Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mr Referee I don't really have a 18 charisma.

In a previous post I talked about the utility of a having a high charisma as a paladin. Several people asked how I handle using attributes and skill in play.

In the 30 years I been roleplaying I experienced various methods of handling character abilities and skills Which one works for you will depend on what your goals for the game as a whole. For me it is about immersion, making my players feel that their characters are part of a living breathing and interesting world.

By doing this I hope to do two things elicit "natural" reactions to the situations the characters find themselves in, and to engage the "soap opera" effect where the player want to play the next session just to see what happens next. The way I handle attributes and skills has been honed serve the first goal, to keep the game flowing as natural as possible.

It actually quite similar to one of the techniques described in the Old School Primer by Matt Finch. The players state or roleplay what they are doing and the referee makes a ruling. The main difference between the Old School Primer and myself is that I don't solely rely on the ability of the player to come up with the smallest of details.

I almost never allow a roll without an accompanying description of what being done or the player roleplaying what his character does. What I am looking for is what the player considers are the issues of the character's pending action. Not whether they included every detail. The success of the attribute or skill roll is what determine whether the details are correctly executed. By doing this you can have players roleplay characters vastly different than themselves.

Note that this is not the same as deciding if the players are doing the right things as their characters for the situation. They could execute everything perfectly i.e. make all their rolls but given the circumstances it would the wrong thing to do.

For example the player roleplaying the Paladin decides to distract the Bounty Hunter with some pleasant conversation. In the course of roleplaying the paladin player mention about he just come from the Dwarven Hold and how he had a great time in. Not knowing that the Bounty Hunter despises dwarves. Now the rest of the conversation is pretty much shot even if the paladin makes all his rolls. I would give the player some type of warning and an opportunity to recover as it would be natural for a high charisma individual to pick that maybe talking about dwarves is not a good idea. But if the player misses my cue then that will be that.


Havard: said...

Interesting topic. I have found that charismatic people have a way to communicate that allows them even to make fairly serious blunders and get a way with it because people like them so much that they will forgive bringing up topics where they will get really angry with others to do the same thing.

limpey said...

When we first started playing (with the 'Basic Book' by Holmes with a Dragon on the cover in blue), I recall that there were almost no rules for attribute bonuses/penalties. You maybe got an XP bonus for a high attribute, a bonus to archery for high dex, etc. Attribute bonuses were mostly used to qualify for a class and were seldom referenced later.

As a result, we learned to play (from a more experienced player) by telling the DM what we did and the DM decided what happened based on what we said and what he knew. i.e.: at first we found traps by walking on them and falling in. Then we started poking ahead with a spear. It was a compartively very basic rule set (although it seemed very detailed to us because we didn't know anything else other than boardgames).
I don't know if its nostalgia or just my cussedness, but I actually think I found that kind of experience MORE immersive than what came with subsequent games and rules iterations that involved more dice rolls simply because it counted on interaction between participants.

Rob Conley said...

@limpey the issue with relying on that style is that it is hard to make characters that have abilities that varied from the player's own abilities.

It isn't that I gotten away from requiring a description of the action. Like I said the way I do things is still similar to what you described and what is described in the old school primer. The difference is that skill of the character is what influences the chance of success.

But for me to allow the player to make that roll for his character they have to do everything that you described in your comment.

UWS guy said...

There's no player skill in having a 15 intel. and being able to speak 5 extra languages, one of which just happens to be the dialect of the lizard folk who have just captured you.

There's no player skill in having an extraordinary strength and bending the bars of the sewer grate (you don't make a player describe his grip do you?)

The player skill is in using the skills and tricks in the game, wether that's a 10 foot pole or a +30% on your reaction adjustment.

The players skill ends and the characters begins when he tells the DM he's going to smooth talk the NPC, read the foreign tongue, or kick open the door.

1d30 said...

I ask the player what he's doing. He says "I walk up to the guard and try to distract him". I ask his Charisma: he says "15". That's kind of bland and poor but high CHA so I let him do it on a 1-4 in 6.

Same situation. He says "I go buy laborer's clothes and some lumber and tools and pretend to be a carpenter who was hired to repair a bed, trying to distract the guard." CHA 10. Good story, average CHA, so same 4 in 6 chance.

If he comes up with a bad story and has bad CHA, maybe only 1 in 6. Good CHA and good story, he just gets it.

Roleplaying is another layer, I'd give an extra +1 on the d6 for good roleplaying. So maybe that makes up for having a weak story or a weak CHA.