Game Master: "You find yourselves at the gates of Theranor. The sun has crept behind the Adder's Tongue peaks to the west and the lands east of them are now blanketed in shadow. 'Halt!' A voice shouts from the ramparts 'State your business strangers, we are loath to let in travelers after the suns retreat!' You see an anxious looking guard staring down from the wall. What do you do?"
What indeed? Do the Participants state their reasons for approaching the gates honestly? Do they try to bamboozle the guard? Does the fearsome barbarian in the party step forward and threatened the fires of the hell's for standing in the way of their quest? Or do cooler heads prevail?
Player: "Lets see, I have a 10 in bluff, I will make up a reason for approaching the walls so late."(Player rolls a die and adds the 10) "21 what happens?"
Now there are different ways to handle how social rolls are made in-game. Some Game Masters may choose to have the player "earn" the roll through role play. If they feel the player made a reasonable attempt at bluffing for example. Then the player will roll their bluff skill to see if they are successful.Some GM's will just have the player roll and let the dice and the characters stats speak for themselves.
As the GM of a traditional tabletop RPG, either of these approaches are fine, the players are after all not their characters and the two will have different skill sets. But, as the Game Facilitator of a Skill Centric Role Play session designed to teach social skills to the Participants involved, the first consideration is how to do this. In the first case of earning a roll, what if the player "William Shatner'd" the role play (by this I mean reached the very pinnacle of acting brilliance), earned the roll, but rolled poorly? This method for the purpose of building social skills leaves success and failure too far from the Participant. The second method removes the connection to the individual completely, weighing all on a combination of statistics and chance. I propose another method. When running scenarios involving social skill based role play, I use what I refer to as the "push" method. Picture this scenario designed to teach negotiation and effective interpersonal skills:
Game Facilitator: "You find yourselves at the gates of Theranor. The sun has crept behind the Adder's Tongue peaks to the west and the lands east of them are now blanketed in shadow. 'Halt!' A voice shouts from the ramparts 'State your business strangers, we are loath to let in travelers after the suns retreat!' You see an anxious looking guard staring down from the wall. What do you do?"
Participant: "I... I mean we...that is our group...what should I say?"
Game Facilitator: "Well, you are standing before a gate to a town after dark, the guard seems nervous and hesitant to let anyone in after the sun sets."
Participant: "Oh, I say to the guard 'What worries you so, good soldier, that you would turn away enterprising adventurers such as us?'"
Game Facilitator (speaking as the guard): "Tis a dangerous time. Strange and horrific creatures have been seen in the surrounding woods. It is rumored that they can wear the skin of humans. You are adventurers you say?"
Participant: "Yes, that we are. Adventurers on a noble quest to save the kingdom from dark sorcery. We are in need of supplies before venturing forth, will you allow us to enter your town."
Game Facilitator (speaking as the guard): "What proof can you offer to show that you harbor no ill intent, nor are horrors of the dark?"
Participant: "Ah...well, proof you say...
In the above scenario the Game Facilitator presented a situation which challenged the Participants current understanding of negotiation and effective interpersonal skills. Rather than having the Participant roll to see how well their character did in-game, the Game Facilitator used a combination of in-game challenge (when speaking as the guard) and out of game coaching to guide the Participant through the interaction. At the end of the session, the Game Facilitator and the Participants discuss the events that took place in game, going through what methods were effective and those that weren't. From this post game analysis, lessons are derived that can be taken into the real world.
Pushing the Participants with a combination of coaching and challenges, allows a Game Facilitator to get the best skill "performance" during game. This is akin to a director trying to get a grade A Shatner level performance. Could you imagine what would have been if those who directed William Shatner just simply called for a roll? We would be robbed of the full realization of his brilliance...