social conflict

edited April 2011 in Game Design Help
The following is from my game. I stole the bit about questions from 'Storming the wizards tower'.

This thread is kind of an offshoot from the other thread on social skills being aggressive and pushy. Basically Im looking for critique of the mechanic. Im afraid being 'social combat' it is going to suffer from the same cons as the DoW style from the other thread. In practice it has only been used once in its current form, where a PC wanted to convince a scared NPC to guide them all the way to a dangerous place, but the NPC only conceded to take them part of the way. There were appeals to duty, and finally shouted accusations of cowardice. so yeah, pushy, but they were playing WWII soldiers so...

Another specific question I have is, how do you handle multiple characters in a social contest?

The background on this mechanic is that players have between 2 and 6 'soul points' which they use to resist social/psychological duress in the same way as hitpoints resist physical duress.
An 'attack' generally does 2 or 3 points of 'damage' , but can do +1 or +2 more than that if the PC overachieves successfully.

There are two types of social conflict – where one party wants something out of the exchange, and where both parties want something. For there to be conflict, at least one party must be in opposed to letting the other side have what they want. If both parties are happy to reach agreement about what the other side wants – to bargain in good faith – then there is no conflict, only amicable negotiation.

When both sides want something, they may resist attacks, seek advanatge, and will definitely counter with pressure to achieve their own aims. Their agenda for the conflict is ‘get what they want, and stop you from getting what you want’.

When one side wants something, and the other doesn’t, by default, their agenda for the conflict is ‘stop you from getting what you want’.

When social attacks have reduced an opponent’s Soul to 0 or less, they give in 100% to what their opponent wants. They are out of the contest. So far, social conflict is just like combat – a battle to reduce the opponents stat until they are out. However, the process of social conflict can have partial success:

After reducing an opponent’s soul with a particular successful attack, the attacker can:
• Ask questions about the situation that the GM must answer (1 point per question)
• Impose concessions on the other party (2 points per concession)

The number of points is the amount the opponents soul was reduced by. i.e. if 3 points were inflicted, the attacker could ask 3 questions, or ask one question and demand one concession.

With questions, you are allowed to ask anything that your character might read from the other party’s body language, emotions and general demeanor. You can’t ask for straight out facts. Here are some example questions:

Good questions:
How does he feel about this situation?’ to which an answer might be ‘Smug, like you can’t touch him’.

What is her reaction when I mention the name of the doctor?’ possible answer ‘she look surprised then quickly hid it’.

Is he telling the truth about that?’ possible answer ‘yes’.

Bad question:
Where did he hide the body?’ This question is about a fact, not an interpretation of non-verbal communication.

Concessions are about getting the other party to partially agree to do or say what you want. Which may be to tell you the answer to a specific question. However, unlike the GM, the character is not compelled to speak the truth.

It’s possible at the end of a social conflict that both parties may have imposed concessions on each other, in which case they must be honored, even by the winning party. A reluctant bargain or deal has been struck, in other words. When they succeed, players may propose concessions, but the GM must agree to it, and may dilute it if it asks too much.

NPCs are always bound by concessions. PCs are bound by concessions only if they agree to be. If they don’t agree with the concession demanded, they must end the social conflict right there. Although that may have consequences if the social conflict was initiated by NPCs who are unwilling to let it end there -- such as an escalation from social to physical conflict.

“A cop PC is interrogating a hoodlum NPC who has been hauled in on possession of narcotics. The cop’s agenda is to get the hood to wear a wire so they can bust the dealer. The hood’s agenda is to get out of there scot free. The cop attacks with an intimidation play (-2 soul) about how long the hood is going to spend in jail, and the hoodlum counters – successfully – with a ridiculing play (-2 soul) about how they can’t prove the drugs found in the car were his. He demands a concession – let him go because they got nothing on him. The player decides to concede that, and presses on with another play: triumphantly announcing that yes, they will let him go, after they have spread the word he has snitched on the dealer anyway and he can take his own chance on the street (-3 soul),. The hood tries to resist this play with bravado, but fails, and is shaken. The cop demands to know who is controlling the drug trade in this neighborhood (concession, 2pts) Additionally, he reads if the hood is telling the truth. (question for GM, 1pt). The hood names a name, but the cop can tell he is lying! He slaps the hood in the face and tries an intimidation play about putting him up on a resisting arrest charge as well as a drug bust (-3 soul). The hoods resistance fails again, his soul is now on -2, and he concedes to the cop’s demands – he will wear the wire, and the cop has already conceded they will release him without charge.
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