I think people commenting on those posts were resistant to the idea that you need any rules to roleplay at all, that it can just happen on top of anything. That's a post for another day, but I thought I might offer an example of rules that would push players to do more social interactions in-game.
What was really enlightening about Trollsmyth's posts for me, was not that rules shape behavior--that system matters-- but that the rules often shape behavior indirectly. In other words, if you want players to interact socially you can't just give them XP to do so, it won't work well. Instead, we need to break down what we mean by "interacting socially" and try to implement rules that will promote, or afford, that behavior.
With the caveat that I've never played any of the World of Darkness games and am very happy with the exploration of old school D&D, I think when people talk about social interactions they mean:
- learning about npcs and their desires through conversation
- utilizing information learned from npcs to make things happen
- investigating npc-npc relationships
- building a web of npcs to interact with and gain information from
- joining guilds/factions and climbing up through their hierarchies
- utilizing guild/faction affiliations to make things happen
I love using simple materials we all have around the house and have experience with, so we'll use playing cards. I think Zak may have mentioned NPC reactions with cards briefly, but I've been intrigued with the idea since I heard a game used cards to resolve pc/npc interactions (was it Shadowrun?). Last caveat, I know this is a simplistic view of humans and their motivations but we have to start somewhere and hopefully complexity will emerge from the simple system.
Okay, the players want to enter somewhere but Bob the guard is tasked with keeping people out. What to do, what to do? Here's what you do:
Draw 5 cards, 1 up and 4 down.
To get what they want from Bob the players will have to either threaten him, bribe him or convince him with a rational argument.
What is Bob susceptible to you ask? The suits tell the tale:
- ♦: Wealth, power and advantages dealing with acclaim, fame and prestige.
- ♥: Love, lust and approaches to life dealing with the appetites-- but also nostalgia, security, and comfort
- ♣: Threats of violence and harm, fear, dread
- ♠: Reason, rational arguments involving laws, systems, explanations, and examples.
If players start following him around or asking questions of people that know him, the DM will flip over those private cards. Maybe one card for each lead investigated. These investigations reveal:
♠ is the same suit, like a flush, it strengthens his resolve here. The 7♦ offers some possibility of bribing him but it will be more difficult than utilizing his weakness in hearts.
The hole card, that last secret, should be difficult to find. Traditionally it is the npc's diary, maybe they talk to themselves when they believe they are alone, or talk in their sleep. And in fantasy games these could be discovered through magic or mental powers such as ESP.
♠ probably puts the nail in any attempts at reasoning with Bob. Perhaps he is affable and listens politely (the appearance of weakness with the discovery of the 3♠), but is just too dumb to understand the players' arguments. But the knowledge of all his traits does not undermine the idea that he is susceptible to persuasion through hearts.
So, knowing this what do players do? What is the mechanism for resolving the outcome of interactions? Two things spring to mind: First, you could convert player stats to card equivalents. I think subtracting 5 might work: a pc with an 8 charisma might just be able to personally seduce Bob (8-5 =3♥). Strength could apply to ♣, Intelligence to ♠.
But what about the guild and faction interactions in our list above? That's the second thing: give members of organizations certain leverages as they advance through the ranks. Cutpurses in the Thieves Guild might have access to 3♥, 3♣, and 3♦. A Mages Guild member accessing their archives might wield a 10♠ in examples and anecdotes.
I think this would push players to investigate people rather than places (discover npc cards), use what they learn to interact with them, get involved in organizations (to have access to powers greater than their stats and personal wealth allow), and continue interacting with npcs even when the short term events are finished (Bob may be useful to apply pressure to another pc in the future, or in advancement in some organization).
I also think the abstraction of the four suits leaves a lot of wiggle room for creative players. Maybe players think to influence Bob by bringing around one of his old war buddies, this would fall under ♥s as well.