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I've been attempting unsuccessfully, or at the very least unsatisfactorily, to integrate social conflict into my Dresden Files campaign. It came to a head last night, when one of my players initiated it, and I didn't feel good about the combat or the outcome.

In this particular case, the player was attempting to convince his opponent that everything was OK, and winnow information out of him, which seemed like a valid goal. But I couldn't think of a valid goal for the NPC - I thought it might be to uncover the player's deception, but that didn't feel right.

I've narrowed my dissatisfaction down to two points.

  1. What are valid goals in a social combat?
  2. How does the story play out in social combat?
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

In social combat, the initiator usually has a specific goal, such as;

  • Persuade, deceive or seduce the opposition
  • Extract some information
  • Promote or discredit an idea
  • Get the opposition to act in a certain way

The opposition usually just tries to prevent that from happening, but they may have their own goals as well.

Remember, a taken out result means that the victor gets to narrate the results. So, someone trying to resist giving up some info may find that he has spoken way too much if he is taken out during social combat.

So your goals seem perfectly valid.

I'm guessing that your dissatisfaction comes from the fact that the exchanges don't represent the story well. That's where the trick is. There aren't enough rules in FATE to represent every situation, but there is a story (a nice one) for every outcome in the FATE system. You're probably going story first and trying to figure out how the system fits. Resist the temptation and go system-first. That is; metagame first and roll the dice, invoke aspects etc. Then tell the story according to the result of the mechanics.

This is one of the brain-twisters in FATE but I enjoyed it very much after being able to suppress the leftover urges from traditional RPG's. So may you.

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As you can apply aspects to the rolls in each exchange, how do you use those in the narrative? I usually don't allow the PCs (or myself) to use aspects if you can't narrate it- that's the other part of the exchange bit that has me a bit baffled. –  wraith808 Nov 16 '11 at 22:48
    
Remember that you invoke aspects after you roll the dice. The first thing a roll tells you is a baseline degree of success or failure, and that generates a basic story. If the player doesn't like that, she can invoke aspects by offering an alternative story, and if it makes sense, then her version becomes true. –  edgerunner Nov 16 '11 at 22:58
    
I know you invoke aspects after rolling the dice, but you do this each exchange. During an exchange, you declare your actions, roll, and what you roll dictates the story. Except this doesn't work for each exchange, at least story-wise it doesn't seem to. The actual 'combat' felt fine, but it just left me flat in terms of equating this to a back and forth narrative. –  wraith808 Nov 17 '11 at 0:49
    
What's the story time you assumed for each exchange? Social combat sounds awkward if you match exchanges to every sentence spoken in a dialogue. It sounds much better when each exchange represents a whole subject matter. –  edgerunner Nov 17 '11 at 9:28
    
Maybe that's the disconnect, as all of the examples have treated an exchange as an exchange of words- not necessarily one sentence, but one thought. But a whole subject matter seems off also, as what if there's only one subject? How do you get to resolution? But I do think that's the problem... the granularity. That still leaves the second point - the innocuous actions as attacks, and even moreso in the case that an exchange represents a topic. Maybe that should be a separate question. –  wraith808 Nov 17 '11 at 13:10
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