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Doing away with INT/WIS/CHA

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I know I'm barging into the thread late and I have not read all the posts so I do apologize for possibly rehashing old arguments (but I would have just quoted them anyway and still posted), but I do have such problems with the str/dex/con divide.

Adding muscle mass can in fact help reduce the critical damage your body can take, but wouldn't effect poison or disease. And any gymnast is going to have quite a bit of strength in addition to agility. And of course, no matter what weapon you have, as soon as you are strong enough to use it, you are better of learning how to swing it fast rather than continue to invest in powerlifting.

To me it's the Fantasy archetypes of strong guy, agile guy, and tough guy that are so well represented it's easier to match our in game expectations to those examples.

It's a bit tougher to find archetypes of the D&D Intelligent, Wisdom, Charisma divide. I'm sure they are there, it's just not as readily available.

Which is probably why I prefer Dragon Age's base stats. Or at least their definitions.

•Cunning is a measure of your character’sintelligence, knowledge, and education.
• Dexterity encompasses agility, hand-eyecoordination, and quickness.
• Magic determines your character’s innate arcanepower.
• Perception covers all the senses and the ability tointerpret sensory data.
• Strength is your character’s physical brawn.
• Willpower encompasses mental toughness,discipline, and confidence
 
Okay... this is a bit anecdotal, but I guess it will be more or less prevalent in less homogenous groups groups. As a DM, you usually use your own knowledge and experience when creating a world of your own. NPC are based on behavior patterns you know, archetypes you've read about or often characters from books or shows you like. This applies to other aspects of the world as well, like whether or not you could cut a rope with a knife or whether buildings made of marble make sense, but these usually tend to be covered by the rules.

Now, if I, as a player, get to talk to an NPC or get some clues from others, I get my own picture of said person. If I tend to watch the same shows, read the same books or come from the same culture as my DM, then my mental image and his will more likely align and I will more likely "push the right buttons" (in the DM's eye) when it comes to interaction. And it is the other way round when my and the DM's socio-cultural backgrounds don't align.

So even if I'm a) an intelligent player and b) do my very best to logically describe my PC's actions and how and why this could work in a given situation, my DM could still be not convinced simply because "it isn't plausible" as his and my image of the situation don't align.

In a world with mental stats and skills, I would still describe what I'm trying to do, roll the dice and, should I succeed, would be told by the GM that I should maybe try to use a whole different approach based on his image (that's what the insight skill should do IMO). This situation still isn't as ideal as it could be, but it would still allow me to succed despite the non-match.
OK, that is just too good an observation to just XP and tacitly agree with.

Yes, I totally get that, and agree it's very much a thing. I kinda alluded to it in the OP, with how you'd build a fire in the absence of any knowledge/wisdom Nature or Survival skill ("...you'd describe exactly what you do, and if you & the DM were in the same boyscout troop, probably succeed").

Because another point about "just RP it" is that you are not substituting your own INT/WIS/CHA for your character's when you abandon resolution mechanics, you're substituting your DM's /perceptions/ and judgements about those qualities as you display them.

Getting away from that is not just about playing a character that's objectively different from yourself in some statistically quantifiable qualities, it's about disconnecting that character from the web of human interactions (kyriarchy, at the risk of going political) that you, yourself are necessarily caught in. And that's /really/ tricky, and trickier the more the game leans on GM judgement.

Arguably, getting away from that is impossible, actually. So, what this variant is, it's just going in the exact opposite direction. It's acknowledging that we don't get to play characters different from ourselves in a range of ways, in spite of mechanics that purport to do so.

So drop the mechanics, and thus the pretense.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Odd example, needing Survival or some other skill check to start a fire.

Consider a setting from dark ages up to the colonial period: How does someone light the cooking fire at home? How do they keep their house warm?

Remember, "Tinder Twigs" (3.5 alchemical item) were special things and kind of pricey for the average peasant.

Answer? The same way your PC lights a lantern or a torch: Flint and steel. It was a skill so common it's hardly worth mentioning. In fact, it isn't mentioned or questioned in the book, or in any game I've played. D&D 3.* and before listed flint and steel fire starting sets and "tinderbox" as common items in the equipment section.

I had the opportunity to visit the historical Sutter's Fort in Sacramento California. People dressed for the period were there demonstrating skills and activities that were common in the mid-1800s. One young lady was demonstrating fire starting with flint and steel. For her, being well practiced, it was as fast and easy as striking a match or flicking a lighter. And she wasn't using one of those "metal match" things, loaded with magnesium either.

So how does your character know how to saddle a horse, light a fire, pluck a chicken or mend a fence? By being a person from the period and setting, where these are everyday skills for pretty much everyone.
 
Consider a setting from dark ages up to the colonial period: How does someone light the cooking fire at home? How do they keep their house warm?
You bank the fire
before you go to bed, uncover the coals in the morning, add kindling, and blow on it.

IDK why I happen to remember that, but it's actually a good example. If I didn't, your character would be screwed trying to start a fire in mundane domestic setting without a flint & steel, D&D-matches (tindertwig?), or, well, since this is 5e, Firebolt...

...so not really screwed at all. And yes, you're right - starting a fire, even in the wilderness, with improvised tools, is a bad example, because someone in the party can just blow things up with fire, anyway.

So how does your character know how to saddle a horse, light a fire, pluck a chicken or mend a fence? By being a person from the period and setting, where these are everyday skills for pretty much everyone.
Mostly, in this variant, falling under the "Common Knowledge" rubric, in the OP, yes.

I say mostly, because DMs have their own knowledge, experience - and beliefs about /what/ they know.



Outside of "Common Knowledge," the line I had in mind between taking a check (always STR, DEX, or CON) to accomplish a mundane task, and describing the action in detail for the DM to judge, was essentially muscle memory. If you have to /think/ about it, the player needs to describe it. If it's a routine task you can zone out while doing, even in a very not-routine, difficult situation, it's either automatic or a check.
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
OK, that is just too good an observation to just XP and tacitly agree with.

Yes, I totally get that, and agree it's very much a thing. I kinda alluded to it in the OP, with how you'd build a fire in the absence of any knowledge/wisdom Nature or Survival skill ("...you'd describe exactly what you do, and if you & the DM were in the same boyscout troop, probably succeed").

Because another point about "just RP it" is that you are not substituting your own INT/WIS/CHA for your character's when you abandon resolution mechanics, you're substituting your DM's /perceptions/ and judgements about those qualities as you display them.

Getting away from that is not just about playing a character that's objectively different from yourself in some statistically quantifiable qualities, it's about disconnecting that character from the web of human interactions (kyriarchy, at the risk of going political) that you, yourself are necessarily caught in. And that's /really/ tricky, and trickier the more the game leans on GM judgement.

Arguably, getting away from that is impossible, actually. So, what this variant is, it's just going in the exact opposite direction. It's acknowledging that we don't get to play characters different from ourselves in a range of ways, in spite of mechanics that purport to do so.

So drop the mechanics, and thus the pretense.
Ah, I understand where you're coming from. So your proposed mechanic is kind of meta-educational to point a finger at the sometimes not so obvious power imbalance between DM and players.

That being said, I think discussing "just RP it" as a commonly used method in the DM guide would be a good idea. Because I don't think that most DMs (or players) will be aware of the problem.

And D&D isn't the worst offender here. It is much more complicated once you play modern or sci-fi because then even the skills you're using might actually be part of someone's job. Again, pretty anecdotal as I once played in a SF game where this was a major problem: I've got a teacher's degree in chemistry and physics and two of our players were IT guys. I was playing a scientist character while one of the IT guys was playing a mechanic/computing specialist. And our GM (who was a linguist) just used the most common (but rather incorrect) tropes in his adventures. We couldn't really blame him, because how should he know that "hacking doesn't work that way" or that a "star isn't just naturally green". So we decided to just roll the dice instead.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
In my experience, attempting to prop up the social interaction pillar with robust mechanical support counter-intuitively tends to decrease social interaction rather than increase it.

The most functional mechanical system for adjudicating RP is simply IMO some sort of fortune test, preferably one that generates a small degree of success but a simple pass/fail will do fine if you have some means of robustly adjudicating difficulty. Beyond that, no part of the game works better with the GM just working off rulings and gut feel for the situation than social challenges, because any system that realistically models the dynamics of interaction between people will be vastly more complex than a system that realistically models combat, and the simple mechanical churn will detract from RP.
I think the trick is not add too much to the rules for actual interaction. At most I'd add rules for multiple successes necessary to, say, convince an important NPC of something. That isn't adding rules, just a way of keeping score. It would still be up to the PCs to figure out what that NPCs motivations and objections might be. That does a couple of things. One, it provides a concrete handhold for measuring success, which I do think SI interaction needs in some form. Two, it opens up some doors for using other skills, like insight for example, to try and determine what levers are the right ones for that SI task. The only other thing I might add is to decouple the 1-1 skill to ability relationship, at least partially, to allow more characters to participate and succeed who don't necessarily have high CHA. My biggest concerns for actual SI tasks are overcoming the simple binary nature of checks for complex tasks, and keeping more characters active and involved in the whole process. RAW the SI pillar tends to be just one or two characters in the party doing everything, and that's boring for everyone else. Obviously the high CHA PCs will be better at direct CHA stuff, and they should be, but I'd like most characters to have the ability to participate in a meaningful way.
Ironically, the worst thing you can do to encourage good social interaction is provide a system of "moves" and mimic combat mechanics exactly, and yet in my experience that is exactly what games that are attempting to support a social pillar attempt to do. I call this the "banging it with a hammer" approach, in that well you only have one tool in your toolbox and so you assume that it applies equally well to solving all problems. One of the few systems I've seen that looks like it has mechanical support for social combat that might work is 'Dogs in the Vineyard' and that in part because it assumes a hierarchy of conflicts were escalating stakes to a more definitive conflict trumps lower conflicts - thus breaking the symmetry that more niave designers seem to design into the system.

In short, while I agree with the OP that this post shows just how bad the idea is, I'm not convinced that his minimalist approach isn't actually better than a more robust system.
Yeah, I'm with you on the moves thing. Treating SI like combat probably isn't the way to go. I think the ways that SI differs from combat are probably where I'd look to improve things. For example, there are lots of SI related things that exists outside a single encounter. Mostly this indexes things to do with ongoing relationships - so reputation, contacts, favours, leverage, friendship, etc. the DMG has some rules for things like this, but they are really basic, and they don't function as a rationalized system as a whole. Havings system that allows PCs to know, at a glance, where they stand in relationship to various factions and NPCs, and more importantly, what kind game result they can expect if they leverage those relationships. Not specifically, becaue that would require great bloody lists of specifics, but in a general way.

At the NPC level: I can rely on the Guild Merchant for a small favour, but the Duke's secretary owes me big and I could reasonably ask him for a much bigger favour. At the faction level: my reputation with the Guild of Merchants is only +2, so it might be hard to convince the Guild Council of X since I know the idea doesn't have a lot of support. How can increase my reputation there to have a better chance of getting what I want.

By providing some concrete handholds and measures it's a lot easier to make specific plans with specific goals. However, by keeping the abstraction out of the actual encounter level, you aren't distancing the players from what they are trying to do from a role playing perspective. The encounter level stuff doesn't change much, but the PCs can be very specific about longer range planning and the results of those plans are measurable and help the party and the narrative move forward. Keeping score and measuring success are important tools, so my general goal is to add that with the lightest rule set possible and with minimal abstraction to actual SI play within an encounter.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Odd example, needing Survival or some other skill check to start a fire.

Consider a setting from dark ages up to the colonial period: How does someone light the cooking fire at home? How do they keep their house warm?

Remember, "Tinder Twigs" (3.5 alchemical item) were special things and kind of pricey for the average peasant.

Answer? The same way your PC lights a lantern or a torch: Flint and steel. It was a skill so common it's hardly worth mentioning. In fact, it isn't mentioned or questioned in the book, or in any game I've played. D&D 3.* and before listed flint and steel fire starting sets and "tinderbox" as common items in the equipment section.
Or the other answer - the survival (or other skill) is for lighting a fire under difficult circumstances.

So how does your character know how to saddle a horse, light a fire, pluck a chicken or mend a fence? By being a person from the period and setting, where these are everyday skills for pretty much everyone.
And this kind of thing - assumed skills - would cover everything else (non-difficult circumstance).
 
Ah, I understand where you're coming from. So your proposed mechanic is kind of meta-educational to point a finger at the sometimes not so obvious power imbalance between DM and players.
I intended layers. ;) I also think it's a perfectly workable variant.

That being said, I think discussing "just RP it" as a commonly used method in the DM guide would be a good idea. Because I don't think that most DMs (or players) will be aware of the problem.

And D&D isn't the worst offender here. It is much more complicated once you play modern or sci-fi because then even the skills you're using might actually be part of someone's job. Again, pretty anecdotal as I once played in a SF game where this was a major problem: I've got a teacher's degree in chemistry and physics and two of our players were IT guys. I was playing a scientist character while one of the IT guys was playing a mechanic/computing specialist. And our GM (who was a linguist) just used the most common (but rather incorrect) tropes in his adventures. We couldn't really blame him, because how should he know that "hacking doesn't work that way" or that a "star isn't just naturally green". So we decided to just roll the dice instead.
Oh yeah, I've seen that in action. Most dramatic example: a one shot Firefly scenario that included a prison break - one of the players was a correctional officer.
It was positively comical when I was a kid, 14yo's arguing about 'how stuff really works.'
 

Celebrim

Hero
Or the other answer - the survival (or other skill) is for lighting a fire under difficult circumstances.
Agreed. Having the proper tools and conditions for starting a file makes starting a fire trivially easy. However, this doesn't mean that starting a fire in the wilderness after a rain using only what is at hand is easy.

And this kind of thing - assumed skills - would cover everything else (non-difficult circumstance).
The way I view things is that there are a lot of things that have DC 0 or less. Walking across a broad level surface is for example like DC -5. Normally, if a character proposes to walk across a broad level surface there is no need to make a check to see if they succeed.

What's really going on in the case of the fire starting example is that the character has tools which provide such large bonuses to lighting a fire that it renders what is actually a very difficult task into something which is so trivial it's not worth testing in most cases. It still might be worth testing however if the party had just been ducked in the river and it was raining, and they needed to make a fire before the onset of night brought severe risk of hypothermia. In that case, the test involved might be so difficult that without tools available it wouldn't even be worth making - no fire for you.
 

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