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Yet another social combat system for 3.x

 
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TarkisFlux
Duke


Joined: 22 Jun 2008
Posts: 1078
Location: Magic Mountain, CA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:35 am    Post subject: Yet another social combat system for 3.x Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This is designed to open up the pretty minimal system of diplomacy social interaction that exists in 3.x. It's better with community tome stuff, but still not robust enough for me. It also suffers from a distinct "this does not apply to players" smell, and that's always bothered me.

It's largely inspired by (read: stolen and converted from) the duel of wits system in the burning wheel (Link). I tried to add a bit to it, since I wasn't happy with some of it's limitations. I also tried to open it up to more than two sides, and limit cheerleading aid another crap.

It's not entirely finished, but I've been staring at it too long and wanted some outside opinions. Actual stuff follows in the next few posts.

Edit: Linked source inspiration.
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Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."


Last edited by TarkisFlux on Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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TarkisFlux
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The shape of an argument

Step 1 – Determine sides and stakes.

Every participant in the discussion must state their goals for the discussion. These are generally as simple as what they intend to push for, but may be more complicated. Often they take the form of “If I win, we/you will do...” Participants with similar or compatible goals are then grouped together to form a single side in the argument. Participants whose goals do not contradict the goals of another group should be grouped together as well.

There is no limit to the number of sides that can be staked out in an argument, but the argument will flow better if people group into as few sides as possible; two sides is ideal. If there are three participants in a discussion, for example, and two of them have goals that are separate from and compatible with each other, but are opposed to the position of the third participant, they should be grouped together into a single side with both stated goals.

Once the goals of each side have been stated, all parties must agree to abide by the winning side’s goals. If one side’s goals are completely unacceptable to everyone else, that side doesn’t get to engage in the discussion because no one will meet them half way. If one side is completely unwilling to accept any goals besides its own, that side doesn’t get to engage in the discussion because they won’t meet anyone half way. Because of this, many discussions are never actually had, and that’s completely ok. You generally can’t force people to talk through their problems or come to an agreement if they won’t engage with you.

If you are arguing a case for a jury, magistrate, senate, or some other judging group outside of the parties, it isn’t necessary for the sides to agree to the terms. Instead it is necessary for the judge to agree to the various sides’ goals. If the judging group rejects a particular set of goals, that side is not allowed to participate with those stated goals.

Anyone who is excluded from a discussion for these reasons should not be allowed to continue speaking about it. They had their chance to come to the table and talk it out, and refused to play along or were rebuffed for having too extreme a position. These players may have kept their pride and avoided a possible loss, but they must seek other methods for getting their way.

Step 2 – Determine importance

After the sides have been determined and the goals accepted, you need to decide on the import of the decision. If the discussion is particularly important to any of the participants, the argument is given additional time for both sides to have a fair shake. If it’s a small or trivial thing instead, the discussion may be given less time since it’s less critical to either side. Haggling for 5 or 10 percent off of an item probably isn’t a very big deal, a trade negotiation or minor criminal defense is probably a discussion of average import, and a serious criminal defense or a heated border dispute is probably quite important to the various sides.

Import is measured in how many points you need to win the discussion and get your way. Small things should require a point total of 50 + 1 per average contributor level. Moderate things should require a point total of 70 + 5 per average contributor level. Very important things should require a point total of 90 + 10 per average contributor level. Extremely important things, like surrender negotiations for an entire country, should be broken up into several very important negotiations instead.

Step 3 – Determine primary forms of attack.

With sides taken and import determined, each character must select the method they will fight for their case with. Will they try to win with fear, with compromise, with technical details, or with outright lies? This decision sets the tone for their contribution to the discussion. Each character selects from Appraise, Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate to use as their primary skill. They may still use the other skills during the discussion, but they suffer a -5 penalty to checks with those skills during the match.

For groups of 4 or less, only two characters may select the same primary skill. For groups of 5 or more, no more than 1/4 (round up) of the group may select the same primary skill.

Step 4 – Argue!

Making your case and winning the argument is the whole point, and this is where you make that happen. Before the coming turn, each side decides which action it will take and which member will make the roll. It is recommended that actions are written down so that players don’t have the option of changing their mind after seeing what others have decided to do with their turn. The individual actions are described below.

Once actions have been determined, they are revealed simultaneously and the round begins. Turn order is not specified in advance and isn’t actually important. Instead, it should be determined on a round by round basis in whatever way makes the most sense based on the actions that the sides are taking. If one party decided to use a Feint action for instance and the other had picked a Rebuttal, for example, the Feint would begin the round to be followed by the point.

You can go through the entire discussion simply picking moves and calling them out, but that’s boring and lame. You should actually say something, in character, that supports your action. If you took a point action, you should make a point. If you took a counterpoint action, you should try to tear down your opponent’s point. Keep it simple. You don’t have to be thorough or especially eloquent, that’s where the dice come in.

Regardless of who is taking the action for the group on any particular turn, every other player who has the same primary skill as the main speaker is rolling is allowed to assist the roll. If their check is greater than the primary check -10, the group gains a +2 bonus to the check result. As with the main speaker for the turn, anyone who is assisting must actually say something relevant to the action being taken or their contribution is not counted. In no case can the total of the action exceed 30 + the speaker's skill modifier.

The argument and discussion continues in this fashion until at least one side exceeds the point value agreed upon in the import phase. Any side that overtly attacks the other or simply walks out on the discussion automatically forfeits any progress they have made, resetting their score to 0.

Step 5 – Concessions and compromises

Most arguments don’t end with one side getting everything they want. Any side that gets at least half of the import point total before the end has earned some concessions from the victor. Any side that gets at least three-fourths of the import point total has earned major concessions from the victor.

If two or more groups exceed the import point total on the same round, either has the stronger argument and they must reach some sort of compromise. Generally, this compromise sits as close to the middle of the positions as possible. The trick is that all parties who exceeded the import value have to agree to the compromise or it’s not valid. Essentially, this goal replaces all other goals and the parties have to re-agree to it. If there are additional parties who did not reach the point total, they don’t get any say in accepting the compromise. They are still due concessions from the compromise goal as normal however.

Step 6 – Aftermath…

If you won, you get most or all of what you wanted from the discussion. If you lost, you’re probably less happy with the outcome. You may have agreed to go along with the outcome of the match (or may have the outcome forced upon you), but that’s all you have to do. Your loss doesn’t change your character’s mind or opinion about the subject unless you actually want it to. Most of the time this just means that you still feel the same way about the subject and may try to reargue it in the future or if circumstances change substantially. Occasionally this means that you’ll take some minor petty revenge, walk out on your end of the agreement, or even double-cross the victor at a particularly inopportune time. If you lost because your opponent played dirty you can always demand compensation or blood for the offence. This sort of ‘sore loser’ behavior is frowned upon by any witnesses. If word gets out of your inability to lose gracefully, you may find your opponent’s terms become less favorable. Eventually they may simply refuse to argue with you at all, resorting to more direct methods of getting what they want.
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Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."


Last edited by TarkisFlux on Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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TarkisFlux
Duke


Joined: 22 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Action Descriptions

Action Name – Skill Used*
A brief explanation of the skill and what you should say when you are using it.
Description: A description of how the action works and what checks must be made to turn it against your opponents.
Suggested Uses: Situations when the action would be most useful.
Special: If the verbal maneuver works differently under certain circumstances, you’ll find the details here.

*Skill used: Some actions are better suited to certain skills. If Primary is listed here, any skill selected as your primary skill works fine. If a specific skill is listed here, you suffer a -5 penalty when you use the ability with any other skill set as your primary.


Avoid the Topic – Primary
Instead of trying to further your own position or tear down your opponents’, you simply try to avoid speaking about it. You must not speak directly about the topic of conversation when you use this action.
Description: This sort of defense is ineffective against the Dismissal action, and your opponent still gains full points from the action. Avoiding the Topic automatically beats Feint and Rebuttal actions; your opponent doesn’t have the proper conversation setup to gain any points from those maneuvers. Against any other verbal action, make a check with your primary speaking skill, and subtract the result from your opponents’ result on this turn. This may cause an opponent to fail an action they would otherwise succeed at.
Special: You take a -5 penalty for each group beyond the first that is opposing you in the conversation. The results of this action apply to all of them however.
Suggested Uses: This is a terrible way to win an argument, since you aren’t actually gaining any points. It is mostly effective for buying time, since it stalls all opponents at the cost of your own progress.

Cross Examination – Primary
If you can see a devastating point coming, it may be to your advantage to diffuse or distort it instead of making your own. You must speak disparagingly about a point made this turn when you use this action.
Description: This defense works well against specific points, since you spend your time deconstructing them. Make a standard check, and deduct the result from the points your opponent scored during this round from a Dismiss, Point, or Rebuttal action. You gain a +5 bonus to this check if it is used to defend against a dismiss action. Against the Feint action, this action is useless; the points are scored in a bonus point that occurs after you have deconstructed the fake point. Against any verbal maneuver that does not score points, this action has no effect.
Special: If you are facing multiple opponents, you may only cross examine one of their actions. You may select which opponent to attack after they have taken their turns.
Suggested Uses: When you think a dismissal is coming, it may be beneficial to blunt their attack. While it doesn’t push your points forward for the round, deflecting a dismissal can leave you free to counter attack on the following round when they miss their turn.

Dismiss – Primary
When you’ve built up your case, and want to end it with a final decisive stroke, it’s time for a dismissal. You must speak as if this is the point that will push your side over the top and to victory when you use this action.
Description: This is the strongest of the attack actions, but also one of the most dangerous. In taking a dismiss action, if you do not secure victory you leave yourself open to counter attack. Make a standard skill check, and add 12 to the result. These points are added to your side of the argument. If you have not won the argument at the end of the round, you lose your next action.
Suggested Uses: Dismiss is a strong, but potentially dangerous action to take. It is generally best saved for near the end of a discussion.

Feint – Primary
If you can trick your opponent into rebutting a fake point, you can sneak a real one to greater effect. You have to begin the round speaking a minor point, interrupt when it is later rebutted, and move on to your real point.
Description: A feint is a tricky attack action that only works if your opponent is playing defensively. By setting up an easy point for your opponent to attack, you set them up to be countered by a real point when they least expect it. It allows you to ignore a Cross Examination or Rebuttal, negating both of those actions because they focus on your false point, after which you may make a point that can not be countered. It allows you two chances to beat an opponent attempting to Obfuscate your points this turn. Against any other action, this technique is useless.
Special: Against multiple opponents, this action is treated as a point when determining who can, or must, direct their action against you. You do not need to reveal that it is actually a feint until the time when you interrupt with your real point.
Suggested Uses: This is a strong tactic to use against defensive players, but a near worthless one to use against straightforward, offensive players.

Insult and Slur - Diplomacy; Primary -5
Instead of building up your position on the topic, you attack your opponents personally. You must insult, slur, or otherwise attempt to incite anger in your opponent when you use this action, generally after they have made their points for the round.
Description: A good goading can distract an opponent long enough to get some easy points in. You make a check against your opponent’s primary skill modifier +10. If you succeed, they must make a Will save vs DC 10 + ½ your check amount or they lose their next turn. If you are facing a group, you only need to exceed the current round’s speaker’s skill +10, and only that speaker is allowed a save to avoid the effects for the group.
*If you know something embarrassing and true regarding your opponent, you gain a bonus to this check. The bonus size will be between +2 and +5, the exact size is determined by the DM based on the information at hand. If you use the same embarrassing fact more than once, you only gain this benefit the first time.
Special: If you are facing multiple opposing groups in the discussion, you may select which group to insult after points and retorts have been made for the round.
Suggested Uses: This action is most useful when you need to buy yourself some time, and believe that you can easily infuriate your opponent.

Obfuscate – Bluff; Primary -5
Instead of building up your position, you attempt to confuse your opponent. You must insert red herrings or otherwise distract and confuse your opponent, generally while they are trying to speak.
Description: This action defends against all actions. You and your opponent make opposed checks; against a Feint action your opponent gets to roll twice and take the better result. If you win, they lose their current action. If you win by 5 or more, you also gain a +5 bonus to your next check. If you lose by 5 or more, your opponent gains a +5 bonus to their next action.
Special: You can only obfuscate one group’s action during your turn, regardless of how many you are facing.
Suggested Uses: Because this action counters opponents immediately, even a Dismiss action, it is useful when you need to stop them immediately and want to try for a bonus on your counterattack.

Point – Primary
This straightforward action is simply making a point in support of your position. You must say something that advances a position.
Description: This action is very straightforward. You make a check with your primary skill, and add the results to your import victory pool.
Special: You are not required to make a point for your side of the discussion. There is nothing stopping you from using this point to boost your opponent, though your friends probably won’t appreciate it.
Suggested Uses: This is the most useful action to take in building your argument up. If you are facing multiple groups, it is also useful to make the least opposing position win if you appear to be losing.

Rebuttal – Primary
After allowing your opponent to make a point, you then point out where it is flawed and make a minor point of your own. You must refute your opponent’s argument before following up with your own when you take this action.
Description: This action is a combination of the Cross Examination and Point actions. You must split your skill modifier into two pools, one for the Cross Examination and the other for the Point; each pool must have at least a +1 bonus. You then take a Cross Examination action, rolling 1d10 and adding your custom bonus, and follow it with a Point action, again rolling 1d10 and adding your custom bonus.
Special: Against multiple opponents, you may only rebut one. Like the Point action, you do not need to direct your point to helping your own side.
Suggested Uses: This is a middle ground between offense and defense, and is useful in a variety of situations.

Veiled threat – Intimidation; Primary -5
Instead of boosting your side of the discussion, you insinuate that some unfortunate things could happen if your side doesn’t achieve their goals. You must subtly threaten you opponent or audience when you use this action.
This is intended to set someone up for a dismiss action, or to weaken the next point an opponent tries to make. It's a work in progress.

Special Actions

Distract Audience – Special Action: Perform, BAB
This one would be useable by audience members as well as arguers.
Make a Perform or “Attack” against 10 + highest Sense Motive of relevant audience members. On a success, you distract the other sides and the audience, forcing your opponent to redo his action on his next turn. This allows you to see your opponent’s move before it can take effect, and allows you to select an effective countermeasure. You take a -2 cumulative penalty for each time you successfully distract the audience, and a -5 cumulative penalty each time you fail. If you fail by 10 or more, any further failures will result in an immediate forfeiture of the match.
Also a work in progress.
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Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."


Last edited by TarkisFlux on Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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TarkisFlux
Duke


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Reserved in case i needs it.
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Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."
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Crissa
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Hum, how does this list of actions compare to the list of combat actions?

-Crissa
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TarkisFlux
Duke


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Location: Magic Mountain, CA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Crissa wrote:
Hum, how does this list of actions compare to the list of combat actions?


If I had to draw broad parallels...

Avoid the Topic is similar to a turtling (however it was accomplished for the round).

Cross Examination is similar to a Disarm in function.

Dismiss would be similar to PA, but even more similar to whatever feat lets you dump you AC in trade for damage since the action leaves your defenses compromised. Or maybe a Coup de Grace.

Feint is pretty similar to Feint.

Insult is similar to Trip, since you're taking their next action.

Obfuscate is similar to grappling, complete with opposed checks and everything to make you opponent lose their current turn.

Point is a standard grinding attack.

Rebuttal is similar to fighting defensively, trading a bit of offense for a bit of defense.

Veiled threat is similar to using Intimidate in combat for a fear effect, or it will be as soon as I'm happy with it.

Distract Audience doesn't have any strong direct comparisons, but for fun I'll compare it to Covering Fire. Which only half works as they aren't really that similar.


Which pretty much just leaves Bull Rush and Covering Fire (cause it really doesn't count above) as options that don't have a similar verbal action. I suppose Bull Rush could be brought over in such a way that you attacked their goals and adjusted those instead of working the argument, but that seems redundant with concessions. Covering Fire seems similarly out of place here, it allows you to use your action to shield a friend on the same side and I've tried to collapse multiple actors on the same side into a single acting unit.
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Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."
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Crissa
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yes, but I was just suggesting a numbers comparison.

Apparently many player (maybe most) find the current set of options just for plain combat too big; hence 4e's complete trimming of optional combat maneuvers.

-Crissa
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TarkisFlux
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A numbers comparison is a bit harder. It's not really set up as a hit, do damage, repeat scenario. It's more like rolling and summing skill checks until someone breaks a pre-agreed on total (with some indirect options); that way you don't suffer from singular random successes or failures like you do with skill challenges or single skill checks. It also gives the weaker party an incentive to join in the argument; since it isn't a win or lose on a single roll setup, even people who are likely to lose will probably get more out of the exchange than if they had avoided it.

I'd have to agree that regular combat can grind on a bit, and I do worry that this could get into a bit of a grind if one party insists on turtling. There are significant counters for those however, so I really don't see the grind lasting a long time. The other issue with combat is the long time between actions, and if the whole group is involved in the discussion the dice rolling may be slim but participation should be up. Plus, conversation stuff and attempts to convince people happen all the time, this is just a formalization of it that helps adjudicate results in a way that discourages single roll convincing and also works intra party.
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Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."
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Crissa
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Not those numbers.

Number of options.

That's it. That's all I meant.

-Crissa
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TarkisFlux
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

And here I am being dense :-/ That comparison is easy.

Okay, number of options: Well, there are 2 straight attack actions, 2 straight defense actions, and 1 blended action. There are 3 distracting/debuffing actions, but due to skill setup only 1 of these will be optimal and you shouldn't need to remember the others for any given argument (though different characters on the same side may need to remember different ones). There is also a special action that may or may not be applicable.

That leaves a total of 6 actions to remember during a discussion, plus maybe 1 extra one. There are only 4 offensive actions and 2 or 3 defensive ones to choose from at any time. Since spells pretty much short circuit the whole thing and skip to the end, I don't see them intruding in this in a way that would increase the number of options to remember.
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Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."
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