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I am currently working on a PnP which is a mixture of Traveller, DnD and some of my own game mechanics. The attributes of PCs are pretty much the same as in DnD, and I also decided to have players roll their attributes during character creation. Now all of them have very low charisma, and two of my three players have strong warrior-type characters.

Problem is: The first game is set on a public space station. They're supposed to find a kidnapped woman without raising the kidnapper's suspicion. If only one of them has the necessary intelligence score to get anything done without fighting...I really don't want this to turn into a murderhobo adventure.

So, what do you people think I should do?

Since one of the two warrior PCs isn't finished, I thought about asking them to re-roll. But I don't want to force them to change their PC.

The other two PCs are pretty much finished, so I also don't want to force them to change anything about their characters.

Should I rather just simplify all charisma checks to make sure that they at least have a chance to get something done this way? Or should I stop working on any dialogues and intriguing character relationships and just plan out several fights that will lead them to completing their mission?

(Sorry if my grammar or choice of words might be off, English isn't my native language.)

EDIT: Charisma is basically the main modifier for pretty much all social skills. So if you want to haggle, you need high Charisma and Perception, but if you want to calm someone down, you just need high Charisma and so on. Without it social interactions are still possible, it's just very hard to convince someone of doing something for you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the Intelligence: My opinion on how low-intelligence characters are played. At least that's the way that one of them will most definitely play their character, since they had basically no education and only care about the glory of killing others in fight. \$\endgroup\$ – Gaston1337 Apr 10 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand why you would go with rolling for stats, if you are of the opinion that certain stats need to be at least X to be viable. That's like saying "I'd like to get 10 dollar for this product, but instead of making you pay 10 dollars, we're going to roll this d20 to see how much you need to pay me." Why did you end up picking rolling for stats? That's going to be a huge part in potential answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Apr 10 at 8:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not supposed to be a full-on detective game, otherwise I would have given them a warning beforehand (and probably had them pick their stats by themselves). I just like the idea more of them having the opportunity to play it as an investigation game, so they can look for clues, carefully ask people, find the right people, and beat up the bad guys (or join them? who knows?). With their stats they are likely to only be able to look for clues and beat up the bad guys. \$\endgroup\$ – Gaston1337 Apr 10 at 9:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am trying to find the Q&A, but somewhere on this SE there is an answer about not creating single points of failure in a social encounter progression. If I can find that Q&A I'll provide a link. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 at 13:19
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You can certainly ask a player if they would be willing to redesign their character. If you explain that there is a missing skill-set from the party thy might even prefer to change their character because it can be fun to fulfill a unique party roll.

If you prefer not to have them re-make their character there are several other ways you can try to make the game playable in a style you are comfortable with:

You can communicate to the players that you are open to using alternative stats for skill checks in appropriate situations. If they want information out of someone you could make clear that you might be willing to allow a STR + Intimidation check if they try to intimidate through a feat of strength.

Another option would be to allow for clue gathering from Wisdom (Insight/Perception), and Dexterity (Slight of Hand to lift clues from someone's purse). You can try to arrange for opportunities for their strengths in other Stats to partially compensate for weakness in Charisma. For example you can try to arrange for more charismatic NPCs to be willing to assist the party in exchange for certain services rather than by being persuaded or tricked.

Lastly it will likely be important to communicate with your players what you expect the style of the game to be like. They can have a bunch unintelligent, uncharismatic characters but they can also choose to interpret how those weaknesses are expressed. Being uncharismatic does not equal being wildly violent. If a character tries to use force inappropriately to solve a problem you can enforce consequences. Alternatively if they find a way to succeed despite their weakness you can reward them. The challenge of finding ways to work around their characters' weaknesses can make the game enjoyable just as much as the satisfaction of playing to their strengths.

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Ask your players and allow them to reroll

You decided to roll stats randomly:

I also decided to have players roll their attributes during character creation. Now all of them have very low charisma

You also said the results bothered you:

every PC has really low charisma (and it bothers me)

If the results of a particular solution do not satisfy you, it would be logical to search for another, better solution. Reroll stats until you and the players are content. Allow players to tweak their stats. Use point-buy system or allow players to choose, what number they want to assign to what attribute.

The other two PCs are pretty much finished, so I also don't want to force them to change anything about their characters.

A character is finished when its player is happy. Ask your players if they are satisfied with the characters. Don't "force" them, allow them to reroll stats if they want to. They definitely want, if they are aware of the fact it will be a detective game with a lot of social interactions. They should be aware — if they are not, that might cause unpleasant surprises for both sides, that's why we need a Session 0.

Let players decide, how do their characters behave

If only one of them has the necessary intelligence score to get anything done without fighting...I really don't want this to turn into a murderhobo adventure.

What about your players? If they want to turn this into a murderhobo adventure, they will regardless of characters' stats. Stats do not decide, how characters behave, players do. If you as a GM think they should behave differently, that means your vision differs. This problem worth discussing with your players out of the game and can not be solved by means of game mechanics.

For more information, see:

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You don't need to make them have great charisma to let them play around in public. Below I'll explain why.

Make people friendly and cooperative

This is something a lot of DMs avoid for some reason. When in an investigation everyone immediately clams up, random shop keepers fight over every copper coin, people call a lawyer over nothing.

This is frustrating to social players, let alone barbarians. Don't do it. Make shop keepers give fair prices, make people blab their hearts out on a dime, make people talk lots.

Now, someone with Charisma could get a better bargain, spot lies, persuade people to tell intimate secrets- but if the people are asking nothing more than "Hey, did you see this girl" the shop keepers don't need to fight them. They can just say "Sure, we saw some creepy dude with a mech hand drag her in." That costs them nothing. They don't need to roll for that. Maybe if they rolled they could see security footage, but just to chat? No need.

Offer violent favours to let them get more

So, they learn from the shopkeeper a bit, but they want more. They can't learn with charisma. How do they get more? With violence. The shop keeper can see they're thugs. Maybe they ask for them to beat up a rival. Maybe they ask for them to remove some ruffians from their shop. Maybe they challenge them to an arm wrestle, or a full wrestle, or ask them to beat the local champion at the arena up. Give them ways to investigate with strength. Offer ample rewards for such favours, so they see being violent for a good cause is better than murder hoboing.

Don't make people call the cops for minor disturbances

Calling the cops is a serious escalation. It makes things much more dangerous, and may make your campaign into a bloody mess. Have most people pursue their own justice. A PC shoves them? They shove back. A PC intimidates them? They get some mates to back them up or give in. Don't let minor disturbances escalate to the police.

If they intimidate a shop keeper, don't have people intervene for minor stuff. Most people don't want to get involved. It's not their problem.

Make clear that serious escalations are gonna get them in trouble

If they unprovoked, start beating people up in the street, or shoot people, or start fires, they're gonna get in serious trouble. If they do minor shit, they're fine. Make it a rough and ready port where a bit of thuggery is the norm, but not one where rampant murder hoboing is acceptable.

Many people aren't super charismatic. In fact, many RPG players have poor social skills IRL. They manage to get around without murdering people and beating people up. They buy things from stores, get directions. If you ask your players, I am sure most will have stories of how they successfully did things in public without murdering people.

You don't need great charisma to function in public. That's the main thing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I added an edit on that. \$\endgroup\$ – Nepene Nep Apr 13 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ bravo nice set up to a fine answer. Comment gone. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 at 18:21
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This is a good guideline of a general RPG adventure design, and seems to fit your case perfectly:

Don't use their rolls to determine if they succeed or fail, but use the rolls to determine what happens and how the story progresses. Make bad rolls open up new avenues.

Also don't make them roll for things which will derail the adventure, when you can't think of how proceed on failure.

Also make failure in the mission an option. Maybe the kidnapped person in fact dies here. Just make sure the players get to see it. Also, some players might really hate an ending like this, so make your own real-life insight check to determine if this is a good idea.

Examples:

  • They fail at persuading someone, resulting in a fight. After winning the fight they are approached by someone who's enemy of the faction the players just fought. If they succeedes in the persuasion roll against the odds, then they get to be friends of the first faction.

  • Failure results in players being arrested and thrown into a brig, where they meet someone.

  • Failure means they just have to pay more, or pay first, or do a task to gain the favor.

  • Failure means they have to neutralize the one they failed to convince, or their cover is blown.

  • Failure means someone won't come with them willingly, and they have to subdue and carry them instead.

  • Persuasion failure while interrogating someone means they have to use extortion or torture, and may get less good info.

  • There is a critical informant they have get some info from, you haven't designed an alternative. Don't make them roll, just make the informant tell them what they need.

  • Make the requirement to proceed be some real in-game knowledge, like players have to mention some piece of info or know the code word before an NPC opens up to them. No roll needed.

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