Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A follow-up to Social Conflict Mechanics

OK, based on what feedback I did get, and my own gut feelings I went with the experimental rules, polished them a bit and put up V.A0.27 of piecemeal up. That said If I get more feedback streaming in I can easily undo that.

So the flaw has already been discussed, the characters who have the social skills of the players in reality, but the social skills of a hermit shut in on paper. Which in turn puts pressure on players without amazing social skills (like detecting deception, or reading body language) to not try and play characters who are socially apt.

How do these mechanics work? A lot like combat in Piecemeal (with differences).

When a social conflict ( a major one happens), the debaters spar in rounds of statements, appeals and rebuttals trying to score influence. When you score enough influence you have convinced the opponent in their heart of hearts (for now at least). This does not force them to act a certain way, they can still claim "Stubborn refusal", where they continue acting contrary to what they believe deep down. This does preclude them from using fate and destiny points among some other tweaks. This means convincing the villain he is wrong before the epic showdown (or the Villain convincing you he is in fact your father) is a good way to gain a "cinematic advantage" mechanically, without "breaking the fourth wall".

Even though there is a mechanical backing, the players still have to come up with things to say, points to make, etc. This represents what the character is trying to say (even if it doesn't come across right). The strength (or weakness) of the actual arguments made gives a bonus or penalty to rolls.

So, to dig deeper into mechanics.

First the nature of the argument is set. Each side says how important the issue is to them. The more important an issue is to them the more "Influence Points" it takes to convince them. Think of this a lot like setting how many "hitpoints" they have. This ranges from trivial (2) to Life and Death (50). This is further modified by if you are arguing for or against their morality, survival or faith. It can require ALOT more or a lot less once those come into play.

Then comes the round by round verbal sparring.

First the players set a tone:
Heated - Epic failures on 5 or less, Epic successes on 16 or more
Normal (Informal) - Epic failures on a 1, Epic successes on a 20
Academic - No Epic failures or successes
Humourous - All appeals score at most 1 influence point, no Epic successes can be scored against you.

This here as you can see adds a little bit of tactical get go from the beginning. Using humour to diffuse a tense situation can be great, but its rather pointless against an academic debate.

Then the players choose an appeal, an appeal is a lot like an attack.

They can choose to appeal to emotion. In which case they add their social modifier to their "appeal roll", as well as any skills they can bring into their argument and their presence*. If they succeed in their appeal they score a social die worth of "influence points" (think damage) minus their opponents exceptional social modifier.

An appeal to logic works the same way, except on intelligence.

This adds a level of tactics again, if you are charming..appeal to someones heart strings, unless they are far more charming than you and see through your blatant attempts to sway them. If you are smart, attempt to show them up with logic..unless they are simply smarter than you.

As mentioned with earlier, its always good to have "Attacks" used opposed die rolls to keep people on the table. "Rebuttals" are a similar mechanic. There are a few different kind of rebuttals based upon how you want to defend yourself.

Refuting always gives you a rebuttal roll, but you may lose your appeal if your opponent seizes momentum and puts you on the defensive.

Interjecting always gives you an appeal but you lost your rebuttal if your opponent seizes momentum.

Counterpoint is ideal, you always have an appeal and a rebuttal (though not always as good), though it requires training in debate.

A Statement of fact forgoes a rebuttal to score double influence

Talking Points gives you two appeals at the cost of a rebuttal, though each appeal is weaker.

As you can see, choosing the words and style of discussion you want (from a raging scream-fest to a ponderous scholarly debate) are possible, with a lot of choices for how you want to act.

Next you check for Momentum, which is akin to initiative.

Whomever "seizes momentum" has put the other side on the defensive and goes first, making their actual speech, including any special tricks (like lying, attacks on character or logical fallacies).

Their opponent then makes their rebuttal statement. Dice are rolled, if the Appeal exceeds the Rebuttal (if there is one) influence is scored.

If the opponent has the option to make an appeal the same process is used, and influence may be scored for the opponent.

Then a new round begins.

* Presence works a lot like a warriors combat modifier, and its gained in much the same way except by bards. As non-warriors go up by 1 every three levels in combat, so do non-bards go up in Social Conflict.

Why this is good?

1.) It encourages cinematic final battles where the heroes try to convince the villain he is misguided rather than always just jumping out form behind cover and shooting him (which is still a valid choice).

2.) It doesn't FORCE any behaviour, but it still makes social conflict worthwhile mechanically.

3.) It adds the same tension and excitement for dialog one CAN get from Combat. This allows people who like rolling funny dice and making tactical choices to not be forced to play the warrior.

4.) It makes winning a battle without ever fighting it possible, without feeling like fiat (which feels like a cheapened victory to some)

That being said alot of people don't like getting mechanics involved into social mechanics. Well the great #1 rule in Piecemeal (and any RPG) is you only need the rules if you want to use them. Just be sure to tell players at the table you AREN'T using rules like these before they invest heavily in them.


1 comment:

  1. You should take a look at Burning Wheel's Duel of Wit mechanics - it is the best social mechanic I've ever played with.