I would like to see a traditional RPG designed around negotiation. Personal combat has been done to death (pun intended), so let's open things up to boardrooms, diplomatic meetings, and first contact scenarios. You want the events of the game to unfold this way, everyone else at the table wants things to go differently. Is there a system where you can settle your differences as rational humans and figure out a way for the majority of players to "win" without someone reverting to violence?
I'm not talking about having talking being a small part of the game bolted on after you understand how attacking and death work, I'm talking about talking being the point of the game, supported by mechanics at the very core of the design, and rewarded through play. Pure storytelling games do this, but usually without the aspect of an in-game alter ego who wants to accomplish something, and usually without the aspect of rewarding the character through some sort of experience-based growth.
It strikes me as kind of a LARP-like way to go, where you need to talk to people in order to advance your goals. Such is my upbringing. But in my mind the mechanics of LARP are only to be used when pure interaction fails, and I'm looking for mechanics that support the advancement of your agenda through negotiation, favors, and influence. I realize this would appeal to only a very thin slice of gamerkind, perhaps only me. I'll take that risk.
I have some vague ideas about how this could work, but I don't think I've seen something published handle it effectively. Lately the attempts I noodle through end up as some sort of RPG-like card game. That may work, but it may be a little too mechanically restrictive card gamey and not enough open-ended RPG-ey. More thought needed.
If you know of something out there that fits, please let me know.
I blame +Brent Newhall for at least some of this concept. His Fantasy RPG Design Challenges got me thinking of games with conflict but without combat. Thanks for challenging preconceptions, Brent!
(And I thought today's answer would be quick. Silly Wombat.)
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time...