the 10-day chat/journey, them being attacked by pirates and not having any foreknowledge that might have made a difference could have had some impact.

other then that much like combat failures are not the most common outcomes
Which is an issue I've long had with D&D, particularly 5E...

and that could have been a different plot hook (actually 2 potential ones)
But they got one, and that was all that is needed for the adventure to go on, right?

from teh end point (what they did) it didn't matter, but if they succeeded it could have and most likely would have changed the session drastically.
In what way?

the consquince is simple... they don't have thee whol picture of what is going on
So what? They didn't need to have the whole picture, did they? Sure, having it might have changed things, but unless those changes were significant / meaningful, what's the point?

(I'm really trying to get this, not just being obtuse or difficult!)

EDIT: I want to add, I've also run a number of sessions without a single combat, so that doesn't surprise me really. Personally, I try for at least one per session because I know a couple players love combat more than anything else and I want them to have fun, of course.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top