On Behavioral Realism

Celebrim

Legend
Is there some sort of in-between here? I totally get what you're saying, but taken to its conclusion, wouldn't that mean no one could really play an 18 CHA bard (for example)?

Well, yes, I do feel it's very hard for people without a lot of charisma to play a character that has a lot of charisma. You can get part of the way by having a mechanic that allows successful interaction based on a die role, but you can't get all the way and actually also have a realized transcript of play.

So, yeah, you could probably have a game where someone says, "I use persuasion on the guard.", rolls a dice and then successfully gets the guard to do something. But then the question arises, what did that character say that so persuaded the guard? There is no actualized transcript of play here. There is no movie playing out in the participants head. There is really less of a transcript of play than, "I hit the guard with a big stick." At least that causes you to imagine something.

And as you attempt to create that transcript of play, you find that some people not only do a better job, their understanding of social dynamics and their natural charisma helps them in much the same manner that a player with a strong understanding of tactics is better able to succeed in combat. They understand what levers to pull. They understand what not to do. You tend to find socially awkward people saying socially awkward things in social situations as well, and there is only so much having 18 CHA on the sheet can protect them from that - in much the same way that an optimized combat twink can succeed despite their poor tactics but still can get in over their head. I have had any number of times where a supposedly charismatic character lied when the truth would have sufficed fine, tried to intimidate rather than persuade, told the truth when a lie plus all that points in social deception would have worked better, insulted characters rather than befriended them, and generally just acted a jerk. Yes, 18 CHA lets you get away with that more than 8 CHA does ("Coming from anyone else...") but there are limits or the transcript of play just gets silly, and often a game system will differentiate between persuasion, deception and intimidation and a player will for whatever reason just rely on the one not actually on their character sheet.

There are also something you just can't pull off with a die roll. As a GM you become really aware that no matter how much charisma you give an NPC, if you can't make an NPC likable or funny or whatever, then no amount of telling the players the NPC is funny or likeable matters.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes, 18 CHA lets you get away with that more than 8 CHA does ("Coming from anyone else...") but there are limits or the transcript of play just gets silly, and often a game system will differentiate between persuasion, deception and intimidation and a player will for whatever reason just rely on the one not actually on their character sheet.

There are also something you just can't pull off with a die roll. As a GM you become really aware that no matter how much charisma you give an NPC, if you can't make an NPC likable or funny or whatever, then no amount of telling the players the NPC is funny or likeable matters.
When it comes to players with high charisma PCs, I tend to use a filter on what comes out of the player's mouth. For example, if the player with the 18 CHA PC says, "I like the garden flowers," the king might hear, "What a lovely garden you have. The flowers are beautifully tended and cared for." It only goes so far, though. If the player says, "Your flowers stink, kingy," the king is going to be insulted no matter what. He'd probably hear an insult that was delivered more smoothly, though.

By doing that, I let the players without an 18 charisma themselves, have a closer experience with playing a high charisma PC. NPCs will also just naturally gravitate and speak with those PCs, as well as often treat them more favorably without any rolls happening.
 

Celebrim

Legend
But combat can be modelled with a single die roll. The same way that social interaction is in DnD.

It can, but then it will tend to be less reified in its transcript. Unless combat is very rare, then combat modeled with a very simple system will tend to not produce descriptive play. No one tries to shove, trip, grapple, and so forth if there isn't some sort of system that supports that. In the long run, unless a descriptive choice is meaningful, then players will bore of investing description when it doesn't change the outcome. So you'll end up with, "I roll to attack and do 6 damage" as your process of play, which even D&D can devolve to if you aren't careful. (Even say 4e, once you've fired off your limited choices.)

But, as Eriv V pointed out in #194, having no system can be unfair to players who are less socially adept, or who struggle to get into character.

But as I point out, that's like saying that combat systems are unfair to players who are less tactically adept, or who struggle to visualize things spatially.

If a game system as written puts emphasis** on a given aspect of RPG it will lead to more emphasis on that aspect of RPG in the playing of that RPG.

I think I'd need examples. And I can give counter examples. For example, Champions has a very complicated combat system. However, Gary Fine in Shared Fantasy documented how the Champions group he observed actually avoided combat precisely because of the complicated combat system, and instead spent almost all of their time in interpersonal RP of the low melodrama sort. Combat was rare and not a large part of the process of play simply because going to combat meant such a large investment in time and energy.

** I am equating page count to emphasis. There are other ways of applying emphasis, the broader community has a lot of impact on gaming styles, but my thesis is referring to the emphasis from game systems as they are written in the rule books.

I have a somewhat different view of this. In my opinion, the rules don't dictate the process of play, or at least, not very much. What dictates the process of play more than anything else is how the participants think about playing the game, and in particular how the GM prepares to play that game. So how a game presents its process of play, or how the game encourages the players to think about the game matters a whole lot more than the page count of the rules.

Likewise, how the game encourages the GM to prepare for the game - which in D&D is done through having "modules" - dictates what the game is going to be like far more than the rules.

This is the reason that D&D is much more about kicking doors down, killing monsters and taking their stuff than it is about magic despite the massive page count devoted to magic. D&D does an incredibly good job of telling the participants what the game is, much better than most of its competitors.

But, and this is the key point, if you think about the game differently and prepare for it differently, you get an entirely different experience of play using the exact same rules.

And I have a lot of examples for how that works, but this late at night (and after this long of a post) I'll need to wait on them if anyone is interested.
 

Celebrim

Legend
When it comes to players with high charisma PCs, I tend to use a filter on what comes out of the player's mouth. For example, if the player with the 18 CHA PC says, "I like the garden flowers," the king might hear, "What a lovely garden you have. The flowers are beautifully tended and cared for." It only goes so far, though. If the player says, "Your flowers stink, kingy," the king is going to be insulted no matter what. He'd probably hear an insult that was delivered more smoothly, though.

That's the point. Yes, an 18 CHA PC can say, "Your garden is lousy." to a King with far less risk of making a mortal enemy of the King than an 8 CHA PC, but as you say there is a limit to that.

The trouble is that the 18 CHA Player has a much clearer understanding of what the consequences of saying things to the King is likely to be. The 8 CHA player with a side order of say Asperger's Syndrome* tends to find themselves lost in a world of side effect social consequences and no real plan for navigating through the maze. So when the player has an 18 CHA character and insults the King's garden, perhaps he's more likely to get the gardener beheaded than himself, but was getting the gardener in trouble really the plan in the first place? Does it further the mission, or is the player now lost in the humor of having gotten the gardener in trouble and decides to start pushing his luck by insulting everything - including say the King's simple minded daughter that everyone in the court knows not to mention? And is he not at the least more likely to have gotten himself beheaded than the guy who said, "Lovely roses, your majesty", especially if the guy had successfully figured out that the King was proud of his roses and liked to be flattered? And let's face it, one legitimate interpretation of 18 CHA is that when someone with 18 CHA insults you, it stings. It hurts. It's humiliating. So, is the guy persuading the king or is he taunting them and calling them out? The trouble with players without a lot of charisma is that they don't tend to think about it in those terms. As in life, whatever comes to mind tends to come out of the mouth without having understood the consequences.

There is only so much filter you can use before you are playing the character for the player and taking away player agency.

"Introversion" usually is an overcomeable problem. Playing an RPG is probably the best therapy for shyness I'm aware of. (Yes, the scare quotes are deliberate, I do know the difference.)
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I don't see CHA and social mechanics primarily as a way of allowing shy players to play extrovert PCs (though sometimes that might be a happy side-effect).

I see it as playing the same role as any other mechanic - a device for working out what happens in the game.

When there are two players whose PCs are sitting in a tavern drinking and boasting and arguing about who will win the favour of the lovely Violette, how is this to be resolved? We're not going to actually go to a pub, drink and boast - that would be ending the session and taking up a different social activity. I'm not interested in adjudicating which rival has won over the other. But a contest on Fellowship, factoring in Brawn or Presence as appropriate (is this roll about the drinking, or about the boasting?) is fun, and gives us an outcome that flows from the fiction much as combat mechanics do when they come into play.
So, what I want to know is, how is that different from a skill check in 5e dnd?
Sure, the stats are different, but brawn and presence are pretty easy to translate, and fellowship sounds like a skill similar to 5e's Persuasion, but perhaps more about getting along with people and less about getting people to do things. (I miss "Diplomacy" as a name for the positive social interaction skill)

And an opposed check gives us an outcome that flows from the fiction just as much as your example, or combat. So, is it that Prince Valiant has everything named and described in a way that promotes a certain type of play, or is there something actually mechanical going on that isn't coming across?
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
I think people missed my point: The dual nature of D&D is what made it successful.

The D&D is a pure combat adventure game supported by thousands of pages of mechanical crunch. You can play the game ''by the book": Kill, Loot, Repeat.

Now you can, as players have done forever Add more to the game: specificaly Role Playing. The simple fact that the D&D game has...maybe..a couple pages on any ''non-combat adventure" rules is a good thing: It basically says that you can freeform role play as much, or little, as you want too. The role playing fluff does not effect the crunch mechanics....directly anyway.

Technically, when you stop to role play you are "not" playing D&D, sort of like when you tell a joke or story at a poker game you are "not" playing poker. But really, it's a technicality and you can just put it all under ''playing".
 

Reynard

Legend
I think people missed my point: The dual nature of D&D is what made it successful.

The D&D is a pure combat adventure game supported by thousands of pages of mechanical crunch. You can play the game ''by the book": Kill, Loot, Repeat.

Now you can, as players have done forever Add more to the game: specificaly Role Playing. The simple fact that the D&D game has...maybe..a couple pages on any ''non-combat adventure" rules is a good thing: It basically says that you can freeform role play as much, or little, as you want too. The role playing fluff does not effect the crunch mechanics....directly anyway.

Technically, when you stop to role play you are "not" playing D&D, sort of like when you tell a joke or story at a poker game you are "not" playing poker. But really, it's a technicality and you can just put it all under ''playing".
That's just not true. The same books full of mechanical crunch talk extensively about playing in character, telling stories and engaging in other non-combat based activities. you can't claim doing one thing written in the books is "playing D&D" but doing another thing also written in the books "not playing D&D." And frankly I don't understand the motivation to do so. D&D is all those things, in varying degrees based on the desires of the participants. THAT is what gave the game legs.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
That's just not true. The same books full of mechanical crunch talk extensively about playing in character, telling stories and engaging in other non-combat based activities. you can't claim doing one thing written in the books is "playing D&D" but doing another thing also written in the books "not playing D&D." And frankly I don't understand the motivation to do so. D&D is all those things, in varying degrees based on the desires of the participants. THAT is what gave the game legs.

I think your missing my point.

What makes D&D great IS you can put aside the combat adventure crunch mechanical rules AND do other things like Role Play. As D&D have very little rules for non combat, you are free to do as little or as much role playing as you want.

Still, technically, you are only playing D&D IF your using the D&D rules to take some sort of action IN the game. The same way you are only playing any game really. Once you start the freeform role playing, you are not playing D&D.

And it is this dual nature...this divide that has kept D&D popular. You can stop playing the game, put away all the characters and dice, and just talk doing freeform role playing for hours on end. And you can even say your ''playing" D&D...by just sitting there and talking doing freeform role playing. Really, no one would even bother with this technical point.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think your missing my point.

What makes D&D great IS you can put aside the combat adventure crunch mechanical rules AND do other things like Role Play. As D&D have very little rules for non combat, you are free to do as little or as much role playing as you want.

Still, technically, you are only playing D&D IF your using the D&D rules to take some sort of action IN the game. The same way you are only playing any game really. Once you start the freeform role playing, you are not playing D&D.

And it is this dual nature...this divide that has kept D&D popular. You can stop playing the game, put away all the characters and dice, and just talk doing freeform role playing for hours on end. And you can even say your ''playing" D&D...by just sitting there and talking doing freeform role playing. Really, no one would even bother with this technical point.
Probably, because yes, you are still playing D&D. D&D includes roleplaying without any dice. There are even rules for it in the 5e DMG.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think your missing my point.

What makes D&D great IS you can put aside the combat adventure crunch mechanical rules AND do other things like Role Play. As D&D have very little rules for non combat, you are free to do as little or as much role playing as you want.

Still, technically, you are only playing D&D IF your using the D&D rules to take some sort of action IN the game. The same way you are only playing any game really. Once you start the freeform role playing, you are not playing D&D.

And it is this dual nature...this divide that has kept D&D popular. You can stop playing the game, put away all the characters and dice, and just talk doing freeform role playing for hours on end. And you can even say your ''playing" D&D...by just sitting there and talking doing freeform role playing. Really, no one would even bother with this technical point.
And what I am saying is that by the rules presented in the book, sitting around and freeform roleplaying IS playing D&D. it says so right there. You aren't going outside the rules to do that. The rules in fact TELL you to do that. So yeah, maybe, I might be missing your point.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
So, there's a lot going on here, and I think a few things might help organize the discussion.

Rule systems essentially do three things: they assign authority, they provide incentives and constraints, and they operationalize play.

Authority refers to who has the ability to make the final decision in an area of play. That this is the final decision is important, because even if you run a game where you encourage players to add things and often run with it, if you retain the final say, you still have the authority in this area. To give an example in 5e, the GM retains the authority in almost every area of the game outside of action declaration by the player and, initial game constraints not withstanding, character build choices. This is a reason D&D is often referred to as a GM-centered game, because the GM retains almost all authorities over the ficiton.

Incentives and constraints refers to how the game rules create expectations and rewards for play. This affects authority in that the game rules may set up expectations of play that constrain authority in some ways or incentivize a focus on an area of play. Looking at constraints, take 3.x, for instance. While the GM retained the authority over much of the game, the rules set up and incentive structure that the GM would employ the rules as written (or at least only deviate slightly) in how encounters were balanced or monsters built, etc. 4e carried this even further with the constraints on how encounters and monsters were to be constructed. Constrains place the expectation of a limitation on authority. Incentives, on the other hand, reward play in some areas which leads to focus in those areas. D&D, again, incentives combat by structuring most of the reward system on combat outcomes. This also serves to limit authority in that the game strongly encourages certain themes as a focus which then channels expected authorities to generate fiction along those themes.

Finally, operationalization -- what rules exist and how they act to resolve questions in the fiction. This works with incentives and constraints to direct how play occurs. To again go back to 5e, combat has a lot of operationalization for combat -- there are details rules for resolving combats, how to move, how to attack, how to deal damage, how to avoid damage, etc. The combat rules in 5e are robust and drive to determine outcomes.. What isn't operationalized well in 5e is social interaction. This is an area where there are scant rules that aren't robust and don't drive to outcomes.

To pause here, the above aren't criticisms of any game system, 5e in particular. It's a critical analysis, yes, but 5e is a solid game even if it doesn't check all of the boxes above. No game does.

So, to use this to discuss the current topic of social engagements in 5e: 5e had strong authority for GMs to determine the outcomes of the fiction for social engagements, weak to no incentives or constraints in the rules structure for social engagement, and weak operationalization of social engagements. This means that it's up to the GM, and that bears out in the discussion being had on the issue. There are those that say that social engagements in 5e are a matter of freeform roleplaying, with the GM determining outcome. This is well within the authority, incentive, constraint, and operationalizations of 5e. Also, there's discussion of creating houserules for social engagement. This would be adding operationalization and incentives and constraints because they aren't robust in 5e as written. The discussion bears out that 5e lacks a robust social engagement framework in the rules, else we'd be seeing discussion of how to use the rules to create social engagements -- something that rarely happens outside of narrow circumstances.

And, that's okay. It's perfectly fine that 5e doesn't do these things. It seems preferable to many that the social engagement arena is left to the devices of the GM. Likewise, it's not preferable to others.
 

happyhermit

Adventurer
...
Technically, when you stop to role play you are "not" playing D&D, sort of like when you tell a joke or story at a poker game you are "not" playing poker. But really, it's a technicality and you can just put it all under ''playing".

...
Still, technically, you are only playing D&D IF your using the D&D rules to take some sort of action IN the game. The same way you are only playing any game really. Once you start the freeform role playing, you are not playing D&D.
...

In Poker there are usually relatively few rules about bluffing and reading other players (to put it mildly), so when players are bluffing or getting a read on other players they aren't "really" playing poker? And it's only when you add more rules about those things that they become important to the game?
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
@bloodtide is raising an interesting argument. Whether or not he's "correct" is subjective, and although I tend to think he's not, it's still an interesting point to discuss.

Two broad definitions of "playing" a game (or sport):
  • Taking actions that are governed by specific rules
  • Participating in lots of others ways, some with long histories and traditions (that may appear to be informal rules), that add (or subtract?) from the game, but are not specifically governed by rules.

I would argue that in D&D the books talk a lot about roleplaying because that's part of the history and tradition, but there aren't many actual rules about it.

Some folks here (and I'm thinking of some arguments @Maxperson has made in the past) interpret the fluff surrounding the actual crunch as "rules". By this measure, the description of a Paladin's oath is just as much a rule as the part that says how often he/she can use Divine Sense. (I happen to disagree, but that's just my opinion.)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Some folks here (and I'm thinking of some arguments @Maxperson has made in the past) interpret the fluff surrounding the actual crunch as "rules". By this measure, the description of a Paladin's oath is just as much a rule as the part that says how often he/she can use Divine Sense. (I happen to disagree, but that's just my opinion.)
Slightly off. SOME fluff acts as a rule. The Oaths are a good example. If they weren't rules, they couldn't trigger Oathbreaker and paladins wouldn't have to follow them or bad stuff happens. Something doesn't have to be d20+modifiers equal to or higher than AC to hit in order to be a rule.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
In Poker there are usually relatively few rules about bluffing and reading other players (to put it mildly), so when players are bluffing or getting a read on other players they aren't "really" playing poker? And it's only when you add more rules about those things that they become important to the game?
Two things.

One, this would be an area of no constraints and no operationalization (need a shoter word), and open authority.

Two, this would also be the metagame of poker.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Slightly off. SOME fluff acts as a rule. The Oaths are a good example. If they weren't rules, they couldn't trigger Oathbreaker and paladins wouldn't have to follow them or bad stuff happens. Something doesn't have to be d20+modifiers equal to or higher than AC to hit in order to be a rule.
They, um, don't trigger Oathbreaker and no bad stuff happens if they aren't followed unless the GM uses their authority to operationalize this and create constraints and incentives. The rules as presented are pretty mum on these things.

GMs often will use their broad authority over the fiction and rules to interpret and add constraints and incentives because it matches their conceptions. This is arguably very laudable, as it allows the game to flex into many configurations and please the most players. However, care should be taken to not confuse a given GM's additions with what the rules do by themselves.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
They, um, don't trigger Oathbreaker and no bad stuff happens if they aren't followed unless the GM uses their authority to operationalize this and create constraints and incentives. The rules as presented are pretty mum on these things.

Not their authority. The rules. Unless you're saying the rules = DM authority, in which case d20 + modifiers = or greater than AC to hit is also the DM using his authority.

GMs often will use their broad authority over the fiction and rules to interpret and add constraints and incentives because it matches their conceptions.

The DM is not adding constraints. Those constraints are put into place by the rules.. They're called Breaking Your Oath and Oathbreaker, and you can read them in the PHB and DMG.

However, care should be taken to not confuse a given GM's additions with what the rules do by themselves.
I'm not suggesting anything that the rules don't do themselves.
 

happyhermit

Adventurer
Two things.

One, this would be an area of no constraints and no operationalization (need a shoter word), and open authority.

Two, this would also be the metagame of poker.

I could argue the terms but I guess we agree? The point is, great games can often be "about" things that the rules don't spend a lot of "page count" on. Adding rules for a thing ie; constraints or operationalization as you put it, doesn't mean that it will be more important to the game and it doesn't mean it will be of higher quality.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
And what I am saying is that by the rules presented in the book, sitting around and freeform roleplaying IS playing D&D. it says so right there. You aren't going outside the rules to do that. The rules in fact TELL you to do that. So yeah, maybe, I might be missing your point.

The Rules of the D&D game never say or require Role Playing at all. It's something you can do, but it's not part of the rules. If your playing D&D and wish to have your character attack a monster you MUST use the crunchy mechanical D&D combat rules. If you want to have your character talk to an NPC, there are NO rules for that: you could role play it out if you wish, but you don't have to by the rules.

In Poker there are usually relatively few rules about bluffing and reading other players (to put it mildly), so when players are bluffing or getting a read on other players they aren't "really" playing poker? And it's only when you add more rules about those things that they become important to the game?

If there are ''a few" rules for bluffing and reading others....then there ARE rules. As a social game, a common ''trick" in poker is to tell stories or jokes or whatever to distract other players: you will find this in just about any strategy advice on playing poker, but it is NOT in the rules of the game.

You get these three basic base ways D&D is Played(all are perfectly valid):

1.The Roll Playing Game-The by-the-book crunchy mechanical combat adventure game. The granddaddy of them all. Make a character, write 'Bob 1' and the top and go on an endless crunchy mechanical combat adventure: a murderhobo hexcrawl. There is nothing else but the combat adventure: most NPCs don't get names other then 'guard one' or 'farmer two', there is no ''game world other then the adventure site and even if there is a town it gets a name like 'Border Town".

2.The Middle. It's a combat adventure game, with Role Playing mixed in where ever people want. Make a character, have at least the ''10 minute" backstory and at least a ''10 minute character personality test'' and be prepared to not only engage in a crunchy mechanical combat adventure, but also Role Play your character interacting with the world outside of the crunch and mechanics. This world has at least an ''average" amount of detail and most NPCs have a ''paragraph" about them other then the mechanical crunch stat block, the world has lots of detail with at least a couple paragraphs about each place or thing all connected together.

3.The Role Playing Game-The game of extreme detail, a massive epic storytelling event. Make a character and have at least a novels worth of history, personality, traits and everything else and be prepared not only engage in a crunchy mechanical combat adventure, but also Role Play your character interacting with the world outside of the crunch and mechanics with Extreme focus and detail. This world has several novels worth of detail, both big and small and most NPCs get at least a ''short story" or "novella" with many getting a whole novel about them other then the mechanical crunch stat block, This game has an insane amout of detail about everything.

Or for quick reference:

1.A video game
2.A novel
3.One of those huge triple sized novel books with tiny type, a five to ten page 'cast of characters', five or so maps, a glossary, a lexicon, articles, and it says on the cover something like ''the MagicWyrm Quest Book one of Sixteen".
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The Rules of the D&D game never say or require Role Playing at all. It's something you can do, but it's not part of the rules. If your playing D&D and wish to have your character attack a monster you MUST use the crunchy mechanical D&D combat rules. If you want to have your character talk to an NPC, there are NO rules for that: you could role play it out if you wish, but you don't have to by the rules.

You should try reading the 5e books sometime. The entire PHB and DMG are written with roleplaying in mind. They describe roleplaying all over the place. As for being REQUIRED to roleplay, nothing in the game is REQUIRED. It's all optional. So what. Not being REQUIRED does not remove roleplaying from the game.

You think that you must use the crunchy part of the combat rules for an attack, but you don't. If the outcome is not in doubt, the DM is perfectly able to just say you win. Or, since it's rulings over rules, he can just say that you hit or miss and have you roll damage, or just choose the damage. There is no "must" with anything in the game.

If you choose to remove roleplaying from the game, you can and that's okay. But it's a part of the game unless you do actively remove it.
 

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