I'm considering using a Solar (INT 25, WIS 25) as a semi-benevolent (but also kind of annoying) come-and-go guide of sorts to 3 high-level PC's in an upcoming campaign. While I would like to imagine that I can match this angelic being wit for wit, I don't think I could. It's a tough pill to swallow, but I'm probably lucky to fall around 15 INT.

What are some ways in which this puny human GM can convincingly establish a super-intelligent Solar? My main concern is that the Solar is smarter than me. How can I hope to play a creature that far exceeds me in this ability which affects it's way of speaking, it's sharpness of mind and other aspects of character that are difficult to emulate? What kind of prep will I need to do so I can fluidly present this NPC to the PC's?

From your experience, what works when role-playing a Solar NPC as a GM?


2 Answers 2


There are things a GM can prepare in advance to help exude Intelligence, other than jumping into spontaneous role-playing

I live off of high-intelligence BBEGs like wizards who are as evil as they are ingenious. For what it's worth, here's what I have done at my table, and it gets me by (but note that much of this is not specific to a Solar, rather just any high-intelligence creature or NPC):

Look up some brainy "buzzwords" ahead of time that are relevant to your scenario. These days it's easy with an online thesaurus to get a list of smarty-pants words that fit your scenario, and have them ready so that you can word-bomb as you go along. Words like: pinnacle, impetus, quintessential, jocular, pulchritudinous, disinclined, indisposed, edification, explicate, perambulate. (Make sure you actually know what they mean and can use them correctly). Because you're the GM, you can know what some of the topics of conversation will have to be, and thus can prepare a specific list of relevant brainy-words. Really it just takes a few. (Don't overdo it, or the character will sound pompous, instead of smart, as noted by LordHieros in the comments below.)

Work-up intricate traps and ploys ahead of time. Invest the time to create (or discover online) some really clever traps, cons, riddles, etc. that would require brains to create. Because you're the GM and you design the world, you can do this to enhance the seeming braininess of your character.

Describe props and preliminary scene action that support a smart-guy stereotype. Is the High-Int creature reading? Conducting experiments? Being asked its advice by nobles? All these things get across their Intelligence without you having to sound smart, but require you to be the GM who can insert these items/people in the picture.

Narrate, don't role-play. Instead of trying to sound smart, tell them that the character is sounding smart and just give it a little flavor. When I wanted to portray a genius wizard who had crafted his own modified Wand of Polymorph, I said: "He then jabbers on for ten minutes about things like 'the subject's readiness potential' and 'alternative embodiment' and 'the ontological structure of reality' until you are completely lost and have to ask him what practical difference there is when you use the wand." Again, because you're the GM, you can plan how to do this in advance, and it is more reliable than trying to "think on your feet" in spontaneous role-play.

I find that by combining at least two (or better, three) of the above I generally leave the players feeling they interacted with a genius.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In general I found this an awesome answer (+1) but I think just adding buzzwords won't make some NPC sound intelligent, just pompous. In their field of expertise, and if said words serve a purpose other than "sounding cool", they're great. But if just shoved in in normal discourse for no real reason, they make the NPC sound at the very least unaware of their audience, and most likely like a showoff (and what would a frigging solar need to "show off" to puny humans?). \$\endgroup\$
    – LordHieros
    Feb 7, 2019 at 16:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Try to only use buzzwords when appropiate: clinical terms for sickness are great because they let you say in a word things that would take many more words if you avoid them. Employing alternative verbs or adjectives for no good reason comes across as showoff or sheltered, not intelligent. Someone saying explicate instead of elaborate or clarify when one of those verbs would convey the same and are more widely understood is not clever, just trying to obfuscate their discourse or sound more cultured than they are. \$\endgroup\$
    – LordHieros
    Feb 7, 2019 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LordHieros I've sometimes gone heavy on buzzwords when I wanted the brainiac persona to come across as egotistical. So you're right -- the buzzwords need to be used in moderation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Feb 7, 2019 at 18:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LordHieros Added a mention of your point to the body text of the answer, so people won't miss it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Sep 12, 2020 at 22:14

I use a simple trick when I have to role-play a smart character: always be the one who asks questions. It will trigger a psychology bias known as fundamental attribution error.

In addition, you can make the NPC more aware than the players. By saying things like "I knew you would come to me", "You'll face [this particular event] in the future"...

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how asking questions relates to the fundamental attribution error. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 7, 2019 at 10:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I totally knew you would answer this question. You're going to get an upvote in the future. \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Feb 7, 2019 at 10:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast In France we call it the "Julien Lepers" effect. But since Julien Lepers is a very well known french TV show animator, i don't know the real name for others countries. But it's related to the fundamental attribution error. You can find a french article here : sixiemesens-lemag.fr/manipulation-mentalisme/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Magus
    Feb 7, 2019 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, specifically ask questions which you know the answer to? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7, 2019 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stellatedHexahedron it's the easiest solution. You can also ask semi-useless questions just to gain some free time for your brain (and thinking about the next question). \$\endgroup\$
    – Magus
    Feb 7, 2019 at 16:52

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