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Subject: Social Combat rss

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R Bull
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How do you feel about being able to affect the thoughts, feeling and behaviors of not only NPCs but PCs, through social combat? This means the same could happen to your character and since it's "combat" there would be ways to defend against it.
 
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Rob Harper
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Can you explain what you mean by that and what the context is?
 
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R Bull
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Without going into the complete details for my system, PCs and NPCs can use social traits to attack and defend themselves or others. They have a health pool and can be damaged which would lead to social status effects (such as emotions or being convinced to believe someone and take actions they may not normally take).

Now the crux of the problem comes from that last phrase, "take actions they may not normally take"; this is an age-old trpg stigma. My system allows an alternate to physically beating someone and dealing with poor roleplaying partners who steadfastly say "No, my character doesn't have to do that because he is an edge-lord and even though he is usually dumb and gullible I want him to not fall for THIS ONE thing".

I hope this clears up what I mean because I would really like some input from others. This subject is usually taboo in trpgs and resolved through roleplaying or "spells" and I didn't go that route. It is hard to not have some reservations when I think of what could be done to my character but I pushed forward with it because I thought of what my characters COULD DO.
 
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Graham Muller
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It would work but may be a little heavy, especially if have to constantly keep track of separate health pool.
To include this I would rather have a few emotional or social bars. Which can be effected up or down. Calm/Panic, Happy/Depressed, Exhaustion etc.
Depending on where they are you can have status effects.

But if you wish to prevent poor roleplaying I don't think this would solve the problem with those specific players, it would alienate them from the game. Remember that different people want different things from a TRPG.

However, as a combat type for a political or intrigue game it would be interesting.
 
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B C Z
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My experience shows that RPG players do not want the actions of their characters to be dictated to them. Their character is their agent in the world, and losing that agency effectively removes them from play.

Typical ways to handle this are:
If Joe is away from the group, the DM can NPC Joe's character, who then might do things Joe wouldn't normally do, perhaps without even Joe being aware of it. Provided Joe's character suffers no permanent harm, this is usually acceptable.

If the DM wants Joe's character to fall under outside influences, the DM approached Joe and asks him to play along. Most players will be happy to do so for some time for the sake of the story.

If the GAME is not episodic and long running, but a one-shot, players are more willing to accept being controlled, because they won't have to suffer the long term consequences.

. . . . .

Remember, removing control over your 'avatar' in the world disengages the player, turning them into a spectator of their own character -- and that is usually not why people play RPGs.
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R Bull
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To clairify, social combat is what I'm going to call the system in my game for verbal communication and persuasion. I feel the systems used in a lot of games their systems as described in the rules are one off: make the roll, beat the check, win the encounter. Then once it's won it's on the DM to decide if anything from that encounter lasts beyond it, and if so what and how. I hoping to construct one robust enough to help decide for the play group how that should manifest. I'm not aiming for the system to have control be wrenched away from players. However, it would be nice if manipulation and trauma actually affect you and not be decorations on your sheet. Something players can use for either their benefit or detriment.
 
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enrico fra
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You seem to describe a Live Action RPG rather than a table top. In LARP, the whole game is an interaction among PCs, very often social and psychological more than physical, and rarely controlled or conducted by the Game Masters.
 
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R Bull
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fraenrico wrote:
You seem to describe a Live Action RPG rather than a table top. In LARP, the whole game is an interaction among PCs, very often social and psychological more than physical, and rarely controlled or conducted by the Game Masters.

What about what I said makes you think the GM is not involved?
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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One of the reasons so many systems are so simple is because that is what really works. And you seem to have missed the fact that not all are a one-and-done thing.

You might have to check to see if you persuaded the NPC or even another PC believed your story. Then check to see if they actually do what you want.

Or you check and while the roll isn't bad, it is not good either. The NPC is unswayed and so you may need to try a new angle or approach. Or embellish on your initial pitch.

The main thing to keep in mind is that a social combat system should never take the place of actually role playing. This is why there has been so much resistance to and derision of attempts to do this in the past.

5e D&D has a new system where you have to make a series of connections sometimes to sway an NPC.
 
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R Bull
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This is a social COMBAT system, not a social system. It doesn't supplant roleplaying a conversation. It's primarily for social force, like coercion, or influence with no regards to the consent of the person you're talking to. Nothing stops you from just talking and roleplaying. But when it's time to force your way, you resort to the combat system.

Simpler systems like combat don't require much DM mediation. You just make your rolls and people die. The simpler, more autonomous systems are going to be where players spend their time, just from a logistics standpoint. Especially if the group has yet to establish a good set of common expectations amongst each other about how social situations ought to go. In this sense, social combat is a second-class citizen. You can do it, but not without explicit handholding from your DM. Depending on the DMs story, you could be a heartbreaking cassanova with one person and a total dunce with someone else, even if those people aren't really all that different. Combat has never had the same problem. The expectations of your combat prowess are clearly written out on a sheet. Why not have the same for your social prowess? A more comprehensive social combat system means that your social prowess is more clearly communicated on a character sheet and has less to do with the particular DM you're playing with.
 
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Matt Lee
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I think one problem is that when you boil it down, it sounds too much like propaganda and trying to force people to have the same belief/mindset that you want, and then it can become very political and polarizing (even if not intended that way). That doesn't appeal to people immediately, and often sounds "boring" or "a waste of time" compared to normal, everyday interactions.

Another potential issue is that when people imagine what is happening, action//combat is exciting and easy to image the sequence of moves (both good and bad) and make for great stories afterwards. Persuasion and social influence doesn't evoke the same kind of immediate interest when you tell someone about this.

On an intellectual level, this could be interesting, but truthfully, it sounds tedious if it consists of a whole system surrounding this. Like John above, I also have to say that it feels like it's taking the place of the roleplaying itself, and interferes with how players and the GM interact with the situation. The more rules governing an action, the less control players feel that they have over their own characters, and for most, less interest in continuing with that system since there are so many other systems that are more accommodating to their play style. Games like GURPS and Champions are very rules heavy, but for their fans, give a much richer background and character definition than D&D or FUDGE, but on all cases, they don't interfere with player actions during a game and serve to enhance the interactions with context (where possible). Having extra rules covering these interactions beyond a simple skill check slows things down in comparison.
 
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R Bull
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Stockbull wrote:
This is a social COMBAT system, not a social system. It doesn't supplant roleplaying a conversation. It's primarily for social force, like coercion, or influence with no regards to the consent of the person you're talking to. Nothing stops you from just talking and roleplaying. But when it's time to force your way, you resort to the combat system.

Simpler systems like combat don't require much DM mediation. You just make your rolls and people die. The simpler, more autonomous systems are going to be where players spend their time, just from a logistics standpoint. Especially if the group has yet to establish a good set of common expectations amongst each other about how social situations ought to go. In this sense, social combat is a second-class citizen. You can do it, but not without explicit handholding from your DM. Depending on the DMs story, you could be a heartbreaking cassanova with one person and a total dunce with someone else, even if those people aren't really all that different. Combat has never had the same problem. The expectations of your combat prowess are clearly written out on a sheet. Why not have the same for your social prowess? A more comprehensive social combat system means that your social prowess is more clearly communicated on a character sheet and has less to do with the particular DM you're playing with.

A D&D barbarian gets the exact dame benefits from their weapons and abilities no matter who they play with, assuming they have the same items. The same cannot be said for the social skills of a Bard. One DM might think that a natural 20 on a performance roll ought to be able to turn the tide of a dying rebellion, while another DM might've just rules that your wonderful song was the last thing those rebels sung as they died. A social combat system is about taking away that sort of inconsistency. You will know what you're capable of, socially.

Both of those outcomes for the Bard are really noteworthy, but it's not at all clear which of those outcomes were appropriate. We leave them to DM discretion. But we don't HAVE to.
 
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Julian Wasson
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I've played not one, not two, but THREE tabletop RPGs with social combat rules:

Exalted - It's formulated as separate-from-but-analogous-to physical combat, with robust stats, maneuvers, and abilities to affect the outcome, rules for defenses and resistances, and safeguards to make sure nobody can convince you to do something that is wholly antithetical to your character.

Burning Wheel - Similar to Exalted, it has an analogous-to-combat system with its own set of different maneuvers.

Mouse Guard - Probably the one that's the most interesting to me. There are two resolution systems in the game: simple rolls where you'll probably succeed but are testing to see if there's a negative twist that add wrinkles to the story, and full-blown combat for extended conflict. All types of conflict function by the same rules, whether you're fighting, or trying to navigate treacherous terrain, or trying to convince the assembly to give you more resources. It's also got a cool "compromise" system, where most results aren't outright success or failure, but instead you get some or all of your objective for succeeding, but must give up something of your opponents' objective based on how much damage they did to you.

These are all worth checking out if you're interested in the idea of social combat, if only to see what other people have done before you. Good place for inspiration as well as learning from the mistakes of others.
 
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Mus Rattus
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I'll add on that FATE handles social combat in a similar way to what you propose.

Social combat in FATE uses the same system as regular combat (it's highly abstract). Of course, when players win or lose social combat, the effects will be different.
 
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Benj Davis
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I really like the way that Smallville handles it: You ask for something, and roll the traits you're using to try to coerce the other person. Once they see your result, they have the decision of whether to give in and do what you want, or to assemble their own dice pool and try to beat your roll.
If they do, then they turn the tables and you have the same decision to make. If they fail, then they take Stress (becoming Afraid, Angry, Injured, Insecure, or Tired), but they still don't have to do what you wanted. You can hurt people, but you can't actually force them to do things.
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