Social Conflict via Stats



  • So I'm wondering what people's experiences are with social conflict on a MU*, resolved by a combination of roleplay and stats? I know a couple of the NWoD games used the Doors system (or I thought they did, but I could be completely wrong), and I know Firan had a social conflict system that used stats. I'm curious as to the viability of such. A friend of mine pointed me to the Song of Ice and Fire RPG and their Intrigue system and I have to say, it looks like it could be a nice addition to a MU*, if a little tracking-heavy. In SIFRP, you have:

    • Social skills used as you would use physical skills for combat
    • Social HP in the form of Composure
    • Social 'armor' in the form of Dispositions towards other characters, with rankings in both favorable and unfavorable, with Indifferent in the dead middle, Affectionate at the high end of favorable and Malicious at the high end of unfavorable.
    • You essentially have a functional combat system, reducing Composure to get your result, depending on the type of result you want (going through Bargain, Charm, Convince, etc.), but there are outs (including going to physical combat), and considerations for the outcomes of the tactics used.

    Perhaps a pared-down version of the system might be interesting on a MU*. Anyone have any experiences (good or bad) with stat-backed social conflict on a MU*?



  • I've encountered players who would write the purplest prose about how sexy they were when they were statted like asperger trolls. I've also encountered players who pose being intimidating monsters, despite not taking the skills to really back that up, and then they freak out (usually the awful argument about 'roleplaying' versus 'rollplaying' in order to shame other players) at you when you ask them to roll to see if you're intimidated. It always seems to be a shitshow, especially when you react in a way they don't desire, like punching them when they're trying (and failing) to intimidate you.

    Likewise, I've seen players who stat their characters to be movie stars, but can't type a coherent pose to save their life.

    I like the idea of social conflict via stats, but I don't really see it working with the crowd who are drawn to mushes.


  • Pitcrew

    I've swung wildly between the "Oh god, dice will totally screw with my immersion by making my character change their mind due to a crappy pose and good dice" side of things and the "Oh god, why must everyone pose like they're perfect liars and perfectly charming we need a damned social combat system" side of things during my time MU*ing.

    The system I've been designing currently has a "hard" social combat system (based on a simplified version of A Song of Ice and Fire's system), but I do have cut-outs--winning social combat gets you toward your goal, it doesn't necessarily get you all the way there (physical combat is the same way in that you generally have to keep attacking after someone has fallen to actually kill them), and you can always walk out, although that may very well have social consequences as well.

    I don't think there is a "base" way to handle social dynamics--I certainly don't want people acting as @SG described (posing in such a way that does not back up their stats), but I also feel that a badly-written pose punching someone with a ton of successes behind it is a lot easier to roll with than a badly-written pose convincing or seducing someone with a ton of successes behind it.


  • Pitcrew

    I am, as is probably painfully obvious to anyone who has read more than a couple of my posts here, entirely on the side of stat-based social conflict resolution. I don't think that people who want to play a smooth operator in their pretendy-fun-time games should have to BE a smooth operator any more than people who want to play ninja should have to be ninja. I don't see RPGs as "collaborative storytelling", but as a game. Characters are pieces in that game, whose interactions are governed by rules. If you aren't prepared to play by the rules, don't play the game.

    ...now, with that said - I recognize and acknowledge the fact that people who play RPGs can attempt to use the social rules (or magic/superpowers that affect other characters' thoughts and feelings) to do things that are simply UNFUN for other players. So, the rules of any social conflict system should be written (or altered, if using a pre-written system) to take that into account, particularly where issues of sexuality and in-character love are concerned. No, a player should not be able to force a character to have sex with their character using the dice without that player's consent - but that's true whether it's using combat dice to rape the character, or social dice to "seduce" the character. But I DO think that one character should be able to use seduction skill (if that skill is allowed), to befuddle another character so much that they let slip the key, or look away from guarding the door for a moment, even if that's not in the best interest of the seduced character, and the player doesn't want them to, provided that action is within the confines of the rules.

    IDEALLY, people would cooperate to find a solution that makes both players happen (whether the characters are happy or not), but when you play a game, you have to acknowledge that sometimes, a move is not going to make another player happy, because it interferes with their plans, goals, or desire to win. That's why rules exist.

    That said (x2), I really do like systems that reward players for cooperating, whether they win or lose, in a social contest. I'm a big fan of the Doors system, although it's not perfect, for trying to develop a method that allows people to use a wide variety of skills to exert influence, that encourages players and GMs to negotiate the outcome while still providing firm guidelines, and that rewards players for accepting negative consequences for their characters.



  • My usual issues are:

    Make both common drives and character specific values a strong contributor to any such system.

    Make any extreme change take a significant amount of time, targeting the characters specific personality, and reducing or removing their original personality reinforcers.

    Set limits on what you can achieve without full on mind control, or personality destruction.

    Make the goal of social conflict one that promotes players playing with one another, attending to larger thematic goals. I don't want to see people playing through abuse mini-games for jollies.

    Make ABSOLUTELY sure that players understand this is not a way to control other players. It is a way to open up a venue of stories that has almost always been whim driven, or OOC manipulation driven.


  • Pitcrew

    @Misadventure Honestly, I disagree with a lot of those, on a design basis. The social conflict system should not be inherently more complex than any other conflict resolution system that the game has, nor should it be accurate to human psychology - any more than the typical RPG physical combat resolution system is accurate to real world combat. Not least of which because the average RPG player has less of an understanding of the realities of human psychology than they think they do - nowhere is Dunning-Kruger in more effect than the average RPG player's assessment of how hard it should be to persuade their character to do something the player doesn't want the character to do.

    I will say that the social conflict resolution system should be very clear and well-explained to players, so that they understand it, what it can do, and what it can't do, before they choose to make a character for the game. I also do like the idea that really big and lasting changes should take time, effort, and investment to accomplish. Talking your way past a guard one time might only take a couple of rolls, but creating a permanent mole in the guard should take a while, and require the character to DO THINGS to make their pitch more appealing/terrifying.


  • Coder

    Reaching into my brain for fragments of this conversation here and elsewhere in the past, I think we seem to like:

    1. Don't use social stats.
    2. Come up with a combat system similar to a location hit system, but social.
    3. Let the attacker set the goal, then let the defender negotiate and/or interpret the goal as much like an evil genie as they want to be.

    Let's take that one scene from The Crying Game as an example. Sexy woman [attacker] is hitting on a guy at the bar [defender]. Dice are rolled. Defender is successfully seduced. Sexy woman is really a guy. (Oh, spoiler alert: She's a guy.)

    If the attacker's goal was 'have sex with this guy at the bar', is the defender now obliged? Let's say the sexy woman is really a sexy woman. Is he still obliged?

    And that's not even my biggest concern every time this conversation comes up!

    What do we mean by "Social Conflict"? Physical conflict has so many systems in most games that while we think it's purely "punch, bleed, die", outrunning someone is a physical conflict, sport is a physical conflict, stealth is one part physical conflict. Treating interrogation the same as seduction the same as political maneuvering is just not going to cut it. Most of the few RPGs that try to address it at this more generic level don't seem to understand it.

    FATE and Fate Core take social conflict as a mental test of wills, which I think is one of the brilliant things about it. Sometimes it has non-personal fallout ("shunned by the secret society"), but as almost all Aspects in Fate Core are negotiated, you are encouraged to be reasonable and to choose what makes sense for the situation.

    I understand that Exalted takes a less generic, more detailed approach to social maneuvering.

    Apocalypse World goes even more specific with each character class being able to learn how to force results. They still have to succeed, and there's still a risk that can utterly fuck you up (there is always a risk that can utterly fuck you up in AW). It reminds me of the one class skill that characters get in CP and CP2020.

    It's all about the PvP, man. That's what I think when I see the "social skills" question related to the Muxen. We sure love to roll dice at each other. I've tried to think of games that have a bit of the PvP baked in; in the case of Fate it's because you can fall pretty dramatically and that's half the fun.


    Is that what you were asking about, @Bobotron?



  • @Thenomain
    Well, the discussion is fine, but not inherently what I had been aiming for. I had specifically meant if people had been on games that used a social conflict mechanic (and by social conflict, I mean some method that uses stats to back up a goal/outcome, such as using your skills to cow a guy into giving you information, or wheedling a lesser to spy on your rival with promises of sweet bootay, and such like you see in GoT/ASoIaF) and their experiences with such, not specifically 'do you like it/what do you think of it' type of response.

    Though, like I said, the discussion is fine.

    My goal here is attempting to ponder out if it's worth the time to pare down the SIFRP intrigue mechanics to something slightly less complex for a MU*, not the inherent dislikes/likes/pitfalls of social conflict backed by stats.

    A lot of the 'here's what social combat should NOT do' (IE Dominate-level junk) should really go without saying, but MU* is a world of constant need to have an advantage or people being unreasonable about things and being unwilling to work together or 'lose' in any manner, even when there are incentives to do so. In particular I have experienced a lot of what @SG had talked about with poses vs. stats (an issue I've encountered in LARPs hundreds of times), but I also disagree with @Seraphim73 about 'shit poses backed up by twenty successes' and find @Pyrephox 's talk about 'smooth operator' stuff in my way of thinking. I do find myself agreeing with @Seraphim73 though, about the goal being moving TOWARD and supporting an outcome, not forcing things like you might with Dominate.

    And I know nothing will ever be perfect, but in trying to ensure fairness across the board for social conflict, on the same way that physical conflict can be cleanly adjudicated with rules (I hate to say 'if a guy can roll 12 dice to punch you with his Strength + Brawl, a guy should be able to roll 12 dice to put the fear of God in you of him with his Presence + Intimidation' but that's really how I feel about how this should function). I think that's why I like the SIFRP one, as it gives you outs and yields and such that have other consequences, especially things like yields where you give a compromised outcome (which is my ideal end goal for someone running out of 'social HP').



  • I'm not using WoD for the setup I'm describing here, so mentally adjust as necessary.

    1. I'm going open sheet. This can resolve quite a bit in terms of people playing to their stats -- as in, when everybody can see your stats, they can have a good, fair, and reliable means of evaluating a baseline (whether someone poses for crap but statwise is charming, or is posing well above what they should be) in a generic, no rolls would be required really sort of situation. Like I said, as a baseline.

    2. I'm going with PvP = consent for the project I'm speaking of. People can absolutely opt to use dice for it anyway, but in PvP, it's negotiation/consent default, people can opt to use dice instead. (It's the reverse for PvE; dice default, if everybody agrees, it can just be run freeform/consent.) Certain subjects will always require consent. (Pregnancy, romantic relationships, sexual acts, any alterations of sexual preference, sexual assault, because no good has ever, in my experience, come from forcing any of these specific things on a player who is absolutely not into that roleplay.)


  • Coder

    @Bobotron

    Oh, then yes, it's worth it. The Intrigue system is pretty decent, tho still not all-encompassing.



  • @Thenomain

    Yeah, I'm very much a fan of the Intrigue system. I think, with some tweaks to ensure that it mechanically works like a +combat code would, and guidelines written for how to handle the outcomes, including switching from social to physical combat as necessary, would work well on a MU*.


  • Coder

    @Bobotron

    Mind you, there are two systems I like more: FATE's (keep it general) and AW's (push your agenda until one of you surrenders to the wants of the other). You chose #2: Come up with a combat system similar to a location hit system, but social. Or more to it, my complaint about people treating social systems like combat systems but for feelings, and not for different kinds of challenges.

    My plausible issue with ASOFAI's Influence system is the old adage that if you give people a hammer, they'll start treating situations like nails. Or something about hammers and nails. If this is the goal of your game, then spot on. Always use the tools best suited for your game's theme, setting, and mood.



  • @Thenomain
    Yeah. I want to give people tools to support their roleplay, and to create fairness in situations, but also to prevent the whole veering left/veering right that comes from raw dice rolls.

    Obviously it's not going to be perfect, as it can't enforce someone to be a good sport OOC, since it can't dictate the specific outcome as that requires player collaboration and the loser being a good sport, unlike a raw combat system that dictates you have been wounded/knocked out/whatever. I have faith that it'll work out (and I'll be adapting the commands from the combat code ANYWAY, so it's not going to be something super-difficult to add or tear out if necessary).


  • Admin

    What I like about social (and mental) stats being part of the game: That otherwise they are greatly underdevalued, for the same investment, compared to their physical counterparts; a punch is a punch and it counts, but anyone can play being manipulative even if their actual attributes suck.

    What I dislike about social stats and powers being part of the game: They are disruptive in scenes. Violent scenes are rare but social ones are constant; it's really inconvenient when people start rolling for things every other pose ('I roll for Dominate. Oh, it failed. Okay, I roll again next pose. Oh yeah, let me look up if it works like I think it does or like you think it does. Oh, let's ask staff. Oh, why are you slicing your own wrists?').

    A good system would probably be greatly dependent on its interface... and it'd need to be a damn good interface to get around this.


  • Coder

    @Bobotron said in Social Conflict via Stats:

    Yeah. I want to give people tools to support their roleplay, and to create fairness in situations, but also to prevent the whole veering left/veering right that comes from raw dice rolls.

    There is no such thing as "fair" when suspended in a jar, sitting alone, cut off from the rest of the system. "Fair" is how one thing works with all the stuff around it, and as @Ganymede says, fair is also being clear and open about what's expected.

    That is: "Fair" is systems- and expectations-dependent.

    since it can't dictate the specific outcome as that requires player collaboration and the loser being a good sport, unlike a raw combat system that dictates you have been wounded/knocked out/whatever.

    Sure it can, because the entirety of physical interaction is far, far more than combat. The entirety of social interaction is far, far more than a clash of wills. Look at the core nWoD (pre-Doors-version) rulebook and read the system descriptions for Seduction then read it for Intimidation. They are presented as entirely different systems. There is no reason to try to shoe-horn the two together under one catch-all system any more than there is putting "athletics" under combat, unless that's your goal.

    What I'm slowly getting around to is that you seemed to have asked a question with your mind made up about the answer.



  • @Arkandel
    Oh yeah. Hence why I'm aiming towards automating. No need to do the 'look up' or 'ask staff' potions, just use the commands and go and keep the guidelines/outcome/rule stuff in mind. As far as making a pose for each use of the +-command, that'd be up to the players; the guidelines I'm looking at are a few poses between any use of the commands to foster RP (plus social health will be significantly less than physical health in my theoretical setup).

    @Thenomain
    Maybe I'm not articulating what I mean by 'fair', though probably 'fair' isn't the word I'm looking for. Consistent, maybe. And yes, they use different styles of roll-combinations in NWoD, but it can ultimately boil down to a few specific setups for exactly what to roll for different situations (and I feel like the tactics listed in SIFRP cover the majority of bases with the methods listed like Charm, Coerce, Incite, etc. can be used for most any of those situations..

    Ultimately I want to do something that pares down the need for a lot of fiddly bits and situational differences in what is rolled/handled.. And again, I didn't ask the question initially of WHAT people thought of it, I asked about experiences with said systems for the purposes of designing something based on other input. So perhaps I've made up my mind on how I feel the system should work, but that doesn't mean I'm not looking at the input here. After all, it's just in the theorizing stages right now.


  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel said in Social Conflict via Stats:

    What I like about social (and mental) stats being part of the game: That otherwise they are greatly underdevalued, for the same investment, compared to their physical counterparts; a punch is a punch and it counts, but anyone can play being manipulative even if their actual attributes suck.

    What I dislike about social stats and powers being part of the game: They are disruptive in scenes. Violent scenes are rare but social ones are constant; it's really inconvenient when people start rolling for things every other pose ('I roll for Dominate. Oh, it failed. Okay, I roll again next pose. Oh yeah, let me look up if it works like I think it does or like you think it does. Oh, let's ask staff. Oh, why are you slicing your own wrists?').

    A good system would probably be greatly dependent on its interface... and it'd need to be a damn good interface to get around this.

    I addressed this in another thread. I posited that the solution may be using a "fortune in the middle" system instead of "fortune at the end" like most MUs use. Instead of person A poses, person A rolls social skill against person B, person B reacts, repeat for next set of poses, persons A discusses what their goal is at the start of the scene with person B, they roll and find out how successful or unsuccessful person A will be, then they play out the scene knowing which direction it's going to go.

    If you require this at the start of every scene you suddenly make social skills very important as they are used for every scene. It also boils down what could be a scene with lots of rolls into a simple set of rolls up front. Finally everyone knows ahead of time what the gig is, so you don't get those surprise "I'm trying to bang you" scenes halfway through the scene. You could just nope out at the get-go before you even roll.


  • Admin

    @Ominous said in Social Conflict via Stats:

    I addressed this in another thread. I posited that the solution may be using a "fortune in the middle" system instead of "fortune at the end" like most MUs use. Instead of person A poses, person A rolls social skill against person B, person B reacts, repeat for next set of poses, persons A discusses what their goal is at the start of the scene with person B, they roll and find out how successful or unsuccessful person A will be, then they play out the scene knowing which direction it's going to go.

    That works fine if you go into a scene already knowing what it's about; however, at least for me, going into a meeting with an agenda accounts for a relatively small segment of my roleplay. Usually it's more like "I'm meeting people at Elysium, one of them mentions something I need to know more about and I've got to convince them to tell me everything", or going to a PrP and I want to get another character to follow my IC plan (which I don't have ahead of time, I don't even know what the PrP will be about beforehand). Stuff like that.

    I think it's imperative we somehow find a good design around social stats on MU* but so far I haven't ran across a robust system that does the job. Usually either it's too complicated or too simplistic to cover the range of outcomes. Even games which come with this sort of thing out of the box like CoD don't seem to be seeing a lot of use - correct me folks if I'm wrong but I've never, ever seen Doors used in day-to-day roleplay in the GMC-based MU* I've been playing for what, almost two years now? Is that just my perception?


  • Pitcrew

    I think there's two main 'phases' of social interaction that any social resolution mechanic has to cover, too: the short-term and the long-term.

    Short-term interactions are those off-the-cuff attempts to talk your way past a guard, or get someone to follow you into that dark alley, or get someone to rethink drawing that knife on you. Your long, drawn-out mechanics are going to make these things /nightmares/, which means that people are going to be even more resistant to them.

    Long-term interactions are things that involve lasting or major shifts for a person - coaxing someone into giving up their society's secrets, or blackmailing someone into supporting your next proposal at council, seducing someone into betraying an ally, or talking your way into an important position you're probably not qualified for. Having an easy, abbreviated mechanism for these tasks makes them feel pushy and too easy, which means people are going to resent being subjected to them.

    So, I feel like a good social resolution system really should have variant mechanics for on-the-spot influence (which would explicitly be short-term and relatively minor, not impugning on anyone's deeply held beliefs or values), and for lasting manipulation. Call of Cthulhu broke out Fast Talk from Persuade for just that purpose, but only the skill differed, not really the /mechanics/.


  • Politics

    @Pyrephox said in Social Conflict via Stats:

    Short-term interactions are those off-the-cuff attempts to talk your way past a guard, or get someone to follow you into that dark alley, or get someone to rethink drawing that knife on you. Your long, drawn-out mechanics are going to make these things /nightmares/, which means that people are going to be even more resistant to them.

    Long-term interactions are things that involve lasting or major shifts for a person - coaxing someone into giving up their society's secrets, or blackmailing someone into supporting your next proposal at council, seducing someone into betraying an ally, or talking your way into an important position you're probably not qualified for. Having an easy, abbreviated mechanism for these tasks makes them feel pushy and too easy, which means people are going to resent being subjected to them.

    This, succinctly, demonstrates when and where the Doors system should be applied in nWoD 2E.


  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel

    I would rephrase what I said to "Once the details of what your goal is known, then you have that discussion, make the rolls, and RP it out." The doors system might work if we can trust people to offer a fair number of doors.


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