It occurred to me, after a spell, that there was still more to do with a social encounter. There’s also the “goodbyes” or parting words … concluding a social encounter. It was around that point that I realized a point where it could be made really competitive. If you imagine an encounter — I mean a social encounter in this case — a strategy game like Chess. You have beginning, middle, and endgame.

Picture the closing arguments of a court case, where each lawyer makes their case before the jury. Some effects are only useful in the first few rounds of an encounter, while the enemy is surprised and reacting. Some actions make up the “meat” of the encounter, with combatants exchanging blows, and then you have your finishing moves, where you offer your foe the chance to surrender or be destroyed.

I guess the questions raised are, “how do you demarcate the beginning, middle, and end of an encounter? How do you make it easy to tell who’s winning and who’s losing, and how do you design effects to be useful during different stages of an encounter?” One easy answer would be to make every encounter three rounds long, regardless of their end state. Ogre Battle automatically ends skirmishes after one or two rounds.

I’m not so sure that a round limit would really achieve the desired effect, though. If you have rock, paper, and scissors to choose from each round, and one of them is more effective on the first throw, and another is more effective on the third throw, then where do you really stand? How quickly can you be expected to make decisions based on social cues, and how much difference should each approach make?

I’m thinking something like this:

Rounds 1-2, Early Game
If you surprise the enemy, engage aggressively.
Otherwise, take a defensive approach.
Seek advantages for mid-game.
Withdraw if surprised, or if enemy is overwhelming.

Rounds 3-4, Mid-game
Exploit advantages gained in early game.
Otherwise, disengage and withdraw.
Seek advantages for endgame.

Rounds 5-6, Endgame
If you have the advantage, deliver a finishing blow.
Otherwise, break even with fighting retreat.

If You Withdraw
Seek surprise or advantage in secondary engagement.
If enemy is overwhelming, evade enemy pursuit.

If Enemy Withdraws
Pursue, and seek surprise or advantage in secondary engagement.
If enemy is a bad target, avoid secondary engagement.

It might be as simply as tagging powers as either “surprise” for the first few rounds of combat, or “finisher” for the last few rounds. Separate effects determine whether an enemy is surprised or vulnerable to a finisher. Now that I think about it, I believe that might be the entire purpose of hit points. *whistles tunelessly*