I'm a sucker for social conflict resolution mechanics. I mean really, a "here take my money, I heard this game had an interesting way to resolve social conflict" type sucker.
Diaspora, which I mentioned last week, probably had the most variety on social mechanics; however, while portable to other systems fairly easily, the idea of drawing maps and social boundaries is very much rooted in the base mechanic.
However, over at Division Nihil a while back the idea of describing social conflict as a chase rather than combat came up from another blog. And it is a neat idea - the two parties start somewhere between two boundaries, and depending on which side shifts the weight of the chase to their side "wins".
And really as I write this we get down to the heart of the problem - combat is relatively easy to simulate because we allow ourselves to reduce things down basic tasks (generally) "Do I hit?" "How much damage do I do?" And because of that simplicity, for whatever other stunts come along the way, it makes it easy to adjudicate. Unfortunately, this simplicity allows for some problem areas to come up, such as every fight being a fight to the bitter end because running away isn't generally a successful option.
However, chase mechanics combined with a compromise/concession mechanic allows for a slightly different visualization - instead of it being combat where you are trying to beat down the opposition first, you are instead on a teeter totter trying to move the weight of the argument.
Now, Marshall, has an interesting idea where the stake setting for the chase is dependent on the importance of the conflict to both characters. If one person ("the prey") sets their importance at 2, and another ("the predator") sets their importance to 5, we have a dedicated predator chasing after a prey who doesn't much care. I think Marshall's plan fails due to over complication - too many rules and modifiers.
I'd probably go with something along the lines of "The worst penalty you can take is dependent on what you risk." So the guy who goes all in at a maximum importance is risking his entire ego, while the other guy at a 2 is only risking a little. Sure the hell fire and brimstone chap will be probably win because they have more staying power; but if he does lose, he'll be devastated.
I'm still not "happy" and I'm not sure what will make me happy. I want a relatively impartial die mechanic to resolve my social conflict, the same as I want a relatively impartial die mechanic to resolve my physical conflict, and as one of my favorite quotes on the matter goes,"You can either let the dice decide or let the GM decide, this goes for any type of resolution from social mechanics to hitting with a sword to finding a trap" therefore I need a way that works for my players to resolve them using words and not fists/swords/eldritch hell blasts/explosives to solve their problems, and something that gives narrative weight to the conflict beyond a single roll - we know combat is important because combat frequently gets the screen time; well in my games social conflict frequently gets the screen time, ergo, I need something that'll give me what I want for that conflict.
I'll definitely need to be talking more about this later. Especially, the Weapons of the Gods implementation, which is probably my favorite system for describing "influencing" someone versus convincing them flat-out.