On Charisma

Far and away in my experience, Charisma is the statistic that has the most to do with your success in life. It has the greatest bearing on your happiness, your employment, and nearly every factor in existance.

This is not surprising at all. We are tribal animals - each dependent upon each other for everything in life. Our place in the community is critical to our mental well being.

Is it any wonder this is the least mechanically useful stat in most versions of Dungeons and Dragons?

The above is a little joke - certainly not true in the older editions. The number of henchmen and hirelings you can have is crucial to your survival, but a lot of that strength dissipated in the more recent editions. And the use of henchmen and hirelings was very Dungeon Master dependent, whereas I have never met a Dungeon Master who didn't give the Strength bonus to hit and damage.

But then this isn't surprising that it's poorly represented in the rules. It still is a major factor though - however, it's not your characters charisma, it's yours. For this is a social game and you're doing a social thing, making it by far the most important attribute at the table.

Too bad we can't re-roll in life if our dice came up as a 4.

5 comments:

  1. Yes but, look at it this way: adventurers are social rejects in many ways. They buck societies rules and established social structure (especially in feudal societies) loot tombs and mess with demons, evil gods and the forces of evil.

    Even to a medieval society, your average adventurer must seem as weird and "out-there" as we gamers do to non-gamers today.

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  2. Nerds under-estimate the importance of social skills as source of power? Inconceivable!

    This is probably also a partial explanation as to why Cha was so de-emphasised in the WOTC versions of the game: the fans took over the asylum, and brought the prejudices that they grew up gaming with them:

    "Cha is for cheerleaders; not lone wolf heroes."

    EGG - a Colonel in the National Guard IIRC - understood that leadership motivates groups and wins battles.

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  3. I've always felt that Charisma (and Intelligence/Wisdom to a lesser extent) were tricky attributes because the more you DO rely on their mechanical benefits, the less you're actually acting (in the theatrical sense).

    RPGs are, let's not forget, a group of people talking to each other. They're not swinging swords to represent Strength or taking punches to the gut to check their Constitution. Everything is words. Saying "I suddenly swing my scimitar swiftly into his side" is interesting, and everything you need to perform a Strength action. However, if you say "I convince them using my feminine wiles, references to their homeland culture, and comforting phrases" and nothing in-character, that's boring.

    It's always a balancing act for the GM. A _player_ can come up with a compelling argument, but perhaps the character is ugly and inarticulate. It doesn't make for fun gameplay if nothing your character does will convince anybody of anything ever because of a low score. Players know this, and dump Charisma because they expect that the GM won't punish them at the expense of everyone's fun.

    That said, some of my favorite characters have been ones that I focused on maximizing the use of their high charisma--Bards and Sorcerers who talk their way into adventure and out of danger. I'm not saying Charisma *should* be useless, just that dumping it is a cheap way to lose very little.

    Re: Intelligence and Wisdom, they're usually tied to useful skills (Knowledges, Sense Motive). If you over-rely on them mechanically it still brings the game down. "I roll Int to figure out the riddle" is zero units of fun.

    Also you're the only GM I've ever played with who actually had henchmen affected by their sponsor's Charisma (and one of the very few who've ever used henchmen at all (but that might just be my more-newschool experience (parentheses))).

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  4. I almost always play characters with high Charismas because that's simply the way I play: All sorts of horrible things happened my last game when I didn't have a high Charisma, yet still was the one talking to the NPCs. Our GM believed in making Diplomacy rolls, and it kills the RP element when you have to tell the party's bard "Hey, make this deal with him and say this thing here. I would but, you know, I'm too ugly..."

    You know I've never had a game that included henchmen? I've always wanted to, but from experience I'm not even sure how it would work in practice.

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  5. Sometimes I wish there was a requirement in the rules that players had to have a charisma of 9+ in real life to play.

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