in the Shadow of Greatness


December 8, 2004

Social Conflict in ADRPG

You can have a terrif campaign with a smooth GM who includes the benefits and drawbacks of social impact right off the cuff... or you might be gaming with someone who doesn't consider social impact important... or doesn't quite know how to arbitrate it.

And if there is no social impact or censure or familial limit to action/reaction, then lots of unpleasant things happen, just like civilization with the rules shut down. Which means that Amber DRPG should have had a cultural component from the get-go—— even if only for GM guidelines.

What would we group into the Social Attribute? What would we insist be there, or not be there? What would we call it?

Bon ton?
Savoir Faire?

And what are its methods and resources of conflict?
Connections (especially important in an aristocratic society)
Empathy (not in the logic or intuitive sense of Psyche)
Appearance (not in the attractive looks sense—but in the refined sense)

I think there is tremendous overlap in some of these qualities, and that looking for a 'realm word' to put a foundation to it is important. For any character exploring this niche of social conflict can take many paths to make their influence known. These specific paths would be Player province and style.

Depending on genre again, I think they are all significant to roleplaying games—even a broken moral world, such as film-noir, would depend on these things to understand the characters.

But having said that social conflict is important, and tucking everything under an umbrella of an attribute, we gain access to the entire list.

Yet another challenge, our new attribute term should not begin with the letter of any other canon attribute.

Culture is evocative, but straight to the point and yet ambiguous enough for GMs to give it their own twists. The term needs to twist a bit without any moral implication. Social conflict fallout should happen within the game to the character.

And then there is shadow and reflections of Culture therein.

Culture is an ideal term, since it represents both Society and the individual ability to embody social status. One with high ranking is cultured. Culture will also involve shadow belief systems that are highly subjective. Two people might end up in the same shadow, but a high Culture rank would allow one person to integrate themselves more easily by empathically grasping what this society holds dear and respects.

You all realize, of course, that Culture is the most important attribute—for without it you do not have validation of the world context.

So our list of attributes is now:

For those Players who want to deny social conflict as mechanic and just play it out based on the Players' social skill—I am left with the vague unease that they are more than willing to cross Player knowledge with Character knowledge on a regular basis.

Note that every Attribute is troubling *if* consequence is not well moderated by the GM. Being in the infirmary because another PC kicks my ass every time he sees me is troubling. Being pounded by Trump calls. Being physically threatened in front of others by Gerard. Which Attribute but Endurance is not regularly used to work the will of the Player Character on others?

Magic is the scariest abuse in the ADRPG and seldom called as such. Magic can distort your *perceptions* such that you do things you only think are right. Stabbed in the back by an invisible person, you turn and see Vialle behind you. What do you do?

The point, I think, is that without a social mechanic, the issue can be ignored—and never should be.

I believe, that if there were clear social consequences (like "no patricide will ever sit the throne"), that power abuses would actually become less.

No mistake, losing a social conflict does not mean a PC must be talked into anything. Neither does a PC have to agree to work with Gerard if that worthy threatens to break said PC's neck if he doesn't cooperate.

Which doesn't mean that there won't be public situations where a high Culture rank will make it apparent that you should publicly go along with the said ranking Culture PC—or suffer the cultural fallout.

The consequence of repeated failure of Culture conflict would be stigma. Stigma would deny you resources and cooperation from the whole of local society where the conflict took place. This combined with Bad Stuff could make your PC an ineffective and shunned individual.

Not to mention less fun to play—like being locked up in a blue crystal cave for a few months.

By the way, Florimel thanks you graciously for attending this small presentation and invites you to stay for beverages and chat in the downstairs reading library. Thank you.

Filed under : Amber at 08.12.2004