Mouthwash: Emotions and Stats

July 22, 2011 - Games / Mouthwash

The time has come to check in again on the Mouthwash conversation engine. Earlier I mentioned that speech acts in Mouthwash have effects in four domains: goals, emotions, viewpoints, and relationships. Basically, this is meant to be similar to saying that an action in turn-based RPG combat can affect the domains of character health/MP, stats, and status effects, along with all the other domains unique to specific battle systems. (For example, Chrono Cross‘s element field.)

I’ve since expanded a bit on the “goals” part of this, but not the rest. Of the four, I think of emotions as the most straightforward, so they’re what I’ve been starting with in my prototype system. Emotions are basically just status effects. You can be in one emotional state at a time, and each emotion has a unique set of effects on your stats and abilities. The character stats I have in mind are as follows:

Charm: Your ability to get people to like and believe in you. Affects deceit, performance, relationship management, seduction, etc.

Composure: The primary defensive stat. Affects the damage you take from attacks and failures, control over your own emotions and relationships, and protection against people “reading” you.

Empathy: Your ability to read other people. Affects detection of emotions and relationships, influencing other people’s emotions, and how much people trust you.

Intelligence: Logic and reason. Affects debate skills and the ability to imagine new ideas, make plans, and detect lies.

Willpower/Aggression/Pride: Whatever it gets called, this is the stat that governs how forceful you’re able to be in a conversation. This would affect your leadership skills, ability to convince people of your point of view, and how much you can dominate a conversation. (I still haven’t figured out a good name for this one. Aggression sounds too negative, Willpower is confusing because it’s not very similar to the traditional RPG definition of this stat, and Pride isn’t a good description.)

So for example, Anger might increase your Willpower while decreasing your Empathy and Composure. Sadness might increase your Empathy while decreasing your Composure. Things like that. An emotional state might also make you more or less susceptible to certain kinds of skills. For example, people who are Angry might be better at ignoring logical arguments, but more susceptible to insults of all kinds. Some emotions might also be prerequisites to certain game actions. For example, you might need to get someone Angry to start a fight, or get someone Aroused in order to seduce them.

One thing that occurred to me during this process is that emotions are a simpler way of dealing with the con-game situation I laid out in this post. I had some wild, overly-complex idea about confidence and defense having an inverse relationship, blah blah.  Then I realized it made more sense just to have an emotional state called “Cocky” that lowers your Intelligence and Composure while boosting your confidence regeneration. No need to add new pieces to the system if existing pieces can cover the behavior you want.

I still haven’t narrowed down the set of emotions I want to support. Doing that might be more of a balancing issue far off in the future, anyway.  But I think this is a decent platform to start with, and I like that it’s so simple compared to the other parts of the system. I’ve been trying to test things out using only emotions, but it turns out that things get interconnected pretty quickly. First that pushed me into dealing with goals earlier than I wanted to; now it’s pushing me into dealing with viewpoints.  More on that later.

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