Social System

These rules are meant to be a more fluid way to interpret the results of social interaction in Role-Playing games, however they needn’t be restricted to that.  Game concepts like Morality and Alignments can be tacked in with some simple add ons.  Codes of honor are not a problem either.  This system also provides an easy way to implement insanity templates in a way that can be extremely gritty and realistic, or fun and amusing depending on the needs of the game.

Overall this is simply a rough generic system, and the numbers and traits would need to be tailored to each specific system and setting, but the overall core is extremely versatile.  A few mechanical concepts that help this system work are an INTELLIGENCE or REASONING based Stat, a DISCIPLINE or WILLPOWER based Stat, and a WITS or other Quick Thinking based stat.  Stats for good (or bad) looks, and/or affability or friendliness can work within this system but are not required and can be simply based on role-playing.  Social skills can be as general or as specialized as the game requires.

The system introduces two mechanical concepts called Trust and Calm that are detailed in the rules.  Some games have similar concepts and this can be adapted to fit these rules.

Mental and Social Rules
There are all sorts of situations a character can encounter during play, many require more finesse then a bullet and even when a bullet or an energy blast can solve things they can be extremely stressful.  With this in mind I’ve created a set of new mechanics to represent this aspect of Role Playing.
Social rules often get a bad rap In RPGs, and often viewed as – at best – a crutch for inept role players and – at worst – a way to force a character to do something they have seemingly no reason to do.  The trouble is that Role Playing is a social hobby, which brings up the question; aren’t rules for social interaction redundant?
The answer, is that so much of what we do well is based on our personality.  A common saying goes “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” So in this, the social rules can effect everything.  A character will fight better when he feels confident he will will win, a character that is more determined and stubborn will go on longer than someone who is weak willed.
Rather than replace role playing, this social system is designed to work without a lot of “social rolls”.  What it is meant to do is give quick and easy mechanics to represent social conditions and make them relevant in gameplay.  If a character is in a stressful situation and getting angry the social rules represent that with a loss of Calm.  If the character becomes so enraged he can’t see straight; he gains penalties.  This makes it so that the incentive to do certain things comes from the need to regain that calm so that the penalties go away, in this way the player can choose their course of action rather than it being forced on them.
The flip-side of calm is where a character is comfortable with a person, situation or some other thing they can regain any lost calm through that trust.  The down-side is that trust makes a person vulnerable to attacks on calm – the way to get at a person is to hurt the things she loves after-all.
This system creates a fluid way to influence Role-Play and get in character without a lot of extra mechanics.  It covers things like morale in combat, insanity, fear and loathing, and happiness and love. It is not meant to replace role-playing, only to represent that the things that players know matter to their characters in a way that makes the system know that as well.

Losing calm:
Calm is lost due to stress.  It can be spent to augment a [Strength Stat], or [Endurance Stat] action by trading one Calm for -2 Accuracy and -1 Power.  Multiple calm may not be spent to gain cumulative bonuses.  This calm cannot be regained until the character succeeds at the task at hand, at which point it is regained at a rate of 1 point per hour of rest.  If the task cannot be succeeded then the calm is lost until the character forgets or by confronting/coming to terms with it through something the character trusts.

Calm is lost when something or someone that the character trusts is in danger, hurt, or lost permanently.
In Danger – loses ½ the Trust rating for as long as the condition persists.
Harmed – loses the Trust rating for as long as the condition persists.
Lost – loses 2x the trust rating until the character can forget the loss or overcomes the loss by confronting/coming to terms with it through something the character trusts.

Calm Threshold
The calm threshold is the point where the character starts freaking out.  It is the character’s [Mental Defense] + the situational trust modifier.  ([Int -10] – [Sum of all trust modifiers pertinent to the situation])
If calm goes below the Calm Threshold the character is -1 to the Accuracy of all actions for each point below threshold.

Regaining Calm
Calm can be regained a few ways depending on how the situations surrounding it’s loss are resolved.

If the situation is fixed or resolved without significant loss then the lost calm returns automatically at a rate of 1 per hour of rest.
If the situation cannot be fixed or concludes tragically or with significant hardship and loss, the lost calm can be regained at a rate of 2 per day as long as the character is not reminded of the event.  If the character is reminded the character’s calm rating drops at a rate of 1 per minute until the character reverts to the original rating the calm was at at the conclusion of the event.  Leaving the presence of the reminder can stop this, leaving the character free to forget again.  Any time a character forgets an event to regain calm, he must record it on his character sheet under Forgotten Psychological Trauma at a rating of the # of Calm lost.  A list of triggers associated with that trauma should be added as well.  Players who include interesting and insightful triggers and role-play them in a fun and consistent way should sometimes be rewarded with XP.
Lost Calm that cannot be regained through other means can only be regained by coming to terms with the event through the aid of someone or something the character trusts.  This should almost always be role-played or described in reasonable detail.  The GM is the final arbitrator of what works and what doesn’t but this is the system.
The character can use something (ability, item, situation, place) that they have trust levels in, to come to terms with the traumatic event. (An artist could design and get a tattoo, a swordsman could go out seeking revenge, a home owner could dedicate a room etc…)  the process should take some time investment.  If the GM deems it’s a good (interesting and fun should almost always be good) form of therapy then the character drops the Trauma rating representing the lost calm by the trust rating of the therapy focus x2, at a rate of 1 point per-day, though the final 2 points are not lost until the task is finished.
The same principle applies to people the character trusts.  This generally requires conversation, sympathy and relation.  For significant psychological trauma the GM should consider requiring a quest of some sort to fully resolve the issues.  At the GM’s discretion, finishing this therapy is likely to result in further trust gained between the two parties.

Trust can be invested in virtually anything, but the most common Associations are people (a friend, contact, boss, spouse or fellow adventurer – it is a good idea for a player to consider investing a bit of trust in his fellow PC’s because it will increase the character’s morale in combat), special equipment (a favorite pistol, a custom vehicle, a lucky charm), a place (grandmother’s house, the barracks, Chi-Town), or even a situation (drinking with friends, running with the ball, squeezing a trigger from a concealed location).  Sometimes the GM assigns this trust through the results of role-playing, other times the character may decide to pay XP to gain or upgrade an Association.
Trust can be gained by having one person invest time and effort doing something good for another person.  As a rule, one trustworthy event = +1 trust. This sort of trust is permanent until broken.  Permanent trust is a bonus to any persuasion rolls.
Betrayal, threats, antagonization, and harm to someone or anything they trust results in loss of trust.  Generally trust is lost faster than it is gained, any distrust-worthy action the character is conscious of removes 2 points of trust per event.  Distrust can be as low as -5.
Comfort Zones and Tie-Ins
Trust for objects, abilities, areas, and situations are comfort zones.  All characters trust their abilities at a rating equal to the ability rating it’s self.
A character can trust a location they’re familiar with and have made their own, a safe-house, a local neighborhood, a bar they’re a regular at.  Locations should have a specific trait associated with each level of trust associated with it.  (Weapons Stash, Discreet Staff, Secret Tunnels, Broken-in furniture…)
A character can trust an object that they have come to rely on or have customized to fit their needs, a car, a weapon, a lucky charm. Characters should exercise caution investing too much Trust in an object for fear it’s lost, though temper this advice with the rule of cool.  As with locations, an object should have a trait associated with each level of trust.
A situation that a character trusts should be a signature zone of awesome for that character and will likely involve elements of other things and people the character trusts.  Each element of trustworthiness incorporated into the situation (backup from an ally, + driving + in favourite car, + eating takeout from that Chinese Place) can count as a trait to associate with the bonus.

Rolling Social
There are two objectives to making social rolls. The first is to establish temporary trust, and the second is to temporarily lower calm. These are powerful effects but they are temporary, loss of calm or trust gained through a social manipulation roll resets at a rate of 1 per hour or instantly if a major event eclipses the situation in priority. (This is left to GM discretion, but generally a life-threatening combat, or any significant plot shift qualifies.)
Note: the forgetting process does not begin until the character is removed from the influence of the social roll.

Temporary Calm
Loss of temporary calm represents (transient) preoccupation with something. From a friend’s troubles, to the new car they want to buy, to simply how bored someone is. It is stress and imposes the same penalties as calm loss from other sources. Temporary calm loss is added to any additional calm reductions from other sources. To create a temporary loss of calm via a social roll, a character needs to focus on a negative aspect of the person they’re trying to influence (the bruises on the friend, what bad shape the old car is in, or the lack of anything to entertain) and rolls [Charisma Stat]. The subject may apply their [Mental Defense] as a passive defence if the character is not resisting with dialog and role- play. An active defence requires role play to conduct and the GM will be the arbitrator on what Stat is applicable to resist.
• The [Intelligence Stat] Generally pokes holes in an argument and sees the inconsistencies in the line of persuasion.
• The [Willpower Stat] Represents an innate stubbornness and a refusal to be drawn into the social manipulation.
• The [Wit’s Stat] Counters the influence with a new related point to turn the persuasion back on the one persuading.
The amount of temporary calm lost is equal to the threshold of success over the defence.
Temporary Trust
Temporary trust is created by persuading a character that she is particularly capable, suited or in a position to be benefitted by a particular situation, course of action, person or thing.    The reinforcement is positive with a focus on eliminating doubt and misgivings. The persuading party rolls [Appearance Stat]. when persuading verbally or [Wits Stat] if persuading through writing with a Skill 3 requirement in either Writing, Art, or Marketing.
Creating temporary trust instills a surge of confidence that a particular situation will work out for the character being influenced. Temporary trust has the capability to eliminate any temporary loss of calm instantly, and using it to mitigate the long term loss of calm is possible though the trust is unlikely to be in place long enough to fully eliminate any large loss of calm.

About Helmsman

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4 Responses to Social System

  1. Mad Brew says:

    I must say, I’m on of the first ones to balk at social mechanics (I loathe Alignments)… but if a player can voluntarily use such mechanics instead of being forced (and I will include purchasing advantages/drawbacks that may later force things), then it goes a long way to assuaging my reluctance in using them. Which I think you have taken some good first steps in that direction.

  2. schoonerhelm says:

    I see a lot of potential in these mechanics to go in unexpected directions as far as powers and abilities go. Incorporating them into a mass combat/troop formation idea has potential. The system for permanent calm loss makes a great base for Call of Cthulhu insanities, and adding Trust and Comfort zones to gear can make a relatively normal weapon have real significance and a tangible effect for the wielder.

    One thing I’m playing with now is creating a modular system where GM’s can opt to include certain rulesets into the game at their discretion. This would be one of them, others might be a set of troop combat rules. That way one can go from rather rules lite to crunchy at their discretion.

  3. Mad Brew says:

    I’d definitely like to see you extrapolate Trust & Comfort for gear.

    • schoonerhelm says:

      The trick I used in the first game I designed was to incorporate Calm loss into damage. As you got hurt more, panic was more likely to set in. Once that damage healed and the threat was gone, then the calm reset but if the calm threshold wasn’t set very low due to situational trust modifiers, then it would only take a relatively minor amount of damage for a character to begin getting penalties to all actions from being freaked out.

      The best thing about that was it encouraged the PC’s to throw a few Trust points towards the party which in turn made backstabbing an PC death a way bigger deal that begat more role-playing. It also encouraged people to stick with “trusted” weapons.

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