First I want to say, “pffffbbbtt.”

Now that that’s out of my system, I want to talk about relationships (Bliss Stage). Wait, I mean I want to talk about Guardian Forces and Junction magic (FF8). Or maybe Social Links (Persona). Or maybe relationships (Arkham Horror)!

Let’s start with this — social mechanics are uneven in many games.

Roleplaying games can get kind of weird when it comes to social mechanics for some reason — there are plenty of other weird things in RPGs, but social mechanics often seem a bit… off.

Here are some actually-good examples:

Relationships in Bliss Stage drive the game. You can’t fight to save the world if you don’t have any friends — technically you can, and there actually are rules for going it alone, the odds of a catastrophic failure are pretty high.

Alex of Cirsova pointed me in the direction of the Magna Carta series, with which I have no familiarity. The information I found about its systems suggested a similarity to Junction magic in Final Fantasy 8, with which I am familiar.

Guardian Forces and Junction magic are arguably an optional element of gameplay in FF8. The more a character calls upon a particular GF in combat, the more quickly the GF responds to the call. GFs gain a form of XP from battles, and provide characters with a variety of both active and passive abilities.

“Junctioning” magic improves a character’s attributes, and this option is enabled by the character’s relationship with the GF character. Play begins with limited access to GFs and the player adds more to their roster as the game progresses.

Social Links in Persona 3 and Persona 4 function similarly to relationships in Bliss Stage, however simplified. Social Links only ever improve, and players “collect” them such that Social Links develop neither stress nor trust issues.

Relationships in Arkham Horror represent a connection shared between characters — a limited ability that either can ‘tap’ at a time, but is generally available to both. It’s a nice way to help your neighbor out.

What am I getting at here? What is this all about.

Well, I scoffed at that proficiency bonus in 5e because I thought it was pretty much just a generic “patch” number applied to make sure numbers scaled properly. It felt like such a lazy mechanic to me.

I figured out what I want to do with it.

First of all, the word “proficiency” is too long an unwieldy — and as a term, proficiency brings with it too many connotations that I don’t think benefit anyone. I’m going to call it a “synergy” bonus instead. Synergy is great.

If you saw my character sheet, you might remember the skill pyramid that mentioned a static +2 bonus for your six best skills? That’s going to become a scaling synergy bonus. Because using those skills makes those skills better.

And that synergy bonus can be the scaling bonus that every striker gets to damage. Forget ability score bonuses that can be all over the place, and forget individually-tracked striker bonuses — a synergy bonus is something that every player will recognize and be able to identify and use.

Any question of whether dual-classing strikers grants stacking damage will be answered with, “the synergy bonus doesn’t stack with itself, but nice try.”

A synergy bonus develops with the character’s experience.

And I’m thinking that when a couple of PCs sit down to chat during an hour of ‘short rest’ — the resting PC can “pay it forward” to another PC in the group by awarding them a synergy bonus. To something. I don’t know what.

I’ll figure it out. More later.