D&D General Your thoughts on "Social Combat" systems

Voadam

Legend
Charm and fear are fairly mechanical in 5e

Charmed
• A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.
• The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature.

Frightened
• A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line
of sight.
• The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

The skill checks are very open ended.

A Charisma check might arise when you try to influence or entertain others, when you try to make an impression or tell a convincing lie, or when you are navigating a tricky social situation.

5e (as most D&D) is generally fairly far on the player end of the scale of leaving PC autonomy about feelings and thoughts to the player to determine versus mechanics-imposed narrative.

There are some exceptions, mostly enchantment magic like charm person's "The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance." or the Philter of Love's "If the creature is of a species and gender you are normally attracted to, you regard it as your true love while you are charmed." Also dominate person, command, suggestion.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So you assert that any way to play a RPG that is different than how you play is objectively wrong, but I'm the one who is snarky about people who play differently than I do. Too funny! Are you a comedian?!?
I've asserted no such thing.

And mocking other posters is against the forum rules. Stating strong opinions about how the game works, or even how it should work, isn't. Both are for good reason.
Also, a PC dying is the system asserting how a PC can proceed within the narrative.
You're either failing to see a pretty obvious difference, or willfully ignoring it in order to hammer on tangentially to the point.
Sorry if you don't like that people not you like things you don't like, but that's life, you should deal with it.
Again, mocking other posters is uncalled for, and against the forum rules. The above is also a nonsensical sentence, both in structure and content, as I've never suggested that I'm bothered by people liking things I don't like.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
So you assert that any way to play a RPG that is different than how you play is objectively wrong, but I'm the one who is snarky about people who play differently than I do. Too funny! Are you a comedian?!?

Speaking for myself, if you are claiming that in 5e there is a rule that says anything to the effect of "if an NPC rolls higher on Charisma (Persuasion) than a PC rules on Wisdom (Insight), then the PC believes the fact the NPC is trying to convey, and the player must roleplay accordingly." then you are, in fact, wrong.

On the other hand, if you wish 5e were designed that way, and you house rule it to play that way, and your players enjoy it, then you are 100% right.


Also, a PC dying is the system asserting how a PC can proceed within the narrative. Sorry if you don't like that people not you like things you don't like, but that's life, you should deal with it.

Maybe I missed something but I don't think anybody has claimed that players have full control over "how they proceed with the narrative." That's just you expanding "control over their own character's thoughts and beliefs" into something much broader. And while I won't theorize about your reasons for doing that, I will note that it's a much easier position to critique.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
I've asserted no such thing.
This is you asserting it...
And that type of system is bad. Full stop. That is literally what the thread is about; Are social combat systems good, which social combat systems are good or bad, etc.
Further, such a system is absurd, because losing an argument doesn’t force people to change their minds. The system is forcing the character to make a decision, without the player’s input. That is a bad mechanic.
I'm sorry but asserting that a RPG system is objectively bad is you claiming a OneTrueWay to play RPGs. It would be the same as me asserting that D&D is an objectively bad system and anyone who plays it is playing RPGs wrong.
You're either failing to see a pretty obvious difference, or willfully ignoring it in order to hammer on tangentially to the point.
I don't see the difference as being obvious. In both a combat death and in a social combat that forces a PC to change a belief, the PC is forced to change how they interact with the narrative. To me, there is no difference.

As you stated earlier, we have very different ideas as to how the hobby works, and should work. Again, I am sorry if I disagree with you on that point, but that is how life works, people often don't agree on things.

As to the mocking you seem to think I am doing, I am not, I am simply disagreeing with you. In the past however, you have called me a wack job, and insinuated that I am mentally unhealthy. I guess I should have reported you then, but I didn't, in the future I will report you if you do mock me again. Perhaps you should simply ignore what I post on this public forum in the future.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
Speaking for myself, if you are claiming that in 5e there is a rule that says anything to the effect of "if an NPC rolls higher on Charisma (Persuasion) than a PC rules on Wisdom (Insight), then the PC believes the fact the NPC is trying to convey, and the player must roleplay accordingly." then you are, in fact, wrong.

On the other hand, if you wish 5e were designed that way, and you house rule it to play that way, and your players enjoy it, then you are 100% right.
I have never asserted that 5e does or doesn't do anything. This thread is also in the D&D general category so I wasn't assuming that we were discussing 5e exclusively. Personally I don't play 5e, and have no interest in doing so. Thus far I have simply been arguing as to what "social combat" systems can and can't do.
Maybe I missed something but I don't think anybody has claimed that players have full control over "how they proceed with the narrative." That's just you expanding "control over their own character's thoughts and beliefs" into something much broader. And while I won't theorize about your reasons for doing that, I will note that it's a much easier position to critique.
Both having control over a PC's beliefs and having control over their death is the player being able to alter the narrative. A PC death results in the player being forced in to a certain course of action. A PC being forced to change a belief because they lost a "social combat" is the player being forced in to a certain course of action. To me, these things are the same thing, a player being forced by the rules to take a certain course of action. I have no problem with either my PC dying or my PC's beliefs being changed by a "social combat" loss of that's what the rules say can happen. I enjoy systems that force my PC to change how they feel about something as exigent factors in real life influence how I feel about things even if that's not how I want to feel. That's life! I also realize that lots of players take exception to that idea and wouldn't want to use a system that has rules for such things. We all like different things, it's the spice of life!
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Maybe I missed something but I don't think anybody has claimed that players have full control over "how they proceed with the narrative." That's just you expanding "control over their own character's thoughts and beliefs" into something much broader.
Yeah, it’s an obvious difference. Literally no one has argued that players should get to decide what happens in the narrative. We have only argued that players should maintain control over what choices the character makes, and what they think and feel.

The goalposts first got picked up and moved into a completely different argument, as if we were arguing about how social conflict systems do work, and then when that didn’t work out they changed to snark and thinly veiled insults. 🤷‍♂️

Generally, none of that is a good sign as to a desire to engage in a genuine discussion.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'm sorry but asserting that a RPG system is objectively bad is you claiming a OneTrueWay to play RPGs. It would be the same as me asserting that D&D is an objectively bad system and anyone who plays it is playing RPGs wrong.
No need for a fake apology, as you’re incorrect on all counts. What I said is not, in fact, the same as claiming a one true way, nor did I suggest anyone is playing wrong. 🤷‍♂️
 

I agree that if the game clearly states the result of a mechanic compels you to have the character think or act a certain way, then that's what you should do if you agreed to play the game. There's room for objection and negotiation here, of course, depending on the circumstances, but if the game says I have to act like I believe the lying NPC because I failed a check or something, that's what I'll do if I agreed to play the game.

The issue then becomes whether the game actually says or intends this and, where D&D 5e is concerned for example, it seems like a lot of people are confused about what an ability check means in this regard.
In 5e I just rule that social skills work on NPCs only. You can't intimidate a fellow PC. You can tell them what you're trying to do and they can be initimidated if they like, but the dice play no part.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In 5e I just rule that social skills work on NPCs only. You can't intimidate a fellow PC. You can tell them what you're trying to do and they can be initimidated if they like, but the dice play no part.
Since the PHB says players decide how their characters think and act which means there is no uncertainty (and thus no ability check applies), this the rule anyway. But many, many people will disagree with that. Turn on any Twitch actual play stream and see.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I would not add effects that impact player character motivations or emotional states to D&D which from my perspective works best as a challenge based game, but I do not think inviolate control of character thoughts and emotions is a requirement for RPG play. It certainly is not a feature of our daily lived experiences.

I personally like a number of games that have binding social conflicts or mechanics where your emotional state impacts how well you do certain things. I cut my teeth on Pendragon and Vampire though.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
Insulting other members
This is a blatant lie. Prove it or retract.
It was in the "Weird fantasy races thread" and, no, I don't feel like slogging through the whole thing to find the pertinent posts. I also do not retract my statement, nor am I obligated to do so. I couldn't care less about you, or what you want, or what you think, or how you feel about it. As I said, feel free to ignore my posts.
 

I would not add effects that impact player character motivations or emotional states to D&D which from my perspective works best as a challenge based game, but I do not think inviolate control of character thoughts and emotions is a requirement for RPG play. It certainly is not a feature of our daily lived experiences.

I personally like a number of games that have binding social conflicts or mechanics where your emotional state impacts how well you do certain things. I cut my teeth on Pendragon and Vampire though.
True, in other games I'm more willing to experiment with it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It was in the "Weird fantasy races thread" and, no, I don't feel like slogging through the whole thing to find the pertinent posts. I also do not retract my statement, nor am I obligated to do so. I couldn't care less about you, or what you want, or what you think, or how you feel about it. As I said, feel free to ignore my posts.
Then you are a liar, and lack even the conviction to try to back up your false accusations.

That is pretty despicable.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I couldn't care less about you, or what you want, or what you think, or how you feel about it.
Mod Note:
On EN World, we require that folks treat each other with a modicum of respect as fellow human beings. You are failing to do so, and will no longer be posting in this thread as a result. If we see you treat people like this in the future, you are apt to be disinvited from the site.


Then you are a liar...

In the future, if you have an issue with someone, report it and then DISENGAGE, please. While you may feel justified, the way you have approached this did nothing to improve the situation.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Mod Note:
On EN World, we require that folks treat each other with a modicum of respect as fellow human beings. You are failing to do so, and will no longer be posting in this thread as a result. If we see you treat people like this in the future, you are apt to be disinvited from the site.



In the future, if you have an issue with someone, report it and then DISENGAGE, please. While you may feel justified, the way you have approached this did nothing to improve the situation.
I’ve rarely been so frustrated to apologize for something, and I am justified, but fair enough. My apologies. I may PM when I’m less angry, but I’ll drop it for now.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
One of the appeals of Roleplaying has always been the ability to play something you are not, the true fantasy element of the genre. Just as weak people get to play strong, hulking characters, shy people often wish to play the smooth talking charismatic character.

To that end, many rp systems have attempted social mechanics or "social combat" systems, a way to augment roleplaying with more detailed mechanics so that a person who is not good at talking can still be "diplomatic and smooth talking" in game.

In my 10+ years of RP experience, though I really appreciate the sentiment, I have found that social systems like these simply fall flat. For all the good they attempt to do, what I have seen at the table is that they deaden roleplay. Players get into a different mindset when they are thinking mechanics, and that mindset detracts from good smooth roleplaying. For every person who is bolstered by the system, I find the rest of the party's roleplay declines.

At the end of it all, the simple "persuasion" check at the end of the roleplay conversation seems the best compromise. It at least adds a little mechanical arbitration to compensate for a person who has trouble with roleplay, but it keeps the mechanics more out of mind to allow roleplay to commence. Anything more complicated than that seems to do more harm than good in the long run.


So what are your thoughts? Have you found any social combat or social mechanics that you think were a true boon to the RP experience?


Want to start off responding to the OP before I read too much of the thread.

I don't know a lot of these systems, but there was one event in particular that made me really appreciate them in theory.

I was running a demo game for a friend's system at a convention. Part of the one-shot was that the players had been trying to solve the mystery of who had been using forbidden magic. They solved the mystery, they knew they had the right guy, but they had no evidence. What they needed was a confession.

However, when they went and confronted him, they rolled poorly.

In a system like what I was used to, that would have been the end of it. I can't let them just keep trying, they rolled, they failed. However, instead this system allowed us to activate a "mental combat". It worked fairly simply. The players kept trying different tactics, intimidating, persuading, deceiving, and the person had a "defense" roll to rebuff their arguments.

In a lot of ways, it was exactly like they just kept trying, but there was a key difference. As the "mental health" ran out, they would get forced by the system to drop the argument.


Basically, by making this a "combat" like encounter with a boss, it gave them the chance to not simply lose, but since it was a "combat" if they did lose, they knew that they couldn't just keep retrying. They would be out of "health" and defeated.

In the end, they succeeded. They flustered him into confessing before the authorities, and succeeded, and everyone felt AWESOME about it.

I do think it is unneccesary for 90% of social encounters. But in those moments where you have the party against a stubborn social challenge, I think it is very useful to put a thin layer of mechanics on it, just to track progress. Just so that it isn't "Well jon rolled a 23, so we succeeded and no one else needs to roll" or "Jerry rolled a 5, guess we fail guys" instead it is "well, I got a 13, that chipped away at his defense, but he's still being slippery, maybe now is when we bring up that journal we found, shake him up."


(I will now start reading the rest of the thread)
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Get knocked to zero hp is qualitatively different than act as if you have been convinced. There are significant issues of player autonomy.

An NPC intimidating a PC to inflict the frightened condition is significantly different from getting them to knuckle under to something.

There are decent reasons most D&D social skill systems have some rules that work differently against NPCs vs. players.

Sometimes it can be fun going with the imposed narration and giving up that autonomy in playing your own character, but there are valid reasons to treat PC autonomy issues as different from character hps.

I completely agree with this, which is why I feel a system like this has to be an opt in choice. I've seen a lot of times when a table starts stalling because there is a result they want, but they can't figure out how to get there.

Pull out a system and say "okay, this is for all the marbles. If you lose, we can decide why you lost, but the scene ends and you don't get what you wanted."

I'd rarely go with them being convinced of the other side, but maybe a player will say that is exactly what happens. I think it is fair to give the lose status to them, let them figure out how they lost, but they have to agree that they can lose before the system starts getting implemented.

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Unless, of course, if there's no failure condition for PCs. A character doesn't (usually) lose all agency because an NPC convinced them of something. Heck, in real life, there are many people who can lose an argument by leagues and still retain the idea that they're right. Maybe the penalty of a loss in social combat is the enemy losing respect for you, not necessarily your character being convinced of something.

Yeah, this is another aspect of it.

Maybe you try and argue down the King, but in the process you see that the nobles are losing their respect for you with your carrying on, so you back down.

This is why I think it is important to have the player decide what failure means to them. A Barbarian isn't going to care about the losing the noble's respect, but they might realize they have gotten so angry they are about to start killing, so they storm off and head to the training yard to break things. They both still lost the scene, but they did so in ways that make sense for the character.

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In 5e I just rule that social skills work on NPCs only. You can't intimidate a fellow PC. You can tell them what you're trying to do and they can be initimidated if they like, but the dice play no part.

I actually had someone do this to me on my very first 3.5 game. I don't remember the session (it never went beyond character creation and a 1 hour session) but I can never forget them rolling the die, and telling me that my character was now pants-wettingly terrified of them.

Which they weren't.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
I think the main problem with all this discussion is pretty simple: "social combat" is a tool, which should be used when it's necessary. Like, you can attack and deal damage to a wooden door in D&D, but you probably don't need to roll for initiative for it.

In Fate (system with the best rules for social/mental conflicts), there are three sub-systems that are more complex than a simple dice roll: Challenges (when characters want to achieve something dynamic and/or complicated), Contests (when two or more characters compete for the same goal) and Conflicts (when two or more characters can and want to directly harm each other).

So, let's focus on Conflicts. Just as I said previously, Conflict happens when characters want to hurt each other. So, two bastards swinging barstools and broken bottles at each other are in conflict, but two friends rolling in the snow aren't. Or the climactic match in Rocky 1 isn't a conflict, but match with Drago probably is.

The same with social interactions: a married couple disagreeing about a place for summer vacation isn't in Conflict (or, at least, yet), but a married couple in a heated argument that's going to end in a messy divorce, where words like "You're one ugly nasty fat cow just like your whore of a mother and the only reason I've married you was because I knocked you up, and, by the way, I banged your sister at our wedding night" is definitely a Conflict.


Using Conflict rules when people don't want to actually hurt each other makes no sense -- there's nothing to "attack" and "defend" against -- and that's exactly the reason why you shouldn't use them for such cases. Just like you shouldn't roll for initiative when the PCs trying to break down a wooden door.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I think the main problem with all this discussion is pretty simple: "social combat" is a tool, which should be used when it's necessary. Like, you can attack and deal damage to a wooden door in D&D, but you probably don't need to roll for initiative for it.

In Fate (system with the best rules for social/mental conflicts), there are three sub-systems that are more complex than a simple dice roll: Challenges (when characters want to achieve something dynamic and/or complicated), Contests (when two or more characters compete for the same goal) and Conflicts (when two or more characters can and want to directly harm each other).

So, let's focus on Conflicts. Just as I said previously, Conflict happens when characters want to hurt each other. So, two bastards swinging barstools and broken bottles at each other are in conflict, but two friends rolling in the snow aren't. Or the climactic match in Rocky 1 isn't a conflict, but match with Drago probably is.

The same with social interactions: a married couple disagreeing about a place for summer vacation isn't in Conflict (or, at least, yet), but a married couple in a heated argument that's going to end in a messy divorce, where words like "You're one ugly nasty fat cow just like your whore of a mother and the only reason I've married you was because I knocked you up, and, by the way, I banged your sister at our wedding night" is definitely a Conflict.


Using Conflict rules when people don't want to actually hurt each other makes no sense -- there's nothing to "attack" and "defend" against -- and that's exactly the reason why you shouldn't use them for such cases. Just like you shouldn't roll for initiative when the PCs trying to break down a wooden door.

I'd agree with the thrust of the argument.

Making a social combat for a low stakes or simple disagreement feels clunky. But the higher the stakes, the more of a "set piece" as one poster put it, the more useful it is to have some metric for going back and forth.

And, to me, that is one thing that is important in the idea of this sort of system. Just "you need to succeed three times at this DC" feels less dynamic. It can work, but I feel like just setting a goal line isn't quite enough, partly because... not sure if I', going to phrase this right, but even if you change the DCs, it feels like the players all losing even if some of them never failed, feels almost wrong.
 

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