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Social Simulations And Genre Blending: Lower level details on relationships including romance

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You can skip to the next heading if you don’t care for this part, as it is pretty long.

There are several interrelated sub-genres of “simulation” and “rpg” game that deal with social interactions. You have anything from The Sims to Japanese dating sims, to dating sims mixed into rpgs, including western games like Pathfinder: Kingmaker, to school sims like Academagia and things like Long Live The Queen. I’m not very positive about these kinds of games but not because they are inherently bad. Well, pure dating sims are not interesting to me I guess. The reason I don’t like them is that they are untethered.

The Sims has perhaps advanced a long time since I played The Sims 2 back in the mid 2000s. Back then they didn’t really account for anything but the player family. Unless you added more families to the neighborhood. Jobs, school, cops, etc. They were all fake. Similarly many RPGs only had detailed romance options and little if any effort put into other kinds of relationships. Maybe faction “points”? Meh.

Games like Academagia sort of had “cliques” and “bullies/rivals” and in fact seeing as they haven’t released Year 2 after over a decade the game/series doesn’t even have romance options. Similarly stuff like LLTQ and CK2-3 have very limited interpersonal mechanics.

RPGs and most varieties of sims also don’t have an “outside world” at all. If you are playing an adventurer or a mercenary or w/e you are heavily constrained by handcrafted settings and interactions. Conversely something like CK2-3 lacks an “inside” world. Everything is shallow and limited. There are some interesting mods like the ones by Tobbzn for CK3 that add mechanics that are halfway between vanilla and fully fleshed out.

City builders like Emperor and trading sims like Patrician 3 arepretty similar. You aren’t making connections with rulers, other merchant families, not hiring caravan guards, and so forth. And most city-builders lack a deep Guild system, even something like Majesty 1.

My goal for Axioms is to create a system where all these genres blend together. A lot of people will talk badly about “kitchen sink” games and that is one reason another key aspect of Axioms is creating a mechanical/system “framework” that adds flexibility and cuts out redundancy and integrates the major systems I want to include without being clunky and rigid and requiring piles of distinct mechanics. That is one major problem I always had with Paradox games. It also applies to stuff like unique country flavor. Especially the HRE and ERE.

Relationships And Dissonance

If you’ve read most of my other posts you know that Axioms has a primary mechanic called “Opinion” that underlies all relationships. You’ll also know that I have added Fear, Honor, Trust, and Respect as Opinion modifiers. I haven’t yet worked out the final modifier for friendship or romance. Many games use some sort of “Affection” mechanic but I’m still thinking about the difference between friendship and romance and I think Affection might not be enough. I’d like to minimize the number of sub-factors beyond Opinion. I suspect I’ll have to add something.

I don’t think it is reasonable or necessary to represent the full range of human emotions in a Video game. Especially one that is not a pure Social Sim. I did come up with a mechanic similar to Stress in Crusader Kings. Just as my Secrets system from 2013-2014 was much more detailed than the one Paradox came out with in 2019 the Stress mechanic was more detailed than what CK3 has. In this case the name is actually different.

Dissonance is a mechanic which represents a Character feeling out of sync with the ideals and expectations of their environment. Characters have a Personality which interacts with the Ideology they have for themselves and those around them. They will be unhappy if the expectations put upon them, their own or otherwise, don’t match up with their personal desires and circumstances.

I should make clear here that while this system is more expansive than any existing game it obviously isn’t at the level of granularity of the real world. There will be no Onegin, nor Karenina, nor Zhivago in Axioms. You might, depending on the emergent results of the simulation, get something approximating that kind of Dissonance or ennui but it can in no way match up to a novel in characterization and plot.

In any case Dissonance can impact characters as far as being a ruler, who they marry, the expectations of their society, like being warlike or bookish, and so forth. There is a natural level of Dissonance which all/most characters can sustain indefinitely and then they start to be impacted by it. I am considering some sort of Attention Point modifier here for very low Dissonance. Characters with too much will be motivated to change their situation or act out.


Those who follow the blog will be aware of the Social Occasion system in Axioms. This is a system that, as far as I know, is distinct not only in strategy/simulation games but in rpgs and social simulations as well. Those games rarely have a resource/economic model or the sandbox underpinnings to support staffing and supplying a social event. In fact even something like The Sims doesn’t allow this, as far as I know. Again I haven’t been really engaged with the series for a long time. Social Occasions create both broad impact as well as the opportunity for characters to engage on a more personal level.

Nearly all the personal interactions possible at Social Occasions are also possible in individual or small group interactions. Basically you are making decisions on how to spend your personal time and who to spend it with. This is actually the most similar aspect to dating or school sims but with more context and consequence and obviously much less art and dialogue. Think of something like Three Houses, Academagia, Persona, or King Of Dragon Pass. They trade context and consequence and emergence for hand writter conversations and hand drawn backgrounds or character models.

Personal relationships are impacted by a variety of factors. You need some level of “background” like familial connection, long running factional attachment, or similarity of self/circumstantial impact to overcome a lack of direct personal interaction. If you lack that then keeping a strong relationship requires actively engaging with the other person, especially at Social Occasions.

Aside from the value of spending time together and past circumstance another key part of relationship strength is how you impact another character. Do you support them when they are down? Perhaps taking them out to dance/drink or for a ride? Do you engage them frequently but only superficially and without consideration for the circumstances? Are your interactions mostly private or do you often associate in public?

Relevant here is that through the Intrigue/Espionage/Intelligence system you can manipulate relationships very effectively. Figure out what they like and dislike, know when they are having a good or bad time, and so forth. Intersystem integration is a top 3 goal/focus for Axioms.

Putting all that aside the actual character interactions involve written corresponance, visits, long talks on distinct subjects, getting a drink, at home or on the town, going riding or dancing, if possible in your polity, training together, which includes martial, musical, mental, magical, and so forth. You can Bribe, Flatter, Insult others in public, or in secret, and so forth.

All non-public interactions can create a Secret. Friends can betray you or vice versa if the situation is appropriate. You can also engage in romantic or sexual interactions of various kinds. You can give romantic or platonic gifts.

A major value of Social Occasions is that they can provide cover for interactions of various kinds. An affair at a party is much easier than having to come up with some other excuse to travel, especially between provinces.

Characters have Desires and Interests and thus you can, for personal or political reasons, gift a studious mage rare tomes, tell an adventurer of secret locations, or promise a friend to, as mentioned in a previous post on secrets, arrange a loving marriage for a daughter, or son.

Interacting With Interactions

I mentioned above how you can learn information to use in social manipulation with the Intrigue mechanics. You can also interact, as mentioned in a previous design post, with Social Occasions by doing stuff like following traveling characters and ambushing them, or getting them alone at events to blackmail or bribe them.

Additionally you can do the same when two friends go for a ride in the countryside. Murder, kidnapping, etc. You could also, pending some possible feature cuts, meet another character during their interaction with someone else. Or specifically go somewhere with another character as cover for a separate meeting between that character and someone else. I’m sure we’ve all read fantasy novels where this kind of thing occurs. Or seen the Harry Potter movies or all those new fantasy tv adaptations.


I spent a lot of time when designing various systems designing them such that they interact smoothly with at least 3-5 other game systems and massaging the base/core mechanics to facilitate this and to avoid redundant systems. The downfall of many an existing genre blending or kitchen sink game is having too many almost totally rigid and siloed systems/mechanics which make the game complicated for players to learn without providing a proper amount of value in return.

Axioms had originally been conceived as a real time game back in 2010-2012 but I finally came to the conclusion in late 2012 that a turn based core would allow for a lot more of the things I wanted to do in a more elegant and also more performant way. When I played EU4 and CK2 in early 2013 to early 2015 I found that their real time nature did indeed limit them in ways I had forseen and I felt pretty happy about my choices. Playing those games also solidified my feelings about having a bunch of shallow and unconnected game mechanics creating strong negative impacts on user experience.

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