Social Combat/Politics
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Tonitrus



Joined: 11 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:43 pm    Post subject: Social Combat/Politics Reply with quote

I decided some time ago that my goals and designs for a mud would be unfeasible if I could not come up with a decent social combat system. I think I've come up with the basis for a decent system, which I would appreciate comments/criticism on. My gut tells me that players will tolerate a poorly implemented social combat system much less well than they'll tolerate a terrible combat system. After all, terrible combat systems are fairly abundant.

This system isn't terribly complex, but it does involve a few smaller parts that work together in interesting ways. I've just thought of all this up, so I haven't given much thought to the "frontend" of the system or how to present it to users in immersive ways, but I think the backend is solid.

So I'll break this up into the component parts, then describe how (I predict) they'll work together as a whole.


Attitude System

Most muds have mobs that are aggressive or not aggressive. I don't think this is particularly useful. My system calls for an attitude system, where mobs have attitudes towards individuals, organizations, races, nations, whatever. Individuals, organizations, races, and nations could have attitudes towards any of the above as well. These would all stack, but would be weighted towards the individual's view if one exists. (i.e., a dwarf merchant thinks you're great, but dwarves as a whole think you're a thief, the dwarf merchant will like you less because of this, but will still give more credence to his own personal view)

Attitudes run from -1000 to 1000, -1000 being extreme emnity, 1000 being extreme benevolence. A mob who wholly despises you may or may not attack you. He may ignore you, pay others to attack you, or simply be content at charging you ridiculous prices.

These attitudes can have sweeping effects, including prices of items in stores, whether the guards allow you into certain locations, what inns will house you, or whatever else. To make things better/worse, reputations can partially rub off on others, so being seen to interact with someone with a very poor reputation could lower the attitude that others have toward you. Although this would be a small percentage, it would be high enough to warrant avoidance of such individuals where feasible.

Favors

KaVir was telling me about a system he used on a World of Darkness mud. If I recall correctly, the mud did not have a currency. Players exchanged "boons" or favors, and these favors could accumulate from minor favors into more severe favors. If you owed someone a lot of favors, you couldn't attack them, and people could trade favors with one another, so that if an individual was harassing you, you could find someone he owed a favor to and trade something for that favor. Now the individual would owe you a favor and be unable to attack you. I found this idea quite interesting, and adapted it slightly into the following system:

When you do something for another individual, such as train skills, give money, or whatever else, you will owe them a favor. These will have set base costs, but players can optionally charge more. Owing someone a favor puts you at a disadvantage in social conflicts against them.

Favors can be forgiven by the person they are owed to. Favors can be "abandoned" by the person who owes them, although doing so gives them a probably permanent penalty on most future social combats.

Combined with a simple task system, mobs could give players tasks to accomplish, resulting in mobs owing favors to players. If this task system covered the basics, perhaps players could use these favors owed to them to force mobs to do certain things, or perhaps mobs could offer selective information or other bonuses (quests, etc) to those they owe favors to repay their debt. I'm a bit iffy on this part, but oh well.

The gist of the favors system is that helpful individuals have the distinct possibility of ending up with many favors owed to them, which will offer them an advantage against those who owe them, give them later resources to tap into, and affect other things I haven't described yet.

In addition to getting penalties in socially attacking or socially defending against a person you owe favors, a lesser penalty may also apply to physical combat. Also, killing/maiming/harming someone you owe favors to is likely to harm your standing in whatever society you're in.

Organizations, etc

In addition to having whatever leadership ranks an organization possesses, members of that organization (nation, guild, order, whatever, it doesn't matter, and organizations can have sub-organization factions and so on as well) have a "standing" in that organization. This standing provides them with bonuses to social combat against other members of that same organization. This standing can be modified in certain ways (large contributions to the organization, influence of a powerful member, etc), but one of the easiest ways to influence standing in an organization is to be owed a lot of favors from other members. Each favor you are owed by a member of that organization gives you a bonus to the standing of that organization.

The person with the highest standing is not necessarily the leader or in any leadership position at all, however, if organizational "elections" for those who have such a thing are made into political mini-games, they'll certainly have the most sway on who ends up in the seats. In an organization without leaders, the person with the highest standing would be the most formidable opponent in that organization, and would have advantages against the members with lower standing.

Also, standing can be spent to perform various tasks. The way it would work is: if your total spent standing is less than your current standing + the standing you are trying to spend, you can spend it.

A few examples on what it can be spent on are: increasing the standing of another individual (costs more, but gives a favor from that individual), decreasing the standing of another individual, increasing the attitude of the organization w.r.t. another individual or organization, decreasing the attitude of an organization w.r.t. another individual or organization.

Probably also could be spent on political games like elections.

I assume that these points would need to regenerate over time, but, if so, it should be very, very slow. Or maybe spending standing should permanently reduce your standing. If a million people owe you favors anyway, why do you need more points?

Social Combat

When I tried to base social combat off the base stats, I kept failing over and over. Then I stole another idea from KaVir. In God Wars 2, physical combat is handled by secondary "combat stats", for lack of a better term. They are: Attack, Defense, and Damage. Magic/Psionics has similar secondary stats that mirror it (but are affected by different things), which gave me the idea to have a third set of secondary stats for social combat. I haven't really determined the names, but they could be something like: Influence, Resolve, Pull. Social "damage" would be in the form of weakened composure, which would give morale penalties to various things, although loss of standing or reduction of attitude of witnessing "factions" would tend to accompany this.

The social combat system is partially turn-based, but the turns don't pass at any set interval, although certain "moves" can time out. Person A gets a turn, and if Person B responds, that's his turn, and Person A gets another turn.

However, while Person A cannot take additional "turns" against person B, he can continue to act. Supposing he insults person B and gets a poor roll. If he continues to insult person B, he can continue to reroll and take the better roll (but would be denied any critical hits). If it's enough to overcome Person B's resolve, B will take "composure" damage. In other words, if, barring a critical, the max composure damage A can do in a round is 5, rolling poorly might get him a 1. He can continue to insult person B until he brings the "roll" up to 5, but no further. He can't get extra damage just from continuing to badger B. Likewise, if allies of his join in on his side, they may be able to offer him a slight bonus, but their total roll can't be more than the average of their best rolls. In other words, crappy backup is worse than none at all. In addition to "composure" damage, the victim is eligible to lose standing in whatever faction(s) are present, as well as cause the "attitude" of mobs of that faction (and thus, by proxy, players concerned about that faction's attitude) towards them to lower.

Now, if A insults B, or does something similar, B can simply ignore him. A won't be able to do much more after this point with respect to B's composure. However, by not acting, B may end up with a loss of standing he could have prevented. By continuing the combat into further rounds, B risks more composure in the hopes of raising his standing or lowering his opponent's. As their composures lower, the morale penalties to their rolls will cause them to be less effective, possibly opening them up to poaching from others. It's also possible to obtain nastier composure "injuries" that take much longer to heal, so "fighting to the death" is not necessarily a good strategy.

As an aside, a bystander can intervene on behalf of the victim, joining in the combat on his behalf, with the same rules as before. If only the defender acts in a round, his stats determine the results of that round, if only the victim acts, his stats determine the results of that round, if both act, the average of their actions determines the result. Presumably the victim will have a way of declining (politely or otherwise) the help of the would-be defender. At any rate, if the defender steps in on the victim's behalf and wins, this counts as a favor to the victim. This gives opportunities for individuals to defend newcomers from an enemy and gain an ally and weaken the enemy in the process. Also hopefully encourages a bit of helpfulness.

Also, defeating a person in social combat, either because they ignore you and "time out" or because you ruin their composure, or whatever else, causes you to gain a temporary morale bonus to future social combats, and maybe even lesser bonuses to physical combat as well. In other words, preying on the egos of weaker targets builds up the confidence to take on stronger ones, but it is only temporary.

In addition, upon defeating someone in social combat, you could possibly force them to perform a favor for you (this would require a task system, like I mentioned before) or face some other unpleasant penalty. I'm pretty iffy on this, but it could make "calling in favors" easier and easier for someone who owes you a bunch of them. I'm not sure how to handle unconscionable requests and requests that a particular character finds objectionable where others wouldn't, though. Maybe this system could use a lesser form of the task system that only asks for theoretically innocuous things, and where the player can spend some sort of expensive cost to resist if the matter is truly important.

Clothes would also be a major part of social combat. Characters interested in such things would probably tailor their clothing for such combat. Respectable clothes might be the equivalent of resisting composure loss. Professional clothes might give more social "attack", and so on. Cheaper clothes may or may not give penalties.

Lastly, challenges to physical combat are also great social challenges, so players may not wish to get too socially aggressive on physically powerful characters. Declining such a challenge would generally result in a loss of standing, but organizations opposed to such challenges would be able to overcome this by exerting influence and spending "standing" to cover up the damage and condemn the accuser. If it's politically expedient, of course.



As for how it all comes together, individuals could engage in social combat to affect how mobs in various factions respond to the player in question and to themselves. A player could through various means get himself hated by an entire city, and have to live in a seedy section of the city and beg favors from others just to get decent prices on things. Likewise people could work themselves into positions of power through game mechanics, and even once in those positions of power, may owe debts to other entities. A strong political rival may be too difficult to attack socially, making it simpler just to have him killed. A strong political rival who is guaranteed to destroy whomever attacks him socially could be attacked indirectly through "socially expendable" entities, and so on.

This system does have some problems I foresee. The first is that without a decent task system, it would be difficult to call in favors from mobs. Also, it would be hard for players to ask one another for unusual tasks. Technically, person A could do random service X for person B and person B could "forgive" that debt, but he could also cheat and refuse to pay up. Presumably person A would share this information and others would dislike dealing with person B. Another problem I see with it is that it doesn't seem to have much value for two entities who are not in another organization, unless there's a way to force people to do tasks. Another issue is that all characters should not react the same way to all types of social combat, but I think I can solve this issue with social combat "feats" or "talents". Apathy could be the Evasion of social combat, for example.

Another objection I expect to hear is that this system would cause political backstabbing and drama and whatnot, but, honestly, much of the system as I've thought it up is designed to codify and imitate behavior of people I've witnessed on muds and other such things that don't even have mechanics for it, so I'm not particularly worried.

I do like this system for a number of reasons, however. One is that it gives a basis for having things have a cost. Being helpful is rewarded. By default, everything has a cost. People can cast spells on you (with your permission) as a favor, perhaps, but not for free, or whatever.

Most importantly, I think this system (or one like it) would give a way to tie Socializers directly into the game. Whether they would be interested or not is hard to know, but the parts of a mud that they typically utilize (say, socials) have little to no affect on gameplay. This would give them a way to socialize in such a way that they get more powerful in the game as well. I'm a fan of the Bartle types for player classification, and I predict that a system like this would be most interesting to Socializers and Killers (how often do you get to say that?). Socializers by implementing in the game a number of things that occur socially and thus allowing them to gain more social sway, and Killers because it gives them yet another way to compete with other players. I also think it'd even the playing field a bit (if not give an outright advantage) for Socializers, who are often "easy targets" for Killers. I'd assume that being able to vie for positions of power and titles and whatnot would appeal to Achievers also. I'm not sure Explorers would care at all, really, but perhaps having hidden tasks and quests that you can only find from a mob owing you a favor and being asked some obscure question could tie them in as well.

Another thing I hope this system will do is cause players to, via a variety of complicated alliances, form themselves into groups that struggle for power against other groups. As long as players are working against one another, they'll constantly create things for one another to do.

Anyway, I hope this doesn't have any unsolvable design flaws, because I really need to come up with a good social combat system, and this is by far the best I've come up with so far.
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MECHFrost



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really like the system that you describe because it's original and different from what we are used to. There are however some details that I don't like.

You describe a world where everyone seems respectful and they, in some way, become someone's slave if they do a favour to them. Personally, if someone does a favour to me, that's good, but I won't really feel like I need to pay them back, and if they later offend me I will forget the favour that they did to me. The trade of favours is even worse and feels like a slave market. I would really remove it, unless you create an unusual universe where people run around with scrolls that prove that someone owes them a favour, and they trade them to each other. Then it would work perfectly well, although I'm under the impression that you try to implement this social system in a more generic world.

I believe that a good improvement would be to allow, under certain circumstances, a player to abandon a favour without suffering any penalty. If the person you owe a debt to loses all social prestige, then it doesn't matter if you don't pay them back, because no one cares for them. It brings another point: are all favours made public? If not, then most other players must not even be aware that you abandoned the favour, unless the player you owed it to whines about it to everyone, or the favour was so important that everyone must be aware about it e.g. that person saved your life.

This is a big flaw with reputation systems: when you do something, then everyone seems to know about it. But the truth is that no one will ever know about it unless it's really important.

Someone who tells everybody about you abandoning a minor favour should actually get the reputation of an annoying whiner, unless they are very subtle. I believe that here, you need to design a system to "spread" the knowledge about favours that takes this fact in consideration.

IMO, if someone insults you, then all favours that they have done for you can be abandoned with no penalty.

As for favours defining your standing in an organization, I believe it depends on the size of that organization. For example, if the organization has 100,000 members (e.g. an army or a popular church) the the favours don't matter. The points that you win with favours should be weighted by the size of the organization. If the organization has 3 members, and all of them owe you a favour, then surely it means much more.

I also don't believe that favours should be the easiest way to improve your standing in an organization. Money, family, race, and other factors should all be important, that way the players has many options to play with which makes the game richer.

Corruption (buying people's loyalty), intimidation, blackmail are good tactics to improve your standing. It would be interesting to keep track of two separate standings and sum them: one based on respect, and one based on fear etc., the later being more prone to change if you lose your power.

Favours shouldn't be so complex with NPCs. If a NPC owes you a favour, then they can be your "slave" if you want. But human reactions are more complex, and a player won't like to be forced into doing something too easily.

Tonitrus wrote:
At any rate, if the defender steps in on the victim's behalf and wins, this counts as a favor to the victim.


Many people wouldn't like to be helped if they felt they didn't need it. Helping someone can sometimes be an insult to their honour, especially in a fight. I believe that for the help to be considered a favour, the person who receives help should first acknowledge that it's a favour.

Tonitrus wrote:
In addition, upon defeating someone in social combat, you could possibly force them to perform a favor for you


I don't think so. You have just made an enemy. Unless you blackmail them or if they are part of the same organization as you, and with a lower rank, they surely won't want do anything for you.

Tonitrus wrote:
Clothes would also be a major part of social combat. Characters interested in such things would probably tailor their clothing for such combat. Respectable clothes might be the equivalent of resisting composure loss. Professional clothes might give more social "attack", and so on. Cheaper clothes may or may not give penalties.


"Respectable" is very relative. It should really depend on your opponent and the environment. Wearing shiny noble clothes in a "commoner" environment, or even worse, a thieves' guild, shouldn't give you a bonus. The noble is actually probably scared to get mugged unless he is accompanied by body guards. I would let the players define what is respectable and what is not from a list e.g. they must choose one type of clothing that is respectable to them, and one that is not. Very interesting idea otherwise.


Last edited by MECHFrost on Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:44 pm; edited 2 times in total
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ide



Joined: 21 Feb 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the idea of favors + tasks a lot. You could specialize this a bit, for example with binding tasks that can cause a loss of favors if you don't complete them, but offer more reward if you do.

I think reputation systems are good in theory but they suffer especially IMO from grinding. I guess if you make returns on reputation enhancements weighted heavily on either end of the spectrum that can help. Still I feel like there's a better way to handle that, I just don't know what.
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Tonitrus



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MECHFrost wrote:
You describe a world where everyone seems respectful and they, in some way, become someone's slave if they do a favour to them.

This would be the background framework upon which I'd build another system, and I think "slave" is a bit of an overstatement, they just gain a penalty against that person in social combat, and could (if defeated in said combat) be forced to repay that favor in some way.

MechFrost wrote:
Personally, if someone does a favour to me, that's good, but I won't really feel like I need to pay them back, and if they later offend me I will forget the favour that they did to me.

Dropping favors would give some sort of penalty, but isn't impossible, and I highly doubt there's anyone who would honor all debts. Perhaps dropping favors might also shift the person along the lawful/chaotic axis towards chaotic if such a system were in place.

MECHFrost wrote:
The trade of favours is even worse and feels like a slave market.

I'm not sure I like that either, I was referencing KaVir's system in a previous mud, not my own version. Trading favors could be very interesting, however, allowing daisy-chaining different contacts to achieve some obscure goal. I think favor-trading should probably only be allowed if the person owing the favor is there to witness the transaction, though.

MECHFrost wrote:
I believe that a good improvement would be to allow, under certain circumstances, a player to abandon a favour without suffering any penalty.

I agree in principle, but can't think of any useful circumstances that could apply generally. I think this ability should mainly fall under the category of feats/talents/backgrounds.

MECHFrost wrote:
If the person you owe a debt to loses all social prestige, then it doesn't matter if you don't pay them back, because no one cares for them.

I think this is probably a good idea. Also people who lose status by never repaying debts could lower their standing and end up in a state where no one has to repay them.

MECHFrost wrote:
It brings another point: are all favours made public?

At this point, for simplicity's sake, yes. Ideally, I'd probably limit it to witnesses with a small percentage carryover to their parent organizations for a general shift in perception towards the person in question from that organization. Could represent the witnesses telling the organization or simply the spread of attitude via non-verbal communication or whatever else. Also the person's social standing could be decreased by their mere perception that people would think less of them and their subsequent loss of confidence. Not too worried about the details at this point, just want to make sure the framework is decent.

MECHFrost wrote:
This is a big flaw with reputation systems: when you do something, then everyone seems to know about it. But the truth is that no one will ever know about it unless it's really important.

Whether people know about a specific incident or not, perceptions can shift as a result of perceived attitude shifts and whatnot, even if no one directly comments on the issue.

MECHFrost wrote:
I believe that here, you need to design a system to "spread" the knowledge about favours that takes this fact in consideration.

I agree in principle with the lameness of it all being public, but I don't want to have to model information dispersal at this point.

MECHFrost wrote:
IMO, if someone insults you, then all favours that they have done for you can be abandoned with no penalty.

I think this is the sort of personal thing that would be better suited to having talents/backgrounds/feats for social situations. I don't particularly agree with that statement, for example.

MECHFrost wrote:
As for favours defining your standing in an organization, I believe it depends on the size of that organization. For example, if the organization has 100,000 members (e.g. an army or a popular church) the the favours don't matter. The points that you win with favours should be weighted by the size of the organization. If the organization has 3 members, and all of them owe you a favour, then surely it means much more.

This is a good point, I didn't think of that at all. Perhaps the bonus should be based on the percentage of favors owed to you.

MECHFrost wrote:
I also don't believe that favours should be the easiest way to improve your standing in an organization. Money, family, race, and other factors should all be important, that way the players has many options to play with which makes the game richer.

Perhaps there could be social backgrounds for automatic standing bonuses to certain types of organizations. As for money, though, you could just go around handing out money and people would owe you favors. Favors are just the easiest way of improving standing that I've come up with at this point.

MECHFrost wrote:
Corruption (buying people's loyalty), intimidation, blackmail are good tactics to improve your standing. It would be interesting to keep track of two separate standings and sum them: one based on respect, and one based on fear etc., the later being more prone to change if you lose your power.

I'm not sure how this would work, but they'd ultimately use a similar system. The "favor" may not be repayable and may have conditions where it will lapse naturally, but the favor concept could still handle these sorts of details.

MECHFrost wrote:
Tonitrus wrote:
At any rate, if the defender steps in on the victim's behalf and wins, this counts as a favor to the victim.


Many people wouldn't like to be helped if they felt they didn't need it. Helping someone can sometimes be an insult to their honour, especially in a fight.

Social talents/backgrounds/feats could handle this as well. If a person has the Self-sufficient talent and you step in on their behalf, you find yourself owing them for the insult.

MECHFrost wrote:
I believe that for the help to be considered a favour, the person who receives help should first acknowledge that it's a favour.

Presumably people should be able to decline this assistance.

MECHFrost wrote:
Tonitrus wrote:
In addition, upon defeating someone in social combat, you could possibly force them to perform a favor for you


I don't think so. You have just made an enemy. Unless you blackmail them or if they are part of the same organization as you, and with a lower rank, they surely won't want do anything for you.

Social combat could represent all sorts of combat. Guilt-trips, friendly convincing, death threats, fast-talking, blackmailing, manipulating, or whatever else. And even if you've ultimately made an enemy of them, they may still feel the need to do a favor for you to pay you off or whatever else. They could also be unaware of what even transpired until after the fact. Also, in general, when they force you to do a favor for them, they'd end up owing you, which would make it hard for them to repeat it in the future and give you an advantage in the future.

MECHFrost wrote:
Tonitrus wrote:
Clothes would also be a major part of social combat. Characters interested in such things would probably tailor their clothing for such combat. Respectable clothes might be the equivalent of resisting composure loss. Professional clothes might give more social "attack", and so on. Cheaper clothes may or may not give penalties.


"Respectable" is very relative. It should really depend on your opponent and the environment. Wearing shiny noble clothes in a "commoner" environment, or even worse, a thieves' guild, shouldn't give you a bonus. The noble is actually probably scared to get mugged unless he is accompanied by body guards. I would let the players define what is respectable and what is not from a list e.g. they must choose one type of clothing that is respectable to them, and one that is not.

I'd rather just go with rich = respectable and let those who don't agree take social talents/traits/backgrounds to alter these bonuses.

ide wrote:
I like the idea of favors + tasks a lot. You could specialize this a bit, for example with binding tasks that can cause a loss of favors if you don't complete them, but offer more reward if you do.

Sounds good. Promises, oaths, that sort of thing.

ide wrote:
I think reputation systems are good in theory but they suffer especially IMO from grinding.

I actually designed a nice solution for the grinding problem, but I didn't write it down and have forgotten it. For now all I can think of is capping the adjustment any single action can have on any given day, so doing trivially beneficial tasks 1000 times in a row won't make a mob love you. Presumably there should be a cap on how much the mob's favor can shift in your benefit at one time. Say 5% a day or something.

ide wrote:
I guess if you make returns on reputation enhancements weighted heavily on either end of the spectrum that can help. Still I feel like there's a better way to handle that, I just don't know what.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, could you give an example?
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MECHFrost



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tonitrus wrote:
I agree in principle with the lameness of it all being public, but I don't want to have to model information dispersal at this point.


What do you think about a simple % chance for each person to know the information, which perhaps increases a bit with time (or not for simplicity)? It wouldn't be a true simulation but a satisfying approximation I believe.

If you calculate the chance at random each time, then the knowledge of the person might change each time you check it, unless you store it. I use the following method (I don't know if it's the best) whenever I want to get the same result with a check:

1) Generate a number from the letters in the name of the person or its id. Generate a number from the favour in a similar manner. The numbers need to be big enough to imitate randomness in the next steps.
2) Sum both numbers.
3) (For a 10% chance:) Calculate its modulo congruent to 10.
4) If it's equal to 1, then the person knows about the favour.
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tonitrus wrote:
I actually designed a nice solution for the grinding problem, but I didn't write it down and have forgotten it. For now all I can think of is capping the adjustment any single action can have on any given day, so doing trivially beneficial tasks 1000 times in a row won't make a mob love you. Presumably there should be a cap on how much the mob's favor can shift in your benefit at one time. Say 5% a day or something.

Might be better to implement an absolute cap on the effect. Off the top of my head, you could, for example, have the effect of a minor action create a rise in popularity of +10 if one's current popularity level is exactly neutral, with the impact ramping down based on your current popularity level and hitting zero if the current value is already above 20. Thus, at a certain level of popularity, any given action ceases to have any effect, and you have to look for something more difficult and attention-catching to do instead.

In the interests of realism, minor actions probably also shouldn't have any impact at all if you have an extremely negative popularity: if a faction hates you because you murdered its leader, then doing a large number of very minor favours shouldn't help - you need something really quite dramatic to get to the point where they are comfortable enough with you to pay attention to the small favours, or even to let you do them in the first place: if a known murderer offers to carry your shopping, you'll probably say no. But, once an unpopular person has done something big to get over the initial hurdle, people would then start to notice that he is always picking up litter and helping people across the road, and his popularity would begin to rise as a consequence.
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I finally got around to reading the longer posts in this thread in their entirety. Embarassed

Tonitrus, while this may well be an entirely false impression, I'm concerned that you may be putting the cart before the horse. You spend a great deal of time in the first post talking about the mechanics of the favours system, but you say almost nothing about what the ultimate goal is in terms of the impact that you want the system to have on game-play. It's always important, with any piece of design, to start by thinking about the effect you want to achieve, then think about what kind of system might be appropriate to achieve it. It kind of seems like you've decided you want to have a social combat system, and have then started to think about how it might work, and what its consequences would be, when you should be starting with the consequences and then working back to the system.

Could you talk a bit more about what effects you're trying to achieve? If you compare the game without the social combat system to the game with it, exactly what are players able to do that they otherwise wouldn't be able to?

Check out this thread, by the way: http://www.mudlab.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=200 and also the topics linked to in its first post.

I must confess, I don't have a very clear idea of what an actual "socuial combat" in your system would consist of. When I think of social combat, I tend to think in terms of it being an attempt to modify an NPC's emotional state in a way that is advantageous to the player. Here's an example originally posted by me in the thread I linked to above.

Quote:
Imagine the player has to find some sheep.

(Player input in regular font, game output in bold).

You look around the market square. Ahead you spy the lissom figure of Jenna Tharyn, daughter of Garr Tharyn, the local land-owner.

> greet jenna cordially

Jenna looks at you from under long eyelashes. "Well, hullo, stranger, what can I do for you?"

> ask jenna about sheep

Jenna frowns. "Sheep? What a strange thing to ask about. Not really my area of expertise, I'm afraid." She turns to go.

> flirt gently with jenna

Jenna's manner softens.

> flirt with jenna

Jenna puts her head on one side and giggles coyly.

> flirt explicitly with jenna

Jenna gasps in astonishment, but then leans close and whispers in your ear "whatever you want!"

> ask jenna about sheep

Jenna says "Oh, well, you should probaly ask Garm the Shepherd, he knows all about sheep. He leaves to east of town in a stone hut."

> e

You leave east. Jenna shouts after you "hey, where are you going?!"

So, what's happened here is that the player needs to raise Jenna's disposition towards him. He has various possible avenues open to him. Based on a combination of his stats (such as Comeliness), his skills (Flirtation, Courtly Conduct) and an ad hoc assessment of Jenna's personality type, mood and preferences, he decides that seduction might be the best approach. The die rolls go his way, and he also correctly judges how strongly to come on and when. The end result is that Jenna is persuaded to help him.

Now, a lot could have gone wrong with that. Jenna might have been gay, and simply not interested in him. If his Flirtation skill had been lower, he might have stumbled over his words and Jenna would have been insulted. If his character didn't know how to talk to aristocrats, his attempt would have fallen flat. If he had misjudged Jenna's mood and resorted to explicit flirting too soon then, again, she would have been insulted. If she had been married and virtuous rather than a confirmed flirt, then, no matter how charming he was, his attempt to curry favour might have failed. But in fact the combination of player-chosen tactics and character-driven effectiveness of those tactics made everything go the right way.

Of course, seduction is just one possible option. Ideally you should model the NPC's emotional state along a number of different axes such as Lust/Repulsion, Anger/Affection, Confidence/Fear, Guilt/Comfort, Corruption/Purity, etc. The result of an attempt at emotional manipulation would depend on a combination of those influences. For instance, if you threaten someone successfully, you'll scare him; if an attempt at threatening fails, then you will raise his Anger score. If an NPC is angry and confident, he'll attack; if he's angry and afraid he won't attack, but will be uncooperative; if he's REALLY afraid, he may be too scared to run, but might be forced to divulge intimidation. If an NPC is corrupt then he may be susceptible to bribery, and flattering him first may improve the chances of him accepting the bribe; you might also raise his corruption rating by bad-mouthing his boss and pointing out how terrible his working conditions are, or find a way to make him trust that you won't report him for accepting the bribe. You could perhaps model things like threats to the NPC's family as well as to him, etc.

The aim of a system like this is that it allows players to achieve goals through non-violent means that traditionally would require killing. If there's a guard outside a door and he won't let you past, then many MUDs would insist that the guard hs to be killed before anyone can proceed. But it would be more interesting if there were options available - the abiltity to sneak past hinm, or to turn invisible, to knock him out and tie him up, etc. Social combat offers a much wider range of other possible tactics: bribery, seduction, intimidation, etc. So that would be one goal of my system: to add alternative tactical approaches for non-warriors.

Ideally all sorts of puzzles and problems could be susceptible to this: persuading an NPC to help you by giving you instructions for the next stage of a quest might require you to raise that NPC's disposition first. Or guard NPCs might attack a known enemy on sight, while letting a known friend past. So the first stage of a larger quest might be to perform a few smaller (perhaps auto-generated) quests for other members of the same faction, in order to raise your reputation with that faction to the point where the guards are willing to let you into the castle to talk to their boss and begin a hand-written quest.

A second goal would be to have a number of other knock-on effects based on one's reputation - what prices you could get in a shop being an obvious possibility. (Completing a mini quest for the shop-keeper might ensure that he offers you a fair price in future).

One other thing to say: I think you're on dangerous ground if you expect meaningful social combat between players, and that applies double to your "favours" system. How my character would react to a situation where he owes someone a favour is a decision that I, and I alone, should be able to take (IMO). To have the game make a decision that my character has to obey someone's orders or that I cannot attack someone because "I owe them a favour" would make me furious - and I don't think I'd be alone in that.

There is perhaps some fertile ground if you think in terms of boosting or damaging another person's reputation as well as your own; if you spread vicious rumours about someone, perhaps that might cause his reputation with a given faction to plummet. But, again, that's ultimately about influencing NPC behaviour, not directly affecting the actions of another player. I can't really get my head round the notion of any sort of meaningful face-to-face social combat encounter between players; I can't think what the mechanisms would be, nor can I think of any desirable goals that might be achieved by this happening. You could perhaps impose actual physical combat penalties on someone who is very angry or frightened as a result of taunts or intimidation - but even that is likely to annoy players who feel that whether or not their character is afraid or angry is a decision they should be allowed to take, based on their own RP parameters.
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Tonitrus



Joined: 11 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
You spend a great deal of time in the first post talking about the mechanics of the favours system, but you say almost nothing about what the ultimate goal is in terms of the impact that you want the system to have on game-play.


This was an oversight on my part. I want an alternative method of influencing players and NPCs besides actual physical combat. It should work equally well on players and mobs, or is pretty much useless to me.

shasarak wrote:
Could you talk a bit more about what effects you're trying to achieve? If you compare the game without the social combat system to the game with it, exactly what are players able to do that they otherwise wouldn't be able to?


In response, I'll quote another part of your post:
shasarak wrote:
The aim of a system like this is that it allows players to achieve goals through non-violent means that traditionally would require killing. If there's a guard outside a door and he won't let you past, then many MUDs would insist that the guard hs to be killed before anyone can proceed. But it would be more interesting if there were options available - the abiltity to sneak past hinm, or to turn invisible, to knock him out and tie him up, etc. Social combat offers a much wider range of other possible tactics: bribery, seduction, intimidation, etc. So that would be one goal of my system: to add alternative tactical approaches for non-warriors.

Ideally all sorts of puzzles and problems could be susceptible to this: persuading an NPC to help you by giving you instructions for the next stage of a quest might require you to raise that NPC's disposition first. Or guard NPCs might attack a known enemy on sight, while letting a known friend past. So the first stage of a larger quest might be to perform a few smaller (perhaps auto-generated) quests for other members of the same faction, in order to raise your reputation with that faction to the point where the guards are willing to let you into the castle to talk to their boss and begin a hand-written quest.

A second goal would be to have a number of other knock-on effects based on one's reputation - what prices you could get in a shop being an obvious possibility. (Completing a mini quest for the shop-keeper might ensure that he offers you a fair price in future).


...except that I also want a system like this that is applicable to players. Also I think that having a game without social combat heavily predisposes it towards killing. I have no problem allowing players to kill mobs or one another, but the idea of forcing them to do so to progress in the game is a bit disturbing to me.

shasarak wrote:
I must confess, I don't have a very clear idea of what an actual "socuial combat" in your system would consist of. When I think of social combat, I tend to think in terms of it being an attempt to modify an NPC's emotional state in a way that is advantageous to the player.


Social combat would involve a few different factors, one of which is affecting the target's emotional state. Another is affecting their standing in the presence of other witnesses. Making them look bad, that sort of thing. Convincing them to do things, ideally.

Your example is a good one also, although I think it involves many more factors than I'd care to deal with, if I can avoid them. I would, if possible, like to come up with a general system that applies well to specific situations.

shasarak wrote:
Of course, seduction is just one possible option. Ideally you should model the NPC's emotional state along a number of different axes such as Lust/Repulsion, Anger/Affection, Confidence/Fear, Guilt/Comfort, Corruption/Purity, etc.

Those are useful, I wouldn't have thought of them as axes. I had planned to use at least Happiness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.

shasarak wrote:
One other thing to say: I think you're on dangerous ground if you expect meaningful social combat between players, and that applies double to your "favours" system. How my character would react to a situation where he owes someone a favour is a decision that I, and I alone, should be able to take (IMO). To have the game make a decision that my character has to obey someone's orders or that I cannot attack someone because "I owe them a favour" would make me furious - and I don't think I'd be alone in that.

Favors can be dropped/disregarded, it just is not necessarily a good idea to do so often, and I wouldn't restrict attacks, either. I don't mind the game making some decisions about what happens, even without the player's consent, however (although, again, I'd have abilities available to modify such things, and I'm thinking of making 5 or so social "talents" mandatory). For example, I've had people make me angry against my will. I've been tricked into doing things I shouldn't. I don't think anyone's going to be happy if this happens to their character, but people usually aren't too happy when they die in combat either, which is a frequent occurance in games. That said, I am not intending to be dismissive of this issue, and would very much like to hear suggestions on how such a system could exist that doesn't cause characters to act in ways inappropriate to their character concept. I also wouldn't mind hearing some examples of situations you would be concerned about occurring where you are forced to do something against your character concept, and, ideally, what sort of character trait/social talent/etc could alter/avoid that.

As an aside, in a recent table-top game with friends, my character got mind-controlled into assisting the enemy of an entity I had spent most of the course of the plot attempting to assist and who my character considered sacred (I was forced to return my enemy's magic sword). I fought the mind control so hard that I spent all of my energy points to do so and still lost. I was pretty unhappy about this particular situation, but it was a great game. If I were to think of that particular game as just that particular moment and just the particular context of being forced, against my will, to aid a sworn enemy who was actively seeking to destroy a friend, it'd sound like a terrible thing to have in a game. But it isn't the only thing that happened, and I don't think it's useful to think about such things as singular instances. Even if a character is forced to do something on a rare occasion, the player still has control of what the character does before the incident, and, most importantly, what the character does after. For reference, I spent the whole rest of game fighting tooth and nail to save my "sacred entity" until she turned on me. Turns out she was the bad guy, go figure.

shasarak wrote:
There is perhaps some fertile ground if you think in terms of boosting or damaging another person's reputation as well as your own; if you spread vicious rumours about someone, perhaps that might cause his reputation with a given faction to plummet. But, again, that's ultimately about influencing NPC behaviour, not directly affecting the actions of another player. I can't really get my head round the notion of any sort of meaningful face-to-face social combat encounter between players; I can't think what the mechanisms would be, nor can I think of any desirable goals that might be achieved by this happening. You could perhaps impose actual physical combat penalties on someone who is very angry or frightened as a result of taunts or intimidation - but even that is likely to annoy players who feel that whether or not their character is afraid or angry is a decision they should be allowed to take, based on their own RP parameters.


As for how it'd work, I designed the quasi-"turn-based" nature of it to allow interspersing dialogue with your social combat actions, so if you used a "taunt" command, you could taunt them while you did so. Winning could do anything from give them penalties in later combats (social or otherwise) for the day, weakening their standing among the members of whatever organizations are present, and, by proxy, those organizations themselves. Certain forms of combat could also result in forcing others to do things. How this particular setup would work, I've not decided. I'm thinking of using a task system, and if a player is forced to do something, he's given the task. He wouldn't necessarily have to do that task, but it would soak up a small percentage of his XP if he chose to ignore it. That said, I'd also like to include powers like a Vampire's Dominate into the social combat system, so some powers could literally force a player to undertake an action.

With respect to social combat goals, the goals would be the same as physical combat. Dominance, prestige, something to do, acquiring an item, or whatever else. This system is predominately intended to be useful among players in PvP and among players and mobs (and also mobs against mobs), and isn't terribly useful to me if it doesn't meet those requirements.

I'm sure it might annoy players when their character becomes rattled or whatever else, but I think with suitable language (i.e., non-strong), players will find it less offensive. Ideally suitable social talents will exist that a player who wants to be effectively fearless can do so. If the issue is simply players being angry when something happens that doesn't agree with their character concept, a system of social talents should help solve this problem. I'd also rather not tell players "You're afraid of X!", and not really because I'm concerned with upsetting them, but because it's really boring. I'd rather use more descriptive ... descriptions, designed to hint at the emotion in question instead of stating it outright.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MECHFrost wrote:
You describe a world where everyone seems respectful and they, in some way, become someone's slave if they do a favour to them.

You didn't become a slave, but as far as respecting boons was concerned, that's pretty much how it worked in my old WoD mud - and it was an important part of the theme. Technically in the V:tM system you can ignore boons (see here for a little more background on prestation), but doing so will cost you hard-earned social status - and for a primarily social game, that can be as crippling as losing weapon skills in a combat game.

While Tonitrus's mud isn't based on the WoD theme, if his social combat system plays an important role then I believe players will place a lot of value on social status (assuming social status is a valuable mechanic for social combat).

MECHFrost wrote:
This is a big flaw with reputation systems: when you do something, then everyone seems to know about it. But the truth is that no one will ever know about it unless it's really important.

If you've got a boon system in place, the chances are you'll have written it into the theme somehow. You could extend that theme to include magical elements - for example, zones of truth where people are required to regularly announce all boons that they've given or received, or risk losing their social standing. This could give rise to a pretty interesting and unique setting. Alternatively you could define 'public' and 'private' areas, where boons are only granted in public (and it's assumed that there are NPCs witnessing the event). So if you save someone in town, they owe you a boon - but if they return the favour out in the woods, no boon is exchanged.

The main idea of my original boon system, however, wasn't to provide a reputation rating - it was simply to provide an unusual form of social currency. It was fun!

MECHFrost wrote:
Tonitrus wrote:
In addition, upon defeating someone in social combat, you could possibly force them to perform a favor for you

I don't think so. You have just made an enemy.

As Tonitrus later mentioned, social combat can represent all sorts of things. Winning a social combat encounter might result in befriending someone, convincing them you're a decent person, seducing them, etc. IMO persuading someone to perform a favour* for you is definitely an appropriate outcome for certain types of social combat. You'd likely only make an enemy if you lost the social combat (eg accidently insulting the baker's wife while trying to seduce her - that comment about pies was clearly inappropriate).

* Note that my previous system didn't allow favours to be given for nothing. I don't know exactly what Tonitrus has in mind, but if the social combat were applied to my boon system then you could persuade someone to perform a favour for you, but you would also then owe them a favour in return, which they could collect at any time, without the need for further social combat.

MECHFrost wrote:
Favours shouldn't be so complex with NPCs. If a NPC owes you a favour, then they can be your "slave" if you want. But human reactions are more complex, and a player won't like to be forced into doing something too easily.

They don't have to be your "slave", but you could force them to give you possessions, teach you skills, ignore your indiscretions, and so on. What you effectively have here is a form of social PK - and you're right that some players dislike PK. But others do like it, and as far as PK goes this is actually far less invasive than most physical combat approaches.
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Ashon



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tonitrus wrote:

...except that I also want a system like this that is applicable to players. Also I think that having a game without social combat heavily predisposes it towards killing. I have no problem allowing players to kill mobs or one another, but the idea of forcing them to do so to progress in the game is a bit disturbing to me.


... and then later on he goes on to say:
Tonitrus wrote:

As an aside, in a recent table-top game with friends, my character got mind-controlled into assisting the enemy of an entity I had spent most of the course of the plot attempting to assist and who my character considered sacred (I was forced to return my enemy's magic sword). I fought the mind control so hard that I spent all of my energy points to do so and still lost. I was pretty unhappy about this particular situation, but it was a great game. If I were to think of that particular game as just that particular moment and just the particular context of being forced, against my will, to aid a sworn enemy who was actively seeking to destroy a friend, it'd sound like a terrible thing to have in a game. But it isn't the only thing that happened, and I don't think it's useful to think about such things as singular instances. Even if a character is forced to do something on a rare occasion,...


If social combat is applicable to players, and players can 'dominate' another player it is not going to be singular occurances. You are opening up yourself to a whole nother world of griefing players. You think it is disturbing to you that players have to kill to advance, but you are okay with the concept of Cyber-rape.

The use of Favours as KaVir suggests, as a Type of Currency is a consent based system which is going to keep players from feeling like their characters are being 'raped'. Any time you provide a method for one character to hurt or influence another character without the second characters consent your game is going to be filled with griefers.

This is why I've decided that social combat in my game will be only applicable to NPC's. In a roleplaying heavy mud social combat is an invisible mechanic that you can't control, but that you can influence by giving game mechanics too.
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ashon wrote:
Any time you provide a method for one character to hurt or influence another character without the second characters consent your game is going to be filled with griefers.

An excellent point.

One major problem with allowing players to control other players' actions is that the game has no way of knowing how big a deal it is for the controlled player to carry out the order. Consider a player who is forced to attack a monster he has no hope of defeating, or to walk off a cliff - can the game be relied upon to anticipate that he is effectively being asked to commit suicide and circumvent the command? Maybe you explicitly block a whole lot of actions such as attacking powerful opponents; but you've only got to allow one loophole and the griefers will make full-time use of it. It's easy to say that players can just ignore orders and take the penalty - but even that's open to griefing, as griefers will deliberately issue orders they know the target will refuse and thus leave them with no option but to accumulate massive social damage.

Ashon wrote:
You think it is disturbing to you that players have to kill to advance, but you are okay with the concept of Cyber-rape.

Again, agreed; something that potentially has no in-game consequences at all (such as being obliged to "say" or "emote" a sequence of things) may nonetheless cause significant real-life distress to the player; the game has no way of determining whether the statements or emotes in question are upsetting to the player or not.


Last edited by shasarak on Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tonitrus wrote:
I don't think anyone's going to be happy if this happens to their character, but people usually aren't too happy when they die in combat either, which is a frequent occurance in games.

I think you're conflating two rather different things, there. Sure, a player doesn't enjoy his character dying, and that doesn't mean that he would argue that dying, as a feature, should be entirely removed from the game. (People enjoy a sense of risk, and there has to be a genuine possibility of something bad happening for there to be any sense of danger. So, people may not enjoy dying, but they actually feel quite positive about death being a possibility.)

But it is perfectly possible for people to dislike a feature and feel that it should actually be removed from the game altogether. For example, suppose people sometimes randomly die in mid-game for no apparent reason, and there's no way to avoid this happening; most people wouldn't like that feature, and would prefer that it be deleted. It's not just that they don't enjoy dying randomly, it's that they dislike the fact that there is even a possibility of dying randomly.

My suspicion is that being able to routinely force other players to perform actions against their will is something that would cause the second type of annoyance and not merely the first: people would object even to the possibility of having other players control their actions, not just experience mild, temporary irritation when it actually happens.

Tonitrus wrote:
As an aside, in a recent table-top game with friends, my character got mind-controlled into assisting the enemy of an entity I had spent most of the course of the plot attempting to assist and who my character considered sacred (I was forced to return my enemy's magic sword). I fought the mind control so hard that I spent all of my energy points to do so and still lost. I was pretty unhappy about this particular situation, but it was a great game.

This (along with some of KaVir's comments) brings up the question of thematic justification. I think many players would be more comfortable (or at least a little less uncomfortable) with the notion of a character being forced to obey by means of a "charm person" spell than they would by his "owing someone a favour". The first of those is a case where it makes thematic sense for your character to lose freedom of action. To shrug off the spell would actually be bad RP; it would be like expecting a non-magical, non-winged character to be able to fly, and not to be harmed by stepping off a high cliff - it would be a violation of the physical laws of the game world. But to insist that a player must obey another "because he owes him a favour" is very much trespassing on the player's free-will rather than the character's: the basic freedom a player expects is to be able to choose what his character should do within the physical parameters allowed by the world.

So, if you are going to go down this route (and I have to say that I am still very wary of the idea) you will, at the very least, need to come up with some elaborate and highly persuasive thematic reasons as to why this "owing favours" effect works in the way that it does. Cultural pressures are nowhere near strong enough; you need to be thinking in terms of physical or magical reasons why this compulsion might happen.

Tonitrus wrote:
As for how it'd work, I designed the quasi-"turn-based" nature of it to allow interspersing dialogue with your social combat actions, so if you used a "taunt" command, you could taunt them while you did so. Winning could do anything from give them penalties in later combats (social or otherwise) for the day, weakening their standing among the members of whatever organizations are present, and, by proxy, those organizations themselves.

You and I are obviously approaching the notion of "social combat" from rather different directions. Smile I use the term "combat" in a purely allegorical sense. My example with Jenna Tharyn above can be regarded as "combat" in that it shares certain important characteristics with a traditional MUD combat system: it is an activity requring a large amount of both tactical and strategic planning; there is the possibility of both gain and loss; the outcome depends on a combination of player tactics, character attributes, and random factors, etc. It is not in any sense an actual conflict.

You're obviously interpreting "social combat" in a more literal sense, as an hostile, competitive struggle between two opponents in which the outcome is that one measurably defeats the other. I think that's actually a very interesting idea! But, as I said, I'm still a bit uneasy about how to model the consequences of defeat or victory; and concerned (as I said at the beginning of my first post) that we may be putting the cart before the horse. We shouldn't be asking the question "what should the consequences of social combat be?" we should be asking "what consequences do we want?" and then, only after we've answered that, should we be asking "is social combat the best way to allow those consequences to happen?". This has to be on the understanding that the answer to the second question may very well be "no".

I haven't really changed my position, on this, to be honest; I think you'd be better off limiting the effects of social combat to NPCs. That doesn't mean you can't have PvP social combat (in your sense of the term), it simply means that the consequences of defeat in such an encounter would be restricted to interactions with NPCs. So, for example, if a character's reputation within a guild (that has player members) is damaged enough, then perhaps the NPC guards at the gate will refuse him entry, and guild trainers refuse to help him advance his skills; if a player's reputation within a town is damaged enough (e.g. by his being successfully framed for murder) then potentially he will acquire outlaw status - he will attacked on sight by town guards, shopkeepers will refuse to deal with him, smiths won't mend his armour and weapons, etc. You can have pretty severe consequences imposed on a player simply by affecting NPCs' attitudes towards him.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
One major problem with allowing players to control other players' actions is that the game has no way of knowing how big a deal it is for the controlled player to carry out the order. Consider a player who is forced to attack a monster he has no hope of defeating, or to walk off a cliff - can the game be relied upon to anticipate that he is effectively being asked to commit suicide and circumvent the command? Maybe you explicitly block a whole lot of actions such as attacking powerful opponents; but you've only got to allow one loophole and the griefers will make full-time use of it.

Actually I was more thinking of it working the other way around - providing a small set of specific favours that you can convince people to do for you. I'm not sure what Tonitrus was after, but I'd agree that a truly freeform approach is likely to get messy.

shasarak wrote:
But to insist that a player must obey another "because he owes him a favour" is very much trespassing on the player's free-will rather than the character's: the basic freedom a player expects is to be able to choose what his character should do within the physical parameters allowed by the world.

I think such expectations very much depend on what you're used to - I've heard MUSHers make much the same argument about any form of non-consentual combat.

Let's say Bubba has a really nice magic sword, and you want it. So you intimidiate and/or blackmail Bubba into giving you the sword. You then owe him a favour which he can call in at a later date. You could well argue that you're trespassing on the player's free will by forcing him to give you something.

But is that really any worse than smashing his head open with a rock and taking the sword from his still-warm corpse? I mean when you look at it, the social combat is actually far less invasive - Bubba only lost one item, he gets leverage over me in return, and he's still alive.

Now personally I wouldn't allow players to force other PCs into bed, or anything like that - that sort of thing I would limit to specific NPCs. But allowing a player to impress another PC so that they gain bonuses when interacting with them? I don't have a problem with that. Allowing a player to intimidate another PC so that they suffer fear penalties if they attack them? Fine with me. Allowing a player to haggle down the price of an item (within reasonable limits) that a PC shopkeeper is selling? No objections here.
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Tonitrus



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
My suspicion is that being able to routinely force other players to perform actions against their will is something that would cause the second type of annoyance and not merely the first: people would object even to the possibility of having other players control their actions, not just experience mild, temporary irritation when it actually happens.

Depending on what we're meaning by the word "force", I may or may not be suggesting such a system. And owing favors would not actually accomplish this, they would only affect the roll. For example, a begger might have a "beg" command to try to guilt you into giving him some gold, he would now owe you a favor, for whatever that is worth. In the case of actually forcing someone to do something, they would owe you. The actual process of forcing someone else to do a task is not necessary for a system like this, whether or not I would choose to do so. If a person tried to call in a favor, you might have X time to pay it off, one way or another. Perhaps players could try to pressure other players to do a specific task by offering more than it's worth for it. I.e., offering to "pay" more in the way of forgiving favors or even owing them than that particular task is even worth. I suppose seemingly innocuous requests like "hand over that sword" may be severely important on occasion, as it was in my example.

I still like the idea of tasks being given, but it would probably be better to have them agreed upon, as it might lead to some really stupid situations.

shasarak wrote:
This (along with some of KaVir's comments) brings up the question of thematic justification. I think many players would be more comfortable (or at least a little less uncomfortable) with the notion of a character being forced to obey by means of a "charm person" spell than they would by his "owing someone a favour". The first of those is a case where it makes thematic sense for your character to lose freedom of action. To shrug off the spell would actually be bad RP; it would be like expecting a non-magical, non-winged character to be able to fly, and not to be harmed by stepping off a high cliff - it would be a violation of the physical laws of the game world.

The example I gave that actually forced a person to perform a task was the vampiric power of dominate. I.e., charm person.

shasarak wrote:
But to insist that a player must obey another "because he owes him a favour" is very much trespassing on the player's free-will rather than the character's: the basic freedom a player expects is to be able to choose what his character should do within the physical parameters allowed by the world.

Again, it wouldn't work like that, but I fail to see how Charm Person is any less a violation of the player's free will than getting intimidated into handing over an item. The only issue I see with directly forcing them in the instance of intimidation is that the game has no way of gauging the importance of the request, which it also cannot do for Charm Person. Although, it bears noting that most muds don't actually have the ability to do what I did in my table-top game example: Spend some sort of energy to resist an effect you're really determined to avoid. I'm pretty much of the opinion that beating something like Charm Person or Dominate should make you immune or highly resistant for quite a while, so with some sort of system to resist severely detrimental effects, this could be less problematic. This would give players the ability to make clear to the game what is really important to avoid without simultaneously making the whole game consent-based, which is very boring.

shasarak wrote:
So, if you are going to go down this route (and I have to say that I am still very wary of the idea) you will, at the very least, need to come up with some elaborate and highly persuasive thematic reasons as to why this "owing favours" effect works in the way that it does. Cultural pressures are nowhere near strong enough; you need to be thinking in terms of physical or magical reasons why this compulsion might happen.

Actually, this is not my goal at all. I don't want to force people to do things an inordinate amount of time, I don't want a justification for it. If I need one, I'm doing it wrong.

shasarak wrote:
You're obviously interpreting "social combat" in a more literal sense, as an hostile, competitive struggle between two opponents in which the outcome is that one measurably defeats the other.

Not necessarily. The combat aspect of the system would tend to work in a way where one character defeats another. I'm actually using "social combat" to refer to the whole system, though, which is rather unclear, I suppose. On the more friendly side of "social combat" you could have things like sacrificing your composure to raise a friend's, inspiring another through social praise or suggestion, giving bonuses to stats or resist pain, and so on. Basically, think of things a Bard would do, Bards are the Mages of Social Combat. I wouldn't limit these effects to Bards though, they'd just be most adept in it. I'm focusing on the combat in a hostile sense as that's what people are most likely to care about. I don't often hear about people complaining about an ally casting useful spells on them, for example.

shasarak wrote:
I haven't really changed my position, on this, to be honest; I think you'd be better off limiting the effects of social combat to NPCs. That doesn't mean you can't have PvP social combat (in your sense of the term), it simply means that the consequences of defeat in such an encounter would be restricted to interactions with NPCs. So, for example, if a character's reputation within a guild (that has player members) is damaged enough, then perhaps the NPC guards at the gate will refuse him entry, and guild trainers refuse to help him advance his skills; if a player's reputation within a town is damaged enough (e.g. by his being successfully framed for murder) then potentially he will acquire outlaw status - he will attacked on sight by town guards, shopkeepers will refuse to deal with him, smiths won't mend his armour and weapons, etc. You can have pretty severe consequences imposed on a player simply by affecting NPCs' attitudes towards him.

For the most part this is how it would work, except that a really poor reputation could also rub off on other players who assist/associate with the character being shunned. That way they shun him too. For the most part, it will not consist of forcing people to do things, although it may allow tasks to be given to them. I'm not sure how to handle people deliberately stacking worthless tasks onto a target, but I don't think that's a flaw with the system necessarily, it simply indicates that more thought is needed for the task system and its effects.

I think there should probably be specific commands with specific effects. You could beg for gold, try to extort items, and so on. The task system I'm referring to would be a bit like a mini-quest. Perhaps when a person wants you to do a task for them they could simply give that task to you, and if you accept it, they owe you and/or your debt to them is reduced. Failing the task would undo that transaction, possibly with an additional penalty for failing/wasting their time. You could theoretically refuse to pay off favors indefinitely with this system, however, so I'd probably give them a way to demand a repayment within X time or face some sort of stigma. If I had an extort command, though, I guess they could force you to hand over items to reduce your debt. Maybe they could even file legal claims against you, or something equally nasty.

Also, I'm not sure I really understand why griefers are so much of a concern. If a social combat system requires standing and friends to excel at, why would griefers want to use it at all? It'd be much easier to slit throats. And if they did use it, for each bit of standing they'd have, they'd have to have done something beneficial. If anything, this sounds like a system that would be resistant to griefers.

Furthermore, "Can griefers use this to upset people?" is a pretty worthless question. I can make people cry with the "say" command, but I don't think anyone would dream of removing it. The question should be "Does this system give griefers an advantage over regular players?", and I don't think it does. I think it gives them a disadvantage, because the normal means they'd use to inflict grief can annoy power individuals who can call in favors to have them destroyed/exiled/whatever. Also, griefers are most effective on a system with low startup cost where they can simply zerg rush over and over. Starting in a game using this setup would involve them having nothing owed to them at all, and very little to offer others. They'd have to build up their influence a bit in order to have any standing. Again, this seems, to me, anti-griefer.

Even if they set up little griefer cabals to circumvent this, it'd still be more efficient for them to just kill people.

Also, what KaVir said above.
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Ashon



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 86
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my view there are two seperate systems that are being discussed, and the way that they are being presented as working together seems to take away players free will. Individually I see the worth in each system, but combined they make me squimish.

Social Influence System:
Here we are talking about a system akin to what you get in some of the more free-form RPG's out there: Oblivion, Fable. Where you have a set of skills to influence someones reactions to you. There are a lot of emotions that can be influenced and made viable to gameplay. Shasarak suggests some emotions and axis that I would be highly reluctant to have PvP Social Combat on: Lust/Repulsion, Anger/Affection, Confidence/Fear, Guilt/Comfort, Corruption/Purity. These are values that are not easily translated from a player to character stat number. Tonitrus suggests that: Happiness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. be the axis that are tracked. Again, these are more emotional stats that aren't easily transferred player to character.

I would look at extending so called 'faction' systems and manufacturing more of a popularity, prestige, and reputation stats that are easy to build and advance in game. An evil reputation would give negatives to people attacking you (Fear affect), Prestige would make people less willing to be dissauded from taking on a task for you.

Favor System:
The Favor system described by Tonitrus is almost a player generated quest system. "Ask Favor: Steal crown from Emperor. Offer: 1 Public Favor" By extending this questing out, reputation, popularity and prestige run down hill from the Person Asking to the Person Doing (I am helping/hindering) Another Person.

The way it has been described in previous posts is that by influencing emotions (Social Influence System) of a Player you can force a Favor out of a player. To me, that takes away consent. If however Favors are currency and BUBBA holds two Favors from BOB, then according to BUBBA's social standing BOB gains influence modifiers when dealing with people who know BUBBA.

To summarize: It would be walking on very shaky ground to stat emotions out fro a character because by doing so you take away the freewill from the player. While it is okay to stat out emotions to NPC's because it adds depth to said NPC. An Using a Social Interaction System to 'buy' favors I would consider bad, but using the currency of favors to Influence Social Interactions would be good.

As an aside, has anyone seen any kind of system like this built out of MUSHES? I trawl some boards and websites but I don't recall I've ever seen anything that really lays out a social combat system.
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