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Author Topic: Non combat interactions  (Read 2313 times)
The Wolf
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Posts: 2


« on: February 22, 2011, 03:46:21 AM »

Hi there,
First post however in my usual manner I lurk for a while before diving in.

I have run many games, being pretty much a full time GM unless someone else has the burning desire to run something. This has led me to a number of realisations, the foremost being the lack of support for non combat situations in games. I intend to remedy this in my own system with setting etc. Realistically I have noticed that combat has many, many rules often as much as a quarter of many books are devoted to this. For one of my players (Stu) to shoot an NPC (Non Player Character) he has to take his stats, add bonuses for equipment, quality of skill, weapons and any other abilities he has and rolls to hit. His opponent can attempt to dodge and uses their skills to avoid the attack. Should Stu be successful he then takes the quality of the hit adds the damage of the weapon which is resisted by either an armour/not dying attribute roll or just applying a modifier.

I am aware that this is a generalisation and many systems handle combat differently but I feel I have the basic setup used by many of the large systems.

However, should Stu want to talk his way past a guard, He takes his charisma/fellowship/friendlyness adds it to any skill and ability that's relevant in a straight up resisted roll. Where combat is a swirling melee (sometimes literally) The cut and thrust of debate is reduced to two guys battering each other with shovels marked 'argument' until one wins. I feel this is a disservice to those builds who are built around fast talking, wheeling and dealing and generally conning folk.

The question is this, as players would you like to play a system where a talking character has a breadth of options outwith roleplay for conversing with NPC's or do you feel that the complication would be unnecessary and detract from the session?

As Games Masters, would you like the mechanics to be able to represent this or would they be something of an encumbrance to the flow of play?

Many thanks

The Wolf
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Cliff H
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2011, 09:02:49 AM »

What you're describing is quite true of many of the games coming out from larger presses. However, as I've looked at more and more small and indie press games, this characterization seems to break down. There are literally a ton of games (should you choose to print the pdfs) that introduce conflict resoution rules. Conflicts can be physical, meaning they're good for combat, but the games use those exact same rules, if perhaps a different ability set, to resolve social conflicts, battles against the elements, accademic pursuits, all of it.

But to answer your question as to whether I'd like mechanics that treat non-combat resolution with as much detail as many give to physical combat... it depends. For me it's less a matter of having a robust system that provides inumerable options in any situation and more about the flexibility of the mechanic and its handling time. I don't want to spend my night calculating die pools or modifiers, comparing numbers and then performing more math. I want to pick up some dice, roll them, and move to immediately turn those results into story. That applies to combat and non-combat conflict.

Whether a game should have equally robust rules for handling fighting and everything else lies, in large part, in what that game's about. I'm about to try a few sessions of a game called Swashbuckler, for example. That game has a lot more detail in the fighting system than anything else, but it's a game about, well, swashbuckling. Flashing blades, lightning fast sword exchanges, all that stuff. If it put as much detail into sneaking, I don't know the effort would be well spent. Make a game about ninjas sneaking about samurai compounds taking people out from the shadows, however, and I'd be disappointed if the sneaking system played second fiddle to some generic combat mechanics.

The one thing I do like about games with a unified resolution mechanic, however, is how they move to balance the field in terms of play emphasis. A game that loads most of its rules into combat resolution favors combat; there's no way around that. But a game that treats all conflict as conflict removes that bias,meaning you can more easily play an effective character without the need to be a competant fighter, if that's not your thing.
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Gregor Hutton
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Posts: 366


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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2011, 11:28:15 AM »

Hello! Welcome to The Forge.

As you say, you can find a load of games that give little thought to this, while having many, many rules dictating combat. You seem to have come to the realization that you want rules that better serve players like Stu for social situations.

So I'm not sure why you're having a poll. You'll get as many answers as there are possible ways to answer the question, and it's all unrooted in Actual Play. I genuinely have no idea if the options outwith role-play that you might have will be unnecessary and detract from the session. Wouldn't it be better to tell me how you think Stu would have been aided by some rules? Or what sort of options you've tried?

For me, I can think of an example where we were able to use rules that do allow as much mechanization for arguments as for combat. We were playing Hot War a month or so ago and Per's character was arguing with some Paratroopers trying to arrest an NPC we were hiding in our base. How it actually went down was that Per and Malcolm (the GM) roleplayed their characters until they found a point at which they were reaching for the dice. Per's character Sebastian was blustering and trying to buy time. The head of the Paras was trying to direct him out of the way _now_ and to get Sebastian to hand over the man for ... execution, as it turned out. That triggered Per going for the dice. We went to the rules and after bringing in all the relevant mechanics the dice were rollled and the situation resolved. As it turned out Per lost, Sebastian didn't stop the Paras and he took fallout (called "Consequences" in Hot War) from losing the social conflict. The Paras then had a follow-up conflict with the two other PCs (belonging to Ed and me) as we tried to escape with our NPC. That conflict was a physical one as we tried to run away and hide. The Paras had a mechanical advantage as they'd won the preceding conflict, but we luckily managed to escape despite their advantage.

Is that the sort of thing you envisage? Can you think of an example where Stu (or you?) would have preferred to have options for situations that were just left for "roleplaying"?

Cheers,
Gregor

PS Can I ask your name? Referring to you as "Helllo The Wolf" seemed strange to me, so I just went with "Hello!".
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stefoid
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 07:01:47 PM »

Hiya.  Actually I think 'social combat' of the type you describe might be a little better than a straight out roll to influence someone or not, but the best way to handle social stuff doesnt involve rolling at all - just negotiate!

Heres what I have to say on that in my game:

ARGUMENT AND PERSUASION – SOCIAL CONFLICT:
On the one hand, influence contests could be treated like a physical conflict where plays target Soul instead of Body and the last man standing is the winner.  These types of plays, like any other play, should describe how the outcome is being achieved:  is it by wit, sarcasm, logic, emotional intensity, intimidation etc…  Each method will be a different play.

However,  unlike physical combat, social conflict don’t always have to end in black and white outcomes.  Bargaining, compromise and deal-making often result in grey outcomes that are hard to model with a straight out win or lose contest. 

Those types of grey outcome are best modeled with a dilemma – i.e. ‘yes, you can have what you want, if you agree to these terms...’   

When to use social-combat and when to use dilemma to resolve social conflict?  When one character is trying to get another character to see her point of view, a combat-style of resolution can be used – there is no grey area to consider: the other character is either convinced of the thing, or not.  However if one character is trying to convince another to do something, then a dilemma style resolution is not only possible, its much preferred.  The difference is, you can convince someone about a certain thing, but what they then do about that is a separate issue.

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stefoid
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 07:08:35 PM »

Whhops, missed the first paragraph to that quote:

DO ALL GOALS NEED TO BE ACHIEVED BY WINNING A CONTEST?

No.  Giving the character a really tough choice is also a good way to resolve a goal.  A tough choice will have significant consequences for the character – to achieve the goal and the consequences that come with it, or abandon the goal?   Goals that are particularly well suited to this type of resolution are social-based.  See the next section.



Hiya.  Actually I think 'social combat' of the type you describe might be a little better than a straight out roll to influence someone or not, but the best way to handle social stuff doesnt involve rolling at all - just negotiate!

Heres what I have to say on that in my game:

ARGUMENT AND PERSUASION – SOCIAL CONFLICT:
On the one hand, influence contests could be treated like a physical conflict where plays target Soul instead of Body and the last man standing is the winner.  These types of plays, like any other play, should describe how the outcome is being achieved:  is it by wit, sarcasm, logic, emotional intensity, intimidation etc…  Each method will be a different play.

However,  unlike physical combat, social conflict don’t always have to end in black and white outcomes.  Bargaining, compromise and deal-making often result in grey outcomes that are hard to model with a straight out win or lose contest. 

Those types of grey outcome are best modeled with a dilemma – i.e. ‘yes, you can have what you want, if you agree to these terms...’   

When to use social-combat and when to use dilemma to resolve social conflict?  When one character is trying to get another character to see her point of view, a combat-style of resolution can be used – there is no grey area to consider: the other character is either convinced of the thing, or not.  However if one character is trying to convince another to do something, then a dilemma style resolution is not only possible, its much preferred.  The difference is, you can convince someone about a certain thing, but what they then do about that is a separate issue.


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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 05:54:44 AM »

However, should Stu want to talk his way past a guard, He takes his charisma/fellowship/friendlyness adds it to any skill and ability that's relevant in a straight up resisted roll. Where combat is a swirling melee (sometimes literally) The cut and thrust of debate is reduced to two guys battering each other with shovels marked 'argument' until one wins. I feel this is a disservice to those builds who are built around fast talking, wheeling and dealing and generally conning folk.
Well, you can always take a gander at the duel of wits mechanics for burning wheel, and trim it down to taste.
One very simple rule that I think can really benefit debate-simulation is: Do Not Repeat Yourself (or applying cumulative penalties for doing so.)  It obliges the players to come up with valid, original points.

At this point, though, unless the OP wants to weigh in on the subject again, I think this conversation is likely to just stall out.
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The Wolf
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Posts: 2


« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2011, 01:26:14 AM »

Apologies all, works been kicking the unmentionables for the past two weeks, good thing I'm leaving huh? The Names Wolf, Wolfie or Ross (my actual name). The poll was to simulate discussion which seems to be happily unnecessary on this particular forum. I have been reading your replies and they are all giving me some thought.

 (Greg) The Idea of there being a contested roll to stop a paratrooper's entry and then consequences is the basic setup, This is probably the solution I have been using, along with judicious applying and subtracting of dice dependent on situation. However, I find that quite often this sells the whole thing short, that this conflict between two people which is as important as any military engagement is being decided over a single dice roll of two attributes vs another two attributes.

(Cliff) I get what your saying about the horrendous amounts of Maths involved. I don't want to spend the evening knee deep in some kind of quadratic equation and I like the idea of the universal resolution system, I'll need to give that a look. I think that's what I'm getting at, The speaking characters in my game spend five minutes running around trying to sort something out and then something kicks off and its down to a in depth combat sequence where the combat characters shine in greater detail and the 'speaking' characters are forced to chip in with the weapons they learned because they had to pick 'something'. I dunno if that says more about the game or my GMing to be honest though.

(Stefoid) I really like that, The idea of black and white argument interactions being 'combat based' with augment or soul damage etc. I can also get that it may not be too useful against less clear cut decisions.

(Alfryd) I will have a wee peek at the Duel of wits rules, they sound interesting and having a social rule as in "don't repeat yourself would be interesting."

On using less dice based resolutions, I often find that this simply leads to verbose, quick thinking players to end up being the negotiator, thereby leaving those who are unable to think so fast on their feet to take the combat characters. and that always struck me as something of a shame. One GM I played with barely used any dice at all which I can see what he was getting at and the session did flow beautifully but it led to me having to explain to him how I was going to break a security system in detail, something I know as much about as a nuclear reactor. I think that the amount of dice use to roleplay is a very delicate balance and I wouldn't want to tell someone they couldn't be a speaking character because they wern't that good at it. after all, if that were the case how many of the average gaming group know how an assault rifle works?

I suppose I've rambled somewhat. I do understand that there has to be a balance in all things. he he

Thanks for your replies.
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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2011, 05:00:29 AM »

Greg) The Idea of there being a contested roll to stop a paratrooper's entry and then consequences is the basic setup, This is probably the solution I have been using, along with judicious applying and subtracting of dice dependent on situation. However, I find that quite often this sells the whole thing short, that this conflict between two people which is as important as any military engagement is being decided over a single dice roll of two attributes vs another two attributes.
I concur this is the basic problem that a lot of folks have with persuasion conflicts- having important outcomes hinge on one or two rolls feels too arbitrary.  Players generally prefer something more involved when a lot is at stake, so the Duel of Wits basically uses an instanced-hit-points system for the purpose, which is crude, but serviceable.  (Also, you might not feel the need to use advance action-scripting- conversations are arguably one of the few forms of conflict resolution where the old-fashioned 'everybody roll initiative, now take turns' arguably makes more sense, from a simulation perspective.)

I also agree with your remarks on the problems/tradeoffs involved in diceless interactions- the other problem is that a sufficiently inventive/smart GM can almost always come up with some plausible rationalisation for NPCs refusing to budge on an issue- or, alternatively, caving instantly- which can become a form of non-obvious railroading.
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Gregor Hutton
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Posts: 366


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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2011, 07:00:49 AM »

Just to note that the resolution system for Hot War treats persuasion and arguments with the same granularity as combat (or any other type of conflict).
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