Should personality or mental stats exist?

Thomas Shey

Legend
Oh, boy! I was thinking of stealth rolls before I finished reading your first sentence. I try to take a page from video games like the Metal Gear series. Your first flub on a stealth roll might pique the interest of a guard but by itself it isn't going to bring the whole mission to a grinding halt. I also avoid having them roll too many times. i.e. They can get around the area with one stealth roll rather than having to make a roll every time they move.

There's a lot of fixes you can do for this sort of thing, but relatively few games give you any guidance to doing so, let alone have mechanical support for avoiding the problem.
 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
Regarding the "PCs are immune or lose agency" element, I'll just make two notes:

1. Not all games are fixated on maintaining that absolutely no matter what, and as noted in the past, even ones that are rarely have an issue with violating it the moment magic is in play;

2. One of the ways to still do social-influence without absolutely taking away volition is to do a stick-and-carrot method; i.e. once the social influence mechanic is successful, you're not compelled to do something, but either it benefits you if you do or punishes you if you don't. There are a lot of different ways to apply that depending on the specifics of the social-influence attempt.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
*Yes, there are some limited exceptions, such as a monster or spell that causes "fear" will cause a physical response, or the possibility that an enemy could use dominate person ... but the use of dominate person against a PC, for example, is controversial, and should probably be cleared with the table.
The bolded is news to me.

Charm and dominate have been in my villains' toolboxes since forever, just like they're also in the toolboxes of the PCs. No controversy there.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I'm clipping the rest, because it fundamentally misunderstands what I meant by the non-reciprocal nature of the resolution.

In your scenario, you continue to posit that the PCs act upon the NPCs. Sure! Why not!

But the difference is that in physical combat, PCs act upon the NPCs, and NPCs have the reciprocal ability to act upon the PCs.

That is the salient difference I was outlining.

I know. That was clear.

For as long as D&D has had what we'd call social skills, social task resolution, if reciprocal, would involve agency-robbing from players, which we don't like.

I'm saying that social conflict resolution can be reciprocal, but not necessarily agency-robbing.

The result of conflict resolution (be it physical or social) is not the loser doing something specific - that's the thing that robs agency. The result of conflict resolution is removing the loser as an obstacle. In physical conflict, this means the loser dies, retreats, or is otherwise removed from the ability to physically impact the situation.

In social conflict, then, losing is losing the ability to impact the social situation. They have lost influence or cache, so that nobody listens to them.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I take it even further than that. I dislike the idea that a low charisma means the character has to be an uncouth jerkwad. I view Cha as presence as its often been described. A butt fugly sea captain who is all scarred up can have a high Cha because he knows how to present himself. He strikes fear and command into his sailors. Alternatively you can be a very suave silver tongue that lowers folks defenses because of their dashing good looks from high Cha. It means you know how to draw attention and influence people.
I have it that charisma is made up of a combination of personality, looks, and personal magnetism; and that (unless your score is extreme) improvements to one must necessarily come at a cost to another.

So, if your Cha is 11 and you want to be the class hottie looks-wise then something has to give somewhere else - maybe you tend to offend by the haughty way you deal with people, or maybe you have a BO problem, or whatever.
Largely, I let players define what the stats mean to them and how to describe their character.
Indeed.

The best I've seen for this was a Cha 6 character in my game where the player decided that this character was going to be a fashion maven (his career goal, in fact, was to ascend to divinity as the God of Fashion). So, he was always impeccably dressed no matter the situation. His looks were average at best. But - and the player roleplayed this brilliantly at the table - this guy simply couldn't utter two sentences without offending everyone who could hear him, often to the point of violence. If he wasn't viciously complaining about your manner of dress (and nobody was perfect, of course, other then he), he'd say something else vile and offensive.

He wore out his welcome in every party he joined, and bounced from party to party until finally they all just told him to get lost (meta: that group shut down for RL reasons but the campaign continued). Since then I've had him occasionally show up in people's dreams, turning them into nightmares in the process. :)

That said, as DM I will give a bit of stink-eye if I get a sense someone's trying to game the system by dumping a stat and then not playing to it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
The bolded is news to me.

Charm and dominate have been in my villains' toolboxes since forever, just like they're also in the toolboxes of the PCs. No controversy there.

And if your players are fine with that, that's cool.

Maybe going forward, when walking into a group of people you don't know, you might want to ask what they think of it first.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I have it that charisma is made up of a combination of personality, looks, and personal magnetism; and that (unless your score is extreme) improvements to one must necessarily come at a cost to another.

So, if your Cha is 11 and you want to be the class hottie looks-wise then something has to give somewhere else - maybe you tend to offend by the haughty way you deal with people, or maybe you have a BO problem, or whatever.
I find this to be a very odd and convoluted way of viewing stats and roleplay. I would certainly never enforce this on anybody. Its fine if thats how you choose to play it, but I wouldn't expect folks to conform or even understand it really. I wish folks would stop conflating charisma with disposition. Just because a PC has a low score doesnt mean they are repugnantly unpleasant and an utter a hole. It certainly shouldn't be expected if you choose to have a good looking PC, but cant afford some personality cost, that you now must roleplay to cover.
Indeed.

The best I've seen for this was a Cha 6 character in my game where the player decided that this character was going to be a fashion maven (his career goal, in fact, was to ascend to divinity as the God of Fashion). So, he was always impeccably dressed no matter the situation. His looks were average at best. But - and the player roleplayed this brilliantly at the table - this guy simply couldn't utter two sentences without offending everyone who could hear him, often to the point of violence. If he wasn't viciously complaining about your manner of dress (and nobody was perfect, of course, other then he), he'd say something else vile and offensive.

He wore out his welcome in every party he joined, and bounced from party to party until finally they all just told him to get lost (meta: that group shut down for RL reasons but the campaign continued). Since then I've had him occasionally show up in people's dreams, turning them into nightmares in the process. :)

That said, as DM I will give a bit of stink-eye if I get a sense someone's trying to game the system by dumping a stat and then not playing to it.
Ugh... I am having nightmares of players that feel to pay for their dumps they have to make it painfully obvious every chance they can get though roleplay. Well, except for in combat of course. It should be clear by now that I dont enforce personality and behavior, just possible likely outcomes from stats and character abilities based on the scores. The rest is up to the player and I'm not going worry if they are not clumsy, dumb, or bad looking enough. Clearly, YMMV.
 

Voadam

Legend
find this to be a very odd and convoluted way of viewing stats and roleplay. I would certainly never enforce this on anybody. Its fine if thats how you choose to play it, but I wouldn't expect folks to conform or even understand it really.
That seems pretty standard to me for the definition of most stats in various D&D editions.

For instance in 3.5 D&D charisma is in part defined in the srd as "Charisma measures a character’s force of personality, persuasiveness, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and physical attractiveness."

None of these have to be in balance with each other. So if you have a DM who wants players to play their stats you can easily balance a mix of strengths and weaknesses in those attributes to get roughly any score you want. A really ugly character who is persuasive with a strong force of personality could arguably be a low or a medium or a high charisma character. So roleplay Cyrano de Bergerac with any Charisma score.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
That seems pretty standard to me for the definition of most stats in various D&D editions.

For instance in 3.5 D&D charisma is in part defined in the srd as "Charisma measures a character’s force of personality, persuasiveness, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and physical attractiveness."

None of these have to be in balance with each other. So if you have a DM who wants players to play their stats you can easily balance a mix of strengths and weaknesses in those attributes to get roughly any score you want. A really ugly character who is persuasive with a strong force of personality could arguably be a low or a medium or a high charisma character. So roleplay Cyrano de Bergerac with any Charisma score.
Ok, having personal magnetism shouldn't necessitate the character to be an a hole to pay for it. We are not even talking the pump or the dump here. We are talking an 11 Cha. I also dont see any reason why an 11 cant cover all of those parameters? The dice will be the arbiters not your sensibilities and ideas of what an 11 cha allows and doesnt allow like some weird personality accounting matrix.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I'm somewhat heretical on these things, but while I think mental traits are great for things like spellcasting stats, or for saving throws resisting various kinds of magic, I loathe using them to determine how smart/wise/whatever a character is in the mundane sense. Especially in "knowing" information. It's not the use of the Int modifier I object to here, it's the very premise of using RNG at all to see if a character knows something.

There are really only two types of secret information: the kind that has meaningful impact on the game, and the kind that doesn't. If it has meaningful impact on the game it should be the result of play, not of rolling dice. We don't give somebody a magic sword just because they make a nat 20 blacksmithing check, why give them the vital information just because they ask if they know it? Make them work for it? And if the information doesn't have meaningful impact, give it to them just as a reward for asking. Or for not asking, if you simply want them to have the flavor.

As with rolling to detect secret doors and traps, rolling to "know stuff" has been part of the game for so long that I know a lot of you are going to scratch your heads at this. But it's dumb. It's bad game design/play. Or, at least, it's board game design, and should have no place in an RPG.

(Caveat: I will sometimes call for a mental attribute roll only to decide which player "knows" the information I'm about to give away for free, not whether any of them know it. Sometimes the barbarian lucks out and is the winner.)

So, really, I think loaded words like "intelligence" and "wisdom" and "charisma" should be replaced with words that are clearly magical/mystical in nature. And "strength" should probably be replaced with "might".

(Ever notice that those who want to draw a parallel between mental and physical attributes ALWAYS use Strength as the example? "You don't ask the player to bench press a cow..." etc. Why don't they ever try to make similar arguments based on Dexterity and Constitution?)
 

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