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My friends and I created a roleplaying game. We don't like having many rules or having to find if a rule applies, so for an action a PC uses one of the following 9 statistics:

  • Strength: For all kind of muscle actions (e.g. lift an object, push someone, hit with a hammer, hit with a slashing weapon (imprecisely)).
  • Dexterity: Throwing, dodging, shooting, or movement related actions (e.g. jump from a tree branch to another).
  • Constitution: Defines hit points and resistance to physical damage (e.g. a fireball to the chest is physical as your body burns).
  • Willpower: Resistance to mental damages and ability to not become unconscious after suffering heavy damage.
  • Perception: Basically using your senses.
  • Charisma: Ability to convince someone.
  • Magic: Ability to use spells of any kind.
  • Education: Global knowledge. Useful against monsters, environment, or can be used to know the right people (e.g. "I know a mage that can do what we want").
  • Luck: Could be anything. Used when any other statistic doesn't apply.

A player gets 450 points to distribute among his character's stats, minimum 0 and maximum 75. This is also the percentage chance of success of an action related to that stat: the player rolls a d% and a result under the stat score means success (e.g., a 75 in Dexterity means Dexterity actions have 75% chance of success).

As the GM, I decide the stat a PC uses for an action, depending on the kind of action the PC takes.

Problem

The PCs overuse physical actions, and the PCs rarely take intellectual actions.

For example, a PC was jailed for abusing local villagers. The other PCs tried to break him out of jail instead of trying to convince the guard that the jailed PC was under the influence of some bandits' poison or whatever.

Breaking the PC out of jail means fighting with the guard, warrants being issued for the whole group, and possibly eventual banishment from the city to where convincing the guard it wasn't the jailed PC's fault could spring him no problem.

Some stats—like Charisma and Education—are only rarely used.

This unbalances the game. Because the players' tendency is toward physical actions, they tend not to distribute points in the other stats (We've played many campaigns and many characters using this system, so the players kind of know what's coming).

I talked to them, and we all agree that all the stats have their place, and we can't just remove one or more, but I can't make them roll a Charisma action if they're trying to stab the guard!

We played one campaign where a PC had 75 Charisma and made full use of it, turning enemies so they'd fight alongside the PCs and taking control of a village by making the mayor believe the PC was a high-ranking soldier and that the PC needed the villagers. However, this is an exception, and, instead, they tend toward full offense, no brain required.

How can I "force" the players to use their PCs' intellectual stats more? Or is this a problem brought about by the system we've created and the statistics need changing?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 11 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this the RPG in its entirety? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 11 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...All actions have the same difficulty? No GM-appointed modifiers? \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Jul 11 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Yes, the whole RPG is played like described. \$\endgroup\$ – Fakebounce Jul 12 at 8:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak I'm applying modifiers of course ! It would be no fun otherwise \$\endgroup\$ – Fakebounce Jul 12 at 8:19
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This system sounds somewhat balanced towards combat. Players like having guaranteed outcomes more than they like having risks. If the highest they can put in a stat is 75%, then that means every time they perform a diplomacy check, they have at least a 25% chance to fail it and suffer consequences. 25% is pretty high, it's not just feasible, the odds of it happening twice is 6.25%, or over 1 in twenty. Compared to D&D that means that your crit-fails are double a D&D crit-fail. (With the right builds, even rolling a 2 can pass a high-level skill check.) Combat, in contrast, can take multiple rounds, so if you're face with taking 4 rounds of combat at 75% to get out a problem (make 3) versus 1 round of diplomacy (make it or bust) then most players will choose combat because it's just safer that way. (You haven't described how combat works, but you're using similar to D&D stats, so I'm just assuming.)

If you want to balance your system towards diplomacy and intelligence, you have two options - make intelligence solutions more complex so that even if a series of checks fail the option is still open, or make violence a much faster experience with fewer checks - combat is over in 1-2 rounds max and characters can't fight as much. Either one will 'rebalance the scales', but that won't push your players toward intelligence solutions, it will merely make them accessible.

Which is a good thing! Railroading is usually not a good idea and forcing players who want to smash things to take time to solve problems won't end well and no one will be happy. That said, there ways of subtly doing it. A good idea would be to incorporate violence into sessions, such that your players will never feel that they're deprived of smashing things in favor of you giving them problems. When you do give them problems, give them the option to use violence instead, but it's find if you make it so the violence will be a lot harder. And remember, if they choose violence, that's fine. Your job as the DM isn't to force the players to play, it's to give them a world to play in and sometimes that means letting them make bad decisions because they're the one that made it.

Another option for getting them into the mindset of solving problems with their head is to do a one-shot with your friend DM'ing and you using an intelligence build character to demonstrate what kind of solutions are available. Don't be overpowered to the point where violence won't work, no one wants to play with a DM self-insert Mary Sue, but use it to show the players other options. Remember - just because you thought of it doesn't mean they will, in fact it means they probably won't. (Is there a tabletop rule 'The solution the DM thinks of is never going to even be considered by the players?' There should be.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We like to have long and heavy fights (and yes it kind of works like a D&D) so i won't remove that part. Complex intelligence solutions is a good idea ! But anyway i think i might be too gentle about the violence part; either i'm making it too difficult and i'm forced to rearrange to not kill everyone, or it's too easy and the suffer no consequence, but i think that's another question \$\endgroup\$ – Fakebounce Jul 12 at 8:35
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Two Options

The Reward Loop

Games are based on three driving factors:

  • Game State - The obstacles and challenges the player faces to get to their goals.
  • Player Actions - What the player can and does do to try to reach their goals.
  • Rewards - What they get for accomplishing those tasks.

To effect change in your table top system, tweak one or more of these. In your case, you need a mechanic that rewards inventive solutions over brute force solutions. D&D 5e uses inspiration, a lot of games increase the amount of XP, and others use negative rewards (the players get a warrent for their arrest).

TTRPGs are games in themselves - they are game systems. Each table is playing a slightly different game, as the goals and game state are different. In that, maybe it isn't the system that needs to change, but the way that you encourage your players.

Don't Fix the Players, Fix Your Expectations

The other option is that maybe what they want out of the game is a combat heavy game. Maybe, and I could be wrong, they came to the game to kill things and not talk to NPCs. They want to be murder hobos. You can try to dissuade this, or you could embrace it. Give them more monsters to fight. Let them fight there way into trouble and fight their way out of it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have any XP in this RPG, so rewards are a little more complex (i'm using money or items as rewards). I'm already using negative rewards, but it doesn't stop them from using brute force... Over our discussions, the best parts of the RPG my PCs agreed on are the investigations and enigmas, but it is their intelligence and not their characters' that are used \$\endgroup\$ – Fakebounce Jul 12 at 8:48

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