What does it mean to "Challenge the Character"?

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Yes. Especially since in 5e "dumping" usually just means an 8, which is 5% worse than average. That suggests to me that there is latent antipathy toward the idea of dumping, brought over from previous editions, where you can be genuinely terrible at something. Thus, when you use the standard array and put the 8 somewhere, and then you don't invest in skills related to that ability, you are "minmaxing" and you must be punished for it.
So, this seems to be one of a number of contentious threads going on right now (both this forum and the general RPG forum), but I wanted to note that this is a common and recurrent issue (see also the genius with the 8 intelligence, or whatever that thread was) and IMO it relates to a few issues that seem to crop up.

The first is the one that is common to the boards and that you are alluding to- the idea of "dumping," or, at least, specifically not putting a good stat in a particular ability because you don't care about the pure mechanical aspects and you feel that you can RP your way out of the low score. Call this the Charisma/Intelligence problem. I call it that because it was a common issue back in the old days with charisma and intelligence- neither ability had much of a mechanical impact*, so unless you had a specialized use-case (magic user, paladin, to name two), players would put their low rolls by default in those stats because the other abilities had decided mechanical advantages; moreover, there was an emphasis on, and allowance for, "skilled play" that would let you get around a low intelligence, and you could always talk your way around a low charisma.

So as people began to RP more, there was a natural divide with some people wanting to see people RP their stats; in addition, there was some lingering idea that dumping stats is ... well, distasteful. At least if you aren't accruing some actual disadvantage for it (it's not min/maxing, it's max/maxing?)- it would be like those systems where you trade slight disadvantages for awesome abilities, and people load up on the slight disadvantages to make OP characters. (I am not judging here, btw, just describing).

Of course, things began to morph as BECMI/1e/2e began to change into 3e and later editions. Abilities were no longer mostly static, but increased over time. In addition, while there were hints and various ways to do ability challenges or checks in the older systems, there was no formal system of DC checks like we later on. Which has a profound impact (again, IMO, and I hope I don't have to keep stating that) on the way various people approached the game, and the whole player/PC split.

Because I see references to this in multiple threads, as people attempt to articulate their various styles of play. And it really does seem to make a difference to them. And, to be honest, I think that there is a divide regardless of whether you approach it from a more RP or a more gamist POV. Basically, it's a question of the following:

Do you think that the PC is a separate entity, capable of solving problems with an independent base of knowledge?

Or do you think the PC is vessel for your play (the player)?

I was thinking about this when I was reading about the Blades in the Dark system on a different thread, wherein the inventory of a PC is determined by slots, and the items in those slots are determined by when they are needed.** The explanation for this is that the PC is a professional, and the professional will have appropriately planned and determined what items would be needed. Which is anathema to how I play, but it also makes perfect sense from another perspective.

It's the same here. How do you know what the PC knows (for example) or what the PC can do in 5e? You roll against their ability. That's how you find out. That's one perspective.

The other perspective is that the PC is a vessel for the player's play (an alter ego of a certain sense), and the player can (through, for example skilled play or role playing or narration) change or greatly influence the results.

Of course, I would guess that most tables use some combination of those two.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this for a while, and I thought I'd offer that up. :)




*Yes, there were some things, like languages and henchmen; but IMO most games did not emphasize this compared to the massive advantages of strength (carrying loot, combat, doors etc.), dex (combat, AC, etc.), con (HP, resurrection, etc.), and even wisdom (saving throws).

**To the extent I am mischaracterizing this, I apologize- I haven't actually played this game. This is my understanding based on how it was described.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
So, this seems to be one of a number of contentious threads going on right now (both this forum and the general RPG forum), but I wanted to note that this is a common and recurrent issue (see also the genius with the 8 intelligence, or whatever that thread was) and IMO it relates to a few issues that seem to crop up.

The first is the one that is common to the boards and that you are alluding to- the idea of "dumping," or, at least, specifically not putting a good stat in a particular ability because you don't care about the pure mechanical aspects and you feel that you can RP your way out of the low score. Call this the Charisma/Intelligence problem. I call it that because it was a common issue back in the old days with charisma and intelligence- neither ability had much of a mechanical impact*, so unless you had a specialized use-case (magic user, paladin, to name two), players would put their low rolls by default in those stats because the other abilities had decided mechanical advantages; moreover, there was an emphasis on, and allowance for, "skilled play" that would let you get around a low intelligence, and you could always talk your way around a low charisma.

So as people began to RP more, there was a natural divide with some people wanting to see people RP their stats; in addition, there was some lingering idea that dumping stats is ... well, distasteful. At least if you aren't accruing some actual disadvantage for it (it's not min/maxing, it's max/maxing?)- it would be like those systems where you trade slight disadvantages for awesome abilities, and people load up on the slight disadvantages to make OP characters. (I am not judging here, btw, just describing).

Of course, things began to morph as BECMI/1e/2e began to change into 3e and later editions. Abilities were no longer mostly static, but increased over time. In addition, while there were hints and various ways to do ability challenges or checks in the older systems, there was no formal system of DC checks like we later on. Which has a profound impact (again, IMO, and I hope I don't have to keep stating that) on the way various people approached the game, and the whole player/PC split.

Because I see references to this in multiple threads, as people attempt to articulate their various styles of play. And it really does seem to make a difference to them. And, to be honest, I think that there is a divide regardless of whether you approach it from a more RP or a more gamist POV. Basically, it's a question of the following:

Do you think that the PC is a separate entity, capable of solving problems with an independent base of knowledge?

Or do you think the PC is vessel for your play (the player)?

I was thinking about this when I was reading about the Blades in the Dark system on a different thread, wherein the inventory of a PC is determined by slots, and the items in those slots are determined by when they are needed.** The explanation for this is that the PC is a professional, and the professional will have appropriately planned and determined what items would be needed. Which is anathema to how I play, but it also makes perfect sense from another perspective.

It's the same here. How do you know what the PC knows (for example) or what the PC can do in 5e? You roll against their ability. That's how you find out. That's one perspective.

The other perspective is that the PC is a vessel for the player's play (an alter ego of a certain sense), and the player can (through, for example skilled play or role playing or narration) change or greatly influence the results.

Of course, I would guess that most tables use some combination of those two.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this for a while, and I thought I'd offer that up. :)




*Yes, there were some things, like languages and henchmen; but IMO most games did not emphasize this compared to the massive advantages of strength (carrying loot, combat, doors etc.), dex (combat, AC, etc.), con (HP, resurrection, etc.), and even wisdom (saving throws).

**To the extent I am mischaracterizing this, I apologize- I haven't actually played this game. This is my understanding based on how it was described.
Good post.

I especially like the Blades in the Dark example (which I have also been reading lately). Maybe that mechanic is a kind of litmus test: whether or not you like it perhaps says a lot about where you stand on a number of other playstyle questions.

For the record, I love that mechanic.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
The problem with this is that it is a standard trope of fiction that characters which aren't particularly clever often think of clever plans by doing the simple obvious thing that the more clever character didn't think of. This is the "kids say the darndest things" trope and related tropes. So there is nothing particularly wrong with a player who is intelligent, playing a mechanically "dumb" character in a "Forest Gump" like manner where he solves problems despite his lack of intelligence rather than because of it. Yes, there are artful ways to play this out and less artful ways of playing this out, but I'm not going to show someone the door simply because they aren't an artful enough of a thespian for my tastes.

What are you going to do, tell the player that their character is too dumb to have come up with this plan? Force the player to make an intelligence check to come up with the plan? Are you also going to make the 18 INT character make an intelligence check to come up with the plan? Because if you are going to do that sort of thing, why allow players to play their characters at all?

If a player dump stats an attribute and in your opinion doesn't suffer enough of a penalty for it, then it suggests that attribute doesn't actually have enough impact on play and possibly should be removed from the game entirely. If it really was the case that there was no mechanical penalty for low INT, why do characters and the rules system have INT at all? That sounds like a problem with the system and not with the players.



This is where I'm having the hardest time understanding your point of view. I don't think anyone has argued that for example in a social challenge you ought to succeed in difficult challenges regardless of your characters social skills. I think that regardless of the approach that a player takes for solving the problem, having high skill in social conflicts is going to make you much more likely to succeed. All people are suggesting is that approach does matter, in the same way that kicking down the door might be easier than picking the lock, or conversely the door might not even be locked and so opening it is easier than kicking it down.

I already know you and I have different processes of play, but typically what I'll do in a social encounters is allow the player a little bit to role play their character and then once I think they've reached a good point in the role play, I'll ask for a social check appropriate to their role play - intimidation if they were threatening, bluff if they were manipulative, diplomacy if they were trying to be persuasive. I'll apply a circumstance bonus based on how appropriate their argument was, whether they raised salient points, and how entertaining their role-play was (which means that if they are 8 INT and they played like their INT didn't matter and used a lot of big words and complex idea, I might penalize them). Then they have to roll. Success is far from guaranteed. If you are playing a misanthrope vermin sorcerer with multiple bloodline mutations, chances are you aren't going to succeed at anything regardless of what you role played. People are going to be too freaked out to even pay attention to you, and regardless of how apt you thought your language, what people heard is going to be uncanny and alien.

What I tell players is that what they hear as players in their own words isn't what the NPCs necessarily hear. I have a player who is socially awkward and stutters a lot when he tries to RP. Yet his character has very high diplomacy. Consequently, while the player may stutter and be awkward, the character doesn't. If the message is on point, the character will deliver it with the eloquence the player lacks. Conversely, if I had a player that is very eloquent, but has large charisma penalties, the character will deliver the message in a wholly awkward fashion. The player has in fact played out that trope scene from so many movies and TV shows where a character tries to achieve some brilliant oratory, but what has come out of there mouth has in fact made a fool of them.



Fortune at the beginning is a perfectly valid approach.

But my problem with it compared to fortune in the middle or even fortune in the end is that it tends to make the narration irrelevant and anticlimactic. There is a tendency that if the roll actually is everything and is all of the deciding factor for the narration to be deprecated and not really happen, because why bother? The results are known. Perhaps one sentence will be said to humorously explain the result of the roll, but since the narration adds nothing there is no more reason to do it than there typically is reason to narrate the specifics of what happens when someone swings a sword.

Point that I want to convey though is that just because you use Fortune in the Middle or Fortune at the End doesn't mean that the dice don't determine what happens and that you can make an end run around a games mechanics.

And the other point that I disagree with you over is that just because you have dump stated something doesn't mean that the proper way to play your character is failure.
"If a player dump stats an attribute and in your opinion doesn't suffer enough of a penalty for it, then it suggests that attribute doesn't actually have enough impact on play and possibly should be removed from the game entirely. If it really was the case that there was no mechanical penalty for low INT, why do characters and the rules system have INT at all? That sounds like a problem with the system and not with the players."

I agree. However, the impact on play of a stat is dependent on both the types of challenges presented to the charscter **and** the resolution methods seen to be needed in play.

If a GM shows routinely that social engagements are handled more on the player-side by puzzle-lock type play, where really perhaps insight and investigation play s bigger role (gathering clues to be used to manipulate the other) and that if the argument presented in player gets to "auto-success" etc (no Cha needed) then that is the GM choosing to rule out botched delivery by character as long as the player doesnt themselves do so. The GM has then shown Cha as less useful.

Thats why I (and others perhaps) will tend to always refer back to stats, perhaps still auto-success, but used.

Some stats have hard coded uses, guaranteed uncertainties etc do the reference to the stat is maintained in many encounters by the mechanics. Others are far more succeptable to GM bypassing enough to see the stat devslued.

I would have zero issues if a GM said "in this game, most social types of challenges are gonna be more like mysteries to solve - investigation and insight driven if at all stats and so CHA is removed". Tell the folks that right up front. Rework classes to use other non-cha stats.

But leaving Cha in and then showing in play it's more effective to overcome those challenges by the other means... you undercut the chargen choices and expectations. "I figured my sorc would be good at social stuff, but the ones finding clues do better at it than I.
"

As for the int 18 vs Int 8 and why play character whatever...

Facing a 15' jump a str 18 doesnt have to roll but a set 12 or str 8 would. So both require reference to character stat, but one auto-succeeds. Is that raising an issue of why play character too?

Fir me, the ingots is an easy issue since str 8 can lift them and even toddlers learn there are things they can carry and things they cannot. The challenge doesnt come with one solution but with many and they have different ways they reference stats. It's not that a Str 18 check was applied to the scene, but to moving the full cart.

But then again, to me a challenge to Int would not be a "player puzzle but something that the character would need to do, like deciphering mystic runes or analysis of a compound etc. So, the idea that lifting ingots somehow gets worked into a int test for character is very skewed from my experience at gaming.
 
Ask 10 different people what "min/max" means and you're likely to get 10 different answers, especially since it's obvious it's all wrapped in some emotional response you're having. If you want to talk about it, you'll have to define what it means to you.
You might get 10 different opinions - 9 of them negative - but I've only ever heard two meaningfully different definitions.

1) Minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths - fanciful under most build systems.

2) Minimize investment in some areas to maximize it in others (often one other)

Few build systems actually model anything like diminishing marginal utility, so they tend to encourage extreme trade-offs. If you've ever played an 8 STR 18 INT wizard or an 18 STR 8 INT fighter, you've min/maxed, and you've nothing to be ashamed of. It's just following a pattern that the system incentivizes.

What is the "talky talky?"
In this case, specifically using speaking in character, alone, to resolve a social challenge, without reference to the relevant mechanical qualities of the character.

Do you mean coming up with an efficacious approach to a goal? Such as using a key on the locked door instead of bashing it down with a portable ram?
Given that the character has no key, that might be an example of a broader meaning. (This is about to get insulting to my fellow nerds): it's what goes on when a player-DM verbal interaction moves beyond what our high-conventional-IQ nerdbrains can process, due to the player possessing much greater emotional intelligence and social skills than we can even imagine, resulting in a DM ruling at odds with rules, stats, reason, and immune to any degree of logical rigour we might resort to in proving how wrong it is.


OK, that's probably not what Hussar meant.
 

Celebrim

Legend
What is the "talky talky?" Do you mean coming up with an efficacious approach to a goal? Such as using a key on the locked door instead of bashing it down with a portable ram? In a dramatic situation, the former approach likely doesn't require an ability check. The latter likely does.

What's the minimum Intelligence required to use a key instead of a portable ram to open a door?
I think your questions are spot on, but I think I also know where Hussar is coming from. And at the risk of offending him (again), I'll guess that the "talky talky" is actually his past experience with high charisma (but socially dysfunctional) players browbeating or bullying the DM into getting their way. That is to say, I suspect that what Hussar is really guarding against is not problem solving in character per se, but a player playing the metagame where he tries to talk the DM into yielding to him.

And that is I agree totally dysfunctional and yes I've seen that in play, and Hussar's strategy of using fortune at the beginning seems designed to just kill that cold without the need to have a confrontation with that player about the way that they are playing, precisely because players like that prefer to negotiate at the metagame level and any confrontation like that is simply starting up the drama with them.

This seems like a very easy challenge - choosing the highest bonus skill, randomly generating a number, then describing what you did. What's the DC for putting a key in a lock to unlock the door? Or do I not worry about that until I've said I want to open the door, roll some kind of ability check, then if I succeed say I used the key instead of the ram? What happens if I fail - did I use the ram instead or maybe the key breaks?
Again, what I really think Hussar is actually objecting to in play is not problem solving, as I suspect that in play he's not actually that far off what you or I do. I suspect what he is really objecting to is player's being jerks, and there is a particular class of player jerk that attempts to short cut the entire proposition->fortune->resolution cycle by first getting the DM to agree to the stakes, then getting the DM to agree that a plan works, and if they can't get that DM to agree to the stakes and to the plan working, then they back up and try again, until they finally browbeat the DM into simply validating that they get what they want. So you end up with a ton of argument over whether or not the DM is ruling correctly, and a ton of demands for do overs because the player would have never done this thing if he realized whatever. That is I think the "talky talky".
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
So, this seems to be one of a number of contentious threads going on right now (both this forum and the general RPG forum), but I wanted to note that this is a common and recurrent issue (see also the genius with the 8 intelligence, or whatever that thread was) and IMO it relates to a few issues that seem to crop up.

The first is the one that is common to the boards and that you are alluding to- the idea of "dumping," or, at least, specifically not putting a good stat in a particular ability because you don't care about the pure mechanical aspects and you feel that you can RP your way out of the low score. Call this the Charisma/Intelligence problem. I call it that because it was a common issue back in the old days with charisma and intelligence- neither ability had much of a mechanical impact*, so unless you had a specialized use-case (magic user, paladin, to name two), players would put their low rolls by default in those stats because the other abilities had decided mechanical advantages; moreover, there was an emphasis on, and allowance for, "skilled play" that would let you get around a low intelligence, and you could always talk your way around a low charisma.

So as people began to RP more, there was a natural divide with some people wanting to see people RP their stats; in addition, there was some lingering idea that dumping stats is ... well, distasteful. At least if you aren't accruing some actual disadvantage for it (it's not min/maxing, it's max/maxing?)- it would be like those systems where you trade slight disadvantages for awesome abilities, and people load up on the slight disadvantages to make OP characters. (I am not judging here, btw, just describing).

Of course, things began to morph as BECMI/1e/2e began to change into 3e and later editions. Abilities were no longer mostly static, but increased over time. In addition, while there were hints and various ways to do ability challenges or checks in the older systems, there was no formal system of DC checks like we later on. Which has a profound impact (again, IMO, and I hope I don't have to keep stating that) on the way various people approached the game, and the whole player/PC split.

Because I see references to this in multiple threads, as people attempt to articulate their various styles of play. And it really does seem to make a difference to them. And, to be honest, I think that there is a divide regardless of whether you approach it from a more RP or a more gamist POV. Basically, it's a question of the following:

Do you think that the PC is a separate entity, capable of solving problems with an independent base of knowledge?

Or do you think the PC is vessel for your play (the player)?

I was thinking about this when I was reading about the Blades in the Dark system on a different thread, wherein the inventory of a PC is determined by slots, and the items in those slots are determined by when they are needed.** The explanation for this is that the PC is a professional, and the professional will have appropriately planned and determined what items would be needed. Which is anathema to how I play, but it also makes perfect sense from another perspective.

It's the same here. How do you know what the PC knows (for example) or what the PC can do in 5e? You roll against their ability. That's how you find out. That's one perspective.

The other perspective is that the PC is a vessel for the player's play (an alter ego of a certain sense), and the player can (through, for example skilled play or role playing or narration) change or greatly influence the results.

Of course, I would guess that most tables use some combination of those two.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this for a while, and I thought I'd offer that up. :)




*Yes, there were some things, like languages and henchmen; but IMO most games did not emphasize this compared to the massive advantages of strength (carrying loot, combat, doors etc.), dex (combat, AC, etc.), con (HP, resurrection, etc.), and even wisdom (saving throws).

**To the extent I am mischaracterizing this, I apologize- I haven't actually played this game. This is my understanding based on how it was described.
Well said.

I agree with your focus. Part of me thinks there might be generational divides that can exacerbate this - as someone who has a gaming lifespan that started in the 90s or at 3.x etc might not have gone thru the "glory days" seeing the rise and fall of all sorts of different approaches.

"Do you think that the PC is a separate entity, capable of solving problems with an independent base of knowledge?
Or do you think the PC is vessel for your play (the player)?"

While I dont see these as mutually exclusive and see them as two ends on a spectrum I fall for DnD 5e games closer to the "entity" side, where the "your play" is key for the bigger picture stuff but the "separate entity is key for the more granular task level stuff.

Take a fight - "your play" makes a world of difference - decisions on who to attack now, to attack or to cover, to heal or hurt, to fog cloud or serp, etc etc make eworld of difference and can swing the battle results in many ways. They can even shift the odds of the attacks, thru help or such.

But the resolution of each task often comes down to the "separate entity" and their stats or specs.

Or say we have a different challenge, a town beset by demonic plagues, needing cures we dont have. Again, "your play" can be huge - do you call in allies and if do which ones, do you send some folks to get cures from a nearby harbor instead, do you ho hunting the plague source yo get the cure from them etc etc etc. "Your play" is key to the overall effort, the strategic levels of the solution, but then at each of these actual efforts that will be where the "separate entity" and their capabilities matter. Did you send the big surly barbarian to try and talk the allies into coming to help? Did you send the charming thief to the harbor to try and "acquire" cures? The "who" of the character matters.

Now, for other games, like say Ten Candles or VtM or OtE - my position on the scale between "entity" and "your play" shifts. Pretty much the more importance we show in chargen on mechanics and specifics for "the entity " the more I want to show that as time (choices) that matter.

Five index cards with one word each as dramatic triggers - its gonna be mostly "your play" at every level.

Point buy, classes, sub-classes, over a dozen skills, backgrounds, 20 level of mechanical changes, etc etc etc... "entity" is gonna matter more at the task level.

But that's me.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I find their position puzzling. Sort of like being opposed to...oh, let's say freedom of speech, just because some people will say hateful things. Yeah, they will. But dealing with them is vastly preferable to not having that freedom. (Ok, against the best advice I've received I've now let that analogy loose in this thread...can't wait to see how it's tortured and abused to prove that I'm contradicting myself.)
How about instead, we just note the fact that the analogy is poorly chosen and inappropriately hyperbolic, to the point of obscuring the issues being discussed, and leave it at that?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You might get 10 different opinions - 9 of them negative - but I've only ever heard two meaningfully different definitions.

1) Minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths - fanciful under most build systems.

2) Minimize investment in some areas to maximize it in others (often one other)

Few build systems actually model anything like diminishing marginal utility, so they tend to encourage extreme trade-offs. If you've ever played an 8 STR 18 INT wizard or an 18 STR 8 INT fighter, you've min/maxed, and you've nothing to be ashamed of. It's just following a pattern that the system incentivizes.
Under the proposed definitions, I agree with your conclusion.

In this case, specifically using speaking in character, alone, to resolve a social challenge, without reference to the relevant mechanical qualities of the character.
While the rules (and here I'm referencing D&D 5e) do say that the character's ability scores and race are taken into account when imagining the character's appearance and personality, there is no particular prohibition on action declarations for a given ability score. Further, the DM is told that it's "when a player wants to do something, it's often appropriate to let the attempt succeed without a roll or a reference to the character's ability scores."

So far as I can tell, some posters are adding an additional requirement about who can propose what based on some idea of what, for example, an 8 Intelligence or Charisma means. This is not supported by the rules of the game and, in some cases under examination here, it causes them to have to change the game to one of random number generation followed by description in order to enforce this additional requirement. Which as [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] notes appears to be a means by which they try to control dysfunctional player behavior.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think your questions are spot on, but I think I also know where Hussar is coming from. And at the risk of offending him (again), I'll guess that the "talky talky" is actually his past experience with high charisma (but socially dysfunctional) players browbeating or bullying the DM into getting their way. That is to say, I suspect that what Hussar is really guarding against is not problem solving in character per se, but a player playing the metagame where he tries to talk the DM into yielding to him.

And that is I agree totally dysfunctional and yes I've seen that in play, and Hussar's strategy of using fortune at the beginning seems designed to just kill that cold without the need to have a confrontation with that player about the way that they are playing, precisely because players like that prefer to negotiate at the metagame level and any confrontation like that is simply starting up the drama with them.

Again, what I really think Hussar is actually objecting to in play is not problem solving, as I suspect that in play he's not actually that far off what you or I do. I suspect what he is really objecting to is player's being jerks, and there is a particular class of player jerk that attempts to short cut the entire proposition->fortune->resolution cycle by first getting the DM to agree to the stakes, then getting the DM to agree that a plan works, and if they can't get that DM to agree to the stakes and to the plan working, then they back up and try again, until they finally browbeat the DM into simply validating that they get what they want. So you end up with a ton of argument over whether or not the DM is ruling correctly, and a ton of demands for do overs because the player would have never done this thing if he realized whatever. That is I think the "talky talky".
Given what appears to be a highly emotional response, I think you may well be right. It's one thing to try to avoid the fickle d20 by offering good approaches to remove uncertainty as to the outcome of the task and/or the meaningful consequence for failure. It's another thing to browbeat or bully the DM into making a particular call. It argues for, as with many things in life, not avoiding the confrontation and facing it head on to resolve it. There's a long bad history with trying to use in-game solutions to solve out-of-game problems. Just talk to that player, I say, and if the problem isn't resolved, drop him or her from the game.

But I guess we'll have to see if this was indeed the root of the problem Hussar's method attempts to solve. If it is, it just trades one problem for another in my view and greatly reduces the difficulty of the game.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
[MENTION=6801328]Elfcrusher[/MENTION], can you define your "alternative method" for a low charisma character achieving a social goal. Because when we ask for examples it's "use the key to open the locked door". Well, duh. Of course you can bypass a locked door by using a key. You can smash it down if you don't mind the noise and the fact that you're breaking the door.

But it's the same as bypassing a trap. Want to open a trapped chest? You either have to use a skill or find the instructions on how to bypass the trap in my campaign. If you're trying to get past a trapped door and can just bypass it by going around, why wouldn't you?

So for social encounters what are your options. Bribery? Blackmail? The former may not work or you may have insufficient items of value, the latter is assuming you have a "key" (aka "dirt") and are willing to use it*. It also assumes that you do either of those without insulting the NPC. In other words in my campaign you could try those but best it would do would be to give you advantage and a lowered DC. Even then I'd still probably make it a 5 unless it's incredibly good leverage.

Which leaves us with "make a compelling argument", which gets translated into "good talkie-talk".

*Which actually goes for both blackmail and bribery. A lot of players would find those options a no-go, not to mention possible negatives in the future. If your PC uses blackmail, you've created an enemy. Bribery? Charges of corruption.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
How about instead, we just note the fact that the analogy is poorly chosen and inappropriately hyperbolic, to the point of obscuring the issues being discussed, and leave it at that?
I’ll acknowledge nothing of the sort. It’s as good an analogy as any. Sure, more serious stakes in freedom of speech than in roleplaying games, but that doesn’t invalidate the analogy.

This thread and others are full of bad-faith debate, willful misunderstanding, disingenuous rhetorical tricks, and denigrating/dismissive language.

Yet you seem more bothered by me pointing out the obvious than by the behavior itself. What gives?
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
So far as I can tell, some posters are adding an additional requirement about who can propose what based on some idea of what, for example, an 8 Intelligence or Charisma means. This is not supported by the rules of the game and, in some cases under examination here, it causes them to have to change the game to one of random number generation followed by description in order to enforce this additional requirement. Which as [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] notes appears to be a means by which they try to control dysfunctional player behavior.
That was well-expressed.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
I’ll acknowledge nothing of the sort. It’s as good an analogy as any. Sure, more serious stakes in freedom of speech than in roleplaying games, but that doesn’t invalidate the analogy.

This thread and others are full of bad-faith debate, willful misunderstanding, disingenuous rhetorical tricks, and denigrating/dismissive language.

Yet you seem more bothered by me pointing out the obvious than by the behavior itself. What gives?
And as often seems to be the case, both sides seem utterly convinced it's the other side that's guilty of said behavior.

For my part, I'll just have to be more clear in any examples/argument. And also - not post quickly from my phone which seems to rarely get the intent I intend across.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
[MENTION=6801328]Elfcrusher[/MENTION], can you define your "alternative method" for a low charisma character achieving a social goal. Because when we ask for examples it's "use the key to open the locked door". Well, duh. Of course you can bypass a locked door by using a key. You can smash it down if you don't mind the noise and the fact that you're breaking the door.

But it's the same as bypassing a trap. Want to open a trapped chest? You either have to use a skill or find the instructions on how to bypass the trap in my campaign. If you're trying to get past a trapped door and can just bypass it by going around, why wouldn't you?

So for social encounters what are your options. Bribery? Blackmail? The former may not work or you may have insufficient items of value, the latter is assuming you have a "key" (aka "dirt") and are willing to use it*. It also assumes that you do either of those without insulting the NPC. In other words in my campaign you could try those but best it would do would be to give you advantage and a lowered DC. Even then I'd still probably make it a 5 unless it's incredibly good leverage.

Which leaves us with "make a compelling argument", which gets translated into "good talkie-talk".

*Which actually goes for both blackmail and bribery. A lot of players would find those options a no-go, not to mention possible negatives in the future. If your PC uses blackmail, you've created an enemy. Bribery? Charges of corruption.
This is an excellent point, I too would like to delve deeper into social challenges vs. physical ones.

For example: In a recent game, the party had to get into the High Quarter of the city - populated near exclusively by nobles. It's walled and the guards are disinclined to let "rabble" in.

One of the characters was of noble background. He just prominently displayed his family crest and the group strolled right in.

Had no one had the noble background and tried the same approach, I likely would have required a deception check: The noble background ingrains the correct demeanor, bearing etc. but anyone else has to fake it (at least with that approach, if they'd tried something else I would have judged it from there).
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
@Elfcrusher, can you define your "alternative method" for a low charisma character achieving a social goal. Because when we ask for examples it's "use the key to open the locked door". Well, duh. Of course you can bypass a locked door by using a key. You can smash it down if you don't mind the noise and the fact that you're breaking the door.
Sure! Happy to. And, yes, I get it, physical challenges somehow seem different than social/intellectual challenges.


So for social encounters what are your options. Bribery? Blackmail? The former may not work or you may have insufficient items of value, the latter is assuming you have a "key" (aka "dirt") and are willing to use it*. It also assumes that you do either of those without insulting the NPC. In other words in my campaign you could try those but best it would do would be to give you advantage and a lowered DC. Even then I'd still probably make it a 5 unless it's incredibly good leverage.
Sure, just like you may not have the key and have no other choice but to break it down (if there's no keyhole, either) or pick the lock (if it can't be broken down), sometimes you won't have the 'key' to a social encounter and might not be able to come up with any other plan than good old-fashioned fast-talking. In which case the DM may very well ask for a roll (or not, if the NPC is looking for an excuse to cooperate.)

Maybe one of the misunderstandings here is that that you (and others) are assuming there is ALWAYS an alternative plan with guaranteed success? Not at all. All we are saying is that the DM should listen to what the players propose.

By the way, you giving advantage, or a reduced DC, is logically no different than iserith and I giving automatic success: you are also modifying the difficulty based on the approach, you just are more reluctant to reduce it all the way to zero. (And I also sometimes give advantage instead of making it an automatic success.)

Anyway, on to examples. Yes, you cover a lot of the bases with the categories of "bribery" and "blackmail/threats":
- Offer gold. Maybe a lot of gold.
- Offer something else you know the NPC really wants (information, captives, magic items, perform a task, etc.)
- Threaten to expose 'dirt' on the NPC
- Threaten to kill the NPCs family members. (Does the DM ask for an Intimidation check? Kill a hostage instead. Another Intimidation check? Kill another hostage. Etc.)
- Instead of offering a trade, just do something to get in the NPC's good favor, and then ask. "Here, I rescued your daughter. No, no, no...no payment necessary. Although, now that you mention it..."

And, again, none of those are necessarily going to reduce the difficulty, or make it zero. But they might. It's up to the DM, depending on the circumstances.

(If I understand correctly what Hussar is saying, in each one of those cases the player would still have to make the same Charisma check, with the same DC, that he would if he had done none of those things and just said, "I'll roll Persuade.")

Now, the players, for reasons of personal values, or because they are roleplaying characters with personal values, may balk at some of these options. Again, there won't always be an alternative solution available. Those player might just have to make a Charisma roll. (Or give up, not wanting to face the consequences of a failed dice roll.)

Which leaves us with "make a compelling argument", which gets translated into "good talkie-talk".
Yeah, there seems to be an ongoing reluctance/inability/unwillingness to distinguish between "proposing something sensible" and "hustling the DM."

*Which actually goes for both blackmail and bribery. A lot of players would find those options a no-go, not to mention possible negatives in the future. If your PC uses blackmail, you've created an enemy. Bribery? Charges of corruption.
Yeah, sure. In fact, all the better. "Try a Charisma roll you will likely fail, with the consequence that you get thrown out, or use Blackmail which will likely succeed, in which case even with success you'll have gained an enemy, not to mention a stain on your soul." That's awesome. I love trade-offs.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
?

Noble background on his sheet. Seems like a clear example of the player using the assets/abilities of his character.
I think he was messing with you.

You described a perfect example of "goal-and-method", and granted an automatic success because the approach made total sense. (I might have put a new obstacle in the way, though: the guards will let in the noble but not the rabble with him. Depending on what the player proposed, that might lead to a Cha check after all.)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Good post.

I especially like the Blades in the Dark example (which I have also been reading lately). Maybe that mechanic is a kind of litmus test: whether or not you like it perhaps says a lot about where you stand on a number of other playstyle questions.

For the record, I love that mechanic.
I enjoy that style of mechanic but to a limited degree. PF has a halfling feat called Well Prepared that goes about as far as I'd like with it. It's a nice little benefit that cannot be overused because, from a narrative sense, you can only use it once a day to have just the right item on hand. I build a lot of halfling adventurers with it because it's fun and gives you a very good reason to have a pack mule.
 

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