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Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:16 am
by Tyrel Lohr
This is an open discussion thread to talk about the diplomacy rules for Galaxies.

My first question to the group is this: do you feel that the 2E diplomatic states work better than those in 1E, and what do you think could be changed to improve them?

I have a few ideas already, namely adding the Military treaty back in between Non-Aggression and Mutual Defense to cover the friendly supply depot usage and trading unit plans back and forth, but I am also wondering if you think we need to add Normal Relations back in between Non-Intercourse and Non-Aggression, or something else entirely?

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 12:27 am
by Tyrel Lohr
As I'm working on reconciling the new Intel rules with diplomacy and figuring out how they work with NPEs, I am starting to think that the best solution might be to remove the diplomatic modifiers from 1E/2E and replace them with the Tension/Relationship mechanic that was being developed for 2E NPEs.

By doing that, every time you do a hostile action your Tension level with the other empire would increase. Players would then have to use Intel diplomatically to manipulate their Tension values. You would have to spend economic points, probably using the same cost system as for Intel missions, and Tension would increase/decrease by an amount equal to the Intel value of the system performing the action.

Example: Sol has 5 Intel and is 4 jumps from Brindakar. I spend 9 economic points to reduce Tension with the Brindaki by 5 points.

This would give players an active way of manipulating relationships with other players through the use of Intel and economic points. The distance penalty means that more distant empires are less likely to engage in diplomacy with each other.

Using Tension like this for the standard diplomacy rules would also rid us the diplomatic modifiers and having to keep track of them. Instead of having a +20% (reducing by 5% per turn) modifier to track, there would just be a Tension value that wouldn't reduce unless the players invested in it.

This would offer a few challenges for players conducting diplomacy, as they would have to reduce Tension to a point that they could offer treaties, or increase it to a point that they would have a reasonable chance of declaring war.

On the NPE front, there would still need to be a way to randomize the relationships. The diplomatic shifts still work well for this (and could even be used for player empires, if they so chose), but then I'd probably make the "7" result back into the Crossroads critical shift where they decide what they are going to do with a relationship. Diplomatic Intel for NPEs has always been difficult, but the Crossroads shift might be the best way to give the NPE a mini-mission to use Intel to raise or lower a relationship or change a strategy.

Speaking of the diplomatic shifts, I could see those being applied to the players, too, but I think that would take enough control away from the players that they would chafe at a random game element making it harder for them to conduct diplomacy with each other. When you're dealing with a NPE it isn't quite as bad because you can chalk it up to the NPE being strange. On the flip side, dealing with random friction in your relationship might be interesting, and it would lead to players having to spend points and utilize Intel to keep Tensions down and relationships peaceful.

The cost of using diplomatic Intel is going to be high enough that I don't think we'd see a player spamming it very often, especially with our relatively smaller economies. 10 EP per turn for a +-6 point swing is just not going to happen very often. You'd do it if you needed to get relations back to a point that you could sign a particular treaty, but otherwise you might not worry as much about repairing your relationship with another power.

One thing that I can think of that could end up breaking this would be repeatable events, such as being caught running multiple Intel missions or fighting multiple battles. Those kinds of Tension modifiers would need to be small enough that it would take several of them to really push relations to the brink of war.

I'll keep hammering away at this to figure out what we might be able to do to make diplomacy a bit more dynamic and remove extra record keeping. Any thoughts on what people would like to see here?

EDIT: After sleeping on it, I think the best course of action is to finish updating the NPE/AIX rules along these lines and then back port some of the concepts to the standard diplomacy rules. That way we keep player diplomacy working about as normal, but keep some equivalency between how Diplomatic Intel is used and how modifiers raise/lower relationships. That will preserve the NPE interactions as a separate metagame.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 7:26 pm
by BroAdso
What would the Tension tracker between players look like?

So let's say that at first contact, the default tension between players is 50. Events like combat between ships in non-controlled systems, sending Diplomatic ships to the other's system, discovery of sabotage and other intel missions, and Diplomatic intel missions can raise or lower it.

0-25 Tension allows (maybe bonuses to? maybe just an on/off toggle for?) the following diplomatic actions...
Declaration Of War
Cold War Declaration
Embargo Declaration

25-50 Tension allows/bonuses/toggles the following diplomatic actions...
Cold War Declaration

50-75 Tension allows/bonuses/toggles the following diplomatic actions...
Peace Treaty
Open Trade Agreement

75-100 Tension allows/bonuses/toggles the following diplomatic actions...
Military Transit Treaty
Defensive Alliance
Offensive Alliance

Is that the sort of thing you are imagining? Where both players are pushing and pulling on a single "rating" of their diplomatic relationship, and when that "rating" reaches key points it allows new diplomatic states and agreements to exist between the players, or gives bonuses to attempts to create those diplomatic states and agreements?

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 10:40 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
BroAdso wrote:Is that the sort of thing you are imagining? Where both players are pushing and pulling on a single "rating" of their diplomatic relationship, and when that "rating" reaches key points it allows new diplomatic states and agreements to exist between the players, or gives bonuses to attempts to create those diplomatic states and agreements?
That is along the lines of what I was thinking of. You would have Tension points along the way that would unlock each new diplomatic state. You'd still have to offer and accept for treaties, but you wouldn't be able to negotiate if you were below that state. You would then be using Intel to, as you said, push back and forth on Tension to try and get yourself to a point that you could achieve your goals.

I really would want Tension to be more event driven, too, so that actions that you or other players take would modify Tension and keep things more dynamic. Like if your empire signs a non-aggression treaty with another empire, that might ease Tension with their friends but increase it with their enemies.

I am thinking all of this might work better for NPE, but right now the VBAM player diplomacy model is kind of schizophrenic in that you can sign whatever you want but breaking and declaring requires special operations and often the use of Intel points to have any chance of success. I like having the concept of Tension or some other Relationship metric around to measure things.

The diplomatic modifiers that we've used up to this point are also a pain to track, and even just having that be incorporated into Tension would be useful. Have Tension naturally degrade by 1 every turn, but then have the events that currently would cause you to have a diplomatic modifier instead change Tension.

Example: I just randomly met the Jains and we have a starting Tension of 18 (d100). Two turns later I catch them running an Espionage mission against one of my systems (+5 Tension). It's been two turns, so Tension would have dropped to 16, but the Espionage discovery increases it back to 21. The next turn Tension drops to 20, but then the Jains generate an encounter against my empire and we collectively lose 36 EP of ships (+18), increasing our Tension to 57.

The chance of breaking or declaring could then be based on Tension, with a modifier based on the treaty type. For example, a Trade treaty might have a -20 breaking modifier, so at 57 Tension it might be 37% chance to break the treaty. Declaring would need to be more difficulty, and that might be half that for breaking or something.

Another way to handle treaties is to go in reverse, where you take your Tension minus the Treaty Chance, with that Chance being used for NPE instead of players but for players marking the minimum Tension they can offer it. For example, let's say that Trade has a 40 base chance. Then at 57 Tension I would have a 57-40 = 17% chance of breaking the treaty. Or you could double the chance above the breakpoint, making that a 34% chance.

Relationship vs. Tension works better for some modifiers I've found, or at least it makes some modifiers more intuitive. For most things it just means flipping a sign here and there.

The one problem with forcing these kinds of systems on players is that they are so used to just being able to immediately sign an Alliance with anyone that they meet that they grouse at the limitations. I personally prefer making it a more active system, if only because then it is more consistent for when you start applying it to the basic NPE "AI". As long as players have some way to influence Tension one way or another, I think it would work. And limiting it to a single system's Intel per relationship would help to reduce abuse, however you could still just spend the 100 EP and 10 turns at your 10 Intel system to eradicate all Tension. But if you're willing to do that, then why not? That a pretty significant expense, unless you are playing a huge empire that is earning 200-300 EP per turn, but I never play games at that scale. For NPE, as long as you still have an AIX-like personality system to modify things then you still would have some uncertainty involved. Like with that 34% breaking chance for the Trade treaty. If I have a +20% bonus to breaking, then that becomes a 54% and it becomes more likely that I'll break that treaty. But if I have a -35% modifier instead, then I won't be breaking the treaty regardless because I'm too honorable.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Mon Oct 31, 2016 2:24 am
by Tyrel Lohr
Running with this thread, let's say that we had the following treaty breakpoints:

Alliance: 20
Mutual Defense: 30
Military: 40
Trade: 50
Non-Aggression: 60

We now have the Brindaki and the Terrans with Tension at 30.

Under one interpretation of the rules, this would mean that the players could sign anything up to Mutual Defense, but for the other NPE-style rules the chance of a Mutual Defense would be 0%.

Another thought that links back into the AIX values is to change them to Aggression, Treachery, and Xenophobia, that way they can all be on comparable axes and be used as a Tension modifier.

For example, if I have XE 64 then I might take Base Chance - Tension + (Xenophobia - 50) = Chance of Success. The Non-Aggression pact had a base chance of 60, so if we ran with that then it would be 60 - 30 + (64 - 50) = 60 - 44 = 16%. That's not a poor chance, but our Tension is a bit high and we are a bit xenophobic.

If we had been XE 36, our chance would have flipped to a 46% chance, which is quite a bit better.

This also illustrates that the base treaty chances are probably low there. Increasing Non-Aggression to 80, Trade to 60, Military to 50, Mutual Defense to 40, and Alliance to 30 might make more sense. Alliance is iffy, but keeping it high enough that a particularly Xenophobic empire might still have a chance of offering it would be nice.

That is one advantage that Relationship has over Tension conceptually, as you can allow the Relationship to keep growing over 100 to some maximum value (150 or something?) to ensure that even the most Xenophobia empire could still have some chance of signing an Alliance, even if it is extremely rare.

To that point, however, I also found that the modifiers really do work better on a +-20-25 range rather than ~+-50. That's why when I was working on the trait based method I was having them be about a fixed +-20 to the chances. For example, the Xenophobic NPE would have a -20% to treaty chances, while the Xenophile NPE would have a +20%. That allows no graduation between the extremely, however, which I think is what people really like about the AIX values.

Tension and Relationship are easy to flip, as they are measuring the same thing but with the end points of the spectrum flipped. With Relationship, it's easy to get a calculation like the 1E treaty chances which are just Base Chance + Relationship - Xenophobia. At that point, assuming a 60% based chance for Non-Aggression, our XE 64 empire with a 70 Relationship would have 60 + 70 - 64 = 66% chance. Now, getting them to sign a Mutual Defense treaty at 30 + 70 - 64 = 36% is much harder, but they can probably be talked into it. In the 1E Companion, the Mutual Defense treaty is actually at -10% base chance, which is pretty low.

Declaring and breaking are probably the more troublesome of the two. One easy solution would be to have the chance of declaring war be Aggression - Relationship. That makes it very hard for an empire with low AG to declare war, but more warlike empires are going to have a much easier time of it. I think it makes some sense for there to be a penalty based on the number of treaties that the two empires have signed, to make it harder to just up and declare war on someone that you have an established relationship with.

Breaking could run similarly, with something like Treachery - Relationship as a starting point. Or, if we wanted to keep Integrity around, the formula could be (Base Treaty Chance x 2) - Relationship - Integrity. That gets a bit convoluted, however. Example: A NPE (IN 33) is attempting to break its Non-Aggression treaty with another empire that has a Relationship of 70. The chance would be (60 x 2) - 70 - 33 = 120 - 103 = 17%.

# # #

One of the hurdles that I've been trying to overcome is the best way to resolve declaring/breaking for players, too. The list of diplomatic modifiers just aren't all that clear, which is another reason why I would love to have a Tension/Relationship value to roll against there, too. Even a simple version of old NPE 1E values for aggression would work better than figuring out all of those modifiers. For example, if my chance to declare war was equal to Tension - 50, then I'd know that I would need to ratchet up Tension above 50. Whether that meant actually using Intel to directly manipulate Tension, or just use Intel to improve my chances when I make the declaration, either way would work. But I think having to take provocative actions to increase Tension would be more interesting from a player perspective. If you really want to declare war otherwise, then still pay to use Intel for a one-time boost of +5% per Intel, max one system assisting each declaration. If we have 30 Tension, I will pay 8 EP to use my 8 Intel system get a +40 to the roll. That leaves me with (30 + 40) - 50 = 20%.

We could always bring Hostilities back, too, and make it easier to declare that. I'm not really sure we need or want Hostilities if we can just roll all of its effects into the Non-Intercourse/Cold War state. I would prefer it with Non-Intercourse/Cold War like I had it in 2E, as then we only have one declaration type to worry about.

Breaking treaties could work the same way, but with a reduced difficulty. Like maybe Base Chance + Tension could be the chance there? That way treaties with low breakpoints would still be harder to break, but things like a Non-Aggression treaty would be easy to break.

I just want diplomacy to be clearer for both players and NPEs both. The trick is getting a system that works. The 1E NPE rules work fine, and the change to diplomatic shifts gets rid of most of the busy work. The only pain point left in the decision making process is the hostilities branch for breaking vs. declaring. I'm almost tempted to move breaking to a "7" on a 2d6 roll, making it the most common table result, but have it ONLY apply if relations have changed to the point that they can no longer support a treaty.

We could also concede that Integrity/Treachery is just not important enough to keep and consolidate to AG/XE. Then the chance of breaking would be a factor of XE, using the reverse of the treaty acceptance calculation. For example, if the treaty has a base chance of 30, Relationship is at 17, and we have XE 52, the we get 30 + 17 - 52 = -15 for our treaty acceptance chance. This would then become a 15% chance of breaking the treaty. Because the "7" is the most common 2d6 result, the NPE would then end up with more chances of breaking the treaty. With the right Menagerie style traits, this chance could be changed considerably.

Of course, there again, we run into the question of whether the original purpose of AIX should just be rolled into the Menagerie custom empire traits and call it a day? This empire has Ruthless and gains +20% to breaking treaties, this one is Pacifistic and gets -20% to declaring war.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:22 pm
by Emiricol
I am a strong proponent of Tension+Traits with Treaty:Tension milestones, as discussed above. It is fast, easy, flexible, and doesn't require half as much tracking as AIX. I think AIX can be modeled easily enough with Traits anyway, So to me AIX adds very little practical difference at the cost of vastly increased record keeping & rolling.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:56 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
Emiricol wrote:I am a strong proponent of Tension+Traits with Treaty:Tension milestones, as discussed above. It is fast, easy, flexible, and doesn't require half as much tracking as AIX. I think AIX can be modeled easily enough with Traits anyway, So to me AIX adds very little practical difference at the cost of vastly increased record keeping & rolling.
I just posted a diplomatic example of the new system in the other thread to give an idea of what things would look like there.

I think an advantage to Tension is that we could then have a consistent set of diplomacy rules between the player empires and non-player empires, with the only major difference being that players will probably get away with being able to just offer treaties if they have a treaty chance > 0. NPEs will be able to do that, too, so even that is really consistent.

What I'm seeing as another gain is that we don't have to worry about tracking persistent diplomatic modifiers anymore, and dropping those by 5% per turn until they retire. Instead, anything that should affect our relationship will just raise or lower Tension immediately, and then we don't have to worry about it again. Get caught spying on my empire? Our Tension increases. Attack my ships? Tension increases. Signed a trade treaty with one of my friends? Tension decreases. It creates an issues to track back and forth.

The one question mark that is left is whether players should be able to spend diplomatic Intel to raise/lower Tension between their empires. The NPEs are going to have random Tension changes from diplomatic shifts, but I'm not sure if players should have a similar way of manipulating their relationships? Any thoughts?

The goal in moving away from AIX in my original 2E NPE rules was to simplify maintenance and make it easier to run through the NPE and update their relationships without a lot of hassle. For me, that meant stripping out the separate per-turn hostilities and offering checks and building it all into the diplomatic shifts.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:40 pm
by aelius
If you want to use Intel to manipulate Tension, use an Espionage Mission for it.
Make it a Diplomatic type that has a low blowback if caught. After all, everybody tries to influence everybody. That's what the Diplomacy game is...

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:52 am
by Emiricol
aelius wrote:If you want to use Intel to manipulate Tension, use an Espionage Mission for it.
Make it a Diplomatic type that has a low blowback if caught. After all, everybody tries to influence everybody. That's what the Diplomacy game is...
Fantastic idea!

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Mon May 15, 2017 5:55 pm
by mrapophenia
Diplomacy question - have been thinking about how you would model something like a Babylon 5 style Galactic Council, Space UN thing in this game.

It seems very thematically appropriate given how big a part of the game diplomacy is. I am having some trouble seeing game mechanics for it though, other than possibly always being in sustained contact with any empire with a seat on the council.

Has anyone tried anything like this before? Any thoughts?

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Mon May 15, 2017 8:04 pm
by mrapophenia
Actually just had an idea occur to me shortly after I posted it, figured I would add it here - anyone who wants to rip it to shreds, fire away!

The basic skeleton of the idea would be that if at least 3 empires are in diplomatic communication with each other, they can choose to create a Galactic Council. This entails creating a base in a neutral system, not under the control of any existing empire. The cost of this base may be paid by any/all of the empires; construction begins once enough EP are invested, and enough construction capacity is in place in the system.

Once built, the Galactic Council becomes a special type of NPE. Its monthly income is based on contributions from members, and it can build from the Force List of any member state. I'm thinking there might be a minimum monthly contribution, maybe 10% of System Income every turn, with the option to invest more if desired.

I'm thinking a lot of the perks would be things like bonuses to diplomacy with member states ("Our last, best hope for peace..."). Maybe some other random perks, like always being in diplomatic communication with all members, or an across the board reduction in the chance of piracy, thanks to Council forces policing your systems. Was also thinking this could allow for a Council war situation - all member states can vote to have the Council fleet go to war against another power. If the Council votes this way, each member state also gets a bonus to war declaration chance.

The biggest potential problem that immediately jumps out is there would probably need to be some mechanism for determining the votes of NPE members...

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Tue May 16, 2017 4:30 am
by aelius
The Council sounds like a fun optional rule.
Also, I like the idea of relations being more event driven. If you want to declare war then you have to ratchet up the tension using incidents and skirmishes. But that gives the enemy a chance to figure out whats coming and prepare. If you want a sneak attack you have to use an Intel mission to increase tension all at once to surprise the enemy.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:46 am
by Tyrel Lohr
The easiest option for voting is to either give each empire 1 vote, or else 1 vote per Census (if you'd prefer proportional representation).

I think a good implementation for galactic councils would be for them to be able to pass certain laws that give bonuses, but have an upkeep cost of some sort associated with them. That way there would be a cost/reward system built in so that every advantage would have a drawback.

Taking the anti-piracy example, maybe the "Space Police" law halves the raiding chances are in every council system, but it increases the cost of all civilian fleets / convoys by 20% because the added anti-piracy patrols are being subsidized through civilian ship builders.

That way the players are accepting a good bonus, but it's not free.

You could also limit the number of laws that a galactic council could pass to be equal to the numbers of members minus 1. For example, a galactic council with 3 members could have 2 laws active at any given time. This would limit the number of special rules you have to deal with, and encourages councils to have additional members if they want to enact more legislation. Or you could have laws have varying costs, so one law may have a cost of 1 and another a cost of 2 and then the total cost of laws you can have be dictated by the number of members.

As for the base requirement, I would probably allow an inhabited system to be designated a neutral system to act as the "base" for this new council, too. That way you could give over a border outpost and let it become your new council headquarters.

Re: Diplomacy

Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:36 am
by MarkG88
My "Federalist faction" is holding out for a bicameral Galactic Council with one house represented by a Galactic nation's census and the other based on EP output (no over-populated deadbeat so-called nations need apply thank you ;) )