D&D 5E Roleplaying in D&D 5E: It’s How You Play the Game

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
So one player’s interpretation is as valid as another….
It feels like an absurd interpretation doesn't need to be given equal validity in just about any area of disagreement in life. (The tricky part is how absurdity is delineated...).

.It is completely reasonable to read the rules and conclude that 6 Intelligence means that you are 10% worse than average at cognitive tasks. Which is a difference that might not even be observable.
And it feels hard to me to argue that this is absurd. (After a page of quibbling about what is meant by 10%, and an argument that it would only be unobservable in the short run and eventually would show out, and then referring to the thread on how long campaigns run). It would have shown a lot more in earlier editions where they were prereqs for a lot of things.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The game sets it up for the player to be advised to consider the meaning of these things, but to ultimately decide for themselves how it informs their character's appearance and personality. For a particular portrayal to violate the social contract, as you say here, it must exist as an agreement at the level of table rules. People should be held to their agreements, but the game rules don't actually say what the player must do here other than take what it says into account when deciding. A group that lacks this table rule has no issue with a social contract violation when a player decides to portray the character as Sherlock Holmes while having an Int 5, for example.
The game does not set it up for it to be ignored. It sets it up to be a part of how you play that character. Much like the game talks all over about how ability checks are used on NPCs, it talks all over about what ability scores represent.

Page 89 of the DMG talking about NPCs and the PHB pages I referenced earlier. To discount and ignore those things in favor if doing the opposite is to fail to take them into account. It actively discounts those things.
As has been mentioned already, it's not particularly smart play to try to have an Int 5 character attempt to make deductions or recall lore as Sherlock Holmes might, since it may result in a lot of failure. But that's the player's choice to make.
As it actively discounts the rules and guidelines I mentioned with regard to what stats mean in D&D, such a PC goes against the direction to take what stats mean into account.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The game does not set it up for it to be ignored. It sets it up to be a part of how you play that character. Much like the game talks all over about how ability checks are used on NPCs, it talks all over about what ability scores represent.

Page 89 of the DMG talking about NPCs and the PHB pages I referenced earlier. To discount and ignore those things in favor if doing the opposite is to fail to take them into account. It actively discounts those things.

As it actively discounts the rules and guidelines I mentioned with regard to what stats mean in D&D, such a PC goes against the direction to take what stats mean into account.
Taking something into account just means to consider it. Someone can consider it and go in a different direction. It's up to the player and the rules make it so. To think otherwise means that we're now into the realm of action declarations being off the table for certain characters based on their stats which isn't a thing. An Int 5 character can come up with whatever ideas the player says. It's just that when actions that call for an Intelligence check come into play, that character is by some measure worse than characters with higher Intelligence scores on average. But, given the swing on a d20, even that's no guarantee in any given instance of rolling! Depending on the DC, of course.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So, for you, ability scores override the PHB roleplaying rules on page 185? For you, the player does not fully determine how their PC thinks/talks/acts, it's their character sheet that has the final say on the allowable range of PC thinking/talking/acting. Is that a reasonable assessment of your table's expectations?
1. The player fully determines how the PC thinks/talks/acts.
2. The player is expected to respect what's on the character sheet while doing so and to use the character sheet to inform point 1 above.

These two statements are not contradictory, nor are they incompatible in any way. ETA: And it's hard to believe that either would in any way be controversial.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
To reject and do the complete opposite of something that is obviously supposed to be a certain way is to DIScount it.
If we can't agree that taking something into account doesn't mean you have to accept it wholesale, merely consider it, then there's not much further we can go here.

One's table rules does not need the validation of the rules to be effective and fun at that table.
 

We know that a 5 intelligence is significantly lower than a 10. We know that Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be one of the most brilliant people ever which likely puts them at a 20. To say there is no difference between a 5 int and a 20 to me is not a matter of interpretation, it's ignoring simple logic.

Ability scores are either A) a completely abstract concept that does nothing to describe your PC and is only a game mechanic that gives you pluses and minuses or B) it describes your character and also affects game mechanics.

It's been pointed out that Option A is not the intent of the books, nor is it how anyone I've ever actually played the game with views it.

So do you have to use the 5 Int vs Sherlock Holmes example in order to identify a difference?

What’s the “correct” difference, in your view, between roleplaying 8 Int vs 10 Int? (Or any other stat, for that matter?)
 

To reject and do the complete opposite of something that is obviously supposed to be a certain way is to DIScount it.
Again, though, the “certain way” part is entirely absent from the rules.

Or can you give me an example of where the text describes a certain way to portray an attribute?
 

Oofta

Legend
So do you have to use the 5 Int vs Sherlock Holmes example in order to identify a difference?

What’s the “correct” difference, in your view, between roleplaying 8 Int vs 10 Int? (Or any other stat, for that matter?)
We aren't talking a difference between an 8 and 10 int. It's the difference between a 5 and 20 which is roughly the span of normal human intelligence. Being more or less intelligent does not make a person any more or less worthy but to say that they are the same is illogical.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Again, though, the “certain way” part is entirely absent from the rules.

Or can you give me an example of where the text describes a certain way to portray an attribute?
The objection strikes me as being rooted in the players trying to get away with something and setting up a table rule to make what the game says mandatory rather than something to be taken into consideration. Which is actually an indictment of the game and challenges the DM is presenting rather than the players who are simply acting rationally within that context. If dumping any particular stat doesn't come with a cost, then why expect players not to do that from time to time?
 

1. The player fully determines how the PC thinks/talks/acts.
2. The player is expected to respect what's on the character sheet while doing so and to use the character sheet to inform point 1 above.

These two statements are not contradictory, nor are they incompatible in any way. ETA: And it's hard to believe that either would in any way be controversial.
Sure, I do understand your preference. I wonder if there are any rules in the 1e PHB or DMG to support that way. I just have a different interpretation of what it means to “respect what’s on the character sheet”, especially in the context of the version we play, 5e. No person at our table is a jerk and the DM (and the rules) support the players in playing their character however they like.

This is the very definition of good faith play: participating in a way that is fun for everyone at the table.

Now, I do get that it is not fun for you to see someone play a 5 STR character as musclebound. I do hope you iron that out in session 0 and don’t just assume everyone likes to play the way you do.

Me, I prefer to give players flexibility to creatively play their characters how they wish rather than force any expectations on them. Saves me a lot of angst and work in that there is nothing to enforce on that front.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So do you have to use the 5 Int vs Sherlock Holmes example in order to identify a difference?

What’s the “correct” difference, in your view, between roleplaying 8 Int vs 10 Int? (Or any other stat, for that matter?)
Below average ability(per RAW) to reason, remember, and mental sharpness(also per RAW) vs. average ability to reason, remember, and mental sharpness
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Again, though, the “certain way” part is entirely absent from the rules.

Or can you give me an example of where the text describes a certain way to portray an attribute?
We know that 9 and under constitutes low ability to reason, remember and low mental sharpness. We know that 10-11 is average at those things. And we know that 12+ is a high ability to reason, remember and high mental sharpness. If you have a low ability to reason and you portray a high ability to reason, you are going against intelligence as written.

PHB page 177: "Intelligence measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall, and the ability to reason."
PHB page 173: "score of 10 or 11 is the normal human average, but adventurers and many monsters are a cut above average in most abilities."
 

pemerton

Legend
I would say rather that interacting with NPCs is a major part of game play, and one way of doing that is first-person performance. But you can still fully participate in that aspect of play in third person. In a dry, monotone at that. As long as the DM isn't handing out cookies for voice acting, you can be just as effective.
Understood. Call it what you will, you prefer voice acting at your table and it is rewarded mechanically in your non-5e game accordingly.
So, you know how people who talk about "magic words" don't understand the play at your tables?

When you say "voice acting" you reveal that you don't understand the play at my table. I even posted an actual play report, and voice acting had nothing to do with it. Here it is again:
When the PCs step through the portal from their resting place to the top of the tower, they find that it is not where they left it - on the disintegrating 66th layer of the Abyss - but rather in the palace of Yan-C-Bin on the Elemental Chaos. This brought the PCs, and especially the chaos sorcerer, into discussion with the djinni who had retaken possession of the tower and were repurposing it for the coming Dusk War. Mechanically, this situation was resolved as a skill challenge.

Sirrajadt, the leader of the djinni, explained that the djinni were finally breaking free of the imprisonment they had suffered after fighting for their freedom the last time (ie with the primordials against the gods in the Dawn War), and were not going to be re-imprisoned or bound within the Lattice of Heaven, and hence were gearing up to fight again in the Dusk War. He further explained that only Yan-C-Bin (Prince of Evil Air Elementals) and the Elder Elemental Eye could lead them to victory in the Dusk War.

The PCs both asserted their power (eg the paladin pointed out that the reason the djinni have been released from their prisons is because the PCs killed Torog, the god of imprisonment), and denied the necessity for a coming Dusk War, denouncing warmongers on both sides (especially the Elder Elemental Eye, whom Sirrajadt was stating was the only being who could guarantee the Djinni their freedom) and announcing themselves as a "third way", committed to balancing the chaos against the heavens and ensuring the endurance of the mortal world.

Sirrajadt was insisting that the PCs accompany him to meet Yan-C-Bin, declaring that mercy would be shown to all but the sorcerer. (The reason for this is that the chaos sorcerer - who is a Primordial Adept and Resurgent Primordial - has long been a servant of Chan, the Queen of Good Air Elementals, who sided with the gods during the Dawn War and is resolutely opposed to the Prince of Evil Air Elementals; hence the sorcerer is a sworn enemy of Yan-C-Bin.) As the PCs continued to debate the point and explain their "third way" reasoning (mechanically, getting closer to success in the skill challenge), Sirrajadt - sufficiently unsettled by their claims - invited them all to resolve the matter in conversation with Yan-C-Bin, who moreso than him would be able to explain the situation. The PCs therefore went to meet Yan-C-Bin himself, as guests and not as prisoners - not even the sorcerer.

Yan-C-Bin greeted them, but mocked the sorcerer and his service to Chan. There was some back and forth, and some of the same points were made. Then the PC fighter/cleric Eternal Defender, who has recently taken up the divine portfolio of imprisonment (which position became vacant after the PCs killed Torog), spoke. Both in the fiction and at the table this was the pivotal moment. The player gave an impassioned and quite eloquent speech, which went for several minutes with his eyes locked on mine. (We tend to be quite a causal table as far as performance, in-character vs third person description of one's PC vs out-of-character goes.) He explained (in character) that he would personally see to it that no djinni would be unjustly imprisoned, if they now refrained from launching the Dusk War; but that if they acted rashly and unjustly they could look forward to imprisonment or enslavement forever.

The player rolled his Intimidate check (with a +2 bonus granted by me because of his speech, far more impassioned and "in character" than is typical for our pretty laid-back table) and succeeded. It didn't persuade Yan-C-Bin - his allegiance to the Elder Elemental Eye is not going to be swayed by a mere godling - but the players' goal wasn't to persuade Yan-C-Bin of the merits of their third way, but rather to avoid being imprisoned by him and to sway the djinni. Which is exactly what happened: this speech sufficiently impressed the djinni audience that Yan-C-Bin could not just ignore it, and hence he grudgingly acquiesced to the PCs' request, agreeing to let the PCs take the Thundercloud Tower and go and confront the tarrasque - but expressing doubt that they would realise their "third way", and with a final mocking remark

EDIT: Here is another example:
Around this time, the challenge had evolved to a point where one final roll was needed, and 2 failures had been accrued. Paldemar, once again, was badgering Derrik to try to learn the secrets of the minotaur ruins that he was sure the PCs knew. And the player of Derrik was becoming more and more frustrated with the whole situation, declaring (not speaking in character, but speaking from the perspective of his PC) "I'm sick of putting up with this. I want Paldemar to come clean."

The Baron said to Derrik, "The whole evening, Lord Derrik, it has seemed to me that you are burdened by something. Will you not speak to me?" Derrik got out of his seat and went over to the Baron, knelt beside him, and whispered to him, telling him that out of decorum he would not name anyone, but there was someone close to the Baron who was not what he seemed, and was in fact a villainous leader of the hobgoblin raiders. The Baron asked how he knew this, and Derrik replied that he had seen him flying out of goblin strongholds on his flying carpet. The Baron asked him if he would swear this in Moradin's name. Derrik replied "I swear". At which point the Baron rose from the table and went upstairs to brood on the balcony, near the minstrel.

With one check still needed to resolve the situation, I had Paldemar turn to Derrik once again, saying "You must have said something very serious, to so upset the Baron." Derrik's player was talking to the other players, and trying to decide what to do. He clearly wanted to fight. I asked him whether he really wanted to provoke Paldemar into attacking him. He said that he did. So he had Derrik reply to Paldemar, 'Yes, I did, Golthar". And made an Intimidate check. Which failed by one. So the skill challenge was over, but a failure - I described Paldemar/Golthar standing up, pickup up his staff from where it leaned against the wall behind him, and walking towards the door.

Now we use a houserule (perhaps, in light of DMG2, not so much a houserule as a precisification of a suggestion in that book) that a PC can spend an action point to make a secondary check to give another PC a +2 bonus, or a reroll, to a failed check. The player of the wizard PC spent an action point, and called out "Golthar, have you fixed the tear yet in your robe?" - this was a reference to the fact that the PCs had, on a much earlier occasion, found a bit of the hem of Paldemar's robe that had torn off in the ruins when he had had to flee the gelatinous cubes. I can't remember now whether I asked for an Intimidate check, or decided that this was an automatic +2 bonus for Derrik - but in any event, it turned the failure into a success. We ended the session by noting down everyone's location on the map of the Baron's great hall, and making initiative rolls. Next session will begin with the fight against Paldemar
The players don't just say "I goad Paldemar/Golthar". Or even "I goad Paldemar/Golthar by playing on his dual identity". They actually speak the goading words.

This establishes the fiction that underpins the resolution of the declared actions.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Now, I do get that it is not fun for you to see someone play a 5 STR character as musclebound. I do hope you iron that out in session 0 and don’t just assume everyone likes to play the way you do.
I don't need to iron it out in session 0. The game sets forth that a 5 strength is low "bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which you can exert raw physical force." which excludes being musclebound. The player needs to bring up the exception he wants during session 0 if he wants to be able to play that way. Otherwise he is bound by the social contract to play the game as it is written.
 

pemerton

Legend
But then the player says, "Oh, I know! We have to light the three braziers and say the password!" and suddenly everybody is all up in their face about poor roleplaying. The other 5 attributes just don't have equivalent restrictions.
We welcome anyone at our 5e table who is willing to play in good faith, have fun, and contribute to a fun, memorable story.
At BIll Zebub's table, it sounds like people who are good at solving cryptic crosswords, or at guessing the answers to whodunnits, will do better in play.

I don't know why it suddenly becomes a point about the morality of inclusion if, at some tables, people who actually specify what their PC is doing when speaking - primarily by speaking it - do better at social actions.

EDIT: I also don't see how "memorable story" speaks one way rather than another in relation to this. I remember the dinner party with the baron better because I remember the cutting words spoken by the PCs. And I know what those were because their players spoke them.
 

pemerton

Legend
Meaningful stakes tend to take that dissonance out of the realm of roleplay, though, and put them to the test with game-world mechanical implications. Acting like a know-it-all with INT 5 but suffers the consequences of failing their INT(Investigation) ability checks regularly.
But then the player says, "Oh, I know! We have to light the three braziers and say the password!" and suddenly everybody is all up in their face about poor roleplaying. The other 5 attributes just don't have equivalent restrictions.
I'm not sure that both these posts can be true.

EDITED to elaborate: if checks are not called for until after actions are declared, and if good play involves declaring actions that won't prompt the GM to call for a check because they will automatically succeed given the fiction, then I don't see what guarantee there is that meaningful stakes will tend to be put to the test via the mechanics of the game.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That dungeon sucks out loud, but yeah, any dungeon in my games is going to be a problem for parties with poor Intelligence among them. You're going to pay for it with time, blood, gold, missed opportunities, and you'll end up spending precious Inspiration in exploration challenges instead of making saves against a powerful spell or the like in combat. It definitely ain't free to dump Int!
I dunno, I quite like the idea of an escape-the-dungeon adventure with the poison gas creating time pressure. The long featureless halls are terrible, and the DM needs to do some extra work to insure the traps are properly telegraphed, but in concept it’s solid and in execution it’s fixable.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Well, if you don't get that there are, and have for may years been people, lots of people, who dump INT and CHA with the specific idea that they're going to RP it out, I can't help you. This is a real thing. Whether or not you believe in it.
At my table, those people will quickly find that they really can’t “RP their way out” of having to make ability checks.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
1. The player fully determines how the PC thinks/talks/acts.
It's not 'fully', as in-world circumstances, set limits, and S>G exceptions can constrain or override. Possibly, 'determining how' in practice means that player actuates their PC.

That said, I feel unsure about what might draw one toward an adversarial relationship with the game rules and guidelines? Perhaps their greatest value is to inform the fiction, and if one will not allow that then one is taking less advantage of them than one could.
 

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