July 11, 2012 ...and In This Corner, Social Interaction!
We have looked at settings a lot. We have touched on the character of different kinds of people here and there, as well as characters in general. Although it is difficult to avoid the subject entirely we have not implicitly looked at how people interact--or not for a while anyway. I can think of a couple examples some time ago.
This may seem like it is entirely role-playing game oriented, but anything you would put into or use in an RPG is something you make use of in any fiction writing. Almost every RPG written covers rules for physical conflict a.k.a. combat. They usually cover mental battles as well though often only in reference to unnatural powers and circumstances. A lesser number though get into social conflict or combat. This is a fascinating subject for not only myself, but also a growing number of people with which I have varying levels of contact.
How it works is that the author/game designer creates a framework detailing when and how to use rules, statistics, and dice to determine the ways that other characters react to your character's social contact with them. Also sometimes it tells you how to play your character in certain situations. The difficulty in all of this is walking the line between getting out of the way of your players playing their role, and helping them out when they need it. This is often without resorting to glossing over whole scenes. A prime example is a common skill given a name like Streetwise. This skill allows the character to, as safely as possible, make and use a criminal contact such as a drug dealer, a fence, gunrunner, or a hitman. Alternatively it allows the character to recognise gang colours, know where certain groups hang out, how mobsters deal with particular threats, etc. Players don't need to know anything about real criminals. They can just use the skill and determine their character's success and failure.
Where it runs in to trouble, but can still be useful is with frameworks such as debating rules. One character is debating a point with another. She makes her argument and then rolls to determine (using a host of rules beyond just a simple die roll hopefully) if the other character concedes the point. This can help a player who isn't a skilled debater and annoy another player who is. Other factors though exist, such as the character may not be smart enough or educated enough to be as skilled a debater as the player is. The other rules in addition to the die roll also contribute to the success or failure based on both the player's character and the other character, which may affect elements that the player isn't aware of, either because it is an unknown in the setting to them, or some secret or other motivation of the other character being debated. Like everything, it's all a matter of perspective and degrees, which relies on the rules being flexible and the arbiter of the rules (a.k.a. the Game Master/GM) to be flexible. The GM should also augment the intelligence of the rules not only as a matter of course, but also according to their needs in presenting the game world, and to fulfill the needs of the players.
Music: Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper and Kiss From A Rose by Seal.