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D&D General Charisma and Roleplay, or who can talk to the NPC.

p_johnston

Explorer
I'll get to the meat of the post at top so anyone who wants to skip my semi rambling thoughts can. In order to encourage people to roleplay more I implemented a rule that says that whenever a player rolls a charisma based skill check they may roll with the highest modifier of whoever is present. For example if the Fighter wants to talk to the town mayor then they may roll with the the Bards +7 persuasion even if the Bard never speaks. It's a change I've used before and it seems to make the game more fun for my players.

Edit: To clarify they will roll with the highest bonus of whichever Character is present at the scene. So if the Bard is across town they will still have to use their own bonus.

Rambling explanations of why and downsides below.

So D&D has an odd imbalance in that of the three pillars of play (combat, exploration, and social interaction) only one of them can actually be done by the players instead of the characters. Combat and Exploration are always going to be solved via rolling dice and adding your modifiers. You can increase your odds by having smart ideas and preperation (pushing the enemy into the fireplace, having rope to help cross the chasm, etc) but in the end it's going to be decided by your character and their abilities. You as the player cannot stab the orc or navigate the swamp only your character can.

A separate but related imbalance is that all classes are going to be, roughly, equally able to participate in combat. The Fighter, the Bard, and The Wizard all have things to do that make them valuable during combat. This is not something that is going to hold true for the other two pillars. Exploration is not as well balanced. As a whole spellcasters (Bards/wizards/sorcerers/clerics) and skill monkeys (bards/rogues/rangers) are likely to be more useful then more martial classes. However Athletics comes up often enough that the Fighter/Barbarian/Paladin will still usually be able to contribute sometimes (largely because even with skill monkeys the strength based character will usually be the best in the party at Athletics). So while exploration is somewhat imbalanced its not as game breaking because it offers at least some opportunity for participation by all and its is the least used pillar.

This leads to the reason for my post which is Social Interaction. So unlike the other two pillars Social Interaction is something that the Player can do in addition to the character. The Player can make a compelling argument, a believable lie, a terrifying threat. This is a large part of roleplay which for many people (myself included) is one of the most fun parts of the game. The problem comes in when Social Interaction interacts with the game mechanics.

The first imbalance that comes from when Social Interaction meets game mechanics is the lack of mechanical options. For combat each class gets at least a dozen cool little abilities that help out. For exploration there are 6 relevant skills and at least some amount of relevant abilities/spells. For Social interaction you have Persuasion, Deception, Intimidation, and Insight for skills and of those four Persuasion is going to be used the majority of the time. The amount of abilities and spells that are useful in Social Interaction are also much more limited. This is a good thing in that it allows more fluidity and freedom during roleplay then you get during combat. Social interaction has no set positions, no initiative, no health. If another Player decides to hop into a conversation I as the DM am free to say sure.

The problem however is that this means that mechanically you are usually going to have a single person who is the best at almost the entire Social Interaction pillar. No one is going to be as good at Persuasion as the Bard with Expertise and Enhance Ability. This means that any time a Persuasion is being rolled it makes the most sense mechanically to have it rolled by the Bard. Which in turns that it makes the most sense mechanically to have the Bard roleplay with every NPC the party meets in case a Persuasion/Deception roll is needed. Which means that the game ends up with a vast majority of the roleplay being done by a single Player with the rest of the group being afraid to take initiative in roleplay in case it bites them in the ass due to not having the best Charisma. This is only a problem with skills like Persuasion. When the party needs a Stealth check the rogue is going to roll it. Wizards will be doing Arcana, Fighters will be doing Athletics. For pretty much every other skill having the one with the highest bonus roll the skill is going to happen automatically. The difference is that every other skill involves rollplay not roleplay. If the Wizard rolls every Arcana check for the entire campaign it doesn't mean that they suddenly get all the roleplaying opportunities.

So as I said at the top of the post my solution is to just let anyone use the highest modifier available and then whoever has a good idea or is plot appropriate can roleplay without it mechanically hurting the Party. I will say there is a downside to this approach however in the form of niche protection. When the Fighter uses Athletics to save the drowning child, when the Wizard recalls obscure lore use Arcana, When the rogue scouts the enemy base using Stealth, all of those allow that character to shine at their Niche. That means the Player gets their "only I could do this" moment. With my change the Bard with expertise in Persuasion will never have their "only I could do this" moment because anyone in the party could do it. This can make taking the Social skills feel like a skill tax rather then a choice. In addition it will make it even more likely that anyone who is not reliant on it to just dump Charisma which is already a problem. I will say that overall I find that the downsides are outweighed by the upside of more people being willing to roleplay and interact with NPCs and the world.

Rambling over

So feel free to steal this idea for your game or just comment on whether you think its a good/bad/neutral idea. I would also be interested to hear how other people solve this issue in their games or if it just isn't an issue.
 
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loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
What good does Bard's +9000 to persuasion do, if he's at the other side of the city? Or if the leader of an ex-military gang isn't going to talk to some stupid musician, but will treat another vet with respect?

Also, it's not like skills are rigidly tied to the abilities. So, a wizard can surely Persuade people with big smart words, using their Intelligence.
 

Quartz

Hero
In order to encourage people to roleplay more I implemented a rule that says that whenever a player rolls a charisma based skill check they may roll with the highest modifier of whoever is present.

Something to consider is that you only roll when the result is in doubt. If the campaign style is 'grim & gritty' then you might elect to not roll when the low-charisma PC is acting in that vein. Similarly if the campaign style is 'Hollywood heroics' then you don't roll if the PC is being heroic.
 

p_johnston

Explorer
What good does Bard's +9000 to persuasion do, if he's at the other side of the city? Or if the leader of an ex-military gang isn't going to talk to some stupid musician, but will treat another vet with respect?

Also, it's not like skills are rigidly tied to the abilities. So, a wizard can surely Persuade people with big smart words, using their Intelligence.
So as to the first question the implementation is not meant to insure the party always has a huge bonus to persuasion. It's meant to make it so that when both the Fighter and the Bard are present the Fighter's Player doesn't feel they aren't allowed to be the one talking because they have no bonus. As to the second question while having the NPC only willing to talk to a particular character can work in a specific scenario if it happens to often then it's just he DM taking away the Parties choice of who gets to roleplay which is the exact opposite of what I want.

As to the second point this is actually something I do a fair amount to try and encourage Players to think and try and use skills in more fun ways. That being said the vast majority of the time a Character is going to have the skills associated with their main attribute. While the Wizard may use a logical argument which allows the use of intelligence they are unlikely to have Persuasion so its usually going to be just an Ability Modifier. In which case a Bard with Expertise is still going to be better then them based solely on proficiency.

Edit: To clarify they only get the Bonus if the character who has that bonus is present in the scene. I added an edit to make that more clear
 

p_johnston

Explorer
Something to consider is that you only roll when the result is in doubt. If the campaign style is 'grim & gritty' then you might elect to not roll when the low-charisma PC is acting in that vein. Similarly if the campaign style is 'Hollywood heroics' then you don't roll if the PC is being heroic.
I'm always hesitant to to simply say "it succeeds" when it comes to Social Interaction. This can very easily lead to having whichever player has the highest real life Charisma being unfairly favored.
 


Stormonu

Legend
Just as in combat, the bard can’t roll for your fighter’s attack rolls, I don’t see why the party should use the bard’s modifier of all social rolls. Let the person whose ”doing the talking” make the roll. Sure, it will usually be the high-cha character anyways, but if someone’s making a specific point or specific individuals need to converse, it makes sense to use the actual person’s modifier (and even here, others can likely use “help” actions to shore up or interject in the discussion).

Or like the stealth rules, have the person who has the lowest modifier do the roll. After all, wars have been started with just one misspoke word…

Otherwise, there’s no reason for the other characters to not dump stat Cha, because “it will never come up.”
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'll get to the meat of the post at top so anyone who wants to skip my semi rambling thoughts can. In order to encourage people to roleplay more I implemented a rule that says that whenever a player rolls a charisma based skill check they may roll with the highest modifier of whoever is present. For example if the Fighter wants to talk to the town mayor then they may roll with the the Bards +7 persuasion even if the Bard never speaks. It's a change I've used before and it seems to make the game more fun for my players.
The DM decides if there is an ability check, based on whether the outcome of the task is uncertain and there's a meaningful consequence for failure, not the player. Players shouldn't really want to roll at all since a d20 is not reliable. If the DM is balancing narrating success with calling for checks, players should feel like their decisions and characterization matter at least as much as the dice. This may help with them not wanting to engage in social interaction.
I'm always hesitant to to simply say "it succeeds" when it comes to Social Interaction. This can very easily lead to having whichever player has the highest real life Charisma being unfairly favored.
That's really not an issue if the DM is ruling based on the goal and approach the player describes rather than how eloquently the player describes it. "I try to convince the king to help us by appealing to his noble lineage" is the same as a player giving an epic speech that amounts to the same goal and approach.

I recommend checking out the rules for social interactions in the DMG if you haven't already done so. This provides something of a framework for designing social interaction challenges that allows for players whose characters aren't as great at Charisma-based ability checks to participate.
 

p_johnston

Explorer
Just as in combat, the bard can’t roll for your fighter’s attack rolls, I don’t see why the party should use the bard’s modifier of all social rolls. Let the person whose ”doing the talking” make the roll. Sure, it will usually be the high-cha character anyways, but if someone’s making a specific point or specific individuals need to converse, it makes sense to use the actual person’s modifier (and even here, others can likely use “help” actions to shore up or interject in the discussion).

Or like the stealth rules, have the person who has the lowest modifier do the roll. After all, wars have been started with just one misspoke word…

Otherwise, there’s no reason for the other characters to not dump stat Cha, because “it will never come up.”
So the thing I've notice about dumping charisma is that anyone who isn't the Bard/Sorcerer/rogue is usually going to dump charisma. The main difference is that the person who has a low charisma is going to just shut up and decide not to roleplay so they don't end up hurting the negotiation.
 

I do the same. If the CHA character is present, and they support the actions of the speaking player, the speaking player uses the highest bonus.

If the CHA disagrees, or is in another location, I use the next highest, until the player has to roll their own.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
At our table if there is a Charisma check happening then it is a group check with every character present.

Everyone gets a chance to talk regardless of score and all scores impact the result.
 

ninjayeti

Adventurer
It's a fair point. As a long time bard player though I'd argue you're stuck in a support role in combat, dropping inspiration so the GWM/SS fighter can hit for massive damage, using healing to get characters up, etc. Social encounters are where the bard gets to step up and shine, and that is a big reason people want to play them. So I'd just make sure that your bard player doesn't feel like you are taking away his "thing."
 

p_johnston

Explorer
It's a fair point. As a long time bard player though I'd argue you're stuck in a support role in combat, dropping inspiration so the GWM/SS fighter can hit for massive damage, using healing to get characters up, etc. Social encounters are where the bard gets to step up and shine, and that is a big reason people want to play them. So I'd just make sure that your bard player doesn't feel like you are taking away his "thing."
So that was honestly my biggest concern. I brought up the change with my group and our groups traditional Bard was one of the biggest supporters. That being said my group is also really good at calling out the support characters in combat as lifesavers. If a well timed inspiration or heal ends up saving the day then my Players are always there to call it out.
 

I'm of the school of thought that there are times when intelligence skills can have roles to play in conversations, when you figure out an approach that utilizes research based evidence, and if the person cares. This could very reasonably extend to Wisdom as well, depending on the approach of your argument.
 

If you only require a roll or two after the majority of the RP is done, which is how I do it, then you should look at the rules for working together. If the fighter wants to talk to the mayor and the bard comes along, if they both contribute something to the discussion, then one character makes the check with advantage. If the bard just sits there and refuses to participate, then the fighter's out of luck. As for the issue of players who are not comfortable with roleplay, then a player can simply give a description of what he's trying to do, not the specific words.

So the thing I've notice about dumping charisma is that anyone who isn't the Bard/Sorcerer/rogue is usually going to dump charisma. The main difference is that the person who has a low charisma is going to just shut up and decide not to roleplay so they don't end up hurting the negotiation.
I've found Int is the most common dump ability score, but ymmv.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If you only require a roll or two after the majority of the RP is done, which is how I do it, then you should look at the rules for working together. If the fighter wants to talk to the mayor and the bard comes along, if they both contribute something to the discussion, then one character makes the check with advantage. If the bard just sits there and refuses to participate, then the fighter's out of luck. As for the issue of players who are not comfortable with roleplay, then a player can simply give a description of what he's trying to do, not the specific words.


I've found Int is the most common dump ability score, but ymmv.
Right. Working Together is an easy way to get advantage so that someone without training or good Charisma still has a reasonable chance at success if the DM calls for a check. I think the DM should be something of a stickler here in making sure that the person helping is, you know, actually helping, but otherwise, this is a no brainer.

Inspiration is also good to have as a player in these situations where you're rolling an ability check in an area where the character is not focused. Keep one of those in your back pocket and use it whenever you're a fighter in armor trying to sneak or a low-Charisma character trying to convince someone to do something.

Further, I've noticed a lot of players will choose skill proficiencies mostly in areas where they already have a high ability score modifier. I find this is usually unnecessary. This really limits them when it comes to participating in other pillars.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Not sure if this is exactly relevant, but I think it is related:

At my table when a character with a high charisma is gonna do the convincing everyone at the table who is invested discusses OOC what should be said, what points to make, what tack to take, etc. . . and then once that gets coalesced into an approach, the high cha character chooses what to say and how based on that - if they are into role-playing they role-play it in first person, if they aren't, they simply describe what they say and then the roll is made.

We do this because however high an opinion we may have of ourselves, I doubt any of us have the real world equivalent of a 16 Cha or whatever, but the details of the discussion matter to the response (even a successful one) - so a group effort/suggestions allows for the player to think through options and choose them - a kind of subconscious chorus.

Another way I have handled it, is when the high CHA character's player is actually not that good a talker, but want to role-play anyway, who I am to deprive them? If they botch the actual talking, but the character rolls a success, then I adjust the motivation of the reaction but the result is the same: "Your bumbled words suggest to the mayor how important this is to you and he sympathizes with your momentary anxiety, as such he explains about what happened at the behind closed doors council meeting."

But also, if there is not much at stake or the result is not in question, I don't bother with rolls of that type.
 
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Voadam

Legend
I'm always hesitant to to simply say "it succeeds" when it comes to Social Interaction. This can very easily lead to having whichever player has the highest real life Charisma being unfairly favored.
I am the opposite. :)

I love having cool in person interactions happen and natural results and reactions occur both ways without dice rolling. It is something I want to encourage in my games.

I am fine with having dice rolls for second person abstracted scenes, "I spend a day drumming up support for the fighter's mayoral election campaign. I get an 18 on persuasion."

I am also fine with doing the second person abstracted scenes based on stats and character background and player stated character concept. Player: "I spend a day drumming up support for the fighter's mayoral election campaign." DM "You are a peasant hero right? Sounds good."
 

Voadam

Legend
If you only require a roll or two after the majority of the RP is done, which is how I do it, then you should look at the rules for working together. If the fighter wants to talk to the mayor and the bard comes along, if they both contribute something to the discussion, then one character makes the check with advantage. If the bard just sits there and refuses to participate, then the fighter's out of luck. As for the issue of players who are not comfortable with roleplay, then a player can simply give a description of what he's trying to do, not the specific words.
I find the aiding another for advantage in 5e skill checks encourages two people doing tasks together instead of soloing on them, which is good for a cooperative group game.
 

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