>A-Z Action: C is for Crutch (Is Writing Good Speeches for Stupid Characters Cheating?)

>I'm a bad roleplayer. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons, without significant gaps, for around 17 years. I built my first race about 12 hours after I first touched a PhB. By the time I finished high school six or so years later, I'd written two massive, sprawling campaign worlds, something like 30 races, a like number of classes, untold monsters, and so, so many pages of adventure plots.

I've probably played 200 different characters, spread out over all the Rpgs I've enjoyed. Many of them, I've loved. Many of them, other folks have loved. Occasionally (though less often than you might think) characters fall into both groups. I've played men, women, faeries, robots, elementals, bad ideas, and mythical figures. I've been the hero, the heel, the lover, and the speechless. I've had characters who've grown to dominate games, and characters who've grown to dominate DMs; to the point where they've built games to give the characters a home. I've made characters so vile, so domineering, or so weird that they've more or less broken games, sometimes before they even started.

I know the rules…for pretty much anything. I've spent hours pouring over rulebooks and builds and suggestions for games that I have never played, or played once, or don't even want to play (but love to read). It's pretty fair to say that my life is, barring the occasional John Cusackian romantic folly, dedicated to gaming.

And yet, I am a terrible roleplayer.Read more »

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9 thoughts on “>A-Z Action: C is for Crutch (Is Writing Good Speeches for Stupid Characters Cheating?)

  1. >We all do this. All of us. At least, all of us that are any good at writing. I've never yet met anyone that can resist squeezing every bit of stirring dialogue or brilliant planning out of a game that they can muster.My answer to the problem? I just refuse to make psychopathic half-ogre minotaur berserkers any more, because I KNOW that I'm going to end up running the party anyway. 4E has helped the stat discrepancy by making it much less likely for any character build of any sort to completely ignore intelligence, wisdom, and charisma as a whole, and a lot of social/academic things can be shoehorned into whichever one of the three you didn't dump. But mostly it's really just the self restraint: if I can't play the silent grunter the way it's supposed to be played, then I don't write up that character. Leave it there for someone less glib than yourself who doesn't have the ability to effectively write for a front man, instead of taking other people's jobs and then being disappointing when no one steps up to fill your own as well as you could have in the first place.

  2. I hate using stats to adjudicate the effects of diction. To me, stats are there to cover things we can’t do at the table, like pickpocket someone or cleave a table in twain. I can talk all goddamn day.

    In the games I run, I tend to allow an in-character statement to override a die roll. Technically, yes, this throws off balance. However, I’m not in a league, I’m not getting paid to do this, this isn’t an MMO, and I’m not part of the RPGA. Ergo, fuck balance.

    In that same vein, if a player finds some sort of crazy trap, yeah, they could roll thievery. Or, they can listen to the description of the trap, and then just stick a wad of chewing gum into the tube that fires the deadly poison dart. No roll required.

    To me, it’s another example of, as you put it, the RPG making the player feel like a hero every goddamn day.

  3. I’m pretty similar; after a game in which I discovered that if I had a keyboard in front of me I could actually convincingly play a social monster statted for quick thinking, I started playing as much to test my skills. Most of the time it works pretty well; I design characters who could have my vocabulary and my understanding of the social dynamic. Only issue I had was when we began a game where everyone suggested things for everyone else to play to, and someone suggested a physical emphasis for my character, in a game where we couldn’t be as generalized as I’m used to playing. I… reinterpreted it a little.

    But conversely, how do you handle a player whose social skills are considerably lower than the character’s social stats when everyone else has skills greater than or equal to their stats? I’m still trying to find a balance (or at least, I was when the last player I had like that left).

    1. Ravyn> Your question is a difficult one for me to answer, due to the way my gaming history developed.

      When I was in high school, I played a lot of 2e tabletop (at one point I was running two different groups). The people I played with were my friends, and with the exception of a couple athletes (a baseball player and a wrestler) we were all on the speech team. Speech in my state was sort of a smaller high school with a lot of the social cruft removed, and that switched up some of the dynamics that tv and other media would expect a high school dnd group to display. We pretty much all had girlfriends, were all comfortable speaking in front of strangers and playing a role to do it, and were rarely in a situation where we had a stranger in our midst.

      Then I went to college and all of my gaming moved online. The thing about online play is that a person’s “social skills” are somewhat represented in their net decorum and written ability; if I’m running a game, I apply savage cuts on those two bases. In terms of the games where I’m a player, there’s a relatively “core” group of people who tend to produce the kinds of quality apps that get them into the various games that same group is running.

      So that’s a roundabout way of saying “Your question is difficult for me to accurately answer,” because my gaming has largely—though not completely—avoided the situations where those issues came up. Given how pbp applications tend to work, the kind of fella (or lady) who submits a social-stat-heavy character is generally doing so because they enjoy that style of play and can carry it off. Plus, having time to consider and edit your posts goes a long way to beefing up the eloquence of just about anyone.

      What I would say, though, is that I generally consider the character sheet to be a baseline; your character is no worse than this, unless you do something utterly asinine. If you’re a 5th level bard with a Diplo mod of +12, you’re going to be able to talk your way out of most situations even if you, as the player, just give me “I ask the guard to let us go.” I would, of course, encourage the player behind that sheet to step up their description and really try to sell me. My personality is such that I’m usually encouraging reticent individuals to step it up anyway, though.

      It’s worth noting that I’m taking your question to mean “Someone with good social stats on the sheet who isn’t that eloquent or expressive in his roleplay,” rather than “Someone with good social stats on the sheet who is, and plays, an asshole.” Since I strive to create NPCs who have realistic and predictable reactions to things—it helps players to write more accurate and evocative posts if they feel like they’re talking to a comphrensible being—I’d probably present some pretty immediate penalties to someone who thought they could coast on good stats but shitty dialogue, rather than simply needing a boost from their stats to prettify their language.

      1. What I had was… somewhat awkward. I’d been running the game for four, five years by that time, group was shorthanded so I let a friend I’d been chatting with online join. By this time, those members of the group that had been there the entire time had been diversifying like mad.

        In the new guy comes, and he decided to play a social monster. With the problem that he just did not get how the world and the people in it operated (granted, somewhat filtered by my twisty little mind, but most of it I thought was trying to play according to general human nature) and with a couple of exceptions was as likely to offend whomever the group was talking to as to actually convince them of much of anything. Of your two example readings, I think the latter is somewhat more accurate. I even suggested a couple uses for some of the things he did have (one was something that could infallibly read the social dynamics between two characters; given that I get almost all my ideas out of character interactions, that was practically a win-button), and… it didn’t help much, and much bellyaching ensued.

      2. That is rough. I imagine, too, you wouldn’t have even expected this problem, based on your prior association with the friend?

        At this point, I’m suddenly more fascinated with what possessed dude to roll a social monster. Was he trying to fill a gap in the party, play something outside his normal purview, or did he really think he could pull this off?

        I’ll often play a character beyond the borders of my typical bailiwick, but I do so in an effort to expand my gaming horizons. I go into it with an expectation for how the new role will develop in the game, and what it’ll expect of me. Do you remember much of how this character shook out of the brainmeats of its player?

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