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I'm currently working on a character concept for a warlock player character for D&D 5e. Since Warlock's rely on charisma for spell casting I plan on putting my highest stat roll into that stat. However, since I plan on having this Warlock take the old one as his patron I wanted to play him as slightly mentally unstable ('awakened mind' has driven him slightly mad due to hearing so many voices and touching so many minds). This will likely have the repercussion of him being slightly off-putting in social situations with him responding to unheard voices, or seeming a bit 'off'.

I haven't actually rolled his stats yet, but I don't plan on making his Int or Wis particularly high: likely around 10-12.

How can I make this make sense if his Cha is his highest stat?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What are his 3 mental stats? \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 28 '17 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook mental stats as in INT, WIS, and what's the 3rd? Also, I haven't actually rolled his stats yet. but I don't plan on making his Int or Wis particularly high, likely around 10-12. \$\endgroup\$ – onewho Jul 28 '17 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @onewho Int, Wis, Cha are the mental stats (Str, Dex, Con are physical stats) \$\endgroup\$ – Delioth Jul 28 '17 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should add details like that to the question, and not simply post them in comments. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – can-ned_food Jul 29 '17 at 10:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ ♦ Hey all, that's enough comments suggesting which real-world person you think matches this description. They're off topic, some were offensive, and just one such comment is already too many. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 30 '17 at 4:55
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Charisma can mean many things

The PHB defines charisma as: (PHB 178)

Charisma measures your ability to interact effectively with others. It includes such factors as confidence and eloquence, and it can represent a charming or commanding personality.

Note that this definition does not mention any desire to interact with others--only that such interactions are effective when they happen.

Furthermore, charisma covers a wide range of social interactions, such as intimidation: (PHB 179)

When you attempt to influence someone through overt threats, hostile actions, and physical violence, the DM might ask you to make a Charisma (Intimidation) check.

Someone who has proficiency in intimidation has a very different kind of charisma than someone who has proficiency in deception or performance, for example.

What does this mean for your warlock?

First, your warlock can be as socially awkward as they want; it's just that when they do decide to interact with others, it's very effective.

Perhaps your warlock is very scary to others, and is perfectly aware of that fact. This means they are good at intimidating and scaring other people by deliberately playing up their mental instability, but they know that such tactics don't work in all circumstances.

Alternatively, your warlock could be very social with a certain group (other arcanists, or maybe eldritch horrors?), but not with "ordinary" people. After all, the kind of social skills needed to interact with nobles is probably very different from those needed to interact with demons.

Or, it could be that your warlock is truly mentally unstable and socially awkward in all cases, but something about his patronage with the Old One makes him supernaturally compelling to other mortals. They're already getting all sorts of other weird, eldritch powers, after all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I do think that the Charisma used in spellcasting (force of self) is somehow different from the social interaction Charisma (social skills), and the designers just decided to mash them together in their game. It seems to me that this fundamental mismatch is the root cause of your problem here. \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Jul 28 '17 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I very much agree with this statement. I think it would make much more sense to vary Warlock's spell casting stat depending on the patron they choose. For something like the old one spell casting can easily be varied to use Intelligence or Wisdom instead of Charisma. But this would require a house rule change. \$\endgroup\$ – onewho Jul 28 '17 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire: When I first came upon the concept of charisma-based casting, I though it was about "convincing" nature/spirits/the target that your "spell" was actually real (which in turn makes it happen) - so spell casting was in effect a kind of social interaction. \$\endgroup\$ – hoffmale Jul 28 '17 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @hoffmale I disagree, but the rules don't really specify what the mental saving throws really mean, so there's not much of a basis for any interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Jul 28 '17 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Warlock is a bit of a special case; it's the only one whose spellcasting ability is mentioned without any justification. Compare to Bard: "Your magic comes from the heart and soul you pour into the performance of your music or oration" or Sorcerer: "...since the power of your magic relies on your ability to project your will into the world." Here's why: "Warlocks used Charisma in previous editions. Playtest feedback wanted that carried forward. (Our preference was to use Intelligence.)" \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jul 30 '17 at 3:03
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Crazy doesn't have to mean "Socially awkward"

Sure, he might not say what is appropriate during most conversations (e.g. speaking in riddles, prophesying in the third person, etc.), but charisma is a factor of force of will and magnetism of personality. It just means the character is saying such things with such deep and real convictions that its almost infectious.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is also a theological definition which is simply: A divinely conferred gift or power. Dictionary.com - Charisma \$\endgroup\$ – BanjoFox Jul 28 '17 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 There are plenty of celebrities who say some strange things but are still well loved, sometimes because of the weird things they say/do/wear. Lady GaGa, Alice Cooper, Kanye West, Johnny Depp, to name a few contemporary examples. \$\endgroup\$ – David K Jul 28 '17 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BanjoFox +many for that point on the meaning of the term. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 29 '17 at 15:01
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Look to examples from fiction.

Fiction is filled with examples of highly charismatic characters who are somewhat odd or unbalanced. Tyler Durden, Luna Lovegood, Fox Mulder, Dracula, Heath Ledger's Joker, The Doctor, The Governor form the Walking dead, Kamina from Gurren Lagan, or any cult leader from the headlines.

Interesting characters can have any variety behavioral or delusional problems, yet be highly effective in social situations. The problem is confusing charisma with likeableness, appearance or suave sophistication. In most cases, D&D Charisma skills equate to social effectiveness. All the characters I mentioned above are characters who get people to do things they want them to do, but are either manipulative bastards or about as well balanced as an upturned egg.

How do they do this? A person can be persuaded to listen to a crazy person for any number of reasons. They might think the warlock has secret knowledge that is influencing him to wise choices, they might be afraid of setting him off if they disagree, they might just be easily bamboozled by fast talk, regardless of whether it means anything. He might have the ability to play on people's insecurities or social weaknesses. They might just agree with him because they feel sorry for him, or because despite everything, he's a naturally nice or innocent person.

Look to the fiction examples above or come up with more of your own. It's a very common trope. Think about how they influence the people around them and draw from them. If you don't think your acting skills or role-playing abilities are up to doing a great job, discuss with the other players what you are trying to accomplish. Most people around a table are more than willing to help fellow players realize a character concept.

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My take, as an occasional DM many years ago, is that the "socially awkward" quality doesn't fit well with high Charisma. Playing him as mentally unstable isn't a bad thing -- there have been many well known people in history who were mentally unstable but highly charismatic (Jim Jones, Adolf Hitler, other less recognizable names), but they weren't socially awkward. Megalomania might be a better fit in this situation.

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You mean like a lunatic that convinces everyone to follow what he says? That's the description of just about every dictator in the 20th century!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or cult leader. \$\endgroup\$ – Kommissar Jul 28 '17 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jim Jones? The guy from which the phrase "I drank the Kool-Aid" was coined. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 28 '17 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 because such people were decidedly not socially awkward \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Jul 28 '17 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gaynorvader Hitler(the easy example) had, from what I can research, a perfectly reasonable number of close personal friends. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 28 '17 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Charles Manson, might want to add that as an example. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 29 '17 at 14:59
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Charisma is not just how socially adept you are

The description in the book is pretty light, but here is the basic rules description for Charisma (basic rules page 8):

Charisma

Measures: Confidence, eloquence, leadership

Eloquence is probably out of the question, but both leadership and confidence can be exuded by someone who has strange or crazy ideas. Look at cult leaders: most people think they're insane, but they undoubtedly have very high charisma and the followers they do get are fiercely devoted to them.

Your character will most likely need to have a strong, passionate personality to get people invested in him and ignore his craziness. You will 'target' weaker people, people who feel like they don't belong or fit in, or people with wild aspirations that you can (mis)use to get your way. The nonsense that you espouse will turn off regular people, but will slowly build up a group of devoted followers that will do anything for you. And if you do need to flex your charisma against regular folks, you'll do it with your sheer force of personality and confidence, and maybe even a bit of fear.

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Well, If I had a high Cha character who I wanted to hear voices then making it more fun than scary would be the way I play it. If you have ever seen Braveheart the Irish man who thought he talked to god is a fun example. If you want to go for a more crazy route look at Harley-Quinn and that line about voices in Suicide Squad trailer. She has lots of charisma and still talking to voices.

You don't have to go the evil voices and dark madness route. Go for something that will be fun to play and interesting without locking you into a niche.

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Charisma is a measure of your force of will. That's why an oafish barbarian who may not be all that bright can still be charismatic. Even if he can't talk a merchant out of his wares, his presence and sheer force of will can intimidate him to the point that he drops that price a bit.

Don't think of Charisma as your social prowess. It's like your presence in the room and how people generally react to your character. Not all sane and social people are charming, but some of the most mentally disturbed people in history have been.

Being socially awkward with high Charisma could just translate to your character not ENJOYING social interaction, but knowing how to traverse it to his/her benefit should the need arise. It could also mean that he's so bumbling when he tries that it actually comes off as charming and disarming, accidentally wooing his way to his desired outcome.

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