Third Draft: Parley (Revised)

Third Draft: Parley (Revised)

Third Draft: Parley (Revised)

I’m not quite ready to give up on this approach to Parley.

We used draft 2 ( in play quite a bit in a recent session, one that was very socially-oriented (trying to convince 20 or so enslaved Hillfolk that they freed to settle in Stonetop, and then dealing with the inevitable issues of integration).

The trigger felt much better than standard Parley. Not having to judge whether they had leverage in advance was great.

However, Paul Taliesin’s concerns about the move proved to be correct. The move really didn’t give me as the GM more structure than simply free-forming the interactions. That’s partly because of the fuzzy distinction between the 10+ “reveal what it’ll take” and the 7-9 “make a counter offer” (which many people commented on). But it’s also because the 7-9 result was so damn wide open. It really didn’t structure play like I thought it did.

So, new version: same trigger, same 10+ results, but cut the 7-9 result down to “rebuff but still engaged.”

This gets rid of the overlap between the 7-9 and 10+ results, and it relegates unforeseen complications to the 6- result, which I’m okay with.

The biggest argument I expect to see is that the 7-9 result doesn’t move things forward and results in a stalemate. I guess my counter to that would be that it’s like getting a 10+ to Hack and Slash and not rolling enough damage to drop the foe–you’re still fighting, you’ve reduce their staying power, the situation isn’t resolved. With this case, you’re still talking/arguing, but you’ve ruled out one approach, and can still find one that works.

Anyhow, as always, comments, questions, and thoughts appreciated!

18 thoughts on “Third Draft: Parley (Revised)”

  1. I’m not sure that your third example (between Vabid and the too-long-toothed-merchant) fits the new version of the rules. He got a 7-9, but the merchant seems to be making a counter-offer, which isn’t really what I’d describe as “rebuffing the attempt.”

    The 4th example (between Caradoc and Rheinal) feels like a better example of rebuffing the attempt. For the purposes of the example though, I’d make the GM’s response in the 4th paragraph more verbose:

    Caradoc: … Can I Parlay again?

    GM: No, you haven’t actually changed approach. He turns and says…

  2. I agree that having a 7-9 not advance the conversation is a definite problem. 7-9s should still fundamentally be successes, if partial or with a cost. Anything that could simply require rolling multiple times until you either get a 10+ or a 6- isn’t going to work.

    The thing is, “reveal what it’ll take to convince them” is a GM move in disguise; “tell them the requirements and then ask”. Why make this move when a player is rolling a 10+?

    Honestly, I think what you have here is an iteration of asking nicely. I’d just make a soft GM move and leave it at that. If it’s a matter of finding out what could be used as leverage, then you’ve got Charming and Open. (How could I get you to ____ ?) You could also poach Read a Person from AW, but then you may have to reconcile other social moves, since it would somewhat obviate Charming and Open.

  3. The trigger is much better than “leverage” which seems to require quite a lot of extra processing to be usable.

    The 10+ results feel right to me for a social situation, and I had the same thought about 7-9, that you gain information and are still in the exchange. Maybe a way to move things forward would be for the NPC to drive the conversation into an area that they are interested in, in a way that requires response. The equivalent of a hack and slash 7-9 where the PC loses some ground. A 7-9 would mean both gaining some ground (learning that angle won’t work) and losing some ground (having to respond to the NPC’s new direction). More changing the subject than making a counter offer.

  4. I’m glad to hear that my earlier comments made some sense. I’ll be back later to read the latest draft and give it some more thought!

    Perhaps handling this as one simple roll-and-choose move is what’s holding it back? You might consider thinking more “outside the box”, and what you want these interactions to look like at the table.

  5. Paul Taliesin I have thought about what I want these interactions to look like, and I’m fairly sure that this pretty close to it. The biggest issue, I think, is that it flies in the face of conventional PbtA move-writing (as pointed out by Peter J

    WARNING: Long Post Ahead (Get Comfy)

    What I’m trying to model is the petitioner/granter structure that Robin Laws describes in his essay “Improvising Dialogue Sequences” (from Unframed). That structure is:

    * One party in a dialogue scene (the petitioner) wants something from the other party (the granter)

    * The petitioner uses different tactics (pleading, logical arguments, needling, temptation) to convince the granter

    * The granter also responds with different tactics (downplaying, counter-arguing, dismissing, ignoring, avoiding) to resist or counter the request

    “This is the verbal parrying, the cut-and-thrust, that gives a dialogue scene crackle. That’s also where the need for improve comes in. If you’re playing the petitioner, you can know from the outset what he wants and his first approach to getting it will be. You can’t predict, though, how the granter will respond. When the granter responds, you must spontaneously come up with a response that moves the scene forward and registers as plausible for the character you’re playing.”

    The scene ends with the granter gives the petitioner what they want, or when it’s full-on refused. Alternately (for DW, not according to the essay), the scene could end when something external ends it, like a GM move to suddenly put them in a spot or introduce a danger.

    There’s more to the essay, about how tactics are all based in some sort of leverage, which vary greatly in subtlety and effectiveness, but that’s mostly informing the tactics used and how effective they might be; it’s not necessarily about the structure of the scene.

    So, with that structure in mind:

    The move starts with the trigger (“press or entice an NPC into a course of action”), which is basically: use some tactic to petition the granter.

    The results could be:

    10+ >> the GM decides that, yeah, that tactic works. No real dialogue scene is necessary… we just enjoy the effectiveness of the PC.

    10+ >> the GM reveals what it’ll take. Basically, the NPC ends up resisting (actively or passively), per the petitioner/granter structure, but in such a way that reveals the way forward. It tells the PC what tactic would work and end the scene. What’s left is basically a question posed to the player: are you willing/able to meet this requirement in order to get what you want?

    ^this option is what keeps the move from being mind control, and what allows us to skip the decision of “do you have leverage?” until after the move is triggered. It also aligns with my perception and experience is charismatic, persuasive people: they don’t always get you to go along them right away, but they provoke you into reacting to them, to offering up some form of resistance, and they then dismantle that resistance. (And this isn’t always manipulative; good leaders do the same thing, cycling through different ways of trying to motivate their team members until they find the one the resonates.)

    (Peter J, you say that this is basically a prompt for a soft GM move, and I don’t disagree. But I’d counter that DIscern Realities and Spout Lore are exactly the same thing: prompts for the GM to make particular soft moves, moves that provide the players with more information on which to make their next decisions.)

    6- >> the GM’s move, as hard as they like. This should end the conversation, most often because the petition is finally refused (reveal an unwelcome truth or separate them or turn their move back on them or cut things short with change the environment or use a threat). Alternately, it could be an agreement but with trouble (point to a looming threat or offer an opportunity with a cost, etc.). Point being: the conversation ends.

    7-9 >> the NPC rebuffs the PC but stays engaged. This is the granter resisting, but without full-on refusing and ending the conversation. It’s now putting the impetus on the PCs to come up with and deploy an alternate tactic, often involving an escalation or just trying something completely different. In other words: “…you must spontaneously come up with a response that moves the scene forward.”

    The problem (as seen in comments so far) is that this doesn’t feel like “fundamentally a success” or “success with cost, limitation,

    or consequence.” It feels, at least on the surface, like a whiff. And I get why that’s uncool. Mechanically, it becomes “keep rolling until you get a 10+ or a 6-.”

    But! If you think about the social dynamics this (hopefully) invokes, each 7-9 request hands the initiative back the player (the petitioner). It gives them a little more information (e.g. “threats won’t work” or “it’s not really worth that much”) and challenges them to come up with something else and start the cycle again.

    Of course, the player might not come up with anything, or just be like “fuck it, not worth it,” and end the conversation… that makes the final rebuff basically the same as the ending of the conversation… except that the player has the initiative and decides what to do next, rather the GM making a hard(ish) move. (It’s sort of like in Fate, when you concede a conflict and get to determine how you’re taken out.)

    Point being: the 7-9 might not seem like fundamentally a success, but you are keeping the conversational initiative… which is definitely something.

    Think of it this way:

    • “I get a running start and leap across the chasm.” Defy Danger 7-9.

    • “Look, Loic… Padg… you guys gotta start pulling your weight around here. Everyone contributes, right? Everyone shares.” Parley 7-9.

    • Hard bargain: you can jump, but you’ll be hanging over the ledge, or you can back down and not jump. What do you do?

    • “Humph,” says Loic. “We are warriors, not farmers. We contribute by spilling the blood of your enemies. Farming is beneath us.” What do you do? (Implied: back down, or escalate/change approach?)

    • You jump? Cool. You land hard, wind knocked out of you, grabbing onto the cracks and roots on the ledge. You feel the root shift a little under your weight. What do you? (You’ve made it across, but ceded the initiative. The GM has made a softish move against you and you have to respond.)

    • (No real equivalent here, because the player still has the initiative.)

    • “Crap crap crap. I grab on tight with the other hand, the one not on the root, and try to hoist my leg up over the ledge.” Another Defy Danger!

    • “I calmly look each of these guys in the eye, hard. ‘So you’re saying that farming’s beneath a trio of tough guys like you, huh? Well, I’m telling you it ain’t beneath me.’ And I’ll step in close to Loic, nose to nose. ‘And I’m twice the warrior of all three of you combined. So get out in the fields.” Another Parley!

    In the Defy Danger example, the PC has a choice to back down or get what they want with consequence. They choose to get what they want (across the chasm) but at the cost of the fictional initiative. And they end up making the same move twice in a row.

    In the Parley example, the PC has a choice to back down or escalate/change tactics in order to get what he wants. He chooses to escalate, triggering the same move again but with greater potential consequences.

    It’s not exactly the same dynamic, sure, but a tense conversation and jumping across a chasm aren’t the same thing, either. A conversation is usually lower-stakes than jumping across a chasm (or at least, the stakes are less immediate).

    Anyhow… that’s my design thinking. I’ll be trying this out, and I’ll report back on how it works. I’d love to see hear from anyone else who tries this, too.

    (and if it doesn’t work, I’ve got a much more traditional fallback already planned out)

  6. I was thinking… maybe it’s too vague, but what if on a [7-9] the GM tells you if a different kind of approach is needed would work, maybe without being specific (like, “it doesn’t care about you charming ways, you need to scare him”) or tells if you need to escalate your current approach, and if you do that you can roll again?

    So, on a [10+], if you do what it takes your action is automatically succesful, while on a 7-9 you still get answers on the right “leverage” to use, but it’s not guaranteed to work.

    The only problem left would be what to do on multiple 7-9: do you keep escalating the requirements? do you give the players other approaches to try?

  7. Ok, here’s a more fleshed out idea (based on your current and past draft):


    When you are interacting with an NPC and try to press or entice them into a course of action, roll +CHA.

    On a 10+, the GM picks 1:

    – They do as you want.

    – They reveal what it’ll take to convince them: if you do it, they’ll do as you want.

    On a 7-9, the GM picks 1:

    – They do as you want, but you have to concede something first.

    – They do as you want, but you must keep tabs on them.

    – They do as you want, but with unforeseen complications.

    – They reveal what it’ll take to convince them: if you do it, the GM picks 1 of the other from this result.

  8. I get where you’re coming from, but I’m personally disinclined to use a social or investigative move where any of the results is effectively “roll again for the exact same task” … mostly since the custom moves I’ve made that work that way end up being more punishing to the players than I meant them to be. After all, every time a player rolls, they’re taking some considerable risk, given how 6- rolls work.

    My players have realized this, and can sometimes get … um … antsy, I guess, when I throw moves at them that make them feel like they’re running in place. They want more than “that last thing you tried didn’t work; try again.” They want, at the very least, “that last thing you tried didn’t work; here’s a clue for what you might try next.” To that end, even if the 7-9 said exactly the same thing that it does now, but also gave +1 forward to the next attempt to parley, that’d represent some visible, forward progress that I could see reassuring players a bit. (Well, mine, anyway.)

  9. Jason Tocci ah, yes… the +1 forward on the 7-9 might be just the thing! Update made.

    Robert Rendell good call on both. The Vahid example was a carry over from the previous editions, but you’re right that with this version, I’m both rebuffing and making a GM move and that’s not really fair or right. I’ve rewritten it… better? (Also rewrote the Caradoc example per your suggestion.)

  10. Jeremy Strandberg those examples work much better now. Looking good!

    Also, I agree that the +1 on the 7-9 works well.

    Do you think it would be fairer if the 10+ result also gave a +1 forward (if they don’t just do what you want)? “Reveal what it will take to convince them; the player takes +1 forward when acting on this information”? The problem with doing that is that it strongly implies that you’ll need to trigger some other move to satisfy their requirement, whereas as written now the requirement might be something the PC can just do without making a move.

  11. How about going with a list of complications, and picking one or two from them? It would look something like this:

    When you press or entice an NPC into a course of action, say what you want them to do (or not do) and roll+CHA. *On a 10+, the GM chooses one condition that must be met first. *On a 7-9, the GM chooses two conditions, which must both be met first:

    – They need some convincing, the GM will tell you what it will take.

    – You’ll need to exercise some leverage over them.

    – They’ll do it in a way that benefits themselves.

    – They’ll want something from you in return later.

    – They offer something close to what you wanted instead.

  12. Whelp, that didn’t work.

    We tried it out in our game last night. It ended up being a particularly social/political game and triggered a lot. Like, 8 times? We got to see the gamut, including 10+ where they just did what the PC wanted, a 10+ where I told the PC what it’d take, a few 7-9s (one where the PC then escalated, another where they let it drop), and a couple misses.

    We chatted quite a bit today about how it worked and felt.

    It did end up structuring the conversations and interactions the way I had intended & expected. The 7-9 results generated tension and made the players scramble for different approaches and think about whether or not they wanted to escalate from reason to intimidation (etc.). There was some nice tension that got generated.

    BUT (and this is important), pretty much everyone agreed that the 7-9 results felt like failures, with a little frustration/confusion on where they should or could go next, and whether they’d changed tactics or not.

    The other interesting response was the 10+ where I told them what it’d take… the player who got that result didn’t feel like it was a success at all. I think that’s largely because “what it’ll take” was stuff beyond his control, but that’s a definite (and intentional) possibility of this version of the move.

    So, I’m going to (finally) give up on this approach. I’ve got a 4th version cooking that’s much closer to the AW 2e version of Seduce/Manipulate… I’ll probably throw it together over the weekend for folks to consider.

    (Oh, and everyone who argued against the “rebuff your attempt” 7-9 result and the “reveal what it’ll take” 10+ results… you were right!)

  13. I know you say you’re giving up on this approach, but I wonder if it might be salvageable if it became more like a social Discern Realities.

    Have a list of questions whose answers are actionable, and say that on a 10+, the GM chooses: the NPC does what you want or the player can ask 3 questions; on a 7-9, the player can ask 1 question. Take +1 forward when acting on the answer(s).

    Of course, how workable that is as a move depends heavily on the specific questions. Anyway, it’s a thought.

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