Rhetorics as Resolution

edited October 2008 in Game Design Help
I am designing a game whose premise is about important religious authorities going on a Sacred Pilgrimage on their gods' commands. So they are supposed to be influential and morally unquestionable individuals. So I decided to design this social influences Resolution Mechanic...

Here's the deal. When the players want their characters to persuade other people to act in certain way, being as influential and important as they are, they should be able to do so to some degree.

Phase One: Exposition

The player exposes his intent regarding someone else (it can be a NPC or even a group of them). What do I want them to do.

The player defines his Base Argument. What does he tells people, based on his character's own beliefs and ideals, to convince them they should act the way he wants them to.

If no other player disagrees, then that is what happens. (It is assumed the character was so inspiring and determining that people automatically took his word as the indisputable truth.) If another player isn't happy with that outcome (perhaps it is against his own character's beliefs and ideals), then we have a conflict, and we proceed to Phase Two.

Note that the GM, on the affected NPC's regard, can only disagree if the Argument strongly goes against the NPC's nature or beliefs. Or is described as a very stubborn or eloquent person himself.

Phase Two: Confrontation

The players have three different "Influence Scores": Ethos (appeals to the character's reputation, leadership or authority), Logos (appeals to common sense and logic) and Pathos (appeals to people's feelings).

Each involved player determines which one he'll be using to debate with. He then defines as many Discourses as he has in his pertinent Influence Score. A Discourse is one simple issue that would mean his argument is the best one. (i.e. if you do X, Y will happen because of Z)

The player who first stated his Base Argument (lets call him Player A) has the initiative and states his Base Argument out loud (perhaps elaborating more this time). The conflicting player (Player B) then states his own Base Argument debating or contradicting the one of Player A. (Think of this as an Opening Statement.)

Then each player states consequently his Arguments. An Argument must contain at least one of the determined Discourses, must be shaped in the Rhetorical Form chosen (appealing authority, feelings or logic), and must be based on the character's beliefs and ideals.

After each player has exposed at least one Argument relating each one of his Discourses, the debate is over, and we proceed to the next and last Phase.

Phase Three: Effect

Every other player not in the conflict (including the GM) votes on whom did he think gave the best arguments. Then the one with the greatest score wins.

If there is a draw, then each player gets to expose one last (and hopefully intense and definitive) Argument. If people remain undecided afterwards, it is considered a Non-win situation.

If one player won, then he gets to narrate how people act. Note that he affected people's actions, but not necessarily their intentions and/or way of thinking. They just thought that what he said is indisputable correct, from a moral and ethical perspective.

If no one won, then people just remained undecided, and could not relate to what both parties debated. ("Oh, cool... They are both wise and powerful... Who do I follow then? Oh, my...")

Disclaimer: It is a very subjective and personal resolution mechanic. That is on purpose. ¿Or isn't it how it actually works in Real Life? Debates (political or religious ones at least) are won by the most popular argument, not (necessarily) by the most logical or adequate one. Besides, I do not want those influences to be solved based on how high my Influences Score is, or how good my luck was with the dice tonight.

Now, the thing is that this mechanic sounds cool and functional on paper... But how would it work for real?

I intend to playtest it to see it for myself, but I'm interested in hearing what other people think (or how have similar mechanics worked for them).


  • We'll I've done some argumentation theory, so im going to respond because I think this is a nifty idea,

    however, this is more so a critique/continuation

    First of all dude, your saying RHETORIC, but really you want informal logic and you see them at ends in someway (this is a classical view of things). However your judging seems scewed towards Dialectical exchanges (arguments). There's been a fair ammount of stuff to suggest that the lines we draw between informal or formal logic and rhetoric are not at all what Aristotle (the guy who for the most part originally came up with division) would have done. Whether this is for the better or not is up to you.

    Basically, what are you going to do when the argument is obviously pigheadedly wrong, obnoxious, or otherwise distasteful, but surprisingly moving. Consider some of the great, THEY SUCK speeches, or WE CAN"T speeches (We will never surrender, because well just more or less because ). If your american consider the amount of useless posturizing, and pathoizing( i'm making up words here, bringing in emotion as the argument rather than a tool of the argument) that's going on right now in the election. Obama is a terrorist is a shitty argument, its not true, its not even remotely true, he is a pretty home ground kind of guy, he goes to a christian church etc? But its convincing people, its influencing people. Obama would negotiate with terrorists is just a watered down version of the same shitty argument, yet its even more convinving.

    Basically, a large number of things that are not considered arguments could be constructed as arguments (and the degree to which this is true is debated). Informal logic's emphasis on arguments , text qualities, witty reparties between distinguished gentlemen type figures over letters and scrumpets, which seems to be a lot of what your aiming at cuts out alot of argument, I think you probably want, considereing the rather explicitly political and powerful nature of your players. You say at the end you want your arguments done on popular agreement, but you set the standard by which that aggreement is to be awarded by informal argumentation (how good the argument is, the claim, argument, rebutal form, etc).

    That said, I enjoy that the winner gets to choose what happens, another pit fall of informal argumenation I find to be the convincing but not persuasive argument. One that you can nod your head to , but would never act on.

    You might want to consider the convince <--> persuade boundry as your ways of differentiating argument rather than ethos, logos, or pathos

    [as those catagories are slippery at best, (for example a traditional formal logical fallacy is the appael to authority, or what you would call ethos, which is great but there are lots of time when an appeal to authority is absolutely logical (why can't I do this, the man in charge said no), so is ethos with or against logos, A great many of the informal arguers on the internet so fast to jump on fallacies are committing a kind of fallacy themselves, as sometimes fallacies are absolutely appropiate and correct (Their form may not guarentty their correctness but even a stopped watch is right two times a day ). Sometimes its logical to appeal to emotions, ( you're hurt and want revenge, I can give you revenge vote for me) ]

    You might also want to consider a different model or way of building your arguments, theirs a few out there and I can give references if you please.
  • What Logos said.

    This could be a lot of fun, if it's streamlined a la Polaris to allow for a concise motion of play.
  • edited October 2008
    Ok. A lot to digest from your post. Thanks! ^_^ Keep them coming! It allows me to question my own logic, and to consider how to better structure the mechanic.

    Now, lets reply...
    Posted By: JarrodThis could be a lot of fun, if it's streamlined a la Polaris to allow for a concise motion of play.
    That is basically the main idea. To structure it in a way it is both easy and fluid in play. Which is pretty much why I choose the "Ethos/Pathos/Logos" model. Now, I do understand it is not a perfect model. And that the categories can get to be somewhat interchangeable. That is ok with me. I want them to be more of a tool to help the players define their arguments without needing to be expert orators.

    Now, the thing is I want the characters to "persuade" the NPCs to act in certain way. So I give the players the power to do so. (If they'd want to force them into it, they could simply do so using their "Fireball" spell thingies. But that's besides the point.)

    See, I think what made the most noise to you was the stuff related to meta-play. For example, note that the one that wins the debate is voted by players, not characters. The idea is to out-cool the role playing of the other player, so everyone think I did nice enough. Then, back in the game, we narrate that it was my argument the one people followed. (We are talking medieval in here. Think on how the Pope and the Church used to make people act in certain ways back in the days...)

    On the same level, "the Pope" said I should marry the girl. So I must. He speaks the truth. That doesn't mean I like it the least bit.
    Posted By: Logos7Basically, what are you going to do when the argument is obviously pigheadedly wrong, obnoxious, or otherwise distasteful, but surprisingly moving.
    My premise for the game is precisely to address this. It is a severe critique to Religion, Social and Moral Hypocrisy and Fanaticism.

    Once people is convinced, they blindly follow what you said, because (assumedly) you are the "Voice of God". Does that mean it is the best? Nope. Is it trully the Truth? It depends. Do people follow me? Very likelly. Have they really changed? Maybe.

    The idea is that the character's actions do change the world and the people around them. In a very subjective and political way. Not always for the best, and not even considering every party in the same grounds. Just as in Real Life! Heh!

    About formal and informal logic, I kind of tried to go with formal to be better able to structure it for the players. That is, for them to know how to argument their points and interact in a more or less "fair" ground.
    [as those catagories are slippery at best, (for example a traditional formal logical fallacy is the appael to authority, or what you would call ethos, which is great but there are lots of time when an appeal to authority is absolutely logical (why can't I do this, the man in charge said no), so is ethos with or against logos, A great many of the informal arguers on the internet so fast to jump on fallacies are committing a kind of fallacy themselves, as sometimes fallacies are absolutely appropiate and correct (Their form may not guarentty their correctness but even a stopped watch is right two times a day ). Sometimes its logical to appeal to emotions, ( you're hurt and want revenge, I can give you revenge vote for me) ]
    As I said, the categories are more of a "shape" thing, instead of true formal stereotypes. So as long as you address your Discourse, use your beliefs and appeal to the corresponding thing, it goes. In a non-exclusive sort of way.

    So yes, the logical thing could be to appeal to the emotions. So I'd be using my Logos score. It works. I am using logic, but that doesn't mean I can't involve my authority or the audience feelings.
  • I think its going to get messy, but I think at the heart of it, i'm not sure if your understanding what i mean by persuade vs convince.

    Persuasion is what a lot of people would call Rhetoric, and what you would probably call ethos and pathos in your system

    Convinving is what alot of people would call the 'art of argument' or argumentation or dialectical argumentation and is what you would call logos

    you seem to want persuasion , yet yer language is all geared towards convincing you want claims, arguments counterarguments and rebutals, and all of this stuff expressly favours logos.

    just what im trying to say, best of luck however
  • I see... I get your point. I suppose it is more a matter of semantics.

    In your words, yes. I want logos. And I'd want convincing in a way that it can involve persuasion (but is not exclusively it). Am I making sense? I have a clear idea of this, so I am trying to let you understand it as it is.

    As I said. Yes, the most logical thing could be to follow your feelings. Or not. It's a case to case scenario.
  • edited October 2008
    Posted By: TristanI see... I get your point. I suppose it is more a matter of semantics.
    Actually, I think there's real difference.

    _Example 1_
    Side A (claim and argument): Obama is friends with a terrorist and supports his actions. We have pictures!
    Side B (rebuttal): That's not true. The claim is misleading at some points due to X and false at other points due to Y.
    Side A (counter-rebuttal): Your evidence of X and Y are flawed. Obama is still friends with a terrorist.
    voters: Hmmm...

    _Example 2_
    Side A (claim): Obama is friends with a terrorist and supports his actions!
    Side B (rhetoric): Obama was 8. He wants change for America, and McCain is distracting us from the economy with this kind of talk.
    voters: Let's get the pitchforks!

    Example 2 is not just semantically different than Example 1. There's no real rebuttal or counterargument in Example 2. People just say stuff without directly addressing each other's evidence or arguments. Example 2 at its "best" is also so much more effective than Example 1 that it routinely scares me to think about it.

    Your example about the Pope is a lot closer to Example 2 than 1. The Pope says a thing, I do what he says. The Pope doesn't have to convince me in a long and complicated debate - that shit very explicitly happens behind closed doors, if at all. I do what he says for other reasons, and I'm not at all privy to whatever debate exists. I'm not sure where "the people" are in your game - are they listening to this, or does the winning player get to walk out the door and pronounce the Truth to "the people"?

    Another example: there was this movie a few years ago about a couple of suicide bombers in Israel. Roger Ebert said in his review that he'd like to see a movie about an atheist suicide bomber - a person who had been convinced by argument, logic, and rationale that the best thing he could do with his one and only chance at life would be to end it in the service of this particular cause, with no possible reward or compensation that could possibly benefit him. There's a difference there.
  • edited October 2008
    People is the audience.

    Let me give a little example.

    PCs cross a peasants' little homlet.* An old man, a young man and a pretty girl approach.

    The old man claims to be the girl's father. He says his family is in dire need. They will loose everything they have if they don't get enough money.

    The young man lusts after the girl, so he offered a deal. He will give them the money, if she marries him.

    The girl does not loves (or even likes) the young man. And she likes even less being forced into something she doesn't want to do.

    The father knows times are thought, but he does love his daughter.

    And then, the "Pope" came. The PCs, being so important and influential members of different Churches, must have some deeper Insight about Morals and Justice. So they approach them. They ask them to spiritually guide them into choosing what is best.

    One of the PCs is a priest of the Church of Pyra, a Godess that values passion, freedom and individualism over everything else. His beliefs lead him to advice against the marriage.

    "Indeed times are though, my brothers. But the Goddess commands us to respect our passions and the feelings of those close to us. A forced wedding will surely displease the Goddess."

    Then player B goes all "Hell no!" His deity is Aquarium, a God whose main principles talk about reason, pragmatism and order.

    So we go into Debate mode.

    The players do their thing. Argument, debate and stuff. The Pyrite will most likely appeal the feelings (using the Pathos form), and the Aquarian will most likely appeal the logic (Logos form). Of course, that doesn't mean our Aqua guy could argue that if she marries him, she'll be rich and have a lot of freedom to pursue her own passions and desires, and if her family remains poor, she will not (in essence mixing feelings and logic).

    The debate is over. The Players decide that the Aquarian arguments were the coolest. (He did addressed the girl's feelings in a way that seemed both logical and understandable.) So they vote for him. He won, so he gets to narrate.

    The priests debate, and then it becomes clear to the commoners that the clear and moral way would be to proceed with the marriage and let the girl deal with her issues on her own. That is the Truth. That is the Way. That is the Word of the Gods.

    They thank the priests, and ask the Aquarian to perform the ceremony. The girl marries. She is far from happy, but that is what is right. The Priest said so, and she doesn't want to offend the God Aquarium, or displease her father.

    That is pretty much why I choose the "Pope" example. And exactly why I believe the "the effect is more important than the "correctness" of the argument" is more a feature than a problem.

    *Things in the red font represent things in the Fiction. Everything else is "meta-game".
  • You know what this needs? A more sophisticated take-up of classical rhetoric, is what!

    Logos, ethos, and pathos aren't inherent in the speaker; they inhere within the speech, which is perhaps best understood as involving a connection between speaker and audience. And you don't use them one at a time--you use them in concert. And it turns out that certain combinations are more or less effective depending on what effect you're trying to achieve in your speech.


    Deliberation (to establish a policy as right or wrong; oriented to future, answers "what should we do?"): logos + pathos (i.e., examples & analogies given emotional valence, because decision-making requires emotional commitment).
    Forensic (to establish a proposition as true or false; oriented to past, answers "what happened?"): logos + ethos (i.e., evidence, expertise, and eyewitnesses).
    Epideictic (to establish its object as praiseworthy or blameful; answers "whom should we honor (or despise)?"): pathos + ethos (i.e., emotionally weighted testaments to and affirmations of character).

    Notice that the three genres of rhetoric are tied pretty closely to the question of effect: behavior (deliberative), beliefs (forensic), and attitudes (epideictic). And while it's not exactly true to say that attitudes condition beliefs which in turn drive behaviors, it will do as a first approximation, since certainly that's how people rationalize their own actions.

    So, really, what you're looking for is for each player to frame his effort at persuasion in terms of which proofs he'll employ (i.e., how logos, ethos, and pathos will be invoked) and what effect he desires (i.e., change or reinforce behavior, beliefs, or attitude). The skill with which the character invokes those proofs should be tied to her rhetorical skills of invention (what ideas to use), style (how to organize and phrase them), and delivery (how to speak the speech). Invention is good for logos and also for "borrowing" ethos from credible sources. Style is good for establishing one's own ethos, generating pathos, and covering up weaknesses in one's logos. Delivery is the main tool for projecting pathos and for creating ethos.

    I don't think you can rely on player judgment of in-game argument; there's no way the players will be able to escape the meta-game level and frankly the level of social and interpersonal dynamics at the table. But have them roll for invention, style, and delivery, and see how the argument then generates logos, ethos, and pathos, and determine if the resulting persuasion levels are sufficient to achieve the desired effect in terms of the hearer's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

    That's what I think.
  • Ok, that's a nice one...

    Now, first (and God, I hate repeating myself) let me say (once again) that my Ethos/Logos/Pathos approach is merely a shaping tool. More of a guideline to help the players focus their speeches in a way that is measurable and coherent with their characters. And yes, I do not intend them to use them one at a time, nor to always use the same one regardless of which one would be the most appropriate one.

    Of course, the part that could use some improvement is structuring the way Arguments are stated. And that is the part where these three genres could fit just perfectly. I even like it for the other side of the screen. The GM could in fact say "Ok, so you are trying to persuade them about what they should do. Then you'll have to use Logos and Pathos."

    I'll think more about this, but I think there is some potential in there...

    I do trust the players enough to give them that judgment powers. But I suppose structuring that judgment based on some set standards and criteria will help a lot. "Nice... So now, people, consider the debaters' invention, style and delivery. Which one won? Vote!"

    Funny. At first I did read your post a little defensively. I was like "No way! That's not how it works!" Then, as I was re-reading it to reply, it started clicking... "Mmm... Well, technically it isn't contradicting anything I said previously. Basically all I need to do is to add that to what I already have, and I'd have a prettier, more functional and easy to approach structure." Nice. That was one of the things I was the most worried about. I intend to "ritualize" it (in a Polaris sort of way) so it is accessible and functional for all sort of players (both eloquent, "normal" and shy ones).
  • that said,

    I think you definitely should play up the accountability/transparancy thing, as a criteria for success.

    I'm getting this old testament judges vibe, which I think is pretty kewl

    judges, while (way back then) religious figures, have a certain amount of accountability to the populace that a rhetorical speaker would not (no one expects the soap box artist to be there day in and day out or when the shit hits the fan, unlike a judge)

    However, another issue is that your argument, counterargument, rebutal scheme can be confusing and empty at times. I'm not saying it doesn't work just that their is better models for argument

    consider instead of the dialect two person model going back and forth (claim, argument, counterclaim counterargument, rebutal, counterrebutal, etc)

    the DWC (Data, Warrent, Claim) model

    Data ----> Since Warrent -----> So, Qualifier, Claim
    || ||
    On Account of Unless
    Backing Rebutal

    Data is the information or the context
    Warrent is the part of the data that gives rise to the claim
    Backing is the appeal to genreally held theories and claims to give rise to a warrent
    Qualifier is a reduction or defining or qualifying of the claim,
    The rebutal is litterally the classical rebutal
    Claim is the end product rather than the begining of the whole thing

    the whole, deliberation, forensic, epidectic diffentiation , is a whole lot cleaner than logos,ethos,pathos but as things like philosophy of science and otherthings show, they are still not clean little boxes just much less fuzzy ones. (i'm not knocking them, just bringing them up)

    Also here's my references and stuff, because god knows i didn't think of this stuff on my own and because one of these might be helpful to you.

    the dwc model is as portrayed in Coalescent Argumentation, by Michael A. Gilbert ( a good primer/ lay person read on the subject, but is argueing for a very inclusive and holistic view)

    I also use and recommend, A systematic Theory of Argumentation , the Pragma-Dialectical Approach, by Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst for a pretty rousing defence of the style of argument you intially posted (a bit more technical but accessible to anyone interested in the subject I think)

    and if your interested, Acts of Arguing, A Rhetorical Model of Argument by Chrisopher W. Tindale ( banging on the rhetorical rhetoric drum and again i think a good lay read)

    these things all have references to the big works in the field (New Rhetoric comes to mind, but i honestly don't think you need to go there)
  • Tristan -- Thanks for reading charitably; I should have made a greater effort not to sound over-critical. I won't press the question of whether you can rely on players to "fairly" judge each other's arguments, but I will note Upton Sinclair's comment, to the effect that it's hard to convince an audience whose continued livelihood depends on them not being convinced. That issue aside, I'm glad my other comments had some value. I'll let you decide how much you want to incorporate the argumentation theory Logos7 brings up, but my sense is that it may be a little too logocentric for your purposes.
  • edited October 2008
    Weeee! Theory. Nice. Even if I don't use it all in the end, one has to know the rules in order to break them. Heh!

    I'd read those sources later, in order to better digest them.

    My opinion about the argumentation stuff is close to what Bill said... It is cool, truly structured and makes a lot of sense... But perhaps it is a little too formal, too "logos" for me. I want to keep it simple and somewhat open. Structured enough to make it "fair", but free enough not to scare most people who know little about formal argumentation stuff.

    I will most definitely use the Deliberation/Forensics/Epideitic angle. I'd just like different names for those... (By any chance... how are they called in Latin?)
    Posted By: Bill_WhiteI won't press the question of whether you can rely on players to "fairly" judge each other's arguments, but I will note Upton Sinclair's comment, to the effect that it's hard to convince an audience whose continued livelihood depends on them not being convinced.
    I get your point. It is a tricky question.

    However, there is another aspect of the game I haven't talked about. (Perhaps it could have helped if I brought it earlier.)

    The game works like this: There are 12 Characters. Period. Three of each Element (Earth, Fire, Water, Air), and Four of each Primary Aspect (Mind, Body, Spirit). The players will get to choose which ones they want. In the end all 12 have to be chosen. So in essence everyone will have more than one character. At the very least 2, probably more. And they don't have to be of the same Element or Approach. Hell, that is probably one of the fun parts of the game.

    I would find it very interesting as a player to have characters of opposing factions within my command... So sure, my Terran guy agrees with the "marry him" argument... But perhaps I also have an Aeolyan priest that disagrees...

    Sure, that would bring a very meta-game aspect to the table. But a fun one indeed. And that way it is not warranted that I'd automatically agree something. I have to think. Maybe it is good for one of my characters, but what about the others?

    In the other parts of the game, the mechanics are designed to favor those who play their characters coherently and in-character. So I can't just neglect the others in favor of one in particular.
Sign In or Register to comment.