Flamepunk: Social Combat
- 1 Overview of Social Combat
- 2 Using Social Combat
- 3 Relenting: Voluntary Defeat
- 4 Terminating: Forcing Social Combat to end
- 5 Initiative and Combat Rounds
- 6 Attack Rolls, Defences, Damage
- 7 System Permutations
- 8 Pages Related to this Topic:
Overview of Social Combat
This section describes rules for social conflict.
Using Social Combat
Social combat is an acquired taste, but the general idea is it allows greater simulationism for social characters in the group. Why should the fighters and runners get all the dice-crunching fun?
The default purpose of social combat is when two or more characters are interacting with a specific goal in mind, and need to use their cunning, charm and force of personality to get their way.
Its generally not something you need to pull out for everyday conversations and day-to-day social interactions - this is best covered through just roleplaying - instead, its reserved for actual conflicts of personality, where characters want different things but can't just agree to differ.
Seduction, intimidation, persuasion, coercion and mroe can all be covered by social combat.
Social Combat Goals: "Defeat Conditions"
Core to social combat is the idea that each character has a target, and has a goal to the social combat.
- Seduce the Hadar ganglord, so that he is willing to tell you things that he wouldn't otherwise.
- Discredit the arguments of the prosecution lawyer, so your client walks free.
- Interrogate a suspect so that he tells you where his blazer buddies are.
- Convince the inquisitor interrogating you that you know nothing, so he'll leave you alone.
Social combat always requires an extended period of time, and continuous social interaction over this time
If you succeed in social combat (i.e. you reduce your target to 0 Will Points) then you achieve your objective.
The Passive Social Combatant
Sometimes, someone is trying to convince you of something, but you have no goal yourself.
In these circumstances it is reasonable to set a "passive goal", such as:
- Get this guy to leave me alone and stop harassing me.
- Walk out of here with my dignity intact, but without it looking like the other guy has won the argument.
With a little thought you can change most passive goals into active ones. The other alternative is "terminating social combat" as described below.
Its sensible for players and GMs to set fairly low key and attainable goals for their characters.
If the GM deems that a character is trying for a particularly difficult goal, then he can assign a degree of intrinsic resistance. A lot of this is an ad hoc call by the GM.
Intrinsic Resistance of 1
- Intimidating a ganger when he is front of his friends.
- Befriending a rich (but not especially prejudiced) Guilder, when you are the wrong social class.
Intrinsic Resistance of 2
- Convincing a heterosexual man to kiss a woman he is not at all attracted to.
- Convincing a miser to lend you money.
- Befriending a racist, when you are the wrong colour.
Intrinsic Resistance of 3
- Convincing a heterosexual man to engage in penetrative homosexual acts.
- Convincing an honourable soldier to betray his squad.
- Convincing a Church fanatic to spit on the altar of the holy flame.
Intrinsic Resistance of 4
- Convincing a happy man that he should commit suicide.
- Convincing a Church fanatic to burn down his local temple.
Intrinsic Resistance acts as a Dodge Defence on every social attack you make on that character, which is cumulative with their normal defence.
Intrinsic Resistance can be countered to some degree with tools or circumstantial factors. For example, the Church fanatic is more likely to spit on the altar if you have a gun to his head, and a character will be more likely to do things which are repugnant to him if you are holding his beloved family to ransom.
Intrinsic Resistance cannot be reduced to below 0, however.
Roleplaying and Social Combat
Using the social combat rules do not preclude roleplaying!
In the same way that physical combat shouldn't just devolve into a series of dice rolls, its also important that social combat goes hand in hand with roleplaying.
Some players may find the stop-start nature of social combat impedes the natural flow of roleplaying conversations - there can be a tendency for the character whose action it is to have a little monologue before "handing over the talking stick" to the next person up. Similarly, there is an urge for players who are not natural social roleplayers to not have the same social skills their characters do.
There are ways around this:
- Players and GMS have the option of describing the gist of what is being said, or how it is being said, rather than picking the actual words. For example: "Skazz locks eyes and snarls, then spits out a pithy reply, daring the Paladin to argue with him."
- GMs should allow for freeform roleplaying to break out at any time, and let people talk naturally, but occasionally call for a pause as the dice are rolled. In this way, the system fades into the background of the conversation. Skilled GMs will be able to pick the right moments, so this feels right, waiting until the active character is on the offensive before calling the next attack roll.
Relenting: Voluntary Defeat
At any time during a social combat, a character can relent and be voluntarily defeated.
This means that the character targeting them automatically achieves their social goal, but that the relenting character avoids losing any more Will Points.
The best time (tactically) to relent is after a social attack is made, as you can look at the result and work out whether it is going to wipe you out (or just inflict unacceptable Will damage).
Of course, even after you have relented, there is nothing to stop the aggressor picking a new social goal and going at you again with a fresh social combat.
Terminating: Forcing Social Combat to end
The physical trumps the social.
On a character's action (and only on his action) a character can choose to forcibly terminate social combat, for example by walking away and locking the door behind him, or by striking physically at his social assailant.
Note that he either has to initiate violence or leave the social mileu to forcibly terminate social combat. Merely covering his ears or blanking out what is being said is not enough - social avoidance strategies that don't involve walking away are covered by social combat, for example by setting a passive goal of "Make the other guy realise I'm not listening to him, so he gives up and goes away."
If social combat is interrupted by physical combat, then refresh everyones action dice pool back to their full Focus value immediately, and start a physical combat as per the normal rules.
The exception to this is if the GM is using the advanced rules for Combining Social and Physical Combat. This is an optional system, detailed on the linked page recommended only for experienced GMs and players.
Initiative and Combat Rounds
Time and Combat
A single round of social combat represents about one minute of social interaction, during which combatants will make their points and deflect the arguments of the opposition.
This is flexible of course - for example, in an environment where socialisation is slower, such as a courtroom with protocols to be observed, or a duel of newspaper articles, the round by round rate may be slower, for example 10 minutes per round in the first example, and 1 week per round in the latter.
Order of Action
The same rules for determining initiative are used in social combat as for physical combat:
- Actions are declared then immediately resolved when it is a character's turn.
- The character with the most dice left in his action dice pool acts next.
- If action dice pools are drawn, then players act before non player characters.
- If players are drawn in action dice pool, then they can decide who goes first.
- If the above factors do not tell you who goes next, the GM arbitrarily decides, taking into account drama and expediency.
A character can choose not to act when his turn comes round by "setting aside" one or more dice. These set aside dice cannot be used for the rest of the round, but are returned to the player's dice pool at the end of the round.
Ending the Round
Once all characters in the combat have no dice left in their action pool, the round ends.
Each character moves all set aside dice back into their action dice pool, then recharges a number of action dice equal to half their Focus rounded up.
For player characters this will generally be three action dice.
A player's action dice pool cannot exceed their Focus from this.
Attack Rolls, Defences, Damage
The system for taking actions in combat is the same as in the basic rules with a few variations.
An attack roll in combat will vary in Hit Target according to what sort of attack is being made, and the level of training of the attacker.
A basic social attack made by an untrained attacker has a hit target of 5 or 6.
For other attacks, consult the appropriate trait sections: ((links here)).
Defence applies after the action roll, just as in the basic rules.
A basic "social dodge" made by an untrained combatant is a reflexive action that costs 1 action dice, and has the effect of removing 1 dice from the attackers rolled dice pool.
Social dodging represents actively dismissing or ignoring your opponent's arguments.
For other defences, consult the appropriate trait sections: ((links here)).
Specifically "social parrying" is something which requires some degree of training or specialisation.
Damage is usually equal to the success level of the attack roll. For example, an unarmed attack with a success level of 3 deals 3 hit points of damage.
Other factors may apply:
- Some attacks (via certain advanced Traits) have special effects that increase the damage on a successful hit. The most common effects will be "if this attack hits, add +X to the damage" or "if this attack hits, multiply damage dealt by X", but there are many different special effects depending on the attack.
- Some effects (via certain advanced Traits) will affect the damage of hits against you. The most common effect will be "when an attack hits you, deduct X from the damage dealt, to a minimum of 0 damage dealt", but there are numerous different special effects with different abilities.
Damage is applied directly to the receiving character's will points. When a character is reduced to 0 Will, he has been taken out of action. He suffers the consequences of the assigned defeat condition.
Played out carefully, a character should never be reduced to 0 Will Points by social combat, as he will likely relent when an attack would reduce him to 0 Will Points.
If a character is reduced to 0 Will Points, however, he automatically relents and is forced to fulfil the Defeat Condition specified.
A character on 0 Will Points can regain one single Will Point as a reflexive automatic action at any time.
If social combat is subsequently initiated targeting him, he will still have that 1 Will Point.
Player and GMs should note that once a character has been defeated once, he is liable to be defeated again and again very quickly. The best "out" for this is, of course, for the victim character to forcibly terminate social combat on his next action, as described above. You can only push someone so far before they snap...
A character can adjust the target defeat condition during social combat on his action, as an automatic action that costs 3 dice. The new defeat condition replaces the original one, and the target character's level of intrinsic resistance may change accordingly.
In game terms, this is called "redirecting" social combat.
Because of the dice cost, its generally best to set out with the target defeat condition in mind from the outset, but smart characters may see the advantage in starting out with an easily attainable proposition (i.e. one with no intrinsic resistance), then switching later to achieve the true tougher goal (i.e. one with higher intrinsic resistance).
If your target is defeated by your attack (i.e. reduced to 0 Will), or relents, you gain a free redirect that costs 0 dice, but which can still only be called on your action.
With multiple combatants, each social combatant can only nominate one target character and one defeat condition, though a single combatant may be targeted by multiple opponents with different defeat conditions.
Each defeat condition may have a different intrinsic resistance value, applying only to attacks relating to that condition.
A valid strategy is the "good cop, bad cop" ploy, where one character will move in with a nice low-resistance defeat condition in mind (and thus wear down Will more easily) while the other moves in with a nasty high-resistance defeat condition in mind.
When a character "redirects" his efforts as described in the above section (Changing Goals in Social Combat) he may also change his target character if he chooses.
Preparing an Argument
Preparing an argument is a 3-dice automatic action targeting your current social target. Then, as long as you don't take any other action (even a reflexive action), and don't lose sight of your target, you are considered to have prepared.
The next attack you make against that target is a prepared attack. Prepared attacks are exactly the same as normal attacks, but you can choose to reroll any number of dice after the roll, but before defence is applied.
No Stacking Defences
As stated in the basic rules, you can only make a maximum of one reflexive action in response to an action against you.
Essentially, this means that if someone attacks you, you can social dodge, or you can social parry, or you can use another defence, but you can't do more than one of those things. Also, you can't "stack" the same defence - you can't, for example, declare three dodges against a single attack.
Note that some paths to avoiding social injury don't count as reflexive actions, so can be used freely. Intrinsic Resistance, for example, takes no action to use, so will specifically does stack with any other defences you use.
Special Effects and Non-damaging attacks
In addition to just doing damage, some attacks will inflict special effects.
Sometimes this will be explicit from the rules. For example, for every six on the (post-defence) attack roll the social attack Allow no interruption removes one dice from the target's action dice pool.
Sometimes, though, special effects will be a consequence of what the player is trying to do, or a product of the environment. For example, rather than aiming to just seduce an enemy, a character could try to unbutton their shirt while talking to them.
Generally, achieving a special effect is more difficult than just dealing damage. The GM should reprsent this by adding to the Dodge Defence of the attack.
GMs are encouraged to play loosely with these rules, and use the following guidelines:
- If what a player is doing is fun or cinematic, or plays off the specific combat situation in a cool way, err on the side of low increases in Dodge Defence.
- If a player is just angling for an extra advantage, or has used the same trick before in the same combat, err on the side of high increases in Dodge Defence.
You can justify higher Dodge Defence bonuses by saying that an enemy is prepared for that trick now you've done it once already, or by saying that getting the advantage that the player is seeking is harder and less straightforward and effective than just trying to drop their opponent.
Usually, getting your way with someone means that you break their will, and leave them extremely vulnerable to further coercion (by virtue of their low Will Points remaining once you are done with them). This isn't always desirable - for example, if you are seducing a politician so that he shares his secrets, you still want to leave him able to debate in court when the time comes.
Optionally a character who wins a social combat (by the opponent relenting or by reducing that opponent to zero will) can choose to show mercy to his victim.
If this option is taken, the defeated / relenting character immediately regains all lost Will Points that were inflicted by the winning character during this combat. The Defeat Condition still activates as normal, but the defeated character will at least be ready to face off later social assaults.
Sometimes, you may want to bolster someone rather than knock them down. For example, if a comrade is broken in spirit, you may want to pep him up so that he regains some of his will. You might also just want to back up a friend, and do so by ensuring that he knows he is supported rather than directly attacking his opposition.
This is called positive socialisation.
To engage in positive socialisation, the character should select another character as his target. As always, you can only ever have one target at a time in social combat. You cannot both provide positive socialisation for one character and simultaneously attack someone else. As always you can redirect later in the combat to switch into offensive mode, or to support someone else, and you can also redirect into positive socialisation from attacking. Redirecting, as noted above, is a 3-dice cost automatic action.
Positive socialisation works just like ordinary attacks, but any damage dealt is added to the target's Will Points rather than deducted. This cannot cause the target to exceed his maximum Will Points.
You can even target Positive Socialisation - basically this is psyching yourself up, and convincing yourself that you still have worthwhile things to say. Effectively, this means that it is pretty easy to regain Will Points, as long as you have enough time to regather your arguments.