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Faldred

Roleplaying Attributes
« on: October 13, 2006, 01:59:43 pm »
Roleplaying Attributes (a/k/a Faldred's Essay Time, again)

In D&D, and by extension, Neverwinter Nights, there are six basic attribute types that define the basic "shell" of a character: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.  These attributes are used for a variety of purposes -- to apply bonuses or penalties to certain tasks, or as qualifications for certain classes, abilities, or feats.

But there really are two different types of abilities represented here: physical abilities (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution) and mental abilities (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma -- yes, I'm classifying Charisma as a mental ability, stick with me here).  From a role-playing perspective, physical abilities are very easy to deal with -- how strong is the character?  How nimble?  How tough?

Mental abilities, on the other hand, are a bit different.  Take Intelligence... how smart is the character?  Well, unlike sheer physical strength or endurance, "smart" is harder to quantify and represent in-character.  Ditto for how wise or how charismatic the character is.  To make matters more difficult, it can be quite easy playing a character with radically different physical abilities than you possess, but in some ways, it can be quite hard playing characters with very different mental abilities, especially if they are higher than your own.


Intelligence

A high intelligence does not necessarily imply having a great deal of knowledge.  That is, a character with an INT of 25+ doesn't simply "know" everything.  In real-life, there are many highly intelligent people who are relatively ignorant because they have not had the opportunity to access information or to learn how to use their natural abilities.  On the flip side, many intelligent people who have had the opportunity know a great deal about certain areas, but still know very little about others.  (E.g., a PhD is often characterized as someone who knows a great deal about a very narrow subject and very little about everything else.)

Intelligence is, rather, a measure of how capable the character is of critically analyzing, synthesizing, and correlating information.  Or more simply, how well he or she is able to learn and to use logic.  In game terms, this is expressed in puzzle-solving, number of languages allowed (not necessarily granted), and as a skill modifier for skills requiring the use of learning, critical analysis, and/or problem-solving.  For example, a high intelligence helps the Search skill because the character can analyze the environment for clues as to where hidden devices may be located, and indications that one actually exists.

Roleplaying intelligence requires acting in accordance with your abilities when faced with a problem that requires thought and analysis.  This is a perfect example of why it is much easier to play "dumber" than it is to play "smarter".  That is to say, if you're playing a half-orc barbarian, you can very well play him as if he couldn't figure out the puzzle you the player saw through in an instant.  On the other hand how do you roleplay your elven wizard's ability to solve the riddle if you personally have no clue?


Wisdom

Wisdom is a dual-purpose ability.  It represents common sense, but more importantly, force of will -- mind over body, if you like.  On the first point, unlike Intelligence, a high Wisdom leads to a more intuitive approach to knowledge or problem solving -- certain things just make sense... well, because.  The character simply knows something to be true (even if it isn't).  Skills like Listen and Spot highlight this type of intuition.

On the second point, Wisdom acts as will power.  How strong is the mind against external attack or distraction?  In mechanics, this shows up as adjustments to Will saves, but in roleplaying, it is about staying focused on-task and avoiding temptations.

While not as difficult to play the extremes with wisdom as it is with intelligence, if you're personally borderline ADD, it might not be easy to play a character who can maintain a tough mental discipline.


Charisma

Ah yes... Charisma.  A mental ability?  Am I serious?  Absolutely.  Physical attractiveness is not the end-all and be-all of Charisma.  In fact, I would strongly consider dissociating the two a great deal, though not completely altogether.  A "beautiful" person can have the Charisma of a stick, and an "ugly" person can rule an empire by sheer will.  This is, of course, extreme, and human (or demi-human) nature leads us to naturally perceive those with what be believe to be positive physical traits as more charismatic, so it has some place.

But much more so than that, Charisma is the couter-point to Wisdom.  Whereas the latter is about force of will focused inward on one's self, Charisma is about the ability to impose one's will on others, hence its inclusion as a "mental" ability.  Leadership, to be slightly cynical, is about getting people to do what you think they should be doing, or, in other words, manipulating them.  This is not necessarily a bad thing -- the Paladin may believe that she is showing people the True Path and helping them focus their energies.  Of course, the same ability can be used by the dark side to dominate or (mentally) oppress others.  In any case, the abilities come from some combination of physical appearance, force of personality, leadership skill, smooth talking, and apparent moral authority.

In game mechanics, Charisma is expressed in two ways: spell-like abilities and diplomacy.  For "spontaneous" arcane casters (Bards and Sorcerers), it is the ability to manifest one's force of will in physical form as a spell; for Clerics, Paladins, and the like, it has an effect on their power over the undead, and as a "force multiplier" to certain spells and abilities.  Even the Use Magic Device skill works in this first regard -- the Bard or Rogue manages to bend the item to their use by force of will.  Diplomatic skills, specifically, Bluff, Intimidate, Persuade, and Taunt, are impacted by Charisma, in terms of imposing your will on someone else.  

Charisma, from a role-playing standpoint, offers probably a wider set of options than Wisdom or intelligence do.  A middle-of-the-road Charisma could be a slick-talking attractive person who just has no leadership skills or could just as well be an excellent managerial type who faints at the thought of public speaking.


Mixing and Matching

From a character definition standpoint, what makes the three "mental" abilities even more interesting is how they work together to create a personality.  The stereotypical absent-minded professor (or Wizard) can be represented as having a high intelligence and a low wisdom -- with a high Charisma, perhaps he becomes a great mentor, with a low one, a stuttering recluse.

But in short, just bear in mind the traits (or variety of traits) associated with each skill, and mix and match them together to come up with one logical approach for the character.  Above all, just avoid the lazy stereotypes of high-INT = "know it all", high-WIS = "sage who speaks in cryptic riddles", and high-CHA = "Faldred in a tux".

Edit: typo fixes
 
The following users thanked this post: Hellblazer, MJZ, [b]MerlinAlpha[/b], Maestro3P

Acacea

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2006, 07:41:04 pm »
Nice post, should sticky it with the alignments thread as they both come up often.
 

Filatus

RE: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2006, 07:48:32 pm »

Very good post, especially about Charisma. I never agreed with what seems the common view on what it actually entails. Which is just outward looks, which makes no sense to me in the way d&d uses it..
 

Acacea

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2006, 08:06:22 pm »
Actually, I think the common view is that it has nothing to do with looks at all, which is going too far on the other side for me. Many people demand a separate 'appearance' attribute because they don't take into account the effect one's appearance has in the ability to exert one's will over others, even if unintentional.

There is a whole giant long repetitive thread lurking around that I would rather eat broccoli than bring up from the dead, but there's a lot about it there. This one summed it up pretty nicely with no demands for strictly one or the other but just acknowledges appearance as a relatively small factor in the whole charisma equation, rather than the main show, or something completely and totally unattached.
 

OldBear

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Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2006, 09:12:06 am »
Wanted to say thank you on the approach to charisma.  My dwarf has decent intelligence and wisdom but no charisma to speak of.  Yet he has made friends and I always have trouble trying to reconcile his lower charasima with how he ends up being played.  I have tried to rp him not leading groups of people but just being loyal and faithful to those he does travel with.  I also try to make him not the stereotype rude crude dwarf but outspoken and lacking in tact.  He is known to carry salt with him to add to his boots since he often put's his foot in his mouth.  This approach will aid me in how I approach his rp in the future.
 

Faldred

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2006, 09:32:19 am »
Quote
OldBear - 10/14/2006  12:12 PM

This approach will aid me in how I approach his rp in the future.


That's the highest praise I could receive.  Thank you.
 

Wraithdur

RE: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2006, 06:39:42 am »
diplomacy: the art of letting someone else get your way.
that post cleared up alot of things about charisma for me
 

Ne'er

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2006, 02:48:34 pm »
Quote
Charisma is the couter-point to Wisdom. Whereas the latter is about force of will focused inward on one's self, Charisma is about the ability to impose one's will on others


I really like how that is said. Like with the alignment guide, a very nice job Faldred.
 

darkstorme

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2006, 06:27:25 pm »
Quote
Acacea - 10/13/2006  11:06 PM

Actually, I think the common view is that it has nothing to do with looks at all, which is going too far on the other side for me. Many people demand a separate 'appearance' attribute because they don't take into account the effect one's appearance has in the ability to exert one's will over others, even if unintentional.


Wholehearted agreement there - it's a fact of life that people who are conventionally attractive (high body symmetry, significant secondary sexual characteristics, etc.) tend to motivate others to do things even if they have the personality of cardboard.  A substantial physical charisma can still be negated by a suitably negative mental charisma, but the point remains.  Both physical and mental characteristics are critical to a Charisma score.


Quote

There is a whole giant long repetitive thread lurking around that I would rather eat broccoli than bring up from the dead, but there's a lot about it there. This one summed it up pretty nicely with no demands for strictly one or the other but just acknowledges appearance as a relatively small factor in the whole charisma equation, rather than the main show, or something completely and totally unattached.



Well, the thread was a bit of a debate that degenerated into a shouting match, but lots of good points were made in it as well, which needn't be summarily dismissed.  And what's wrong with broccoli?
 

Faldred

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2006, 10:06:19 am »
Quote
Ne'er - 10/15/2006  5:48 PM  
Quote
Charisma is the couter-point to Wisdom. Whereas the latter is about force of will focused inward on one's self, Charisma is about the ability to impose one's will on others
 I really like how that is said.
 I almost added, but I didn't because the NWN mechanics make it difficult, that the oppsoed check to a Charisma-based skill should generally be off of a Wisdom-based skill, for the obvious reasons.  Unfortunately, in the engine, the best skill to counter a Charisma-based check is "Concentration", which is a CON-based ability -- but that's really about combat casting, not actual concentraion.    I usually use a Will save to oppose a Bluff, Intimidate, Taunt, or Persuade.  However, skills in general are probably going to be about two to thee times as high as saves at any given level (more or less... at level 20, an unmodified "high" save is 12, whereas a maxed out unmodified skill is 23... a "low" save is only 6, which is almost a 4:1 advantage to one side), so a Taunt vs. Will check should be modified accordingly (defender should get to add his modified Will save twice to the d20 roll to make it a fair check):
d20 + Taunt + CHA bonus + modifiers -VS- d20 + 2 x ( Will + WIS bonus + Will save modifiers ) + other modifiers
 

Pankoki

Re: Roleplaying Attributes
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2006, 07:51:26 pm »
Actually those skills have an established way to counter them. At least the ones that appear in the official 3.5 material.
  For instance, Intimidate:
  "Your Intimidate check is opposed by the target’s modified level check (1d20 + character level or Hit Dice + target’s Wisdom bonus [if any] + target’s modifiers on saves against fear)."
  I can see how this can also be used against a Persuade or Bluff Skill as well, of course the official counter for Bluff is Sense Motive (Which is a WIS based skill), unfortunately we don't have that here in NWN, so I still think we can use the equation above for it. For Taunt the engine uses a Concentration check, and this does make sense to me somewhat, at least on the mechanical aspect of what the Taunt skill does in NWN.
 

Omega_mnm

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    RE: Roleplaying Attributes
    « Reply #11 on: December 31, 2006, 11:34:18 am »
    I must say.. excellent! It follows the general mindset I already had for RPing. But it definitely gave me a better view on how those three attributes make up your characters mindset.

    Brilliant!

    Thank you.
     

    DiegoBastet

    Re: Roleplaying Attributes
    « Reply #12 on: February 18, 2007, 02:59:48 pm »
    Just had to post here, even so much time after the posting. Sometimes, in all these six years that I'm a GM, is just HARD to put wisdom for some players. Charisma tends to be easier, with clear examples, but wisdom... Pretty good.
     

    Faldred

    Re: Roleplaying Attributes
    « Reply #13 on: February 23, 2007, 06:50:39 am »
    Quote
    Pankoki - 10/16/2006 10:51 PM
    Actually those skills have an established way to counter them. At least the ones that appear in the official 3.5 material.

    For instance, Intimidate:

    "Your Intimidate check is opposed by the target’s modified level check (1d20 + character level or Hit Dice + target’s Wisdom bonus [if any] + target’s modifiers on saves against fear)."


    I know this is a late reply, but what I don't like about that is that it makes no allowance for high/low Will saves, and is really only based on WIS directly.  I still like the idea of dropping CL/HD in favor of 2 x base Will save -- I think that's more consistent with how spells and spell-like abilities are dealt with (the 2x modifier is just to balanced the increased DC due to the nature of how skill points are awarded/used).

    I do agree that Sense Motive is a good counter to others, especially Bluff.  I had forgotten about Sense Motive, and it is indeed a WIS-based skill.

    As for Taunt, I think it comes down to how it is used.  I have no quarrels with using a Concentration check in a combat situation, but in a conversation/RP situation (i.e., someone is trying to needle/goad you), I tend to want to lean toward the modified Will save again -- in this case, it would be acting more like Intimidate.

    Quote
    DiegoBastet - 2/18/2007  5:59 PM

    Just had to post here, even so much time after the posting. Sometimes, in all these six years that I'm a GM, is just HARD to put wisdom for some players. Charisma tends to be easier, with clear examples, but wisdom... Pretty good.


    One of the best short descriptions of Wisdom I ever read was from the 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook -- something to the effect of "the author has the intelligence to know that smoking is bad for him, but lacks the wisdom to stop."
     

    Stephen_Zuckerman

    Re: Roleplaying Attributes
    « Reply #14 on: February 23, 2007, 12:55:02 pm »
    Quote
    Faldred - 2/23/2007  9:50 AM

    Quote
    Pankoki - 10/16/2006 10:51 PM
    Actually those skills have an established way to counter them. At least the ones that appear in the official 3.5 material.

    For instance, Intimidate:

    "Your Intimidate check is opposed by the target’s modified level check (1d20 + character level or Hit Dice + target’s Wisdom bonus [if any] + target’s modifiers on saves against fear)."


    I know this is a late reply, but what I don't like about that is that it makes no allowance for high/low Will saves, and is really only based on WIS directly.  I still like the idea of dropping CL/HD in favor of 2 x base Will save -- I think that's more consistent with how spells and spell-like abilities are dealt with (the 2x modifier is just to balanced the increased DC due to the nature of how skill points are awarded/used).


    Let's just fling around some numbers...

    Pyyran's Will Save is +6, as his base is +5 and he has a WIS of 12. That would make his modifier, in the system you describe, +12 against Intimidate. Pyyran is level 15. That would mean that his modifier would be +16, and would increase by 1 every level.

    If the skill Sense Motive were open, Pyyran would probably have put quite a few points into it... Let's say half of his max ranks (currently 18). So... 9. That'd be +10, total; more if he had put more ranks into it (which would be likely).

    Let's compare this to if Pyyran was a Cleric, and his Wisdom was what his DEX is now (24). That would, after a bit of computation, make his Will Save +18. Doubled, that is +36. However, with the D20-System system, it would only be +22. Big difference...

    If Pyyran were the type to be intimidating, and maxed his ranks out in Intimidate, that would be 18+CHA: +20. Is an Aeridinite peace-lover of his same level really going to be able to shrug off his intimidations with relative ease? I think not.

    The HD+Wis opposed roll fits with the skill system better and more evenly than doubled Will.
     

    Faldred

    Re: Roleplaying Attributes
    « Reply #15 on: February 24, 2007, 03:48:56 am »
    If we're going to get into the math...  :)  A 10th level character can have a max of 13 base skill ranks in Intimidate.  A "high" Will save would have a base will save of 7; a "low" Will save would have a base 3.  So... CHA-based skill vs. Sense Motive: 13 + CHA modifier + other modifiers -VS- 13 + WIS modifier + other modifiers  SRD "HD" model:
    13 + CHA modifier + other modifiers -VS- 10 + WIS modifier + other modifiers  My proposal (given the absence of Sense Motive):
    13 + CHA modifier + other modifiers -VS- 14 + WIS modifier + other modifiers ("high" Will)
    13 + CHA modifier + other modifiers -VS- 6 + WIS modifier + other modifiers ("low" Will)  Yes, the person with the low Will save is at a disadvantage.  That's the point.
     

    Stephen_Zuckerman

    Re: Roleplaying Attributes
    « Reply #16 on: February 24, 2007, 05:59:48 am »
    But Will Saves, while they are worked around like that in the poor medium of NWN, are not intended to represent someone's ability to see through an empty threat, or their ability to actually beat the living snot out of the scary-looking half-orc.

    Part of Intimidate is the idea that the person rolling the Intimidate check can, in fact, follow through. That's why HD is factored in...

    Fighters have low Will progression. Do you honestly think that a hardened fighter would be at that much of a disadvantage?