Should personality or mental stats exist?

Andvari

Hero
I've grown to dislike ability scores that indicate personality or the intelligence of PCs, for various reasons. For one, it makes certain personality choices highly punishing for some characters. If you want to play a smart or charismatic fighter, you'll be punished by being less effective at your role. Of course, you can just roleplay your character that way regardless of stats, and I see this done constantly. Does that mean players roleplay their character "wrong?" Or is the stat wrong?

There's that situation where most of the party is silent, because they're afaid of screwing up some social encounter as they side glance at the party bard. "What are you doing, barbarian? Trying to role-play in a role-playing game?! Now make a Charisma roll. That'll teach you to make the bard do all the talking!"

Then there's the trouble with role-playing characters of different intellect than your own, which (hopefully) is never really enforced anyway. "Oh, you think you just did a clever plan to stop the ogre? Well, your Int is only 8, so your character wouldn't do that! And why haven't you come up with a brilliant idea no one else has thought of yet, Gundalph?! Your character has 18 Int! Start role-playing like it!"

If we separate things like charisma and intelligence from from ability scores and mechanics, the player no longer has to sacrifice "fun" to play a desired personality. But then we don't have a lot of stats left, do we? Well, if we look at D&D, Wisdom is not really a personality stat anymore. It's more of a Perception or Awareness stat. So maybe it's just a question of renaming, or looking at abilities through a different lens. Intelligence could be "Knowledge", reflecting study, observation and practical experience prior to adventuring, rather than reasoning and logic. This also makes sense in terms of additional skills and languages gained, which the ability does in some systems/editions.

I struggle more to get around some kind of social stat. For some classes, it just makes sense to have one. Like a bard or leader archetype, such as a warlord. Perhaps use a stat with a more neutral name, such as "Presence" and simply have it affect the initial disposition of NPCs. Interactions past that could be handled purely through role-play, rather than die rolls.

The problem of personality/intelligence stats goes double for systems (or tables) that emphasize "player skill" and seek to test the imagination and reasoning of the players.

Should some characters just check out of the role-playing game when it's time to role-play? Should the GM keep putting the shy player with the high Charisma score on the spot? Should the GM berate an average intelligence player for not coming up with genious plans all the time when playing his 18 Int Wizard? Should he make the Int 3 cleric walk blindly into the dark room and onto the pit trap? How many stats should there be at minimum? Do I even have a point, or am I just over-analyzing and rambling? Make up your own questions and add them to the list!
 

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GrimCo

Adventurer
Lets take commoner as a baseline. 10 on all ability scores.

So, your fighter with 10 int or cha is average in that regards. Like most people in the world, he isn't particularly charming or smart, but he is just fine. Even 8 is in the lower range of average person.

Your 8 int level fighter just come up with brilliant plan to stop ogre? Cool. It happens. Sometimes best plans come from people you don't expect it to come from. They have their eureka moment. Cha 10 Barbarian might be inspired that day so he swoons the kings favor. Average people can do above average things, they just don't tend to do it on regular basis with high probability of success.

I try to separate player skill vs character skill. My INT 20 wizard would know stuff and make connections I as a player wouldn't since i'm not super smart person. My CHA 20 bard is silver tongued extroverted social butterfly while I as a player may be complete opposite. If you can role play it, great. But why punish players? If they can't role play their stats, it's ok. They can just tell me what their characters try to do and we can roll stat/skill if needed and go from there.
 

I'm of the opinion there should be more mental and social skills, not less - like in VtM.

Also, most DCs in 5e are set between 10-15, DMs shouldn't be setting astronomical DCs for (a) social exchanges or (b) coming up with a workable plan, unless the unique situation calls for it.
Generally high DCs for intellect are usually for recalling elusive knowledge, beating a savant in a game of chess, debating ideologies.
Generally high DCs for social exchanges are when you're conversing in a hostile environment or with an alien species.

The other workaround is to use success with a complication for failures instead of just outright failures.
Come up with interesting complications.

EDIT - A 3 Int Cleric is not a playable character. Hyperbolic examples are not useful.
 
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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
I've grown to dislike ability scores that indicate personality or the intelligence of PCs, for various reasons. For one, it makes certain personality choices highly punishing for some characters. If you want to play a smart or charismatic fighter, you'll be punished by being less effective at your role. Of course, you can just roleplay your character that way regardless of stats, and I see this done constantly. Does that mean players roleplay their character "wrong?" Or is the stat wrong?

There's that situation where most of the party is silent, because they're afaid of screwing up some social encounter as they side glance at the party bard. "What are you doing, barbarian? Trying to role-play in a role-playing game?! Now make a Charisma roll. That'll teach you to make the bard do all the talking!"

Then there's the trouble with role-playing characters of different intellect than your own, which (hopefully) is never really enforced anyway. "Oh, you think you just did a clever plan to stop the ogre? Well, your Int is only 8, so your character wouldn't do that! And why haven't you come up with a brilliant idea no one else has thought of yet, Gundalph?! Your character has 18 Int! Start role-playing like it!"

If we separate things like charisma and intelligence from from ability scores and mechanics, the player no longer has to sacrifice "fun" to play a desired personality. But then we don't have a lot of stats left, do we? Well, if we look at D&D, Wisdom is not really a personality stat anymore. It's more of a Perception or Awareness stat. So maybe it's just a question of renaming, or looking at abilities through a different lens. Intelligence could be "Knowledge", reflecting study, observation and practical experience prior to adventuring, rather than reasoning and logic. This also makes sense in terms of additional skills and languages gained, which the ability does in some systems/editions.

I struggle more to get around some kind of social stat. For some classes, it just makes sense to have one. Like a bard or leader archetype, such as a warlord. Perhaps use a stat with a more neutral name, such as "Presence" and simply have it affect the initial disposition of NPCs. Interactions past that could be handled purely through role-play, rather than die rolls.

The problem of personality/intelligence stats goes double for systems (or tables) that emphasize "player skill" and seek to test the imagination and reasoning of the players.

Should some characters just check out of the role-playing game when it's time to role-play? Should the GM keep putting the shy player with the high Charisma score on the spot? Should the GM berate an average intelligence player for not coming up with genious plans all the time when playing his 18 Int Wizard? Should he make the Int 3 cleric walk blindly into the dark room and onto the pit trap? How many stats should there be at minimum? Do I even have a point, or am I just over-analyzing and rambling? Make up your own questions and add them to the list!
The way I see it is, if you don't expect to make the Barbarian's player lift weights or swing a real sword, you shouldn't expect a Wizard's player to always have the right answer, or the Bard's player to always know how to be charming.

Lots of people believe they are smart or witty or dashing. If you have a Charisma of 8, and you think you're God's gift to your preferred gender(s), you can roleplay as being as suave as you want to be- the dice will tell the tale- and if you succeed anyways, well, maybe you're a Kavorka Man!

By the same token, maybe your fumbling, tongue-tied Bard with a 20 Charisma is just so plain adorkable that even the mean-hearted BBEG is like "daww, I can't stay mad at you!". Skill at oratory and public speaking =/= being charismatic- it sure helps, but that's being trained in Persuasion, not having high Charisma.

And if a supposedly smart or wise character keeps making bad decisions, well, some of the smartest people I know are morons, lol.

Sure, we all want to shower gifted roleplayers with accolades, but we can't let the game become a series of "persuade the DM" checks. This is what Inspiration is for, IMO. If the Barbarian waxes eloquently, award him Inspiration, and then let his player live with the choices he made. And never force someone to wear a dunce cap- they'll likely make their lives more painful without any help from you!
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Mt Druid has Int 8 but Wis 15 so he may not be problem solving but when it comes to making decisions and sharing ideas he'll make suggestions based on his observation or what seems the wise choice rather than being clever.

But really why should mental stats be any different to Physical stats? - afterall I'm not an acrobat but my Dex 18 theif can leap and tumble with the best of them, my High Int character has greater knowledge than I do and my Charismatic one is far more persuasive
 
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HorusZA

Explorer
For a game like Pendragon, Personality Traits and Passions are critical to your character. They have a mechanical impact as well as shape/constrain the actions of a character.
Just like in the romances the game is based on, there will be times when a player loses narrative control of his/her character: this is something to be embraced and leaned into instead of avoided. It leads to loads of interesting moral and ethical situations.
"Sir Simon somewhat over-indulged (failed his "Temperate" roll) at his Lord's banquet which was also attended by the father of his betrothed who does not take kindly to this kind of behaviour." How will Sir Simon try to set this right and regain his favour?

Do you need to have Personality Traits to do this? No, of course not... a player could just have roleplayed this out.
But (a) not everyone has the ability or willingness to play "sub-optimally" and (b) they might not have thought of the opportunity.
 


aco175

Legend
I seem to have noticed two thoughts on this since 3e times. Ones side is more what the OP is saying in that the player roleplays and tells the DM how he is checking for traps and wants the player to persuade him or come up with the solution to the puzzle/riddle. This is how I learned to play and feels a lot of 1e/2e in it before skills came into play. The other thought is that the PC comes up with solution to the puzzle or knows how to search without setting off a trap even if the player does not. This crosses over with the argument about the fighter and, "I attack." where nobody is asking where or how you swing a sword. I think there is a lot of people where try and balance the two to some degree of success.

I'm more of the second type of DM in that I'll ask for the players to come up with something and allow a skill check to aid them or give a bonus to the outcome. Generally I have a DC in mind and if the roll is +/-5 from that I have a extra bonus or hinderance come along. I also try to have a DC in mind to allow the 10th level bard to not have to roll in the basic stuff and the player can just try something to succeed.

I think the last couple years though, most things have shifted to more dice rolling and less roleplay. My players are more, "I want to try and bribe the guard with 10gold." over actually talking things out.

Another thing I tend to handwave is that if one player is playing the INT8 fighter and comes up with something, that it could be him or it could be the wizard actually coming up with it and the other player thought of it.
 

Another thing I tend to handwave is that if one player is playing the INT8 fighter and comes up with something, that it could be him or it could be the wizard actually coming up with it and the other player thought of it.
Yes, since we don't have anyone with 18 INT in the party, it does not matter who came up with the idea in RL, what matters is the fiction. The lower INT character could have prompted the higher INT character to come up with the solution.
 

For a game like Pendragon, Personality Traits and Passions are critical to your character. They have a mechanical impact as well as shape/constrain the actions of a character.
Just like in the romances the game is based on, there will be times when a player loses narrative control of his/her character: this is something to be embraced and leaned into instead of avoided. It leads to loads of interesting moral and ethical situations.
"Sir Simon somewhat over-indulged (failed his "Temperate" roll) at his Lord's banquet which was also attended by the father of his betrothed who does not take kindly to this kind of behaviour." How will Sir Simon try to set this right and regain his favour?

Do you need to have Personality Traits to do this? No, of course not... a player could just have roleplayed this out.
But (a) not everyone has the ability or willingness to play "sub-optimally" and (b) they might not have thought of the opportunity.

I'm fine with mental stats, but I absolutely loathe personality mechanics that compel the character to act or feel in certain way. At that point I'd just hand the character sheet to the GM, they can randomise what my character does, I am obviously not needed for this.
 
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