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Author Topic: Persuasion rules  (Read 3476 times)
lumpley
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« on: February 06, 2008, 09:22:35 AM »

Here's an old friend of mine. He's speaking of In a Wicked Age but it's a great general topic across my games:

So there's no mechanic for the power of persuasion? I can see how that would be good in the sense that it compels the players to roleplay any verbal interaction. However, it has the down side of reducing all conflict to physical contest. Or am I missing something? Could the old lady in Rustin's example choose to roll dice yet narrate any success she has as delivering a particularly compelling argument? One that leads to the town fool realizing it's a good idea to get a free meal when he can? Or can she only mind fuck him enough that he capitulates to her demand (ala Hannibal Lecter)? We create characters who posses physical gifts that exceed our own, why not give them rhetorical gifts as well?

Here's where I'm at. The games I'm thinking of - Dogs in the Vineyard, In a Wicked Age, Poison'd, Synthia - do two things that make mechanical persuasion problematic. Thing one: they expect you to play your character with some passion, based on your identification with her. Thing two: they set your character and the other players' characters strongly against one another (Dogs least so, but even Dogs occasionally).

In Dogs, you can be like, "what's at stake is your conviction about polygamy," for instance, and then you can roll dice on me, and we raise and see back and forth, maybe escalate, and let's say eventually that you win. My character's conviction was up for grabs, you won it, so I'm obligated to play my character convinced. For the most part this works out fine, because a) my character's conviction is probably a minor point between us, overall, and b) all those raises and sees were an argument. Your character presented her case, and sometimes my character admitted her point. At the end, even if your character's argument didn't convince me, I can see how it might have convinced my character, and play accordingly.

In the Wicked Age, though, the dice are too fast and there's no time for an argument to develop and resolve. So if you were able to say "I convince you of blahblah ... clatter clatter ... win!" then I'd be in the position of having to play my character convinced, without having any clue what convinced her. Worse, I'd have to do it when you were convincing her of something very significant between us - something directly affecting our best interests.

So for the Wicked Age I decided that playing your character with passion would win, and if that sometimes disadvantages the player with less social skill, well, same as in Dogs - if you're losing the argument, throw a punch.

In Poison'd, same problem with the fast dice and the potential significance of conviction, but I solved it in a different way. In Poison'd, the solution is bargains. You want me to do something, you don't have to punch me - make me a deal. Accepting a deal gives me some mechanical power over you going forward, so if I like the deal I'll surely take it. The significance of conviction falls aside (which suits the subject matter well), replaced by the significance of who's promised to do what for whom, and who's making good and who isn't. There's no need for persuasion mechanics because persuasion in Poison'd boils down to buying people.

And in Synthia, there's a whole additional problem. (For those of you who don't know, Synthia's a game I haven't released yet, based on Blade Runner, about cops and sex androids.) Synthia absolutely needs to have good, working seduction mechanics. If I'm playing the title character and you're playing the cop, I have to be able to get you in bed, if I win the dice, even if it's not in your character's best interests.

So my solution to that problem solves the persuasion problem as well. In Synthia, if I win the dice, I say "I seduce you" or "I persuade you of ___," and you say how. You say what my character must have done to get yours into bed, or to get yours to change her mind. That way, playing her as seduced or as persuaded isn't difficult - you know exactly what happened and how it worked on her.

So Porter, make sense?

Followup questions always welcome!

-Vincent
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Troels
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2008, 10:20:51 AM »

I've had some fun with persuasion in IaWA. The way I run it is this, if someone beats someone in an argument, they offter the loser a deal: Come around to my side and do things my way, and suffer no or reduced damage. If you take it, well, you were convinced. If you don't, you take damage as your resolve and confidence is shaken, but refuse to budge despite having your arguments blown out of the water. Like I have seen some times IRL.

Example from AP:

The fated avenger of the defeated clan is on his way across the moors with the black spear of vengeance to lay waste to the enemy lord and all the seed of his loins. Trouble is, the avenger's (dead, now ghostly) sister was forcibly married to the lord, and had three children. Her ghost appears before him and attempts to persuade him to spare the children. Dice roll, she wins. He has to accept that if he kills his nieces he's doomed to Hell. He takes the damage, saying "I admit that this act will doom me to Hell, but honour is more important than salvation". Chilling stuff, as I recall.

This way, actually being persuaded is chosen by the player, and the clever persuader will make sure that this is not totally incompatible with Best Interests.
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PorterO
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 12:53:51 PM »

Yeah, Vince, that really helps clear things up. I recognize that it's a particularly troubling problem, and I think you've done a good job of accounting for persuasion in each of your games (though in different ways). I look forward to Synthia. I think that mechanic could work very well; it gives the persuading player an avenue of non-physical conflict but at the same time protects the persuadee's right to define his or her character.

Thanks for the example Troels. I think you demonstrate how persuasion can be used in IaWA, though the players must understand that unlike other games, persuasion cannot be used to force a player to act/believe, only to punish him/her if he/she doesn't act in a particular way. But, if I understand it right, even if I choose a physical means of conflict I ultimately get to the same result: act, or I'll smack you with the stick. In that sense physical and verbal conflict are on the same level, and I can live with that.
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Valvorik
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2008, 02:38:49 PM »

I think that's the important thing to see, that in IAWA you can get the "stick" to beat someone with in negotiating alternatives to dice lost narrating a physical action or a social/emotional etc. action, you are not limited to imagining only fights and wrestling and races as actions.  The social/emotional etc. actions should be "intense" though to bring out the dice and warrant the resolution, such as "inciting passions" in the text.
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Mark Causey
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2008, 03:55:24 AM »

Her ghost appears before him and attempts to persuade him to spare the children. Dice roll, she wins.

I'm confused. What concrete action did the ghost take that the avenger's player not want to happen? Weren't they just talking?
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--Mark Causey
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Mark Causey
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2008, 04:06:06 AM »

Never mind, I found my answer.
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--Mark Causey
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2008, 11:09:51 AM »

Fixed link.

-Vincent
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David Artman
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2008, 12:57:46 PM »

In Dogs, you can be like, "what's at stake is your conviction about polygamy," for instance, and then you can roll dice on me, and we raise and see back and forth, maybe escalate, and let's say eventually that you win. My character's conviction was up for grabs, you won it, so I'm obligated to play my character convinced. For the most part this works out fine, because a) my character's conviction is probably a minor point between us, overall, and b) all those raises and sees were an argument. Your character presented her case, and sometimes my character admitted her point. At the end, even if your character's argument didn't convince me, I can see how it might have convinced my character, and play accordingly.
Possibly an aside, possibly highly salient (still not sure as I write this):
In our Dogs game last night, we had two "persuade" conflicts:
* A three-way Dog-on-Dog argument about how we'd dispense with a town that's about 40% steeped in generational heresies (i.e. "kill 'em all" wasn't on the table, and we wanted to preserve some notion of a Faithful town, if not Right Here In This Valley--AP might follow)
* A conflict between us Dogs and the Main Sinners as a climax conflict.

My Dice Say You Agree
In the Dog-on-Dog conflict, we basically threw dice after we'd been in normal discussion, about when it started turning into exasperated argumentation about "no, we DON'T have to kill every sinner, even if we can" and such. No one was Saying Yes, so we Rolled Dice; fair enough. I won, FWIW, and my plan was ratified: distribute the Faithful families to three or four "solid" Faithful towns while taking the Main Sinners to Bridal Falls so that the Prophets and Ancients could figure out how sin and heresy can be missed by Dogs and Regional Stewards for generations(!).

You Can't Handle The Dice!
In the Main Sinners versus All Dogs, what was at stakes was "Do we Dogs agree with their interpretation of The Book?", which included, but was not limited to, the notion that a girl should be in wedlock before her first period, else she's "unclean" and should live apart, unmarried and in squalor. Pounds of dice fly because this is a group of Sinners, demon dice were set to Heresy, and they had half-a-town's worth of free dice, here-to-fore unused. And we're REALLY good at invoking our Traits, now. Net result: I win the conflict, but only after both other Dogs have to give, which opens up my first question:
1) Two Dogs give on "do we agree with their interpretation" but the remaining Dog wins the stakes. So, do NONE of the Dogs now agree, in spite of Giving (remember: the stakes were "WE agree"), because I won the entire conflict?

Now, post-game, another player and I are pondering some slightly "unfun" feelings he'd gotten during the game. We managed to ferret out his feelings as follows:
He is accustomed to his character's beliefs being inviolate. However, he Gave in both conflicts because (a) he wasn't willing to harm other Dogs to win the first argument and (b) he wasn't willing to do violence on old, deluded men to win his convictions about The Faith (sort of befitting his convert, Mountain Folk character). And that was my epiphany (which might be bullshit, but it felt epiphanic):

Dogs put him into a player-versus-character, internal conflict over "I always control My Guy" versus "My Guy just wouldn't go that far!" THIS--I tried to tell him (ranting and slurring a bit)--was The Good Shit about Dogs: "It put YOU, the player, into a moral quandary, through your belief not only about PLAY MODE but about in-character RIGHTEOUSNESS." In short, the mechanics forced him to deal with a non-fictional issue of play tradition versus a fictional ethos, which in turn fed back on the mechanical. He COULD have pulled a lot more dice, but he wouldn't, so he had to suck up the jar to his character's beliefs and how he'd have to play the character henceforth (or at least on the second conflict, if the answer to 1 above is "Correct, none of you are persuaded, in spite of two of you Giving").

2) Am I full of shit?

I mentioned that he was kind of at a disadvantage because he didn't realize that he could have requested a Line against such persuasion conflicts, basically making them verboten for his character, so that he could play the way that he liked / wanted / was used to doing.

3) Is that horse shit or apple butter? (Why does talking about Dogs bring out the Southern in me?)

So, I'm still not sure if this is salient to your thread or a thread-jack--split it, if need be. But I felt like the use of persuasion backed by mechanical force in Dogs is possibly it's best element for pushing a player to decide What's Right, not only in fiction but in play mode. I've never seen other games do it so well--sure, even Hero has a Persuasion skill, which can be aimed at a PC; D&D has friggin' Charm Person. But only Dogs gives you the means to push and say, "No way, Jose!" but those means REQUIRE you to take fictional actions that could be far, far worse ON YOU, the actual person, emotionally or in terms of personal pride.

Heck, if I'm wrong about how that all works together, I don't wanna be right....
David
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David Artman
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2008, 02:54:41 PM »

Slow weekend, I guess... anyone can answer, if you got citations!
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David Artman
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2008, 02:18:26 PM »

PLEEEASE, can I get an answer to those questions? Pretty please? (If we run Banthas, I expect a lot more Persuasion stuff to crop up, as Jedi are primarily diplomats, in all but the mid-Classic period.) I'll... I dunno... I'll do an editorial pass of the next revisions for free, or whatever. Walk your dog? (heh)
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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2008, 06:04:46 PM »

Oh come on. The answer is: sure, whatever.

If everybody agrees to the stakes, they stand. If you lose them, well, now you have to believe whatever you agreed to believe.

Now the unfun part worries me. Did your friend REALLY agree to the stakes? If he did, why wasn't it fun to lose them?

Personally, I don't like conflicts about PCs' internal states, nor about future actions. I think they create distance between you and your character where there doesn't need to be any (I suspect that's what was going on with your friend), and they're usually a sign that somebody's calling for dice before there's a real conflict. But whatever, if everybody agrees to the stakes, they stand.

Oh and in a multi-way conflict: strictly, the person who wins the conflict gets the resolution of the stakes. If two Dogs drop out but the third Dog wins, that third Dog wins.

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2008, 09:57:40 PM »

I'm sorry, "oh come on" was rude. I take it back.

-Vincent
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David Artman
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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2008, 11:35:57 AM »

No worries--I am accustomed to exasperating people and can take an "Oh, come on!" from time to time. I know that I am being a bit dense....

Now the unfun part worries me. Did your friend REALLY agree to the stakes? If he did, why wasn't it fun to lose them?
I guess he didn't recognize that, yep, his character's beliefs would have to change somehow, if the stakes are "Who's solution will we follow?" Maybe he took it too "binary" though--he could have assented to let me take the lead on The Plan while, in his heart-of-hearts, knowing that it's "a bad plan" or "we're doing this the wrong way." Heck, being a Mountain Folks convert, he could have easily explored the notion of "deferring to the expertise" of my Dog who was "Raised By My Whole Town, From Birth, To Be A Dog (2d8)." Perhaps the internal-to-the-player conflict that I thought was The Good Shit was really a misdirection; TGS should have come about from in-play events and challenges, NOT from internal-to-the-player tension between rules enforcement and "traditional" self-determination in RPGs (even though it's not all that "traditional," really, given railroading and Charm person and Persuasion and Seduction skills and...).

Quote
Personally, I don't like conflicts about PCs' internal states, nor about future actions. I think they create distance between you and your character where there doesn't need to be any (I suspect that's what was going on with your friend), and they're usually a sign that somebody's calling for dice before there's a real conflict. But whatever, if everybody agrees to the stakes, they stand.
The bold part makes me wonder still more (I really am trying!): We didn't go to Dog-on-Dog conflict over the town's fate until we'd, literally, gotten into OOC argumentation--we were out-of-character, getting louder, not budging on obvious points (e.g. "Dog's Autonomy" does not necessarily and always engage "Dog's License To Kill"). We weren't Saying Yes. So we Rolled Dice. Conflict had a loser; loser didn't like that he was expected to play as if he'd lost the stakes. So is this group dynamic issue, a Social Contract problem, a Line problem (as I said above: "Line: Don't set internal-state stakes with me"), or what? From your reply above, I'd guess Line. So next time we play, we talk about that Line.

Quote
Oh and in a multi-way conflict: strictly, the person who wins the conflict gets the resolution of the stakes. If two Dogs drop out but the third Dog wins, that third Dog wins.
I hate to say it, but that doesn't answer my question as I read it.

Third Dog wins. Check, that's me. I win what? Stakes. Stakes are "Do We Dogs Agree With Them Sinners?" I win, so I negate the verb: "We Dogs DO NOT Agree With Them Sinners." Thus, none of the three of us are convinced... those two who gave just ran out of arguments (or patience, but weren't exasperated enough to kill) and dropped out, even as I rallied with a stunning turn of phrase, bit of logic, and invocation of authority... which brings the other two back around to The Right as I've defined it while winning the conflict, much to their relief (assuming they want to remain Dogs and not become heretics).

That is what makes sense to me. Giving does not mean losing, in multi-versus-multi. Rather, it means that you no longer can contribute and are praying that the remaining folks on your side can win the day.

Thanks, as always, for beating me over the head with a rock until there's a big enough hole to let in understanding....
David
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« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2008, 06:53:10 AM »

First part: cool. One way I've constructed that kind of conflict in the past, that's seemed to work, is "what's at stake is, do you go along with me?" "Go along with" makes it clear that if I win you do have to do what I want, but you don't have to change your character's convictions.

Second part: don't mind the bolded part! Don't let it make you second-guess your play. I wasn't there, I'm just throwing noodles at the wall.

Third part: exactly. That's what I meant to say.

-Vincent
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David Artman
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« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2008, 10:19:46 AM »

*bows* Thank you for the clarifications. Je comprend maintenant.

It's not my thread to close, but I think I was the one keeping it lurching along  to the cliff. I'm done, if y'all are!
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