Over at RPG Codex, they have up the first part of an article on “Next Gen CRPG Design”, by Role-Player. This one covers social interaction.

We’re all too familiar with how this is handled in many games: choose a dialogue option, and hope the die roll on Charisma is good. Or, you’re attempting some mental task, and hoping the Int roll comes through.

Role-Player goes into great detail on why this is a poor system with regard to non-combat interactions in a game. You’ll have to read the article to see what he has to say on the matter.

His main point is that these interactions should be controlled by something other than a “spreadsheet”. That it’s nonsensical for a character to suddenly become more “charismatic” or “intelligent” by dispensing points here and there on level gain.

I agree with that sentiment. This method is one of the reasons why dialogue in games is so terrible. And why most of us save before talking to someone, “just in case” the roll comes up poor.

RP would like to see these interactions handled differently, and comes up with some suggestions on how that could be done.

One of them is to have the game provide lines that reflect what the character has done or learned during previous play, rather than just throw in some canned responses.

Another is to provide options based on the character’s current skill set. He gives a nice example with someone trying to purchase a weapon, when he doesn’t know quite what it is or what it’s worth.

His third suggestion is to allow actions during the dialogue that have an effect on the conversation. For instance, choosing an “aggressive” stance where the PC draws a weapon in an attempt at intimidation.

I like all these ideas. They get away from the usual “play by numbers”, and allow for better role-playing experience. In particular, they do away with problems such as smart players being stuck with “dumb” characters. I especially like the first one, where what you do in the game has a real effect on conversations with NPCs.

Do read the article (it’s long but worth doing) and see what you think.

Next-Gen Role-Playing Design: Part 1 on RPG Codex