Social Systems


  • Pitcrew

    Simple!

    When looking for good social systems in a game, what is it that you are looking for? Does it need to be quick and not that mechanic extensive? Do you like a complex showdown?


  • Admin

    @sunnyj The main requirement is to be extremely simple and not interrupt the scene's flow.

    If either of those conditions isn't true then a social system will simply not see use in day-to-day scenes, which renders it nearly useless.

    If I need to consult an arcane table of modifiers and spend ten minutes talking over pages with people to see how far my PC's minor manipulation attempt got him then it's almost certain I won't bother with it.



  • I mainly use social systems to deal with stuff that is boring to roleplay out. Haggling for donkeys is one. I remember joining a group back in the day, and two players spent 3 hours haggling over donkeys. Two players started playing super mario cart, and I fell asleep and woke up at 2 am to discover they had settled the price for one of the donkeys, and I decided it was time for me to go home, because fuck that shit.

    I like a fairly simple social system, like what Savage Worlds has. If things get roleplayed well, I'll assign bonuses.

    I love reading through GURPS social engineering, but have never used it in play, though it does inform quite a few of my on the fly calls in other systems.



  • @sunnyj Simple enough to not disrupt the flow of the scene, easy enough that people feel like using it as a fun tool to add context to scenes, but complicated enough to fit the needs to remove handwaving and complete abstraction that undermines scarcity or the ability of people to avoid consequences/ignore theme in problematic ways.


  • Pitcrew

    There are two systems that I like for their social systems. One is Savage Worlds, which I just love all around. It's quick, simple, and can be tailored however you need.

    The second is the Song of Ice and FIre RPG. The intrigue system is fairly simple but still complex enough to give it some meat. It's very much a "social combat system". The SoIaF RPG is a great RPG all around but I especially love the intrigue system.


  • Politics

    @sunnyj said in Social Systems:

    When looking for good social systems in a game, what is it that you are looking for? Does it need to be quick and not that mechanic extensive? Do you like a complex showdown?

    I like the Storyteller System of just having a contested roll.

    It's always the players that fuck that shit up.

    I also like WoD 1E's Social Combat system.

    But then the players fuck that shit up.

    CoD's Doors? Nifty.

    And players fuck that shit up.

    I'm thinking that I just hate people.

    Which is why I like the World of Darkness.


  • Pitcrew

    @ganymede WoD: a game for people that hate people and/or themselves.


  • Coder

    @ganymede said in Social Systems:

    [snip] players fuck that shit up [snip]

    And this is the main reason I have never RP'd on a mush since 1992, nor really care for on-line graphical games.

    For all the fun and the environments, it eventually boils down to someone stirring my gaming tea with their phallic and expecting me to drink it.

    Nope. Not happening.


  • Pitcrew

    @ashen-shugar Ahhh. The taste of Vamp Sphere. How familiar!


  • Admin

    @ganymede Why don't players fuck non-social system rolls (or don't do so as badly)?


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in Social Systems:

    @ganymede Why don't players fuck non-social system rolls (or don't do so as badly)?

    Usually more rules and guidelines that enforce their behavior.

    So while their douchbaggery is still there, it's now behind the scenes and submissively rotting the game from the inside out, instead of just smearing it on the walls for everyone to see.

    There's a reason mushes have a life-span of 2-5 years, and it's not generally from the reason of 'boredom' like people may think.



  • @arkandel Because there's more or less one enforced reaction to "I have stabbed you," if the roll to stab succeeds.

    Think of how many different ways, "I cast a love spell on you!" ends if the roll to cast the spell succeeds, and how many examples there are in fiction of this going in very different directions than the caster intended.

    None of that is new news.

    The goals are different, and they're different stages, in a sense. Stabbing is one stage: stab, there is damage done. Love spell causing love is one stage. If the caster was content with the amount of interpretation that's left up to -- from slavish devotion to happy sex toy to possessive stalker -- that would also be a one stage goal. But that's not what people are typically trying to accomplish; they want it in the specific form they want and only that.

    This is roughly on par with insisting that because you succeeded on your roll to stab that you now get to pick where the damage happened (without ever having to call a shot or take a penalty to hit or higher difficulty or whatever) and simultaneously sliced through the character's belt so their pants fell off and they mooned the crowd.

    This is a not insignificant problem.



  • @arkandel said in Social Systems:

    @ganymede Why don't players fuck non-social system rolls (or don't do so as badly)?

    They do, quite often in my experience. They'll nuke another player with a devastating attack, then after you lay there, mutilated and in pieces, they'll say, "Oh, I just wanted you to be knocked out, please don't die, I don't want to be known as a PKer" UGh, then why did you attack me with your full power rolls using a machinegun?


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in Social Systems:

    @ganymede Why don't players fuck non-social system rolls (or don't do so as badly)?

    Couple reasons:

    1. Fewer consequences. So you got stabbed. So what? Unless your game is big on permadeath, you'll get over it in a few days and go on with your life. Whereas a lot of the social stuff that people bother to roll for has weighty consequences. I got conned into giving away the keys to the kingdom and now I'm completely f-ed. When combat has dire consequences, you see the same resistant behavior.

    2. We're used to not rolling for social stuff. There are hundreds of micro-interactions on MUSHes in any given RP scene, and none of them are rolled. We trust players to resolve social interactions without rolls until suddenly we don't and that feels a bit insulting sometimes.

    3. It's personal. Nobody thinks poorly of an action hero who takes a round to the shoulder and soldiers on. But the sap who gets conned? He's a sap. Players empathize too much with their characters. It's bad enough to lose, but to lose in a way that makes your character look like an incompetent idiot? That pushes peoples' buttons.

    4. The rules are murky. General modifiers for physical combat are well-established in tabletop RPGs, and everybody has a pretty shared understanding of its boundaries (i.e. you can't saw off someone's arm with a butter knife). Yet there's no similar understanding for social conflict. What's the appropriate modifier for "I'm just not into guys" on a seduction roll? What's the appropriate modifier for "I'm (insert political party here) and I'm vehemently opposed to (whatever)"? Nobody has any bloody clue. They just want to roll Persuasion vs Willpower and call it a day, and that's silly. The lack of shared boundaries also leads to the uncommon but very real extremes like I'm going to make one roll and force you to betray everything you believe in.

    ETA, forgot one, which may just be more of a pet peeve than a general rule:

    1. Agency. I have one job on the game, and that's to decide how my character acts/reacts. When you start enforcing social behavior, it's like you're taking the controller out of my hand and telling me how to play the character. That bugs the heck out of me. I do not feel the same at all if you tell me that my character got shot, or missed their shot, or anything else external to the character's thoughts and behaviors.


  • @faraday said in Social Systems:

    1. It's personal. Nobody thinks poorly of an action hero who takes a round to the shoulder and soldiers on. But the sap who gets conned? He's a sap. Players empathize too much with their characters. It's bad enough to lose, but to lose in a way that makes your character look like an incompetent idiot? That pushes peoples' buttons.

    In my experience, way more players are comfortable having their characters die in a glorious /impressive way than they ever are with even the smallest embarrassment, tolerating a slight, or looking foolish. I'd say the majority of ragequit, 'Write me out and kill my characters' come from embarrassments, from my recollection.


  • Admin

    @faraday said in Social Systems:

    1. Fewer consequences.

    Exactly. And that's what I feel we absolutely need robust social systems for; after all things with the most impact in a system should be the ones most clearly provisioned and accounted for, right?

    How many times have jerks tried to get away with things like

    • Buying up physical skills but 'faking' social ones through poses
    • "if you don't play the consequences of my social skill then you'd be cheating"

    etc? If this can be done right (and mind you, that's a big if) there is much to gain.

    1. We're used to not rolling for social stuff. There are hundreds of micro-interactions on MUSHes in any given RP scene, and none of them are rolled. We trust players to resolve social interactions without rolls until suddenly we don't and that feels a bit insulting sometimes.

    Again I quite agree. But part of the reason we don't roll is because it's either complicated or a bit PvP-y; there is never really an incentive for players to have social skills used on them. It's always a zero sum game where one person 'wins' and the other 'loses', so it's natural for the aggressor can sometimes feel like a jerk.

    I feel this can be fixed. Games should be rewarding the use of social skills; I've proposed in the past for example a system where you slowly build up your nemesis - playing with characters with whom you clash more often (which registers through the use of social dice) generate more XP.

    I'm not saying this is the only way mind you, but I think it has potential.

    1. Players empathize too much with their characters. It's bad enough to lose, but to lose in a way that makes your character look like an incompetent idiot? That pushes peoples' buttons.

    Do you think an approach like the above could work?

    They just want to roll Persuasion vs Willpower and call it a day, and that's silly. The lack of shared boundaries also leads to the uncommon but very real extremes like I'm going to make one roll and force you to betray everything you believe in.

    Yes, physical damage is quantifiable (there's a fixed number, after all) but social damage is not. But I'll let others chip in here.


  • Coder

    @arkandel said in Social Systems:

    after all things with the most impact in a system should be the ones most clearly provisioned and accounted for, right?

    Or they are the ones that should be most left up to consent-based cooperative resolutions unless both the players involved, with staff mediating, are absolutely unable to come up with any sort of compromise. That's just my 2 cents though - I respect that folks like social systems for a variety of reasons. I just don't personally.


  • Pitcrew

    Agency is the big one here. Social stuff against NPCs all day, but no, I don't care how high you rolled on your manipulation/persuasion/whatever roll. You're not going to convince my character that drowning kittens is a good idea.


  • Admin

    @wildbaboons said in Social Systems:

    Agency is the big one here. Social stuff against NPCs all day, but no, I don't care how high you rolled on your manipulation/persuasion/whatever roll. You're not going to convince my character that drowning kittens is a good idea.

    I'm not saying you are right or wrong about this, but if that line of thinking is the cultural norm for a game then all social attributes are automatically devalued, since you get more bang for your buck buying physical ones (no one has ever said you can't punch them in the face no matter how high you rolled on your strength roll).

    And if that's the case no one buys social stats, and people complain there are only combat monsters around. Well, there's a reason for it.


  • Pitcrew

    @wildbaboons said in Social Systems:

    Agency is the big one here. Social stuff against NPCs all day, but no, I don't care how high you rolled on your manipulation/persuasion/whatever roll. You're not going to convince my character that drowning kittens is a good idea.

    I think that's a bit hyperbolic. I think people have a hard time separating themselves from their characters and it's not just online that this happens. In my TT group we had one player who refused to use the intrigue system when an NPC was trying to convince her to dedicate soldiers to some battle. Her stance was "My character would never do that" and that was that even though there was no reason why her character wouldn't aside from "I don't want her to". Which is fine but part of the fun we were trying to have with this game was rolling with all the punches, even and especially the social punches thanks to the intrigue system. Ultimately the GM said "Ok, spend a destiny point for the auto-win" and we all moved on but it left a stale taste in everyone's mouths.

    No, no one could ever convince you to do something that goes against your moral character (drowning kittens) without supernatural powers but maybe a friend convincing you do make a bad decision in the heat of the moment? Maybe! To me that's part of the fun of playing a character that isn't me, using their various stats and in-game systems to determine what they would do. Maybe not all the time but some of the time, sure.