Mutant: Year Zero: Meta Talk and Red Flags

So, not all is 100% rosy in MYZ land. I’m starting to see a leeetle bit of an issue creeping up regarding how the game handles social conflicts — and a lack of PvP support for that.

Fighting-fighting is no problem and seems to work well: there’s an initiative based on a generally physical stat (Agility, although it’s also abstracted into mental quickness), and when you’re attacked you can elect to Defend, which is just like attacking but it eats up your next activation. That’s fine, even standard.

But social conflicts! Urgh, dunno. You use Manipulate to get what you want, socially, and the terms are pretty explicit: on a success, they’ll do what you want in return for something, and if you do enough doubt damage (which harms Empathy) to break them, they’ll do it without needing anything. 

The problems are thus:

* There is no defense


* It still uses combat initiative

So basically the mutant with the highest Agility makes their first argument, and the target can’t do anything about it if the first go wins. 

As a matter of expedience and limited NPC agency, this is a fine solution. But do this between PCs and things can get weird. 

This same aesthetic/issue/whatever crops up with some of the mutations as well, and it’s almost worse because you don’t roll to make mutations succeed: they always succeed. So, a PC with telepathy can implant an idea in someone for a mutation point, and that’s that. There’s a lot of space to figure out what they do with that thought! It’s not mind control. But now what happens with a PC with telepathy does that with another PC? Same space, same room to decide what to do with that, but still. But still. 

So far it’s no big thing but I think it could become a thing.

0 thoughts on “Mutant: Year Zero: Meta Talk and Red Flags”

  1. I think so, yeah. Mostly it’s just not super rigorous, which may not matter to every group. But then again the relationship map stuff is designed to create angry little triangles, AW style.

    On that note, AW also gets weird in the PvP space, and in the same way.

  2. for PvP I think one-roll-only gets weird across the board, especially where social conflicts boil down to “you have to do what I say”. AW can wander into that territory too.

  3. The social PvP in AW is all voluntary or gives you a chance to resist (take XP or Act Under Fire). This sounds like neither of those.

  4. Well…it’s a little voluntary. The possible outcomes are:

    * Manipulator fails: consequences! It is not defined what those consequences might be in PvP.

    * Manipulator succeeds, defender not broken: The defender will agree to what you want if you do what the defender wants. This strikes me as being in the same ZIP code as the secret sauce to Burning Wheel’s Duel of Wits: it exists to get the players to step out of needing to win and get them talking. It’s a compromise. It’s obviously in the defender’s interest to get something out of the attacker, unless the attacker is asking for something so extreme that the defender also asks for something extreme. Therefore nobody gets what they want, even though the attacker succeeded. That’s voluntary!

    * Manipulator succeeds and zeroes out the defender’s Empathy: Defender will do what you tell them, and there’s no compromise position. But it is universally true throughout MYZ that zeroing out (breaking) any stat leaves the target unable to do anything in their interest. You can literally walk up and murder someone who’s broken by doubt just as easily as you can do that to someone who is broken by exhaustion or confusion or an actual injury. So to my mind, being made to do a thing? Possibly not worse than death (but maybe!). 

    It’s certainly not as robust or juicy a choice as in AW, but it’s something.

  5. Sounds like a ripe opportunity to house rule a social conflict system! Could make the roll a back and forth opposed test. Actually Savage World has a simple enough one that can work with the MYZ mechanics.

  6. And unfortunately, you really can’t just replicate the way Fight works, either. 

    If you did, you could defend, delivering a counterpunch that reduces successes and possibly pushing back with successes. But then that probably makes it super-unlikely anyone would ever achieve a broken result, and win without compromise. It works in Fight because weapons deliver their own (usually >1) damage and extra successes are +1 damage each, and because combat stretches out across rounds. There’s no blow-by-blow multi-turn social conflict in MYZ so you’d rationally always choose to counterargue.

    You couldn’t provide rhetorical “weapons” (DOW style) without the game devolving into something overwrought.

    So I get why it works the way it does, and I think the fact that the typical outcome is a mutual agreement is why we haven’t had an actual table problem yet.

  7. Just as an “aside” from the resident Swede: The previous version of Mutant (“Heirs to the Apocalypse”) did not have any Social interaction skills or rules at all.

    That crew just hand-waved the whole thing as “You just role play that and maybe roll a ‘Barter’ check.” That was it.

    No big deal for most players it seemed… So naturally I had to break the mood by deciding to run a charismatic diplomat type of a character. 🙂 I decided that I wanted to play something like a Diplomat/Envoy/Postman running a postal service with important messages between the settlements in the area. I figured I could probably make a fortune doing that and get some social cred along with it… this was before I even cracked open the rules and realised… “Huh.. what? Nothing?” …

  8. Ha, yeah. 

    I think the presence/absence of social conflict rules is one of the primary distinctions between whole categories of RPG. Honestly I have no interest at all in games that don’t address this (and the structure of play is such that it comes up), particularly if it’s a deliberate choice and not just an oversight.

  9. I haven’t started running my campaign yet, but hope to in a few weeks. I’ve considered this a bit myself, but without any actual play experience…

    My thoughts are that the consequences of pushing others around like this will come down the road; sure, you get what you want from them at that point, but if it isn’t an actual win-win situation OR if you do it by breaking people down they will hold a grudge, and these will keep stacking up… and even though you may convince them, others are sure to sow doubt about this, maybe others just as skilled at Manipulation as you?

  10. …on the path of adding parallels to physical fights without getting all baroque…

    Instead of a whole list of rhetorical arguments, everyone in the argument gets the same “weapon” based on how stressful the situation is (2 for high stakes, another 2 for immanent danger, and another 2 for intimacy with the attacker/defender, probably not much else)

    Argument shouldn’t be more than 3ish rounds of proposal and counter-proposal, I think. Pcs should have the option to completely dodge the incoming damage by conceding — “Fine! We’ll do it your way!”

  11. If you were interested in a house rule, the most parsimonious patch I can think of is to say “no one-roll knockouts. Any social hit that would drop you below 1 on the first turn instead drops you to 1.” That way, you guarantee everybody gets into that negotiation space at least once before becoming a mind-slave.

    Doesn’t fix the telepathy issue.

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