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Numbers on the Sheet or Foot in the Mouth?

Stormborn

Explorer
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

Legend
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."
 

Obryn

Hero
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.

-O
 

Ruslanchik

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.

-O

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.
 

Andor

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:
 

seusomon

Explorer
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.
 


roguerouge

First Post
Role playing well gets you a +2 circumstance bonus to the roll. Role playing poorly gets you a -2. Then you describe or RP the result on the basis of the role and the RP. Come up with some typical reactions so you have a stock response in case you are stuck:

  • PC reminds NPC of his daughter.
  • NPC does not listen to a word the PC says, so entranced is he with her beauty.
  • NPC thinks that the PC's faux pas is a joke.
  • NPC is slightly intimidated by obvious ease of the experienced hero, and puts down her mistakes to tiredness
  • PC had NPC at "Hello."
  • NPC thinks that PC is acting like the bumbling fool and thus is cunning.
  • NPC has agenda that makes PC's mistakes moot (wants a story of heroism, advice on a social problem, etc.)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
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.

That's pretty much the way I see it too. I'm not going to hold someone's inability to actually be their character against them when deciding how successful their character actually is whether in combat or not. That said, I will take into account the approach the character takes to the problem, again, whether it's in combat or not, and allow reasonable modifiers as appropriate.
 

HeapThaumaturgist

First Post
I'm not a trained thespian.

I sucked when I did theater in school (high and collegiate).

It's not my natural mode.

My group is a little more immersive in role-play than I am. I'm more used to GMing, where I take a narrative approach for the most part. I run out of fun accents and mannerisms pretty quickly, so I only break them out when it is appropriate or we're focusing on an NPC for some time.

(Like the "Learned English Doctor" who I voiced with a low-class urban English accent, because it turned out in the end that he was actually a low-class assassin and not a doctor at all!)

So we tend to switch, depending on the person. If one of the big role-players goes into a long bit for an unimportant roll, we just let it ride on the strength of the delivery. If I'm not into it that night, I just narrate and roll for myself and go with it. Sometimes, for an important or pivotal roll, we'll let the acting influence the roll, at GM's discretion.

I wouldn't ruin somebody's fun because they're a narrativist player, or just not great at being an immersive player. Since I'm both of those. :)

--fje
 

Atavar

First Post
I'll chime in, at the risk of repeating the wisdom of previous posters....

If the player simply says what her character wants to do or accomplish then let the dice (and common sense, of course) determine the outcome.

If the player wants to try to roleplay and does a decent job then add a +2 bonus to the dice rolls. You may want to consider being generous with your criteria of "decent job" so as to encourage the player to try roleplaying more.

In my opinion, anything less than a decent job at roleplaying should NOT earn the player a penalty to the die roll. I think that a player's inability to do what a character can do should never result in a penalty.

There may be exceptions to "no penalties," though. Like, if the PC knows that Duke Dunderhead hates jokes and the player tries to roleplay telling a joke to him anyway (or even says "I try to tell him a joke"), then a -2 penalty to any related rolls may be appropriate.

YMMV, etc.

Later,

Atavar
 

F5

Explorer
A lot of the responsibility for making the awkward-player-charming-character work can fall on the rest of the party, too. When the charmer says something that was INTENDED to be inspiring, but falls flat, the other players can pick up where the charmer left off. "Jozan's right. We CAN beat these orcs! Who's with me?"
 

Treat the character's skill level, or die roll, as a modifier to the player's roleplaying.
I do the reverse, the roleplaying gives a modifier to the die roll, usually +/-2.
Do either of you require players to lift weights and use that to determine their character's success at opening a door? Do you have foam weapons (or otherwise) handy to help adjudicate combat?

My current preferred method is "describe or RP what you want to do then roll the dice." "Good" or "bad" acting on the part of the player does not in any way affect what their character can do.
 

Gothmog

First Post
While I don't require someone to be an expert roleplayer or orator, I do expect them to make an effort to role-play the situation, then make a skill check. If they do a great job, using persuasive arguements and roleplaying well, I might give them a +1-4 to the roll, while a poor job recieves a -1-4 to the roll, and might be an outright failure, depending on how the player states his case.

Here is one case that actually happened where the player outright failed, even though he rolled a 22 on his Diplomacy roll:

Me: "Baron Marcellus has agreed to an audience with your party. When you enter he says "I trust you've not found any evidence of a hidden cult in the city?" (there actually was a cult, but the Baron didn't want to believe rumors his cousin might be involved.)

Player: "I tell Baron Asswipe he's a dips**t, and he better give us men and an extra 1000 gold each to take care of the mess he left on his doorstep." While technically true (the baron was more insterested in courtly affairs than running his lands), the player didn't RP at all, and didn't offer convincing arguement for his position. This guy was a jackass out of game as well, and he tried to dominate other players (as well as the PCs) occasionally. When I told him he failed, he blew up saying he rolled a 22, but to me, he was basically trying to bully me and the group- and when he threw a temper tantrum, we forced him to leave.
 

Mallus

Hero
Do either of you require players to lift weights and use that to determine their character's success at opening a door? Do you have foam weapons (or otherwise) handy to help adjudicate combat?
That would be impractical, not too mention dangerous indoors. Also, RPG's aren't a test of one's physical strength or actual fighting skill. They are, however, often tests of a person's verbal and problem solving skills. So, to summarize, what you wrote is silly.

Here's my equitable solution: use different task resolutions systems depending on the player (uniform task resolution system are the hobgoblins of little minds). Let the stumble-tongued bum who is playing a silver-tongued devil roll for success in social situations, without undue penalty for his or her lack of verbal deftness and charm. Conversely, when dealing with the legitimately witty and/or clever, then the players actual words decide (or at least significantly influence) the outcome. I think gamers should encourage that kind of play at the table. Mainly because I like it.
 

Rafael Ceurdepyr

First Post
Let the stumble-tongued bum who is playing a silver-tongued devil roll for success in social situations...

OK, I'm outing myself here. I'm the aforementioned player, although I don't think I'm *quite* a stumble-tongued bum. :) I do love to roleplay and I am all in favor of getting into the character. I just don't always know what words to say. The main difficulty is being extemporaneous. I'm as eloquent as all get-out in writing (although that sentence is not a good example!), but in off-the-cuff speech...not so much.

I like the +2/-2 circumstance bonus for roleplaying the encounter. Short of thinking WAY more about my character between sessions than I do now and planning these sorts of situations in my head (ah, obsession), any advice on improving chances of getting a +2?
 

roguerouge

First Post
Buck up. As a debater, I can tell you that It's something that comes only with practice. A bit of prep can help a bit, however.

What I'd do is write out short gambits or phrases on index cards for you to consult during games: an inspiring battle cry, a few mottos, a word of encouragement, a pickup line, some bits of flattery, etc. Look them over before game then set them aside. If something would fit, it'll come to you at the table and you can use it then. Simply having these cards as a security blanket can often help.
 

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