Friday, August 24, 2007

From Indifferent to Friendly

Dave Noonan's latest post about "social challenges" hit home with me as a DM. In many of my encounters, I try to provide an alternative to sword-swinging and spell-slinging, though I'm not bothered either way if the party decides to talk or fight.

As in Noonan's group, some in our group might roleplay their discussion with the NPC, rolling dice when they felt they really needed the game system to step in and do some persuading; others would roll and either roleplay their speech accordingly, or take a third-person approach to what their character would have said. A third option, not mentioned in Noonan's group, is where the player roleplays their character's speech until I decide that a diplomacy check is necessary.

I disagree with his point 4) about the playstyle that hates social interaction with a die roll. While I have no problem with my players taking on their role and speaking for their characters (this is a role-playing game, after all), there are going to be times where a player just can't roleplay well enough (that is, if as the DM I have to judge their speech from the NPC's point-of-view), or too much (our overly-eloquent player should not be able to wile the prince with his 6 Charisma half-orc.) The role-played speech lets the game flow better and keeps immersion, but I feel the dice are a required part of any conversation that could be considered a "turning point" -- something that branches the flow of the game in one way or another.

Not mentioned in Noonan's post were other social interactions, such as the intimidate skill, which I feel is underutilized, or the bluff skill; and the whole Attitude system always seemed a bit too rigid for use. Perhaps there aren't enough levels, or it shouldn't be so cut-and-dry with Hostile, Unfriendly, etc. I hope we get to see some insight into other aspects of social influence in 4.0 as the months pass.

I didn't think I'd care for these Playtest Reports columns, but they do give insight into the game, and into the playstyles of the developers; I'm liking Noonan's DMing style already -- quite like my own.

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