Social Challenges?

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So, does anyone know anything about the new rules for "Social Challenges"? This is possibly the most intriguing rules change for me, as the old rules were IMO lacking in flavor, and I've since seen in Exalted 2nd Edition what a good ruleset for social encounters can do for adventures...
I would love to see a system for rewarding XP for overcoming challenges without combat. What is the point of letting the bard bluff his way past the guards when the fighter's way would earn more XP?
I'm not really interested in the XP award mechanics (since I simply distributed flat ad-hoc awards anyway). Instead, I want mechanisms for convincing other people (single or in groups) of something that are more involved than a simple Diplomacy or Bluff check.
What I don't want to see for Social Challenges is that it comes down to whom has the most Charisma.

If, as they wrote, Social Challenge will be as rich as physical combat, then they should afford all players, no matter what their abilities, an opportunity to shine. I don't know how they can make the physical abilities (STR, DEX, CON) useful in a social setting. I suppose DEX can be rethought as "grace" and can help in, for example, dances. And CON, representing your general health, can possibly provide synergistic bonuses. but STR? I don't know.

At any rate, the mental abilities should all be represented equally:
INT: Appeal to reason
WIS: Appeal to conscience
CHA: Appeal to emotion

This way, you can avoid the half-elf bardic diplomancer who loads up on Charisma and social skills and then outshines the rest of the party in every social setting. What you don't want is for the party to enter a room and have the wizard's player say, "Oh, it's a negotiation. I'm going to go play Halo 3. Let me know when Bob's half-elf is done." And then everyboody but Bob follows him out of the room.
Burning Wheel's "Duel of Wits" mechanic specifically covers fighting to get concessions from your opponent. Stuff like rhetorical debate in front of an audience, &c. It's pretty involved.

IIRC, Conspiracy of Shadows has social and physical combat use the same system and maneuvers, though with different forms of "equipment" applying (i.e. titles, authority, relationships are the weapons of social combat).

There are tons of games that use unified mechanics for conflicts regardless of the form they take: The Shadow of Yesterday, Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures, Polaris, The Mountain Witch. Some of these also make relationships very important in resolution regardless of the form, which from an old-school perspective you could say actually makes all conflicts "social" (most strongly evident in TMW's handling of trust and betrayal, I think).

-- Alex
Well, that sort of thing happens in melee. Or it could.

Generally, though, it doesn't, because there are very clear rules on how to provide flanking, how to assist another, etc. Assuming the wizard is out of useful spells that is.

If we could get that kind of assistance mechanic built into the social mechanics, then you would have something. Oh, and perhaps spells that help in social settings.

You could easily have the wizard concentrating to maintain the illusion of formal court attire, while the rogue is making appraise and translation checks, the warlord is doing the talking, and the dwarven fighter is assisting because he shares a race with the dwarven merchant the party is haggling with.
A compromise system is also needed. Currently, negotiations either succeed, or they don't.

If failure impacted future relationships, or required that the players owed a favor to the NPC in question, you might have a lot more to work with.
At any rate, the mental abilities should all be represented equally:
INT: Appeal to reason
WIS: Appeal to conscience
CHA: Appeal to emotion

Why do they have to be attack roles?
Intelligence to quickly think of the right words to say or the right rebuff to use (Dexterity)
Charisma to deliver the words at the right time and with the proper weight (Strength)
Wisdom to maintain a proper composure and to resist giving into emotion and have the patience to remain 'in the battle' (Constitution)

What I don't want to see for Social Challenges is that it comes down to whom has the most Charisma.

If, as they wrote, Social Challenge will be as rich as physical combat, then they should afford all players, no matter what their abilities, an opportunity to shine. I don't know how they can make the physical abilities (STR, DEX, CON) useful in a social setting. I suppose DEX can be rethought as "grace" and can help in, for example, dances. And CON, representing your general health, can possibly provide synergistic bonuses. but STR? I don't know.

At any rate, the mental abilities should all be represented equally:
INT: Appeal to reason
WIS: Appeal to conscience
CHA: Appeal to emotion

This way, you can avoid the half-elf bardic diplomancer who loads up on Charisma and social skills and then outshines the rest of the party in every social setting. What you don't want is for the party to enter a room and have the wizard's player say, "Oh, it's a negotiation. I'm going to go play Halo 3. Let me know when Bob's half-elf is done." And then everyboody but Bob follows him out of the room.

Strength could aid in your attractiveness, or "Alphaness" to members of your own race. Think phermones...

Why do they have to be attack roles?

Good point. Each Ability could have an offensive and defensive use:

Intelligence: Appeal to Reason, Defend through fact-checking
Wisdom: Appeal to Conscience, Defend through composure
Charisma: Appeal to Emotion, Defend through rhetoric

Sample: An Intelligent fighter and a Charismatic merchant are haggling over a sword. The merchant's shrewd (Int) wife is there, as are the fighter's wise priest and persuasive sorcerer.

The merchant opens by telling the fighter the grand history of this esteemed sword (Cha-Appeal to emotion).

The Fighter is swayed, until the sorcerer interjects and reminds the fighter that he has performed many more heroic deeds and this sword is barely worthy of his notice. (Cha-Defend through rhetoric.)

The Fighter agrees, and points out that the sword is old and probably performs badly (Int-Appeal to Reason).

The wife quickly interjects, pointing out that the handicraft is excellent and they "don't make swords like this anymore" (Int-defend through fact-checking.) She responds that a solid fighter would be better served by a sword that is both well-crafted and fitting to his station, than the poor iron lump he's been using since he first began adventuring (Int-appeal to reason).

The fighter tries to respond that there are many swordsellers and he is sure they also have blades or quality, but he rolls badly, and is persuaded that this sword is the one to have. (Int-defend through fact-checking, but a bad roll, and a circumstance penalty because there aren't really that many swordsmiths in town). Seeing his friend falter, the priest then interjects that the fighter is often called upon to defend this town form evil and it would be a shame if he were badly equipped simply because a merchant wanted to nickel and dime the hero. (Wis-appeal to conscience).

The merchant and wife have poor Wisdoms and are easily shamed by the priest, trying to make a feeble bluff that if he thinks there are so many merchants with appropriate stalls, he should go and see, they will stll be here (Wis-defend through composure, but fails). They agree to give a discount to the noble defender of the city and the haggling comes to a close.

And so on. I can't say I'm particularly enamored of resolving social situations through rolling. But at least this way, all the role-play doesn't go straight to the Charisma-hound.

Strength could aid in your attractiveness, or "Alphaness" to members of your own race. Think phermones...

That's kind of what I was thinking for Constitution. Neither of them fill me with optimism. I foresee a lot of fighter-types sitting out of social encounters, which is too bad.
Dave Noonan's new blog entry touches on this topic. There's some very interesting tidbits hidden there. I suggest you all check it out.
An excerpt form the blog that fills me with excitement and dread:
[indent]And just for fun, here's another one of the five principles: "Noncombat challenges test multiple PCs in multiple ways." Not exactly shocking or radical, but it's something we're taking seriously. To use the social encounter example, it's useful if the party has a "face man," but a face man alone isn't a "We win" button.[/indent]
The excitement: definitely a good thing to consider multiple ways to confront multiple PCs.

The dread: He mentions a "face man", which I understand to mean someone built for social situations. This implies there's only one build for social situations, which indicates ot me the rules are going to be primarily CCharisma based.

I am almost definitely reading into it.

Here's a thought:
There are four party roles for combat: controller, defender, leader and striker.
There shoud be four social roles as well.

The Social Controller is the Pedagogue. Just as the Controller keeps multiple opponents disorganized and separate, the Pedagogue uses oratory to sway crowds so as to allow the others to sway the main negotiator.

The Social Defender is the Stalwart. Just as a defender stands firm to protect the party, the Stalwart is not easily swayed by arguments.

The Social Leader is the Resource. Just as the Leader uses his talents to keep his team able to fight, the Resource gives the other negotiators the information they need to sway their opponents.

The Social Striker is the Voicebox. Just as the Striker specializes in concentrating damage on a single opponent, the Voicebox specializes in convincing a single person to change his position.

My only problem with this is that the Voicebox and the Pedagogue should both be Charisma-based (the Resource would need Int and the Stalwart Wis or Con).
I would love to see a system for rewarding XP for overcoming challenges without combat. What is the point of letting the bard bluff his way past the guards when the fighter's way would earn more XP?

Introduce your DM to the concept that whether bluffed or bludgeoned, your party has beaten the challenge the guards represent and you deserve XP for defeating that encounter.
What I don't want to see for Social Challenges is that it comes down to whom has the most Charisma.

If, as they wrote, Social Challenge will be as rich as physical combat, then they should afford all players, no matter what their abilities, an opportunity to shine.



This way, you can avoid the half-elf bardic diplomancer who loads up on Charisma and social skills and then outshines the rest of the party in every social setting. What you don't want is for the party to enter a room and have the wizard's player say, "Oh, it's a negotiation. I'm going to go play Halo 3. Let me know when Bob's half-elf is done." And then everyboody but Bob follows him out of the room.

I don't think that this is going to be as much of a problem as you might think.

Having a spokesperson for the party makes sense, in the same way that having a front-line fighter for the party makes sense. However, there are plenty of situations where the spokesperson won't be able to be the one to do the talking.

Let's imagine the party in an intrigue-heavy court. The party has made a reputation for themselves as fearless monster-slayers, which got them into the front door. But now they have a secret agenda they want to achieve, and thus need to interact with the rest of the court to complete it and convince enough members of the court of their plans.

In the meantime, the rest of the court wants to know what precisely these upstarts are up to - and also figure out how they can use them as pawns in their own intrigues. So are they going to talk to the glib half-elf diplomat to learn more about the party - the guy most likely to put the best spin on everything?

Or will they go after the slightly uncouth human barbarian, or the dwarven cleric to get their measure? Presumably the latter - after all, they are more likely to accidentally let their plans slip and are probably easier to manipulate as well. The half-elf bard will probably be running in circles to prevent that - but he can't be everywhere, can he?

Mind my words - social settings are fun for the whole party! :D
I agree that rules similar to "aid another" should allow the party to collaborate to overcome social challenges. I also like the idea of defining social roles in addition to combat roles, although I'm not sure that social roles should be determined by your class the way combat roles are. At the least, they should not be identical. Just because your combat role is striker doesn't necessarily mean your social role should be, too. I think that could be straying into overcomplicated...

My hope is just for a framework for social challenges that utilizes both roleplaying and dice rolling, in whichever ratio the players and DM prefer.

For example, each challenge will have a fixed DC, but different solution paths would apply a bonus or penalty to the check. (Equivalently, each solution path could have a separate DC with straight skill checks.)

Players can either describe to the DM the "angle" the party is taking (if they don't enjoy roleplaying), or just roleplay what their characters say. The DM decides which path their approach is using (for example, reason, emotion, or conscience) and either estimates the effectiveness of the roleplay, roles secretly, or tells the player to make a particular skill check. Either way, they determine whether the approach worked. Similar to the existing diplomacy rules, the margin of success or failure should have an impact on the current and future interactions with that PC.

Hopefully, the social encounter description would provide a set of modifiers for specific details of the party's approach. For example, bribery, threatening the person, threatening their family, quid pro quo, offering a future favor, confusing them, formal debate, deceit, gambling/betting, etc.

Oooh. I just had an idea that stems from the "complex challenges" in Unearthed Arcana, where you have to make successive skill rolls over time to achieve a complex result.

Think of a social challenge as a tug of war between the party and the target. Each PC can try to contribute to the challenge by using a particular skill. They make skill checks based on the approach against various DC's, and their net successes or failures accumulate over time. If the party accumulates enough net successes, they succeed. If their net failures accumulate to a certain point, they fail.

I think that could work, and could allow all of the PC's an opportunity to try to contribute to overcoming a challenge (assuming they have at least some sort of relevant skill).
Or will they go after the slightly uncouth human barbarian, or the dwarven cleric to get their measure? Presumably the latter - after all, they are more likely to accidentally let their plans slip and are probably easier to manipulate as well. The half-elf bard will probably be running in circles to prevent that - but he can't be everywhere, can he?

I like that a lot. Of course, the solution for the party is to make up an excuse for why the socially inept players cannot attend the party. Now the diplomancer doesn't need to run around saving the barbarian from himself. The barbarian is sitting in the inn hitting on wenches, while the barbarian's player is playing Halo 3 and waiting for the half-elf to do his shtick.

Better to have social rules independent of the combat rules -- including the character generation. That way, if your game is going to have a dedicated social component, every PC can make a character by combining a combat role (leader, controller, striker, defender) with a social role (face, brains, ears and conscience, for example)

Just because your combat role is striker doesn't necessarily mean your social role should be, too.

I agree. I didn't mean to imply the ranger would have to have a tongue as sharp as his blade.

My hope is just for a framework for social challenges that utilizes both roleplaying and dice rolling, in whichever ratio the players and DM prefer.

Agreed!

Oooh. I just had an idea that stems from the "complex challenges" in Unearthed Arcana, where you have to make successive skill rolls over time to achieve a complex result.

My serious hope is two-fold:
First, that social challenges don't come down to a single Ability+Skill. There should be a variety of Abilities and Skills that can be used to approach any social situation, just as there are a variety of Abilities and Combat skills that can be used to approach any fight.

Second, that it isn't solely a matter of winning and losing, but that there's room for results of a compromise. In combat, the endgame is easy: you won, you lost or you fled. In social situations, there's a fourth result: you compromise.

That's why I think there should be four Social Roles. It's the best way to ensure everyone has something to do. And I don't think having the other three rolling "Aid Other" rolls for the Face-man is going to be fun. Rolling the same check over and over isn't creative.
Something I don't like about the current edition is that characters who are members of classes with few skill points, especially ones with low INT scores, tended to avoid putting ranks in social skills at all. Especially if the party had a very clearly defined "face" character. It looks like in 4e they want to have everyone involved in social encounters. Which, when you look at fantasy novels, when a social situation does crop up, often everyone does participate, not just the face. With the current rules, all the PC's without much in the way of social skills become liabilities in socail encounters. They are better off being seen and not heard.

One way to overcome that would be to either give all the classes more skill points, so players will be more likely to put points into social skills (I am all for this, I think there are too few skill points right now anyway).

Another way, and I am sure alot of people will dislike this method, would be to award skill points based on your ability modifiers for all your skills. The catch is, you can only spend points gained from an ability score on skills linked to that ability, with the exception of Intellegence. That means Strength skill points can only be used with strength based skills (min skill points per level with this option would be 0, not 1), Dexterity skill points only on Dexterity linked skills. You would still have class based skill points that could be put anywhere, but they would likey be lowered to compensate for the higher amount of skill points this variant would give you. The other big problem is Constitution, because it only has 1 skill linked to it. You could get around it by allowing Con based skill points to be used on any phyiscal skill, like Jump or Swim. Or you could add in new skills that would be Con based, like Endurance and Fortitude, maybe even make Toughness a skill (giving you bonus HP equal to your ranks in the skill.)

Here is a first level Fighter to use an example. STR 16 (+3) DEX 13 (+1) CON 14 (+2) INT 8 (-1) WIS 11 (+0) CHA 12 (+1)
He would have 8 general skill points (2 base x4), 12 Strength skill points, 4 Dexterity skill points, 8 Consitution skill points, no Intelligence skill points, no Wisdom skill points, 4 Charisma Skill points.

Looking at his class skills he has Climb (STR), Craft (INT), Handle Animal (CHA), Intimidate (CHA), Jump (STR), Ride (DEX), and Swim (STR), adding in Endurance (CON), Fortitude (CON), and Toughness (CON) as class skills.

He uses his class skill points to max out a Craft skill (since he has no INT points) and Intimidate (freeing his CHA points for Handle Animal). He uses his STR points to max out Climb, Swim, and Jump. He splits his DEX points evenly between Ride and Reflex (cross-class). He uses his CON points to max out Endurance and Fortitude (ignoring Concentration for now). He has to INT or WIS points to distribute, so he skips ahead to CHA, where he splits them evenly between Handle Animal and Bluff (cross-class).

Thus, his skills look like this: Bluff +2, Climb +7, Craft +4, Endurance +6, Fortitude +6, Handle Animal +3, Intimidate +5, Jump +7, Reflex +2, Ride +3, and Swim +7.

Those that say this gives the fighter too many skill points, you could always say that he recieves no base skill points, just his ability score points.

Anyway, what does everyone think of these ideas?
In combat, the endgame is easy: you won, you lost or you fled. In social situations, there's a fourth result: you compromise.

I'd say that's only really the case because the combat engine is kinda, well, dumbed-down. There are very few ways to really fight about something (at best, you're stuck with time tricks, but those are really hokey when battle only lasts three or four six-second rounds). There are very few consequences beyond the most extreme (you die). Combat doesn't have to be that way; we're just used to it.

-- Alex
Regardless, the social mechanics have to deal with this, even if the combat mechanics do not.
I like that a lot. Of course, the solution for the party is to make up an excuse for why the socially inept players cannot attend the party. Now the diplomancer doesn't need to run around saving the barbarian from himself. The barbarian is sitting in the inn hitting on wenches, while the barbarian's player is playing Halo 3 and waiting for the half-elf to do his shtick.

Possible, but not necessarily likely. Possible reasons why the rest of the party should attend the social event too:

- Do the other characters really want to stay in some cheap tavern when they have the opportunity to get the best food and drink and get admired by the cream of society?

- Not showing up when you have been invited by a powerful noble will be seen as terribly rude, or even an insult - thus causing major problems for the negotiator. And really, there aren't that many excuses that might plausibly work. "I'm not feeling well..." "Don't worry, I have a cleric in my retinue - he will get you up in no time!"

- The half-elf bard might not be able to emotionally "connect" to all people he needs to talk to. A high-ranking veteran officer, for example, might get along with a stout dwarven fighter much better than some sort of soft, half-elven pansy. And the local archbishop will likely get along better with a cleric of the same faith.

- The negotiator can't be everywhere at once - but he also needs to know what other people are scheming behind his back. Having other party members around means that there is a much higher chance of any of them seeing something... interesting.

Finally, from what I understand of the new skill system, even characters who don't specialize in social situations won't be as incompetent as they are in 3E...
I think one of the problems currently with Social Encounters is that we think in monoism terms. I mean, we try to reduce things down to all the 'villains' having a single consious or thought process that will react if a single person makes a diplomacy check.

In real life, if I go into a meeting, I might have eight, ten, or even more active people sitting around me. Each of them is a potential 'Social Monster'.

A 'Social Monster' is my term for any person or creature that needs to be defeated. Defeat could occur from Intimidation, Compromise, Leadership, Diplomacy, Bluffing, Appeals of Faith, Intelectual Arguements, Sex Appeal, Bribery or any of a number of different choices. The choice of how you defeat a 'Social Monster' has an influence on the next time that you face that 'Social Monster' in a social challenge. A 'Social Monster' that determines that they have been bluffed in the past will likely be more hostile and harder to work with in the future. A 'Social Monster' bribed with 10 gold will want 20 gold the next time. A 'Social Monster' that finds Sex Appeal was used to just get the character what they wanted will likely hold it against the character in the next encounter. A 'Social Monster' that finds a person has kept a previous deal will likely be more willing to accept a new deal.

'Social Monsters' are not full characters and they normally have a number of 'Social Hit Points'. Performing skill checks, giving bribes, doing favours, can reduce the 'Social Hit Points' over time till the 'Social Monster' is defeated and is willing to take a step towards accepting the character's view. Various skill checks and actions have a maximum amount of 'Social Damage' that they can do per encounter. This means that even if you lock up the King in a small cell with you working on him continuously, there is still a limit to how pliable that they might become.

'Social Monsters' are not pillars, they fight back with social skills. A 'Social Monster' losing 'Social Hit Points' can use skills or actions to recover 'Social Hit Points' for themselves or other 'Social Monsters' that they can contact. The 'Social Monsters' do not 'attack' the characters and try to change the player's minds but they protect themselves or influence others to throw challenges in the way of the players.

'Social Monsters' have different roles in decision making. This is taken from Marketing. There are Users (people that are directly affected by the decision), Gatekeepers (control the flow of information), Influencers (have the ability to help or hinder the decision), Buyers (have the ability to implement options from the decision), and Deciders (approve or disprove the decision).

For example, players go to court to convince the King that he needs to send his army north to fight the invading hoard of monsters. The 'social monsters' in the scene might be the King, the Chamberlain, the Captain of the Guard, the Head Cleric, the Head Mage, and the King's daughter. The King is the Decider; the Chamberlain is a gatekeeper; the daughter, Head Cleric, and Head Mage are influencers; and the Captain of the Guard is a user. The treasurer who is the buyer is not present at the start of the encounter but could be summoned by the players or one of the 'Social Monsters' if they want.

The Chamberlain as the gatekeeper would first have to be convinced to even let the players have the audience with the King. How this is handled will affect the Chamberlain in the full council. Players might try to win support prior to the council from people other than the King (the Chamberlain and Captain of the Guard are designed to keep players away prior to council encounter). During the court, the Chamberlain will have to again be defeated if the players want more than a minimum amount of time (gatekeeper role controls how long the players have -- this also encourages all players to act as there is only so much time and too many people in the room for one player to do all the work).

During the encounter, players will have to get as many of the influencers to accept their point of view along with the king that they can. 'Social Monsters' will defend themselves by talking to each other. The 'Social Monsters' can even get an early win if they convince the Gatekeeper to cut things off or if they can get the Captain of the Guard to decide that the players pose a threat to the King's safety (intimidate the Head Cleric and he is likely going to scream for the Captain of the Guard to get these dangerous people out of the court).

I hope you can see by having 'Social Monsters' with different levels of control in the decision process can make for a varied and interesting encounter that is worthy of tale telling as any melee battle against a dragon.
Possible, but not necessarily likely.

The pproblem is you're giving me in-game justifications for an out-of-game problem. The problem si that when you have a face-man, the other players are bored. If they are relegated to Aid Other checks and hoping their character doesn't screw it up for the diplomancer, the players aren't having fun because they feel like sidekicks rather than heroes.

If social encounters are supposed to be as dynamic and challenging as combat encounters, then all the PCs need to feel like heroes and not merely guys along for the ride for the "best food and drink" or so as not to "insult" the host, or to fill in the social gaps the diplomancer couldn't quite fill.

It also smacks of railroading. If the combat rules dictated that one character would be the "Combatant" who could take on all comers, would you think it was good game design if the other PCs contributed by either 1) taking out the occasional henchman of the BBEG the Combtant gets to fight, 2) being the Combatant's eyes and ears just in case a minion or two escaped notice, 3) get to come along and share in the treasure that the Combatant takes from his prey, or 4) occasionally gets to fight the monster that's been specifically tailored to be inappropriate for the Combatant to fight?

I think that would be bad game design.

For the Social Encounters to have teeth, it has to avoid the idea that one half-elf Warlord with Charisma and the right Skills is going to take the lead and everybody else gets to be his sidekick. Every party member needs a distinct strength and needs to be an equal participant in the encounter.

I think smerg's comments are very astute. The problem with getting away from monoism is that it makes exponentially more work for the DM. It's one thing to have a social encounter in which the PCs as a group are negotiating a treaty with the General and his entourage. (Monoism.) That's a standard combat encounter, but you stat out the social abilities instead of the combat ones.

If it's a party in which the PCs are there to curry favor from the Minister of War, who is commissioned to hire adventurers for the kingdom, but he needs to convince the Exchequer to increase his office's budget, and the Exchequer secretly desires the Queen's Chamberlain, who if distraught by the unwelcome advances of the King, who himself is worried that the High Priest is secretly plotting to undermine his authority, when in fact the High Priest is simply distracted by premonitions that someone in the Court is in fact a spy... well, that's a lot more work!
Don't overgeneralize though. Just because one person is the face man doesn't mean the others can't get involved in their own way. So designating the face man doesn't hurt the enjoyment of the game unless the players and DM allow it too. That actually falls in the realm of the fault of the players and the DM imho.
Don't overgeneralize though. Just because one person is the face man doesn't mean the others can't get involved in their own way.

That's true. But that requires the rules to allow players to get involved in "thei r own way".

In 3.5, there are five skills to social interaction: Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate, and Sense Motive. Four of these Skills have Charisma as the primary stat and one has Wisdom. Four of these skills are Class Skills for Bards and all are Class Skills for Rogues. For a game in which it is known that there will be a significant component of social challenge, it is easy for one character to be dominant in all the needed social mechanics with only minimal cost to his combat effectiveness.

In 4th, they appear to be wisely divorcing the ideas of combat and social effectiveness. They also claim to want to create complex social mechanics, which could be a good thing. But if these mechanics don't offer ways for characters to distinguish themselves from one another through specialization -- in the way the class roles allow characters to distinguish themselves in combat -- then we're left witht he same problem in 3.x: the diplomancer.

So designating the face man doesn't hurt the enjoyment of the game unless the players and DM allow it too.

And the rules.

If the rules were written such that a fighter was overpowered compared to other classes in combat, such that the other characters would never do anything but kill the occasional henchman or minion, or offer strategic support to the fighter, we wouldn't blame the DM and Players for not working around the bad combat mechanics. We blame the game designers.

I don't want to blame the game designers for bad social mechanics. I hope they are coming up with social challenge rules that give each party member a distinct social role.
If it's a party in which the PCs are there to curry favor from the Minister of War, who is commissioned to hire adventurers for the kingdom, but he needs to convince the Exchequer to increase his office's budget, and the Exchequer secretly desires the Queen's Chamberlain, who if distraught by the unwelcome advances of the King, who himself is worried that the High Priest is secretly plotting to undermine his authority, when in fact the High Priest is simply distracted by premonitions that someone in the Court is in fact a spy... well, that's a lot more work!

True, it is more work.

When I discussed things, I did not go too far into implementation. I tried to stick to core mechanics.

I liked the one rule of design from the Dragon magazine Campaign Design Articles that said that 'when ever you invent something then you should also invent a secret'. That is a design philosophy that makes the 'Social Monsters' appear to have more depth.

I tried to stay away from that discussion in the article as I was trying to communicate the actual nuts and bolts.

One of the aspects of the gatekeeper role is that it limits the amount of time for players to handle the situation. The one problem is that players often feel no time pressure; so, they think that they can sit back and have the one character with good CHA do all the work.

The normal world does not work that way and it should not work that way in the game. A King might give a 2 minute audience to people requesting a favour unless they are part of the King's council. With some work, the gatekeeper might extend the time to a maximum of 5 minutes for the decision maker to be influenced (the gatekeeper really has to like you to do this favour for you). This means that the players need to work as a team to get stuff done.

The Barbarian player may have no social grace but the rest of the players could convince the Barbarian player that this is a good time to talk to the Head Cleric on converting. It won't win the Head Cleric over but it does tie up that influencer from using their social skills on other people in the room. The Mage player may be convinced to go talk to the Head Mage on some magical problem, trading spell knowledge, or how to join the Mage Guild chapter in the court. It does not convert the Head Mage's opinion but it ties up the Head Mage from using their abilities as an influencer in the encounter.

The Barbarian player may decide that they don't want to talk to the Head Cleric as converting is not in their nature. Instead the Barbarian player may decide the King's daughter is their targets stating, 'No, woman can resist a man in a thong with muscles like my Barbarian'. The character may not have CHA but that does not mean they could not distract the princess by trying to show off their pecks.

The Mage player may decide they are better calling the Treasurer and talking logic with that 'Social Monster'. The Mage player may think a description of the cost of dealing with the invasion now verses waiting will appeal to the Treasurer who thinks in terms of purchases.

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Moving further with the discussion, not all social encounters need to be as elaborate as the scene I suggested. Approaching a few gate guards can be a social encounter.

There will likely be a sergeant that is the final decider. There will be a couple of corporals that the sergeant will trust as advisors (influencers). There might be a tax collector at the gate which is the buyer (though not all roles need to be present in all encounters). The sergeant likely doubles as the gatekeeper as they need to keep the flow of traffic moving at the gate. You take up too much of their time and it is the end of the line or you are barred all together from the gate.

Note, these are not indepth 'Social Monsters' with secrets. They are out of the box NPCs that are designed to challenge players and bring more life to a social situation. Especially when players might be doing something like trying to dodge a gate tax collection or smuggle goods.

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One last suggestion note is that the way that 'Social Hit Points' are restored. They can be restored by cashing in something to the players (granting the favour that they wanted). They can be restored over time (if you have not visited the princess in two months then you are likely back to square one with her unless you have some real good explanations and likely still need to offer some gifts). They can be restored by another 'Social Monster' doing an action (you may have bribed the Head Cleric 200 gold but the Chancellor was able to counter bribe with 100 gold -- the lower bribe due to the Head Cleric trusting to collect on the money from the Chancellor and past working relationship ).

Limiting time for the encounter and having several targets keeps the group involved.
Here is the way i give exp to my players, for Social Challenges:

1) Is the character acting under his manners?
2) Is the character acting to achieve his goals?
3) Is he making use of his 'free-will' in the place?
4) Is the player interacting with reasons, with the people around?
5) Is he getting 'social encounters' with key-npcs?
6) and so on...
7) Is the player making uses of his socials skills?

If they are 'living' in the world, they receive, as example, 1000 xp for his 'Social Challenge Pool'. Then, i begin to deduct the xp from his 'pool' whenever his actions have no sense, or no reasons.

Ps: Actualy, I start with about 20% of the xp needed to level-up, and i analyzes the role-play of the players

cya
The pproblem is you're giving me in-game justifications for an out-of-game problem.

If you are going to the trouble of creating detailed social encounters, you might as well create one that engages more than just one character. Otherwise you can simply let it boil down to a few dice rolls and be done with in in three minutes or less.

After all, you do the same when you craft combat encounters, right? I mean, how often are the PCs faced with an enemy who is only vulnerable to either physical attacks or spells? Not often, I bet - because such fights are boring. The same principle applies to detailed social encounters as well.

The problem si that when you have a face-man, the other players are bored. If they are relegated to Aid Other checks and hoping their character doesn't screw it up for the diplomancer, the players aren't having fun because they feel like sidekicks rather than heroes.

If the situation becomes like this, then the DM is at fault for creating a non-fun social encounter.

If social encounters are supposed to be as dynamic and challenging as combat encounters, then all the PCs need to feel like heroes and not merely guys along for the ride for the "best food and drink" or so as not to "insult" the host, or to fill in the social gaps the diplomancer couldn't quite fill.

It is the duty of the DM to ensure that such gaps exist in detailed social encounter. And frankly, situations where more than one character gets involved in social encounters are only realistic.

It also smacks of railroading. If the combat rules dictated that one character would be the "Combatant" who could take on all comers, would you think it was good game design if the other PCs contributed by either 1) taking out the occasional henchman of the BBEG the Combtant gets to fight, 2) being the Combatant's eyes and ears just in case a minion or two escaped notice, 3) get to come along and share in the treasure that the Combatant takes from his prey, or 4) occasionally gets to fight the monster that's been specifically tailored to be inappropriate for the Combatant to fight?

I don't see what's supposed to be so railroady about realistic social settings. And even in combat you have someone who directly the enemy in front, someone who looks out for possible weaknesses he can exploit with his personal abilities, and someone who looks out for possible opportunities and weaknesses the party can exploit. Social encounters are no different - at least, if both DM and players know what they are doing.
http://wiki.white-wolf.com/exalted/index.php/Exalted_203_Social_Combat

Something like that, but much simpler might be neat.

I do like the principle that the players can always "defend" easily, to protect their character concept. NPCs shouldn't do that usually.
http://wiki.white-wolf.com/exalted/index.php/Exalted_203_Social_Combat

Something like that, but much simpler might be neat.

I do like the principle that the players can always "defend" easily, to protect their character concept. NPCs shouldn't do that usually.

Well, it does cost them points of Willpower (a White Wolf game stat that measures raw determination), so it's not entirely free. Most NPCs won't spend these points unless someone tries to convince them of something that goes counter to their innermost beliefs though, so PCs are less easily convinced of something than NPCs.

In D&D 4E, something similar might be possible with Action Points - spend an Action Point, and an NPC won't be able to convince you of something, no matter how well a GM rolls. Although we don't know enough about how Action Points work in 4E to know if this is a good fit. If APs are renewed daily, it should work okay, but if they are only refreshed once per adventure, this is too harsh unless the PCs get lots of them...
If you are going to the trouble of creating detailed social encounters, you might as well create one that engages more than just one character.

You're putting the cart before the horse. In order to create encounters that engage more than one character, you need mechanics that allow multiple characters to contribute to social encounters differently.

After all, you do the same when you craft combat encounters, right?

Right, because the classes fulfill different combat roles. If there is only one social role, then only one character is going to participate.

If the situation becomes like this, then the DM is at fault for creating a non-fun social encounter.

Not if the mechanics fail to accommodate multiple players.

situations where more than one character gets involved in social encounters are only realistic.

Agreed. That's why a game mechanic that doesn't accommodate that reality is a poorly designed mechanic.

I don't see what's supposed to be so railroady about realistic social settings.

Why do I feel like we're talking past one another? My only point is that the social encounter rules need to give players ways to contribute differently in social encounters.

Your solution was to create situations in which characters are forced to socialize. But that isn't even addressing my point, which is that characters shuld be able to be social in different ways.

Maybe one character is a debater, who engages people's reason. He does well in courts or when negotiating a treaty. Maybe another character is entertaining. He can sway people by appealing to their emotions, spinning a good yarn. Maybe another character is intense, and he sway people through fear, guilt or other negative emotions. Now, there's more strategy in a social encounter.

The way you described it in post 14, it seems like you'd be satisfied if only one person was competent socially, but the other ones participated by not screwing up the diplomancer's social skills, or, alternately, every social situation is carefully tailored. There just happens to be a dwarven general who will only speak to dwarves because there just happens to be an anti-social dwarf in the party. But if the party had a foul-mouthed gnome, then the DM would have written the general to be someone who likes foul-mouther people who speak their mind.

That is DM metagaming of the worst sort and it feels like bad writing to the players. It will also feel like railroading. "Hey, Bob, there's a dwarf at this party. I guess that's your cue." "Sigh. All right. Hold my drink."

Of course, this stuff is only necessary in social systems like 3.5 where the guy with the best Charisma, Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive stats will dominate every social situation. I'm hoping that isn't going to be the case in 4th.



And even in combat you have someone who directly the enemy in front, someone who looks out for possible weaknesses he can exploit with his personal abilities, and someone who looks out for possible opportunities and weaknesses the party can exploit. Social encounters are no different - at least, if both DM and players know what they are doing.

And if the mechanics allow it. If every class was a defender, you wouldn't blame the DM for having difficulties in crafting combat. The problem would be the game system. Social encounter rules are no different in that respect.
I would like to see a social challenge be defined by an overall DC, with modifiers to that DC based on the general skill used and the specific roleplaying approach of the player.

I've been having a hard time coming up with specific examples, but if you think of NWN that gives you several dialog options with an underlying skill check behind them, that's sort of where I'm going.

So, if the party is trying to talk their way into an event when they don't have an invitation, the encounter might be written as:

Talk your way inside the Ball (DC 19). Since the party members are not on the guest list, they will need to convince the gate guards to allow them to enter.

Bluff
"There must be some mistake, Lord Hufflepuff himself invited us just last evening..." (-4)
"Surely Lord Mirepoix Misenplace is on your list." (Can only be used if the party has learned the name of a real invitee. 15% chance the guard knows the real person, 10% chance the real person has already arrived, otherwise +4)

Intimidate
"Let us past or my friend the archmage here will turn you into a newt!" (-8)
"Mistake or no, Lord Hufflepuff will surely draw and quarter the poor sot who prevents him from having a dance with the fair Lady Astrid tonight." (+4)
"That's a nice cottage you and your wife have down the lane. It would be a shame if it caught on fire... (+2)

Bribery
+1 for every 10 gp offered to the guard, as long as it is done discreetly. If the guard fears being observed, no modifier.

Reason
etc.

So, the pro-RP player can roleplay and the DM will select the skill and approach that is closest to what the player says (and possibly adjust the modifier based on the quality of the roleplaying), or the RP-averse player can simply state the skill and approach their character is going to use, and the DM rules accordingly.

I think that the same rules for Aid Another could work in this situation, too.

At least it gives some structure to the design and adjudication of social challenges.
Something that I often see happen when people make social/skill challenges is they make them an 'all in one success'.

One die roll controls the success of the whole challenge.

I can understand where a single skill roll is good when doing something like jumping a pit. You either made it or you failed.

Still even if we look at a movie situation like Indiana Jones, you can see how even the 'jump the pit' can be built into a more detailed set of skill checks. Indiana Jones does not have his whip on the way out of the temple at the start of the movie because his 'companion' has gone across the pit first. Indiana 'first' trys to use diplomacy and fails. The 'companion' instead takes the bribe of the statue and chooses to strand Indiana. Indiana then tries to jump the pit and almost makes it. Indiana gets to use a reflex check to 'grab a vine'. Indiana tries to climb the vine and fails and gets another reflex check to 'climb faster' then the vine pulls out its roots. Indiana thus escapes the pit (note: I am going from memory here so I think there would technically be a couple of more skill checks invovled).

The important thing was that not one check resolved all the problems of the encounter. The same should apply to social encounters (note the Indiana Jones example had a mixture of social and trap together which is common in many 'Relic Hunter' style encounters).

One of the things that makes combat encounters interesting is that everyone usually gets into the act of throwing dice and each has some impact. There may be times when a big tough Barbarian uses an axe and takes down a villian in one swipe. Usually though, it takes everyone contributing some damage to get the villian defeated. The same should happen in social encounters.

The above example of the guard is a typical example. Guards do not look at one person and their single word. Guards are going to take some time to look over each person in the group and likely ask some words of each person. A good face man can help to 'patch up' a bad response by one of their companions but if they do all the talking then the guard will tell them to shut up and let the others speak (I deal with border guards quite often and the pattern is very similar).

I also think that the rules for Social Encounters needs to be broadened to think beyond the base five 'social' skills. The druid that brings forth the gift of a rose in the late fall to the Queen may have as much or more impact then the rogue that 'blabbers' for five minutes spinning their tale of woe.


Summing things up again.

1> No one roll determines the whole encounter. Multiple rolls should build influence.

2> Other skills and abilities beyond the 'social' five should have impact and usage.
The above example of the guard is a typical example. Guards do not look at one person and their single word. Guards are going to take some time to look over each person in the group and likely ask some words of each person. A good face man can help to 'patch up' a bad response by one of their companions but if they do all the talking then the guard will tell them to shut up and let the others speak (I deal with border guards quite often and the pattern is very similar).

The problem with that is that's like setting up a combat encounter in which everybody has to hit the BBEG with a big stick. The fighter-types are going to do great, the guy with a low Strength score? not so much.

So having the guard make everybody individually explain why they're entering the party isn't really a well-rounded social encounter. The Fce will breeze through, but the guy with low Charisma is going to feel like the 6-Strength wizard being forced to melee attack the stone giant.

I also think that the rules for Social Encounters needs to be broadened to think beyond the base five 'social' skills.

To me, this is the key. A Social Encounter needs to give different PCs different specialties.
The problem with that is that's like setting up a combat encounter in which everybody has to hit the BBEG with a big stick. The fighter-types are going to do great, the guy with a low Strength score? not so much.

So having the guard make everybody individually explain why they're entering the party isn't really a well-rounded social encounter. The Fce will breeze through, but the guy with low Charisma is going to feel like the 6-Strength wizard being forced to melee attack the stone giant.

The thing to notice here, is that IF you give everyone equal chances in social encounters, it's the equivalent of the 6 STR wizard meleeing with a dagger and contributing as much as the best fighter.

You don't want that, either. Sure, strong tough ( unsocial ) fighters have options when it comes to socializing--- but they're very limited! Why should they perform as well as someone who's focused their character on social skills?
To me, this is the key. A Social Encounter needs to give different PCs different specialties.

This is true - as a combat can be managed with melee, ranged attacks or spells, and there are separate options for each class, there should be multiple ways on how to approach social situations. However, this doesn't mean it needs to be free.
I would like to see a social challenge be defined by an overall DC, with modifiers to that DC based on the general skill used and the specific roleplaying approach of the player.

I've been having a hard time coming up with specific examples, but if you think of NWN that gives you several dialog options with an underlying skill check behind them, that's sort of where I'm going.

Here is a link to a "blow-by-blow" example of how this works in the game Exalted: Social Combat

Here, simple things, like trying to get into a formal ball and other actions, have been turned into quick-running 2-3 round encounters. Multiple characters are involved (if they choose to join the effort) and there is more than one social tact used for obtaining the same results. I find it interesting.
didn't I just link that?
I am still very, very cautious about "social encounters". Why reduce roleplaying out social situations to mere die rolls?

I suppose it is an interesting approach for the new player, but as a vetted roleplayer, I simply don't see the neccessity of such.
I am still very, very cautious about "social encounters". Why reduce roleplaying out social situations to mere die rolls?

I suppose it is an interesting approach for the new player, but as a vetted roleplayer, I simply don't see the neccessity of such.

And thus the socially awkward player cannot play a charming fast-talking character.

Conversely, why not roleplay combat situations too, then?

Did you read the Exalted link above? I myself was iffy on the whole Social-fu thing, but I think the examples there highlight some of the good what rules can bring into social situations.
I am still very, very cautious about "social encounters". Why reduce roleplaying out social situations to mere die rolls?

Exalted has a good solution for this with so-called "stunt bonuses" - the better you describe your actions, the better will your odds be of succeeding.

Something similar can be done with d20. If you don't do any descriptions, but simply state what you want to do, you get no bonus. If you role-play it adequately, you get a +2 bonus. If you role-play your diplomatic effort well, you get +4. And if you do it excellently, you get a +6 bonus.
Exalted has a good solution for this with so-called "stunt bonuses" - the better you describe your actions, the better will your odds be of succeeding.

There is still the problem that only the character with the best ranks will be contributing most of the time, since it will be his checks alone that matter.

Your barb may have an excellent opportunity at diplomacy (somehow), but without any ranks in diplomacy itself, there is no point. Even with tons of ad-hoc circumstance bonuses here and there, you would still lose out to the bard with high cha.
Your barb may have an excellent opportunity at diplomacy (somehow), but without any ranks in diplomacy itself, there is no point. Even with tons of ad-hoc circumstance bonuses here and there, you would still lose out to the bard with high cha.

But isn't that both realistic and a mirror of how the bard feels during combat? Sounds to me like the designers want to reward players that create more balanced characters and have several moderately high stats (instead of one maxed-out stat). To do that, you must provide a range of activities for them to participate in, including non-combat encounters, such as diplomacy.

In the example from the Exalted link, players were making several choices during the encounter that were much more varied than "I use diplomacy on him". And other characters had a chance to support the primary talker's attempts with actions that were more interesting than "I roll to support him"

In fact, the support rules in 3.5 are rather broken for social encounters. A group of 11 people with average Cha scores and one talker (Dip +10) will get +20 to their roll on average. What out for the Diplo-mob!

Making social manauevers and limiting to one of each type for support seems more realistic, more fun to play and a better system for encourage the creation of characters that are only tuned to fight monsters. And it allows you to play someone who can not only fight better than you can in real life, but is more persuasive too! That sounds like role-playing to me, anyway.