Monday, October 18, 2010

Playtest Results: Negotiation

One of the first things on the list of feedback I received from a playtester was that there was no negotiation knack. Now, that's not entirely true, since negotiation is on the knack list, but he's right in that it doesn't receive the same extensive treatment that some of the others do, with specialization options and in-depth descriptions and uses. So I sat down and started to sketch things out.

Except that everything I came up with wound up being really close to Rapport except for the one reason everyone I've ever played with has ever taken negotiation: haggling for pay with the Johnson pre-run.

This needs its own knack? My initial thought was to make a whole subset of mechanics to handle negotiations, turn the back and forth into its own little mini-game that made the process more interesting than the only kind exchange that has ever shown up at my table:

"The job pays 40k per head."
"Make it 80."
"I'll give you 50k."

Here it either stops, or someone decides to push just a little more:

"... 65!"

And if the Johnson just ever flat out says no? That's when things get really suave. And yes, this is a quote from a former party face:

"Aw, come on."

Now, a good system could put some more meat and variety to these exchanges, no question. So if I'm complaining that the contract negotiation exchanges are bland and boring, I as a good game designer should take it upon myself to create a system that adds all the spice and color I think is missing, right? That's what I set out to do.

And then I put it away.

Do I really want haggling for money to be a big part of my game? I set out to create a game about competent specialists in a cyberpunk-fantasy setting. What part of dickering over money is that? When I look at it like that, it's not. Is negotiation really vital to the game? My current player base doesn't even bother negotiating their contracts at all anymore. They trust I won't lowball them, and most of them aren't hungry for money anymore anyway. Their lifestyle is taken care of, the sam has the ware he wants, and the rigger already has two vehicles at this point, and hates drones. And really, contract negotiation could  be more interesting, if people ever thought to ask for something other than more money. Medical care, some special gear, stock options, etc. But if the players aren't interested enough to ask for things, I don't see the need for a special set of rules covering this. A straight up opposed roll using negotiation could handle things just fine.

Maybe it's sounds like a little bit of a cop out, but I think the first playtest revision is going to be to leave things as they are. Adding a whole sub-set of rules to cover something that no one at my table does seems superfluous. Not to mention that this decision staves off rules bloat. I'm sure everyone's played a game that started out perfectly fine but got out of hand as more material piled on. I'm all for having rules for stuff, but only when they're necessary. In this case, I don't see the need.

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