What are your favourite persuasion mechanics?

edited November 2015 in Play Advice
Reason being: I'm looking for some to replace the ones in The Dying Earth RPG - I love the game but I really dislike way the back and forth dice mechanic works for persuade/rebuff. In particular, PC tries to persuade NPC and at some point we start rolling dice. Then one side makes what seems like a persuasive argument (verbally - in the DE RPG these verbal statements are interspersed with opposed die rolls) but their subsequent die roll is abysmal and the believability of the conversation falls on its face!

I don't want to lose the persuade/rebuff abilities and I'd like this type of conflict to feature heavily in my games, so... I was wondering if there are games out there that have dice mechanics for persuasion that work well and cleverly avoid whiff as must as possible?
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  • edited November 2015
    There are lots of smart games designed in recent times which handle this in different ways. For example, Dogs in the Vineyard says, "No, he's not convinced. Are you willing to escalate to violence to get what you want?" I'm sure someone else will provide more examples (this thread could end up being a great list of existing techniques). Most *World series of games often have a clever take on this, as well.

    However, I want to bring up a different point:

    Thinking about this some, I've come to the conclusion that "persuasion mechanics" serve a different function depending on who is "in charge" of the "victim/target/buyer" and what their priorities are in play.

    For instance, Dogs' mechanics work great because they are usually used against NPCs who already have a deep, uncompromising desire for something. The GM doesn't want to *decide* whether the NPC is convinced; they just keep putting on the pressure and see how far the player will go.

    They also work passably well for PC/PC conflict, because it becomes a question of who is willing to be more violent (and then, who is more effective when using violence). However, they wouldn't be that much fun if the PCs had serious disagreements but were not willing to escalate to violence.

    So, I think, broadly, persuasion mechanics fall into two categories (though there are other possible categories, these are most common):

    1. PC vs. NPC: We need them to determine whether PCs can sway stubborn NPCs. The GM doesn't want to *decide* whether they do, she wants to find out through the application of the mechanics. (Dogs falls into this category.)

    2. PC vs. PC: We need to determine whether one PC can sway another PC, who should always maintain his or her agency. We want the *players* involved to decide, not the dice (i.e. mechanics). However, the rules are there to apply certain pressures on the players, let us know when we need to stop arguing and move on with the game, and so on. (Even if the rule is just someone speaking up to encourage the players to move on to the next scene.)

    Complete freeform play is a type of #2; so is a PvP game like "In a Wicked Age...". We can represent the pressures the people can apply to each other mechanically or not. IaWA does it with a "stick" (negative consequences to refusing), whereas, say, Monsterhearts usually does it with a "carrot" (do what I say and you get an XP).

    In some games, the GM treats NPCs as her PCs, in which case #2 is just right. (It's not really about PCs and NPCs, after all - I'm using that as a shorthand here - but the agenda which drives you when you play the characters.)

  • Personally, I've enjoyed Burning Wheel's mechanics.

    It treats an argument much like a sparring match, where two sides uses tactics that represent their responses. From obfuscating the argument, to insulting the other party, I think it represents a comprehensive and fun way of modeling a high level verbal spar.

    Each side draws 3 cards that represent their responses out of a hand of 7 responses, and then the cards are flipped to show which responses the arguing parties chose. It works kind of like rock paper scissors, in that certain tactics fail when presented against others.

    On top of that, you can do character actions like swooning, falling prone, drooling, all to accentuate what you've said.

    It truly makes a verbal argument more than a simple dice roll. It makes it more like a psychological game, as it should be, in my opinion.
  • edited November 2015
    You can avoid stupid dice/fiction clashes by rolling first and then roleplaying to show everyone what that outcome looks like.

    Not a fan? Neither am I. For "roleplay first, significantly establish what's being said, then roll dice", I prefer to let the roleplay stand as far as the content of parties' arguments, and roll dice only for supplemental factors, like reading body language, controlling your own "tells", etc.

    "Roleplay a persuasion attempt, then make a persuasion roll" is tricky to me. It's hard for both parts to matter unless the former is used as a modifier to the latter, and the latter stands. "Yeah, that's a totally convincing argument, so target number 2," versus "I don't see how he's gonna buy that, target number 18" etc. And then if you roll a 1 or a 20, it's time to get creative, but otherwise the roll just confirms what the roleplay showed. Obviously it's most fun on the edge cases, where our response to the roleplay is, "Could go either way," and then the dice resolve that. But we don't get the opportunity for the roleplay to get us there if the dice always resolve "could go either way".

    That doesn't answer your request for clever persuasion dice mechanics. I'm not sure if I've played any RPGs that qualify. Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits is cool as Zethro mentions, but it's about swaying an audience, not your opponent -- BW uses a simple Persuasion test for "change a dude's mind". (Unless I'm out of date! This "hand of cards" thing is new to me.) I also took a stab at a system for showing off for a crowd here.

    @Valamir told me about a formalized social "Encounter" system from The One Ring -- you show up and present yourself and make some rolls to handle your intro and first impression, and then make other rolls about getting help or allegiance. It sounded cool, but I haven't played it myself. This was in response to a social mechanic I proposed; if you want to read the discussion, here it is. Ralph's comment about The One Ring is quite enlightening and shows up about halfway down (it starts with "I think that's worth trying. Have you seen the seen the Encounter rules from The One Ring?").
  • You can avoid stupid dice/fiction clashes by rolling first and then roleplaying to show everyone what that outcome looks like.

    Not a fan? Neither am I.
    No, I'm not a fan at all, although it always looks good to me on paper. When it comes to actual play I find that a player is usually champing at the bit to narrate some contest-winning-argument and stopping them to make them roll a dice first is frustrating to them; even more so if they roll really badly. How does that bad roll match up to the amazing argument they were just going to make? Roll first is nice idea but I haven't seen it work.

    Aside: having said that, maybe there's room for a pre-persuasion step where we decide whether to roll first or not? E.g. we roll first if the PC has no specific argument they want to make - they will just accept the results of a die roll, at a small penalty if we want to explicitly encourage roleplaying? Or we agree that the roll will be made after some roleplaying in order to establish whether the subsequent roll needs a bonus or penalty.

    Burning Wheel's mechanics sound interesting: a mini-game in itself. Do the rules allow for a player's specific arguments to improve or reduce their chance of winning in the duel? 'High-level' was mentioned too: it reads as though the back and forth of the contest are abstracted away and there is not so much focus on -- e.g. -- the particular merits of one player's argument. Have I got that right?

    I'm going to look into The One Ring's mechanics right now...
  • One thing to consider is that a persuasive statement only makes a difference to the extent the person being persuaded is willing to consider changing their mind. Stubbornness or some other strong reason to not change one's mind will win out over the most persuasive and logical argument.

    When considering game mechanics, I think this can then be translated as:

    If the argument is persuasive and logical and the person has no strong reason to object, skip the mechanics and say yes.

    If person has a strong reason to object and is not going to change their mind, either say yes to their opposition, or use mechanics to see what the side effects of the argument are (does one or the other convince an audience, is someone able to gain some concession, could the person be persuaded to act on the request even though they don't change their mind about the reasonableness of the request).

    And in the middle ground, use the mechanics to decide how things go, remembering that persuasion is not JUST the persuader coming up with a brilliant argument, but also the receptiveness of the other to that argument. Sometimes a brilliant argument will just fall flat. I'm sure we've all had that experience.

    Frank
  • I think it has a lot to do with the role the mechanics play in your game. Is the idea to give players the ability to assert their will on foolish NPCs? Is it to show how pointless "just talking" is, to say something about the human condition, or something else?

    Generally speaking, the best way to look at it is to consider what kind of conversation it creates between the players, and start design from there. However, there are lots of other ways:

    When I played more traditional games, I used to think of it like this (a coherent attempt to make negotiation and persuasion mechanics fit into the fold of standard task resolution framework):

    When you attack someone, you describe what you are doing, which defines the effects of your success. Swiping at someone's arm with a knife could scratch them, or it could sever a tendon and leave their hand useless. Slitting someone's throat, on the other hand, will almost certainly leave them bleeding out fairly quickly.

    The roll, then, tells us how well you carry out this act. While unusual approaches might give a bonus or penalty to your roll, generally speaking it's your description which tells what it was you tried and what kind of success is possible, and the die roll which tells us how well you bring it off.

    Similarly, in conversations, I used to remind myself that people are rarely swayed by words, as they tend to be much more affected by their surroundings, peer pressure, body language, the pace of the conversation, possibly intangibles like pheromones and mood, and other things we can't really represent in an RPG. You might disagree to your friend Bob asking you to buy him a drink at the business lunch, but happily agree to buy Lucy one at the bar late at night, often without a second thought as to why (although their tactics, "on paper", were identical).

    So:

    * Your description/roleplaying tells us exactly what strategy you are attempting, and what the possible outcomes might be.
    * If I know how the NPC might react just based on the overtures made, no need to roll.
    * If you're not sure, roll. The roll tells us how *well* the PC carried out the overture. On a good roll, we get the best possible likely outcome. On a poor roll, the worst likely outcome.
    * In the character of the NPC I would try to respond appropriately: taking whatever the PC did in the best or worst possible spirit/interpretation, accordingly. On a high roll, pretend what was being said was delivered by a charming and incredibly charismatic person; on a roll, a rather repulsive creature.

    Just like with the knife. The description is the "move" being attempted, and the roll tells us how well it is attempted.

    This worked passably well, although I'm glad I have more robust rules to lean on these days.
  • edited November 2015
    You can avoid stupid dice/fiction clashes by rolling first and then roleplaying to show everyone what that outcome looks like.

    Not a fan? Neither am I.
    What's wrong with it is that the roll explains what happens. Of course no one is a fan, because it's boring to describe what is already established. Have a game mechanics that doesn't explain what it does in the fiction, and you can get a pretty good persuasion mechanic.

    Don't focus a skill called Persuasion. That's a fiction-descriptive mechanic. What you can aim for instead is "skills" called Love, Envy or something else more specific to Dying Earth, like Customs.

    Or have each roll give a side effect that must be included. Then the roll is not about if someone is persuaded or not but how that person is that.

    If you design a mechanic that makes you go "What did we roll for?" or "What did really happen?", then you're on the right path of designing a "roll first, describe later" system.
  • edited November 2015
    You can avoid stupid dice/fiction clashes by rolling first and then roleplaying to show everyone what that outcome looks like.

    Not a fan? Neither am I.
    No, I'm not a fan at all, although it always looks good to me on paper. When it comes to actual play I find that a player is usually champing at the bit to narrate some contest-winning-argument and stopping them to make them roll a dice first is frustrating to them; even more so if they roll really badly. How does that bad roll match up to the amazing argument they were just going to make? Roll first is nice idea but I haven't seen it work.
    It works for my group, in general; It helps that we have discarded the idea that just because you make a convincing argument, that someone has to be convinced. If that were the case, the internet would be a much quieter place. Let's face it. People are dogged and unreasonable. If they are reasonable, and you have a reason, then you shouldn't be rolling, in much the same way that if you are trying to stab someone in their sleep, you don't have to make a hit roll.

    Actually, I don't really see how changing the order of events makes things any better in your example, since it seems your primary complaint is not "The Player has to stop and make a roll first" but "The Player gets cranky if he has a great argument and rolls badly." It seems to me that it's actually WORSE to play out a short scene where the character makes a great argument and the NPC seems amenable and THEN to make a die roll and go "And then he thumbs his nose at you and says, "Sod off, peasant.""

    Maybe it would help if you framed the roll not as a "persuasion" roll that is the result of what the PC says, but as an "NPC Reaction" roll, that is a result of whether the king's last meal gave him gas, and he had to fire another chambermaid because she wouldn't sleep with him, so this normally ingratiating proposal comes off as smarmy. So you can then use the results of the roll to dictate how the NPC responds to the proposal, instead of having the PC monologue a bunch and then say "Well, okay, he agrees/doesn't agree." Yeah, you could complain that "My skill is called persuasion, why does that factor in if it's just what the king ate this morning?" and the answer there for me is "If you're really persuasive, you might be able to get past that, but a good argument alone won't do it."

    So yeah. I'm firmly in the "roll first" camp here.
    I'm going to look into The One Ring's mechanics right now...
    The thing about The One Ring is that it doesn't HAVE a "persuasion" mechanic, really. I mean, it has a skill called "persuade" but that is used basically the same way a "fast talk" type skill is used in any game. "Roll to persuade". The Encounter rules are more for having an Audience with an Important NPC (I always tend to think of Gandalf and Pippin talking to Denethor) where it's modelling a whole scene, and whether the Important NPC is interested in being helpful or whether he has the adventurers thrown out on their ear for being uncouth foreigners. It's definitely not a "general applicability" kind of mechanic.
  • I agree that, if you're going to use this kind of traditional RPG mechanic, thinking of it as a "reaction roll" rather than a "persuade roll" is a very useful reframing, and will already prevent a number of issues (in terms of expectations as well interpretation).

    As for convincing people: yeah, amen to that. In face, in some scientific studies looking at the effects of arguments, they've found that usually when a person is presented with arguments against something they want or something they believe, the usual effect is just to strengthen their own opinions/beliefs. Quite contrary to what we tend to think!

    In other words, spend an hour debating a point of view with a serious opponent, and the most likely or typical outcome is that you go home even MORE convinced of whatever it was you thought in the first place. (Explains a lot, doesn't it?)

  • In other words, spend an hour debating a point of view with a serious opponent, and the most likely or typical outcome is that you go home even MORE convinced of whatever it was you thought in the first place. (Explains a lot, doesn't it?)
    Only like 90% of the Internet...
  • You're right. It doesn't explain the cat videos.
  • edited November 2015
    I agree that, if you're going to use this kind of traditional RPG mechanic, thinking of it as a "reaction roll" rather than a "persuade roll" is a very useful reframing, and will already prevent a number of issues (in terms of expectations as well interpretation).
    I like where Apocalypse World-styled games tend to take this and run with it, especially when you have moves with prerequisites like "when you have leverage on someone..."

    You have to go into a die roll with the expectation that every mechanical outcome is plausible somehow. My favorite response to the persuasion roll whiff is "your argument failed to sway them/made it worse because there's plenty of stuff you still don't know about them", then you can develop the character of the NPC further through that. So in that regard, it hews closer to dice-as-fiction-generator.
  • edited November 2015
    Burning Wheel's mechanics sound interesting: a mini-game in itself. Do the rules allow for a player's specific arguments to improve or reduce their chance of winning in the duel?
    Specific mechanically-defined choices of argument, yes, absolutely. Specific roleplaying out of argument, no, not at all.

    It depends on how you process it, though. Many BW players are able to parse the player choice of a strategic game option and the character choice of a strategic fictional option as if they're the same thing. The roleplay, then, is a natural part of that choice. You can't just roleplay any old dialogue with an Obfuscate roll; you have to roleplay dialogue that obfuscates (if you can't do that, then you don't get to roll it). For some players, this sort of fiction-mechanics relationship is perfectly sufficient, or even ideal.

    Personally, I find the player mechanical choice to be completely separate from the character fictional choice, but maybe that would change if I got the system down to an unconscious level of familiarity and could spend 100% of my mental focus on making the fiction fit it as seamlessly as possible.

    Again, though, Duel of Wits isn't "persuade an opponent".

    I know the One Ring Encounter system isn't conceived as "persuade an opponent" either, but the rules as Ralph described them seem usable to me in any social encounter which includes an introduction.
    maybe there's room for a pre-persuasion step where we decide whether to roll first or not? E.g. we roll first if the PC has no specific argument they want to make - they will just accept the results of a die roll, at a small penalty if we want to explicitly encourage roleplaying?
    I could certainly see that working. "We generally prefer to roleplay it out, but I can't figure out or portray what my character would do right here, so let's just roll." Might be a nice option to have.

    Probably worth distinguishing between "I don't care"/"I do care but am having an isolated brain cramp"/"I do care but am unable to fully play right now for other reasons".
  • edited November 2015
    Of course no one is a fan, because it's boring to describe what is already established.
    Many people are fans. My taste agrees with yours, but this is definitely just a matter of taste. I know many players whose favorite roleplay activity is taking an established general outcome and then narrating specifics to show everyone how it happened and what it looked like.

  • (It's true. I'm with you and David, but I see a lot of popular games using this kind of design. Presumably someone really enjoys it!)
  • Great discussion. I've got some good ideas from this. This has helped me see an interesting design challenge: try to keep the Dying Earth Abilities (i.e. their names and scores) but change the mechanics for using them. I may take a look trying to re-purpose the Persuade/Rebuff abilities for a reaction-type roll (although not sure how that would work when a PC is the one being persuaded just yet).

    I think the group I play with is generally bored with narrating something that the dice already determined. In fact, I think that is true of my group regardless of the context (combat, persuasion, etc).
  • edited November 2015
    The way I decided to approach this when writing DayTrippers was to not focus on the effect ("Persuasion") but rather on the skill being used ("Rhetoric"). Both characters will roll dice after explaining the points of the argument they are attempting to make, or the position they're holding. And those explanations will create modifiers to the rolls they are about to make.

    So Bob (Player) says "My argument will be that it's standard practice for the client to pay for the vehicle" and Jane (GM) says "Her argument will be that you wrecked the last vehicle you were assigned." These both seem like +1 arguments, so both characters will get a +1. There may be other factors as well, so the GM may apply other modifiers as they see fit. Then the characters roll against each other and we compare their totals on the chart. The actual resolution of Bob's attempt, like everything else in DT, will typically be a combination (YES AND, YES BUT, NO BUT, NO AND).

    So basically, there is no need to speak the actual dialog of the argument (unless you want to). Instead you specify what points you're bringing to bear in the argument. This is similar to specifying what weapon or defense you'll be using in a combat round, before rolling.

  • Of course no one is a fan, because it's boring to describe what is already established.
    Many people are fans. My taste agrees with yours, but this is definitely just a matter of taste. I know many players whose favorite roleplay activity is taking an established general outcome and then narrating specifics to show everyone how it happened and what it looked like.

    What confuses me is that I feel like this is what roleplaying games do ALL THE TIME.

    "I try to hit the orc"
    "Okay, roll some dice and we'll see how that went."

    No one narrates killing the orc and then rolls dice to see how it went.

    No one narrates opening the door and then rolls to see if they pick the lock.

    No one narrates climbing the wall and then rolls to see if they make it to the top.

    Why is it so weird to narrate something that "already happened" with a social mechanic and not with everything else?
  • I suspect it has something to do with the other's character's agency in the situation, personally. (Because, otherwise, you have a pretty good point.)
  • edited November 2015
    @Airk, to me, the relevant difference lies in the size of the gap to be covered by post-roll narration.

    Traditional "succeed/fail" task rolls allow us to narrate every particular of character effort and opposition before rolling, allowing the roll to speak for itself -- basically, at the end of a lock-picking attempt, the die says, "the lock opens" or "the lock doesn't open".

    That's one end of the spectrum.

    The other end is, "state your intent and then roll; after the roll, then establish how you pursued your intent and what opposed you."

    Obviously there's tons of room in between, and that's the matter of taste at issue here.

    Personally, my taste is consistent across encounter types. I like to face and navigate the fiction until as late as reasonably possible in the process, leaving a fairly small gap for the dice to cover, regardless of whether it's a chase or a climb or a negotiation or a fight. (Other things besides encounter type do impact my preference, like "how cool-looking is this" or "how important is this", though. So if all our social encounters were on the mundane and trivial side, I'd be more amenable to rolling earlier for them.)
  • It's not about changing somebody's mind, that is a dumb thing to try and model. It is about getting them to DO something for you. Even something as seemingly similar as 'admit they are wrong for now'.

    This is how Dogs actually works. This is how AW works, and all its variants, and In A Wicked Age. It's how BW's Duel of Wits works, albeit at an angle. I am sure this is how other games that have playable mechanics of this type work. If you just sidestep the 'but do they BELIEEEEEVE me' angle everything runs a thousand times more smoothly for everyone and everything involved.
  • I also like the classic Ron-Edwardsian tenet just reinstated by @IceCreamEmperor: a conflict is never about what the PCs or NPCs think, it's about what they do (all Sorcerer-successor designs work like this, though Sorcerer in particular has the "no mind control" rule as a core principle).

    What it means to port this to a typical skills-and-tasks RPG is that you're reframing Persuasion skills as tools, not an end in themselves. Act out the persuasive conversation as much as you want, but in the end, if you fail at the roll to make them do what you want it means persuading them wasn't enough: it's not that you weren't persuasive enough, but that some other factor prevents the other party from acting in your favor. Like, the doorway guard is really thinking about your revolutionary political views (who knows, they may even join the rebellion at a later date) but right now they aren't willing to risk their job for you, a spirited and glib-tongued total stranger.

    When we play Sorcerer, we take the "no conflict is about persuading" rule pretty seriously, even though we like to have a lot of "just talking" scenes. What we do is, for each witty retort or carefully argued point we do roll dice (usually Will vs. Will), and successes on each roll carry over to the next as bonus dice… but all this rolling accomplishes nothing conclusive in the fiction, it just slowly builds a pool of bonus dice in front of one character: the have "the upper hand" in this conversation, they're more in control of the situation…
    Now, when and if one side of the conversation escalates to a not-just-talking conflict, those bonus dice are brought to bear! This means that a number of scenes to not escalate and aren't conclusive (and those bonus dice just evaporate in the end), when the side holding the upper hand is content with just keeping the status quo and the other side doesn't feel they stand a chance attacking, so they just back down. It's basically a staring contest.
  • edited November 2015
    That sounds interesting. I know it's technically exactly in line with the rules, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually do that. Food for thought!
  • edited November 2015
    While I am a huge fan of "no mind control", the distinction between "make someone believe a thing they didn't believe" and "make someone do a thing they weren't going to do" isn't inherently clear. Every time you make someone do a thing without physically forcing them to, you are making them believe something new -- you're making them believe that they should change their action! Which part of this you care most about is, I think, a matter of taste.

    I remember when Vincent Baker was posting provisional moves (well, Rights, actually) for AW: Dark Ages, and one of them had the feature, "on a good roll, force the other character to choose between giving what you want and incurring the wrath of your liege" or something like that. I looked around to see if there was mechanical support for invoking the liege's wrath (or whatever it was) and didn't find any, so I was like, "I guess it's up to the fiction whether you can back that up" and "either way, isn't that sort of mind control there?" But then I looked at it from the other character's perspective -- "here are your only two options for response" is a bit mind-control-like, yeah (can't remember if there were other ones; there might have been, but it certainly wasn't totally open-ended), but the general position they describe is really about a very simple mental state -- the perception of credibility.

    If I'm roleplaying a character, and I don't want to do what an NPC asks of me, I have no problem with some combo of roleplay and dice telling me, "this guy really seems serious; odds are, he can back this up." It's not mind control because I still have a decision to make.

    So although the rules are wisely covering the bases of "what do you do", those options don't make much sense without us also inferring "what you now believe" -- and of those two conclusions, I find the latter to be less flexible! I pretty much must believe this guy means business, otherwise the rest makes no sense!

    Perhaps that sounds bad in principle, a thing I must believe, but I'm actually fine with it, because of the precise nature of the thing I now believe. "This other guy means business", is non-problematic for me. If anything here is a potential issue, it'd be the rules' prescriptions on how I'm going to act on that belief!

    Point being: I think this is more complicated than just "behavior > thought".

    Given that Bunyip might be embarking on a bit of design right now, definitely a good thing to mention, though. And I would definitely agree that any system that leaves "so what do they do?" completely unaddressed will often be insufficient.
  • edited November 2015
    What it means to port this to a typical skills-and-tasks RPG is that you're reframing Persuasion skills as tools, not an end in themselves. Act out the persuasive conversation as much as you want, but in the end, if you fail at the roll to make them do what you want it means persuading them wasn't enough: it's not that you weren't persuasive enough, but that some other factor prevents the other party from acting in your favor. Like, the doorway guard is really thinking about your revolutionary political views (who knows, they may even join the rebellion at a later date) but right now they aren't willing to risk their job for you, a spirited and glib-tongued total stranger.
    I really like this formulation!

    I think the language is confusing, though -- it'd be nice if we had different terms for (a) admirably attempting persuasion, (b) successfully engaging someone's sympathies, and (c) getting someone to do what you want. I can already hear the arguments about, "So I persuaded him but I didn't persuade him?!"

    Maybe have the character Persuasiveness attribute (plus the roleplay) grant a bonus on a Manipulation Test? I dunno.
    What we do is, for each witty retort or carefully argued point we do roll dice (usually Will vs. Will), and successes on each roll carry over to the next as bonus dice… but all this rolling accomplishes nothing conclusive in the fiction, it just slowly builds a pool of bonus dice in front of one character: the have "the upper hand" in this conversation, they're more in control of the situation…

    Now, when and if one side of the conversation escalates to a not-just-talking conflict, those bonus dice are brought to bear! This means that a number of scenes to not escalate and aren't conclusive (and those bonus dice just evaporate in the end), when the side holding the upper hand is content with just keeping the status quo and the other side doesn't feel they stand a chance attacking, so they just back down. It's basically a staring contest.
    I love this! Rather than waiting for the GM or someone to turn your roleplay into a bonus at roll time, you track the bonus as you play!

    Not sure what I'd think about a Will vs Will type roll in another game -- dunno if it'd be weird in Dying Earth -- but for Sorcerer that sounds perfect to me.

    I'm curious -- do you ever have a moment where one player makes a great argument, and then someone says, "Cool, roll Will vs Will," but then the other player in the conflict says, "There's no way I'd be swayed by that, I don't think we should roll"? If so, is that a problem? Does that deflate the player making the argument? Or do you come up with some way to view "gaining the upper hand" which doesn't involve "you are somewhat swayed by this argument" mandates?
  • I haven't a favourite persuasion mechanic but I have some thoughts,
    Lets identify what's going on first with this spectrum Force - Show - Bribe
    Lets start with show.
    I show you my view of the truth you show me yours. who's is correct ? or the most useful or profitable the list is endless.
    It generally needs a middle man to judge and set down how the truth actual is.
    But lets say there is no middle man we have to come to some resolution.
    Generally that's to agree to disagree.

    But we can argue till we are blue in the face, you cant quantify that, some have a gift to show us up, lower our confidence/Standing. Can that persuade us to agree? maybe if we don't want further embarrassment or loss of face.

    The middle road Show leads to either Force or Bribe.
    Gently at first but eventually to a climatic scene.
    Bribe is not just about money a horses head worked once in a film.

    So why not in character try to persuade with heated debate know your opponent and the weaknesses of his show. Then gently move from that middle road with some force or bribe if this doesn't persuade and you cant agree to disagree bring on the climatic scene.
  • edited November 2015
    I wasn't suggesting that there is an absolute epistemic distinction between what someone does and what they believe, I was just pointing out that mechanics that focus on determining the former are better. One of the many reasons they are better is that they leave enormous leeway on the part of the players in terms of understanding how and why the character ultimately decided to act that way.

    There are many, many different reasons someone might decide to act in apparent contravention of their beliefs or principles other than them actually revising or changing those beliefs. If you want the mechanics to mandate a change to those beliefs and principles, you are massively impinging on the players' ability to rationalize on behalf of their understanding of the character. Beliefs, when they do change, change in a complex, iterative, and organic fashion -- not something a game mechanic is ever going to directly model in a satisfying way.
  • edited November 2015
    Reason being: I'm looking for some to replace the ones in The Dying Earth RPG - I love the game but I really dislike way the back and forth dice mechanic works for persuade/rebuff. In particular, PC tries to persuade NPC and at some point we start rolling dice. Then one side makes what seems like a persuasive argument (verbally - in the DE RPG these verbal statements are interspersed with opposed die rolls) but their subsequent die roll is abysmal and the believability of the conversation falls on its face!

    I don't want to lose the persuade/rebuff abilities and I'd like this type of conflict to feature heavily in my games, so... I was wondering if there are games out there that have dice mechanics for persuasion that work well and cleverly avoid whiff as must as possible?
    Truth be told, I wrote stuff earlier in this thread but that was more a response to other things than the actual topic. The way I would like to see is persuasion mechanics that takes the numbers on the character sheet and translate that into the world.

    So if you got 18 in Charisma, people would be more prone to listen to what you said compared to someone with 3 in Charisma. The trouble is: this is not something that you can put in rules (as I know it), but instead something that should pop up as a game master advice. Did the player try something that would really suck? It would still work because the character has 18 in Charisma!

    This is however written in the context of the players persuading an NPC. For the opposite, I would just talk to the players saying somewhere along the line: "Hey, here it is. Just accept it". You can probably do it in several sneaky ways, but that's the frank way to do it. I thought The Dying Earth were a little too blunt about it, but when thinking about it, it makes sense. The only thing that doesn't make sense is the die roll, that somewhat impose the possibility that you can get away from it. Because, face it, all of Robin D Laws constructions these past last years, have been about railroading.
  • edited November 2015
    @IceCreamEmperor, I hear you. Excellent points. I just wanted to throw in some caveats given Bunyip's specific endeavor. The intent here (as far as I can tell) is to have the hows and whys precede and influence the determination of behavior. "Better room to rationalize" isn't a virtue here, because there's not supposed to be any rationalizing (I think; perhaps I'm wrong). I fully agree with you, though, that a roll that only addresses thoughts and is mute on behavior would probably suck.
    Beliefs, when they do change, change in a complex, iterative, and organic fashion -- not something a game mechanic is ever going to directly model in a satisfying way.
    That sounds like a challenge... :)
    (Well, sort of. I'm not interested in turning people into machines, but I do think it'd be cool to model the factors involved.)
  • First thing, I realize now it sounded like I was implying that "affecting people's beliefs = mind control". No. "The stakes of a conflict are what characters actually do, never what they think or believe" is a rule in Sorcerer and a number of Sorcerer-successor games, including DitV — at least the way I got to play those games. "No mind control" is a separate (if somehow related) rule specific to Sorcerer, and I don't even know why I mentioned that, to be honest.

    Second thing:
    I'm curious -- do you ever have a moment where one player makes a great argument, and then someone says, "Cool, roll Will vs Will," but then the other player in the conflict says, "There's no way I'd be swayed by that, I don't think we should roll"? If so, is that a problem? Does that deflate the player making the argument? Or do you come up with some way to view "gaining the upper hand" which doesn't involve "you are somewhat swayed by this argument" mandates?
    Not in that game, no.

    One reason, possibly, is that most such scenes involved appeals to emotions more than they did "rational" arguments. Also, most were PC-vs-NPC situations where I, as the GM, knew the involved PC (and player!) well-enough to only make relevant points; and, for points the other player made, I would rather have adjusted my NPCs to make them relevant than "blocked" a creative statement (not that it ever came to that).

    But that's my table, and we were playing Sorcerer, which to me sort of represents a climax of engagement, intimacy and required trust for a playing group. It was while discussing this same game on Adept's forums, I think, that I got my big eureka moment about fanmail as training wheels…
    You know, Prime Time Adventures "fanmail"? A core game currency of that game, but fueled by great creative enjoyment moments. I call fanmail "training wheels" because at first, your first couple scenes in your first PTA game, maybe, it looks like you can do without — that those are a special "bonus" you get for doing something really good. But then, really, everything is built on those and you need to give and receive as many as possible… Which is, capped to 1 per player per scene, I think? There's a cap, and that's important because it constantly raises the bar for what you - as a group - are counting as "fanmail-worthy moments". But still, what the game revolves around is discovering those moments and marking them as special. That's why I feel PTA is a (maybe "the") get-to-know-each-other game for a given group, and also, if some moments are worthy of fanmail it inherently means that there are other moments, which aren't. PTA acknowledges and accepts there can be "weak" or at least "routine" moments in play. Not so Sorcerer.
    As much as PTA is a suitable "beginner" game to a group, Sorcerer is the no-holds-barred, no-warranties-given "we're experts now" thing, to be reserved for when you're truly singing together as one. There are no built-in training wheels to get over mediocre moments. Really, my expectation for a Sorcerer game (mostly confirmed for the game I was discussing) is that there will be nothing but a string of "fanmail" moments, endless constant awesomeness — and I wouldn't have bothered suggesting Sorcerer in the first place weren't I 100% sure I could achieve that with those particular people in that particular time of our life. That's also the reason Sorcerer is hopelessly broken to me, BTW: it relies on quantifying awesomeness as an amount of bonus dice, which I can't do, because in order to play Sorcerer functionally I'm relying on my play-group being sound and tested, that is… there's never going to be a reason to be less awesome than the most possible awesome any given play moment. So I ended up changing the way bonus dice are awarded, but that's beside the point here. Back on track, the point is: there were never instances when we had to break the game to tell each other we were doing it wrong, because we had already trained as a group into playing perfectly with each other and it was working… at this level. When something broke, and a scene fell flat, it was only because of old architectures in the game, utterly incompatible with our current sensibilities: Sorcerer is an old, cranky engine. When something almost broke, and then the splinters were felt out of game and hurt, it was because of other reasons altogether: Sorcerer is also a quirky, unapologetic beast, very rough around the edges.
  • That sounds like a challenge... :)
    (Well, sort of. I'm not interested in turning people into machines, but I do think it'd be cool to model the factors involved.)
    Lots of games model the factors involved; the good ones do so in a way that allows the player to do all the heavy lifting in terms of the actual changes themselves.
  • edited November 2015
    @Rafu, okay, so it sounds to me like that group of yours could have been having awesome roleplayed PC-NPC conversations completely freeform and diceless. Hard to get a handle on the utility of the formal procedures there. Honestly, this is what deflates a lot of my own efforts at social conflict design -- the fact that virtually all of my best talky scenes have been freeform. I mean, I still like your incremental building of bonus dice pools, but yeah, maybe if my group really needed them, the experience would be underwhelming. Hmm. Or maybe they'd still be good training wheels, just like fanmail, and help us eventually arrive at the point where we don't need them.

    Brainstorm: some immersive game with a ton of rules, where each rule tells you, "once you can reliably handle this freeform, officially drop this rule". So in the end you wind up playing rules-lite or freeform, but with really good habits!

    I actually pitched Sorcerer to my local group of friends who have only semi-cohered as a roleplaying group, and told them what was required, and they said, "Yeah, I'm not up for bringing that on work nights, let's play something less intense (like PtA!)." So I really like your training wheels analogy.

    @Paul88, I like that you included different stakes at different stages. Before the conflict of interest is resolved, plenty of other relevant stuff can change, whether internal like confidence or external like perceived status. I've been working on a system to try to inter-relate flattery and threats and price-setting, and it keeps getting over-complicated. One day...
  • I guess I'm the only one who loves it when mechanics tell me what my character thinks or believes? Some of my most powerful gaming moments have come from such mechanics and they've often forced me to reevaluate my character, triggering great scenes of development and depth. They've been turning points in my characters' lives and I've never found them to be problematic, as long as I'm willing to play along and figure out what makes this work, rather than fight against it. And, of course, as long as I'm willing to say "That doesn't make sense" when it doesn't, but that's hardly unique for this sort of mechanics.

    Sorry 'bout the OT, but I felt I needed to speak up for mind control mechanics, which are amazing when done right.
  • @Rafu, okay, so it sounds to me like that group of yours could have been having awesome roleplayed PC-NPC conversations completely freeform and diceless. Hard to get a handle on the utility of the formal procedures there. Honestly, this is what deflates a lot of my own efforts at social conflict design -- the fact that virtually all of my best talky scenes have been freeform. I mean, I still like your incremental building of bonus dice pools, but yeah, maybe if my group really needed them, the experience would be underwhelming.
    That's an interesting point. In my own experience, no rule mechanism is ever a substitute for a shared background and experience as a creative team, though the ones which come closer are structures which either provide a lot of easily digested, designer-to-players creative input (like AW, Montsegur 1244 or - to a more limited degree - Fiasco) or highlight ways to socially validate each other's input (like PTA or Swords Without Master).

    "Being able to roleplay [stuff] completely freeform and diceless" is, to me, a good baseline for decent play, yes. I look into rules and procedures not as much as way to reach that point (in my experience it's not a very high bar and you eventually get there when investing enough trust and time into each other) put to put an extra spin on it — to prevent play from becoming predictable.

    Specifically, given that Sorcerer is a conflict-focused game (it will come to a conflict eventually), those Will vs. Will roll during roleplayed conversations provided a way to "store energy" from roleplaying so that it all actually mattered had it come to a non-verbal conflict… Also, and more importantly, those rolls punctuated those scenes like a drumbeat, highlighting the most powerful lines and making them feel memorable. Plus, knowing who was having the "upper hand" in the constant Will vs Will war of attrition at any given moment affected how we roleplayed (i.e. what our characters said), consciously or unconsciously.
  • It seems like Fate/FAE/whatever have a seemingly all purpose sort of resolution that might be useful for this in 'Create Advantage.' You know, you ply the King with gifts, flatteries and honors - you roll for each one, and perhaps you can curry some favor.

    You can then add these advantages to the pertinent roll, when it's time.

    Of course, that's a bit simplistic - I like something to really choose between. So Otherkind or Danger Rolls add to the risk of offering the King a gift. You might offend him, or leave him unimpressed or more.

    The open ended nature appeals to me and has more emotional impact since the actual scene where you ask the King for your own Duchy is not easily gained and not at all guaranteed when you get there.
  • Lots of interesting discussion, here.

    I've never had a moment where a game TOLD me what my character felt which I found really powerful - but I've also played very few of those games. So I'm open to the possibility!

    However, I love games which bribe or entice me into "bending" a certain way. For example, buyoff conditions on Keys (Shadow of Yesterday, Lady Blackbird) put a certain option on the table, and force you to consider it). Same goes for "Taking the Blow" in Dogs in the Vineyard: the game puts it right there in front of you, as an option you'd otherwise be tempted to never even think about - what if my character DID agree to this, what if my character changed her mind?

    I'm not so sure that "diceless freeform" is the apotheosis of wonderful social conflict for that reason, although it certainly has its charms. Mechanics can not only force us to consider options we might otherwise ignore, but they can also be used as a force to inject certain types of material into play (consider how Fiasco carefully measures what proportion of scenes is "good" or "bad" for each character, and how that can translate into unpredictable outcomes - incidentally, including a character losing a social conflict and becoming convinced to follow a bad idea!), to pace the game, and to SIGNAL things to the other players which might otherwise never be seen.

    The Sorcerer dice are a cool example here: just seeing those successes on the table as a "measure" of who has the upper hand is definitely going to impact the roleplaying, and I'm going to occasionally reconsider how my character responds to something.

    If I were designing an "unobtrusive" social combat system, I'd lean towards subtle cues (perhaps through body language or hand signals) which indicate to the other party that you are likely to give in on a certain point, particularly moved by an argument they made, and that kind of thing. Maybe you can cross your arms to indicate you're absolutely not interested in budging on a certain point, but uncross them if you're suddenly not as sure as you thought; that kind of thing.

  • edited November 2015
    Dave,

    This also makes me think of your "GM knows more than the players" mechanic you posted recently, with dice rolled secretly for factors unknown to the players.

    That could be great for social conflicts!

    You collect information (or make educated guesses) about your opponent, and that allows you to collect dice (appeal to mercy = 1 die, mentioning his mother = 1 die, he's sensitive about his looks = 1 die, we know he's having trouble paying rent, so a bribe might be appropriate just now, etc). The opponent rolls some of the dice in secret, for uncertain or wrong assumptions, and some kind of outcome is reached.

    (I do think that you would need an "uncertain" category in this case, for stuff the player or GM hasn't decided yet, but otherwise the mechanic could probably be used "as is", with the potential advantage that you don't want to keep arguing once all your strong points have been used up, because further arguments are likely "no" dice and therefore hurt your chances.)

    That could interesting! (Although pretty heavy mechanically, compared to some of the other approaches we've considered here.)
  • Rafu,

    When successes accumulated from Will/Will rolls in a social setting, how long would those successes "last", in your game? Just for follow-up conflicts, or even to further scenes?
  • I've never had a moment where a game TOLD me what my character felt which I found really powerful - but I've also played very few of those games. So I'm open to the possibility!
    Generally, the "order" comes from another player, but with the game's mechanical weight behind it. But it doesn't even always have to be a game with such a mechanic. Sometimes these things can happen even in games that don't overtly have that kind of rules. Here's an example:

    I was playing a game called "Det sjätte inseglet", an angsty swashbucking game. I played a hot-tempered young Spanish captain fighting Saladin's moors in Spain (it's also a very anachronistic game). I had a scene where I charged into battle with my men, but I lost the conflict. Kim, my fellow player playing the Moors, couldn't describe killing me, so he described how my men fell left and right and I fought furiously and finally I was the only one left, but Saladin, seeing how bravely I had fought, decided to spare my life and let me go. At this moment I was thinking "No way would my character do that! He'd fight to the bitter end! He hates these people and he's fearless and has a death wish!" But then I thought again and decided to go with it. I described how my character realized that he didn't want to die. How he laid down his sword and walked through the rows of Moorish soldiers, them holding their swords up in salute and me feeling the shame of cowardice grip my heart.

    That was an intense scene and a huge turning point for my character. He left the army, took up heavy drinking and ended the game as an assassin working for Saladin, having betrayed everything he once believed in. This wasn't really "mind control", but Kim was describing an outcome that would have me act in a way I felt was contrary to my character. I suppose I could have said "No, this doesn't make sense, I wouldn't accept that, can we narrate me barely escaping with my life instead?", but the game was so much better for me accepting this image of my character and figuring out what it would mean if this was really what he felt/did.
  • That's a great example! (Although it is also an example of an *action* taken by your character, which you then chose to use as inspiration to create a psychological turning-point for the character - you could have just as easily decided it was a ploy to bring down Saladin "from the inside", for instance.)

  • When successes accumulated from Will/Will rolls in a social setting, how long would those successes "last", in your game? Just for follow-up conflicts, or even to further scenes?
    Just for an immediate follow-up conflict — that being a somewhat generous reading of the Sorcerer rules already. Nothing prevents a "follow-up conflict" from effectively being a whole other scene, of course, as "scenes" aren't strictly defined or mechanically restricted in Sorcerer. But the point is whether action followed immediately from the conversation, with the relative psychological state characters achieved in the conversation still being a key factor in the new conflict (not that we ever had to make this reasoning out loud at the table, though). Probably most such conversations ended with the bonus dice just getting "wasted", but this just means they'd served some purpose already.
  • Reason being: I'm looking for some to replace the ones in The Dying Earth RPG - I love the game but I really dislike way the back and forth dice mechanic works for persuade/rebuff. In particular, PC tries to persuade NPC and at some point we start rolling dice. Then one side makes what seems like a persuasive argument (verbally - in the DE RPG these verbal statements are interspersed with opposed die rolls) but their subsequent die roll is abysmal and the believability of the conversation falls on its face!

    I don't want to lose the persuade/rebuff abilities and I'd like this type of conflict to feature heavily in my games, so... I was wondering if there are games out there that have dice mechanics for persuasion that work well and cleverly avoid whiff as must as possible?
    First, it sounds like you might just be able to ignore the mechanics completely, since the problem appears to be a disconnect between the rolling and what people are saying (so if you just focus on what is said, you may get what you are after). If you still want a mechanic for persuasion but want it to fit what pcs and npcs are actually saying, I think it is more about implementation than the mechanic itself.

    I've struggled for a long time with persuasion in games. It has always kind of irked me (both as a GM and player). Mainly because people either roll in place of talking in character or the roll it self doesn't match what people say. While I would like to just junk persuasion completely, I've noticed most players seem to like having it available, so I've developed the following compromising that works with most systems using a roll for a persuasion like ability or skill.

    Just let the characters interact and talk. If the player character says something that would be persuasive, have the NPCs be persuaded. Only call for a roll, after the fact, if there is some doubt in your mind about how successful the PC would be (or NPC if the roll goes both ways). This works really well in my experience and helps avoid most of the issues I have with persuasion.
  • While I don't agree with the Angry GM on everything, I still find his advice useful. He has a lengthy article about social interactions here: theangrygm.com/help-my-players-are-talking-to-things/
    I really like his use of Objectives (things that hinder the NPC from helping you and that you can overcome) and Incentives (things that make the NPC help you and that you can create or play to).
  • @ sbr Thanks for link . never heard of the Angry Gm, some good stuff and makes me chuckle :)
  • edited November 2015
    It occurs to me that Monsterhearts presents a view which is potentially inspired by Sorcerer.

    In Monsterhearts, you can't persuade or manipulate another PC directly, but you can do things like insulting or hurting them - or acting sexy to get their attention - gradually accumulating "Strings" against the character.

    Strings still don't allow you to directly persuade or manipulate another PC, but they give you mechanical leverage over the character: you can offer them a carrot to do what you want, hurt them harder if you get into a fight with them, or have a mechanical advantage against them in certain types of conflicts.

    You haven't changed who they are or what they think, but suddenly there's a definite indirect interest for letting them push you around.

    While quantifying "Strings" so specifically feels perhaps a *little* inorganic, I find this a pretty satisfying way of dealing with (a certain type) of social conflict, and it's reminiscent of the "softer" approach in Sorcerer.
  • There are also some interesting (and occasionally very detailed) takes on persuasion mechanics and such business in the OSR world, like "On the Non-Player Character" (here is a link to a review, if you're curious - the book itself is for sale).
  • So I haven't played Monsterhearts, but as I understand it, there's a move called "Turn someone on" or similar, which means you can, well, turn someone on. That, to me, is telling another player what their character thinks, to some extent. As I had it described to me, there's no "But I'm not into you!" (or even "But I'm not gay!") defense. You're a teenager, you have no control over your sexuality.
  • Telling you what your character feels and telling you what they think turn out to be two very different things, especially when you are playing a teenager.
  • edited November 2015
    True that, but Simon's critique still stands. Your head can tell you you're a pansexual libertine, but if your body doesn't agree, then guess what? You're not.

  • Also, in my experience, telling the player what their character feels if usually more controversial than telling them what they think. "You think he's probably telling the truth" is uncontroversial, but "You really like him" is not.
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