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5E Weird Interpretations for High/Low Ability Scores

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Perhaps another edition of the game has a more suitable definition for you. I bet D&D 2e or 3.Xe might fit the bill, though I've long since gotten rid of those books so I can't check.
I don't need a game to tell me a definition that I already know from outside of games. A game can't redefine it.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Moving the Goalposts! 10 yard penalty. Replay the down. We're discussing the definition of roleplaying.
You said you don't need a game to tell you a definition that you already know from outside the game. Do you not think that portraying ability scores a particular way is part of your view of roleplaying? If it is part of how you define roleplaying, what definition are you drawing from outside of the context of games that involve ability scores?
 

ROFL. So yes, any term that points out bad behaviour as bad belongs in the "dustbin of history", okay buddy, got it. Cool. Thumb up. But that's pretty intense clarity on your position, I'd suggest, in that you're saying you consider behaviours widely regarded as atrocious, and which can be extremely disruptive and spotlight-stealing to be totally cool.
What I think is going on here is that you are starting with the conclusion that certain approaches to roleplaying are "bad", and then arguing back toward that. @iserith and I and others are asking you to examine that belief, and see what the basis is for calling it bad. As opposed to simply not fitting within your own preferences for what roleplaying should look like.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You said you don't need a game to tell you a definition that you already know from outside the game. Do you not think that portraying ability scores a particular way is part of your view of roleplaying? If it is part of how you define roleplaying, what definition are you drawing from outside of the context of games that involve ability scores?
Um, no. Roleplaying is being discussed in general terms. The specific restrictions on stats(high = high and low=low) is a part of the game, not the roleplaying definition.. Trying to game the system and ignore the context of page 14 and the ability check system isn't something I accept.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
Definitions are funny things. I am into "Iron Sports" as a hobby, and among exercise scientists, there are arguments about how many types of strength there are. A typical definition is 4, although some go up to 7.

Give that professional sports scientists have different definitions for strength, it is totally reasonable for a game to provide it's definition.

For those that are interested, the four common definitions are:
  1. Starting Strength - the ability to recruit as many muscle fibres at once. Bodybuilders exemplify this with their training
  2. Explosive Strength - the ability to continue to fire muscle fibres to create accelerative force. Sprints and Olympic weightlifters are the prime examples of this
  3. Limit Strength - the maximum amount of strain muscles can undertake before failing. This is primarily a powerlifters domain
  4. Muscle endurance - the ability to hold lactic acid and process energy sources efficiently. This is seen in endurance athletes like cyclists, marathon runners, and crossfit practitioners.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Um, no. Roleplaying is being discussed in general terms. The specific restrictions on stats(high = high and low=low) is a part of the game, not the roleplaying definition.. Trying to game the system and ignore the context of page 14 and the ability check system isn't something I accept.
There are no "specific restrictions on stats." A player choosing how to portray his or her own character isn't gaming the system. It's just playing the game. I get that some of you may have opinions on how someone should portray an 8 Intelligence versus a 12 Intelligence (or whatever), but opinions are all they are.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Definitions are funny things. I am into "Iron Sports" as a hobby, and among exercise scientists, there are arguments about how many types of strength there are. A typical definition is 4, although some go up to 7.

Give that professional sports scientists have different definitions for strength, it is totally reasonable for a game to provide it's definition.

For those that are interested, the four common definitions are:
  1. Starting Strength - the ability to recruit as many muscle fibres at once. Bodybuilders exemplify this with their training
  2. Explosive Strength - the ability to continue to fire muscle fibres to create accelerative force. Sprints and Olympic weightlifters are the prime examples of this
  3. Limit Strength - the maximum amount of strain muscles can undertake before failing. This is primarily a powerlifters domain
  4. Muscle endurance - the ability to hold lactic acid and process energy sources efficiently. This is seen in endurance athletes like cyclists, marathon runners, and crossfit practitioners.
Those aren't really different definitions for strength, so much as definitions for different types of strength. There are different types of roleplaying as well.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There are no "specific restrictions on stats." A player choosing how to portray his or her own character isn't gaming the system. It's just playing the game. I get that some of you may have opinions on how someone should portray an 8 Intelligence versus a 12 Intelligence (or whatever), but opinions are all they are.
The rules on page 14 and the ability check section back up my "opinion" far more than they do yours.
 

Voadam

Hero
Stat definitions are generally very flexible in my opinion and allow a lot of concepts.

For example Charisma, generally through editions it is a mix or combination of looks, persuasion, and force of personality/presence. These things can be in completely different proportions for an individual. So if you want to be roleplaying super talky and persuasive with a low Charisma stat, say your character is ugly and you will fit the definition of Charisma fine. Cyrano de Bergerac can plausibly be most any Charisma score you want, which can help if you want to mechanically model his expert swordsmanship through a fighter type class.

For intelligence, a character concept of smart and logical but no aptitude for languages or wizard magic in most editions of D&D can best be modeled by a low int stat and roleplaying a smart and logical approach and characterization.

I generally go with character concept first, mechanics second. I'm fine with people choosing to use mechanics to define their character concept and come up with what would an X stat/class/alignment character be like, but I have no aesthetic desire to see characterization match stats. I am much more interested in characterization period and having players play what characterization they want.
 

How is it evasive? I agree bad behavior is bad. You just think that certain behaviors are bad, with nothing in the rules to support your position, and I don't think they necessarily are bad.
The idea that a bad behaviour has to be specifically called out as bad in the rules of a game is pretty wild! By this sort of logic, any deeply obnoxious behaviour that the rules fail to call out is actually totally fine.

This all goes back to what I was saying though, you're taking the ultimate Rules Lawyer approach to D&D, a totally legalistic approach that basically says "unless it says something is wrong in the actual rulebook, it's not only not wrong, it's probably intended!". It an approach, I guess, but it's a ridiculous and laughable one. D&D isn't that well-written, nor is it intended to be. Even 5E make a lot of assumptions about what people know, and how they'll behave, and expects them to fill in the gaps. This is why some groups have some pretty bizarre takes, even in the internet age. I've seen it myself as I helped a friend with some friends of his who wanted to learn to play but couldn't figure out a bunch of stuff.

So this sort of "if it's not actually written in the books, it's meaningless!" approach is pretty funny, really.

Did you play any previous editions? I'm guessing you might not have.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The idea that a bad behaviour has to be specifically called out as bad in the rules of a game is pretty wild! By this sort of logic, any deeply obnoxious behaviour that the rules fail to call out is actually totally fine.

This all goes back to what I was saying though, you're taking the ultimate Rules Lawyer approach to D&D, a totally legalistic approach that basically says "unless it says something is wrong in the actual rulebook, it's not only not wrong, it's probably intended!". It an approach, I guess, but it's a ridiculous and laughable one. D&D isn't that well-written, nor is it intended to be. Even 5E make a lot of assumptions about what people know, and how they'll behave, and expects them to fill in the gaps. This is why some groups have some pretty bizarre takes, even in the internet age. I've seen it myself as I helped a friend with some friends of his who wanted to learn to play but couldn't figure out a bunch of stuff.

So this sort of "if it's not actually written in the books, it's meaningless!" approach is pretty funny, really.

Did you play any previous editions? I'm guessing you might not have.
Bad behavior is defined at the level of table rules which varies by group. What is bad behavior at your table may not be the same at someone else's table.

I've played all editions of D&D.
 

What I think is going on here is that you are starting with the conclusion that certain approaches to roleplaying are "bad", and then arguing back toward that. @iserith and I and others are asking you to examine that belief, and see what the basis is for calling it bad. As opposed to simply not fitting within your own preferences for what roleplaying should look like.
This really seems evasive to me, which is a term I've used repeatedly, because you two have both been avoiding specifics so much. I'm sure you're probably not trying to be evasive, but what specifically, is good about letting a player dumpstat mental stats, ignore those stats in how he portrays the character, then socially manipulate the DM into letting him operate as if his character was extremely good in those stats (quite possibly at the expense of players who are less socially-adept/silver-tongued, but who took PCs who were good at those things)?

We can argue over the terminology, of course, but that's a literal description of what is being proposed, as I understand it. And again for me, this isn't theoretical - I've seen people do this, and I've seen it be harmful. It isn't always harmful, of course not. But if it's sustained 100% of the time, then I'm pretty certain it will be. It means that a smarter, more manipulative, more charismatic player (PLAYER, not character) can basically ignore the rules on mental stats to a large extent, so long as they have the right DM.

I'm totally down with VARIANT approaches to low stats. For example, in one game I'm in, a character has 8 INT and WIS. The character is not mentally subnormal, as in thick. Instead, she's not a great thinker, distractible, whimsical, and not entirely reasonable nor subject to reason. She's witty, she comes up with snappy retorts and the odd plan, but equally she sometimes does stuff that's unreasonable or foolish or irrational, and she consistently underestimates how annoying she is (not the player - he's a really cool laid-back guy who plays a wide variety of excellently-RP'd characters - but he's good enough that he understands how to make the character be annoying without us being mad at him!).

The point is, the low stats are acknowledged and explained and part of the character, not flatly ignored.

Further, the roleplay on the character is extremely good, and not always to the advantage of that character. Yeah, if the player has a great idea, they'll find a way to convey it, in character, but equally, sometime, they could have probably worked out a way she did know something or would do the smartest possible thing, but they don't, because it's not really in-character, and that's part of what makes her extremely charming.

Those are the sticking points here, for me:

1) Ignoring, rather than providing an alternative explanation for, low stats. (alternative to the most simple/obvious one). I genuinely love alternate explanations - I prefer them, even.

2) Always going for the maximum advantage for your character/party, and never RPing in a way that might be truer to your character, but not so advantageous.

3) The idea that it's okay for people who are IRL smart, manipulative, and so on, to ignore stats, where people who are maybe buff, agile or the like, can't, seems like a bizarre double-standard.

I've played all editions of D&D.
What do you mean by this, exactly? I've been playing since 1988, and even I haven't played "all editions" of D&D by the standards I'd use. When did you start playing, year-wise?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What do you mean by this, exactly? I've been playing since 1988, and even I haven't played "all editions" of D&D by the standards I'd use. When did you start playing, year-wise?
1991. I've played them all, but longest runs were AD&D 2e in high school, D&D 3.Xe from inception till D&D 4e came out, same deal until D&D 5e, though there was some overlap with D&D 4e and 5e until the online tools were discontinued. Now it's just D&D 5e.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This really seems evasive to me, which is a term I've used repeatedly, because you two have both been avoiding specifics so much. I'm sure you're probably not trying to be evasive, but what specifically, is good about letting a player dumpstat mental stats, ignore those stats in how he portrays the character, then socially manipulate the DM into letting him operate as if his character was extremely good in those stats (quite possibly at the expense of players who are less socially-adept/silver-tongued, but who took PCs who were good at those things)?

We can argue over the terminology, of course, but that's a literal description of what is being proposed, as I understand it. And again for me, this isn't theoretical - I've seen people do this, and I've seen it be harmful. It isn't always harmful, of course not. But if it's sustained 100% of the time, then I'm pretty certain it will be. It means that a smarter, more manipulative, more charismatic player (PLAYER, not character) can basically ignore the rules on mental stats to a large extent, so long as they have the right DM.

I'm totally down with VARIANT approaches to low stats. For example, in one game I'm in, a character has 8 INT and WIS. The character is not mentally subnormal, as in thick. Instead, she's not a great thinker, distractible, whimsical, and not entirely reasonable nor subject to reason. She's witty, she comes up with snappy retorts and the odd plan, but equally she sometimes does stuff that's unreasonable or foolish or irrational, and she consistently underestimates how annoying she is (not the player - he's a really cool laid-back guy who plays a wide variety of excellently-RP'd characters - but he's good enough that he understands how to make the character be annoying without us being mad at him!).

The point is, the low stats are acknowledged and explained and part of the character, not flatly ignored.

Further, the roleplay on the character is extremely good, and not always to the advantage of that character. Yeah, if the player has a great idea, they'll find a way to convey it, in character, but equally, sometime, they could have probably worked out a way she did know something or would do the smartest possible thing, but they don't, because it's not really in-character, and that's part of what makes her extremely charming.

Those are the sticking points here, for me:

1) Ignoring, rather than providing an alternative explanation for, low stats. (alternative to the most simple/obvious one). I genuinely love alternate explanations - I prefer them, even.

2) Always going for the maximum advantage for your character/party, and never RPing in a way that might be truer to your character, but not so advantageous.

3) The idea that it's okay for people who are IRL smart, manipulative, and so on, to ignore stats, where people who are maybe buff, agile or the like, can't, seems like a bizarre double-standard.



What do you mean by this, exactly? I've been playing since 1988, and even I haven't played "all editions" of D&D by the standards I'd use. When did you start playing, year-wise?
Fundamentally, the difference here is in the part I bolded. You're assuming this is the outcome. It's not. The player can present it any way they want, but I'm really only caring what their approach is and what their goal is. The prettiness of the words is fun, but not what I'm going to adjudicate. And, given our long discussions in the past, I'm confident @iserith does the same -- but he can speak for himself.

If you go on a long winded acting session, I'm going to clap (it's fun), but then clarify what you want to do and that your approach is "use pretty words." If I think "pretty words" gets the job done, no questions, then, sure, you'll get a success. That's unlikely, though, so I'm probably going to rule this uncertain and ask for a CHA check (based on "use pretty words" approach). If you've dump-statted CHA and plan to often "use pretty words," then you've not done a good job aligning your approach with your odds of success, and likely something a good bit farcical will result with you failing more than succeeding at your intent.

The example @iserith provided, though, wasn't convincing the GM to agree with you, but rather that a smart player, given the clues provided in the game, may deduce the correct answer to a mystery. If the player has their PC act on this player deduction, well and good. If that's the correct deduction, then play will show that out in actions based on that as successes. If it's not, then play will show out failures (probably automatic ones). The player can do this, but is cautioned that they may be incorrect. They can check their guess by declaring an action that does so, and that may go poorly or well for them, modified by their ability. Even if it goes poorly and they don't get confirmation, they can still proceed however the player wants. As @iserith often says, there's always a good explanation for why a PC thinks or tries something, so why police what a PC can think or try?

Ultimately, how you design your game will have a larger impact in encouraging the kinds of play you want than any amount of player policing. I do my work on the GM side of the screen and let the players do their on their side. No amount of pretty words is going to adjust how I adjudicate actions, and I've made that clear -- I'm looking for approach and goal. I encourage acting at my table, because it's fun, but acting doesn't trump adjudication, it serves it. So, I both do not care what justifications my player use to have their PCs think or try anything at my table AND I don't have the problem you're imagining.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Fundamentally, the difference here is in the part I bolded. You're assuming this is the outcome. It's not. The player can present it any way they want, but I'm really only caring what their approach is and what their goal is. The prettiness of the words is fun, but not what I'm going to adjudicate. And, given our long discussions in the past, I'm confident @iserith does the same -- but he can speak for himself.

If you go on a long winded acting session, I'm going to clap (it's fun), but then clarify what you want to do and that your approach is "use pretty words." If I think "pretty words" gets the job done, no questions, then, sure, you'll get a success. That's unlikely, though, so I'm probably going to rule this uncertain and ask for a CHA check (based on "use pretty words" approach). If you've dump-statted CHA and plan to often "use pretty words," then you've not done a good job aligning your approach with your odds of success, and likely something a good bit farcical will result with you failing more than succeeding at your intent.

The example @iserith provided, though, wasn't convincing the GM to agree with you, but rather that a smart player, given the clues provided in the game, may deduce the correct answer to a mystery. If the player has their PC act on this player deduction, well and good. If that's the correct deduction, then play will show that out in actions based on that as successes. If it's not, then play will show out failures (probably automatic ones). The player can do this, but is cautioned that they may be incorrect. They can check their guess by declaring an action that does so, and that may go poorly or well for them, modified by their ability. Even if it goes poorly and they don't get confirmation, they can still proceed however the player wants. As @iserith often says, there's always a good explanation for why a PC thinks or tries something, so why police what a PC can think or try?

Ultimately, how you design your game will have a larger impact in encouraging the kinds of play you want than any amount of player policing. I do my work on the GM side of the screen and let the players do their on their side. No amount of pretty words is going to adjust how I adjudicate actions, and I've made that clear -- I'm looking for approach and goal. I encourage acting at my table, because it's fun, but acting doesn't trump adjudication, it serves it. So, I both do not care what justifications my player use to have their PCs think or try anything at my table AND I don't have the problem you're imagining.
Yeah, as well, the smart play for a player who wants to have the character "use pretty words" would be to then add a personality trait like the one in Sage which reads "I use polysyllabic words that convey the impression of great erudition" so that the player may earn Inspiration. So you can have your character make the case using 10-cent words and, if the DM then calls for an ability check, can spend Inspiration to help offset any weaknesses the character may have with regard to ability scores or skill proficiencies.

This is the game incentivizing players to portray the character in accordance with specific, established characteristics. And in my experience it works great (issues of DM overhead aside) - players generally want to succeed, so they portray their characters well to help achieve that goal. The weird thing that I often notice is that there is a correlation between the kinds of people who say they are really into the "heavy RP" or who have a lot of opinions on how a character "should" be portrayed and not using a mechanic that helps them realize the game experience they say they want.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, as well, the smart play for a player who wants to have the character "use pretty words" would be to then add a personality trait like the one in Sage which reads "I use polysyllabic words that convey the impression of great erudition" so that the player may earn Inspiration. So you can have your character make the case using 10-cent words and, if the DM then calls for an ability check, can spend Inspiration to help offset any weaknesses the character may have with regard to ability scores or skill proficiencies.

This is the game incentivizing players to portray the character in accordance with specific, established characteristics. And in my experience it works great (issues of DM overhead aside) - players generally want to succeed, so they portray their characters well to help achieve that goal. The weird thing that I often notice is that there is a correlation between the kinds of people who say they are really into the "heavy RP" or who have a lot of opinions on how a character "should" be portrayed and not using a mechanic that helps them realize the game experience they say they want.
Totes agree. And, that said, inspiration almost never shows up in my 5e game. It's the weirdest thing. I mostly stole your approach, but, in a nutshell, I, as GM, have nothing to do with inspiration. The rule is that players can, while taking an action, state how their action ties into one of their BIFTs or background and claim inspiration for the roll. That's it, they just have to point out how what their doing works with their characterization choices and they get it. The second rule is that you can only use a given BIFT or background feature once in a session for inspiration, but that's still like 5 or 6 times a session they can claim it. But, they don't. Even when I point it out, it might get used that time but then... not. And, my players are awesome at having rich characterization and playing into their BIFTs and backgrounds, so it's not that. It's like they just don't... want to? I dunno. I'm hoping our current long rotation into Blades in the Dark will help with any hesitancy to lean into it when we return to 5e (probably post-pandemic because Blades is easier on us scheduling wise -- I game with 2 first responders and someone in medicine we flexibility of attendance is paramount).

Although, I will say that one of my players in Blades keeps trying actions they suck at and paying the price for it, despite having good chances with other approaches (and earning XP for using them!). He's a Whisper with zero social skills and great paranormal ones, but tends to ignore his paranormal abilities (despite them having been hella effective in previous situations) and instead tries to talk his way through things. It's... odd, but maybe a clue? Last session I flat out told him he should really reconsider trying to talk his way through things and just go with summoning some ghosts every now and again, after he had his third outright failure in a row while trying to be a smooth talker. I mean, when you try to convincingly con someone, declare a Sway action, and you have 0 dice in Sway... what exactly are you expecting to happen? Which, come to think of it, is a great analogy to this thread and how you can try to be Sherlock Holmes but your dice may disagree. I'm not going to police the trying (just like I don't police my player trying to con on 0d Sway), but the adjudication of your pretty word or deductive superpowers may leave much to be desired.
 

Voadam

Hero
I am a big fan of conceiving of your character how you want for descriptions and roleplay and generally only having stats affect mechanics.

As a DM I really do not care if peoples roleplay does not reflect their stats, if they are having fun and it is a cool experience in general that is the goal. As a player I generally do not know other players stats and it is their characterizations that matter.

So I am fine a with a player of a Str 10 or whatever wizard saying they studied at a classical Greek university and developed both mind and body and are good at discus and describing themselves as having a huge wrestler's physique even though mechanically they have no bonus on kicking in doors or swinging a sword.

I have no problem with a player thinking of themselves, and first person roleplaying as, tactical Batman, investigative Holmes, or verbally engaging Cyrano. Those are fun concepts to play or engage with.

D&D stats are generally written broadly so you have room to work a lot if you want. Picking one described aspect of a stat leaves a lot of room to not have the others or vice versa.

Alternate descriptions for

High Str:
Very effective, I know how to hit harder.
I have a supernatural background so even though I don't look super strong, those looks are deceiving.

High Dex:
Despite my unathletic appearance, I'm really good with my hands.
What? All dwarves are acrobats.

High Con:
I don't look tough, I just never get sick.

High Int:
What can I say, I'm just really good at wizardry.

High Wisdom:
How could you not have seen that?
I am blessed with divine power.
My natural mental defenses are strong.

High Charisma:
Ugly and abrasive but really strong at magic.
Cyrano.
Can't persuade or manipulate, but absolutely stunning.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Totes agree. And, that said, inspiration almost never shows up in my 5e game. It's the weirdest thing. I mostly stole your approach, but, in a nutshell, I, as GM, have nothing to do with inspiration. The rule is that players can, while taking an action, state how their action ties into one of their BIFTs or background and claim inspiration for the roll. That's it, they just have to point out how what their doing works with their characterization choices and they get it. The second rule is that you can only use a given BIFT or background feature once in a session for inspiration, but that's still like 5 or 6 times a session they can claim it. But, they don't. Even when I point it out, it might get used that time but then... not. And, my players are awesome at having rich characterization and playing into their BIFTs and backgrounds, so it's not that. It's like they just don't... want to? I dunno. I'm hoping our current long rotation into Blades in the Dark will help with any hesitancy to lean into it when we return to 5e (probably post-pandemic because Blades is easier on us scheduling wise -- I game with 2 first responders and someone in medicine we flexibility of attendance is paramount).
This is actually a fairly common thing I hear about Inspiration - players get it and don't use it or don't go for it. It seems like that's a matter of habit perhaps, but I also wonder sometimes how meaningful the consequence of failure is. I know in my games my regular johns almost always hit the limit of 4 Inspiration per character per session. I think this is because failing an ability check in my games is usually pretty bad in context and this is generally where they spend their Inspiration. Like anything though, it's probably not just one thing that contributes to players using or not using the mechanic.

Although, I will say that one of my players in Blades keeps trying actions they suck at and paying the price for it, despite having good chances with other approaches (and earning XP for using them!). He's a Whisper with zero social skills and great paranormal ones, but tends to ignore his paranormal abilities (despite them having been hella effective in previous situations) and instead tries to talk his way through things. It's... odd, but maybe a clue? Last session I flat out told him he should really reconsider trying to talk his way through things and just go with summoning some ghosts every now and again, after he had his third outright failure in a row while trying to be a smooth talker. I mean, when you try to convincingly con someone, declare a Sway action, and you have 0 dice in Sway... what exactly are you expecting to happen? Which, come to think of it, is a great analogy to this thread and how you can try to be Sherlock Holmes but your dice may disagree. I'm not going to police the trying (just like I don't police my player trying to con on 0d Sway), but the adjudication of your pretty word or deductive superpowers may leave much to be desired.
That's funny, some kind of mismatch between how the player wants to play and how good the character is in those areas it seems to me. I sometimes see this and it's usually as above where the player wants to be chatty but the character isn't good at persuasion. I wonder if there's something to that, perhaps relating to the player's level of extroversion.
 

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