Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Social Combat system from Exalted

I posted this comment at someone else's blog today, and thought I might want to save it here for future reference. He was considering porting over the Social Combat system from Exalted to Scion, as someone had done on the White Wolf Wiki. While I think the notion of Social Combat (making social interactions have more game element and thus giving them more screen time), I think that system is a poor fit for Scion. Here's why:

That system uses temporary Willpower to track how well you’ve convinced, tricked, or intimidated someone. There’s a couple problems with that.

Willpower totals max at 10 in Scion, for both puny mortals and the most strong-willed Gods. So, it doesn’t really scale as you go up, and almost all PCs start at 70% of maximum. Social attributes, however, have a higher cap, and Epic socials expand almost geometrically (+46 automatic successes at the top level). Social characters will wrap the gods around their fingers with fairly minimal XP investment.

Rather than scaling up the willpower pools, the designers just made lots of knacks that restore spent willpower, especially in Demigod and God (but those knacks can be purchased by Hero-level characters). In fact, there’s several different knacks that refresh someone’s entire willpower pool for a single point of legend (and Gods have over 100 legend points). Two characters both armed with that power would render each other immune to ever being dissuaded.

I’d guess by Legend 5 or so it’ll break down almost completely. You’ll always succeed at persuading someone if you talk to them in private, but are incapable of affecting groups of 2 or more. That just doesn’t sound like fun.

A possible solution would be to create a new stat that works similar to willpower, and is the target of social combat, but which scales up like Epics and/or can’t be refreshed infinitely via knacks like some sort of M:TG combo deck. But that may be a lot of work to implement.

I have one other complaint about that Social Combat system, or anything similar. I think allowing a Player to roll to schmooze their way past troubles the character could handle but the player can't is a good idea. However, such a system has to be quick, non-intrusive, and doesn't pull you out of character too much. It'd be very easy to accidentally create a system that smothered the improvisational acting elements of RPGs. You need a system that solves impasses and gives the GM guidance, not a system that undermines peoples efforts to portray their character. That's not an easy tightrope to walk.

1 comment:

Josh said...

I fear you may be correct. I really like the idea of Social Combat but the more I think about it the more I feel that the application of it, at least as it pertains to Scion, is flawed and problematic.