Numbers on the Sheet or Foot in the Mouth?


In my experience, this problem isn't so much about the charisma of the player but about the ability of the player to think quickly on his/her feet. Social roleplaying situations are by their very nature much more open-ended then combat, so some quick-thinking creativity is required to properly play a social character.

You can be a nose-picking, obnoxious slob, but if you can at least think of something for your charming PC to do, you'll be all right. "I, uh, I tell her that I'm a baron from across the sea. I'll make a knowledge roll to back that up with some real facts. Then I start boasting about how great our royal family is, trying to get her to brag some secrets about the royal family of this kingdom."

The above could be said in the most monotone nasal whine imaginable, but at least the DM has some idea of what the PC is doing in the game world and can have the NPCs react accordingly.

By contrast, a player can be charming and well-spoken, but if they can't come up with clever social ideas they'll be useless.

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First Post
In my experience, indirect speech is a very useful tool. Not just for those who do have trouble talking in first person convincingly for their character's 18 charisma and maxed diplomacy, but also for others who can, just so the DM who may not have that good a sense motive IRL knows what the character actually wants to accomplish.

It works well.


First Post
You want to play a great conversationalist? Ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more the DM gets into the role, the easier it gets to play off this person. It's like a first date: if you show interest in her life and ask her lots of questions that show that you're listening to her as well as looking at her, she'll think you're a great conversationalist. Being eloquent about your own "interesting" life? Not so much.


Let the dice rule. The player needs to make an attempt, but the dice decide the results. That train of though also keeps silver-tongued or smart players from using those stats as dumps and making up for it in RP.

The only stat I haven't figured out how to constrain/elevate this way is wisdom. Unfortunately, the player IMC who enjoys clerics is... impulsive.


Movies have dialog with implausible consequences. So can RPGs. Let them roleplay, roll the dice when appropriate, provide modifiers, interpret results in the most intelligible fashion possible. Even if the player sounded like a dork, just pretend it's badly written dialog but they were actually, for the purposes of the story, really very eloquest.


IThe 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.

Tough one. No easy answers.

One of the things I like about RPGs is how they encourage people to enhance certain skill sets. In this case, the nice thing about RPing is it helps people get better at communicating. Likewise, to me the IC interaction, living out the story in an emersive manner, is at least 50% of the fun. So I'm going to lean on the side of doing nothing that discourages communication.

My preferred method with social skills is, let them roleplay. Try to evaluate the sense of what they have said as the hearer would, and decide how positively or negatively such an approach would be recieved while taking care to not punish or reward the player too much for the delivery of those ideas.

With that later part, I might take into account the age, maturity, and charisma of the player. The more mature, charismatic, and skilled the player, the more you have to shine to get rewarded for being charismatic in your role play. I think you reward the player relative to what they are capable of.

Once I decide how good the pitch is, I assign some sort of circumstantial modifier. Then when the pitch is complete (which might take a few exchanges back and forth), I let them roll the dice and apply the circumstantial modifier. That way, if they put thier foot in thier mouth, coming from the highly charismatic character they are playing, they might seem droll, funny, affectionate, or force the NPC to see things from the characters point of view (just as we respond to criticism differently from people we like than from people we don't).

The problem may be though that this isn't good enough. Several things may still be going wrong. First, the player may be so abrasive or gaffe prone IRL that every time his character does anything, you are quite reasonably applying negative modifiers. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, if the player is wanting to be charismatic, witty, and charming, and in fact isn't being charismatic, witty, and charming the whole process may not satisfying him (or anyone else) regardless of the outcomes the dice are producing. Simply put, a particularly uncharismatic person (or even simply an average charismatic person) may find a charismatic character unsatisfying because they aren't pulling off the role (and recognize that they aren't).

To this I can only say, not everyone can play every role. I can't. I know I've tried and failed with NPCs. There are roles where I have to be careful of, such as characters that are both highly extroverted and 'cool' that I usually can't pull off. (I'm generally happy with the outcome of cool introverts, bombastic villains, and extroverts with poor senses of propriaty.) So I try to disguise my lack of range by not introducing too many characters I'm not going to be able to pull off. I've never even tried to play a Bard as a PC.

If the player can't do the role he wants to do, then you've got another sort of problem - how to encourage them toward something they might enjoy more without insulting them.

Treat the character's skill level, or die roll, as a modifier to the player's roleplaying.

Treat the player's roleplaying as a modifier on the die roll. Penalize a lot for really stupid ideas, not at all for good attempts by an inarticulate player, and give bonuses for good ideas on what to say even if the player doesn't express it that well.

For example, you are negotiating with the Queen of the Kobold in the Sunless Citadel. You want any information they may have on the missing adventurers, and you also want peace with the kobolds so you can harry the goblins without trouble at your back.

Player says, "I say something like we don't want any trouble, just tell us what you know and we can get along." No penalty, no bonus.

Player says, "Ask her what she know and offer her money if she tells us." No penalty, no bonus.

Player says, "I tell her we should cooperate to beat up the goblins, then she can have her place back and no one will bother her." +2 bonus.

Player says, "Your graciousness, we seek you permission to explore the holy caves of your kind. Together, we can smite the goblin menace, achieving your goals of regaining your rightful home for scalykind, and our goal of getting the surface-dwellers back where they belong." +4 bonus.

Player says, "We really really want to know. Pretty please." -2 bonus for a lame negotiation technique.

Player says, "Tell us what you know, or we'll kill you all. Bring it!" -4 bonus and roll for initiative if it's a bad Diplomacy result. The idea is, the suave character might have put it more skillfully, if the roll is good.

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