Author Topic: Question of Social Conflicts  (Read 2670 times)

Offline Ace of Space

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Question of Social Conflicts
« on: April 11, 2017, 12:10:53 AM »
Hello again,
Just started our first game with me as GM and wife as PC (vixen changeling). Playing the premade story Night Fears to get the hang of things. Since we only have one player, I assumed the roles of all the premade PCs (except Chris the Changeling, I threw him out).
So here's the deal: All characters meet up at the "haunted house" on a dare. My wife decided that she was not invited, she showed up to back up her BFF Nicky, who gets bullied by the spoiled rich girl, Dani (also the instigator of the dare).
First thing that happens, Dani tells the PC to get lost. I tell my wife that this is a social attack, and if she is taken out she has to leave, effectively ending the entire story. I know I'm a jerk, but I wanted to try out the social combat.
Well, Dani is a vanilla mortal, but it turns out she can hit like a troll in a social conflict. She used a stunt to make an "intimidate" attack with her +4 Presence. Our PC's only social skill is Deceit +2.  PC decides to defend with Deceit. I ask how, she says she wants to BS everybody by basically saying "You DID invite me!" Obviously this lie won't work on Dani, but I figure it might work on the rest of the group, so I allow it. Plus she's my wife so I can't say no.
Anyways, Dani beats her roll by 5. Wifey spends 2 FPs to avoid suffering a consequence. Of course, Dani has an arsenal of FPs she could spend to easily take her out, but I don't do it. I also decide to end the conflict there, although I don't know of any rules that prevent Dani from trying again.
Anyways, still kinda fuzzy on the whole social combat thing, and was hoping if somebody could critique my/our handling of the situation. I'm certain I've done something wrong, but can't put my finger on it.
Thanks.

Offline Taran

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Re: Question of Social Conflicts
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 02:05:56 AM »
welcome!

Your wife can concede the fight.  she might agree to leave but then sneak back in.  She might give in to Dani.  Maybe Dani allows her to stay under some kind of condition.

The player can also take consequences TO STAY IN THE FIGHT.  You're only taken out if you can't absorb the stress and consequences serve to absorb stress.

The important thing in a social conflict is to frame the fight.  What does Dani want?  What concessions is she willing to make.  What does the player want and what concessions is she willing to make?

That said, a conflict that completely ends the story probably isn't the best conflict.  Dani might, instead, want to humiliate her or force her to do something else.  Maybe she has to do a dare as a concession, something like that.

Also, maybe some of the other NPCs want the PC to stay.  There's nothing stopping them from jumping in and defending her.  Creating aspects for the player to tag.

Offline Sanctaphrax

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Re: Question of Social Conflicts
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2017, 02:13:23 AM »
Conflicts aren't one-roll things. They keep going until one side takes the other out. Then the winning side gets to dictate what happens, although they have to respect the character concepts of the losers.

Often a full social conflict will be overkill, particularly if the argument is meant to be over quickly or if one side lacks a real goal. Sounds like this was one of those cases. Sometimes it's best just to roll against a difficulty.

Offline Tedronai

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Re: Question of Social Conflicts
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 04:38:18 AM »
Sounds like that should have been a simple Contest, possibly a Consequential and/or Extended Contest at most.
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Offline Ace of Space

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Re: Question of Social Conflicts
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 01:11:12 PM »
Thanks for the tips, guys. Definitely should have been a one-roll contest, with my wife getting a negative aspect instead of being forced to leave, I think. Still, what prevents a character like Dani with strong social skills from verbally destroying others in a situation like this where the target can't really fight back physically? In this case, Dani was merely throwing her weight around, but if she REALLY wanted the PC out of the picture she could do it. I suppose in a full-blown conflict, other characters would aid the PC either through teamwork or socially attacking Dani (who was clearly being a jerk). Turns out Andy the Jock is Dani's ex, after all! I guess it shouldn't be treated as a conflict unless Dani is fully commited to taking the PC out of the picture, with the potential of the others taking the side of the PC and attacking her back.

Offline Mr. Death

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Re: Question of Social Conflicts
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2017, 05:30:46 PM »
Generally speaking, try to avoid situations along the lines of, "If you don't roll well, the entire scenario ends right now." At least, at the start of the scenario. As the rulebook says, only call for a dice roll if both success and failure offer interesting possibilities. "You fail, game over" is rarely interesting for anyone involved.

Also, before setting up any kind of conflict, compare the relative skills -- your wife was defending with a 2 against a 4, that's really stacking the deck against her. As a GM, you should be aware of the relative probabilities of rolling a given result, and that something like 80 percent of the time, the result is going to be between -1 and +1.

Keep those numbers in mind so you can properly set things up -- I generally only throw something with an advantage of 2 or more at my players if I want them to have a really hard time of it because chances are, they're going to need to invoke aspects to make up the deficit.

(That said, my super-powerful fae and vampires have a history of rolling like crap...)

By the rules, there's really nothing stopping a character like Dani from doing just that, so the best thing for a PC against her would be to avoid the conflict -- as others suggested, make some concession, invoke aspects, or just come at the situation from such an angle that she can't "attack."

(That said, also be aware of the trappings -- if you're doing an intimidation attack, that would be the Intimidate skill, unless Dani has a stunt; that might even the odds considerably -- Dani has a lot of presence, but maybe when push comes to shove, she can't lay out an off-the-cuff insult very well.)

Not all conflict has to be, or should be, about knocking everyone out. Maybe Dani doesn't just want the PC out at all costs -- maybe she wants to embarrass her long-term, so a "taken out" doesn't mean the PC leaves, it means she stays but it's clear nobody wants her there and she has to deal with that.

The same applies to physical combat -- the goal of every enemy you face doesn't have to be "kill the PCs."

The golden rule here: The GM is not playing against the Players. The GM is facilitating an enjoyable game for the Players.

Personally, I've never used social combat more than a couple times, because frankly social consequences are so removed conceptually in my mind from physical consequences that I don't think they should overlap, and my groups have always preferred just roleplaying it out.
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Offline g33k

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Re: Question of Social Conflicts
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2017, 06:17:01 PM »
... what prevents a character like Dani with strong social skills from verbally destroying others in a situation like this where the target can't really fight back physically?
  Absolutely nothing.  Or to turn the question around, what prevents a character like an ogre from physically destroying others in a fistfight, where they can't fight back?

In this case, Dani was merely throwing her weight around, but if she REALLY wanted the PC out of the picture she could do it. I suppose in a full-blown conflict, other characters would aid the PC either through teamwork or socially attacking Dani (who was clearly being a jerk). Turns out Andy the Jock is Dani's ex, after all! I guess it shouldn't be treated as a conflict unless Dani is fully commited to taking the PC out of the picture, with the potential of the others taking the side of the PC and attacking her back.
I wouldn't be quite so didactic as that; it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing, conflict-until-taken-out.  It could be just as you played it -- a brief exchange (or a few) and then stopping, with nobody Taken Out.  The same could happen in a physiucal fight, too!
But yeah, the I'd be prepared, as the GM, for NPCs to step in on the situation.  Inflict stress-track and Consequences on the Mean Girl, or tag'able Aspects for the PC to use; etc.
Going back to the ogre-in-a-fistfight analogy:  the PC has gathered with a bunch of NPCs in a group at a boxing match, and suddenly the Biggest, Baddest NPC (an ogre) calls out the (relatively frail) PC for a quick little fistfight...  Unless the other NPCs step in (or the ogre breaks off the attack), the PC will get Taken Out trivially easily !