Best in Class Social Moves

So what are the very best ways that social interactions have been turned into Moves in PbtA games? I’m looking through my library now, and obviously there are lots of takes on this. I’m thinking about both PC-to-PC as well as to-NPC interactions here.

I’m gonna think through the games I’ve played and have direct experience with. This stuff is always so hard to eyeball without some AP behind it.

In Apocalypse World you’ve got both Go Aggro and Seduce or Manipulate Someone. SoMS is pretty solid, yeah? XP if they go along or lose a highlighted stat? It leverages advancement, which I think is probably a legit lever more than half the time. Go Aggro is marvelous because the decision point is so juicy on both sides of that equation. And they both combo well with Read a Person and Read a Sitch.

Urban Shadows is more hands-off. Persuade an NPC is, obviously, only for NPCs. Mislead, Distract or Trick isn’t explicitly social but it isn’t explicitly not social either. Mostly the social juice is in the Cash in a Debt, with Refuse to Honor a Debt the downside to not doing the thing. That injects debts into everything, which is fine, but I’m sure we’re not the only ones to kind of…not really work the debt economy as well as we could have. But mostly, it seems, there’s not really much “hey PC, listen to me be reasonable/charismatic/scary” that’s mechanized.

Sagas of the Icelanders is super hands-off! Only the women have social moves, although Look Into Someone’s Heart is a super-effective meta-manipulation system (answer me honestly, so that when I act on the information I know you were an honest broker) and combines nicely with earning bonds. I dig it. Personal favorite.

Dungeon World is just terrible and I know everyone knows it. Parley is NPC only. Sure models ye olde D&D well, though: I’m not sure anyone has ever hit a PC with another PC’s CHA.

Monsterhearts 1E has Strings, which are pretty good. I do kind of like these meta-manipulation systems that introduce an economy into the action (i.e. offer an XP if you do the thing). Otherwise we just have Manipulate an NPC, which obvs is NPC only and is IIRC functionally identical to Apocalypse World’s version of the same move.

Night Witches has uh…Act Up, I think, is mostly the thing you can do. Pretty hands-off but combines with Read a Sitch Eyeball nicely. Reach Out doesn’t actually feel like it’s in the same zone as what I’m thinking about: you’re connecting and bonding (more like an Intimacy move), not leveraging someone.

The Sprawl has Fast Talk and Play Hardball, and they’re both functionally identical to Apocalypse World’s equivalent moves. Hard to argue about reinventing the wheel when the wheel works well.

The entirety of interpersonal action in Undying is baked into the Meddle metagame. Impossible to compare that to anything else.

Cartel does conventional stuff like Pressure Someone (do it or take pseudo-damage), but Get the Truth is interesting and very situationally specific: basically you pick how they can’t lie to you. I only saw the move in action once, seemed okay, just narrow. Make an Offer is another “do it or take damage” move. Given the constant role of Stress in the game, it’s a fine choice.

Epyllion has conventional choices as well: Convince a Dragon is just Seduce or Manipulate and Mislead or Trick is straight out of Urban Shadows. But Stand up to an Older Dragon is neat (NPC only!) and very specific to the game.

What’s your favorite take on moves-oriented social interactions? Hands-off like Dungeon World or pay/harm schemes like Apocalypse World and other? Something different?

0 thoughts on “Best in Class Social Moves”

  1. I never managed, over the course of a dozen sessions or so, to get my Monsterhearts players to really use the String economy effectively.

    But man did they ever love them some sex moves. With each other, with NPCs. The only ones that really stand out are the Ghoul’s horrible one ( more sex with that person will slake the ghoul’s hunger) and the Serpentine’s wonderfully weird one (sex with someone makes that person into part of the Fallen Dynasty).

  2. I dig Masks’ spend Influence to deal a Condition to someone, thing. You get Influence via a few moves, or just through the fiction or at the end of a session or whatever. Later on, you can spend that Influence to just straight up make someone feel like shit, or feel helpless, or feel angry, or whatever — just stab them right in the heart because they care what you think.

    Its more traditional manipulate move is Provoke, which is actually built more like go Aggro. You say what you say, and also the reaction you want (which allows for Spider-man style heckling to make someone do something stupid, for example), and as long as the target cares about your words, you roll.

    Versus NPCs, Depending on the roll, they’ll do what you want or: mess up and give you an opportunity, give you a bonus, or give you Influence over them.

    Versus PCs, they can agree and add Team (the superhero team up bonus currency) to the table, or refuse and suffer an emotional condition.

  3. Sagas is my clear winner too. It manages to make appeasing the player by doing what the character wants a mechanical system that bring the players and characters together in the same little game.

    I like Monsterhearts 2e Strings, they’re way simpler and closer to Sagas.

    You’re right re: Urban Shadows and Debts. I’m starting to drift that system a bit to see if I can get more Debts flying around.

    While I’ve never played it, Masks looks like it could hit a sweet spot here – between Provoke Someone / Comfort and Support you end up with this neat way to mechanize social interactions to keep your actual stats where you want them.

  4. I like Manipulate in Monster of the Week; basically, go along with it to tick XP (and I believe a penalty to go against it on 10+). Soft, but good enough for a genre where the PCs are cooperating though they might bicker.

    The playtest of a werewolf pack game I played in was awesome; best of the lot, with strings and a tempting but nasty dominate move, moves on spilling your emotions to another PC, and moves for the pack, along with vying to be pack alpha. But it not yet being available, I shouldn’t mention it. 😉

  5. Strings in Monsterhearts 1E tend to be boring and seldom come up in my experience, but Turn Someone On remains my favourite gaming tech of all time. The 7-9 options drive play so hard, and the fact that it’s basically the only proactive PC to PC move you can take short of punching someone forces play to revolve around this perfectly-genre-describing hot mess.

  6. Joachim Erdtman depends! Sex moves in AW are transactional, mostly, so yeah they’re in the right zone. Intimacy moves like in Urban Shadows, much less so.

  7. Oh! That reminds me! In Masks every playbook has Team Moves, which are in ways a rendition of sex moves: when you Celebrate or when you Share a Vulnerability with a team member, each playbook asks for some kind of validation or offers companionship or whatever. The Delinquent, for example, asks someone to tell them who they need to be, and they mark XP if they act to be that person.

  8. The one from Freebooters of Venus shows the actual generic format for a social influence move (which seduce/manipulate is not). I can write up a thing on it if you want, since my old overview of PbtA social moves on my blog is kind of old.

  9. I actually think the best PC-to-PC interaction mechanics are in D&D, or any other game, where you can’t use any mechanics to regulate your interactions with the other PCs. Mechanics are best thought of as the interface between your imagination and the fictional world. It produces fruitful friction (“undesired outcomes” as some put it) because you’re linking your real-life experience (the voices of your fellow players, the location of the minis on the map, whatever) to the imaginary experience. Whereas the interaction with your fellow PCs already has a far more fruitful, wide and deep channel to flow in – the real world. How about just try to persuade them and if you don’t persuade them they aren’t?

    Just kidding, actually Smallville is best.

  10. Kit La Touche because I was mostly thinking about genericness…It’s a word, shut up.

    The point of the thread is that I’m poking at my own thing and wanted to get a sense of what people like in the social space. The gendered stuff is very specific!

  11. It seems odd not to mention Monsterhearts’ Turn Someone On on your initial list, as it definitely strikes me as the most stand-out social interaction move of all the PbtA games I’ve played. It does a great job of modeling the genre, pushing the game’s specific social-situation-type agenda, and is also just super-fun to actually use.

  12. My favourite moves are the ones which form one-sided interactions. I don’t know if these are off-topic here, but a lot of “playbook” moves are really great for this. My favourites are basically all the moves for the Mortal (1E, haven’t seen 2E). Very simple but very juicy!

  13. My favourite “social” moves tend to be playbook moves, not basic moves. For instance, the Mortal’s “When you forgive your lover for something they have done to hurt you, take a String on them”. That’s some juicy shit! (And very, very concise.)

    I think “sex moves” fall into this category, too, so, if you’re open to it, you should look at playbook moves and see which ones can be useful to you.

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