How do you resolve nonviolent, nonobjective interaction in your RPG of choice?
Especially, how do you encourage your heroes to go for convincing instead of stabbing, and how do you get them to treat the outcome of a social contest as binding?
I feel like I usually don’t have the tools to do this. A lot of rules systems end up fitting their socialization minigame into a combat minigame mold, and that doesn’t work for me really well — it’s okay for an argument, and works reasonably well for a debate, and really doesn’t fit for me with anything else in the human condition.
In particular, the stats they end up using for this domain really irritate me. They are often approach-based — a skill to lie, a skill to scare, a skill to be nice, a skill to listen to other people. Maybe some others. The problem with this is that these are vast styles of interaction and are extremely limiting in actual play — if you’ve built an Intimidator, you’re going to try Intimidate on everyone you come across, resolve it as an intimidate, and not actually make any choices in game. Why would you? You’re going to resolve them the same way every time anyway!
Here’s my fix, in Fate.
You have a social skill, called Charisma (could as easily be called Empathy or something). If you want to just roll to resolve something without drilling into the details, you can absolutely roll this statistic against whatever static difficulty you’ve got as an Overcome or Create Advantage or whatever — it can be lying, scaring, befriending, whatever.
However, if you actually want to play through a conversation in more detail, then those uses aren’t available unless you have a conversational gambit you’re trying — basically, unless you have an aspect in the scene that you can use as standing for the charisma check.
Charisma becomes an Attack and Create Advantage skill only, and is used to discover and manipulate aspects on the discussion and its participants.
Want to try to befriend them? Then use aspects on yourself, your partner or the scene that indicate openness and use those on the roll against a static difficulty. These are _not_ invocations, or at least not necessarily: these are permissions, in the same sense that being in a darkened corner is a precondition to hiding. They indicate standing.
Want to try to deceive? That’s a particular use of Create Advantage. It doesn’t need any standing to do it, though, which means that you can try to pretend to be whoever (or whatever) you want, and then springboard off of that aspect.
Intimidate? Attack if you’re literally trying to scare someone into the ground in the moment; if you’re trying to shake someone down or get future behavior out of them or something, it’s much like befriend, building up a set of aspects which ultimately indicate what you’re after.
You get the conversation’s results to stick because they either result in consequences (as in the case of the attack action of intimidate, where you just break someone) whose free tag is used as a compel, or the aspects placed are sufficient that the compel can show up there.
If there’s already an appropriate aspect for what you want out of the conversation, then you can skip the whole thing: just compel immediately.
That’s what makes Charisma as an empathy-skill so powerful: you may not have to engage a lengthy game of cat and mouse with the right person. If you can find a path to get what you want as a natural consequence of either the right person or the right situation, you can propose the compel immediately and get immediate results.