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Author Topic: Social challenges - bonding. I want it, but I cant make it fit.  (Read 1517 times)
stefoid
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« on: January 15, 2012, 05:14:10 PM »

Hi , Im stumped and I thought Id throw it out to the forge and see if I can get some ideas to jog me loose.  The link to the game is in my sig, but the social framework Im putting togetehr is not yet committed to paper.  Just trying to describe to someone else what you are talking about can be great at putting things into perspective, so Ill do that.

Ive got this social model / framework Im zeroing in on, and there is one thing I desperately want to include in it, but I cant seem to make it fit elegantly. 

The main things about the framework are:

  • it is based primarily on player judgement calls.  i.e. the ultimate arbiter of whether a character achieves their aims using social means is the person responsible for the character(s)  involved - that is the players. And the GM in the case of NPCs.  I definately dont want character decisions to result from dice rolls.  In a way, this is very much like freeform play to resolve social situations, but the mechanics encourage a certain way of looking at things, and also greater transparancy.  i.e. Everyone at the table is privy to the thought processes of the players/characters involved at reaching whatever conclusions they do.
  • Therefore you can force another character to do or think as you want -- you can only line up all your ducks so that they come to your conclusion of their own accord.  So a social situation is mainly about presenting 'reality' as you want it to be seen - using whatever motives, relationships and so on that you think the characters involved may have that will work for you, playing on those, and appearing to be sincere in what you are saying
  • There should be two asepcts of any social situation - the rational and the emotional.  I want players evaluation of their characters social interaction to differentiate between these.  It may be that all 'the ducks' rationally support one conclusion, but he player feels the character is going another way.  In that case they need to justify that in terms of the emotional, and vice versa.
  • A characters skill in the social arena should also come into play, and thats the area Im struggling with

So in the example below, it could play out in freeform, just using judement calls from the players involved.  But the encourages/demands? the transparency of the subtext to also be stated.  Additionally, if the situation plays out as an official challenge, dice rolling of the type shown in the additional subtext can occur - this dice rolling adds to the presentation of reality that each participant is trying to put out there.  'seeming to be steadfast in refusual'  'understanding the cops unstated motives'  'convincing someone of your sincerity', etc...

Example:
Thug: Tell us where you hid the bomb or we'll kill you.
Subtext:  How much does the cop value his own life?

Cop: Go to hell, Ill never tell!
subtext: The cop has one or more motives that the player responsible can use to resist this pressure – perhaps his duty first motive.  The cop obviously does not have a motive such as put yourself before others that could override duty first, or if he does, the player judges duty first is stronger on this occasion.

Thug: We also have this innocent bystander – tell us where you hid the bomb or she's dead.
subtext: by some means, the thug finds out or guesses that involving an innocent party is a good way to gain additional leverage.

Cop: OK, OK, Ill tell you!
subtext: the Thug leverages another of the cop’s motives that the player responsible judges to be stronger, perhaps his protect innocents motive?  Or maybe the duty first motive now works against him.  Either is plausibe.

Additional subtext - There is a lot of potential nuance going in the above interaction – the cop probably wants it to seem that no matter what leverage is applied, he wont crack.  The Thug wants to understand  what kind of leverage will be effective against the cop, and convince him that he sincerely will murder an innocent to achieve his ends.



to be continued....

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stefoid
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2012, 05:43:40 PM »

obviously the above should read 'you CANT force another character to reach the conclusion you want'

Anyway, so here are the social skills I am considering using:


seeming: project an image of yourself in a certain way using appearance, body language, demeanor.  Seem to be cool, frightened, disinterested, dangerous, etc...

convincing:  Making someone believe  you are sincere, truthful, earnest in what you say.  That doesnt neccessarilly mean they believe what you are saying is true or important, only that they are convinced of your sincerity.

reading: trying to work out the underlying emotions of a situation, based on verbal and non verbal cues.  Seeing through’ seeming’ and ‘convincing’.

bonding: establishing an emotional connection with someone based on friendliness, respect, common-ground, attraction, etc...

asserting: establishing a status relationship with someone based on authority, dominance, credibility, leadership, reputation, situational advantage, etc...


First thing is, deception is basically only important when it fails.  Someone cant force you take what they say as gospel, they can only convince you that they are sincere.  you might come to the conclusion that they are wrong, misguided, crazy... equally you might just think they are good liars.  However when someone fails to appear convincing, that is highly significant.  so being good at deception is really about not being bad at deception, if that makes sense.  And I dont mean deception in the sense of outright bald-faced lies -- it also includes simply projecting yourself and the situation in an appripriate way - the constant spin everybody puts on everthing from day to day.  the different faces they put on for different people.

The skills above - seeming, convincing and reading, are what I think is important in a socail challenge - thigns you can roll about that allow you to put forward your own reality and try to determine what is behind the reality that other characters are putting forward, and they are significant in context of failure more than anything else.

(I am also toying with 'understanding' which represents a characters ability to generate subtext for the social interaction,  but that might be better for the players to resolve through actual play - it might tend to sort-circuit play with a dice roll - what do you think?)

To finally get to the point, Its the skills of bonding and asserting I am struggling with.  clearly some people are better at these than others, and in doing so , are better able to forge relationships that can be important latter.  But how do I model bonding, or asseting a status relationship with someone without rolling for a bonding or asserting skill check type of deal?   I end up breaking my own cardinal rule which is 'you can force a character to do or think as you want.

And how would these be 'opposed'?  How do you oppose someone trying to build a positive relationship with you?   

I should note here that motives  (which includes relationships) do not have numerical strength values associated with them - I abandoned that idea as way too much bookkeeping for too little benefit.  I just want judgement calls about how strong or weak any particular motive is at any given time, so fiddling with maintaining a list of motive strengths that change frequently seems like a bad idea.

So someone could have a motive that makes them feel illdisposed to a character - so if that character tries to bond with them they would naturally resist it.  But thats a judgement call.   how do I capture how well character A is at bonding, without making it a contest of resistance?  and its not a sincerity thing.  you can be incredibally sincere, yet also completely socially inept at bonding,so....  it does deserve to be a distinct thing.

Please just throw crazy or clever ideas at me!  Make it work, Im so close...
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 06:26:49 PM »

A good Bonding roll could tell you:
- what the other character will most likely bond with you over
- the best way to establish/develop/pursue that thing they'd bond with you over

Or just the latter, with the former gleaned by a Read roll.
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stefoid
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2012, 07:57:04 PM »

A good Bonding roll could tell you:
- what the other character will most likely bond with you over
- the best way to establish/develop/pursue that thing they'd bond with you over

Or just the latter, with the former gleaned by a Read roll.

Hi Dave.  What am I rolling against?    Reading is vs. Seeming, so its a good match - Heres what I want you to see v.s  heres what I do see.

with Bonding, and with Understanding as well, should I use it, I am stumped as how to apply these in a mechanical way. 

I guess the problem is there are situations where bonding and understanding type of rolls could be performed, where there is no inherent conflict of interest.

  Im picturing myself standing around and Im approached by a stranger.  Im pretty much indifferent to this person, maybe Im busy or dont feel like expending energy on a social situation, so Im not into their attempt at bonding, but then again Im not against it per se either.  But if they are particularly engaging, or manage to pique my interest - maybe encourage me to talk about myself :)  maybe they can win me over anyay.

But what are they rolling against - Bonding vs 'meh'?







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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2012, 10:03:38 PM »

What am I rolling against?
Suspicion, indifference, having something better to do?

That last is obviously situational, and all 3 probably describe things better as situational rather than permanent quantities, but if you need fixed numbers, you could always assign characters Suspicion and Indifference scores.  Or, y'know, replace a high Indifference with a low Curiosity if that's more useful elsewhere.

If that's more quantities than needed, you could always merge Reading and Suspicion into one stat or something.
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David Berg
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2012, 10:06:28 PM »

...or everyone could have a score that describes, not how resistant they are to attempts at bonding, but how susceptible they are to it.  So instead of "roll and add Suspicion" you do "roll and subtract Loneliness" (or Friendliness or Empathy or whatever says what you want to say about how Bonding works).
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stefoid
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2012, 02:55:33 AM »

When someone tries to Bond with you, they are attempting an emotional connection.  When someone tries to Understand you, they are looking for you to reveal, probably inadvertently, something about yourself.  In both situations, if you do want to block or shut that down, your ability to override or control your emotions is key.   

Would you buy that?  Is 'resisting an attempt at bonding' or 'resisting an attempt at understanding' something that is a skill you can learn, or is it something that is dependent on the characters ability to control their emotions?

What about if someone is trying to assert themselves over you - trying to use their authority, leadership, intelligence, situational advantage, to establish a status relationship.  Is resisting that a skill or again, emotional control?

 
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David Berg
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2012, 12:38:34 PM »

It could be said that controlling your emotions is a skill... or several skills.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2012, 01:17:40 PM »

If your presenting reality as you want it to be seen, does the player get to know the true reality/game situation, or only the augmented one?
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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2012, 02:36:56 PM »

If your presenting reality as you want it to be seen, does the player get to know the true reality/game situation, or only the augmented one?

Hi Callan -  Thats unspecified.  I can see situations where it would be better either way, and might even be fluid in the same scene.  I think thats the kind of thing that will flow naturally and anything explicitly stated is bound to feel wrong in unanticipated circumstances.  Generally - I can see the GM keeping the NPCs inner workings more or less under wraps, and the PCs being laid open for everyone to share.
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stefoid
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2012, 02:46:58 PM »

It could be said that controlling your emotions is a skill... or several skills.

Certainly an experienced soldier would be better at controlling fear.  An experienced entertainer at controlling performance anxiety.  etc...  Yet each might be rubbish in the reversed situation.  So that suggests a skill.

Perhaps the answer is to use a relevent skill, or the characters current Soul stat, whichever is highest.
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JoyWriter
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Posts: 500

also known as Josh W


« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2012, 07:29:15 AM »

Why is bonding a skill?

Implicitly this assumes that characters intend to bond with other characters, they choose it as an action. So in what situations are they going to want to do it?

If it is purely to resolve conflicts with other people, then bonding might relate to guilt: You use bonding to make someone feel bad about hurting/disadvantaging you.

Or perhaps it is to unlock new forms of cooperation: You use bonding to make you more able to cooperate with this person.

Is it about relaxation and comfort: You use bonding to make the other persons presance more valuable to you, eg like a TSOY key or a healing mechanic.

Is it as a confidence trickster/stealth mechanism: You use bonding to build trust and conceal your own negative intensions.

If it is about getting people to let their guard down and reveal things about themselves: You use bonding to improve your ability to read people.

You get the idea. Depending on what kind of motive for bonding you focus on, you'll get a different tone and a different set of resistances to go against.
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stefoid
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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2012, 02:26:25 PM »

Why is bonding a skill?

Implicitly this assumes that characters intend to bond with other characters, they choose it as an action. So in what situations are they going to want to do it?

If it is purely to resolve conflicts with other people, then bonding might relate to guilt: You use bonding to make someone feel bad about hurting/disadvantaging you.

Or perhaps it is to unlock new forms of cooperation: You use bonding to make you more able to cooperate with this person.

Is it about relaxation and comfort: You use bonding to make the other persons presance more valuable to you, eg like a TSOY key or a healing mechanic.

Is it as a confidence trickster/stealth mechanism: You use bonding to build trust and conceal your own negative intensions.

If it is about getting people to let their guard down and reveal things about themselves: You use bonding to improve your ability to read people.

You get the idea. Depending on what kind of motive for bonding you focus on, you'll get a different tone and a different set of resistances to go against.

Any of the above. 

But I think I have it figured out now, I was breaking one of my main precepts for the game - two actually.  When what is untenable, you roll for how, and characters are defined in terms of things they can accomplish, not skills they possess.  Once I apply those, my muddle thinking has cleared right up, at least in terms of my design aims.
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