Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Codex of War Ransom!
In this episode, Cody, Tom and I discuss the use of social skills against other players, because of this blog post. When I ran a game at Fear the Con, I disallowed a player to use a persuasion skill against another player. We disagree and explain our beliefs towards the use of social skills and free will in games.
RPPR Forums Threads of Note
- The Tomb of Coddowalshagoth: Fan Project
- I am a Horrible Monster for not letting a PC mind control another PC
- Ninite: The easiest way to get apps!
- Green Hornet comics
- The RPPR Community AP Podcast
- Rifftrax: New Moon
- Mouse Guard
- Nedroid Lost Comics
music: social critique of madison by The Hussy
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:08:04 — 56.0MB)
Yes, lots of jokes at my expense as expected. Good episode though.
I can’t believe how many people have wanted to debate this though. I still think it should be a non-issue.
Great Episode! Love Cody!
I’d have liked to get someone with the opposite view point on the show so that it could be a debate but I think that’d end up more an arguement. This seems to be one of those little gray area issues.
Tom’s letters are back!
Yay for Tom’s letters…
I don’t know about Cody’s “cult”, that just kind of creeps me out. However, I did enjoy Cody’s viewpoints and I thought that he added to the episode, rather than detracting for it.
Ross has mentioned the Fear The Boot podcast before and so, filled with curiosity, I visited their site and downloaded a few podcasts. Surprisingly, they were very good. Definitely a different vibe than RPPR, but entertaining and informative nonetheless.
I still think that the RPPR guys are the best of the so-called “NerdCasts”. You can’t beat Tom’s vitriol and Ross’ totally detached, vulcan-like logic. Ross, sir, you are a being of pure logic.
RPPR is the only podcast that I will donate money to, that’s how good I think they are!
Anyway, another great episode. Made the day go by just a little bit faster.
I offended that you would think that I would ever detract from a serious discussion. Now, maybe during gaming I can be a little distracting, but from a serious conversation? Puh-lease.
Man this is a good debate worth hearing, but all and all from that way it sounds i feel like Ross took the best course of action in this situation. Being end game and all the characters choice should be free for them to make, cause even if the persuade role was made and someone had to change their life or death decision i feel take 1. that player would have found that shitty and 2. would have weakened the effect of the life and death decision.
I love Tom.
I love Tom.
I love Tom.
I love Tom.
You rock. No disrespect!
All hail the mighty God of the Crab!!!!
Hail! (does his best salute vis-a-vis the end of Evil Dead II) Hail! Hail!
Opps, I meant “crab cult”….
Now I’m afraid you’re going to slam me in one of the podcasts like you did that guy on iTunes who was shocked to hear profanity at the gaming table!
I think you should sit in with Tom and Ross on a regular basis. I enjoy your commentary, you are obviously a really intelligent guy! Seriously, no bullshit… Damn this internets and it’s inability to convey sincerity!!!
Please don’t slam me in a podcast Cody, plllleeeeaaasseee! 🙂
I think all questions of free will (in-game or otherwise) can be explained away by serendipity, which I’ve always considered to be God’s backdoor into the Matrix…
Serendipity is a great plot devices and a convenient way for the players to receive help from the GM
Honestly, I like the idea of the players in a game exploring a structured narrative under the assumption that they possess some sort of free will. The extent of in-game free will, I think, is inherently limited by the vision and the scope dreamed up by the GM vis-à-vis game elements like plot, story arc, motivation, the game’s episodic nature, etc. etc.
If you are playing a game, you are entering into a story and most players will expect a resolution (especially a one-shot scenario at a gaming convention)! To rob another player of that experience is not only rude, but it is also unfair.
The GM should feel no compunction whatsoever at that point in firmly telling the player that he cannot not unduly use his powers/abilities to affect another player’s experience under the auspices of “Hey man, I’ve got mind control powers!”
Anyone who would argue with that assumption strikes me as a spoiled and nepotistic and not the “victim” of a “bad” GM…
I’ve listened to a lot of RPPR’s actual plays and I’ve noticed that Ross, while giving his players room to explore, will definitely “help” the game along in certain parts…
I think the GM is just as motivated as the players to play out the conclusion of the game and thus secure a resolution for everybody. I think the resolution (be it good, bad or indifferent) is what the players and GM “game” for in the first place.
So in that sense, I can see why this guy “blogged” about his experience…
Nevertheless, anything that might impinge upon a fair resolution for the players and a satisfactory resolution for the GM (based on his afore mentioned vision and scope) might create an emotionally caustic animosity that might destroy the gaming experience for all of the parties involved!
Just my two cents…
RPG baseball? That sounds a lot like we’d be outside playing sports, and I don’t really do that. I do appreciate that we’re the Globetrotters and you’re the Bad News Bears, but I don’t know if that means we’d win or not. This is baseball we’re talking about, after all. Oh well!
So when do we get to hear the infamous Age of Masks game that started all the fuss? Will it be uploaded here at some point?
PS. Ross, do you ever run any PBeMs?
It’s up now. On the ap site.
Awesome! Headed over there now.
When it comes to the whole mind control debate, it’s really up to the players. If they all dig it, go for it. However, if you’re wondering just how cheap having free will torn from your grasp really feels, let me direct you to a little videogame called Fallout 3.
Like previous Bethesda RPG games, Fallout 3 gives you an open ended world to explore in any way you see fit. Feel free to walk in any direction, wander off the beaten path (although a post apocalyptic world is pretty beaten to begin with), and attempt to meet challenges using a variety of tactics. You can play as a morally upright heavy weapon specialist, as an evil, psychotic stealth monkey, and all points in between. It’s a nicely immersive game.
…that is until you purchase a little expansion called The Pitt. For the uninitiated, The Pitt is a DLC addition that takes the character out of the Washington DC wasteland and places you in a section of Pittsburgh, which now resembles what would happen if David Fincher and Marilyn Manson played with Legos.
When your character is informed of a mission to The Pitt, you are told that one option you can try is to sneak in to the city. Due to some nifty equipment accquired from another DLC, your character can turn invisible and completely silent…100% Stealth Checks…NOTHING CAN SEE YOU… you are a friggin’ ghost… I cannot stress this point enough… you are completely undetectable…
…until you enter The Pitt. Then you are captured instantly…no room for stealth..no chance to fight your way out, even though you are powerful enough to defeat a supermutant with strategic teabagging, you get captured…why? In order for the plot to move forward, the game railroads you into a position whether you like it or not. Suck it up Princess; it’s just a game….
…But, it was a game that until then gave you the illusion of freedom of choice. When the freedom of choice is removed, it feels cheap, no matter how interesting the ride is, you’re still railroaded and it feels suddenly trite. Enough podcasts talk about GMs who railroad players, that’s harsh enough. To have a fellow player railroad you is bad form indeed.
Thank you for the enjoyable discussion, guys. I’ve debated the issue before, but I me and another guy used completely different arguments.
Right at the top of this page, Patrick expresses surprise that so many people want to continue debating the topic. Well, I think there is a reason for that. Almost no one is addressing the core issue. Many people are getting bogged down in side issues and who said what. The core issue, the very heart of the matter, is this — what aspects of the story do you want the rules to simulate?
The answer is going to vary from one group to another and likely from one gamer tol another. That being said, I fall firmly into the pro-mind control cabal.
From the evidence, it would seem that most game designers are on our side. Many gamers run their games relying on the rules solely to determine combats. Really, how many systems do you know which are designed that way? Don’t most games feature some sort of social or influence or charisma stat or mechanic? Why do such rules exist except that the designers who have invested thousands of hours in playtesting think that the games work better with a social mechanic than without.
Take for example, the wimp and the croc. The wimp is a hypothetical gamer who is playing with you and me at the table. He can hardly make it up the stairs to the game room. The wimp wants to roleplay as a barbarian with a maxed out endurance stat. We accept and even encourage this decision. The wimp is stepping outside himself and testing his skill by playing a character very unlike himself.
I am croc. I have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile (thank you, Doctor Suess). I can’t influence nor intimidate nor sweet talk anyone for anything. You dislike me right now as you are reading this, aren’t you? I want to play a silver tongued bard.
In game, I my bard attempts to befriend (or manipulate or seduce) the barbarian. I ask to roll for it. The GM screams bloody murder. She shouts, ‘It’s called roleplaying, not rollplaying! All social conflicts must be resolved with words, not dice!’
But, I am the croc… I can’t befriend my way out of a wet paper bag. I listen to Dragon’s Landing. I don’t have those words in real life despite the fact that the bard I am roleplaying clearly would. Why is it that the barbarian can use his character’s best stats, even against my character, but he is immune to my character’s influence? It is flat out impossible for me to roleplay this character in the detail demanded by this style of gaming.
I see the only-influence-NPCs rulings as a compromise, and even then it is a compromise in which my cabal-mates are giving up most and getting very little in return.
The point of a game is not to simulate characters in a fantasy world as accurately as possible. It is to have fun. Taking away control of a player’s character is fundamentally not fun because it turns the player into a passive spectator. The player didn’t show up to watch other people play. He showed up to actually play. Taking that away from him is a bad idea.
So in other words, your idea of a good game does not sound fun at all. It sounds fucking terrible.
A ‘croc’ can think for himself well enough to know how to attack someone in combat. He doesn’t need to have dice rolled for his character to choose what attack to use or which enemy to attack. No rules govern that situation because if he was that bad of a player, then he shouldn’t play. No one’s saying the croc should be able to wield a sword himself, but he should at least know what he wants to do in combat and articulate it.
Similarly, the ‘croc’ doesn’t need to be a good actor or be able to roleplay the character well. He can even not liek the roleplaying aspect of the game. However, as a sheer minimum he should be able to outline an interesting narrative/character reason that another PC would listen to his character. “My character would want to remind your character this is like the time he let his brother die because of a stupid plan.” Simple. No need to roll.
If a player can’t muster up some basic ability to interact with the game world, and if a player really is so poor at the roleplay aspect of the game that he can’t offer a fun option another player would go for, then why is he getting any mechanism to forceably control another’s character? Why does he get to play two characters badly through GM fiat?
The GM and the dice are there to provide a fair and fun experience as the GM tells the story. Once the players play together, the GM and his dice should get out of the way until they are asked for!
If a player needs to be brought out of his shell, the GM needs to encourage this himself through interaction and appropriate skill checks relating to maliable and discardable NPCs, not sitting back and letting uncalled for PvP happen.
That’s my opinion, anyway 😀
Ross, you wrote ‘your idea of a fun game doesn’t sound fun to me at all.’ I never defined my idea of a fun game. It wasn’t part of my post. I have no idea what you mean. Was this even in relation to what I wrote?
Beowuuf, thank you for the thoughtful response. You arguments are sensible, but I don’t ultimately find them convincing. You describe your gall as being fun and fair, but your approach is fundementally unfair. The game table is not a debate torunament where the most elequent contest is supposed to win. The croc is at a distinct disadvantage because he is a croc. The wimp can absolutely use hsi barbarian to control the bard through his superior (and eqaully ficitious) physical abilities — bullying or simply bashing the bard in the head in the ultimate act of coersion. The croc has had his only good option taken away because the hypothetical GM likes to feel superior and snobbish towards rollplayers.
It comes back to what we want to simulate with the rules. If we want to simulate only physical combat and nothing else, I’m fine with that. Let’s just estalbish that intention from the beginning instead of deciding it in the middle of a game and hitting a bad rollplayer with a roll of newspaper and shouting, ‘bad gamer, bad, look at the mess you made!’
Your argument implies that players are competitors or adversaries in a RPG and that’s why I think it’s terrible. Why else would it matter whether Player A can fuck over player B or not with social or combat abilities? Your argument falls apart when you throw in a basic social contract that states that players are not antagonistic to each other and will not try to dick each other with the rules. Your example is weak because it assumes the wimp is going to be such an asshole that he will threaten other PCs with violence if they don’t do what he says. If that happened in my game, I would kick the player out for being a douchebag.
Furthermore, I’ve never seen a gamer who is socially inept that he can’t express himself in a basic manner. In real life, the croc is free to make whatever choice he wants to and I expect the wimp to not abuse the rules to get what he wants. I don’t expect shakespearan acting but you have this idea that there are many gamers who have to be protected against ‘superior’ role players who would just manipulate them like puppets. Frankly, this is a weird idea as in my experience it’s usually the minmaxer combat munchkins who want to unilaterally force their ideas on the rest of the party.
My whole goal is to ensure that each player makes his own choies in a game. I’ve run hundreds of games over the years and having a player use social skills to manipulate other players only came up at Fear the Con. I have dozens of recorded AP games on this podcast. Listen through them and you’ll see that I value player agency in games and that I don’t let players get sidelined in the way you describe.
Okay, thank you for the clarifications, Ross.
Yes, the croc and the wimp are extreme hypothetical examples. They are thus on purpose to simplify the scenario. Extreme examples reveal flaws in reasoning that would otherwise other become apparent through many, many real life examples. Had I created two moderate examples, the problem would not have been nearly as clear.
I don’t mean to imply anything, so I will clarify also. The PCs are infighting and trying to manipulate each other. They are competitors. That was the scenario which spawned the debate in the first place. I don’t know the details, because I wasn’t there. I don’t think that this game has been shared as an actual play episode yet (please correct me if I am wrong about that). There was clearly some type of conflict that happened between the players in the game, and thus they were competing. I had nothing to do with it.
I think that we have already agreed that allowing social stat manipulation of NPCs only is the prefered way to go. I’ve known some GMs who refuse any use of any social stat in a game. I’ve known other who allow manipulation of PCs, both by other PCs and by NPCs. The NPC-targetting method is a compromise. I think that you and I are just reaching that conclussion by coming from two completely different positions.
The game has been shared, and it might depress you in the extreme to hear exactly how much of a non-issue it seems in that game. At the very rushed big ending of a con game, where everyone (including the articulate player in question) had their say, and where everyone’s individual decision related to an individual ending, the player asked to then roll a persuade as a character once his normal persuade as a player wasn’t taken up. Ross simple iterated his opinion as a GM, that he wouldn’t let that player remove another player’s agency in that situation with a roll.
The game was a superhero game, and the players were all on the same team, just wanting to do different things to beat the end villain. It was clear the players could do different things. None of the players were shy wallflowers, and the person in question is himself a GM with apparently alot of experience, so surely can hold his own in a roleplaying context.
I agree with Ross, in that we’re all players. Players should be able to relate to players and respect and listen to them, even if their characters disagree. If all players feel or fair to invoke social mechanics, great. As you say, only a smug GM would insist on roleplaying a five hour debate if it’s not fun for his players.
However, if one player alone wants to resolve a social conflict with rolling and using rules, then there’s probably something going wrong. A GM letting a player roll his way out of that isn’t doing the player any favours, is shunning his own role as social arbitrator, and is simply opening up the way for abuse of the rules without resolving the underlying issues (and the ‘weak’ player would probably find he was the butt of the abuse later, or would simply alienate fellow players by not engaging them). If players aren’t supporting each other and ensuring the game is fun for each other, providing another avenue for frustrations might not be wise.
I always feel dice rolling is a mechanism for altering the reality of the game world, and is very useful for a GM to not get too invested in his world above the players’ characters. I have no issue if players want to use social mechanics together, but get inherently uneasy for dice rolls being used first to resolve character to character interaction. Dice rolls dictates something must change, and some player has to have their character’s behaviour changed from how they invisioned their character. Mandatory rolling means mandatorily altering your character in a way, and is more galling than a player voluntarily figuring out ways for the story to continue while their character staying true to their vision.
I am depressed to the extreme. I am attempting to procure a prescription for an antidepressant. I am a picture of self-loathing. It might distress you, Beowulf, to learn that my condition has nothing to do with this debate. You know what else has nothing to do with this debate? The size of the conflict has nothing to do with this debate. Neither your arguments nor mine are dependent on the initial conflict being maarten (nor small). Therefore your concern about the size of the initial conflict to be strangely inappropriate.
Ross wrote, ‘Your argument implies that the players are competitors or advesaries in an RPG and I think that’s terrible.’ I wasn’t implying that. It really happened. I corrected Ross, ignorantly not realizing that Ross is a sacred cow who can not be shoved and certainly not contradicted. Do I get partial credit for not pointing out his faulty puncutation?
Perhaps you are suggesting that I should not be debating at all because it doesn’t matter much. If so, then you are probably correct. It would be a doublely-strange point coming from you and the RPPR guys being that it was your side that did an entire show on the subject.
I will soon make a third, last, and desperate attempt to herd this thread back onto the topic.
I think you have bigger problems than proper social skill usage if players are competitors/adversaries in a RPG. It’s not supposed to work like that.
If a debate is supposed to lead to a right answer, then no, the topic shouldn’t be debated this strongly.
If the debate is supposed to clarify either side of a scale, so that each ‘side’ can better understand the other side, and everyone in the middle (most people) recognising all the good and bad points so they know how far along the scale they are at, then the debate is good.
Sorry, no one’s trying to convince you your argument is wrong, I understand your side. The impression you give is you don’t understand nor respect the opposing end of the scale. Or at the very least wish that social skills PC against PC should be a default assuption in RPG rules and houserules. I apologise if that is not the case. I think people are trying to point out why no rolling is important to them, important enough they will shut it down in their game and rule it out as an option unless all the players are onboard with it. To me, no rolling against PCs is a more acceptable default position because good players can usually play around that. And newer players have a better environment to learn the RP side of the game (the stranger side) without leaning on the rules, and worse yet being abused by the rules at the hands of the experienced players. I’m certainly interested in seeing if my assumption there is wrong, but so far the edge cases defined by the ‘croc/wimp’ argument don’t seem to weight any heavier than the opposing edge cases that could be made.
If anything, I’m sad the debate is so narrowly focused on PC versus PC rolls, I’d like to see it exapnd to restate people’s viewpoints on rolling in general too (I’ve heard this topic covered in numerous places, and roll versus role against NPCs and tasks seems just as contentious)
The particular game mentuioned is highlighted because it shows exactly how little can make someone butthurt over this topic (there are now four blog posts on the subject from the same person). It therefore does highlight the need that players and GMs alike perhaps need to know where they stand on this subject and yet also need to know and understand the reason for opposing views. Even if it never actively occurred to them it could be a problem!
I am on one side of the scale (and certainly not the extreme end, passive rolls against other players are usually fine), and that happens to be the same side as Ross in this case. In my personal case, even before this topic ever reared its head here I knew it important enough for me to state my own opinion as GM in my games – no player rolls against each other for actively altering character interaction. If every players wants it, I’m a poor GM not to alter that. If the circumstance warrants a roll, I’d also be a poor inflexible GM to not go with it. However, I state my default position clearly because it suits my style of play, and as said seems to also protect people more than it harms them in my games.
Anyway, I look forward to your third post, and hope that if it addresses this topic in general, I will gain a better insight in how to explain or adapt my style should I play or run a game where the majority is for giving significant weight to rolling against PCs.
It wasn’t my game in which it happened.
To back track slightly, Ross, you wrote: ‘My whole goal is to ensure that each player makes his own choices in the game.’ That’s an important point which it would be wrong of me to gloss over. It’s even an admirable goal from a few points of view. It is not, however, the way most RPGs are designed to be played. What you are describing would be a diceless, careless, no-rules free form group plotted storytelling session. This is the way to completely unrestrict in-game choices. There is nothing wrong with that style of game. I’ve been in a few. It is not how I nor most roleplayers prefer to play. Furthermore, it would open the door to even more character to character manipulation that you described as ‘terrible.’
You also wrote, ‘What you are saying falls apart when you introduce a basic social contract…’ Was exactly is it that I suggested which in the social contract in the first place? Your rule that only NPCs can be manipulated (which itself I have not disputed and feel is an acceptable compromise), is a house rule. I have never seen it written in any game system. I challenge you to show me where it is a part of any system. What I suggested was stating the house at the beginning of the game so that the players know what to expect.
Now I twice posed the question: what aspects of the do we want the rules to stimulate? Beowulf actually answered the question. Beowulf, you wrote, ‘
Now you’re misstating my position. There is a big difference between making choices and having no restrictions whatsoever on making choices. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a large library of AP episodes you can listen to see what games I run and how I run them. I don’t run diceless free-form games. I honestly can’t see where you’re getting that idea from anyway.
Of course players will have restrictions on what choices are available to them. But I want those choices to be meaningful and have the player make them so when a player decides to risk his character’s life to achieve a goal, it’s actually interesting and worth role playing. If I left choices down to a matter of dice rolling then it wouldn’t be as important.
More importantly you are flat out wrong about social skills only being used against NPCs is a house rule. Let’s look at 3E’s Diplomacy skill: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/skills/diplomacy.htm
You can change the attitudes of others (nonplayer characters) with a successful Diplomacy check; see the Influencing NPC Attitudes sidebar, below, for basic DCs.
It specifically says that only NPCs can be affected by it and this is a very mainstream system. In fact, I would be surprised that many games state that players can be affected by social skills used by other players.
You’re making weird and untrue assumptions about the games I play and the way the rules in games are written. The rules should focus on making a game fun and exciting to play.
Okay, first off I apologize to everyone in the thread for my hackneyed style herein. I have been making these posts using the Android web browser which is great for browser but less than great for typing. Consequently, sometimes the wrong word shows up or sections get lost. I am apologizing because I could fix this in editing, but I am not that motivated.
Thank you, Ross, for the link. Every game system I have ever read makes no distinction between player characters and non-player characters as targets of in-game manipulation. For example, I’ll quote from Guardians of the Order’s Tri-Stat system because that is closest to my hand. The Aura of Command Attribute is described, ‘the character is able to inspire allies into following him or her into dangerous situations that they might otherwise avoid.’ The description goes on and on without ever making an exception for player characters. My interpretation is not bizzare. I am just reading the rules as written without introducing my own bias or house rules. The linked rules are the exception, not the norm. I never expected to live in a world with no exceptions. Since you have found an exception, I will back off from my position that game designers might disagree with your interpretation.
My purpose: it is not top change anyones mind either. I know that isn’t going to happen. I am, as already stated, the croc. I am thirty-five years old this year, and I have yet to change anyones mind about anything. If someone continues to doubt that such a gamer exists, consider how my own post have frustrated everyone else involved in this thread.
So why am I here? Partly, I admit that it is because I heard a show about three guys discussing a contested topic while all in complete agreement. That struck against my sense of fair play.
Mostly, I offer a dissenting voice as a sign of respect. The RPPR crew actually does bother to put forth their own show, and that should be recognized. I’m not putting forth that effort. Blind congratualtions aren’t really helpful, but if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have posted anything. Why the comments function is left open, I don’t know. It seems like asking for trouble to me.
Have I used forum troll tactics? No, I have not, not by a long shot. My personality really is this repulsive.
Have I exaggerated some of Ross’ statements to their logical but rediculous conclussions? Yeah, I did that. Technically, it’s a logical fallicy, and I own up to it. This is because I found many of the statements in this thread to be genuinely rediculous, particularly some I did not point out.
One such statement I find rediculous is that the debate has gone too far. I know I read that earlier, but it seems to be gone now. Devoting an entire show to the debate is fine, so long as everyone agrees and there is no debate. When a disagreeing voice occurs, the debate then has gone too far.
But hey, this is ultimately not my website. If any of you guys really think the debate has gone too long, you may be correct. I will shut up. You can have the last word.
Most systems don’t specifically mention that players are affected by social skills. It’s an unwritten assumption that only NPCs are affected by them. Do you know why I know this? Because most social skill rules are written only with NPCs in mind.
For example, the DC of a diplomacy skill check in 3E and 4E D&D is based on the attitude of the target from friendly to hostile. Yet there are no rules stating how to establish a PC’s attitude or ANY mention of how a PC is affected by the diplomacy skill.
Another example: Shadowrun p. 130 – “Charisma linked skills…influence an NPC’s reactions to a character…” The rules explain how to set the TN for a skill check based on the NPC’s attitude etc. It does not mention PCs being affected by the skills.
If PCs were meant to be affected by social skills by other players, why don’t the rules mention this? I think the onus is on you to list systems that specifically state that players are affected by social skills.
I’ve given evidence to prove my point. 3E D&D is one of the biggest systems out there and it influenced many other systems. Shadowrun is also a major game. You haven’t given any positive evidence to back your point. You just say ‘well they don’t disallow it’ but given that pretty much every ruleset has to devote a lot of space to how the rules affect PCs, why wouldn’t they mention it?
BTW feel free to respond. I leave the comments on because I like the discussion.
In the newest release of the RPGNow Weekly Newsletter, Sean discusses this very issue. I thought we all would be interested in seeing his take. Get there quick, and look under the heading of ‘A Better Game.’ The newsletter changes in less than a week, and archives are not available for access to the public. http://www.rpgnow.com/newsletter_current.php