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


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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I want player's choices to matter, even ability scores and proficiencies. That low charisma PC can still contribute and in many cases will contribute to the conversation which will affect the target DC or grant advantage/disadvantage based on what points they make.

I also set up situations now and then where charisma is not the best option. A dwarven NPC warrior may not care about pretty words but can be convinced by a PC with masonry skill that the fortification will not hold against giants that will be attacking soon. An NPC sage might find a bit of history a worthy trade and so on.

I personally enjoy running low charisma PCs now and then that don't really know when to keep quiet. If I feel like my PC would speak up, I do. If a player with a low charisma PC speaks up about something important to their PC it's an opportunity for me to reward inspiration.
 


Stalker0

Legend
I like this HR, its simple and effective at doing what your group wants to do. I wouldn't use it for every campaign or even every session but its got cool merit.

I can also see it as a nice for "laying the groundwork". For example, the bard has been doing the social thing behind the scenes. So when its time for the "meeting" the whole party gets the fruits of the bard's labor by having the bard bonus of their rolls. That's another way to implement this which is also cool.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I've always ben a fan of "Doesn't matter which player thinks it up, the Party Face says it, the Party Gruff can only screw it up, and everyone one else can decide to help."

The high Cha character gets to use the combined charisma of all the players. But there has to be more than one roll and if a PC rolls twice in a row, they suffer a penalty to the roll.

I also have deep Language fluency and accent rules so spreads the spotlight.
 
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I actually lower or raise the difficulty based on the NPCs biases of the PCs main class.

Most guards will be more inclined to be persuaded by a fighter or barbarian, most nobles a bard (unless that particular noble hates bards due to a dalliance with their wife a summer ago!), most academics might be much more inclined to listen to a wizard.

On the other hand, a bard in a barbarian camp might have a difficult time being convincing, although still has a chance to overcome with their charisma. Don't fancy the wizards chances though.
 

Campbell

Legend
The larger problem here is the idea of the face being a thing. Success in social encounters should be just as dependent of fictional positioning as how skilled someone is. There should be NPCs who are more likely to weigh the words of a knightly warrior than a foppish minstrel regardless of skill level. The other issue is that PCs should be much more broadly skilled than they currently are.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The larger problem here is the idea of the face being a thing. Success in social encounters should be just as dependent of fictional positioning as how skilled someone is. There should be NPCs who are more likely to weigh the words of a knightly warrior than a foppish minstrel regardless of skill level. The other issue is that PCs should be much more broadly skilled than they currently are.
Yes, and it doesn't help the situation that many social interaction challenges presented by DMs are some talking followed by a single check. That just further pushes the group to put forward a specialist PC to deal with it. If the social interaction challenge is more complex, veers into areas where a range of skill proficiencies may apply, and allows for some failure without completely going wrong, then the pressure to send the specialist forward while everyone else dummies up is reduced.

Even in the context of D&D 5e's social interaction rules, the expectation is that Wisdom (Insight) checks might resolve attempts to discern an NPC's ideal, bond, or flaw which can then be used to impart advantage on any subsequent rolls to resolve influencing the NPC's attitude. Useful lore could also reasonably be recalled in some situations to discern the NPC's agenda or characteristics or to put together details to make a solid argument that could appeal to the NPC, thereby opening up Intelligence-based checks for tasks that have an uncertain outcome.

Taken together, this means at least half of the ability scores might be relevant in a complex social situation. A DM that follows the "middle path" of adjudication balances the use of dice against deciding on success, encouraging players to shoot for success without rolling (or at least advantage on the check or a lower DC). Inspiration becomes a means to further increase the odds of success and by earning Inspiration, the players are often portraying their characters in more meaningful ways, especially in social interactions. Soon enough, in my experience, the "face" issue just goes away.
 

payn

Hero
This variant sounds reasonable if it helps bring your table to life. I dont think you need social skills just to talk to NPCs, but I have known players who do.

This topic makes me wish designers would consider options in all three pillars for every character. I'd expand the social tier into a background system that allows for a variety of social interactions. Things that make more sense for the character, like the big word wizard mentioned in the thread. Tie that with the personable bard and the experienced fighter or whatever. There should be less universal social skills and more situational ones, IMO.

Last thing I need to get off my chest is that, If you want to be a butt fugly low charisma character who everyone hates, thats fine, but a low charisma doesnt necessitate an unbearably annoying personality.
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I like to have about half of my talky interaction NPCs pick a particular character and talk with them. If the PCs all go to the wizards guild to track down a lead....the wizards are going to talk to the arcaniest caster in the party, not the barbarian with a 20 CHA.

I do this to let all the players have a chance to use the skills they didn't necessarily exercise, but also to me it feels more realistic. Maybe the tongue tied wizard has a hard time coming out of his shell compared to the bard, but he knows what a Resonant Arcane Transflux Capacitating Membrane is so he speaks a better language.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
I do tend to as a player default to giving the task to who ever is best at it and I like monks so it is rarely me so you might be on to something.
Ok, if you really want to let Bree, my 1/2ling warlock, be your chief negotiator....
+ side: 19 cha, relevant social skills, friendly, and LOVES to talk.
The down sides: She's an 11 year old child. ShetendstotalkfasterthanaKryinnishGnome & sometimes gets way off topic. Very likely doesn't understand everything. Oh, and she's Lawfull(?)Good, honest, and & will negotiate as such - so as long as you're OK with no lying/cheating/trickery vs non-monsters....

Let me tell you, as Bree's player? I don't think she's the appropriate face for a party. This of course has never stopped me from having her talk to NPCs. :)
 

Li Shenron

Legend
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.
I would also be interested to hear how other people solve this issue in their games or if it just isn't an issue.

It isn't an issue, precisely because of what you said above about ideas and preparation.

Social interaction is a lot about ideas, and those come from the players. It's the players who decide WHAT to tell in a conversation. But that also happens in the other pillars: it's the players who decide how to attack and defend in combat, and where to go or what to do when exploring. Tactics and decisions make a HUGE difference.

Unless a group plays the game very flat, where every combat is just the same HP grinding, every exploration is the same checks for traps, and every social encounter is resolved by a dumb check like "I convince the king" no wait "I intimidate the king" (because I have a better bonus) without even mentioning what you're going to say. See the famous "I didn't do it (charisma check)" sketch by Viva la Dirt League as an example of why gaming like that is ridiculous.

Ask your players WHAT they intend to say to convince or intimidate, and if you don't like bypassing checks and determine the outcome yourself, at least base the DCs on those ideas: perhaps intimidating by telling the guards "if you don't let us pass we'll kill you" has DC 20 and by telling "if you don't let us pass we'll get you fired" has DC 10.

I can't imagine how someone can run a RPG without making player's ideas and decisions matter, and have fun like that. And when they matter, players will participate all the time.
 

Ok, if you really want to let Bree, my 1/2ling warlock, be your chief negotiator....
+ side: 19 cha, relevant social skills, friendly, and LOVES to talk.
The down sides: She's an 11 year old child. ShetendstotalkfasterthanaKryinnishGnome & sometimes gets way off topic. Very likely doesn't understand everything. Oh, and she's Lawfull(?)Good, honest, and & will negotiate as such - so as long as you're OK with no lying/cheating/trickery vs non-monsters....

Let me tell you, as Bree's player? I don't think she's the appropriate face for a party. This of course has never stopped me from having her talk to NPCs. :)
look lots of people play high cha characters, so likely someone else in the group would take up the slack plus this has literally never happened to me before.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
I don’t think social interactions are actually different in this. In social interactions, as with in combat and exploration, a player can have ideas or prepare ahead in ways that will eliminate the chance of failure, but when failure is a possibility, it is the roll of the dice combined with their character’s modifiers that determine the outcome.
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.
I disagree that this imbalance exists, if the DM is employing the rules for exploration and social interactions properly. When traveling, there are a number of tasks that can be performed (navigating, foraging, keeping watch, making a map, etc), and each character can only perform one of these tasks at a time. So, while some characters like rogues and rangers may have a much higher bonus to rolls relevant to these tasks than others, those characters can still only perform one task each, and the party will have to decide which task to assign to which character. In social challenges, as @iserith pointed out, Wisdom (Insight) and Intelligence with various Skills are often relevant, so low-Charisma characters still have meaningful ways to contribute. For those characters who have low scores in all three of these abilities, Working Together to grant advantage to another character’s roll is an option.

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.
Again, I disagree. If your criteria for calling for checks is “does this approach have a reasonable chance of success and failure at accomplishing this goal and a meaningful consequence for failure?” instead of “did the player make a compelling argument?” then social interactions are not “done by the player” any more than combat or exploration are.
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.
Well… yeah. It makes sense for the character with the best Charisma (Persuasion) modifier to do most of the persuading, the character with the best Charisma (Intimidation) roll to do the intimidating, etc. But as discussed above, those aren’t the only ways to contribute to a social interaction challenge. Wisdom (Insight) and Intelligence with various proficiencies can be relevant, and there’s always Working Together if you’ve got nothing else helpful to do.
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.
I don’t agree. There are always going to be times where you can’t avoid having to make a check with an ability and/or skill you don’t have a very high bonus in. Sure, maybe the rogue usually does the sneaking and the barbarian usually does the breaking of objects. But what happens when the whole party needs to be stealthy, such as when traveling, or when they need to climb under treacherous conditions? Sometimes you get into a situation where you have no real choice but to make a roll you won’t be great at. Those are usually good opportunities to use Inspiration.
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.
This notion of roleplay vs. rollplay is nonsense in my opinion. If you’re imagining yourself as your character and making decisions as you imagine they would in the scenario described by the DM, you’re roleplaying. Often, dice rolls will be called for to resolve the outcomes of your roleplaying decisions.
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.
I do agree that a drawback of this house rule will be that it destroys the charismatic character’s niche in social interactions. Given that I don’t think the problem it’s trying to solve is a problem at all if you use the full social interaction rules and create dynamic social challenges, I don’t think the payoff is worth the drawback.
 

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