Social Combat on the Frontier

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
December 12, 2016 - 10:32pm
Since the dawn of role-playing games, RPGs are built around a melee and ranged combat wargame of some sort.

Newer games have experimented with a mechanic known as "social combat" which extends the concepts of the melee or ranged combat mechanic to social interaction.

So, I am going to think out loud on how to fit the social combat mechanic into Star Frontiers...

WHAT IS SOCIAL COMBAT
Social combat is basically a mechanism of opposed ability checks until a mental resistance is broken down.
Imagine using rules to mediate an argument or debate, and have a mechanics-only way to determine the outcome of who won or lost the argument.

WHY IMPLEMENT A SOCIAL COMBAT MECHANIC
Much of Star Frontiers published adventures revolve around interactions between PCs and NPCs using psycho-social skills which are unopposed checks... blunt instruments:
* The players have to convince the races of Volturnus to work together.
* Convince with Heliopes...
* The players have to calm down the sapes on Jetsom.
* Convince the Notui...
* The players have to get the Mhemne to trust them (using psycho-social and a "trust points" mechanic)
But the checks are unopposable - a player rolls the skill and succeeds or fails, the end, no hope of opposition and short-circuiting opportunities for a good verbal back and forth.

Additionally, some table games degenerate into GMs vs. players, partly through each trying to best the other in NPC interactions. An impartial mechanic, applied fairly to both sides, can help avoid this by letting players beat GMs fair and square in some encounters, and letting players be beat fair and square in other encounters, all through an objective mechanic, rather than subjective judgement.

WHAT YOU NEED
You need four things :
1. A non-combat action that still involves conflict or opposition between two or more groups: persuasion, deception, seduction, and intimidation are four examples of non-combat conflict (that could escalate to melee or ranged attacks)

2. The "attackers" need an Ability to use to make a "social attack"

3. The "defenders" need a complementary Ability to defend against that "social attack"

4. You need a mental equivalent of "hit points" (called Stamina in Star Frontiers) that can be worn down and recharged - I am thinking a player's Leadership ability could represent their willpower for this.

HOW DOES SOCIAL COMBAT WORK
A player chooses a what sort of opposed social action to try against a PC or NPC.

Two typical generic social combat "attack" actions are:
* Persuade someone, by selectively telling them truths, to do something they are initially unsure of or opposed to do.
* Deceive someone, by charismatically telling them true-sounding falsehoods into belief or action.

To make a Persuasion check (instead of 10% + 10 x psychosocial skill level check):
The Attacker rolls their Personality ability check for success or fail to charm the Defender into accepting their proposal, claim, or statement.

The Defender would roll their Logic ability check for success or fail on whether or not that claim was agreeable.

Vrusk Comprehension can be applied as a bonus to defense rolls against Persuasion checks representing the Vrusk having insight into your true goal.

If the Attacker succeeds, and the Defender fails:
The Defender's Leadership ability is weakened, temporarily losing 5, 10, or 15 points of Leadership, representing their loss of willpower to lead or dominate the verbal contest, in the same way that physical damage reduces Stamina.

If the Attacker and Defender both succeed, that social combat round is a draw.

If the Attacker fails and the Defender succeeds:
The Defender's Leadership is strengthened by 5, 10, or 15 points (back up to the player's original maximum value), representing them being emboldened by the success of their verbal riposte or counterclaim.

Rounds continued until the Attacker has worn down the Defender's Leadership to zero at which point to defender caves in and agrees to whatever the Attacker was after, or the Attacker withdraws unable to make headway, such as 3 consecutive rounds without making any successful Persuasion attacks.

To make a Deception check:
The Attacker rolls a Personality ability check against the Defender's Intuition ability.

Dralasite Lie Detection can be applied as a bonus to defense rolls against Deception checks.

Sathar hypnosis could also be re-cast into a social combat system of Sathar Logic or Leadership vs. Player or NPC Logic.

Others non-combat social conflicts could also be represented by this opposed Ability check system such as bluff, intimidation, or seduction.

The temporary point loss of Leadership is restored 10 points for each hour of non-combat activity.

CREDITS
The original implementation of a social combat mechanic that I saw that worked simply and well was the Myriad RPG System by Ashok Desai (Creative Commons licensed).

In it, players had Intellect, Spirit abilities.
Intellect was used to make Social attacks, and Spirit to defend against them.
These attacks wore away a player's Resolve resilience line, which was their hit points for social combat.

I am out of time for tonight and work comes early tomorrow so I must end this brain dump here.

Hopefully someone finds this idea interesting or useful enough to try.
Comments:

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
December 13, 2016 - 7:42am
Look no further than Traveller, a game based more heavily on such a premise instead of character skill development.
No, I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide. Nor do I have any qualms in stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

JCab747's picture
JCab747
December 13, 2016 - 1:23pm
This is an interesting concept and possibly useful for some situations. I can understand that some role playing devolves into the players versus the the GM.

When I was in a Gamma World campaign it got to the point where the other player and I became our own main rivals because the the GM's adversaries were too hard to handle.

Basically, I think Star Frontiers has some of what you are advocating already built in -- the ability contests. But, I think you've fleshed out the idea a bit better. I still think it needs a little tweaking, but it is a usable and useful idea.
Joe Cabadas

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
December 13, 2016 - 7:26pm
Shadow Shack in 1984 I had the Traveller Starter Edition and Star Frontiers... in 2016 I have every version of Traveller and Star Frontiers.

OP-ED ALERT - MY OPINIONS ARE MY OWN AND AVAILABLE FOR RENT AT REASONABLE RATES:
Frankly, it feels to me that Star Frontiers still comes with more up-front nods to "social conflict" mechanics, such as the Dralasite, Vrusk, and Sathar racial abilities and the Psycho-social skills specializations... and as I mentioned early on, most of the published adventures were front-loaded with more word-fu than gun-fu it seemed.

While Traveller has opposed checks in general, nothing really points you at using them for resolving social conflicts.

Traveller's main social conflict mechanisms are the SOC stat and unopposed skill checks for simply resolving things, maybe versus a reaction roll.
END OP-ED

What I liked about Myriad's way of doing it was that it encouraged rounds, just like melee or ranged combat, and included wearing down the opponent, through a hit-point-like mechanism.

I had the idea of how it would play for Star Frontiers, which is why I threw down the write up to get it out there for myself and others to chew on.

The more I think about it, the more I think its not particularly necessary for Star Frontiers because using opposed versus unopposed checks is a personal taste thing, that can easily be optional or ignored. Having social points to wear down takes the social aspect beyond the "single throw and go" realm of the pure unopposed skill check... and is that necessarily a good thing?

This is where I am wavering... one of the beauties of SFAD is that it IS a "single throw and go". Mess with that lightly, and the stuff I wrote up may be unnecessary complication without the equivalent benefit of paying off in more fun RP.

The main use I had out of Myriad's social combat system was to mediate *player* disagreements through in-game character interaction. No clear party leader? Let them dice at each other in a quick debate at the fork in the road... and that might be a useful sort of example where something like this could be more fun for everyone.

In the online version I wrote up, I also had it affect crowds. So, two people could get in a debate, but their points could sway the audience as well, drawing some into one side, and some into another. It scaled out to handling N-way social conflict pretty well that way. Each "side" had a position or goal and was trying to sway the rest... and everyone could opt-out by simply agreeing with a side and choosing who to run with. So, a mass / group situation could also be a use.

Like Joe, I am not sure Star Frontiers really *needs* a formal social conflict mechanic or benefits from one. I simply had the idea and tossed it out there to see if it quacked or rolled over a died. I am not sure which...

JCab747's picture
JCab747
December 13, 2016 - 7:40pm
Dear Exile:

I didn't say it wouldn't be useful. It might be just the thing, as you say, for some situations where a character is using, say, Zebs-like skills such as Politics, Dramatics and Diplomacy. But, one would want to use it only in certain cases because, as you say, the simplicity aspect of the game is sacrificed.
Joe Cabadas

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 16, 2016 - 7:59am
The James Bond RPG had a mechanic for seducing NPCs

As I remember it and do not hold me to this: it involved a social interaction like the act of having a drink and small talk and a abiltity check on the part of the agent. success meant the NPC's attitude was shifted up or down on a like/dislike scale.  The top of the scale meant the NPC would sleep with the agent or openly and completely help support them. I'll have to check my files. I believe I down loaded a copy of the rules off of Scribd.com just to read about this mechanic

Also I think in some situations it could be LOG or INT or LDR or PER that is the abiltiy being used for social combat. It would be perhaps a judgement call by the referee as to which abiltiy applies

certain racial abilities will give a bonus to the role and certain skills could substitute for an ability check ie Diplomacy or haggling. but I like the idea of social combat being opposed rolls and skill use being unopposed or maybe having a save like some combat results  (RS check for half damage etc)

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

JCab747's picture
JCab747
December 17, 2016 - 11:51pm
jedion357 wrote:
The James Bond RPG had a mechanic for seducing NPCs

As I remember it and do not hold me to this: it involved a social interaction like the act of having a drink and small talk and a abiltity check on the part of the agent. success meant the NPC's attitude was shifted up or down on a like/dislike scale.  The top of the scale meant the NPC would sleep with the agent or openly and completely help support them. I'll have to check my files. I believe I down loaded a copy of the rules off of Scribd.com just to read about this mechanic

Also I think in some situations it could be LOG or INT or LDR or PER that is the abiltiy being used for social combat. It would be perhaps a judgement call by the referee as to which abiltiy applies

certain racial abilities will give a bonus to the role and certain skills could substitute for an ability check ie Diplomacy or haggling. but I like the idea of social combat being opposed rolls and skill use being unopposed or maybe having a save like some combat results  (RS check for half damage etc)



That's some good points.
Joe Cabadas

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 18, 2016 - 8:42am
I know that I read the James Bond RPG rules for seduction but the only copy i seem to have of that game is in spanish. Wonder if I downloaded the spanish edition and overwrote the english edition when I saved it. Dope slap on me!
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 18, 2016 - 9:04am
Found another, older edition of James Bond RPG on Scribd.

Interacting with NPCs: GM makes a reaction roll based on PC's charisma with following results: Opposed, Antagonistic, Neutral, Friendly, Enamored. Player only finds out what the reaction is by role playing.

Opposed: Will not help the PC in anyway and will, if connected to the enemy org take hostile action against the PC

Antagonistic: Will not willingly help the PC in anyway. He will only take action against the PC if he behaves in a suspicious manner.

Neutral: is reserving judgement concerning the PC. A successful Persausion roll will encourage the NPC to aid the PC.

Friendly: willing to help so long as not placed in danger.

Enamored: so much loyalty that he is willing to place himself in jepordy.

The rules discuss role playing the NPC encounters and tell the players that its alright if they are not as quick witted as bond and can present their role play arguements in the 3rd person and develop a more acting style of role play as you become more comfortable.

For those who lack the wit nor have a screen writer on hand there are 3 methods of Roll Playing which are dice mechanics: Persausion, Seduction, and Interrogation.



I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 18, 2016 - 9:23am
Peruasion

Persuasion uses the PCs charisma skill at an ease factor of 5 which is modified by the NPCs reaction:
Opposed: -4, Antagonistic: -3, Neutral +0, Friendly +1, Enarmored +3

There is a chart for results but I dont understand the results so I see little point in reproducing it.

SF has a Racial Reaction Modifier table Which is probably intended for a LDR/PER ability check with a pass/fail result.

SF is fairly binary in results whereas JB is more textured. SF fundamentally includes the reaction roll of JB and the PER or LDR ability scores function as a pass fail Persuasion attempt.

Adapt JB to SF? not really necessary expect the more textured reaction might be nice as an optional rule.

Referee secretly rolls a PER check for the PC and adds any racial reaction modifiers. Results within 10 points of the PER score are neutral. Results 11 points or lower than the PER score are friendly, Results 11 point or more than the PER scoure are antagonistic. Results of 01-05 or doubles that are lower than the PER score are enamored. Results that are 95-00 or doubles that are higher than the PER score are Opposed. In addition any NPC that is a part of the "enemy" organization that has an antagonistic result may be shifted to opposed automatically.

Modifications for Persuasion attempts based on NPC Reaction:
Opposed: +20
Antogonistinc: +10
Neutral: +0
Friendly: -10
Enamored: -20

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 18, 2016 - 9:29am
Seduction

This skill is used to establish a close, romantic relationship with an NPC of the opposite sex with the intent of changing the NPC's reaction toward the character. The relationship will probably develop to include some kind of physical encounter.

A seduction attempt proceeds through several stages, Each stage becoming progressively more of a challenge for the character. These stages do not have to take place over any specific period of time, they can occur in one evening or be stretched out over a period of weeks. The GM will keep track of the stages and the reactions that have occuredso as to be able to evaluate the feelings of the NPC when neccessary.

The Stages of the Seduciton attempt are:
1. The Look (ease factore 10)
2. Opening Line (ease factor 9)
3. Witty conversation (ease factor 8)
4. Beginning Intimacies (ease factor 5)
5. When and Where (ease factor 4)

So basically at each stage of a seduction a PER roll is called for and the NPC gets a Will power save.

Its not clear how this will change the NPC's reaction other than if you sleep with her she must be enamored?

Seduction is only going to play a role in SF is you have political/diplomacy/corporate negotiation games

and you have issues of sexuality and cross species

can two different species be intimates- yes but not sexually.

Adapting this to sf: I suppose there could be some PER based rolls for gaining intimacy. PCs attempts cajoling intimacies with NPC to shift him from a antagonistic reaction. Must roll pass a modified PER score (modified by race and by NPC reaction) if he passes the NPC makes a save and must roll lower than the final result to pass.If the PC succeeds the NPC is shifted one reaction from Antagonistic to Neutral. Process must be repeated to shift to friendly. to shift toward enamored would require a critical success 01-05. Any attempt to shift the reaction more than one grade in a day carries a +5 penalty.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
December 18, 2016 - 9:46am
Lots good stuff there.

The Myriad RPG System also has a section on Seduction rules that have some ideas that could work for folks as well. The "turn ons and turn offs" mechanic below seems very similar to the Mhemne trust points mechanic, and the "Cynicism" resilience line seems tailor made for the Mhemne encounter as well.

====== ROMANCE AND SEDUCTION ======
If you would like to include a little romance in your game, then the social combat rules can easily
be adapted to the purpose.

A romantic attack can be made in the same manner as a social attack using an appropriate quote.

However it can also be made by setting the atmosphere, for instance by taking the subject of your affection to an expensive restaurant, or for a boat trip, or a walk in the moonlight.

The point is that the seducer is doing or saying something romantic.

For her part,  the subject of affection makes one attack in response to each romantic attack on her.

She doesn’t need to do or say anything, this is merely a measure of her resistance to his wiles.

Romantic attacks of either type, just like social attacks, cause one point of damage as standard.

If you like you can use the social combat statistics Intellect and Spirit for romantic attack and defence, or you can make up new ones.

Charisma and Shrewdness spring to mind.

You might also like to have a custom resilience line instead of Resolve.

Cynicism would make a good name.

The odd thing about Cynicism in this case is that it means different things for the two parties.

For the seducer, as cynicism runs out he becomes more cynical and starts to wonder if this really is the girl for him.

To the subject of affection it is precisely the other way around.

Note that these terms are independent of gender.

It’s quite possible for the female to be the seducer.

To make things a bit more interesting though, use the following rules.

Every potential partner available for seduction should have four minor and two major ‘buttons’, that is things that they find especially romantic.

Minor buttons are usually quite common things such as boxes of chocolates or bunches of flowers.

Major buttons are harder to guess or more dangerous to mention, for instance fast cars or kinks.

If during a romantic attack a minor button is utilised or mentioned, then the attack does two points of damage instead of one.

Using a major button results in three points of damage.

Each button may be used only once per date.

To balance things up, each potential partner should have at least three turn-offs, things that they
find utterly unromantic.

If one of these crops up or is mentioned during a romantic attack, the target takes no damage at all even if the attack succeeds, and actually regains two points of resilience if the attack should fail.

Example Romantic Interest: Leanne

Minor Buttons: Moonlight, Flowers, Classical Music, Shoulder Massage

Major Buttons: Thunderstorms, Canada

Turn-Offs: Sport, Action Movies

Example: Arthur is desperately trying to attract the attention of his new next door neighbour, a rather pretty lady by the name of Leanne whose dating statistics are detailed in the example above.

Arthur is taking her out for a romantic meal at a local restaurant.

This actually counts as an attack in romantic conflict.

He’s hoping that classy restaurants will be one of her buttons, but he’s out of luck there.

Fortunately the restaurant happens to have a string quartet playing in the background, and classical music is one of Leanne’s minor buttons.

If this first romantic attack is successful, Leanne will take two points of Cynicism damage instead of one as her heart starts to melt.

Optional
Those rules are great in a one-on-one situation, but what if several suitors are vying for the affections of one eligible young lady or man?

You could merely say that the last suitor left with any Cynicism is the winner, but that would mean having a very confused date involving far too many people to be called intimate.

The easiest thing to do is allow each to date the subject of affection in turn and, instead of causing damage to the Cynicism line, fix a maximum number of attacks.

When all attacks are spent, total up how much damage would have been caused during the date.

Whichever suitor has the highest score when the last date is over will win the girl / guy.

Optional
Depending on the skill and statistics owned by both parties, a date can go on for an awfully long time, especially if you’re using the above option for multiple suitors.

If the seducer is particularly good at what he does, then the date might never end at all!

Because of this it is usually best to assign an absolute maximum to the length of the date, say around seven rounds, after which time the lucky lady or gent will have to be taken home.

===== CREDITS =====
Myriad is published under a Creative Commons License (Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales)

The Myriad RPG System was designed, written and illustrated by Ashok Desai

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 18, 2016 - 10:02am
On second thought I'm not sure if I want to track social combat hit points, although making them the PER score and used like the STA score isnt all that complicated.

The Psych-social PS should be able to "heal" this hit point loss with a skill check 1d10 or a flat 10.

Points regenerate automatically after a sleep period or at a rate of 1 per 10 minutes

to persuade someon you only have to knock them down 10 points
to interrogate only 20 points
to seduce 20 points

Interrogation involving torture -5 for inflicting pain, -10 for inflicting damage (loss of STA)

However, this reinvents the wheel a little bit since SF has reaction rolls and attempts to influence using PER or LDR already.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

JCab747's picture
JCab747
December 20, 2016 - 8:50am
jedion357 wrote:
On second thought I'm not sure if I want to track social combat hit points, although making them the PER score and used like the STA score isnt all that complicated.

The Psych-social PS should be able to "heal" this hit point loss with a skill check 1d10 or a flat 10.

Points regenerate automatically after a sleep period or at a rate of 1 per 10 minutes

to persuade someon you only have to knock them down 10 points
to interrogate only 20 points
to seduce 20 points

Interrogation involving torture -5 for inflicting pain, -10 for inflicting damage (loss of STA)

However, this reinvents the wheel a little bit since SF has reaction rolls and attempts to influence using PER or LDR already.


I like the idea of having some kind of suggested modifiers or even a reaction chart similar to the James Bond one that you mentioned to handle "social combat" and then role playing the NPC reactions. This idea could be very useful.
Joe Cabadas

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 22, 2016 - 4:19pm
Just tossing ideas around. I figure since the JB RPG did some work in the social combat arena it would not hurt to review it. 
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

ChrisDonovan's picture
ChrisDonovan
December 28, 2016 - 12:29am
I realize that people have different degrees of role-playing they're comfortable with, but I personally would not use such rules until after the attempt was role-played.  But that's me.

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
December 28, 2016 - 12:59pm
Looking carefully through the Expanded Game Rules more, I've figured out what bothers me about the Alpha Dawn skill rules, and it comes down to the nature of how the existing rules as written treat Opposed Checks versus Unopposed Checks.

If I am using Computer or Robotics or Technician Skills, the Star Frontiers skill system has a great, simple model of running an Opposed Check.
For example: Robotics / Altering Mission is 50% + (10 x my robotics skill level) - (10 x the robots build level)
The robots build level opposes the technicians robotics skill level when determining success or failure.

Now contrast this with a Psycho-Social / Persuasion roll: 10% + (10 x my psychosocial skill level)
Here, the roll is purely on my skill level, and is unopposed by any factor relating to the target of my persuasion.

This seems like a glaring hole to me - the victim of my persuasive "attack" has zero influence or input to the matter.

Now, with all that on the table, shift focus to Melee or Ranged combat.
These are skill checks across an extended set of turns until someone's Stamina is worn down and ultimately resolves the conflict for one side or the other.

However, there's no matching no possibility within Star Frontiers for an extended action sequence like that to resolve purely social conflict. One roll and go.

But, Melee and Ranged combat isn't one roll and go. Its a set of extended actions.

So, I think by going through and sorting out where Star Frontiers uses Opposed and Unopposed checks for skills, and Single actions and Extended multi-turn actions I've found the gaps where I think a social conflict extended multi-turn sequence of opposed checks would fit.

But I think my original hasty notes at the top of the thread might be the place to start, but they need to be worked up more to correctly deal with the Expanded Game Rules, Dralasite Lie Detection, Vrusk Empathy, the Sathar hypnosis and the Psycho-Social skills, then expanded to include a better "turn sequence" all the other Extended Action trappings that melee and ranged combat have.

And I agree that this should all be R-O-L-E played, rather than R-O-L-L played.
But I see this social conflict idea/system as a way to guide the players and referees on how to R-O-L-E play losing arguments, debates, seductions, bluffs, etc fairly.
I've seen too many times at table where players needed a mechanics way to illustrate to a referee that they were "wrong" on some winged-on-the-fly encounter, or that a referee needs a mechanics way to illustrate to players why they are "wrong" on some encounter.
Having a social conflict system to drive the framework of the role playing can definitely help that as I've seen in other games.

Example:
"Look the Storm Trooper clearly was not swayed by your persuasive argument - your abilities are X, your skill is Y, you rolled Z, and his abilities are A, his skill is B, and he rolled C, beating your persuasion roll. The Storm Trooper lost no resolve at all and is, in fact, more entrenched in his belief that you DO have the droids he's looking for."

So that's what I am trying to fit into the canon Star Frontiers without too much bending or breaking of the original rules as written - only expansion and clarification.

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 28, 2016 - 6:28pm
I actually believe ROLE play and ROLL play are both vallid.

I welcome a good mechanic for Roll play- Role play of course never requires a mechanic.

What i would like to see is, as per my personal prejudices, is a mechanic that seemlessly, or as seemlessly as possible, fits into the existing rule framework.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
December 31, 2016 - 12:01pm
I've been quietly working in the background to overhaul, refine, expand, and finish out the basic ideas of Social Conflict rules for Star Frontiers.
First, I drained all of the existing related information from Alpha Dawn Expanded Game Rules, and believe me there's a ton of it:

AD-5 Affected Abilties: Intuition, Logic, Leadership, Personality

AD-6,8,10 Racial Abilities: Lie Detection, Comprehension, Hypnotism

AD-18 Skills: Psycho-Social with racial bonuses and 5 subskills, some opposed checks, some not.

AD-35 Creature Reactions

AD-54,59-60 NPC Reactions

Why bother with a formal Social Conflict system?
Social Conflict is basically the non-combat version of the extended action.
Melee and ranged combat are not resolved as a single skill roll, but are instead played out through a turn sequence with a large focus on a large set of rules.
Social, non-combat, Conflict is given short-shrift here, leaving a game system which encourages lengthy combat interaction and somewhat throw-away non-combat encounters.
Casual interactions with NPCs, such as the one-time customs check at the space port, do not really suffer from a single "roll and go" mechanic.
But the lack of an extended action resolution system for Social Conflict leaves a large gap in certain specific dramatic kinds of roleplay.
Using a Social Conflict system as a guide on "how" to roleplay the result of certain encounters could be particularly useful in the following dramatic situations:
* Seduction - the James Bond examples in the thread above come to mind
* Cat-and-mouse deep-cover spying - the movie Firefox or any double-agent spy scenario comes to mind here
* Interrogation - the amazing interrogation sequence in Babylon 5 when Sheridan is captured by EarthGov comes to mind.

In these sorts of situations, a single "roll for success" just doesn't seem adequate.

So, the upshot is that I've convinced myself there is room in Star Frontiers for a formal Social Conflict System.
It should interweave with the existing Abilities, Racial Abilities, Skills, Creature and NPC reactions as written in Alpha Dawn.

My thinking right now is to se a melee-style turn sequence of some sort such as:
1. SURPRISE ROUND
Surprise - does a character verbally ambush someone to begin the attack?
Does the someone's Intuition give them an inkling the conflict was coming?

2. INITIATIVE
Initiative - straight up 1d10 + IM to determine who speaks first in a round.

3. ROUNDS
The rounds are essentially 6 second to 1 minute interactions, depending on if this is a comedy roast or formal debate, etc.

4. TURN SEQUENCE
Each round of Social Conflict includes the "attack" and allows a "response" from the Defenders.
An example is a debate, disagreement or argument where someone makes a claim or point, and the opponent gets a chance to refute it. Either they successfully refute it and the claim is invalid or the rebuttal fails and the claim stands.
The winner of the opposed roll wins the round and inflicts 5 points "damage" on the loser of the round's current Leadership ability, to represent weakening of their resolve to continue the disagreement.

The players are encouraged to roleplay their attack, and the defense.
Then they roll, to determine the success or failure of the round for each side.
The referee or rest of the players at the table can award a +5% bonus to attacker, defender, or both depending on the perceived roleplay quality of their social conflict that round.

5. TO HIT ROLL
The "to-Hit" is an Ability check or psycho-social skill check and is opposed by the defenders ability.

Intuition Attack - I have a hunch I want to talk you into
Attacker Intuition vs Defender Logic

Logic Attack - the Formal Logic Debate Has Begun
Attacker Logic vs Defender Logic

Personality Attack - the Charm Offensive
Attacker Personality vs. Defender Leadership (charm vs. force of will/self-confidence)

Leadership - I think we should... or, "I command you to..."
Attacker Leadership vs. Defender Logic

Psycho-Social Empathy - how are you feeling? vs. This Is My Poker Face
Attacker Empathy Skill 10% + (10 x skill level) - (Defender Leadership)

Psycho-Social Persuasion - This idea is in your best interest, or this true thing defeats your claim - THIS should be an opposed check vs. the Defenders logic and is a change to the rules as written that I would recommend.
Persuasion check: 10% + (10 x attacker skill) - (Defender Logic)

Psycho-Social Communication - not really a social conflict opportunity?

6. TO HIT ROLL MODIFIERS
Vrusk get their +10 Comprehension racial modifer on all psycho-social skill checks.

Dralasites get their +5 Lie Detection bonus on all Empathy psycho-social subskill checks.

(Optional) Racial Reaction Modifiers apply on the initial round of Social Conflict with NPCs. (AD59-60)

7. Lying to a Dralasite in a social conflict still gives the Dralasite their normal Lie Detection chances.

8. Each round, a Vrusk can attempt to use their Comprehension to divine the end goal/underlying logic of your social conflict. However if they focus on Comprehending, they are not able to press a counter attack verbally, due to distraction. They can avoid taking damage if they win the round, but they do not inflict damage back in the  response, as they pause thoughtfully to comprehend the ultimate goal. If the Vrusk comprehension succeeds, the attacking player must divulge the true goal of the social conflict to the Vrusk player (yes its metagaming, but that's how the Comprehension ability is written).

9. Yazirian Battle Rage is described as for Melee only, so engaging in Social Conflict with a Yazirian does not provoke a Yazirian to rage. This does not rule out the Yazirian taking an unraged swing, and then converting the social conflict INTO a melee which gives them the chance to rage on their next turn.

10. The damage for a successul Social Conflict Attack, or successful Defense is 5 points of leadership damage.

11. CRITICAL SUCCESS
A roll of 01-05 by the attacker or defender inflicts 10 points damage due.

A roll of 01-02 on the To-Hit roll means the defender is gobsmacked and cannot respond that round so simply takes damage.

12. The Conflict ends when the Attacker runs out of Leadership due to the Defender's skilled defense, and capitulates or otherwise calls mea culpa.
Or, tHe conflict also ends when the Defender runs out of Leadership due to the Attacker's skilled repartee', and the defender capitulates and accepts the attacker's premise, command, etc.

Posting this here for everyone to throw tomatoes at, until we can make it a better stew.

Still working on the Sathar Hypnosis vs. Psycho-Social hypnosis, and the Psycho-Pathology and how they fit in.

ChrisDonovan's picture
ChrisDonovan
January 4, 2017 - 5:21am
jedion357 wrote:
I actually believe ROLE play and ROLL play are both vallid.

I welcome a good mechanic for Roll play- Role play of course never requires a mechanic.

What i would like to see is, as per my personal prejudices, is a mechanic that seemlessly, or as seemlessly as possible, fits into the existing rule framework.


I grant that there might be room for such a mechanic for simple fill-in the blank spot use, to wit:

GM: What are you going to do for the 10 hours downtime on your starport layover?

PC: I'll go to the starport bar and see if I can find someone to "spend the night with"

GM: (not having any specific enccounter plans) Ok, roll your Seduce [or whatever]. 

*roll is made*

GM: Ok, with that roll you are able to find a cheap hooker for a few hours fun in the coffin motel. [if the roll had been better the PC might have scored with someone unpaid in the bar]  In the morning, you board the ship for the next leg of your journey...

jedion357's picture
jedion357
January 4, 2017 - 8:59am
ChrisDonovan wrote:
jedion357 wrote:
I actually believe ROLE play and ROLL play are both vallid.

I welcome a good mechanic for Roll play- Role play of course never requires a mechanic.

What i would like to see is, as per my personal prejudices, is a mechanic that seemlessly, or as seemlessly as possible, fits into the existing rule framework.


I grant that there might be room for such a mechanic for simple fill-in the blank spot use, to wit:

GM: What are you going to do for the 10 hours downtime on your starport layover?

PC: I'll go to the starport bar and see if I can find someone to "spend the night with"

GM: (not having any specific enccounter plans) Ok, roll your Seduce [or whatever]. 

*roll is made*

GM: Ok, with that roll you are able to find a cheap hooker for a few hours fun in the coffin motel. [if the roll had been better the PC might have scored with someone unpaid in the bar]  In the morning, you board the ship for the next leg of your journey...


No mechanic needed for a cheap hooker just 100 Cr. A seduce roll would be with a barfly and only cost a few drinks. or with the bartender when she gets off shift although she's seen 100s of wannabe seducers so this roll is at -20% and -50% if you're a poor tipper.

+10 if PC is famous and +20 if legendary

Heroes of the Volturnus campaign= famous
Heroes of the Beyond the Frontier Campaign= Legendary
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Stormcrow's picture
Stormcrow
January 4, 2017 - 10:44am
ExileInParadise wrote:
Now contrast this with a Psycho-Social / Persuasion roll: 10% + (10 x my psychosocial skill level)
Here, the roll is purely on my skill level, and is unopposed by any factor relating to the target of my persuasion.

This seems like a glaring hole to me - the victim of my persuasive "attack" has zero influence or input to the matter.

I'm not going to try to defend Star Frontiers' inconsistencies, but I think I can finesse this one to make sense.

Persuasion allows a player to convince an NPC to do something without having to convince the referee playing as that NPC.

Without a psychosociologist, to persuade an NPC to do something you have to present your argument, and the referee has to decide whether the NPC would agree to do it. The Persuasion subskill allows the psychosociologist to bypass all that, or to try again where an ordinary attempt failed, by applying psychological techniques rather than simply making an appeal.

The success rate of 10% + skill level represents, not the chance that the NPC will be persuaded, but the chance that the character correctly applies the right psychological techniques. On a successful roll, the NPC has been manipulated with psychology. After that manipulation, the referee decides, "is this psychologically manipulated person persuaded?"

And remember that the persuasion must be about a "reasonable" course of action—reasonable to the victim, so they're already prone to be persuaded. You can't convince a group of people to strip naked and run into the capitol unless they already think that's reasonable.

The book doesn't present it this way, but it doesn't really block this reading, either. Remember that persons with this skill aren't just good communicators; they're modifying professional, theraputic techniques to achieve adventuring goals. The success rates determine how well they apply their profession, not the exact effect on the target.

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
January 4, 2017 - 7:45pm
@Stormcrow your reasoning there makes sense and is in line with one of the reasons I like the social conflict side of things. It gives players a bit of rules leverage to keep a referee in line ;-)

Six of one, half a dozen of another.

I've been watching a lot of the reboot Battlestar Galactica and those long back and forth dialogues just scream "Social Conflict checks in action!" to me.

I am currently trying to take the initial meeting, dinner, offer, and negotations from "Bugs In The System" and model it out using Star Frontiers as written, and my rough outline for Social Conflict, and see which comes out more "fun"

I have revised my second idea version above some more to be more in line with the melee combat. Instead of the attack AND a "riposte" in the same round, I am splitting it up where one side makes an attack, while the other only defends. Then, as the defender's turn comes up in the round, they can attempt to attack back, or disengage, through something like deflections. Still a work in progress.

But the point is to have a mechanics way for the PCs to "verbally fight" their way to better pay from the ByChem Captain, in a way that gives the Captain some chance to win too - without it being a referee decides matter. Either they can roll the social conflict wins to earn their bonus pay, or they fail to, but all through rules that are fairer to both sides (in my opinion).

JCab747's picture
JCab747
January 4, 2017 - 11:06pm
ExileInParadise wrote:
@Stormcrow your reasoning there makes sense and is in line with one of the reasons I like the social conflict side of things. It gives players a bit of rules leverage to keep a referee in line ;-)

Six of one, half a dozen of another.

I've been watching a lot of the reboot Battlestar Galactica and those long back and forth dialogues just scream "Social Conflict checks in action!" to me.

I am currently trying to take the initial meeting, dinner, offer, and negotations from "Bugs In The System" and model it out using Star Frontiers as written, and my rough outline for Social Conflict, and see which comes out more "fun"

I have revised my second idea version above some more to be more in line with the melee combat. Instead of the attack AND a "riposte" in the same round, I am splitting it up where one side makes an attack, while the other only defends. Then, as the defender's turn comes up in the round, they can attempt to attack back, or disengage, through something like deflections. Still a work in progress.

But the point is to have a mechanics way for the PCs to "verbally fight" their way to better pay from the ByChem Captain, in a way that gives the Captain some chance to win too - without it being a referee decides matter. Either they can roll the social conflict wins to earn their bonus pay, or they fail to, but all through rules that are fairer to both sides (in my opinion).


Can you provide a back-and-forth example of how this idea would specifically work. Whether you use Bugs in the System or characters negotiating with the Mechanons in the Volturnus modules.

Although I am beginning to see some usefulness for this idea, I am still not hooked on it.
Joe Cabadas

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
January 5, 2017 - 7:13pm
Quote:

GM: What are you going to do for the 10 hours downtime on your starport layover?

PC: I'll go to the starport bar and see if I can find someone to "spend the night with"

GM: (not having any specific enccounter plans) Ok, roll your Seduce [or whatever]. 

*roll is made*

GM: Ok, with that roll you are able to find a cheap hooker for a few hours fun in the coffin motel. [if the roll had been better the PC might have scored with someone unpaid in the bar]  In the morning, you board the ship for the next leg of your journey...

"What happens at the Coffin Hotel, stays...

...with you, even after a trip to the VD clinic."
No, I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide. Nor do I have any qualms in stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
January 5, 2017 - 7:54pm
@JCab747 a full example is what I am trying to work up from Bugs in the System, but that will be a while. The idea is to give the crew of the Moneyspider and the player party a chace to do the dinner, have the players divine that the captain is hiding something, drag it out of him, then get into the negotation and have the terms of the adventure (cost, etc) set as the result of talking the captain into it using the social conflict.

The two parts are that the characters have to overcome the secrecy and embarrassment of having to bring in outside help, how well they do in wearing the captain down for information gathering here will determine how many and which clues, out of all of them possible, the characters start with.

Once that it is agreed the players will help, the second bone of contention will be whether to players can talk the ByChem guys into a raise or not for doing the job.

The best example I can define other than that would be an interrogation.
One party has information that they do not want to give up.
The other party has tricks they can use to try to get that information quickly.
Shows like Burn Notice, Babylon 5, and Battlestar Galactica have "interrogation episodes" that could be the model for this - there's a back and forth and back and forth and the goal is to trick or wear down the other side.
The entire TV series The Prisoner could probably be modeled as a series of social conflicts.
The Prisoner, #6, has to uncover and resist the Plot of the Week, while planning his escape and hiding it... while #2 has to move his plot of the week forward and banter and joust with #6 endlessly to try to score on him and get closer to getting the information.

At least those are some of the ideas I am trying to model this from.

JCab747's picture
JCab747
January 5, 2017 - 9:43pm
ExileInParadise wrote:


The entire TV series The Prisoner could probably be modeled as a series of social conflicts.
The Prisoner, #6, has to uncover and resist the Plot of the Week, while planning his escape and hiding it... while #2 has to move his plot of the week forward and banter and joust with #6 endlessly to try to score on him and get closer to getting the information.

At least those are some of the ideas I am trying to model this from.


Ah, yes, I loved The Prisoner. For Christmas my son gave me the complete collector series of Secret Agent AKA Danger Man. That was the series that Patrick McGoohan was in just prior to The Prisoner.
Joe Cabadas

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
January 8, 2017 - 3:26pm
OT: One of the episodes of Danger Man (Season 2, Ep 3 The Colony) was a direct inspiration for The Prisoner. Be on the look out for it.

JCab747's picture
JCab747
March 5, 2017 - 12:45pm
ExileInParadise wrote:
OT: One of the episodes of Danger Man (Season 2, Ep 3 The Colony) was a direct inspiration for The Prisoner. Be on the look out for it.

Yes, I saw that episode and see where the Prisoner would fit in.

Any luck developing yoru social combat system?

I've been trying to come up with a generic creature reaction system. The modules provide specific ones, but I could use some suggestions.
Joe Cabadas

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
March 5, 2017 - 5:21pm
The Social Combat bits are still in my "work in progress" folder - but I got sidetracked on other stuff like expanding "Tote That Barge" for Frontier economics, developing a module-style adventure to follow up the "Pan Galactic Security Breach" in the basic book, writing up a Session 0 checklist and hooks for players to get a campaign started, and most recently... "Port Loren Adventures" - a Traveller/Patrons style adventure hook system about various missions/sidequests in and around Port Loren.

For creature reactions:
Senses
Movement Modes
Loner, Packs?

Hunger, Thirst
Sleep
Curiosity

Mating Season?
Hibernation?

Territorial?
no territorial area
territorial area small such as home or nest only
territorial area large
territorial area changes with the season
territorial area depends on young (how?)
changes territorial area (why?)
marks or patrols territory
territorial defense against its own kind only
territorial defense against one sex only
territorial to exclude one other species
territorial to exclude all intruders
only one sex defends the territory
attacks intruders, content to drive away
attacks intruders, will try to kill
will defend territory until dead
special territory such as property concept

Lair or Nest?
never builds a nest
builds big nest
builds a new nest every year
builds false or dummy nests (why?)
builds concealed or camouflaged nest
builds complex nest such as tunnel network
builds nest, specific shape such as triangular
secretes special substance to build nest
makes use of natural nest or lair such as cave
steals another's nest or lair (same species?)
only uses nest or lair abandoned by another
only one sex builds nest
only one sex uses nest or lair at specific times
only uses nest or lair at specific times
mates only in nest or lair
periodically moves or changes nest or lair
communal nest or lair that is shared with others
one sex never leaves nest or lair (which?)
nest or lair serves unusual function such as larder
decorates nest or lair (what with?)
will defend nest or lair (to the death?)

Intelligence Level?
plant-like, automatic responses only, that is it always reacts the same way regardless of the stimuli triggering the action.
plant-like, variable responses, that is reaction varies according to varying stimuli, only reacts, does not initiate action
stagnant intelligence, able to recognize food source and own kind such as possible mates, reactions vary accordingly
stagnant intelligence, recognizes food source, own kind, and is aware of surroundings such as has set responses triggered by fear
latent intelligence, recognizes food source, own kind, and is aware of surroundings, able to make priority judgements such as can assess danger, avoid enemies, etc
latent intelligence, potential to imitate others, may mimic or copy, might pickup simple tricks
active intelligence, may override instincts if reason such as overcome fear of fire to escape, can be taught simple tricks
active intelligence, aware of basic intentions of others, may respond with subtlety such as could attempt to please
vibrant intelligence, able to work out simple ideas for itself such as how to open door, how to attract attention, etc
vibrant intelligence, may experiement to try and achieve a desired aim such as pile items together to ake a platform to reach food
dynamic intelligence, able to cope with more than one idea at once, able to adjust rapidly to changes in situation

JCab747's picture
JCab747
March 5, 2017 - 7:35pm
Thanks. That's some good feedback

Joe Cabadas