The aimless ramblings of a 21 year old crotchety old geezer. I love a good story well told, but current favourites are:

Doctor Who
Deep Space 9,
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series,
Angel Beats,
The Sandman, and
Y: The Last Man.

But I'm always looking for more.

 

Game Theory: What If We Treated Talking Like Combat?

There’s a reason “Swordplay” and “Wordplay” are only one letter apart        I was recently(as I usually do on a lazy Monday afternoon that doesn’t involve class) re-watching a few Counter Monkey episodes in preparation for Thieves’ World later in the week, when I found a certain phrase of the Spoony One’s jumped out at me. He was discussing the D20 adaptations of Call of Cthulhu and Babylon 5, and how they didn’t really work as D20 is primarily a combat game. For some reason this phrase(that I had heard a thousand times before) set off an elaborate firework display in my head. You see, the main appeal of Dungeons and Dragons as a system is that it streamlined the combat system almost to perfection. Everything was reduced down to a simple roll of a 20 sided die, against a clear set of modifiers and criteria.  Since starting Roleplaying, I’ve found myself interested in D100 systems a lot for the complexity of their skillsets, but time and again I return to D&D because of how pick-up-and-play it is.  However, while D20 excels in combat, it’s kind of a one-trick pony. It does combat to the exclusion of all other factors of gameplay, reducing everything down to a single die roll. That or the PCs just browbeat, wheedle, or roleplay their way out of dice rolls.        Now it’s been a long standing tenet of mine that rules are secondary to fun and you as a DM should not be afraid to change ones that don’t work for your party. But I’ve seen too many otherwise fun games(like the criminally underrated Unknown Armies) get bogged down in rules and modifiers and this and that. And if you try the strictly RP approach, what’s the point of playing? It just becomes a conversation. You NEED the chaos of an unlucky roll to provide a sense of risk to the game and balance things out. So in games that are based around intrigue and diplomacy, what do you do?       Well, patient reader, then the aforementioned epiphany struck me. You see, as someone who spent a whole two days in his middle school debate club, as well as countless hours debating and arguing with people, I’ve come to appreciate nothing more than a good debate. The skillful parry of point and counter point, the epees and ripostes of skewered logic, all of these are quite thrilling and tense, in their own way. So suppose we made a game that represented that. Hell, Phoenix Wright and L.A. Noire experimented with similar concepts. Let’s take the D20 system, as it’s a convenient example.       In lieu of “Armour Class” let’s use a more abstract concept, Intelligence, or rather preparation(this of course applies only to intelligent debate and subterfuge. An argument on Youtube comments would be an unwinnable encounter). Your “Preparation” would be an amalgam of your Intelligence Modifier(how much knowledge you possess on all matters) and your “Sources” (what proof you have to support your claims). For attack bonuses we’d use Wisdom(to represent your insight, and wit) as well as “Evidence”, “Lies” and “Compliments” to replace weapons. Evidence being the proof you have of the opponents lies, incorrectness, etc. But obviously with rare exceptions (-cough-Youtube Comments-cough- ) you cannot physically kill someone with words, so Hit Points don’t quite work here either. Instead let’s say…Confidence. Whether it’s confidence in a cause they are committed to, confidence in a lie they are maintaining, or something like that tied into the Charisma score(as it is not only your personal appearance, but sense of identity).       Each round of “combat” would involve a dice off. The high roller gets to make a claim, and the low roller a retort. If you’re accusing someone, you’d make a claim and roll to “Hit”. the more convincing your “Evidence” is, the greater an effect it would have on the person you are debating, each piece of evidence only being usable(successfully) once. If you’re accusing, say Gerald of eating the last tuna sandwich and have no evidence to back it up, you’re just hurling assumptions at him, and hoping that the force of your baseless accusations is so mighty that he concedes.       Now, mind, I’m not saying this is the best system, or that Wizards of the Coast should be ringing me up for ideas to steal, but rather present a different approach to conversation systems, and bring a new sense of tension to a normally in-and-out cutscene in your games.        But if you DO want to give me a ring Wizards of the Coast, I certainly wouldn’t mind. Because I’ve got a few things on my mind about 5th edition…

EDITS: Wizards of the Coast, not Blizzard. Derp
I’d like to thank everyone who’s read, liked and reblogged this so far. It’s definitely inspiring me to make more! I think I’ll set a schedule of one every Monday at 3.

Also, one thing I’d like to clarify about this article, I am in NO WAY proposing this is an ideal or the best solution. I meant this more in the vein of a thought exercise, a “What-if” if you will. I am a HUGE proponent of Rule 1, and believe that all rules are secondary to fun and gameplay. Many people have felt that this system is contrary to Roleplaying, that it punishes people to RP the conversation well, or people could make a character that breezes through every conversation without saying a word, and I agree. It was just more a way to inject the same thrill of combat(To a degree, Combat is where games tend to bog down) into dialogue driven games.