Consistency is my hobgoblin (rollick) wrote in roleplayers,
Consistency is my hobgoblin

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Characters are from Mars, players are from Venus

One of the ongoing complaints that periodically bounces around my gaming circle is the way non-physical stats work in RPGs. I know a couple of people who really like to play characters with high social stats, even though they aren't particularly good in social situations themselves. In a purely hack-and-slash game, that wouldn't be a problem. "You want to get the barmaid into bed? Roll against your Charisma. Natural 20? Sure, she not only comes along, she brings a couple of enthusiastic, attractive friends. Roll your stamina. Natural 20? You're the talk of the town for weeks to come."

But we tend to play fairly talky games, where players are encouraged to act out all potentially important interactions. And it's hard, when an impatient player has just spoken out of turn, saying exactly the wrong thing to a touchy NPC, to remember that he has the highest charisma in the party, and the player who's being polite and soft-spoken and deferential has the lowest. Especially when it happens every single game.

In theory, I should be telling the players that they aren't RPing their stats correctly. Maybe I should be encouraging player A to think about what he's saying and try again, or chiding player B for not being as abrasive and brusque as his stats say he is. But I hate interrupting a game for something like that, and no one likes to be told they're playing their own character "wrong."

Dealing with Intelligence-related stats can be even harder. When it comes to puzzles that can be solved via dice-rolling, or deciding which spells a character can have, or whatever, it's not a problem, but problems that have to be solved in-character are a different issue, because it's hard for the character to be smarter than the player. And again, if a smart player is playing an average to dumb character, it's hard for them to completely sit on the idea that may save the party, especially if the "smart" character hasn't come up with it.

One suggestion that I've heard a couple of times is that players of smarter characters should be allowed to collude with other players and take their suggestions, in order to bolster their own intelligence. This for me has its own problems, mostly because it makes gameplay stop, and it's a little annoying to give a player an idea and then listen to the character parrot it back. Still, it's a solution.

I'm wondering how other people handle this kind of thing. Has anyone come up with a good way to deal with characters that are, on paper, significantly smarter or wiser or more socially adept than the players can actually make them?
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