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Brennandi vikingar og sosiale ferdigheter

I Burning wheel -spillet vårt oppdaga jeg at jeg setter stor fokus på sosiale ferdighetene og tolker dem som noe mer enn bare vanlig, vennlig tale.

Sammenheng

Jeg er spilleder. Det er tre spillere, to nye (som virker kjenne hverandre) og én jeg har kjørt ulike slags D&D til tidligere, men som har ingen erfaring med dette spillet eller karakterdramaspill, så vidt jeg veit. Spillverden er skandinavia i vikingtida. Spillet tar plass i en by eller to og vi har vært mer nøye om tida og plasset. Rollene er tjue år eller yngre og med tre livsstier.

Rollene klatra opp et fjell (Ívidiafjall) for å hente alvesauer, som gir rikdom og lykke, eller så forteller historier. Måten å få en sau er å kaste noe ev metall over den og den følge en tilbake hjem. Tre roller, tre fine kniver (slik at alvene blir ikke sur over handelen). Terningskast for å kaste knivene mislykkes og utfallet er rollene får to sauer, men også en alvegjeter. Rollen, Steinar, som har dårlig lykke får sjølsagt gjeteren, som heter Friðr. Ingen lykkesay til han.

Alvepsykologi

Siden Steinar, som rolle, er høflig og praktisk, jeg bestemte meg for å ha alven være beskjeden, fordi bindinga til mennesket betyr at en alv bør ikke prøve å tale seg fri fra situasjonen. Nå møter Steinar valget: være uhøflig og spør om alvens meining om bindinga, sjøl om hun ville heller ikke si den, eller la den være et mysterium. Så vidt har han valgt å ikke trykke mye.

I løpet av spilling begynte jeg å være eksplisitt om det her: Hun vil så klart ikke prate mer, men hvis du krever det, kan vi kaste terninger her, men du veit at du gjør det mot hennes vilje og bryter mot vennlig oppførsel. Så vidt har spilleren valgt å ikke gjøre slike brytelser, men dette var slutten av sist spillgang, så vi får se hva som skjer i framtida.

Terninger mot høflighet

I sammenheng med Burning wheel det ser ut at være en bra idé at alle sosiale ferdigheter er noe slags manipulasjon eller bruk av tvang. Spillet prøver å ha terningskast bare når det er en konflikt der, men det er ingen konsistens å finne. Kanskje denne idéen er en måte tolke Vincent sitt råd å kaste terninger hvis og bare hvis det er konflikt.

Jeg er interessert i erfaringer andre folk har med sosiale ferdigheter, tvang og manipulasjon. Hvor sterk er tilkoblinga mellom dem?

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

It has a long history of applications and debate in role-playing.

Recently, I have become almost obsessed with the concept of failure on role-playing resolution systems. I cannot believe I've gone this long without realizing that resolution rolls (card draws, whatever, you know what I mean) only makes sense regarding whether you succeed, if they make sense regarding whether you fail. And we have to know what failing means: incompetence, difficult circumstances, or bad luck?

Anyway, with that issue in mind, the topic of resolving social interactions becomes much clearer, or so I think. A good way to look at it for a game like Burning Wheel - and I think this is not "extra" but an easy application of the existing rules - is to ask, when these individuals interact, is there some way for a power-imbalance or influence on behavior to go wrong for one or more of them?

If Bob and Doug disagree about who carries the heavy rock, is there any big deal or genuine problem that arises from or is averted by the result? If not, let'em disagree and resolve it however they want, no roll required. Their argument is probably colorful but is not a conflict, regardless of the clear fact that they disagree. "No blood no foul," not counting grumbling.

Furthermore, and also important, one must include in that questione, without adding new information. Therefore it's no fun to roll anyway, find that Bob loses, and then invent out of nowhere that Bob has long harbored deep feelings for Doug, and is therefore now heartbroken and resentful.

I've found these ideas to be remarkably practical - good for validating many of the features of a character sheet in a game like Burning Wheel, as well as avoiding what I've come to call "shitplay," when characters basically act like idiots and psychotics because the players and mechanics are tripping over one another.

Hi Ron,

I wonder if the criterium I am thinking of, whether a line is crossed such that we have gone beyond simple friendly (or maybe charged) talking, and the criterium you have presented about there being a genuine problem at stake, are almost the same or very related.

Ron Edwards's picture

I think they are, meaning, we're agreeing or at least identifying similar things. The issue of criteria is really important ... so to me, one of the related topics is whether everyone at the table knows the criteria, or if they don't at first, whether they have some sensible way of learning or arriving at the criteria. I cannot count number of times I've seen play crash and burn because this knowledge wasn't shared or was assumed differently for different people, and at least one person was convinced that it should have been "obvious."

In our case we do not have terribly clear explicit criteria. Burning wheel is more vague (and with a potential undercurrent of slightly conflicting priorities) than I could imagine it to be, and we have not played for that many sessions. I am posting here to figure out this stuff.

Ron Edwards's picture

... with a big coefficient too.

Let's start with any designated ability to influence another character's actions, and specify that in this game system, there's a randomized component.

Given a successful resolution, what can they be made to do? Which is typically followed in a text by a long string of qualifiers and attempts at clarification, in play by a long string of protests and negotiations.

I think my own writings about Authority provide what we need to understand this situation and why it goes into the Murk so fast, so let's not go into that here and instead look at a couple of game systems with solutions.

One solution across many games is simply "no," either by not having any such option with those kinds of mechanics or by making certain characters off-limits to their effects, e.g., player-characters or perhaps designated NPCs. However double-standard the latter may be, at least it's clearly stated and isn't the word salad featured in even more texts.

The Champions solution is for the influencing attack to specify degrees of immediate response, but not to affect long-term opinions or emotions. You can say "boo!" to someone to great effect but you can't change their mind to fear you forever (and later boo's aren't as impressive, either).

The Sorcerer solution is for the influencing attack to prompt one of two responses as chosen by the target character's person (GM, player): either to obey or to do whatever they want instead, but at a penalty determined by the success of the attack.

These two also take a side regarding a core concept which I think receives too little attention is whether we are talking about changing what the target says or does at this moment vs. from this point forward, i.e., whether they are momentarily influenced or are actually changed in what they think and feel.

... there's a lot more to go into as I'm sure you know as well as anyone, but I think most of it is downstream from these basic questions.

This is a quite familiar conversation. Burning wheel does go explicitly for influencing behaviour rather than thoughts, at least in case of the extended social conflict. Otherwise I usually ask the player if they could possibly see their character being (say) persuaded of something, or let them come up with failure condition for the manipulator if someone is using social skills on them, with some GM oversight that we still have a situation worth rolling for.

But we'll get to see if we meet problems or develop more stringent guidelines.

One thing I will be avoiding is assigning bonuses or penalties to social rolls based on the target's beliefs or traits. In case of traits, the player can already have their character fail without rolling, and in case of beliefs, they are free to use as much artha as they want on the matter, as usual; that is what it is for.

But yeah, I think this area is well-discussed when it comes to this game.

Regarding social skills, coercion, and manipulation:

The way Legendary Lives handles this is worth looking at. There are a number of different social skills in Legendary Lives, and they are all very distinct in the kinds of interactions they govern. For example, "Cunning" covers "fast-talking", "manipulat[ing] someone with innuendo or psychological tricks" but not "out-and-out lying", which is covered by the "Lie" skill. If you want to "sway an individual or group by playing on their emotions" that's the "Preach" skill. If you are telling the truth and want to convince someone you are telling the truth that's the "Sincerity" skill. If you want to get someone to do what you want by implicit or explicit threats of violence, that's the "Bully" skill. If you want to make a friend or seduce someone, or "exhibit tactfulness in a delicate situation" that's the "Charm" skill. In other words, in this game there are more-or-less coercive and/or manipulative social skills, with the degree/type of coercion or manipulation involved being unique to each.

Most characters will not be equally able in all of these interpersonal skills. But if you decide to only ever interact in ways where you have a high skill, you will soon find yourself in uncomfortable situations (i.e., having to Lie to characters you probably don't want to lie to). It helps in play if you try to not to treat the skills as a "menu" you are choosing your options from, but rather once the role-playing has reached the point where the outcome of the interaction needs to be resolved (tangentially, the text does not give great advice about how to locate that point), look to the skill that best fits the nature of what your character has said so far and then roll.

Yeah, I've listened to some of those and have noticed the sincerity skill. It is a thing that is lacking from many games (with long lists of skills).

The approach of Legendary lives seems to be one of classifying purposes of use of social interaction. My interpretation of Burning wheel is that the skills there are actual skills people can learn, or that could be interpreted as such. I am not certain it is possible to learn being sincere and being taken as sincere in a conversation as a skill, but maybe it is. Might be more of a state of mind or a dramatic notion.

Ron Edwards's picture

I've become dismissive of specific terminology for "this thing" and "that thing" across role-playing texts, but sometimes the internal logic for a single title can teach me something.

At first, Legendary Lives' terminology for "pieces of character" seems like unnecessary gimmickry, chosen merely to be different. Features called Strength or Cunning (there are twelve of these) are not called characteristics or attribues, but Abilities. Things the character may be good or bad at are not called Skills or Abilities, but Specialties.

So one has Charm (an Ability) with Persuade (a Specialty inside it). Everyone has both, but options during character creation might result in being rather good at Persuade, setting it at Charm's value instead of half-value like anyone else's would be. Also, after character creation, improvements in Abilites and Specialties proceed independently.

After the various discussions here over the past two years, I find myself doing a little double-take. So ... Charm isn't a static feature quantified as if it were fluid filling a container, but an ability, an expression of doing. And Persuade isn't a body of education and practice, but a specialty, a particular focus or direction for Charm to be applied.

That's a model worth considering.

noah's picture

One feature I was surprised to stumble on in Solar Blades and Cosmic Spells is the use of a 'morale' roll as a kind of social conflict system. SB&CS consciously does not include a social conflict system, encouraging players to navigate these scenes through 'roleplay.' Usually (as noted by the book), an NPC's response in these situations was obvious to me based on my prep, the PC's approach, and any motivators or bargaining chips possessed by one side or the other.

In certain situations of play, however, I found myself wondering whether an NPC would resort to violence rather than back down or allow concessions to their opponent. In these moments, the morale roll (1d20 + character's level, if > 10 they continue fighting) presented itself as an intuitive way to answer the question of whether an NPC would commence violence rather than relenting.

I suppose on some level this creates a rather bleak world where social conflict only makes sense embedded in the omnipresent shadow of violence, but the whimsy and weirdness of the game's color alleviated this. It worked particularly well in the context of a game where combat (or perhaps more accurately, creative problem-solving and desperate Attribute rolls in the context of flying blaster-bolts and charging monsters) is where the fun is.

Yepp, this is familiar territory, and when I run a game in the same way I would do with an OSR-game, I would be using morale rolls, reaction rolls or some equivalent in pretty much this way.

I agree with the point that this assumes violence to be the ultimate force behind negotiations. Looking at this more carefully is in fact one of the things I enjoy in such games.

Here I am, I guess, thinking about where is the line between essentially manipulative/hostile/violent interactions on one hand and friendly interactions that respect the humanity of the other party (as in Kant's categorical imperative, Levinas' the other) on the other hand.

noah's picture

And it's interesting, right, how much of these questions relate to 'system' in the broadest sense of the term, rather than specific mechanics. In Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha I've been learning very quickly how much freedom there is in deciding the scope, impact and persistence of a given roll, particularly when it comes to social skills.

On paper, abilities like Orate or Intimidate look like binaristic, one-shot 'social combat' skills, used to push NPC's outlooks into more suitable configurations. However, where those skills apply relies on our shared understanding of our characters. I haven't yet seen a player go to their "Intimidate" skill in a situation where it felt like it reduced a character's internal world to 'furniture' (to use Ron's phrase from the "Torches in the Tunnels" video) to be repositioned and redesigned to suit the player's whims. In other words, there are a lot of intuitive, unspoken procedures occurring before we decide it is believable, sensible and fun to go to the dice.

I've noticed a similar emergent property (in a different group, different system) in the Burning Wheel game I'm in. We've leaned heavily on the idea that the Persuade skill only applies when a case can be made that it is in the target's best interest to concede. (The Skill entry says: "Persuasion is the art of convincing someone to act on your behalf because it is in his best interest.") Again, if there isn't a tangible incentive for the person, no roll is possible.

I'm anxious that all I'm doing here is taking your detailed, thoughtful ideas on this topic and just saying, "There isn't a problem here, let people figure it out through roleplay." However (again, to use Ron's distinction between 'furniture' and 'ascended characters' from Circle of Hands and "Torches in the Tunnels"), I think what I'm saying is that it isn't desirable/best practice/fun to have social conflict of even the most binaristic nature with 'furniture.'

These procedures only make sense if we are dealing with an 'ascended' fictional character, i.e., a fictional entity whose integrity, history and motivations the players at the table respect enough to take into account, even if their characters end up manipulating, undercutting or sabotaging them.

Please don't be afraid to write down your thoughts.

I do not personally see a problem with a simple roll to intimidate or bribe some guards, or other such typical quick resolution solutions, but in anything but a quick resolution, I do agree that having some personality and goals on the NPC is a necessity.

I have started being fairly stricts about which BW skill can be used in which context; especially with social skills. No rolling rhetoric unless you are doing some conceptual work or introducing new ideas in persuading someone, for example, and no oratory unless there are masses to rouse, or a similar technique works in context. Simple speaking to a crowd does not cut it.

This kind of discussion and thought is essentially figuring out or specifying the system (in the broad sense, Baker-Care principle).

noah's picture

I really admire the specificity of social skills and their associated FoRKs in Burning Wheel. Knowing what a social skill can do, what it cannot do, how difficult it is to do, and how it synergizes with other skills helps clear up so much of the murk that can arise in play.

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