Re: Social Combat -
I like the current system since it is simple and descriptive. The worry with adding complications is that it could start to feel as clunky as the D&D 4th Skill Challenges.
That said, it might make sense to add rules for what secondary participants can do during the challenge. While the primary is trying to push a particular agenda, the secondary can do things that provide a bonus to the primary, provide a penalty to the other sides primary, negate the other sides secondary, etc.
Re: The Chase -
I see the failure spiral problem. Either you need to get rid of the leg up, or find other ways to balance it. Either the extremes of fewer rules or more rules.
One way is to explain the use of AP in a chase and how it differs from combat. Since it seems a chase has AP like combat, it might be worth explaining how certain traits fit into things (Fleet of Foot, Lucky Dodge, Lightning Speed). Example: someone in a chase has to allocate at least 1 AP to running. Additional AP either provide bonuses or negate penalties. If you wan to get a leg up, you need at least an AP. If you want to dodge gun shots, you need an AP as well.
Another way is to simply make the leg up less powerful. If I manage to force the person I'm chasing into an area of bad terrain, that penalty is going to affect both of us. If I force us to run through the night, we both have to combat fatigue. Applying consequences that affect both sides (but that your side should have an advantage against) seems less of a problem.
I also like DarkOni's idea of waging distance/success numbers, possibly to make attacks that could end the chase early (like the opposite of Giving the Slip). If I win a round and am currently ahead by at least 2, I can use that as a bonus to at attack or another AP equivalent thing.
With these, you may need to try a few and see which works best. I found the current mechanic pretty neutral, though I will admit that not many RPGs have chase mechanics I'm entirely happy with. Most of them boil down to 1)My character is fast, so I should probably win this after far too much real time investment or 2) My character is slow, so I will check my email after I fail the first round.
Another of the subsystems we've seen in use a few times by now is the social conflict system. It's pretty straight forward. My question is: How is it working out? Currently the only mechanical bit that matters is the total Mag from all three flips. Would the system be improved if winning individual flips had some sort of intermediate effect?
I think it works pretty well, and we have generally done a good job collaboratively constructing what the conflict's narrative was based on the flip results. I think, if people are going to act as secondaries and assist, it should probably use the same rules for assisting that other skill checks do. Making special secondary roles for this kind of conflict, and allowing them to neutralize each other directly, seems like it makes this a “whoever brings the most people wins” kind of scenario, which doesn't seem like the design intent.
The chase system has come up twice now. How is it working out? Currently when you win an individual flip in a chase, you “get a leg up” and get a change to effect the chase in some regard. This is interesting, but my concern is that this exacerbates the “death spiral” of a chase. That is, if you win the first flip, not only do you have a head start that the other party has to overcome in subsequent flips, but the other party is quite possibly also penalized because you were able to take some “leg up” action against them to hinder them in some way. Thoughts?
I'm with Micah - I've never really seen a “chase subsystem” that I liked. I think this one is OK, but the “leg up” thing does have the death spiral issue. I remember that the Spycraft chase system was actually pretty fun; its problem was just that the Wheelman was the only one who could play it so everyone else had to just, like, shout encouragement or take potshots. Spycraft had a Lead mechanic, and the quarry started with a certain amount of Lead, and if it went to 0 then they got caught, and if got to 10 they got away automatically. What if you made a Lead Consequence for use in chases? The quarry starts with Moderate lead, and both sides make the Spd/Athletics flip or whatever, and if neither side beats the other by at least 4, Lead doesn't change, otherwise it increases or decreases a certain severity. I think it makes sense for pursuers to get to work together for a bonus on the opposed check, but less so for quarry? Maybe quarry groups should have the option of slowing down some members to run interference so others can escape? I also like “wagering speed” idea.