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So, I'm running an Amber Diceless game. One of the characters took 21 points of Good Stuff at the beginning, because they want to save up to 25 to buy Advanced Pattern Imprint after the game starts. Another player has 4 points of Bad Stuff they spent to acquire Logrus control pre-game.

The problem I have is twofold.

First, that the player with the character with Bad Stuff generally doesn't have any issues interacting with NPCs on account of he doesn't react badly to their initial hostility, figures out OOC what they want in social interactions, and then gives that to them IC. I have the NPCs be generally disapproving of him before they talk, but then they slowly warm up to him over time to an at least indifferent perspective.

This compounds the second problem, which is that the player with the character with Good Stuff does a really bad job of interacting with NPCs. He doesn't outright attack them or anything, but e.g. immediately upon meeting Dworkin he (in an attempt to ask about a magic aura he was assensing) he asked "Why do you look so weird?" and then interrupted Dworkin's attempted responses with questions about other things, and then when I had Dworkin try to provide an opportunity for the PC to ask their questions they indicated that clearly they weren't supposed to be talking, and then shut up entirely.

The contrast between the two characters is problematic, and I'm unsure how to better make the Good Stuff the unstable insult-y character has function as good stuff in a way that makes it clear it's better to have Good Stuff than Bad Stuff in terms of NPC interactions.

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I can see two ways to deal with it, but the appropriate one depends on the Good Stuff character's plans. If he really intends to buy Advanced Pattern Imprint, and is only four points short, suggest he takes it now, giving him four points of Bad Stuff.

With that, the only difference between the two characters' ability to interact with NPCs is in the way their players do it. One of them is good at reducing the impact of his Bad Stuff in this context, while the other tends to make the problem worse. But this is a matter of role-playing, rather than a mechanical difference.

The alternative, if the Good Stuff player wants to carry on having a lot of Good Stuff (and 21 points is a lot), then NPCs could find him amusingly blunt, making the kind of insults that can't be taken seriously, or so repulsive that he's interesting. They still wouldn't tend to listen to him, but they wouldn't get annoyed by him.

There's a fictional precedent for that in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch sub-series of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels: Corporal "Nobby" Nobs has "charisn'tma." He's so deformed and repulsive he has to carry a certificate that he's a human being, rather than some weird kind of ape, but people who know him tend to like him, even though he's impolite and often foolish.

However, I would be very cautious about combining the two approaches, by using charisn'tma now, and having it be lost when the character buys Advanced Pattern. The change in the way NPCs reacted to him would be significant, and would strain my sense of continuity in the fiction of the game. It could work if the character's personality was transformed by great deeds and trials in the process of gaining Advanced Pattern, but I doubt that your player, from what you've said, could portray that consistently and convincingly.

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There are several ways, depending on your GM-ly inclinations, but this is a tricky problem. It's easier, in my experience, to punish a socially adept PC with Bad Stuff (paranoia and insults come naturally to the setting) than it is to reward a socially inept PC with Good Stuff.

First: Brute Force of Will

And I mean force of will on your part to bend over and find charitable interpretations of the character's statements. Dworkin might be immune to that sort of thing by now. Or it might be so outrageous that he assumes it's a bad joke and ignores it once. Or, since his origins are of Chaos, he might be having a moment where that's the right thing to say.

This, of course, is obvious, and it obviously has limits. If your concept of Dworkin is humorless and my interpretation of Chaos does not fit your game, a point buy should not override that. Moreover, as you've no doubt noticed, it gets stale. Quickly. But since the Stuff is to be bought off, maybe that's okay.

Second: Behind The Scenes, Directly

If it's important to you (or the player) that Good Stuff characters be charismatic and popular, you can convert some of the Good Stuff into social insight that you bestow to the player in some fashion or other. My personal preference would be directly, GM-to-Player and out of character, at least somewhat: "Before you get that question out, you realize that Dworkin's hunched back and twisted body might make him... especially sensitive to that remark."

I have also seen PCs set up with NPC helpers to provide the same sorts of advice, which worked well but depends on a receptive PC. This has the benefit that when the Stuff is bought off, the flow of advice stops. Maybe, if you're lucky, some of the advice will stick and you'll be left with a Zero Stuff character that acts appropriately close to Zero Stuff.

Third: The (Seen or Unseen) NPC Patron

Any number of NPCs (notably Benedict, Fiona, Random) can buffer the PC from at least some fall-out from his or her actions. If for some reason Benedict has some use for the character, a subtle or not to subtle word in the right ears can deflect a lot.

This also has the benefit that once Benedict has what he needs (i.e., the points are bought off) the protection ends and its open season.

Fourth: Some Guys Have All The Luck

Some folks are lucky and always manage to say the wrong thing at the right time, which is to say, when the person they've inadvertently offended simply aren't in the right position to respond or retaliate.

I will admit, this suffers from the same flaw as the first point, which is to say that it gets old very fast. It's very hard to maintain believability in my experience (I've never done so myself) but if this is short term, it may work, so I mention it.

Fifth: Encourage The Player To Make The Buy Now

(Pushing back against the question frame slightly.)

How you do this is up to you, but four points of Bad Stuff (in many games) isn't that much. It's not crippling. And in some ways, this is the ideal situation: Player gets shiny power (and the potential to really annoy people with) while you are relieved of the burden of having the universe treat this guy well.

Sixth: Accelerate Your Points Award Schedule... Just This Once

(Pushing back against the frame more firmly.)

This is self-explanatory.

Seventh: Don't.

(Pushing back against the frame entirely.)

Don't. Just don't. One assumes that the major NPCs, at least, are not blind fools and retain some agency. No points buy should be enough to bend your entire campaign out of shape. Leave them luck and whatever else Good Stuff gets them, start them with a cache of goodwill, but make clear it is not an inexhaustible resource. There are limits.

But in fairness, especially if this is going to change the way the game treats the PC, you do need to inform the player of this, and probably go out of your way to communicate when they just burned some of that resource. (So, it's similar to giving them advice before hand, except the timing is different-- tell them after.)

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By the rules, good stuff and bad stuff affect initial reactions, descriptions of events, and the way NPCs react to the actions of the character.

The character with very good stuff should always have everyone start as respecting them, they should perceive people in a favourable light, and their words and actions should be taken as well as possible.

If the player goes on to waste the goodwill, then that is within their rights; they are still more likely to get warnings that they have crossed a line and should amend their behaviour immediately, rather than outright hostility, whereas the character with bad stuff should get people working against them behind their back.

In particular, if the character immediately starts offending others, then the offended party might try to remove themselves from the situation (if of low status), or tell that the behaviour is not okay and please tone it down (if of fairly high status), or wait it out silently and then address the socially inept one, focusing on how they are making a fool of themselves (if of high status and with sufficient reputation to pull it off).

For contrast, an utterly socially inept character with neutral stuff might be disinvited, challenged to a non-lethal duel, told to shut up in no uncertain terms, get bullied back, etc. One with bad stuff might get assassins, a drawn sword or duel, a character assassination campaign against them, banished from the realm, etc.

But if the player of the character with good stuff plays badly, good stuff will not save them. Player skill is certainly a factor in this game, and characters will tend to suffer and get into trouble. One hopes they will grow, and the player too. See especially pages 230 and 233 of the Amber diceless book; "Good game masters create good roleplayers" and "Building player character suffering into campaign".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You need time to communicate that the NPC starts out at respecting them. I know it's okay for it to go away later, but if the NPC can't get a sentence out because the PC is spewing offensive statements and faux pas like a firehose I don't have time to create a believable positive first impression. Or at least, I don't know how to. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 8 '18 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I added two new sections; second and third last. \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Sep 9 '18 at 13:18
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I would suggest actually using the same techniques you use for the guy who has Bad Stuff but in reverse. So the NPC's start with a positive attitude and clearly willing to help and as the player keeps insulting/annoying/interrupting the NPC just have him slowly head towards indifferent.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you base this suggestion on your experience in dealing with this during play? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 7 '18 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes but not From Amber Diceless. I had a player in DnD5e with the folk hero background. Which meant people would know of him and he could basically always crass somewhere. At the start i mostly let it be a out of view thing where he just would not have to find a tavern. But at some point he started acting more and more like a noble spoiled brat towards common npc's and so I had him slowly loose the good will of the population of a town if he kept it up. If he got to a town where he had not been yet he got hailed as the hero but by the end one town had chased him out with an angry mob \$\endgroup\$ – Dinomaster Sep 8 '18 at 13:43

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