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This is an old problem, but one I am curious to find an answer to.

One of our players is naturally a smooth talker, and his personality allows him to talk his way out of situations on the spot, and he does this in his daily life. The issue lies in that his character has a Charisma score of 9, which is a -1 modifier.

Not speaking poorly about our DM, as I wouldn't know how to resolve this dilemma either, almost every situation that should have called for a Charisma check with his character was resolved by his own natural ability to charm, sweet-talk, and work his way out of nearly every situation, completely ignoring his PC's terrible Charisma score.

Granted, some of these he did have to roll for a check, and lost some and won some, and again, it's the DM's call. I'm just curious if there is a better way of resolving a situation such as this.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by mxyzplk Jan 26 at 13:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is precisely the great problem with Charisma and Intelligence. See theangrygm.com/ask-angry-the-suckiest-ability-scores-ever \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Jan 21 at 8:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answerers - please remember good answers on this Stack use Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and back up their opinions with experience or citations. Saying "do this" is not helpful, there's no way to determine if you are giving horrible advice pulled out of an orifice or not. Saying "I did this or saw it done and here's the effect it has" is the expert advice we expect here. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 22 at 4:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the GM let your halfling thief break down large wooden doors because you are 6'3" 275 pounds? \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Jan 24 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, since many answerers refuse to adhere to Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, and insist on making up advice with absolutely no reason or evidence to believe it’s a good solution to this problem, I’m going to have to close this question as opinion-based. It’s how the site works, folks. See rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8696/… for more. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 26 at 13:10

17 Answers 17

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This is a delicate thing to pull off as a GM, because it involves finessing the subtle aspects of a player's agency vs the rest of the imagined world.

The usual model of player agency is that the player has agency as far as their character and character actions are concerned, while the GM has agency for everything else in the world. It's a good model and very rarely needs to be more sophisticated than that. But that simple model pointedly ignores the character statistics, which I think are best conceived as an interface between the character and the rest of the world.

For physical stats (strength, or combat skill) this is obvious, easy, and uncontroversial: If a player tries to do something absurd, the GM need not even roll. If a player tries to do ordinary things that are out of his class, the GM can simply roll and the dice will enforce things.

The social or mental stats are tougher, but it is perfectly legitimate in my view for a GM to interpret the combination of a character's low charisma and a player's silver tongue as "That sounded better in your head than it did out loud." Or specifically, the player's words may sound great, but they are just as aspirational as the player of a low strength character resolving to break down a sturdy door. The character's words are filtered through low charisma and come out less effectively for whatever reason.

(This is directly inspired by the Amber DRPG concept of "good stuff" and "bad stuff" but I have found it works just as well in D&D type systems. I am quite sure other people have arrived at this approach without ever having seen Amber DRPG.)

There are several pitfalls:

First: It takes consistency. If, as a GM, you half-ass it, you will just confuse your players.

Second: It helps a great deal to explain this technique to the players the first few times it comes into play, and to remind them occasionally. If you don't, you can be perceived as a total flake of a GM, or worse, be perceived as playing favorites.

Third: It can be jarring or grating to players who aren't used to it, especially if they are in the habit of treating some of those stats as 'dump stats.' It also, to be fair, steps up real close to the agency boundary surrounding the characters, which is often very sensitive.

Fourth: The players may want to turn everything into a die roll, instead of letting the GM more flexibly and creatively apply his or her interpretations. Resist this; the GM is under no obligation to let the players call the shots for when dice are rolled.

Fifth: I shouldn't have to say this, and it is directed to the ghosts of my gaming past more than anything else, but-- resist also the urge to humiliate your players. A charisma of 9 or a penalty of 1 is not crippling. Even a stat that genuinely is crippling is often best glossed over rather than rubbing the player's nose in it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:02
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From the description of Charisma in the Basic Rules:

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.

You can say the sweetest laced words in the world, but if you say them condescendingly or without the presence to gain people's attention it wont amount to much.

As a DM, I would have him define the mannerisms of his character to reflect why he has a 9 charisma. Does he say smooth things but mumbles them so no one can hear them? (Gordon Agrippa from Black Clover is an excellent example of this type of character)

Or does he say them in condescending ways? Much like how a high elf would talk to/about a dwarf. Characters with a 9 charisma have some sort of personality flaw that slightly detracts from their interpersonal skills. You can try having your DM implement a rule that you can dictate what your character says, but your Charisma roll reflects HOW he says it.

You can call a King a fool with a charisma roll of 20 and he will think you a jester and laugh, but just try calling a King a terrific ruler with a charisma roll of 1 - he will think you are trying to insult him in some way and have you arrested!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:02
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Resolve it the same way for all player/character disparity. What's written on the character sheet takes precedence

Players don't have to be strong or dexterous to play characters with high STR and DEX. They don't have to know how to skin an animal or track game to play a character with Survival proficiency. Most obviously - they don't have to be able to do magic to play a spellcaster!

To determine success in a challenge, the numbers on the character sheet have higher precedence than player skill.

If a player who is really bad at tactics is playing a character with a lot of skill in that area, the GM should take the horrible plans the player comes up with and assume that the character has a good plan.

It works the same the other way, though this requires a fair amount of trust at the table. If a player comes up with a great battle plan but their character is unskilled then the GM should take the great plan and have it fail in some way, to reflect lack of character skill. This has to be done delicately, and consistently, to avoid hurting feelings.

Another option is that when one player has a cleaver idea that their character probably wouldn't come up with, let the characters of other players use it.

My experience

I've been in two games with exactly this situation.

In one case, the player wasn't aware they were doing this and a quick OOC conversation sorted the issue. "Hey, Bob, I know you are a smooth talker but your character isn't, so please don't get upset when your character flubs conversations."

In the second case, the player was doing it deliberately and had done so in previous games (board, card, and rpg). The conversation at the table got heated (as if often does when you call out a manipulator) and ended in the player leaving. It was upsetting at the time, but in hindsight it was the right thing to do.

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The problem issue also happens with very smart players playing low-Int characters but solving the puzzle in seconds, while the 18-Int Wizard's average-IQ player sits there still trying to understand what the setup was. It's true of all the "mental"/"personality" stats.

One solution I have seen that skips around a bunch of discussion and rolls (like where the adroit player's PC tries something they're poor at with help from the PC that probably should have done it) is for the DM to allow success without a roll on a good attempt, but to narrate it thusly:

"The guard is unmoved by your explanation, as your voice squeaks and you stumble over a word, making you sound suspicious, but your companion (DM indicates high-Charisma character) sees what you're trying to do and explains it more convincingly."


[If the second character has not stated they're at least helping, then this sort of DMing may require some level of agreement from players that it was okay to do it (e.g. agreeing its fine if it wasn't otherwise consequential, in order to keep the game moving ahead while making sense).]

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this approach works if both players decided their characters were attempting the persuasion or that they were trying it together. Otherwise, it's dictating what actions a player's character decides to do... which is not the DM's purview. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Jan 21 at 17:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Made a small edit to address the player agency issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Glen_b Jan 21 at 21:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ "the adroit player's PC" at first I thought this was a typo of some sort but I had to look it up - adroit means essentially "skillful" or "adept". \$\endgroup\$ – VLAZ Jan 24 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I really don't see how saying "I played in a game where a DM did this and it worked out for us" adds anything of value to the answer. No two groups are identical. I really don't see what sort of citation would be of any value either. \$\endgroup\$ – Glen_b Jan 25 at 6:40
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The problem isn't the DM.

Inverse My Guy Syndrome is as much of a challenge to overcome as My Guy Syndrome. The tone of your question was (you to the other player) "your guy wouldn't do that" or "your guy couldn't do that."

Actually, yes they can and yes they could. It's the DM's place to set the boundaries.

Stats are descriptive, not prescriptive.

Unlike editions of the game where not having skill points might block you from attempting something, any player can try anything, and the DM narrates the results. Dice are only rolled when necessary. (Basic Rules, p. 4).

  1. The DM describes the environment.

  2. The players describe what they want to do.

  3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions. Describing the results often leads to another decision point, which brings the flow of the game right back to step 1.

It is OK for a player to have skill

It is counterproductive to presume that as soon as the game starts the player somehow disappears and only the character is present - that immersion into a given character in an RPG happens to the extent that any player desires it to. The level of immersion into "in-character", both preferred and experienced, varies with each player and with each table. The characters in an RPG only exist and have agency because a player is driving them for the game session(s).

  • As an example of how you can't avoid a bit of meta-play: the game feat Lucky, and the Wizard (Divination School) ability Portent, are Meta Game Constructs. They give die roll control to a player/character. The dice themselves are a meta construct outside of the characters who are inside-the-fictional setting of the game.

A related meta problem is this2:

... mental stats {are} problematic in role-playing games because the whole point of a role-playing game is for the player to make choices and solve problems.

I have added an at-table example of player/character juxtaposition, as regards low versus high Charisma, that troublesome stat, at the end of this answer.

Don't resent other player's ability - keep working on your ability

Mike Mornard once made the cogent observation - referring to the game Diplomacy's influence on early D&D - that player skill is a part of the game. It still is. The presence of min-max and optimizer play styles attests to that. So does the learning curve of new players as they become experienced players. Player skill is a part of the game, even if it is seen by some a being part of the meta-game.

  • When someone makes a spell choice on level up, what informs the reason for that choice: character growth or optimization? Are you going to complain about that choice to the DM, or tell the player that choosing that spell isn't what their character can, or would, do? I doubt it.

If the DM is happy to adjudicate the social encounter based on a clever bit of wordplay, good! That's fun and (1) it is good role play, (2) players play the game to have fun, and (3) in this edition you can try anything and see if you succeed.1 That third point is a fundamental premise of the 5e ability / skill set up. Beyond that, stats don't rule all; see advantage and disadvantage rules as an example.

  • Advantage beats stats; in a case like this it can (depending on the circumstances) overwrite stats: if a given verbal exchange is particularly good or clever, it is a perfect place for the DM to apply advantage (+5 boost, roughly) to any attempt) due to a circumstance. Note: circumstances are not dictated by ability score and stats and this won't happen all of the time. To earn, for a given encounter, +5 is equivalent to the difference between an 18 CHA versus an 8 CHA (for that instance). Advantage can overcome that stat modifier if the circumstance set up by the player attracts that ruling from the DM. That's a part of this edition of the game. Disadvantage swings it the other way.

    This answer is a challenge to the frame of your question, which has the embedded assumption that player skill should not to be taken into account by the DM. It is fine to do that, and in the end the DM is the one who makes the ruling on the outcome of a player's decision, action, or verbal declaration/saying, or if a situation accrues advantage / disadvantage.

    Bottom line: the other player is not a problem player, unless they are being a spotlight hog and not giving you a chance to shine. That requires some player to player communication and teamwork to sort out. If that player generally hogs the spotlight, then as a fellow player remind them that you get a turn also. Don't dump that on the DM; you discuss it with the player and you reach an accord with them. You both (your characters) are in this adventure together: work as a team.

    As a practical step, the next time there is a social encounter, volunteer to go first. If need be, tap that player on the arm and say "I've got this one" and do your best silver-tongued-devil thing.

You are not the DM

Each of us who has DM'd, but is in the role of a player, needs to address that our role is different as a player. We need to make peace with the instinct to try and back seat DM. (I still struggle with this some times). With DM experience, each of us knows how we would handle a given case as a DM.

Recommendation:

  1. You are a player: play your character as best you can.

  2. Enjoy the success of the other players, rather than seeing their good play through a competitive lens.

  3. Work with your fellow players to form a better team.

An at table example of Charisma, low and high ...

I was recently advised by my DM that my ranger, who has the lowest Charisma in the group, and whom I have deliberately kept out of a couple of social interactions in favor of higher Charisma players (once with disastrous results when the dice went very cold - heh-heh, the dice are fickle!) is seen as the group's leader. In character, that makes some sense since he's often made suggestions that the group adopts (we generally make decisions by consensus), we are in a forest and he's a ranger, and he has a relative in-game who is under a curse that he's trying to lift. He has a motive to try and get to an objective. If we were to confine ourselves to the highest Charisma character being "the leader" it would be socially dysfunctional (as players) to try and force that player into that role if he doesn't want it.

The players form a small social group and thus the party's reactions will frequently reflect the real world, rather than the in-fiction, social dynamic.

When I talk about making decisions by consensus I take it OOC as well as IC: I ask my fellow players for input on "what spell should I choose that will help the party the most?" when I go up in level. Ranger spell picks are limited. I want their input because I want the team to succeed both in-character - the ranger's relative, the ranger's goals - and out-of-character, as a player. Those two states are not contradictory.


1 The rules on Ability Checks state:

The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results.

If the suggestion/persuasion seems to the DM to remove the risk of failure, then no die roll is necessary.

2 For further reading on how some ability scores are problematic, this rant (caution, language) is worth a look.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are for suggesting actionable improvement (which may be declined) or requesting clarification. Comments are not for extended discussion. This conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 23 at 11:08
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I think this is mostly a DM problem, albeit a common one. With the physical stats it's very clear: a player can describe how his character moves the huge boulder out of the way, but with a -1 strength modifier it isn't happening. A character can describe how her character throws a stone against a lever from 100 meters away, but with a -1 dex score it isn't happening. Yet with charisma DM's are often confused. This is probably because they do want to encourage role playing.

Of course it's better for immersion if the PLAYER makes a nice attempt at a convincing persuasion, rather than saying 'I persuade the guard to let us through'. But this shouldn't supersede the stats of the character. And if the player does NOT come up with a nice story, the stats should still count. I've seen DM's change the DC in case of a good story by the player, but I'm not even sure how I feel about that, unless they do the same when the player describes how for example he puts some sand on his hands for grip, then puts his hand under the boulder and attempts to move it. There shouldn't be an artificial difference between stats just because one of them lends itself more to displaying it gathered around a table.

And when the smooth-talking player fails his charisma check because it’s so low, that too makes for fun role playing experiences. There can be situations where the NPC just laughs off some attempt that is now perceived as silly due to the low rolls, or just plain gets hostile. This doesn’t punish the player that chose a low charisma score either, it still provides for a story and would be more realistic in what would actually happen if he tried that.

In the end, I feel that too many people get stuck on the fact that ‘numbers/stats aren’t roleplay-y enough’. D&D models a world based on stats, and is (sort of) balanced around that. This may feel unrealistic to some, but the stats are just a much simpler approximation of how the real world also works. D&D has decades of experience of trying to balance characters and races against each other so that nothing is obviously much better all-round. If a DM then chooses to ignore this, it just means you’re not playing D&D but a more unbalanced system loosely based on that, where now a Fighter/Wizard with charisma as a dump stat now ALSO can talk their way out of everything.

This answer to a related Call of Cthulhu question is also excellent.

I'd talk to your DM about this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk the advice can be evaluated on its own merit. Anecdotes do not prove anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebastiaan van den Broek Jan 26 at 8:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it’s advice you just made up, then it has been evaluated and found wanting. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 26 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk yes thank you for your opinion and downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebastiaan van den Broek Jan 26 at 13:06
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I think the key observation is that low charisma does not necessarily equate to lack of eloquence. In fact, it can also mean the opposite.

For example, an eloquent sycophant or aspiring demagogue can still be highly uncharismatic and unconvincing for reasons that have absolutely nothing to with their ability to speak the – seemingly – right words.

Therefore, by far the easiest way to handle player's eloquence in case of a low charisma character would be to treat everything the player says as suspect: There is just something about the character that instills distrust whenever he or she starts talking. Sure, they can still convince some, perhaps many, but not all and definitely not all the time. In game terms, have them roll or even outright fail, if doing so would present the character better.

It would perhaps also help to consider the opposite: A high CHA character does not need to be eloquent.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, certain current leaders of the world definitely come up as solid examples of nominally eloquent characters suffering from severe credibility issues...From literature, an example of non-eloquent high CHA character would be Carrot Ironfoundersson. \$\endgroup\$ – Geenimetsuri Jul 24 at 11:17
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The DM can award Inspiration for good role play.

Lots of great answers but I didn't see anyone mention Inspiration.

Awarding Inspiration is an effective way to encourage role playing and risk taking ... the character can have no more than one Inspiration at a time. (DMG, p. 240-241)

If the player did an over-the-top job of smooth talking, the DM could give Inspiration for his effort while still calling for a Charisma-based check. Obviously this is subjective regarding how the DM felt he did and what the situation calls for. It's a way to encourage his style of play while accounting for the ability scores of his character.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I added in a supporting reference; supporting answers are preferred. Edit this again if you find that the "word smithing" I included didn't fit your intended answer. Thanks for this answer, great point on using Inspiration in a case like this. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 23 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ This all day long, though I’d be more tempted to give inspiration if the player role-played being uncharismatic and deliberately did a really good job of it, encouraging character immersion and then giving them a ‘way out’ of their in-character idiocy. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 23 at 19:02
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As the result of a charisma check is dependent on external factors at least as much as the words themselves, a failed charisma (skill) check can be explained in many ways. A few examples:

  • "You are great with words sir, but I don't take advice from {insert player race}"
  • "Nice try, but I just don't care"
  • "You come in here, fully armed, and expect me to reason?"
  • ...
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. Answers should be supported with evidence and/or experience. How has your suggested solution worked, in your experience? Also, you might want to clarify at the start of your answer that you're suggesting that the Charisma rolls are what determine whether the smooth-talking player's attempts at, well, smooth-talking actually work. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 22 at 9:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:03
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I've a feeling this isn't as difficult a problem as you think to resolve. The real question is, should you resolve it?

So whenever he tries his smooth sweet-talking, if he fails his Charisma check, then the NPCs see through his flowery language and are suspicious or they think he is being patronising or tricky or something. His character just isn't good at sounding genuine to these people, or perhaps he makes an insulting faux-pas without realising it.

However, don't use this all the time. What he is doing is role-playing and he obviously enjoys playing this way, and it is nice to reward the effort with success. Whether it's role-playing according to his character is another point, and maybe the GM should have a word with him and suggest that if he wants to play this way he should swap a few points on another stat for Charisma or something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e has a reward for good role-playing built into the rules in the form of inspiration. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 23 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:03
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almost every situation that should have called for a Charisma check with his character was resolved by his own natural ability to charm, sweet-talk, and work his way out of nearly every situation, not his PC's, without ever needing to roll a Charisma check.

That's what advantage and disadvantage is for.

  • When the player made a really convincing point, then they should roll their charisma check with advantage.
  • When the line of reasoning the player came up with is flawed (but not so flawed that it's completely ludicrous from the point of view of the NPC), then they should roll with disadvantage.

The usual rule for skill checks applies, of course. Only roll a skill check if both success and failure have relevant consequences and neither success nor failure would break the campaign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would even take this one step further, at my RP heavy table-- unless a player makes a point that the given NPC would actually listen to, they don't even get to try to roll. Telling a servant of Lolth that untold moral riches await if they'd just change their wicked ways is never going to work at my table, not without some charm effects thrown in. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 21 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @L.S.Cooper That depends on context. It obviously wouldn't work if they are already standing there with weapons drawn and just about to attack. But if they would meet in a friendly situation and get the opportunity to have a deeper philosophical discussion, the PC might succeed at creating doubt in their minds and maybe even convert them. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jan 21 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @L.S.Cooper I’d always let someone roll if they want. If they make a really convincing point they can even roll with advantage. The DC they need to hit might not be achievable, but they might sow later seeds of doubt or elicit other, unexpected effects (up to and including the rest of the party bursting into tears at their eloquence). \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 23 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add any personal experience or citations that would help someone evaluate the usefulness of this advice. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 25 at 2:03
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In my experience, roleplay must always be able to alter (mental) stats. Many old RPGs tend to lack flexibility in their rules, throwing lots of tables and numbers at you as you play unnecessarily hampering the flow of the game, so I have always changed the rules of whatever RPG I was playing on the fly as I saw fit in order to offer my players the smoothest and most realistic and fun gaming experience I was able to.

That doesn't mean that I dismiss mental PC stats over the skill of the player. Those are still the base of whatever may be happening, but I take into account how the player roleplays and grant advantages (and disadvantages) accordingly. I also set some kind of soft limitations: for example, an 8 CHA PC will NEVER smooth talk a guard after being caught on the scene of the crime he has just commited no matter how good is the silver tongue of the player, but maybe he could persuade said guard to accept a bribe, specially if the crime commited is just a small robbery. That way you are guarded against players trying to abuse their IRL skills in the game. A rule of thumb would be that a good acting by the player would ease the difficulty of a dice throw by a factor of one, and the opposite for a bad acting. Of course, most of the players won't be real actors, so I always offer the chance to not roleplaying that particular scene, not granting any bonuses but being safe from any maluses.

Then again, that's just me, and I'm sure to tell my players how I like to do things before the game starts, so no surprises for them and, to this date, the reception has always been a positive one. Not only do they have the chance of getting out of a situation relatively risk-free or with a small bonus, but they also learn how to RP in the process. I encourage them to roleplay, not just dumb throwing dices and checking tables, and when they do they feel truly rewarded. Sometimes, to that effect, I even grant them some "special points" in the form of automatic successes that can be expended at will, no matter if they are included or not in the game rules. Just notice, though, that some fresh players can become easily overwhelmed over the idea of having to "act", and that's the main reason why I don't force them to use to this system: if they feel confident enough they will try, and if they don't they just face a regular dice throw.

So, my advice would be to allow some degree of flexibility by the DM, but establishing some limitations to avoid abuse.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 22 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, if I only had more than one upvote to give :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch edited the answer following your suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – Armitage Jan 22 at 15:51
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Question: How should a DM resolve a smooth-talking player with a weak Charisma score PC?

Answer: Exactly the same way they would resolve a gruff-talking player with a strong Charisma score PC.

The key is that the player is actually telling the DM the intent of the character and no matter how smooth or gruff they are in real life or how they stumble in the description, it is the character's Charisma that is used to resolve the event.

The DM might give the player a bonus for role-playing well or for bringing in plot points or contextual information or perhaps for just being funny. This bonus might manifest as a +1, as advantage or, perhaps best, in a change to the nature of the response of the NPC.

Whatever, the DM should tell the group what the happens based on how they judge the character behaved, not the player. This allows "gruff" people to successfully play high charisma characters and vice versa. Each DM will have a different style, but basically the DM should describe what really happens, telling the story in terms of the characters rather than their players.

Any other approach means we have to play ourselves.

It is the same for other ability scores too. It means unwise people can play clerics if they want to and normal people can play supra-genius wizards, for instance.

If people really try and role-play their characters then the DM's description of what happens will not be very different from player's expectations, and in fact in my experience it all rolls along nicely without the DM having to modify anything about the characters behaviour significantly.

However if the DM keeps on having to make big changes to how a character behaves compared to what player is saying, then perhaps the player should ask themselves if they are actually role-playing the character very well?

It is the same for Intelligence and Wisdom, particularly in my experience when a player keeps trying to make a low Intelligence character behave in clever ways.

TL;DR: the DM should tell the story of what actually happens to the characters, absolutely based on the player's input, while taking account of good role-playing and modifying poorly judged role-playing, so that everyone ends up with a fun believable tale.

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I use three points to solve this matter:

  1. In my opinion a few dirty secrets or a silver tongue are a tool (an awesome idea is, too). They gain you as much leverage against a guard as a crowbar against a boulder. And thus, I give advantages for using them, if they seem appropriate. The bonus depends on how good an idea is. If you are simply saying that you have proof for a guards misdeeds, you have to be confident. And thus the success depends on a simple roll and the background of the NPC. If the player has a clever idea or information or an appropriate tool, you give them a bonus.

    • Pros: The players get benefits for good role playing. This encourages to role play and rewards good ideas, which furthers immersion. and that brings fun.

    • Cons: I don't see any. It might only be a problem when you play a game with a person that strictly holds to the rules and has a different understanding.

  2. A clever idea, a good tool and wise words aren't simply lying around. You have to have them. Tools can be found in chests. Ideas and words can be found in the character's brain. If a eloquent/smart player of a low charisma/intelligence character wants to use words or an idea, not befitting of his stats, just let him roll for it. Dump people have good ideas from time to time, too. It's just less likely. If the PC succeeds, he/she may use the player's ideas/words.

    • Pros: You take player skill and character stats into account. And I find it rather logical. E.g.: Once I watched a RPG on YouTube and the party got sucked into an NPC's psychotic mind. At some point they had no idea what's going on, but I could understand the situation, because I read a manga with a mentally ill character, with the exact same illness just two months ago. I might not have extremely high stats in psychological knowledge, but I still succeeded to know this.

      Other example: I'm not very charismatic or eloquent. Some time ago I wanted to compliment a friend with a little joke. It sounded really dump to me, after I said it, but my friend was really happy and this I guess it was a success.

    • Cons: one extra roll and some players might pout, because they aren't allowed to use their extremely useful idea. But that can be helped by letting the other PCs help. The dump one could still give hints, as he has a kind of idea what to do/say, but isn't smart/eloquent enough to give it a concrete form.

  3. Sometimes, you can use following method:

    1. let the players say what they want to try e.g. "I try to persuade the guard to let me go."
    2. Let them roll normally, if they don't give further specifics.
    3. Let them roleplay the outcome.

     

    • Pros: you play By the rules and you can still roleplay. Can safe time by not having the player explain exactly what he wants to do, even if he doesn't even come to attempt to use his idea.

    • Cons(?): you stop the PC completely from using the player skill for this short situation. And it can hinder immersion as you don't follow the simple conversation, but stop to say what you want instead first. (This does only apply when the GM directly understands what the player wants. )

Example:

My kinda trouserless ranger, surprises the looting gentleman with a suitcase full of grenades.

Me: I try to calmly greet him and convey, that I am a sane human (because outside, it's teeming with zombies) and not evil, as he isn't looting my stuff.

GM: roll Charisma

I roll a crit. fail

GM: Critical fail. What do you say?

Me: BUUUUUUUUURP!!!!

The gentleman flees and falls down balcony.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 24 at 1:27
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As a DM, I'm often facing these situations as I'm currently running a campaign with an exuberant group who try to outsmart any situations.

In my way of DMing, I generally call for a dice roll against the NPC Charisma roll. But I'm considering the roleplay of the scene: if the Player convinces me as a person, I'll be a lot more flexible regarding the Player's throw and mine. For instance, if the Player silvertongues but fail the dice roll with a close score, I let it passes. And if he fails hard his throw, the NPC could always says like "Mmh you convinced me, but my boss will kill me if I let you pass and I can't let that happening, sorry man" or "Yeah, you're a smart one, but you can't jest with me, prepare to die !"

Plus, in case of a very weak stat, I sometimes grant a permanent +1 bonus for it when the Player uses it with great success (not necessarily a critical success). E.g: Last session a PC with weak strength was successful in literally throwing at a stronger PC the NPC they wanted to save, to make the group escape easier. The move was smart, and successful, so I granted a +1 bonus to the player when "throwing away people" because I considered his PC to be more experienced and skillful in these particular situations.

Anyway, I agree with the other answers that Charisma is one of the stats you shouldn't let be ruled only by the dice and stats. It's the DM art at its finest there.

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So... I've been the player being talked about a few times in my life. I just ADORE being "clever", of doing something totally off the wall that totally works. I can't help it, its just too much fun. A while back, during a mod the other PC got captured and was going to be executed. I did some info gathering, gathered my resources, and proceeded to waltz in, save the girl, zip line to safety, and never even got spotted by the guards. Under the "only roll if there is a chance of failure" I rolled only once in the entire thing it was planned that well.

Afterwords, (once he no longer wanted to beat me with the gaming table) the GM told me "Your way to smart for playing a Int 10 character, I'm bumping you to Int 14, you probably should focus on raising it higher then that." In short, he complimented me on my cleverness, but reminded me that there was a distinct difference between my character's stats, and how I was playing him. Because I was having fun being "clever", I worked with the DM to adjust my stats so they better represented what kind of character I wanted to play, and the game moved on.

I would do the same for this player. Complement him on his verbal skills, and offer to allow his stats to get moved around if he is playing significantly more charismatic then the stats would suggest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Humm, curious as to why I'm getting downvoted.... Any feedback on that? \$\endgroup\$ – Corbin Matheson Jan 21 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a neat solution that you and your GM came up with. Nice collaboration, and I too am puzzled at the down votes. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 22 at 0:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ In my experience, other players won't take it too well if one receives a free +4 boost to one of their stats. It also doesn't really solve the problem of mental stats being dumped and replaced with roleplaying actions. It is, however, a great solution to maintain the consistency between player actions and character actions. \$\endgroup\$ – Bainos Jan 22 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bainos - I agree. Perhaps a better solution for this GM to have provided would be to bump the INT by x, but then degrade one or more stats down by the same amount; there should always be balance. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jan 25 at 8:47
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You asked how a DM would do it, but you're not the DM

It appears what you're really asking is, "I'm frustrated that our DM doesn't expect players to act or behave as their characters and appropriately hold them accountable by checks against stats." There are two ways for me to interpret this:

  1. You're looking for a method your DM can use to encourage players to act their part.

  2. You're looking for a way to politely invite your DM to be a better DM.

Part I: A method your DM can use

It's uncommon for people outside of athletics to think in terms of sportsmanship. However, the concept of sportsmanship is relevant to every team or group activity. Everyone is expected to play well together. Unfortunately, teaching good sportsmanship has been a problem since, well, the first Olympics. Ultimately, poor sportsmanship is harmful to game morale as, in the back of everyone else's heads, its tolerance is always perceived as a form of favoritism.

In this specific case, your DM needs to help a player understand that (a) not paying attention to his/her character stats or (b) intentionally using his/her own personal skills to unfairly bolster his/her character stats is poor sportsmanship.

One way I did this, because the player was being a bit of a jerk about it, was that I rolled the dice while keeping my eyes fixed on his and said "you failed the check." He didn't catch on the first time. After rolling the dice blindly, staring into his eyes, and repeating the phrase "you failed" a couple more times, he finally caught onto the fact that he was being a bad actor and a bad sport. We were all friends, no offense was taken, we all laughed about it — but he also started acting according to his character stats.

What too many players don't realize is that sportsmanship is one of the more important aspects of any RPG - and regrettably (even though the "solution" I mentioned above worked for the one person I did it to), there's no one perfect way to help a player realize they're being a poor sport. But it is important for the DM to find a way of both managing the game and managing the players, or players walk away from the experience disappointed or discouraged.

Part II: Training your DM

However, the problem might not be that your DM is unskilled, but is unobservant or oblivious to the problem. Referring any RPG is complex. There are...

  • hundreds (if not thousands) of rules to remember,
  • the details of the campaign (past, present, and future) to remember,
  • the intended atmosphere or ambiance to remember,
  • all of the character attributes to remember,
  • and the very human characteristics of your players to remember.

Honestly, when you sit down and think about it, it's awe-inspiring what a DM needs to do and little wonder that DMs need experience to do it well. It's not all that uncommon that a DM needs reminding to not forget something. If this is the issue you're asking about, then I recommend the following based on how people treated me when I was DMing.

  • Pull people aside before or after the game to talk to them. Public complaints, no matter how well intended or politely delivered, can lead to embarrassment — and it's amazing what people will do to avoid embarrassment.

  • Stick to the point. The problem is almost never about the person or personality of the DM. It's usually trouble keeping all those "need to remember" things in mind.

  • Be prepared to receive a critique in return. Our world is very good at teaching people to "slap back" when proverbially slapped. Consequently (and usually unconsciously), a criticism will be returned to "make things even." Simply remember to have a skin as thick as you hope the person you're talking to has and you'll be OK.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 23 at 1:33

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