Character Charisma vs. Player Charisma

edited November 2012 in Game Design Help
In my on going effort to experiment and explore different game design approaches, I've been considering doing away with "Character Charisma" and allowing "Player Charisma" (read: role-playing) to have singular influence in social situations for the characters. This approach helps reduce a potential lack of clarity between how player role-playing and character social prowess interact together to affect the fiction, but comes with the caveat that some players may fair better than others for various reasons.

Thoughts?
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Comments

  • I've seen this in some groups...in my own group there is 1..maybe 2 people for whom this would lead to them dominating the fiction. But that's not necessarily a bad thing if they are leaders of the fiction and are helping create a rich story with a strong direction that others can follow. It does seem risky though. What if my tastes are in favor of the strong, silent type and I consider that deeply charismatic and fulfilling but yours are in favor of the chatty, smiling type?
  • edited November 2012
    Are the charismatic players benefiting from their charisma? Then it should be reflected in their stats, not simply to describe the benefit, but to assess the opportunity cost to their other stats. In a lot of games, if you are letting someone who rps high charisma to benefit from their natural charisma but also from their character's high dexterity, strength, etc., then you've got a problem... unless they've paid for their natural benefit by purchasing high charisma through the game's mechanics.

    Simply removing charisma as a stat doesn't solve anything; it just removes the possibility of a fix -- while implying that the game isn't about charisma even though actually it is. The fix is to keep the charisma stat and make a correction to the character's stat distribution to reflect how the character is actually being played. Since it almost never happens that a character in play comes off exactly as originally designed, then there's got to be some way of enforcing or encouraging a correction.
  • Waaaaaait a second. This isn't just "roleplaying vs rollplaying" in drag, is it?
  • edited November 2012
    Waaaaaait a second. This isn't just "roleplaying vs rollplaying" in drag, is it?
    More like "Should player skill affect character skill?".

    My answer is normally a sounding "NO!" backed up with my normal analogue: "Would you require the player to climb up on something if the character is about to climb?"

    But on the other hand, the game system could be about testing the player skill. In tactical RPGs (lets say "chess" as a subsystem in a fictive RPG), it would test the players analytical skills, and that is actually OK in most minds. The only difference is that the players in these kind of tactical systems don't get judged by the GM like poodles at an dog exhibition. Remove the dog exhibition bit, and I would have not trouble with player charisma affecting character skills.
  • edited November 2012
    Zachary, if it fits the game's priorities, I'd say go ahead and ditch the Charisma stat.

    I have a game where that approach fits perfectly, and it's awesome. In Delve, there are only stats for stuff that cannot be roleplayed -- that is, physical stuff. Anything you yourself can learn, think, and communicate, it's on you as a player to learn, think, and communicate. That's Delve, but it'd be horrible in a different game, e.g. one where character effectiveness balance matters, niche protection matters, you want characters to be able to do certain things the players can't do, you don't want the players to be required to spend effort on such matters, you don't want to limit your audience to players who enjoy it, etc.
  • Here's an interesting question, why isn't there an RPG where you're playing a tabletop RPG and then suddenly when a swordfight breaks out, you have to beat the GM at an actual swordfight.

    This is an actual question and not a sarcastic response. It seems like there's some design space there.
  • I think there's some movement in this direction in games like Zombies, Run! I think there's much ground to be tilled there.
  • Player charisma is highly subjective and debatable, that's the problem.
  • edited November 2012
    Here's an interesting question, why isn't there an RPG where you're playing a tabletop RPG and then suddenly when a swordfight breaks out, you have to beat the GM at an actual swordfight.

    This is an actual question and not a sarcastic response. It seems like there's some design space there.
    Not quite the same, but I have seen an old west miniatures game that when combat broke out with guns, the players would move to a nearby area and use BB guns to shoot at small silohuettes of cowboys in various stnaces with appropriate cover provided by blocks of wood. Strange, but kind of interesting. Appeared in an old, old wargaming magazine.

    Come to think of it, I've actually seen a number of wargames mechanics that did something like that, where a player had to perform some kind of task personally to represent in game events.

  • It works, but when you do it I think it important to be willing to acknowledge that:

    Yes. It can be unfair.
    Yes. It can lead to unfair situations in game.
    Yes. It can lead to that not everyone can successfully play the character they want to play.
    Yes. It can be abused.

    Keeping that in mind, it can still lead to amazing game play and amazing gaming experience. You need to be open with that aspect of it.

    But if you do, you can make it work in two ways.

    1. People are okay with things not being fair.
    That can be because they still think the gaming experiences will be awesome, even if it not fair. Or because they feel that are sort of at the same "level" of out of character charisma, and it will still be fair enough.

    2. People will see to other ways to keep it fair.
    Mechanical rules systems are only one method to keep thing fair. They are not the only method. You can see to creating a social contract or a gaming environment that still keep the game fair. Even if the rules are removed the social contract can make sure that when someone say they want to play the most charismatic character, everyone will treat them as they are the most charismatic.
  • Here's an interesting question, why isn't there an RPG where you're playing a tabletop RPG and then suddenly when a swordfight breaks out, you have to beat the GM at an actual swordfight.

    This is an actual question and not a sarcastic response. It seems like there's some design space there.
    There is. Some styles of LARP does this. Even if it not "To kill him I actually need to shoot the other player to death", the only fighting skills you will have is the fighting skills you actually have. If you can shoot well with a bow you can't shoot well with a bow. The end. Even if the arrows are latex tipped not steel tipped.
  • As I've seen it, "Charisma" as a character stat in the first place is a conundrum. Depending on the gaming system, it can be used so little that no one cares about it all. Maybe you'd roll once to see if you convince a town guard to let you pass.

    But for games with more talking and interpersonal mechanics, the "charisma" stat is still surrounded by player roleplaying. If a player gives an actual convincing speech to the guard (/GM), then what is the meaning of the Charisma roll done by the character? The guard (/GM) is convinced. A failed Charisma roll would imply some interfering force that neither the player nor the GM can explain.

    So, it makes sense that for some games the roleplaying comes first, and the roleplaying defines the character. After all, the player group came together to play by TALKING; if some players are not sure how to do so in the group, they can be encouraged to learn. And if the group came together to, say, climb walls, fire BB guns, and shoot arrows, then that is also their prerogative.
  • CHARISMA IS MY DUMP STAT, YOU SNIVELING FUCKER.
  • My question would be: how does this improve character building or improve the story?

    I would think that this limits character options for the players, meaning you can't have players engage the story in certain ways.
  • My question would be: how does this improve character building or improve the story?

    I would think that this limits character options for the players, meaning you can't have players engage the story in certain ways.
    Because it can give more room for the subtle interaction and complex issues of conversation. To reduce conversation with another human being to a purpose that you either succeed with or not (bribing the guard or not) you miss out on all the rich other stuff that goes on on a conversation.

    What means more engagement for some type of players means more engagement for others. I personally don't like when stuff like conversation is determined or simplified to simple purpose you simply succeed with or not. It a not very fun way or interesting way to model something like communication. A roll doesn't keep you from roleplaying, but setting a stake and deciding what a conversation "is about" and what the "purpose" of the conversation is limits and models the conversation into a very limited frame.
  • Ah, I find setting the stakes and topic useful, especially as a GM, if it's an NPC I haven't developed, I need something to go off, and I need it fast. Those things are useful for me in keeping play moving and preventing an energy sucking conversation that ends up dying and killing momentum at that time.

    I don't disagree with you. I've just found that method very swingy and unreliable.
  • Just noting that, for some play styles, the system does not simulate anything that players can do for themselves. Action LARPs, in particular, have a strong bent toward what I call "DO Play" (as opposed to "STAT Play"). But just about every TT RPG's approach to PvP deprotagonism is done the same way: you can't "roll vs. Willpower" or whatever to force another PC to think or believe something; you've got to convince the PLAYER.
  • I think part of the purpose in having a GM roll to be influenced has to do with the multiplicity thing. I'm comparing TT to live combat larp (where player charisma is almost always dominant).

    In a larp, you have 12 different NPCs played by 12 different people, all at the same time. If you're trying to convince one of them to, for example, follow you to the edge of town so your friends can ambush them, then you actually set that up and do it. You choose your victim. You act out whatever diversion you think will get them to come away with you. You lead them away. You shank them.

    Part of why this works so well in larp is step one - choose your victim. Again, there are 12 NPCs to choose from played by different players. You can look them over, talk to them, and get a sense of which one you should try to lure away, and how you should try to do it. You might convince the shady looking merchant guy to slip off and talk about an illegal business deal. You might convince the mercenary you need a paid guard for a dangerous trip. You might convince the cleric you have someone who needs healing or wants to talk points of faith.

    By having all those NPCs to interact with, you have lots of opportunities for real life assessment and acting to play out in an interesting way.

    In tabletop, you usually just have the one GM representing all those people. Having some chance element worked in can be a good way to make things work out differently and inspire unexpected outcomes to riff off of.

    If you approach social skills as an opportunity to introduce interesting complications and inspirations, rather than gateways to be unlocked, then having a few dice to roll can add to the fun.

    If all you're going to do with them is decide whether or not something works like a social light switch, then it's probably best to remove them.
  • edited November 2012
    I think an issue those last few posts brought up is, simply, number. It's a distribution of "mental resources" (including patience). If this one shady merchant is the (or a) pivotal encounter in the session, then play mechanics that emphasize conversation make it richer. If all those encounters are actual people (i.e., LARP), then there are enough "mental resources" to make all conversations rich.

    However, if you need to bribe three "NPCs I haven't developed" in a row, anything that slows down play is counterproductive.

    This sort of thinking has been applied to other parts of gameplay, including combat. Some RPG I've forgotten created "cannon fodder" or "cardboard cutout" enemies, where they were simply easier to kill via dramatic methods. That is, weapons such as the shotgun got a bonus against them, so whole swaths could be cut down and the characters could move on to the "boss fight."
  • What if the player annoyed me earlier in the night? And now he's sitting there in character trying to fast-talk a guard and I'm like, "Oh, you think you're charming but the guard sees right through you and knows that you're a jerk who still owes me twenty bucks! PAY UP, JOSH, I mean Azuriel, OR YOU'RE UNDER ARREST!"

    I say leave it to the character sheet.
  • Thanks for all the feedback, everybody. I see points and issues here and there. To me, it kind of seems like ditching the Charisma Attribute can the potential to work given the right group of players, but in general is probably not the best way to handle it for a game designed to work with most groups. Though, this does get me wondering about how different groups handle the overlap of player and character charisma.

    As a GM, I usually let the player decide how they want handle any particular social situation. If the player just declares what they want their character to accomplish (like, "I want to convince the guard to let me past."), I always ask for a more elaborate description ("How?", "I try to pass myself off as a former guard.") and then let them roll to see how well they do ("I rolled a 18!", "Okay, the guard doesn't ask too many questions and you manage to convince him to let you enter.").

    Otherwise, if the player starts role-playing (like, "I walk up to the guard and say, 'Hey man! Remember me? I used to be a member of the guard just like you. Is Josin still kickin', that old bastard?'") I will let the scene play out, and depending on how clever they're being (yes, my subjective opinion) I may let them get an automatic success, or call for that roll after all. If they go with role-playing and don't do a great job, but roll well, I'll retcon the conversation to some extent in order to make the success believable, or reduce the NPC's resistance to giving the player what they want. So, within my line of thinking, if the player puts forth some effort to role-play, they end up with a better chance of success overall. In a way, I use the role-playing as a social version of physical fictional positioning. So players might not have to roll if they role-play cleverly, in the same way a player describing their super-clever method to sneak into a fortress might not have to roll for it because their description and ideas are so clever or creative.

    How do you do it with your group? I like examples, if you're so inclined.
  • Right now I'm a player in a Apocalypse World campaign. My hoarder Boa is manipulative untrustworthy snake. Most of the manipulation she does, doesn't trigger the manipulation/seduction move, but is more subtle things. Body posture, word choice, physical placement in the room, body language.

    The thing is, once the manipulation move IS triggered, it will be triggered in different context then if all that more subtle manipulation hadn't been going on.

    Actual play example: My hoarder is rich as a troll. But right now there is a communist revolution going on and she made a deal and joined the communist movement to get access to the Angels healthcare.

    She was getting care at the communist head quarters. In the kitchen some of the communist moments leaders had gathered informally after a battle to drink coffee. She very humbly and pitifully came into the kitchen after a while after all the communist had a few drinks. One of the communist leaders Rosa doesn't trust her, but by small subtle gestures the Hoarder was accepted at the table, and begun manipulating Rosa in tiny tiny nudges.

    There been no rolls so far. But once the manipulation roll will be triggered it will be triggered in a situation different from if all those small manipulative nudges hadn't happened already.
  • Thoughts?
    This feels like a discussion I'd have on ENWorld in 2006.
  • In a way, I use the role-playing as a social version of physical fictional positioning. So players might not have to roll if they role-play cleverly, in the same way a player describing their super-clever method to sneak into a fortress might not have to roll for it because their description and ideas are so clever or creative.
    Treating it as fictional positioning that supplements stat/move rolling by determining when a roll needs to happen and helps determine what the potential outcomes of the roll are is excellent.

    For example, maybe you're trying to bribe your way past a guard and you've set up the situation well through roleplay and description, but you make a poor roll. So maybe the guard mentions how cold of a winter it looks like it'd be and how his wife would be so much more comfortable if he could get her that fur coat she's been wanting (ie. he's looking for a much bigger bribe). Because the player set up the situation well, what is on the line is how much the bribe is going to cost them, not whether or not the guard is willing to wave them by at all.

    Also, of course, it's all so much easier in a system that takes steps to make failure fun and interesting and easier to embrace. The Principles and GM Moves in AW-engine games tend to encourage social encounters that are not pass/fail gateways.

    Monsterhearts' Strings economy is an example of something interesting you can do with social moves that don't just result in pass/fail tests. And it is definitely designed to incentivize certain types of interactions.
  • GM: "What do you want to accomplish?"
    Player: "Get passed the guard."
    GM: "What do you use?"
    Player: "My social skill."
    *roll*
    Player: "Success. »I walk up to the guard and say, 'Hey man! Remember me? I used to be a member of the guard just like you. Is Josin still kickin', that old bastard?'«"
    *GM plays along*

    The sentence in italics above can be pretty much any skill, but social players tend to take social skills to solve things in a way they want to solve it. Other players may prefer thieving skills or combat skills. It really doesn't matter, as long as they describe or play out how they accomplish their intention.

    What happens if the roll is failed? Then the GM doesn't play along as nicely, to show the player how the roll failed.
  • edited November 2012
    Thoughts?
    This feels like a discussion I'd have on ENWorld in 2006.
    I think that just because the conversation is old, there is no reason to dismiss it. This isn't an issue that have been "solved". Not in the last six years. Not before that.

    This is still an issues where agendas, methods, priories, traditions, schools of game design, etc conflict. Thus is an issue where there are lot of different solution exist and those solutions comes with a a lot of different upsides and downsides.

    I don't think this issues been all that explored either. Debated a lot along the same line, surely. There been a lot of that. But not explored and not solved.
  • Waaaaaait a second. This isn't just "roleplaying vs rollplaying" in drag, is it?
    This feels like a discussion I'd have on ENWorld in 2006.
    Interesting reactions to this topic. Paul, no I didn't intend for this to be role-playing vs roll-playing in drag, although I'm not too savvy on what you're suspicious of, so maybe it is? Buzz, I'm not sure what you're pointing out - a snarky way to say "been there done that" maybe?
    Because the player set up the situation well, what is on the line is how much the bribe is going to cost them, not whether or not the guard is willing to wave them by at all.
    Totally this. I think this is probably the most functional implementation of charisma for traditional games that my brain can fathom.
    Also, of course, it's all so much easier in a system that takes steps to make failure fun and interesting and easier to embrace. The Principles and GM Moves in AW-engine games tend to encourage social encounters that are not pass/fail gateways.
    Yes, this is something I'm striving for in my current game designs. I think the AW success trichotomy coupled with GM Moves definitely moves away from the success switch (pass/fail) and helps to encourage more interesting outcomes in fiction.

  • Hi Zachary,

    Sounds like you want the roleplaying and the dice to both matter, in somewhat flexible amounts. I've GMed like this, and had the most success when I made the connections between the two explicit, and open for group input.

    Example:

    Player 1: (roleplays out an exchange)

    Me: Nice, that's pretty convincing!

    Player 1: So does he let me in?

    Me: Well... He has reasons not to. (roleplay that in, if not already done) Normally this would be difficulty 12 (on d20). But you've done a lot to convince him, so I'll move that down to difficulty 8. Sound good?

    Player 2: After all that, there's still a 1 in 3 chance he won't get in?

    Me: Okay, fine, 1 in 4 sounds better. Difficulty 6.

    (Obviously this depends on your larger system.)
  • So, within my line of thinking, if the player puts forth some effort to role-play, they end up with a better chance of success overall.
    Another way to think of that is it's all "rewarding the player for playing." In old hack-and-slash gaming, where experience is earned by killing things, it's handled by giving experience for "roleplaying well." Okay, so, we're probably not talking about hack-and-slash games: in ones with a more rounded system, the player still deserves something for Being There and Playing. RobMcDiarmid's suggestion for setting up the situation sounds like an excellent mix of both "rewards for roleplaying" and ensuring game mechanics are not bypassed.
  • Me: Well... He has reasons not to. (roleplay that in, if not already done) Normally this would be difficulty 12 (on d20). But you've done a lot to convince him, so I'll move that down to difficulty 8. Sound good?
    I'm curious. What good would that decrease in difficulty do?
  • edited November 2012
    What good would that decrease in difficulty do?
    Huh? What do you mean? If you're rolling a d20 to succeed, then your odds of success are the relevant concern. So improving those odds is inherently good.

    If you're asking why I kept the roll at all, it's because that's what Zachary seems to be aiming for here.

    Oh, or are you asking why to say "was 12, is now 8" instead of just "8"?
  • Huh? What do you mean? If you're rolling a d20 to succeed, then your odds of success are the relevant concern. So improving those odds is inherently good.

    If you're asking why I kept the roll at all, it's because that's what Zachary seems to be aiming for here.
    So here's a question: if for some reason you found Player 1's approach unconvincing, would you have increased the difficulty number for that roll? As in "was 12, is now 16"?
  • Buzz, I'm not sure what you're pointing out - a snarky way to say "been there done that" maybe?
    There was absolutely some snark there; I apologize. But... I've literally had this conversation many times on ENWorld back in the day. With all respect to w176, I had thought were past this (see Paul's comment), but I guess not.

    Here's why I don't like this.

    RPGs are a social experience. Socially adept players are already at an advantage; they can garner more attention, better communicate their needs, and better influence other players in ways those people may not even be aware. Letting them bypass mechanics because they are charismatic increases this advantage even more.

    In addition, as a GM, you are saying: "Dance for me monkeys! If I like your dance, I may go easier on your PC!"

    No offense, but I think this is like turning back the gaming clock twenty years.

    "Roleplaying" is a prerequisite for the "roll playing".* You get to roll your social skill to bribe the guard because you contributed to the fiction. You shouldn't be allowed to bypass the roll because I, buzz, think you, Zachary, are a really entertaining guy. That's horribly socially dysfunctional behavior, IMO.

    Personal charisma shouldn't be a stick the player uses to beat the game into submission; it's a tool they should use to enhance the gaming experience for everyone. Liven up the session with some engaging acting, or funny accents. Encourage others to break out of their shells and feel that the table is a safe space to indulge there inner thespian.

    That's how I felt back in the day, and how I feel now. Put the charisma rules back in your game. Better yet, play some games with really good rules for social interactions, e.g., Burning Wheel.

    * Man, I hate these terms with a passion, but hey.
  • What good would that decrease in difficulty do?
    Huh? What do you mean? If you're rolling a d20 to succeed, then your odds of success are the relevant concern. So improving those odds is inherently good.
    Yeah, but if you roll under 8 (or 6), the modification would turn out to be rather pointless. Or if you roll 12 or higher. So why do something that's not useful 80% of the time (or 70% with if the difficulty is changed with 6)?

    And what good does it do to the player? Is it to encourage the player to roleplay in the future? To say "That's a good puppy. Now, have a bone"? But what if the player already is doing this because the player thinks it's fun? Is this kind of mechanical reward really necessary?
  • It didn't sound like it was a bribe to roleplay, it sounded like a situational bonus, like using the environment during combat or something. That's a good thing, it draws the players into the world. It says to them: you are pulling in details from our established world. You're engaging the game. You are reinforcing the shared fiction, and that's cool.

    An anecdote: I once had a very by-the-book GM. One night, my character gave an impassioned plea to the town council. He had spent multiple sessions digging up background information, researching the counterpoints to his case and refuting them, and getting key players on his side. I roleplayed my speech using all these elements. And then my GM asked for a standard Diplomacy check. No modifiers, no bonus, literally nothing that had to do with the case I had presented. He didn't roleplay a counterpoint or even hesitancy from the council. The whole scene hinged on my die roll; I may as well have just said "I roll to convince them." It was a bummer.

    So I give bonuses for a convincing use of the game world. It's better that way.
  • Here's an interesting question, why isn't there an RPG where you're playing a tabletop RPG and then suddenly when a swordfight breaks out, you have to beat the GM at an actual swordfight.

    This is an actual question and not a sarcastic response. It seems like there's some design space there.
    I've actually had that suddenly and impromptu happen. Fencing and jumping around swashbuckling style. Chairs were overturned, tables were jumped on...

    Great fun, but it hurt a bit. I've never before been physically attacked by obne of my players.

  • edited November 2012

    There was absolutely some snark there; I apologize. But... I've literally had this conversation many times on ENWorld back in the day. With all respect to w176, I had thought were past this (see Paul's comment), but I guess not.

    Here's why I don't like this.

    RPGs are a social experience. Socially adept players are already at an advantage; they can garner more attention, better communicate their needs, and better influence other players in ways those people may not even be aware. Letting them bypass mechanics because they are charismatic increases this advantage even more.

    In addition, as a GM, you are saying: "Dance for me monkeys! If I like your dance, I may go easier on your PC!"

    No offense, but I think this is like turning back the gaming clock twenty years.

    "Roleplaying" is a prerequisite for the "roll playing".* You get to roll your social skill to bribe the guard because you contributed to the fiction. You shouldn't be allowed to bypass the roll because I, buzz, think you, Zachary, are a really entertaining guy. That's horribly socially dysfunctional behavior, IMO.

    Personal charisma shouldn't be a stick the player uses to beat the game into submission; it's a tool they should use to enhance the gaming experience for everyone. Liven up the session with some engaging acting, or funny accents. Encourage others to break out of their shells and feel that the table is a safe space to indulge there inner thespian.

    That's how I felt back in the day, and how I feel now. Put the charisma rules back in your game. Better yet, play some games with really good rules for social interactions, e.g., Burning Wheel.

    * Man, I hate these terms with a passion, but hey.
    While it natural in some culture and some gamening cultures to prioritization the game being fair highest, that is not an universal truth. Lizzie Stark has written excellent article in States of Play "We Hold These Rules to be Self-Evident" on how American larp culture and American culture in general prioritize the games to be fair very highly in contrast to Nordic larp that don't. http://www.nordicrpg.fi/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/states_of_play_pdf_version.pdf

    That fairness should always be top priority is not a universal rule. It is a preference.

    So it not that easy. You can't just say "Fairness should always be the highest priority so the most important thing is that the rules create a level playing field, the end. Period. " Because it not always the highest priority. Not everyone feels that a level playing field is the most important thing to a good gaming experience in every case.

    Some people prioritize the experiences of rules-free in character conversation higher then a level player field. And that also something worth exploring. It also worth exploring how you keep a game fair trough other means if the mechanical rules isn't about leveling the playing field.

    Some players being better at some stuff and some character being better at some stuff isn't bad. Usually having one player that is really good as something is seen as an advantage, as someone that can help the other players develop as player and a skill used to support the game. It only bad if you use it to make other people experiences less good.
  • So I give bonuses for a convincing use of the game world. It's better that way.
    Yes, I agree that this is a better use of modifications. I actually don't like modifications at all (with some exceptions). If something gives positive modifications*, I would change the rules so that those things must be included in the use of the skill.

    * positive modifications can actually in most cases be considered as punishments, but that's another topic.
  • I have no problem with rewarding people who are socially adept or good actors or whatever. But you can't give them some massive bonus for that particular skill set and then ignore everyone else. I mean, shouldn't my fighter get a bonus because I do martial arts as a hobby? Shouldn't my cleric get an advantage if I can quote a Bible verse? Why not?

    There are all kinds of aptitudes players bring to the table that enhance the experience: rules knowledge, subject matter expertise, good note-taking or map-making, even the ability to be a good host and provide a comfortable space. Why reward the charismatic guy and not them? Why reward "funny accent" role-play and not "good listener" role-play?

    This is another area in which Burning Wheel excels. Artha rewards are given out for a number of different types of contribution. "Embodiment" rewards the charismatic players we're talking about; the people who can really capture a moment or a character concept with an engaging portrayal. But BW also has rewards like: "MVP", the player who made the crucial roll of the night or was critical to the session; or "Workhorse", the player who was plugging away in the background to help the other players accomplish goals; and there's a few more.

    I find this focus on charismatic contributions an incredibly narrow definition of roleplaying; it's the dated idea that one is only "really roleplaying" when you're deeply immersed in character and talking in a funny accent. I think that's total "role/roll" BS.
  • I mean, there's a big difference between demanding player skill and rewarding engagement of the fiction. I don't think you should require a word-for-word debate performance, but if a player bothers to bring in fictional details instead of just mechanics, hell yeah it should help.
  • And then my GM asked for a standard Diplomacy check. No modifiers, no bonus, literally nothing that had to do with the case I had presented. He didn't roleplay a counterpoint or even hesitancy from the council. The whole scene hinged on my die roll; I may as well have just said "I roll to convince them." It was a bummer.
    The issue here is that D&D's rules for social interaction are terrible.

    And that's another problematic aspect of this discussion; we're not talking in the context of a particular game or about an instance of play. When I would have this discussion on ENWorld back in the day, D&D's poor handling of social conflicts was always held up as proof that "role" trumps "roll", i.e., that rolling dice for "talky" stuff was an inherently bad idea ("You should just role-play!"). But, honestly, if we were talking about BW (or TSoY, or DitV, etc.), we wouldn't even be having this discussion, because those games have functional rules.

    Anyway... the simple fix for this is to take a page from AW: "To do it, do it."

    If you want to melee with an opponent in D&D, you have to move your mini (or at least establish your PC's position in some way), define a target, declare what weapon and abilities you are using, and then roll some dice.

    So... if you want to convince a duke to lend your party aid, you have to establish in the fiction that such an opportunity exists, explain what it is you are going to say, declare what, if any, special abilities you are using, and the roll some dice. ("I roll to convince them" is a straw man. "I roll to attack them" wouldn't fly in D&D, so I don't know why the former statement would.)

    If one player wants to do do all of that in-character with a funny accent, let them. If they don't, but they still establish all of the fiction necessary, then that's cool, too.

    E.g.:

    "What ho, my liege! Forsooth, the time has come in which we must beg aid of thee; let me remind your grace of our previous battles on your behalf..." etc.

    ...and...

    "I walk before the duke's throne and kneel. I make a plea for aid, using deferential language, especially the use of 'your grace', as we know in the past that is his favorite honorific. I also remind him of the time we retrieved the BaneSword..." etc.

    ...should be mechanically treated the same. Otherwise, it's dancing monkeys.

    IMO.
  • Why reward "funny accent" role-play and not "good listener" role-play?
    ...
    I find this focus on charismatic contributions an incredibly narrow definition of roleplaying; it's the dated idea that one is only "really roleplaying" when you're deeply immersed in character and talking in a funny accent. I think that's total "role/roll" BS.
    Who is encouraging funny accents and not listening and engaging with the other players at the table? I don't see that coming from the other thread participants at all. I think you might possibly be carrying in your ENWorld discussion baggage and transferring it onto the conversation rather than actually reading what is being written. Maybe. Perhaps you should reread and consider that. If you still think that's what is being said, point out an argument and I'll go back and reread as well.

    Players playing a fighter in a game with lots of tactical choices surrounding combat get a bonus for being good tacticians as players because they make good tactical choices. In D&D4e, for example, those who are good at playing the board game of positioning minis are rewarded while those who are bad at it are punished. My wife would be at a consistent disadvantage playing that game, compared to my son who is a whiz at such things.

    As for clerics, that depends a lot on how religion is actually handled in the game. Usually it's not handled well at all, so the point is pretty well moot. But if I was in a game with real religions and the player was quoting real religious text then hell yes that would give them a bonus on what positive benefits they got out of being a cleric. Hell, if they were playing a game religion and consistently said things that sounded like they fit the religion well, I'd reward that as well. Totally.

    Keep in mind, this isn't just about rewarding engaging roleplay with stat roll bonuses (which, I think, potentially happens in all aspects of play as part of fictional positioning if that is part of the system in play at the table).

    The OP's original question was whether social stats should exist and be rolled at all.

    So is your opinion that every social interaction should come down to a straight up stat roll with no room for adjustment based on how the player engages with the situation at hand and attempts to affect their fictional positioning?

    Or do you just not want to see the charming guy consistently get an extra +4 to all his social rolls because he's such a naturally good talker?

    Cause I don't think that would happen in practice.

    Every time I see players and GMs do this sort of thing, they always adjust a bit for natural talent and repeated use. When the quiet shy mousy player rises to the occasion and produces some impassioned speachifying, they get a big bump. When the consistently charming talker gets chatty yet again, they don't get much at all - and if they do it too much, they get people shutting them down to keep them from hogging spotlight time.

    But again, I don't think the focus is just on the straight up roll bonus.

    I think the focus is on how you use social fictional positioning to frame the test.

    If you do good work framing the situation through your roleplay, you make it a roll for how much the bribe is going to hurt your pocketbook or how humiliating your flirting needs to be to be effective or how big of a favor you're going to owe the mayor to get him to do what you need, rather than whether or not you succeed at all.

    In Princess Bride terms, it's all about making it "to the pain" rather than "to the death". :)
  • I do wish to point out that I don't really have an aim or an agenda here. Just learning and listening :)
    What good would that decrease in difficulty do?
    Huh? What do you mean? If you're rolling a d20 to succeed, then your odds of success are the relevant concern. So improving those odds is inherently good.
    Yeah, but if you roll under 8 (or 6), the modification would turn out to be rather pointless. Or if you roll 12 or higher. So why do something that's not useful 80% of the time (or 70% with if the difficulty is changed with 6)?

    And what good does it do to the player? Is it to encourage the player to roleplay in the future? To say "That's a good puppy. Now, have a bone"? But what if the player already is doing this because the player thinks it's fun? Is this kind of mechanical reward really necessary?
    Someone in a different topic said they were paraphrasing Ron Edwards with the quote "It doesn't matter what the percentages are, all that matters is the outcome."

    My surface read of that makes me want to say, "But if I have a 99% chance to win or lose, the odds do matter to me." But I think what this is trying to say is that if the player spends time role-playing and that get's them a +2 to their Charisma roll, but they fail the roll anyway, it feels like a wasted effort - like the reward wasn't worth it. Maybe, I dunno, I'm not that intellectual. Someone correct me, please.

    There seems to be a few different opinions or approaches for specifically handling role-playing ability slash player charisma and how it influences success in the fiction:

    Role-Playing Has Primary Influence on Social Actions
    - Strong RPers can lead a group in a positive way
    - Good RPing won't be stymied by bad rolls
    - Judgment of RPing is subject to opinion and GM disposition
    - Strong RPers can get an unfair advantage

    System Has Primary Influence on Social Actions
    - Maintains balance with other character abilities
    - Prevents unfair advantages for naturally personable players
    - Does not encourage, may discourage, RPing

    System and Role-Playing Share Influence on Social Actions
    - Good RPing could be stymied by dice rolls
    - Strong RPers may have some advantage
    - Reduces balance with other character abilities somewhat
    - Rules need to be clear about how system interfaces with role-playing

    Anything I missed or got wrong?

    E.g.:

    "What ho, my liege! Forsooth, the time has come in which we must beg aid of thee; let me remind your grace of our previous battles on your behalf..." etc.

    ...and...

    "I walk before the duke's throne and kneel. I make a plea for aid, using deferential language, especially the use of 'your grace', as we know in the past that is his favorite honorific. I also remind him of the time we retrieved the BaneSword..." etc.

    ...should be mechanically treated the same. Otherwise, it's dancing monkeys.
    Totally agreed. A strong description of the social tactics used by the character should be just as meaningful as actually pretending to be the character and say the lines. One question is whether or not a GM should judge the colorfulness of the narration or the quality of the role-playing and allow that to have an influence on the mechanics. Someone people say yes, others say no.

    To me, this is a solid way to implement "to do it, you do it", which I understand to be descriptive mechanics - the fiction triggers the mechanics. This is in comparison to Rickard's example, where the mechanics are being used prescriptively - I say I want to use Deception to bypass the guard, roll the dice, and the results determine how I should narrate or role-play the attempt.

    Both are viable options in game design. Apocalypse World and Dungeon World mechanics are both prescriptive and descriptive, which results in the mechanics being implemented as a sort of filter for the fiction to go through and determine the nature of the outcome. You have to generate fiction in order to trigger the mechanics descriptively, then engage the mechanics to determine level of success, and then use those mechanical results prescriptively to influence the narration or role-playing of the outcome. Pretty slick now that I have a clear picture of the process.
  • edited November 2012
    I like your summation and conclusion Zachary. But I'll point out something I do as GM, just for fun:
    - Judgment of RPing is subject to opinion and GM disposition
    - Strong RPers can get an unfair advantage
    Yeah, I've totally blocked players before:

    ME: the guard doesn't believe you.
    PLAYER: why?
    ME: because I don't believe you.
    PLAYER: that's not fair.
    ME: why not? The NPC can't convince you, unless you want to be convinced. Fair is fair, right?
    PLAYER: guards are supposed to be stupid though!
    ME: the stupid guard was fired last week. HR decided to hire competant help.
    PLAYER: *waa waa waa* [wants an advantage that is utter crap]
    ME: so wanna roll now?

    I can cock-block all day if I feel like it. Heck I've told players they aren't RPing their characters: the sheet says they have a crap "charisma" and suddenly they are Mr. Charisma -- "I'm not giving you a bonus, why don't you roleplay your character".

    The dice even the field, across the board. (On a personal note: I'm in the middle. RP for a bonus, then roll).
  • Who is encouraging funny accents and not listening and engaging with the other players at the table? I don't see that coming from the other thread participants at all. I think you might possibly be carrying in your ENWorld discussion baggage and transferring it onto the conversation rather than actually reading what is being written. Maybe. Perhaps you should reread and consider that. If you still think that's what is being said, point out an argument and I'll go back and reread as well.
    Above, Zachary says: "So, within my line of thinking, if the player puts forth some effort to role-play, they end up with a better chance of success overall." He also talks about bypassing rolls entirely based on his self-admittedly subjective assessment of their performance. The trigger phrase for me here is puts forth some effort to role-play; it implies that roleplaying isn't happening when we're not doing the charismatic actor thing. Other people have expressed concerns similar to mine, as well.
    So is your opinion that every social interaction should come down to a straight up stat roll with no room for adjustment based on how the player engages with the situation at hand and attempts to affect their fictional positioning?
    No. Of course we're engaging with the fiction; that's what roleplaying is. (Again, "I roll to convince them" is a straw-man; nobody is saying that's an acceptable mode of play.) My assertion is that you shouldn't prioritize the method used to engage. We've been down that path before; it turns the game into a bid for the GM's affection. Our hypothetical charisma-monster could be totally dismissive of the fiction while still putting on a display that somehow impresses the GM. Should they really be rewarded for that?

    I realize that players have different strengths. Tactical players will obviously fare better in games like D&D 3e/4e. You can't please everyone all the time. But, hey, how about you have the tacticians give the non-tacticians pointers? And have the charismatic/social players support the shy players: "Oh, hey Rob, you could remind the duke about the time we retrieved that sword for him!" Or have them ham it up playing NPCs now and then.

    I reiterate, of course we want to engage with the fiction; that's the prerequisite for going to the dice. But we should still go to the dice. And sure, if player comes up with a really brilliant idea ("Hey, didn't we retrieve a valuable sword for the duke?"), they should be able to lobby for some sort of bonus; they're calling on a resource, just like they would in a melee.

    But don't give charismatic player a "Get out of jail free" card... not unless you're going to give them out for other strengths, too. "Wow, you've set up an incredible defensive position; there's no way the goblins can win. You defeat them, no rolls necessary."
  • Totally agreed. A strong description of the social tactics used by the character should be just as meaningful as actually pretending to be the character and say the lines. One question is whether or not a GM should judge the colorfulness of the narration or the quality of the role-playing and allow that to have an influence on the mechanics. Someone people say yes, others say no.
    This is why I love BW so much. My dramatic portrayal may not garner me any mechanical bonuses, but at the end of the night, I'm probably going to win the Embodiment Artha vote and/or possibly be working my way toward getting awarded a new Trait. Likewise, they guy who was taking careful notes and lending helping dice all night will probably win Workhorse.

    My overall question for this thread would be: What problem are you trying to solve?

    If it's getting players to better engage with the fiction, my advice would be: play games that prioritize the fiction.
  • edited November 2012
    Buzz, I understand your focus on "player putting forth effort to role-play gets a bonus", and admit that this was a poor choice of words on my part. Earlier in that post I said "this can work for some groups, not all groups." in reference to a player's personal charisma. Also, if you reread what I wrote, it was the player's cleverness (not acting ability or personal charisma) being used as the key judging factor as to whether or not they need to roll or get a bonus to their roll. By "putting forth an effort", I meant providing some beneficial fictional positioning for their character via role-playing or narrating their social approach in a clever and creative way, not necessarily gaining my favor by being a good actor or doing great accents. I don't think that rewarding a player for being clever is "dance monkey dance", it's fictional positioning.

    There was a thread regarding how difficult dragons should be in Dungeon World. The resounding moral of the story that I gathered from that thread was: You don't even get to roll to attack the dragon unless you can position yourself fictionally in a place where you can conceivably do that. The opposite is true too: You don't roll Hack and Slash if you cleverly dislodge a stalagtite from the cavern ceiling and drop it on the dragon. This goes back to the old D&D situation of you don't have to roll to attack and kill the unconscious goblin because the fictional situation bypasses the necessity to roll. D&D had the Coup de Grace move for this.

    The same can be said for this discussion. If a character is trying to convince the duke to release some prisoners and the player is clever enough to blackmail the duke by reminding him that they know about his nightly trips to the brothel, as a GM, if it makes sense, I'll logically rule that the duke gives in without the need to roll because the player created fictional leverage over the NPC that allowed them to automatically succeed. The player is being rewarded for cleverness and engaging with the established fiction in an intelligent way.

    I love the idea of different awards being given out at the end of the session for people who contributed to the game in a positive way, whether it's being helpful, giving great descriptions, miming their attacks entertainingly, being super creative with world building, helping with book keeping, role-playing their characters passionately, bringing delicious snacks, or making everyone laugh their asses off. Hopefully, these are all things the players are happy to do and have fun doing in the first place, so the rewards are just there to validate their efforts, not meant to be a carrot on a stick for dancing monkeys. I still think there is room to reward a player's fictional positioning on a roll by roll basis as well, not by numeric adjustments, but by changing the nature or the stakes of the roll (ie, how much the bribe is, not whether or not they'll get past the guard).
    My overall question for this thread would be: What problem are you trying to solve?
    The point of the thread itself was see how people felt about removing the Charisma stat from the player and going purely off of role-playing. I wanted people to tell me about why it works and why it doesn't work. That's all. There have been quite a few people pointing out problems that result from a design decision like this, so maybe there have been some suggestions on solutions to those problems, but the thread itself has no problem to solve exactly. Mostly it is intended to chew the fat with people who have a strong understanding of these topics.

    Overall, Buzz, you have given me some of the best answers so far, and I definitely thank you for your contributions to the thread. Unfortunately, your wisdom seems to be veiled behind a sort of elitist attitude that was apparent in your first snarky comment. I mean, just because you've got a clear understanding of the problems and solutions inherent to this topic, doesn't mean everyone else does. You found your answers on ENWorld six years ago - consistently pointing that out and claiming this is an outdated discussion comes off as very condescending to less enlightened folk like me. You say "I thought we were past this" as if to suggest that nobody else needs to discuss and understand this stuff since you already got it figured out on some other internet forum six years ago. Not to mention, there is no "one true way" and all that. But again, behind all that are greatly appreciated comments.

    I don't think we can say "Play Burning Wheel and all your questions will be answered!" Maybe there have been some games that have solid approaches that eliminate some of the snags, but that doesn't mean those are the end-all-be-all approaches. It's great to learn from them, but discussions can still be fruitful, especially in the event that we don't have access to the suggested text.
  • I reiterate, of course we want to engage with the fiction; that's the prerequisite for going to the dice. But we should still go to the dice. And sure, if player comes up with a really brilliant idea ("Hey, didn't we retrieve a valuable sword for the duke?"), they should be able to lobby for some sort of bonus; they're calling on a resource, just like they would in a melee.
    Ok, so you want to reward players for using appropriate social tactics that represent a clever engagement with the established fiction, and not for their performance skills, right?

    I can totally get behind that. I wasn't seeing that differentiation clearly before. Now I think I get what you were driving at.
  • I do dig this discussion and maybe getting a +1 just sums up the whole post.
    Lets not look for a bonus but how to tell a good story.
    Player skill or Character skill do these matter?
    If your doing away with one or the other and looking at all game designs!
    Take Microscope, They have a character for time. Time forces the pace, hots up the action.
    Why not remove this player character centric method of play (Player skill character skill) have the whole group trying to create a story with the best from all players skills.
    Does this make sense?
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