Social "hit points" and mental attributes used for "social combat?"


Homebrew and House Rules

Sovereign Court

Just wondering if this kind of system has ever been implemented.

I did get pointed me to Dynasties and Demagogues from Atlas Games and I finally tracked down a copy. The social battles in there are a much more crunchy and interesting compared to anything else I've seen.

Are there any other social systems that have been developed for D&D?

Has anyone developed a social combat system where you have social "hit points" and the mental stats get translated over, such as:

Intelligence = Strength
Wisdom = Dexterity
Charisma = Constitution

in terms of their functional roles within the social combat?

Intelligence modifies your ability to attack your foe. Being able to understand the social milieu allows the character to deliver efficient social attacks at a person or argument.

Wisdom is largely defensive in a social situation, though it can be used offensively in certain circumstances. Knowing how to feel out a situation, when to say something and when not to is essential in dealing with others.

Charisma modifies your social hit points. Those with a lot of charm and good looks can sustain themselves and "survive" longer in debate than someone who stutters and is painfully ugly.

In terms of the 3.0/3.5/4e system I could easily see combat maneuvers being translated over to elements derived from debate/forensics handbooks. I don't know what they are, but there has to be some structured social "maneuvers" that could be implemented.

There could be social buffing and debuffing, social AC, etc.

Even a "massive damage threshold" save, except it would be a Will save. Heck, you could even have a coup de grace based off a Will save.

Anyway, I'd be surprised if someone hadn't implemented a system like this in the last decade, and I'd be shocked if it hasn't been done at some time in the last 35 years.

Anything people can point to? Or has it be used and shown to be an awful system?

Sovereign Court

It's an interesting idea, but I think it would take a lot of the fun out of social encounters. Mostly, I enjoy social encounters because they provide an excellent roleplaying opportunity to my players and serve as a nice contrasting 'yang,' to the 'yin' that is combat.

Honestly, though, the idea of insult swordfighting from the Monkey Island games immediately popped into my head while reading this. :)

Sovereign Court

I can completely understand for the bulk of the population of roleplayers out there that a really involved system mechanic for social interaction is something that isn't desired.

However, over 30 years of roleplaying I've in fact hardly seen much in the way of real roleplaying. Most of it is at best "speaking with a funny voice" and for most people it isn't even that, just speaking in a normal voice and making no real effort at play acting of any kind.

On rare occasions I've played with people who are involved in theater on some level and that ends up being a completely different experience. You'd be sitting at the table with these people and the meta game completely fell away and you really thought that the person really was the character. For people like that I can see mechanics as an abomination.

So in this wasteland of roleplaying that I've experienced, I can see a lot of promise for a detailed social mechanic as it would actually enliven and engage people far more in something other than combat. Rather than trying to pull teeth from a crowd of people that are only really "rollplaying" instead embrace it fully and make alternate subsystems.

Right now in 3/4e it all collapses to a few skill checks as is, which isn't really engaging as a mechanic. If a social mechanic was raised to the level of complexity equal or near to that of combat then you could "game" out a lot more interesting plots. Right now though people just use the skills as triggers to get to the meat of the session, the combat encounters.

But like I said, this isn't for everyone, but there sure are a lot of rollplayers out there that would benefit from such a system.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In terms of adding a mechanical aspect to roleplay and other non-combat situations I actually like the 4E skill challenge concept. I always used to do something like it but never tried to formalize it.

What I do now is for social situations I have something that looks kind of like a flow chart. Where one successful skill check (which gets bonuses or penalties for good roleplaying) leads to a new social challenge or new skill.

IE the players need to talk their way into an event they are not allowed in. A disguide check, or forgery (is that linguistics now?) can boost their bluff checks to get through the guards, then diplomacy and bluff to fit in with the crowd. All the while I am responding in character for the NPC's and the Players are Roleplaying the skill checks. If they have enough successful rolls before a certain amount of failures, then they have succeffully blended in and it goes to a straight roleplay encounter without skill checks neccesarily needed, and I give out experience for it.

I use trap dcs to set CR appropriate DCs, and give out experience, which I always did for Roleplaying but now its a little less arbitrary. I dont know if that kind of a mechanic would work for you, but it is what I generally use.

Sovereign Court

I was really excited when I first heard about skill challenges and we started using them, even before 4e was released. However ultimately they died off. The players just didn't really get how to use them, and went into their normal tactical min-max mode. In the end the system loosened up to the point that we were just doing things as normal, with extended skill encounters where people rolled whatever skill was needed on an ad hoc basis.

The major problem there was that skills often present an success/failure event collapsed into one roll. While skill challenges are meant to lengthen that and bring some sense of "hit points" into the mix with a series of successes and failures, the overall architecture can't be easily strategized.

I think what's being aimed at with a different system is trying to get a tactical feel to a social conflict and being able to engage in the drama where resources are being expended and depleted.


Mok wrote:
I can completely understand for the bulk of the population of roleplayers out there that a really involved system mechanic for social interaction is something that isn't desired.

That's not quite true. White Wolf's WoD series has a universal mechanics for physical and social interactions, and it worked superbly for roleplayers. As a matter of fact, a lot of my friend (eternal Vampire players) look down on anything D&D for its inability to handle social encounters (which I don't think is quite true but anyways...)

So I think it CAN be done, but I'm not too sure if I like the idea of having a social AC, even if the exercise of figuring out what conditions would make you socially flat-footed or denied a Wis bonus to Social AC would be fun.

In a way, it comes down to what system properly represents what type of game. I don't believe in systems that do EVERYTHING, I prefer systems that are suited for a certain type of game without clogging the mechanics with additional sub-systems to answer every possible situation. The White Wolf system for example, work really badly when it involves normal being without supernatural powers of some sort.

However, using an already existing mechanic would be the way to go. I encourage you to build something-up and surprise us.

'findel

Sovereign Court

In one of the other threads I'm discussing this someone brought up this system from Mongoose.

It's definitely going down the path I was contemplating, although not the whole way.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mok wrote:

I was really excited when I first heard about skill challenges and we started using them, even before 4e was released. However ultimately they died off. The players just didn't really get how to use them, and went into their normal tactical min-max mode. In the end the system loosened up to the point that we were just doing things as normal, with extended skill encounters where people rolled whatever skill was needed on an ad hoc basis.

The major problem there was that skills often present an success/failure event collapsed into one roll. While skill challenges are meant to lengthen that and bring some sense of "hit points" into the mix with a series of successes and failures, the overall architecture can't be easily strategized.

I think what's being aimed at with a different system is trying to get a tactical feel to a social conflict and being able to engage in the drama where resources are being expended and depleted.

You definately have to make an effort to get used to skill challenges, but the key, at least for me was to make them less apparent. If a player failed a bluff or diplomacy roll I dont just end the conversation, the next dc is just a little harder, and so long as he doesnt fail too many before succeeding ultimately, it works. The key is for players to understand they have a chance to try again, which can be presented through the actions and words of the npc.


It's not a d20 game, but the Suzerain RPG from Talisman studios has a social combat system (as well as a mental/logic combat system). You can get their rules system for free, which details the basic combat structure, then look up their Social Maneuver and Mental Maneuver feats at The Vault. The whole system is a fairly standard "random number plus attribute" concept, so should be readily adaptable to a d20 system.

Talisman is also releasing this as a Savage Worlds title and they have a beta out for free, but I haven't checked it out to see if the above system is incorporated.


Characters aren't just builds. Social interaction is where the "who am I" part of a character shines and should not be dictated by combat-type mechanics. It's also a good way of getting problem players to meld into a group. I know in one game I'm in, one player is absolutely terrible with dice rolls - she rarely rolls above a 10 on d20, regardless of the die, and usually overshoots badly with percentile dice (Palladium system). But when she's in character, it's great. That's her chance to shine. If social interaction were another system, she'd probably be lousy at that too.

It's a concept I'd never incorporate in a game I was part of.


There are, however, some options that social and mental combat systems open up that can be beneficial for the game. Take, for instance, a socially awkward player that wants to play a socially adept character (and the same can hold true for someone trying to play a super-genius). I have seen the positive results of having a mechanical system to help such players along, eventually giving them enough confidence to move beyond the system to more roleplaying.

Another useful implementation is in mirroring "court intrigue" and the like. Just as there are streamlined systems for handling sieges and mass combat, a social combat system can be used to play out the back-and-forth of social character trying to tear down an opponent. Such a process could take days/weeks in campaign time and hours in game time that the rest of the party may not enjoy. The mental combat system can likewise be used to resolve a logical dialogue/court case/etc. that might otherwise bore half or more of the party.

Now, I definitely don't advocate using such systems to replace all roleplaying in a game, but they do indeed have a constructive place in the overall game.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
erian_7 wrote:

There are, however, some options that social and mental combat systems open up that can be beneficial for the game. Take, for instance, a socially awkward player that wants to play a socially adept character (and the same can hold true for someone trying to play a super-genius). I have seen the positive results of having a mechanical system to help such players along, eventually giving them enough confidence to move beyond the system to more roleplaying.

Another useful implementation is in mirroring "court intrigue" and the like. Just as there are streamlined systems for handling sieges and mass combat, a social combat system can be used to play out the back-and-forth of social character trying to tear down an opponent. Such a process could take days/weeks in campaign time and hours in game time that the rest of the party may not enjoy. The mental combat system can likewise be used to resolve a logical dialogue/court case/etc. that might otherwise bore half or more of the party.

Now, I definitely don't advocate using such systems to replace all roleplaying in a game, but they do indeed have a constructive place in the overall game.

my concern would be how to implement it. This mental combat will likely take as long as regular combat to enact, you are going to need to find a way for non-social characters to participate in a meaningful way. I am not sure how that can be done without creating like dual characters or something.


Kolokotroni wrote:
my concern would be how to implement it. This mental combat will likely take as long as regular combat to enact, you are going to need to find a way for non-social characters to participate in a meaningful way. I am not sure how that can be done without creating like dual characters or something.

It can actually be implemented during combat in some circumstances (brainiac has to overcome the mental challenge while everyone else keeps the bad guys from killing him). My group generally enjoys watching scenes unfold, so they also wouldn't mind doing some sideline items (keeping an eye on the crowd, etc.) while this type of thing occurs. But I know not all groups are so amenable. I also do sidebars with my players on a semi-regular basis anyway, say when the party is split or something is happening to some while others are unaware. Sometimes it just comes down to "look, this player has to suck it up while you go through every tactical option for inflicting maximum pain--it's you're turn" but that's fairly rare for me.

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