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The13Fates

Social Challenges & Duels

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Social skill checks are an issue I have with most RPG systems but it's a sticking point in TtB. It's to a degree where I just let it slide now (read "given up") due to it causing arguments at the table and stopping game flow; to make my point clearer, here's a common exchange I would have in the beginning:

FM: "NPC says you're too late and she'll be happy to help you with this matter next week"

Frank: "I try to tell her that it won't take long but we need help asap"

FM: "Okay, that'll be a Convince-Intellect TN10"

Frank: "Can I use Bewitch instead to sympathize with her about work and get her to like me so she'll help us?"

Rachel: "If that doesn't work, can I use Leadership or Deceive?

FM: "Bewitch would be useful long term but won't help you right now, Leadership would work if you owned this company or employed as a manager/supervisor. Deceive could work but you'll be up against her Scrutiny which rises the check to TN12, what do you want to do?"

Frank: "But why wouldn't Bewitch work? I'm using my charm in such a way...

Rachel: "And why would she instantly suspect a lie but be fine with honesty? The check should be the same if it isn't a huge lie, surely"

And so on, what could have been a quick back and forth with options explained turns into a 10 minute debate over skill interpretation. So I've let it go and now simply say "TN# Social check of your choice" which takes away the point of having a skill list in my opinion.

This campaign is near it's end point, but for the next, I would prefer to have a tighter grip around this aspect of the rules, how do I go about these skill checks without it being a massive headache each time a check is called for?

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One option is you can make the characters do what they are doing, and decide what skill they are using. So instead of them argueing over what skill they try to use, they have to actually demonstrate its use. Because trying to order the person back to work is a very different conversation to convincing them to do you a favour because you're just to late, to trying to befriend them, or even just out right lie to make up a reason why they should help. And its very hard to drift form one type to another type without making the person less likely to help.

I wouldn't use the conversation to alter the difficulty, but to at least give you an idea of how they are trying to influence the person. Because of this I would try and get the players to emphisis the skill they want to use.

So it might go a little like this

 

FM:" I'm sorry, you're too late, I'm off home for the night, you'll have to come back next week"

Frank" Sorry, we're late, but this is really important, and will be really quick. If you help us now, you'll probably get a reward from your boss, who is sure to agree that this is very I'mportant"

Rachel " Look, I don't care what you are supposed to be doing. I am a very important person in the Farmers guild, and if you don't stop and help us now, I will speak with all the other farmer conglomarations and we will stop doing business with you and your company"

 

FM- Right, that's a Convince Check from  you Frank, TN 10. Rachel that's a deceive check, TN 12. If Either have a critical fail it will make the others check harder, but otherwise just one of you needs to succeed.

 

 

 

 

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That's pretty much how its going down to be fair, a Deceive check is still lying, an Intimidate is still being socially aggressive etc... it's just when the lines blur, for example:

Frank: "You're a Nice Guy, I wouldn't want to hurt you" *Bewitch*

Rachel: "You're a nice guy, I Wouldn't Want to hurt you" *Deceive*

Luke: "You're a nice guy, I wouldn't want to Hurt You" *Intimidate*

About 30% of the social checks throughout a session feel like this; whatever their approach is, they can twist it to their chosen skill. Why use Convince when Deceive, Bewitch AND Leadership are all better options, create the same/similar result and have more versatility?

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I find social skills in rpg to be generally quite annoying.

Characters can have vastly better or worse social or mental skills than their players. This means that very social players will often dump social skills knowing they can literally talk there way past a lot of situations. But less capabable players may boast these stats to be good at somethign they arent natually good at. If you then require them to talk out the way their characters would they will fail when in game their character should have excelled.

Physical skills are much easier in this regard - eg strong character tries to punch someone, and does.

I think were I'm going with this is I think you should allow some flexibility with the first skill choosen, but then penalise things as the situation gets more bizzare.

A character who is really exceptional at a given social skill probably would manage to apply it in a lot of situations - even if the player doesnt naturally apply it very sensibly and you might want to apply penalties.

If you want a system where players social interactions is matched to what they say, don't use a system with a social rules system :D

Also compare it to combat, in a fight you can typically choose between different combat abilities to achieve the same outcome. You don't typically force characters to use a specific skill (obviously you might have a boxing match, or force ranged combat through use of terrain, but generally you let people solve problems using the way they want)

Sorry for ranting and rambling!

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Combat could have the same problem but it doesn't have the same issue as Social checks because of agreed common sense. No one at my table has ever made a case that throwing a superman punch should use the Rifle skill because of needing to aim (to give an extreme scenario).

This isn't an issue with naturally charismatic people vs Shy people either. I need to know what a PC's approach is regardless of if they use a 30 second theatrical prose or if you say "I lie to him"; you still need to tell me what your intent is and that Intent is what I base the TN of the check on.

My problem starts when a PC with zero ranks in Intimidate, threatens an NPC with physical violence and then the player tells me that it's totally a "Convince" check because of the nightmare that is the english language.

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8 minutes ago, The13Fates said:

My problem starts when a PC with zero ranks in Intimidate, threatens an NPC with physical violence and then the player tells me that it's totally a "Convince" check because of the nightmare that is the english language. 

It's pretty bad if they've specificaly choosen to try to Intimidate someone and want to just use a different skill.

Well in this specfic case, you can let them flip convince as their action.
At which point the npc believes the PC will hit him if he doesn't agree to whatever it was. (presumably this was fairly believable and obvious to start with but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but ya know let the PC waste its action)
At that point the npc isn't specifically intimidated/scared so he can decide if he wants to fight or not  - and can land the first blow if the npc is naturally inclined to violence (or thinks he can win in the fight that he's now fully convinced is going to happen).

It sounds like you should discuss the characters abilities with them. Maybe they just choose the wrong skills for their characters. or you should suggest if they want their characters to succeed they should actually look at what there characters are good at before acting.

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My opinion on social skills is that if a character is terrible at RPing and trying to come up with a interaction for how to get a shop keeper to lower a price or to do them a favor, just have them roll the dice and tell me what theyre attempting to accomplish. for example if a character wants to distract the shop keeper, they can do this several ways

Intimidate: you hulk threateningly in the store often being overly rough with the merchandise making the owner keep his eye on you

Deceive: you rush into the store telling the shop keeper that theres been an accident and he needs to come help

Perform: you go crying into the shop and tell a sweeping story of your poor sister who just needs some medicine your not looking for a handout but maybe you could do some work round the shop.

ect ect 

However if your character is good roleplaying social skills then they should be roleplaying their actual characters social graces not their own but as many players who are good with words tend to not do that, i still require a check on the most compelling of arguments. it does't matter what the player says if the character fucks up the delivery. doing so requires a firm hand from the Fatemaster or dungeonmaster or any game that has a social aspect to it. when you say its this check its that check because thats what type of check your making it sound like. if the barbarian says im going go lift that boulder he has no right to complain when i ask for a strength check instead of intelligence because he was going to set up a complex system of pullies and levers to lift the boulder. I've had a few social hagglers and imo just giving into them just makes it worse as theyre always haggling for the best result. 

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I used opposed flips in TTB so I don't have the same issue.  However, when it comes to social skill use, I ask the player what their "tack" is going to be.

For instance, Fated X wants to convince a guard to let them pass. 

1)  I ask player X what their pitch is for why the guard should accede to the request. 

2)  There then proceeds some role-playing, but some players are less dramatically inclined than others, so the scene is more of a framing mechanism than a deterministic factor.  The fated may come away with a modifier (either positive or negative), and it helps me understand how they're trying to accomplish their goal.

3)  Then I assign a skill check.  Since I don't use single-flip fixed TNs I don't have the same issue you do, but if I did use them, I'd assign it here.  On occasion, the player will appeal for a different skill and if their request is reasonable, I go along.  If not, which rarely happens, I make my ruling and the game continues.  

In essence, I assign the skill check to be used based on the player's declared intention and the role-playing encounter.  In the rare instance the player wants to use a skill I don't think is appropriate, I can point to the role-playing as a basis for my ruling.  If they still don't agree, I just say how it's going to be for now and offer the chance to talk about it afterwards.  As long as you don't seem arbitrary, I've yet to have a player not respect the system, even if they maintain an ultimate disagreement with the result.

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On 8/13/2019 at 5:03 PM, LeperColony said:

I used opposed flips in TTB so I don't have the same issue.  However, when it comes to social skill use, I ask the player what their "tack" is going to be.

For instance, Fated X wants to convince a guard to let them pass. 

1)  I ask player X what their pitch is for why the guard should accede to the request. 

2)  There then proceeds some role-playing, but some players are less dramatically inclined than others, so the scene is more of a framing mechanism than a deterministic factor.  The fated may come away with a modifier (either positive or negative), and it helps me understand how they're trying to accomplish their goal.

3)  Then I assign a skill check.  Since I don't use single-flip fixed TNs I don't have the same issue you do, but if I did use them, I'd assign it here.  On occasion, the player will appeal for a different skill and if their request is reasonable, I go along.  If not, which rarely happens, I make my ruling and the game continues.  

This is mostly what I do in all games with social skills, with a couple caveats.

The first is I like to come up with attitude templates.
For example Basic Guards might respond well to bribes, bewitch and leadership; neutral to Convince; negatively to intimidation and deceit. They probably provide negatives to intimidation the mode guards that are there. But you can still do it - but if you embarrass a guard in front of his coworkers, you gain an enemy for life.

Having these templates, of course, help me in determining standard reactions for random NPCs.

Custom NPCs, however, always have a custom attitude.
But also in this, there are some things a skill will not allow them to change.
You cannot convince a fanatic that he is wrong. But you can befriend him, or deceive him. Still, if you roll a successful convince, I like to give you something. 
Hell, if you fail, I still like to give you those fail forward moments.


The second is that I have come up with a personal rule that I will never give a negative to a social skill where someone tried to RP, no matter if the argument seems uninspired, crazy, strange or not. For the RP only. I have discovered, especially with newer players and less social players, that a negative modifier when they are trying acts as a reinforcement for them to not try. So, I never do it anymore. If the negative was because they are a guard and there is always a negative to intimidate a guard with 3 of his fellows there, I explain that is why the negative is there.
I know that is not what this post was about, but I felt it was a good point of view to add.
 

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3 hours ago, WyrdGM said:

The second is that I have come up with a personal rule that I will never give a negative to a social skill where someone tried to RP, no matter if the argument seems uninspired, crazy, strange or not. For the RP only. I have discovered, especially with newer players and less social players, that a negative modifier when they are trying acts as a reinforcement for them to not try. So, I never do it anymore. If the negative was because they are a guard and there is always a negative to intimidate a guard with 3 of his fellows there, I explain that is why the negative is there.
I know that is not what this post was about, but I felt it was a good point of view to add.
 

This is a fair viewpoint.  But to my mind, I don't see negatives as penalties.  Rather, in my opinion, the basic plot of a game only takes up about half the session.  The other half is the players mucking about, screwing up, chasing red herrings, pursuing their own interests and agendas, etc.  So to me, it's not only appropriate to evaluate what happened in the RP, it often leads the story in other directions.

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18 minutes ago, LeperColony said:

This is a fair viewpoint.  But to my mind, I don't see negatives as penalties.  Rather, in my opinion, the basic plot of a game only takes up about half the session.  The other half is the players mucking about, screwing up, chasing red herrings, pursuing their own interests and agendas, etc.  So to me, it's not only appropriate to evaluate what happened in the RP, it often leads the story in other directions.

I am strictly talking negatives to flips, or dice rolls, based on RPing in a social situation.

Consequences of RP and actions are different.
I am not going to give a player a negative to a flip because their RP was not inspired, or they said the wrong thing but were trying, etc.
I find that can shut down players who are trying to open up.

An example:
P: "I am going to intimidate the guard."
GM: "Okay. He has three buddies behind him, and they are all chuckling and making crude remarks. What exactly are you doing to intimidate him."
P: "I am... umm. I'm gonna get in his face and say 'Shove off, big dummy.'"

Now, in many circles I have been in, that would not be considered inspired, nor even good depending on the delivery. The point, however, is that we want to reward the behavior we want, not penalize it. So, if I give him a negative to a flip, he might pull back and be less likely to try. On the other hand, if I say 'Sure, you got in his face, and he almost takes a step back out of reflex... Make your flip,' then they know they are not being punished for going out of their comfort zone.

I am not saying what anyone else does is bad. Just something I have noticed when running for non social people and newer players. It's an opinion I push to try and be more inclusive in promoting RP. If that makes sense. 

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Oh, I see what you mean.  I don't judge people on the quality of the RP.  

Rather:

P:  "I'm going to intimidate the guard."

G:  "Okay.  He has three buddies behind him, and they are all chuckling and making crude remarks.  What exactly are you doing to intimidate him?"

P:  "I say: 'I'm the Governor General and they'll all hang if they don't move aside!'"

At that point I'd apply a negative modifier because the course of action they've decided to take is less likely to succeed.  But it has nothing to do with how well the line was acted by the actual player.

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44 minutes ago, LeperColony said:

Oh, I see what you mean.  I don't judge people on the quality of the RP.  

Rather:

P:  "I'm going to intimidate the guard."

G:  "Okay.  He has three buddies behind him, and they are all chuckling and making crude remarks.  What exactly are you doing to intimidate him?"

P:  "I say: 'I'm the Governor General and they'll all hang if they don't move aside!'"

At that point I'd apply a negative modifier because the course of action they've decided to take is less likely to succeed.  But it has nothing to do with how well the line was acted by the actual player.

Okay, we're on the same page. 🙂

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