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I am planning a "Houses and Humans" or "Suburbs and SUVs" one-shot (yes, based on the meme, title-pending) for later this year using the "Roll for Shoes" system, but the systems isn't terribly important for my question.

I am intending it to be set in a "middle-upper class suburbia" environment, and I really want to make a social reputation system so that there will be a clear 'winner' at the end of it. The group I will GM for is very competitive and had a poor reception to the 'everyone is in it together and wins/loses together' mentality of D&D.

The Reputation Point system Basics:

The idea is that you want to make yourself look good while making others look bad.

Gaining Points
Points are gained on successful rolls for social actions.

  • A successful roll results in gaining 1 reputation point.
  • A crit-success (a roll of all 6s) would result in gaining 2 reputation points.

Losing Points
Points can be lost by failing a roll on a social action, depending on the action. The can here is up to DM discretion. If the failure doesn't seem like it would have a negative impact on reputation, then no points will be lost.

  • A failed roll results in losing 1 reputation point.
  • A crit-fail (a roll of all 1s) would result in losing 2 reputation points.
    • NOTE: This covers the situation with PC vs. PC rolls, where one PC would gain points while the other PC would lose points.

Alternatively, points could be lost only on a crit-fail (a roll of all 1s).

  • A crit-fail would result in losing 1 reputation point.

An Example:
Becky's husband got called out of town last minute for work and had to miss their daughter's school play. Cindy tells everyone how thankful she is for her husband always being around for their kids and spreads rumors questioning whether Becky is having marital problems.

This would result in:

+1 reputation points for Cindy
-1 reputation points for Becky.

A Simpler Example:
The player wants to donate money to the Salvation Army Santa outside the grocery store.
+1 reputation to player

Spending Points/Winning
Points could be spent to gain an extra dice per point while rolling, and the highest reputation at the end is the 'winner'. This forces the decision of "do I want to increase my chance of success on this action" or "do I save the point and have a better chance of winning the game." Keeping in mind that failing a roll could result in a loss of reputation points rather than the gain that was hoped for.

Again, the system will be Roll For Shoes, so there will be a lot of rolls happening and potential for reputation point gain/loss.

My Question:
What balance issues or gaps are there with this reputation point system?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Discussion about earlier versions of this question has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 8 '18 at 23:12
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Is it balanced?

Well, it's not horribly unbalanced, which is really the best that can be said for Roll for Shoes. RfS is not really a system that strives for perfect balance in the first place.

In any case, your social reputation rules are the same for all players, so in that narrow sense they're by definition fair and balanced. It's not like your system would be, say, arbitrarily favoring Data Entry Clerks over Stay-at-Home Moms in a way that would force your players to choose between a mechanically optimal build and the character concept that they want to role-play. Or at least, if there is such an imbalance, it's not evident in the specific rules which you describe.

Of course, even with an equal start and equal rules, some players might still potentially gain some kind of an unfair and effectively unbeatable advantage during play. But I don't see anything in your rules that would particularly encourage such runaway power gain, either. In particular, while players with accumulated social points may spend them to guarantee success, this rarely if ever yields a net gain in points, since even spending one point more than offsets the expected gain.

(In fact, I wrote a simple AnyDice script to verify this, and it indeed appears that spending a point for an extra die never increases the expected point gain by more than the one point paid for it. At best, when rolling 1d6 vs. 1d6, it almost but not quite balances out. That is, of course, assuming that I've indeed understood you system and correctly implemented it in the script.)

Will it be fun to play?

Obviously, this is not what you asked, and in any case the only way to answer this question for sure is to playtest it and find out. That said, I can't resist offering a few comments.

One potential issue with your suggested rules is that, as written, they seem to encourage risk-averse play. In particular, the best expected point gain is achieved by attempting lots of easy tasks (one-die GM roll) that you already know how to do well (high skill ⇒ large player dice pool), preferably ones where failure is unlikely to cost points. This is somewhat in contrast to the normal RfS rules which encourage risk-taking, both by mechanically rewarding failure with XP, and also by (implicitly) encouraging the GM to "fail forward" by narrating failures in interesting ways, rather than just applying a fixed mechanical penalty and calling it done.

Of course, if you're also awarding XP on failed social rolls, then that adds its own level of complexity. Is one XP point worth trading for one social point? Maybe. It's hard to say. In any case, IME the degree to which players value XP (or even remember to use it) seems to vary a lot between groups, so the dynamics here may also be equally variable.

BTW, it's not clear from your description of the rules whether players' social points can go negative, and whether this has any mechanical consequences. While I doubt that this has any serious balance effects either way, it might be worth thinking about in advance, since there's a good chance (more than 50% per player, if you count ties as failures) that some of your players will in fact end up failing their first 1d6-vs-1d6 rolls.

Would I use this system?

Maybe. Honestly, I'd probably be more inclined to de-mechanize it and just let the GM award or take away social points based on the players' actions (whose success, of course, would still be indirectly determined by rolls) in a more or less arbitrary "10 points for Gryffindor" way. One advantage of this would be to eliminate any potential issues caused by players wanting to roll for something completely trivial or even deliberately embarrassing. (Should successfully insulting your boss at work really earn you a social point?)

On the other hand, if I did adopt the mechanical "+1 social point on success" rule, I'd probably also make failed attempts always cost points, no matter how minor the challenge being rolled for is. After all, if a player really wants to roll to say "hi" to their neighbor, they should also be willing to deal with the (mechanical and narrative) consequences of somehow failing in this simple task. Depending on your players and how you choose to narrate such events, this might get pretty silly pretty fast — but then, that's not unusual for RfS.

But as I said, if you think your rules feel right for your game and your group, then go for it. You won't really know how they'll work in actual play until you try it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not going into it because you can read the full discussion in the chat, but the original question was intended for the "arbitrary 10 points to Dumbledore" approach. So +1 to you for that. Very good insight on potential negatives and I especially like the script. \$\endgroup\$ – Newbie12345 Oct 17 '18 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to encourage rolling for everything, keeping with the RFS spirit. I used the term Social Action to indicate that not all rolls would result in point gain/loss. XP will still be awarded as normal. I can see your point about potentially discouraging normal levelling rolls. Perhaps offering 1 point of XP when successful while spending a Reputation Point, otherwise Reputation Points are awarded "arbitrarily" when RP and success/failure rolls dictate? \$\endgroup\$ – Newbie12345 Oct 17 '18 at 22:36

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