Saturday, March 24, 2012

Judges Guild take on social mechanics

I wrote about social mechanics a while back, and the notion of influencing the player characters wasn't all that popular among some of my readers. I still think the same rules should apply to all characters in the game, in some fashion, but I can see the logic of the detractors.

Going back in the history of the hobby, I found some "social combat" rules from Judges Guild. These rules are called "Offensive Locution (Attacking with words)" and they include repartees and witticisms. The former will basically interrupt combat and stun the opponent with your verbal skill. The latter is a way to make people laugh and make the destabilized. Naturally, this being old JG rules, it involves oddball mechanics and dice Gygax style.

As if that wasn't enough, there's even a "prestige class" for fighters called Buffoon. Funnily enough, the stat requirements demand a high CHR and low STR and WIS! He always succeeds at repartees, and is described as a face man for scams and theft. Kind of neat.

I find it interesting that way back in 1978 in the Ready Ref Sheets, someone thought of the idea of rules for influencing people. While it's not a general Social Interaction mechanic by any means, it is an intriguing addition to a game.

For the T&T minded in the audience, I suggest the following rules to use something similar in T&T.

Buffoon - a talent always tied to CHR. Whenever you want, you may taunt and jeer and by wit and by the sharpness of your tongue incite rage or cause debilitating laughter. Roll a opposed Saving Roll on CHR, adding your Talent rating. The difference is the amount of turns the opponent is effectively useless for offensive actions.


  1. I like it, reminds me of the old Jester and Fool classes that appeared in Dragon Magazine years ago for 'that other game'.

    1. Cool to hear you like it, Paul.

      Personally must confess the idea of a class makes it sound limiting, considering how role defining classes are. But, the Talent mechanic was a given match, I though.

    2. I didn't mean it reminded me of a class-type mechanic, more that it reminded me of the concepts and themes that inspired those classes in Old School D&D.

    3. Sorry, I expressed myself kind of clumsy.

      I agree the idea, concepts and themes is cool, and that a Talent is the way to go, since a class (like the Buffoon class in the Ready Ref Sheets) is kind of limiting.

      I kind of pointlessly agreed by trying to say the same thing you did, and muddled the waters...

  2. It just seems to hinder roleplaying. I don't want my players to do "I say something witty now. Yay, I rolled a 20! I must have said something extremely witty!" I want them to actually come up with something witty to say and roleplay it.

    I can see this being helpful if players aren't playing their characters. If they don't put anything into a wit stat, and then roleplay being witty and expect it to get them somewhere, then social mechanics can be a solution. But with good players, it seems to discourage good roleplaying.

    Furthermore, I've seen people use this to harass other players. Injecting some political view or something that will make another player uncomfortable, then using their stats to force their character to believe it. But maybe the solution to that is just to not play with jerks.

    1. I think it is. Don't play with jerks!

      As for it being helpful or not, I think it depends on the player. Surprisingly often players don't get the idea until they see it on the sheet. Some do, but those you wont need to worry about. I see the potential to nudge the former out of their shell. I vastly prefer people to say something witty in character, but some just aren't capable.

  3. IMHO, anything that can be played by the players should be played by the player himself.

    The problem with using the character's stats to resolve the different situations is that you don't need a player anymore.
    -Does the character have a good plan? Make an INT check
    -How does he go about it? Use his "Tactics" skill
    -Does he find the loot? "Finding loot" skill
    -Can he talk his way out? "Buffoon" talent
    -Does he get the girl? "Seduction" talent
    -Does he wants to get the girl? "Willpower against sexy princesses"

    You could indeed take that idea to its logical extreme and calculate an "Ability to succeed at the scenario" talent (with modifiers depending on the scenario) and just make a roll at the beginning of the session.

    It doesn't mean that there are not things that should better left to the characters stats.

    What I mean is that the more things you take away from the players, the more they become spectators instead of participants.
    That's the way of the narrative indy games out there, and I am not really fond of it.

    Nothing is as easy as making irrelevant new rules for everything, as narrative games have proved again and again.
    But it boils down to "Do you want to be the players living the adventure through your character (with you in charge) or do you want to be a spectator to see how well the character does for himself?"

    It is indeed interesting to find this attitude in 1978. But the game was only leaving the dungeons and it was a time when we were all making our own rules (generally trying to make things more "realistic").
    What is more interesting, is that it didn't catch at the time.

    1. I must confess I wonder which "the narrative indy games out there" you have been playing? Forge style games tend to have very focused mechanics and outside them the game is as blank as, say, OD&D is when it comes to interpersonal skills of your PC.

      "irrelevant new rules for everything" sounds more like GURPS to me...

    2. Peoples have tried on me some Fate system games, DK system games, Fiasco, a game with biddding mechanics (bidding what?) and some others (maybe personnal mixes) which name I don't remember and even one particulary ridiculous game where you had to raise a "death flag" to be killable (as if it was possible for the target to choose what happens to him when shot at).
      I must say that I was far from impressed and that I did not play more than one session of them (sometimes not even that, a simple explanation of the system being enough).

      "Forge style games tend to have very focused mechanics and outside them the game is as blank as, say, OD&D is when it comes to interpersonal skills of your PC."

      That's why I find them irrelevant, they try to simulate or define things that should be left to players and gloss over things that should be better defined because the players can't handle them themselves and, still, you need to know how it affects your characters.

      I find GURPS rules unnecessarily developped, but they try to simulate what has to be simulated. So, excessive (for me) maybe but not irrelevant.

    3. How many people would respond to a witty in-character-comment with "[My PC] can't fight as he's laughing too hard."? I doubt I would.

      I like the idea of resolving a witty player comment on characters through an opposed role. I would alter the end result. Instead of disabling the character, I suggest allowing the "witty" player to target an attribute, and reduce it by the opposed roll difference. This penalty lasts for the immediate situation. By reducing a chosen attribute we introduce tactical advantages into the situation while preserving a player's choice of action.

    4. Bhoritz,

      I see where you are coming from, and in light of that your objections are understandable, like the nuance of what has to be simulated.

      I guess I have played in better games.

  4. Brian,

    How many people would respond to a witty in-character-comment with "[My PC] can't fight as he's laughing too hard."? I doubt I would.

    Exactly. Also, I like to emphasize the game elements. They might be dropped in the heat of battle, but to start off they are a nice backing, I think.

    Interesting tweak with a attribute penalty! Good point!

  5. Inciting rage or debilitating laughter could be a useful talent to get the party out of a sticky situation.


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