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Numbers on the Sheet or Foot in the Mouth?


I think this has been discussed before, but it keeps coming up in my games so I thought I would start a new thread.

The situation: A player creates a suave intelligent PC with great social skills and attributes (system doesnt really matter on this) because the player wants to play a character that is unlike her normal introverted self and is instead a dashing charismatic figure cutting a swathe through the social world of the campaign and always knowning the right thing to say to the angry duke, stupid chieftan, or winsome tavern wench/stable boy. However, said player lacks the ability to effectively role play such a character, because she lacks the ability to be suave and charming extemporaneously in game. So there is a tension between what the stats indicate the PC should be able to do and what the player can actually say the PC is doing. Leading to Frustration.

Options I have thought of are:

1) Have the player just roll without really saying anything and move on from there in much the same way one would for melee attack or anything else.
2) Let the player roleplay the PC as she wishes and let the consequences be based on what the player says not the numbers on the sheet.
3) Let the player roleplay the PC as she wishes and then let her roll and have the the consequences be based on the result of the roll, no matter what the roleplay portion may have been.

All of these lead to less than ideal circumstances, but that just may have to be. I can certainly think of other situations that might be similar - espionage and various other kinds of planning for example.

Do you deal with this and if so how?

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the Jester

In a case like this, I'll have the pc roleplay, then roll. Then I narrate the results based on the skill check made- maybe the player fumbled her words, but the character didn't. Or, alternatively, maybe the character played a "Columbo" kind of role, and got a high Diplomacy check while appearing bumbling.

Jonny Nexus

First Post
Well we've got the one problem, that you've identified, which is whether when we are roleplaying we should use the skills/knowledge/abilities of the character, or those of the player. (You get the same conflict when the barbarian with an Int of 3 played by a nuclear physicist figures out the intellectual puzzle that will unlock the next section of the dungeon).

But I think that in this case you are also hitting a second problem, which is the clash between overall charisma and verbal charisma. Roleplaying is a pastime (miniatures and battlemats aside) entirely constructed of words and speaking. i.e. It's like the radio verses TV and film.

And just like radio, it only rewards verbal charisma, and ignores "presense" entirely. (Marlon Brando might have had magnificent mean and moody stage presense, but he'd probably have been pretty crap on the radio).

And remember the 1960 Nixon vs Kennedy presidential debate? People watching the TV scored Kennedy the winner, but people listening on the radio scored Nixon the winner. Or in roleplaying terms, Nixon had the most charismatic player but Kennedy had the highest charisma stat.

We had this problem in our game where a supposedly hugely charismatic PC of the physical magnitism kind approached an NPC in a nightclub, greeted him, sat down at a table... and then proceeded to say nothing. In real-life, or in a film, he might have looked the business. But in a radio play, or in roleplaying... it wasn't good.

"You spent the entire evening with him, and didn't say a word, and you're supposed to have mega-charisma? The just sat there and ignored him, so the bloke got up and left."

"I was chillin' ... I wanted him to think I was cool. It's a nightclub. People don't talk in those places, they pose!"

But I can see his point. Some people just have a physical presense such that they can say, "Er... excuse me, could I have the apple pie with, erm... cream please?" and they'll have people falling over them. And some people can deliver a wonderful polished statement full of prose and get beaten up for "thinking they're clever."


There's an option you left out. In these cases, you might want to let the player summarize their case. "I tell him that we'd really like his help, and that we'll pay 100 gold." for instance. Rather than "Good Sir, we would appreciate your assistance in our expedition to the dungeon... &etc."

Then, you can let the skill roll do its magic.



First Post
There's an option you left out. In these cases, you might want to let the player summarize their case. "I tell him that we'd really like his help, and that we'll pay 100 gold." for instance. Rather than "Good Sir, we would appreciate your assistance in our expedition to the dungeon... &etc."

Then, you can let the skill roll do its magic.


I agree.

This may not jive if your group does really deep role-playing, but makes perfect sense if the player is unable to mimic the effect of a character's stats. It also makes parallels the combat situation perfectly. I've always said: "I swing my sword at the orc" instead of standing up, grabbing a sword and really swinging it.

Of course, if you can role-play your charismatic or intelligent character pretty well, that is just bonus and makes the game that much more enjoyable. This is one of the benefits of pbp games. You really have the chance to think about what your character will do or say and can craft these things with great detail.


First Post
I wouldn't tell a low charisma player he can't play a suave character anymore than I would tell a paraplegiac he can't play an acrobat. The only caveat being that the player needs to be able to tell me what his character is trying to achieve (and I have met one or two roleplayers where is became an issue.)

Find out what he wants to do, and let the dice speak for him.

Conversely, if the Barbarian with a CHR of 3 and no social skills has a player who makes the St. Crispin's day speech, the dice indicate that Thorbald the Blooddrinker mumbled the whole thing.
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Does the player actually have difficulty communicating her character's intent or is it just a problem with speaking IN character?

Speaking in character is easily handled with a skill roll as long as you get a "plain text" version of the message being conveyed.

If the player has trouble even expressing the intent of the character in a short summary then there is a basic communication hurdle that has to be addressed before roleplaying is even considered.

This topic reminds me of a situation that came up in an old GURPS Swashbucklers game I ran. One of my players (RIP Karl we miss you) wanted to try and seduce a noblewoman while the rest of the party (who were highwaymen) were robbing everyone aboard the coach. He announced his intention to make a pass at the lady and wanted to make a skill roll.

Karl: " I want to seduce the noblewoman in the coach"

GM (me): How are you going about it? You need to show her your wit, charm, and suave manners."

Karl: " Very well then, I display it for the lady".

It took everyone at the table about 20 minutes to stop laughing long enough to continue the game.:lol:


For me, it would depend on the player's wishes. If she really doesn't want to do any play-acting, but just wants to imagine her character like she would if reading a book, then let her describe what she has in mind in third-person terms and roll dice.

On the other hand, if she sees roleplaying as a means for her to stretch and come out of her shell some, then I would encourage that, and encourage other players to be supportive. A little bonus to the die roll for good roleplaying, or appropriate positive reactions from NPCs and other characters could help her get into things.

Roleplaying creates an illusion that the players willfully maintain. Part of that illusion is the characteristics and qualities of the characters, which may be different from those of the players. I encourage players to do what they can to contribute to creating and maintaining that illusion through roleplaying, but also recongize there are limits on what people can accomplish in this regard. I basically meet players in their comfort zone, but reward them for stretching and doing more.

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