While enjoying a beer out with The Wife Saturday night, I received a message from a buddy of mine. Deb advised me that Ross Payton and his crew over at Role Playing Public Radio were talking about me. Or at least the subject of my previous two YMH columns concerning the use of social skills against a fellow player’s character.
“Have you checked it out yet?” She asked. “Ouch… They’re a bit harsh toward the end.”
I hadn’t, so I downloaded it, listening on Sunday while digging out the flower beds.
The RPPR folks took the position that grown-up role players settle matters of disagreement through role playing free of a dice mechanic. Player vs. player conflicts should be settled through acting out the drama and perhaps meta-game it a bit to resolution. As you know, I disagree.
Character’s have attributes, skills, and other abilities with a measurable value. A player character’s ability to throw a stone has a metric. A PC’s talent at swordsmanship has a gauge His intelligence, strength, and dexterity all have a scale.
If you wish to have your character punch another, Ross Payton has no problem allowing you to roll your Brawling skill along with appropriate dexterity and strength bonuses. If you want to charm or persuade your fellow player character, let’s do that through role playing with no dice mechanic to support or enhance the play.
My character had a Persuasion skill, a rating that provided him a certain degree of competency in this regard.
It is strange to me that those as deeply engaged as the RPPR guys are in a hobby utilizing dice mechanics to determine most outcomes would find it so extremely objectionable to use such a mechanic to resolve – or at least guide – the outcome of an in-game discussion.
RPPR’s round table suggested that only those players who dislike each other, are engaged in stale games, or are immature would possibly think that a dice mechanic would ever be desirable in player character v. player character disputes. “The reason why we’ve never gotten into a situation like that,” Cody noted, “Is because we’re fucking adults… we’re potty trained and college educated.”
I can accept the humorous tone in which the comment was made, but it strikes me as narrow-minded to discount PC-on-PC social combat systems such as found in Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel. I can also accepts that the game we were playing that day, Wild Talents, did not have a social combat system. But my pre-generated character provided me by the GM had a social skill on it that I was prevented from using against another in-game character.
I’m sorry. That sucks.
Now for some intelligent conversation on the subject, go check out this week’s Podge Cast where Luke, Adam/David, and Eric discuss the issue at length. It’s the best discussion on the topic yet, and I’m not saying that because they mostly agree with me. Best conversation I’ve heard on social combat between two players I’ve heard… well… since the last time they talked about it.
If you’re counting, that’s four podcasts that have taken up this discussion: