Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Low ability scores

Here's an idea for dealing with players who attempt to game the system by placing low ability scores in their wisdom, charisma and intelligence attributes so they can maximise their physical ones, but then do not roleplay these below average scores...

When in a dangerous situation, have the character with the lowest wisdom in the party test against it on a d12. If he fails, he then does something very unwise. For example, if there is a vat of acid nearby, he touches it with a finger and takes damage from it.

When faced with a problem, have the character with the lowest intelligence in the party test against it on a d12. If he fails, he then does something stupid to make the problem actually worse. For example, when faced with a puzzle like a riddle that says only five guesses are aloud to solve it, he uses three of them up instantly.

When faced with an encounter with intelligent, have the character with the lowest charisma in the party test against it on a d12. If he fails, then he says something inflammatory at the worst possible moment...


jamused said...

I don't think I know anybody who would agree to play that way. Taking control of the character away from the player is one of the most controversial actions a GM can take; it's one of the few things I've actually seen people quit campaigns over. Making it a frequent mechanism for punishing players for inadequate roleplaying not only doesn't seem like much fun, but like it would backfire; if I were roleplaying a dumb or unwise character, I wouldn't want to face the double jeopardy of doing dumb and potentially dangerous stuff in order to be true to the character and also doing some more dumb stuff because the GM says the dice said to.

Extrakun said...

I rather it is done another way around - high score in Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma acts as a barrier against 'stupid acts'.

Wisdom - "I kill the town guard" *roll* "Ah, you realise that if you kill the town guard, you'll be wanted here and will not be able to step in here again. Sure?'

Intelligence - "I can't figure out this cipher. Let's go" *roll* "You have an impression that you saw the symbols used in the cipher before..."

Charisma - "I give the host of the party a hug" *roll* "As far as you know, the people here frown upon personal contact between different genders".

Stuart said...

I like this suggestion, but I'd go with a lower dice size. Make it d8 so that only characters with lower than average ability scores have any chance of failing. Effectively this means that all characters are making this roll all the time -- but they automatically succeed by having 8 or higher in that ability score. :)

Make sure all the players know about this rule at chargen - it's not something you should introduce after the characters have already been created.

If you're going to go with a system like this you should be prepared to roll to see if "stupid" monsters also do something foolish, and to the players advantage.

Jerry Cornelius said...

a simpler solution that's worked for me is to rule that a character's highest ability score can't be more than twice thier lowest ability score.

Ameron said...

I've had a long and painful history with PCs who min/max their ability scores and then don't role-play the low stats. I rant all about it in the article: Playing Characters With Low Ability Scores.

I like you're suggestion about the d12. I agree that forcing the PCs to do things that the players don't want to do may not go over well with some gamers, but it seems like a good way to keep things balanced.

The Recursion King said...

Some mixed opinions here.

D8 Roll sounds like a good idea it would give even characters with low ability scores a good chance of passing the test.

To make it seem less like taking control of a character, perhaps if it is used sparingly, a player would not mind. In fact - if used correctly - it could lead to a certain comedy value.

I can even see the player saying his character holds his hands behind his back every time he's around acid after the first time he dips his finger into it... giving the desired roleplaying effect!

Zzarchov said...

The way I've always dealt with mental scores is that what a player says he is doing (like speaking, ideas to solve something) is what he's TRYING to do. An ability check determines how well it goes off.

You can have an ornate plan with 5 steps, but if you fail your intelligence check..maybe you forgot to board up one of the windows in the old farm house..

"Milady, thou art the most beautiful creature the gods have placed upon the four earths, the very sun is blessed to fall upon your cheek" might come out as "Huh, you don't look that bad in the light, I coulda had some wierd scabs or something" to someone with a low charisma.

The idea that mental scores and words and ideas require no roll, but that physical manuevering does leads to this unbalance.

If you wish charisma, intelligence and wisdom to be equal to the players choice, then remove the attributes.