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Social encounters, Social Combat, Duel of Wits and Social Actions During Combat - Concepts

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#1 Emirikol


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Posted 02 May 2013 - 07:19 AM

This is a topic worthy of discussion I think in the general forums, as it's not just up to the GM to make it happen.  Players, I think, need to encourage their GMs to give them some interesting results when they make general social skill checks or "perform stunt" or use their Social Action cards.  Additional feedback and discussion is welcome!


How is it working in your games or do you mostly only use rule consequences for physical actions and not social actions?


<cross-posted>This is something that has really ramped up in my WFRP games. Our social encounters fall into FOUR general categories. Once you decide which TYPE of encounter it is, you can make your social encounters much more meaningful. Two terms must be remembered: INFLUENCE and SHAME. Shame is for social combat. Influence is for getting someone to do what you want (give you information, agree to something, etc.) Influence also equals shame if applicable and can inflict shame.

Here are the four types of Social Encounters:

Social Encounter Type One: Single Check by single player character (pass/Fail)
* Haggling, gossip at a tavern, asking peasants for directions to the local magistrate
* No Initiative necessary; occurs generally in story-mode. Shame doesn't occur, but stress might. May take multiple rounds to succeed at influencing the target.

Social Encounter Type Two: Unopposed Multi-Event checks
* Pleasant dinner party with three courses where you are simply making a charm(gossip) check each round or if the party is split up and 4 events are occurring simultaneously.
* Initiative not usually rolled; occurs generally in story-mode. Shame doesn't occur but stress might.

Social Encounter Type Three: Duel of Wits/Social Combat
* Negotiation situation where someone is challenging your honor or attempting to oppose whatever you are attempting to accomplish.
* Initiative required
* GM may rule that only one or two characters make the INFLUENCE check with others only able to use SUPPORT social actions.
* Goes on until one person exceeds their Shame Threshold.
* You are ENGAGED to the target. If you leave, they may follow and continue to shame/influence you.
* This situation also occurs if an NPC attempts to influence a player character. It is ALWAYS a duel of wits and never a single check. For example: a local ***** (secret cultist) attempts to convince a player character to come up to room. Instead of "shame" it is technically influence, but the mechanic is the same. A player can over-ride this, but it's better if they actually play their character as influenced and not meta-game  Don't willy-nilly these situations for every proposition a player character gets..only use them for IMPORTANT situations.

4. Social Actions During Physical Combat:
* Monsters are lining up against you and one player decides to use Steely Gaze to intimidate a creature to move-along, flee, or at least not attack him. 
* Initiative: Yes - use combat initiative.

Next: PERFORM STUNT is the default social influence/shame card. I always give it ONE PURPLE minimum, plus the difficulty of the check, PLUS the difficulty of the action you are attempting to duplicate. For example FLIRT is a card from lure of power. Use the chart below for quick reference. 

a) Do you roll for initiative and prepare a tracker, to track who will begin first talking, swaying, lying, intimidating etc. ?
see above

b) Can you walk around in the encounter, such as if, go from engaged to close range, or something like that?
see above
c) Could you provide an example?
see above

Also, I am also lost on the Action cards and when to use them, outside of encounters.a) Can you use an Action card outside of the encounter? If so, how do you remove the cooldown tokens? Is it once per day,hour,minute,second?

If in combat, then it while the encounter is occurring. If it is in story mode, then it is when the GM feels adequate (see single-check above).

b) This also applies to talents and other abilities, how do you manage these and explain clearly to people, when they just simply want to use these outside of combat or social encounter?

For a SINGLE-CHECK encounter (for example: bribing a low-level guard), let them use what they want.

I've found it best to ENCOURAGE as much social action as we do combat action. It helps drive the story and encourages players to make their characters more than just axe-wielding morons 

LURE OF POWER has a really good explanation of this inside the book. I highly recommend taking a look at it and then just discussing the 4 situations above with them and how it will work. It's really no different from Physical Combat or a regular skill check, but if you encourage players to use them, they will!

One more thing about Lure of Power.  When it came out, we all got our undies in a bunch because many of the cards looked like basic skill check types of things:  flirt, bribery, etc.  In reality, these cards are "Advanced" versions of those skills, much like "improved dodge" is an advanced version of dodge.  For simple skill checks, "flirt" comes down to pass-fail.  The Flirt card gives you additional powers and should have a lower difficulty than a Perform Stunt (considering you should always add an extra purple to the difficulty of any Action Card use that the player doesn't have..double-strike for example in Melee combat).


Also, I'd print out the list below for handy reference as a GM and for the players to show them how cool using social actions can get. Most player characters will only have one social action at most and will be stuck using Perform Stunt (always add a 1 purple penalty if they don't have the action card that they need..for example FLIRT), but that shouldn't disencourage them from attempting to INFLUENCE targets using the rules.

Hyper Convenient List of Social Actions 
Basic: Perform Stunt (social): Card difficulty is one purple, plus whatever the 
opposed check is (if applicable) Green/Red and recharge time are coded. 

CORE/Player's Guide (p274+) (Green/Red) Purple/black 
1. Big City Bravado (G/R)b-red social bonus white 
2. Conundrum (G/R)-delay one ability one round 
3. Devious Manoeuvre (G/R)-target gains one bonus or penalty 
4. Exploit Opening (G/R)b-ally gets a free maneuver 
5. Fake Out (G)-®b-influence 
6. Fear Me! (G/R)bb-influence and fear1 
7. Fluster (G/R)bb-green white bonus to social 
8. Formal Diplomacy/Informal Carousing (G)bb®P-influence 
9. Honeyed Words (G/R)--influence 
10. I Thought We Were Friends (G/R)b-green gets penalty to social 
11. Inspiring Words (G/R)bb-inspired and influence 
12. Scrutinize (G/R)b-learn fact 
13. Staring Contest (G/R)-influence 
14. Steely Gaze (G/R)-influence 
15. Trivial Knowledge (G/R)-bonus white 
16. Twisting Words (G/R)-bonus white and penalty black 
17. Winning Smile (G/R)-influence and being attacked delayed by one round 
Lure of Power 
18. Bad/Good Witch Hunter–LoP- (R/G)-influence 
19. Berate/Belittle –LoP- ® bb- (G)b- stress + influence or reckless 
20. Blather –LoP- ®Pb (G)P-add 1p to opponent 
21. Bolster–LoP- (R/G)Pb –target increases shame threshold 
22. Bribery–LoP- (R/G) b- Influence on bribe 
23. Compose Yourself–LoP- (both)PP-Recover shame 
24. Crack a Joke –LoP- (R/G) b-modify stealth/skullduggery 
25. Don't you know who I work for? –LoP- (R/G)b-influence 
26. Feel for the Moment –LoP- (R/G)PPb-recharge other card & roleplay 
27. Flirt –LoP- ®bb(G)b-influence 
28. Impersonate-LoP ®PP-Guile(G)guile or social 
29. Incite/Calm down –LoP-®P-target reckless(G)target conservative 
30. Intuit Intention –LoP- (R/Gb-opponent gets penalty to guile 
31. Me First (R/G) Reaction interrupt 
32. Obfuscate/Elucidate –LoP- (R/G)P-influence 
33. Perfect Gift –LoP- (R/G)PP-influence 
34. Quip –LoP- (R/G)-reaction add 1 white to social 
35. Sage Advice –LoP- (R/G)-Add 1 white to social for target 
36. Sermon –LoP- (R/G)PP-Influence 
37. Skeleton in the Closet –LoP- ®P(G)-Influence 
38. Style and Grace –LoP- ®PP(G)Pb-bonus white to social 
39. Twist the Knife –LoP- (R/G)-target’s shame turns one to insanity 
40. Teller of Tales –LoP- (R/G)PP-influence 
Black Fire Pass 
41. Litany of Grudges -BFP-Dwarf only- (G)PP(R4)-Influence on 1+ 
42. Social Drinking –BFP- (G!)PP-influence on 3+-(R5)P-Influence on 1+ 
43. Dwarf Stubbornness -BFP- Dwarf only (G4/R4)-/- =-Reaction bonus 
Liber Fanatica #8 (pull-out section) 
44. Solemn Glance /Indignant Glare–LF8-(G)Pb®Pbb-Fel 2 white or purple 
45. Putting it As it Is/Verbal Fireworks–LF8- (G)PP®P-influence 
46. Debater/Trained Voice –LF8-(G/R)--enhance 
47. Look At'em Mommy's Boys! –LF8- (G)Pb®Pbb-Inspired 
48. Pulling the Plug/Tongue Lashing –LF8- (G/R)P-target move more neutral 
49. Scrimshank/Not Bothered –LF8- (G)P®Pb-guile or ignore 
50. Reading the Crowd/Chat'em up! –LF8- (G)bb®P-white to social

#2 GoblynKing



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Posted 03 May 2013 - 04:09 AM

Good work sir!

This is proving to be quite inspirational for me. I've had trouble coming up with social encounters and checks that are more than just pass/fail.

I especially love the concept of using "Influence" in place of Shame…a concept that should have been suggested in Lure of Power to begin with.

Thanks again!


#3 r_b_bergstrom



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Posted 03 May 2013 - 07:36 AM

Lots of good work and thought there. Compiling a list of social actions and their stats was really sharp.

I wish FFG had published a Generic Basic Social Action card. Seems like that would have been easy enough for them to do. I realize that's a high degree of overlap with Perform A Stunt, but it sure would be nice to have a single standard for what a Charm/Leadership/Guile/Intimidate check to Influence the Target should look like. Given the disorganized nature of the action cards, it's hard for a starting GM to do that analysis themselves.

I LOVE/HATE the Perform A Stunt card. It's great that there's a card to remind the players that if they get some cool idea they can give it a go even though they don't have an action that represents it. But it's so hard to come up with a fair difficulty for things. Make it too easy, and you'll invalidate some existing action(s). Make it too hard, and you've undermined the whole point of having Perform A Stunt in the deck in the first place.



As to the "Can I use these actions outside of Combat?" and "What does recharge mean outside of an encounter?" questions, the official answer is squirreled away in the "Relative Timeframe & Scale" sidebar on page 16 of the Tome of Adventure. It's pretty easy to miss. In a nutshell, the rules intentionally do not define how long a "Round" represents. One of the examples there has each Day be a single round, and they encourage the GM to alter round length depending on the situation and needs of the story. I think it'd be fair to paraphrase it as "a round is whatever amount of time it takes for all involved parties to get an action".

In my experience, that soft recharge gets used mainly for "Buff" actions. Inspiring Words, Fiery Passion, etc. If a PC wants to pop a Buff between encounters, then it only recharges when they make die rolls. That way it's pretty easy to have 1 or 2 buffs up and running at the start of any given encounter, but if you start trying to stack a bunch of them they'll wear off quickly as you roll repeatedly.  Without these softer recharge times, I've found that actions like Big City Bravado have too high of opportunity costs to ever be worthwhile. (Simple success is usually easy, so you'd almost always rather make an Influence attempt yourself rather than spend your entire action just adding 1 die to someone else's Influence attempts for a couple turns.) With the softer recharge times allowing you to actually start the next encounter with a round or two left on such a buff, some of these actions are actually worth spending XP on.




#4 Emirikol


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Posted 03 May 2013 - 11:28 AM

I just clarified the house rule in my house rulebook regarding this:


Social Influence & Shame                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Perform Stunt Basic for a Social Action (Social Influence/Shame) - Difficulty is increased by one purple (this usually means 2 purple).  Multiple successes aren’t going to happen if there is an actual action card for that.  Also, any card that inflicts Shame may instead be used to Influence (and vice versa) when it seems appropriate.


#5 Yepesnopes



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Posted 03 May 2013 - 05:58 PM

I have to say that I don't think you are doing a good approach here. If I understand your worries, you want to make the social action cards more appealing to your players. I don't think giving them penalties for not having the "right" action card is the way to go. You will transform a rpg into a stikers game or into magic the gathering. Will you penalize the thief for not having the openlock action card? or the merchant for not having the haggle action card? or the scout for not having the follow trail action card? I agree with you that action cards like flirt or bribe should be advanced versions of the basic action covered by the skill itself. The problem is that they are not, and that is why players tend not to pick them. With double strike, execution shot, twin pistols… we have the same issue but in the opposite direction. The game should provide clear rules for how two fight with two weapons (like SW EotE does) and then these cards would be the improved or specialized way to do it.

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#6 Emirikol


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Posted 03 May 2013 - 06:24 PM

Agreed, but I consider all cards to be the advanced versions of such things.  2 weapon strike card IS  the advanced version.     It shoud be easier for a person who is actually "trained" in such things and it should be harder for a novice otherwise you're punishing social characters..hence why the addition of a single purple die on top of whatever the difficulty of ANY advanced action is such a simple solution.

 In my opinion, simple skill checks are too boring.  I like having the Advanced actions with real consequences and lots of alternative effects rather than just one standard effect.

How does eote do social actions?  I'm not at all familiar with what they've done with flirt, influence, social combat, duels of withs, shame, etc.  Is that system more developed for social actions?   I've been modeling a lot of my current approaches after SMALLVILLE and like to see how other game systems handle such things in ways beyond simple skill checks and can integrate non-physical/combat approaches to resolution and consequences.


I add this thought on proficiency for social actions:
* Acquired Basic Skill by a Non-Social Character- Example:  Charm when attempting to flirt. This would be like watching a boy kiss a girl for the first time.
* Acquired Basic Skill by a Social Character - Example: A young noble knowing the courtship rituals, but never having taken much interest in it. 
* Trained - Example: Very skilled at Charm, but still not specialized at flirting. 
* Specialized - Very good at flirting.  Knows how to use it to their advantage.
* Advanced Action Card - Better than specialized at flirting. Can be bolstered by additional training and specialization.



#7 valvorik



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Posted 05 May 2013 - 03:36 AM

I agree with Emirikol that many action cards represent, "the skilled, get premium results" version of something anyone can try.  I generally try to let people do things like the action cards such a Grapple, Threading the Needle and social ones without card but "not as easily nor with all the extra outcomes and sometimes with extra negative effects possible (e.g., shoot into melee without ThN, chaos star or 3 banes = hit an ally in the engagement for basic ranged attack damage)".  Perform a Stunt is a good default as the single bane negative effect signals the "you're not really skilled at this".

To the main point of thread, thanks for collating this and building on it.  It's similar to how I've been running game but gives me some thought for improving.  The noble's imporved Shame threshold is a nice reminder of the setting:  the innate confidence nobles have that they are right.  I would let appropriate career traits improve a PC or NPC threshold when relevant (e.g., arguing a point of faith with a zealot, there fanatic and devoted traits might improve their shame threshold).

#8 Yepesnopes



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Posted 05 May 2013 - 04:58 AM

valvorik said:

I agree with Emirikol that many action cards represent, "the skilled, get premium results" version of something anyone can try.

We all agree on that, and this is precisely what I want to point out. The action card already gives (or should give) an added value to the character having it, no need to put extra penalties like adding a challenge dice to an opposite check. Just my thought though.

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#9 Emirikol


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Posted 05 May 2013 - 12:43 PM

Good insight Yepesnopes.  I see where you're coming from on this.  Since the primary effect of a social skill check comes down to either Influence or Assist, I wonder how the Perform Stunt basic action would compare to the advanced checks.  Any thoughts on the balance in comparison?




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