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Wavinator

A (Tasteful) Charm / Seduction Skill (RPG)

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Attractiveness, pheromones, history, environment... I'm wondering how these might be folded in as factors in the success or fail or charm and seduction skills. Whether you're a legendary assassin or a poor lonely soul looking for an eligible mate, I see charm and seduction as being just one of many strategies for getting what you want. Because the RPG portion of the game I'm working on is abstract, in that it's made up of rooms, characters and objects in them and different stats encapsulating the situation you're in itself, I was thinking broadly about how charm and it's possibly less subtle but potentially more powerful cousin, seduction, might work. On one level it needs to be object based-- things you can equip (impressive clothing, perfumes and musks) or give (gifts, tips / information, jokes you can share). By itself this could be strategically interesting, but I was also thinking that overall situations should modify it. It's harder to charm someone you barely know, so maybe a general "relationship" meter is a modifier (especially if associated with factions). The number of characters in a room might dictate how effective more overt attempts were, forcing you to try to isolate a character. An emergency situation, on the other hand (say after you've tripped an alarm) or even loud, raucous social situation might automatically dampen your skill, causing you to have to somehow modify the environment or get your target to move. Maybe you can do things to boost something like a Trust stat, which would determine if the CEO or mob boss would dismiss his lackeys to be alone with you. One potential use might be highly manipulative: Maybe you could, for instance, make enemies fight over you rather than fight you. Or maybe you slowly turn an enemy into an ally, gaining access to his/her resources. Thoughts? Any other possibilities?

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Can you give gestures, like hugs? The Sims series developed the concept of building a relationship through gestures in an interesting way, and more realistically than the standard dating sim idea that people can only be won-over by present-giving.

Also, I think you should consider transformations as a variant of equippage. Perhaps my character can turn into a cute fluffy animal which has very high charm ability but severe limits in terms of communicating and using tools. In the opposite direction, perhaps my character can wear an illusion of being a giant black widow spider, which would give the character a big bonus for trying to intimidate or scare away NPCs.

For an abstract relationship sim I think you pretty much have to give characters emotional state machines, which determines whether they accept, reject, or ignore particular gifts or gestures.

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What you are brainstorming about is a pure seduction game with a background of meaningful characters, environments and motives to keep it interesting and barely within the RPG genre, not an aspect of the "RPG portion" of a wider game (which I assume to be a long action quest with a substantial plot, like e.g. Half-Life): with so many things to do and to care about in order to seduce people, the player and author "mindshare" of everything else (starting from combat) is greatly reduced.

I'm not even considering the bad outcomes of making everything as detailed as seduction, wasting a lot of effort to make an unfathomably complex, unplayable game, or making seduction not really useful because other approaches work better or are more fun (e.g. learning someone's secrets by slowly earning their trust vs breaking into their house to look at their documents).

Sophisticated seduction might fit a RPG if it is the main tool at the player's disposal and the whole plot is built around it: neither legendary assassins or poor lonely souls, but more appropriate PC stereotypes such as the charming, egoist but not evil collector playboy, the cruel "princess" with her devoted thralls, the beautiful stranger that everybody seems to like, and other character types that would treat seduction as a tool and activity instead of just falling in love from time to time.

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Charisma comes in two shapes: general (a pretty face and nice clothes help while a sulphur breath and sweating green poisony muck don't) and particular (wearing the clothes and speaking the tongue of the target's country, with the correct accent of his home town, or wearing the hair color he favors).

Lords of Midnight simply describes a character by a list of flags for different personality traits - a player controlled character can recruit others with a similar enough set of flags.

The trick then for a character with acting/seduction/makeup-artist skills is to find out which traits are desirable and dress/act accordingly. For instance particular traits might be general for some npc demographics (barbarians like blonde hair etc.).

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Original post by sunandshadow
Can you give gestures, like hugs?


Not sure but this is a good idea. Maybe you could buy them or they'd have an increasing chance of success the more you spent points to develop them (group hug +1???? :P)

I'll have to play with this to see if I can come up with something simple but flexible. There'd need to be an underlying algorithm to capture a bit of subtlety in terms of both context (strangers rarely hug?) and maybe culture (soldiers don't hug, diplomats from this world DO hug, etc.)

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The Sims series developed the concept of building a relationship through gestures in an interesting way, and more realistically than the standard dating sim idea that people can only be won-over by present-giving.


Yes that's a good point. If I recall correctly sometimes you have to consider the internal state of your intended target (too hungry, too tired, etc.). It's better than gift giving, but sometimes it was maddening getting them to a perfect state so that they'd accept something like a marriage proposal ("I can't darling, I'm simply FAMISHED"-- this would actually be funny as a parody).

Still, the idea of having to perceive and work out internal states has a lot of potential. Maybe it's more meaningful if the states are more meaningful. A target of seduction who's experiencing grief is probably a very tough challenge, though if there were "moves" such as consoling or even dispensing bits of wisdom it might work.




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Also, I think you should consider transformations as a variant of equippage.


Maybe not as grand as changing into an animal (as the setting isn't magical), but what if different outfits, including gear, carried style values? Even style values that were culture appropriate or generated effects, like "intimidation" or "cool." So you don't turn yourself into a fluffy animal per se but you can make yourself look more or less threatening.

Asset wise one drawback would be that you can't see it all equipped. At best maybe it's modification of flavor text traits. (Your post in Visual Arts about how long it took to create overlays for your different characters is a good warning to me in terms of the work involved-- so maybe this isn't so good an idea if I can't show it).

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For an abstract relationship sim I think you pretty much have to give characters emotional state machines, which determines whether they accept, reject, or ignore particular gifts or gestures.


Agreed.

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Original post by Diodor
Lords of Midnight simply describes a character by a list of flags for different personality traits - a player controlled character can recruit others with a similar enough set of flags.

The trick then for a character with acting/seduction/makeup-artist skills is to find out which traits are desirable and dress/act accordingly. For instance particular traits might be general for some npc demographics (barbarians like blonde hair etc.).


Okay this is a good place to start. I like the idea that it's general and specific, and it could even have other dependencies such as distance. A perfume, for instance, doesn't work at a distance, and maybe something like a projected holographic illusion only works from afar.

I do like the demographics idea as well. Maybe this could work a bit like I hear the "aggro" attention concept works in some MMOs: Maybe how you outfit yourself generates it's own "Attention" section to stats, which cover sub-stats like "suspicion," "allure," "decorum," "fear," etc. Different gear gives bonuses and minuses to different levels of these. A smart business suit lowers suspicion, but maybe also fear, as well as raising decorum but doing little for allure. Then different characters would key into different values.

Alternately the same system could be used but rather than broad categories like suspicion, there could be more "look like" categories that are specific. So a business suit raises "looks like a professional", which attracts desired attention from another professional but unwanted attention from thugs.

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Original post by LorenzoGatti
What you are brainstorming about is a pure seduction game with a background of meaningful characters, environments and motives to keep it interesting


This may be one way of doing it, certainly, and such games do exist, but that's not what I'm building. One part of what I'm aiming for mimics non-combat situations that are typically the purview of pen and paper RPGs or, if included in a computer RPG, that stuff that's usually not very interactive.

What I'm imagining are challenges that are resolved with skills, stats and abilities. If I can figure this out there's no reason to actually make these challenges purely violent. If that is possible, then could you actually play the entire game without fighting? Could you be, for instance, a charmer or Don Juan and still succeed?

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and barely within the RPG genre,


Maybe, but if it has gearing up, leveling thru stats, success via skills and stats, etc. (and quacks like an RPG...)

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not an aspect of the "RPG portion" of a wider game (which I assume to be a long action quest with a substantial plot, like e.g. Half-Life):


Not by a light year. :)

Think more freefom RPG playing out across multiple maps that are bound together through bits of narrative, which are themselves triggered by events, which are themselves triggered by changing stats in the game world.

There's no fixed story. At the moment I'm really partial to the life-sim / Princess Maker RPG style of games which have strong starting narrative and then fire off events based on stat levels, but I want more adventure and variety and less tedium.

The reason I specified abstract is because there's no way to create enough traditional content (detailed dialog, animation, environments, etc.) to satisfy the range of what I have in mind. So I'm thinking more in terms of symbolism, a system of encounters and world stats you can affect. Much of it procedurally generated if feasible.

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with so many things to do and to care about in order to seduce people, the player and author "mindshare" of everything else (starting from combat) is greatly reduced.


This is a valid argument even for an abstract RPG as I see it. However, a wider palette of interactive options may help make up for how dry the presentation will have to be. It can also result in the whole combinatorial explosion of effects which helps replayability. (Done poorly, though, it can also be overly complex and confusing, especially in terms of how you change the world).

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I'm not even considering the bad outcomes of making everything as detailed as seduction, wasting a lot of effort to make an unfathomably complex, unplayable game, or making seduction not really useful because other approaches work better or are more fun (e.g. learning someone's secrets by slowly earning their trust vs breaking into their house to look at their documents).


The fun aspect is going to depend on the target audience. If you're looking for hack & slash between rigidly predefined, unalterable story nodes, you wouldn't want to play this. You also wouldn't want to play it if your main kick is immersion.

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neither legendary assassins or poor lonely souls, but more appropriate PC stereotypes such as the charming, egoist but not evil collector playboy, the cruel "princess" with her devoted thralls, the beautiful stranger that everybody seems to like, and other character types that would treat seduction as a tool and activity instead of just falling in love from time to time.


I really despise these stereotypes, not for what they are but because they're so damned overused and boringly predictable. No room for surprise, not much room for more meaningful player created stories than "kill Foozle-- why? Because he's EVUL!"

It's like going to the bookstore and never being able to find anything but Westerns. I think that if that's what you like to each his own, and I envy you in that you have a hell of a lot more RPGs to play than I do.

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Original post by Wavinator
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Original post by LorenzoGatti
What you are brainstorming about is a pure seduction game with a background of meaningful characters, environments and motives to keep it interesting


This may be one way of doing it, certainly, and such games do exist, but that's not what I'm building. One part of what I'm aiming for mimics non-combat situations that are typically the purview of pen and paper RPGs or, if included in a computer RPG, that stuff that's usually not very interactive.

What I'm imagining are challenges that are resolved with skills, stats and abilities. If I can figure this out there's no reason to actually make these challenges purely violent. If that is possible, then could you actually play the entire game without fighting? Could you be, for instance, a charmer or Don Juan and still succeed?

I'm not saying that a RPG should be violent, only that approaching problems with guile and manipulation is incompatible with violent solutions; the usual overspecialization of combat-ready RPG characters has to be turned around to make an overspecialized nonviolent seducer or avoided to make a versatile and rather weak character. I don't think there is room for both in the same game, or the same character.

You need to design a vastly more complex game, or rather a chimera of rather different games, than would be required with a smaller range of strategies; the complexity of the model of how seduction works is insignificant compared to the burden of the content it entails.
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Think more freeform RPG playing out across multiple maps that are bound together through bits of narrative, which are themselves triggered by events, which are themselves triggered by changing stats in the game world.

There's no fixed story. At the moment I'm really partial to the life-sim / Princess Maker RPG style of games which have strong starting narrative and then fire off events based on stat levels, but I want more adventure and variety and less tedium.

The reason I specified abstract is because there's no way to create enough traditional content (detailed dialog, animation, environments, etc.) to satisfy the range of what I have in mind. So I'm thinking more in terms of symbolism, a system of encounters and world stats you can affect. Much of it procedurally generated if feasible.

This is an extremely ambitious plan; from the tone of your description, I think you will err on the side of making the game too abstract to be compelling.

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with so many things to do and to care about in order to seduce people, the player and author "mindshare" of everything else (starting from combat) is greatly reduced.

This is a valid argument even for an abstract RPG as I see it. However, a wider palette of interactive options may help make up for how dry the presentation will have to be.

I'm afraid it would be the other way around: the presentation has to be dry because the rules are too complex, while the interactive options are poorly represented because they are too many.

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neither legendary assassins or poor lonely souls, but more appropriate PC stereotypes such as the charming, egoist but not evil collector playboy, the cruel "princess" with her devoted thralls, the beautiful stranger that everybody seems to like, and other character types that would treat seduction as a tool and activity instead of just falling in love from time to time.


I really despise these stereotypes, not for what they are but because they're so damned overused and boringly predictable. No room for surprise, not much room for more meaningful player created stories than "kill Foozle-- why? Because he's EVUL!"

I respect your dislike for traditional character and story stereotypes of hack and slash RPGs, but I don't think you can stray very far from the different ones I outlined: they would be the obvious emergent result of realistic game mechanics.
Using seduction and influence as a means to an end is an inherently evil perversion of the social order, and only a narrow range of cold-hearted characters would do it, not a generic hero with a normal personality.
Violence doesn't have this restriction; everybody has violent instincts, and it's nonviolent behaviour in a violent situation that requires a special personality.
Maybe if the character is a very transparent proxy for the player's moral and strategic choices rather than a well defined character the evil social stereotypes can remain implicit (and maybe not recognized) and be projected from the character to the player.

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It's like going to the bookstore and never being able to find anything but Westerns. I think that if that's what you like to each his own, and I envy you in that you have a hell of a lot more RPGs to play than I do.

This is a bit offensive. I think that a pure seduction game would be too mean-spirited to appeal to me and that your better explained actual project is likely to turn out too complex, but it doesn't mean that I like stupid hack and slash plots.

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Original post by Wavinator
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Original post by LorenzoGatti
What you are brainstorming about is a pure seduction game with a background of meaningful characters, environments and motives to keep it interesting


This may be one way of doing it, certainly, and such games do exist, but that's not what I'm building. One part of what I'm aiming for mimics non-combat situations that are typically the purview of pen and paper RPGs or, if included in a computer RPG, that stuff that's usually not very interactive.

What I'm imagining are challenges that are resolved with skills, stats and abilities. If I can figure this out there's no reason to actually make these challenges purely violent. If that is possible, then could you actually play the entire game without fighting? Could you be, for instance, a charmer or Don Juan and still succeed?

I'm not saying that a RPG should be violent, only that approaching problems with guile and manipulation is incompatible with violent solutions; the usual overspecialization of combat-ready RPG characters has to be turned around to make an overspecialized nonviolent seducer or avoided to make a versatile and rather weak character. I don't think there is room for both in the same game, or the same character.


But it's already been done! Look at support magic as an example, or the inclusion of stealth. Persuasion could be model just the same as a spell with some state dependent rules and requirements. Very basic NPC reactions for non-combat situations would help fit "the charm ability" into situations that aren't overtly violent.

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You need to design a vastly more complex game, or rather a chimera of rather different games, than would be required with a smaller range of strategies; the complexity of the model of how seduction works is insignificant compared to the burden of the content it entails.


I think you can say this about standing game feature unless you abstract. Combat itself is hopelessly complicated, yet few RPG systems represent its elements down to the physics of mass and momentum or the neurological aspects such as reflexes, balance, adrenaline, etc.

I believe that you're looking at the whole picture and not seeing how it could be boiled down to its basic elements. Combat has been, in a majority of cases, reduced to points-- points for resisting, for dealing damage, even in some instances for taking actions. So it is possible.


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This is an extremely ambitious plan; from the tone of your description, I think you will err on the side of making the game too abstract to be compelling.


This is quite possible. When you try to make something outside the mainstream there are no guarantees. As a player I don't seem to need the same level of emotional engagement that fans of fixed story games have-- I'm more of a strategy gamer at heart-- so it's a strong possibility that people who need to see this kind of stuff played out blow by blow (the immersion crowd I mentioned earlier) will find nothing in the final result for them.

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I'm afraid it would be the other way around: the presentation has to be dry because the rules are too complex, while the interactive options are poorly represented because they are too many.


Again, very possible. But one thing I've realized from playing older games and several indie offerings is that it actually doesn't take as much as one might think to foster engagement. Some players only need the thinnest of narrative provided there's a rich range of things to do and affect. That's more the audience I'm aiming for.



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I respect your dislike for traditional character and story stereotypes of hack and slash RPGs, but I don't think you can stray very far from the different ones I outlined: they would be the obvious emergent result of realistic game mechanics.


I believe you mentioned the stereotypes because you saw them consistent with the type of characters that would use that gameplay as a means to an end. If that's the case, I don't disagree with you for a traditional RPG.

But this ability would work for any character provided there are a range of ends that support being manipulative or influential. It would work for a range of "good" characters trying to get through or out of a variety of situations-- dealing with corrupt authority, for instance, or for the sake of espionage.

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Using seduction and influence as a means to an end is an inherently evil perversion of the social order, and only a narrow range of cold-hearted characters would do it, not a generic hero with a normal personality.


I disagree. The average human being uses influence every day, if only to keep peace with others in their world. In sales, for instance, it's quite common for deals to be closed less on the strengths of the service or product and more on the emotional overtones struck between the buyer and seller. Public speakers, lawyers, executives climbing the corporate ladder--heck even college students trying not to be lonesome on a Friday night-- are all examples of humans naturally using influence.

Your assessment of "evil" and "perversion of the social order" may have to do with where you've been raised to believe the line is in terms of casual and downright coercive manipulation as well as violation of local cultural mores. I've got no quarrel with that, but it's hard for me to universally condemn something people do every day.



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Violence doesn't have this restriction; everybody has violent instincts, and it's nonviolent behaviour in a violent situation that requires a special personality.


But wait. In an RPG are you saying it would somehow be morally superior to murder a guard in order to get past a door than get her to fall in love with you so that she opens it and remains breathing? o.O

I think I may view killing like you view seduction. It frustrates me that many RPGs have you killing your way to the top, and if you can't do something else you can't advance (except maybe at set points) in the game.

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It's like going to the bookstore and never being able to find anything but Westerns. I think that if that's what you like to each his own, and I envy you in that you have a hell of a lot more RPGs to play than I do.


This is a bit offensive.


Not intended. I did say "if that's what you like." If that's not what you like then maybe you have as hard a time as I do finding a game you can enjoy.

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