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D&D General Skilled Play, or Role Play: How Do You Approach Playing D&D?

Voadam

Legend
I certainly hear you, but IMHO this sounds more like "play in a skilled fashion" where your PC is just basically a 'pog' that you move around to indicate where you are and to interact with some rules now and then, but the numbers on the sheet really don't match up with your RP. I guess the question is, if you are playing a PC with a low INT and you play cleverly and come up with a lot of smart solutions to puzzles that less intelligent people would not, and your ability score bonuses (or whatever for the given edition) indicate low chances of success at things that require "intellect" then it seems like your character concept is not very coherent! So this type of play does run into some problems when it comes to RP (and this is probably what the OP was thinking when he started this thread).
If you equate stats on the sheet with the character concept then you will hit the disconnect. If the character concept is based on an independent narrative concept instead then it is not a big deal.

As a DM I want everybody to roleplay what they want from a conceptual narrative roleplay perspective (divorced from stats and classes) and to be roughly mechanically balanced for combat effectiveness.

I have no interest in trying to get players to match roleplay with class and stats. I generally do not care about what the stats on the sheet are unless there is a roll. If someone wants to play a smart charismatic Tyrion Lannister or Mr. Wednesday concept I could care less if they are a bard where the good stats for the class match up to that part of the roleplay concept or if they are a monk who mechanically is MAD for everything but Charisma and Intelligence. I actively do not want them to knock down their character's effectiveness at doing their class things just to meet a character roleplay concept by the stats on the sheet. I want the Jaimie Lannister concept knights to be awesome combatants who did not sacrifice point buy combatant stats just to meet their roleplay part of the concept of being crafty and charismatic. In a fight as part of a D&D party I want Jaimie Lannister the Knight to be as effective as Jaimie Lannister the Warlock. If a player wants to play an RDJ Sherlock Holmes expert bare-knuckle boxer concept as a monk that is just as cool a character roleplay concept to me as doing RDJ Sherlock Holmes as a wizard. Mechanically this means characters having stats to support their class mechanics.

I think 5e's background is a pretty decent mechanic for getting concept and numbers to work together as much as I want it to, particularly if the players come up with a custom background themselves. A DM throwing in conceptually appropriate proficiency bonuses or advantage supports that well too.

As far as actually roleplaying at the table I have no interest in policing my players' choices and telling them they are playing their characters wrong.

I am also fine with players with high int wizards/high wis clerics making dumb plans and high charisma characters ticking people off through the player's abrasive in-character interactions.

It is part of the whole "Tell me what you do, I will tell you what happens." aspect of the DM-Player relationship in roleplaying games for me.
 

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Mallus

Legend
When we talk about 'skilled play', how many different skills and even categories of skills are we talking about?

Seems a list might come in handy. And a discussion of how they function at the same table/campaign.

I mean, "mechanical character optimization" is a skill. As is "BS'ing NPCs with pure improv".
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
If you equate stats on the sheet with the character concept then you will hit the disconnect. If the character concept is based on an independent narrative concept instead then it is not a big deal.

As a DM I want everybody to roleplay what they want from a conceptual narrative roleplay perspective (divorced from stats and classes) and to be roughly mechanically balanced for combat effectiveness.

I have no interest in trying to get players to match roleplay with class and stats. I generally do not care about what the stats on the sheet are unless there is a roll. If someone wants to play a smart charismatic Tyrion Lannister or Mr. Wednesday concept I could care less if they are a bard where the good stats for the class match up to that part of the roleplay concept or if they are a monk who mechanically is MAD for everything but Charisma and Intelligence. I actively do not want them to knock down their character's effectiveness at doing their class things just to meet a character roleplay concept by the stats on the sheet. I want the Jaimie Lannister concept knights to be awesome combatants who did not sacrifice point buy combatant stats just to meet their roleplay part of the concept of being crafty and charismatic. In a fight as part of a D&D party I want Jaimie Lannister the Knight to be as effective as Jaimie Lannister the Warlock. If a player wants to play an RDJ Sherlock Holmes expert bare-knuckle boxer concept as a monk that is just as cool a character roleplay concept to me as doing RDJ Sherlock Holmes as a wizard. Mechanically this means characters having stats to support their class mechanics.

I think 5e's background is a pretty decent mechanic for getting concept and numbers to work together as much as I want it to, particularly if the players come up with a custom background themselves. A DM throwing in conceptually appropriate proficiency bonuses or advantage supports that well too.

As far as actually roleplaying at the table I have no interest in policing my players' choices and telling them they are playing their characters wrong.

I am also fine with players with high int wizards/high wis clerics making dumb plans and high charisma characters ticking people off through the player's abrasive in-character interactions.

It is part of the whole "Tell me what you do, I will tell you what happens." aspect of the DM-Player relationship in roleplaying games for me.

I think the questions are "Do you roll when the consequences matter?" and "If so, what do you roll?"

It's one thing to say the CHA 7 monk can be roleplayed as charming. It's another to say stats and class don't matter when the monk's next words can mean whether or not they are shot by noble's 12 man-at-arms.

The whole discussion seems to based on whether you:
  • Roleplay as Player
  • Roleplay as Character
  • Roll for True Outcome
Then if you roll whether it's just
  • Roll High/Low
  • Roll based on Personality, Race, or Class
  • Roll based on Stats
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Skilled play is preferable, it's not new or modern, it's actually very old school.

We tried Role Play in 1980-81, because there was nothing else in the B/X rules, and quickly discovered it didn't work. A player can't role play 18 intelligence if he is only average Intelligence. Same goes for Wisdom and Charisma scores higher than the player's.

Thus, we decided to use roll equal or less than the ability scores in 1981 after trying out Call of Cthulhu. The players made a d20 roll to determine outcome of the action. Everyone was happy, me (DM) included.

Also, using player knowledge to resolve situations is called meta gaming. It lead to all kinds of long winded arguments on what should and should not be allowed. Like, for example, trying to jury-rig a WWII flamethrower-like device, using oil flasks, in the middle of a dungeon because the magic-user had no more spells.
That’s weird. Roll equal to or under your ability score is in both B and X.

"There's always a chance." The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth). To perform a difficult task (such as climbing up a rope or thinking of a forgotten clue), the player should roll the ability score or less on 1d20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task to + 4 for a difficult one). A roll of 1 should always succeed, and a roll of 20 should always fail. B60.

SAVING VS. ABILITIES (OPTIONAL): The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability ratings (Strength, etc.). The player must roll the ability rating or less on a d20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task, + 4 for a difficult one, etc.). It is suggested that a roll of 1 always succeed and a roll of 20 always fail. X51.

Moldvay Basic also specifically calls out player vs character knowledge. B60, Your character doesn’t know that.
 
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Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
That’s weird. Roll equal to or under your ability score is in both B and X.

"There's always a chance." The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth). To perform a difficult task (such as climbing up a rope or thinking of a forgotten clue), the player should roll the ability score or less on 1d20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task to + 4 for a difficult one). A roll of 1 should always succeed, and a roll of 20 should always fail. B60.

SAVING VS. ABILITIES (OPTIONAL): The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability ratings (Strength, etc.). The player must roll the ability rating or less on a d20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task, + 4 for a difficult one, etc.). It is suggested that a roll of 1 always succeed and a roll of 20 always fail. X51.

Moldvay Basic also specifically calls out player vs character knowledge. B60, Your character doesn’t know that.
I want to thank you for pointing this out. I don't recall ever reading this part of the book. We were young and probably didn't absorb all the rules. It is fascinating to me that we came up with the same rules.
 

Voadam

Legend
Moldvay Basic also specifically calls out player vs character knowledge. B60, Your character doesn’t know that.
It is worth noting this is explicitly talking about information the character does not know such as things said when the character is not in the room but the player was. This is not talking about roleplaying stats.

"Your character doesn't know that." A player should not allow his or her character to act on information that character has no way of knowing (for example, attacking an NPC because the NPC killed a previous character run by the player, even though the NPC and current character have never met). If the players get careless about this the DM should remind them. The DM may, in addition, forbid certain actions to the characters involved. The DM should make it clear to the players before the adventure begins that characters may not act on information they don't have. It will save lots of time later.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It is worth noting this is explicitly talking about information the character does not know such as things said when the character is not in the room but the player was. This is not talking about roleplaying stats.
So the characters are aware they’re in a game and what their stats are? News to me.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When we talk about 'skilled play', how many different skills and even categories of skills are we talking about?

Seems a list might come in handy. And a discussion of how they function at the same table/campaign.
Here's the start of a list. Others can add to it, create categories, and-or hash over the various functions.

Player skills, in no real order:
--- character optimization, both numerical and synergistic, in systems where such things matter
--- party optimization: recognizing gaps in the lineup and taking steps to fill them
--- puzzle-solving and riddle-answering, often using 21st-century knowledge that the PCs likely never had
--- combat strategies and tactics, often using a greater on-the-fly overview ability than most PCs would have
--- standard operating procedures for commonly encountered elements in the game e.g. closed doors
--- role-playing skill and ability in-character to persuade the DM (or, sometimes, other players/PCs) to do what you want
--- out-of-character table things such as reading other players and-or the GM for hints or reactions
--- efficiency and organization; this includes a neat and readable character sheet, knowledge of what one's character can do, etc.
--- creativity in attempting to solving problems posed by the game (an example is the WWII flamethrower idea from upthread)
--- a willingness to keep asking questions of the DM if the info you get is inadequate or imcomplete
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I suspect most people just let players maintain their HP and so on simply for simplicity. As a DM I have enough to track, I don't need any more overhead.
The players track their character’s stats, hp, etc. But I expect them to roleplay their characters based on information the character would have. Any version of “that monster deals 1d8+3 damage per hit with a +4 to-hit and my AC is low, so I’m not going near that thing” gets more than a bit of stink eye from me. The character knows the monster is tearing the party a new one and that one good hit would finish him. Not the stats of monsters or the character’s game stats.
 

I'm all for role playing, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't care about my Fighter being good at his job and not being a useless buffoon. Unless I was intentionally playing the character like that or doing a parody of a Lawful Stupid Paladin that deserved that butt whooping.
 

That’s not an example, really. Except for solo play, there’s no RPG I can think of that doesn’t involve one person describing the scene and one or more people describing their characters reacting as if they were in that scene. Even story games like Fiasco are still RPGs by that definition. Whether that involves a set role of DM/GM/Storyteller/Referee/Facilitator/Etc or not. All RPGs involve one person describing something and another describing their character’s reaction to that description. I mean that’s literally playing a role. naughty word. That description is so broad it might even include proper acting and improv. So I’m not sure why you think it excludes some RPGs. If you could give me an example of a game you think doesn’t fit my definition that would be a great start.
Then what is happening in Burning Wheel? A player gives his character a belief, or a 'wise' (specialized knowledge) and then declares an action based on that which, at least potentially establishes fiction. The example in a different thread was a PC making a check against a 'wise' to establish the exact location of a building which he claims to know is in this area. He succeeds, the building is now canonically established to be in a location (which I guess was a detail the GM then established) within the region in question.

I don't see a binary thing going on here where one player is describing and the other player's character is reacting to that description. It simply doesn't describe that play at all, yet BW is most certainly an RPG. I think the question here might then be about the granularity of the interactions. I believe you are describing a D&D-like kind of process where a DM continuously describes, with the players interjecting PC action declarations and questions which can be addressed declaratively about what has been described. Now, how would an 'establishing declaration' like the one I described above fit in there? The player can describe an ACTION 'consulting my knowledge' with the intent of answering a certain question in a dispositive manner, so that it establishes something. The GM can then provide more fiction in line with what is now established. It can sort of be described as "one participant describes, one reacts" but that doesn't capture the essential essence of what just took place at all, IMHO. It is a whole different paradigm.
 

Haven't played Dungeon World, but sounds like a nice mechanic for that ruleset. Although, not having the context of having played DW, the description you provide here doesn't sound all that different from playing 5e.


Very much the same as in D&D 5e, in my experience, with the key being the bolded part - and everything else follows.


Again, plays very much the same in 5e at our table. Most any action declaration to make the right puzzle move (or to not make the wrong puzzle move) might be met with a DM asking for an ability check - that is, if the action has the possibility of success or failure, and meaningful consequences for said failure.

Hmm... I guess one might say that the distinction between "skilled play" and "narrative play" needn't have a strongly defined border.
Well, mechanically DW is nothing like D&D of any ilk really. It is a clever hack of a game which produces a very D&D-like narrative of a party of adventurers delving into some sort of dangerous situations for whatever reasons (usually profit being amongst them). The GM never rolls dice in DW, he just makes 'moves', and the players also make their own 'moves' which come from 'playbooks' associated with their class, or are otherwise 'generic moves'. They don't closely resemble things you would find being declared in a D&D game, mainly because DW is entirely fiction-first, so you simply make up your part of the fiction, which is then sorted out by the GM as to what move it amounts to, and what, if anything needs to be checked, based on that. 'Combat' in DW isn't even a specific thing, there are no 'combat rounds', 'maneuvers', etc. There isn't even such a thing as a 'turn order' in any formal sense. The players simply act (or react as the case may be) with descriptions of what their characters do next or how they cope with whatever danger has arisen.

If an orc charges into the midst of the party from the shadows, it may simply be a 'hard move' by the GM "hey dwarf, an orc jumps out from behind the boulder and slams you in the head with his scimitar, take 5 damage! What do you do?" that's sort of the typical kind of process. Maybe the dwarf player responds by pulling out his axe and swinging wildly in retaliation. The GM probably says "that's hack & slash, make a check." Once that's resolved he might ask "what are you doing, Blasty? An orc is hacking up the dwarf!"
 

If you equate stats on the sheet with the character concept then you will hit the disconnect. If the character concept is based on an independent narrative concept instead then it is not a big deal.

As a DM I want everybody to roleplay what they want from a conceptual narrative roleplay perspective (divorced from stats and classes) and to be roughly mechanically balanced for combat effectiveness.

I have no interest in trying to get players to match roleplay with class and stats. I generally do not care about what the stats on the sheet are unless there is a roll. If someone wants to play a smart charismatic Tyrion Lannister or Mr. Wednesday concept I could care less if they are a bard where the good stats for the class match up to that part of the roleplay concept or if they are a monk who mechanically is MAD for everything but Charisma and Intelligence. I actively do not want them to knock down their character's effectiveness at doing their class things just to meet a character roleplay concept by the stats on the sheet. I want the Jaimie Lannister concept knights to be awesome combatants who did not sacrifice point buy combatant stats just to meet their roleplay part of the concept of being crafty and charismatic. In a fight as part of a D&D party I want Jaimie Lannister the Knight to be as effective as Jaimie Lannister the Warlock. If a player wants to play an RDJ Sherlock Holmes expert bare-knuckle boxer concept as a monk that is just as cool a character roleplay concept to me as doing RDJ Sherlock Holmes as a wizard. Mechanically this means characters having stats to support their class mechanics.

I think 5e's background is a pretty decent mechanic for getting concept and numbers to work together as much as I want it to, particularly if the players come up with a custom background themselves. A DM throwing in conceptually appropriate proficiency bonuses or advantage supports that well too.

As far as actually roleplaying at the table I have no interest in policing my players' choices and telling them they are playing their characters wrong.

I am also fine with players with high int wizards/high wis clerics making dumb plans and high charisma characters ticking people off through the player's abrasive in-character interactions.

It is part of the whole "Tell me what you do, I will tell you what happens." aspect of the DM-Player relationship in roleplaying games for me.
Yeah, I don't really understand. Ability scores need to 'carry water', or why bother? I mean, literally why do you play a game that has ability scores when you don't care one bit about what they say about the character? They're just arbitrary numbers, your mechanics don't support your story. We are definitely worlds apart there! I mean, I have no problem with running games that don't have concepts like 'ability score', or have some very narrow 'trait' type mechanics where a given thing doesn't tell more than 'one interesting thing' about the PC, but I think 6 all-encompassing ability scores like D&D has don't work that way, for me.
 

Zsong

Explorer
When we talk about 'skilled play', how many different skills and even categories of skills are we talking about?

Seems a list might come in handy. And a discussion of how they function at the same table/campaign.

I mean, "mechanical character optimization" is a skill. As is "BS'ing NPCs with pure improv".
If you have to look to see what is on your character sheet to decide what is an option to do it is not skilled play it is mechanical play.
 


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