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Default Rampant Games - Charisma, The Dump Stat

March 2nd, 2009, 21:27
Free of never-ending Wiz8 battles, Jay Barnson has turned his attention back to RPG design issues with Charisma, The Dump Stat. The pieces looks at social skills and the problems with current dialogue design as he sees them:
If we want to make non-combat, social encounters an integral part of a CRPG, we need to shake things up a bit. We probably need to make some fundamental changes to the very idea of how social interactions work. Social interactions need more feedback, twists, bends, and alternate resolution. As always, I think of the one thing that works reasonably well in CRPGs, and that is the combat system. So how could we make conversations reflect the kind of action we get in combat.
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March 2nd, 2009, 21:27
Well for one thing, the options (and hence results) you have should be based partially on charisma. That would go a long way to making it an important stat!

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March 2nd, 2009, 22:01
I never understood why charisma wasn't implemented more in combat (i.e taunt, intimidate, feint); an argument could be made for charisma could have some impact there (think Princess Bride). I don't have any issues with expanding the dialog options of RPG's, but, if the trend is towards more combat, then companies need to get creative.
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March 2nd, 2009, 22:13
I'm absolutely sure no-one of the bigger developers wants to implement social skill checks.

The current tendence is SO clear towards combat that ALL soocial checks should be left out altogether.

I don't remember many current games doing social skill checks at all.

And the action-RPG sub-genre has no social fields at all. It is so purely combat-oriented as if EVERYTHING could be solkved via combat. That's a lesson to learn - at least in fantasy environments.

I'm very sure the main designers axed the totally boring social skills altogether in favour of pushing the adrenaline-producing, interesting, action-contained combat field.

Social is boring. Fighting is fun !

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March 2nd, 2009, 22:25
I guess this is more a problem with single character games, as with parties you can always have the 'charismatic' member who does all the talking.
IMHO Charisma, to make it clear it's not a 'dump stat', should be evident that it hurts not having it. How could you do that?
1) Not reward characters for combat, but for achievements or successes. You should spend in-game valuables during fights (be it potions, wand charges, time, whatever), more than what you get if you choose to fight, that way you really don't want to fight if you don't need to.
2) Have charisma a way of succeeding some 'encounters'. This, with point 1, means you achieved the same result, gained the same exp, but spent less resources.
3) Have some better rewards with high charisma. Maybe the reward for killing the dragon is a +2 sword, but with charisma you might convince the Count that it's in his best interest to reward you with his personal +3 sword.
4) Make the differences noticeable. I.E. receiving 200g instead of 225g is not really noticeable, remember you are choosing to increase your charisma 1 point instead of your strength, there should be obvious reasons why you would even consider doing it. The first quest you see that rewards you with a 'less awesome' weapon because you're insulting the quest giver should make you think.
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March 2nd, 2009, 22:41
I liked Arcanum's approach where more Charisma allowed you to have more followers. Of course Beauty was the dump stat instead.
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March 3rd, 2009, 01:30
Sorc's in DnD use Char as their main stat. I find it useful in Drak as well.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 3rd, 2009, 05:10
Fallout 1 and 2 handled it well. Like in Arcanum it allowed more followers and without a high Charisma you couldn't get certain dialogue choices. IIRC In Fallout 2 you couldn't seduce the farmers daughter if your charisma wasn't high enough and then you couldn't have to have a shotgun wedding. So no Mrs. VaultDweller if you didn't have high enough Charisma.

I think the same about finding a cure for Jet. The dialogue choices just won't appear if you are a complete nerd with no social skills.

I like it this way. Wish more games would do this. It would also add to replayability.

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March 3rd, 2009, 06:27
Social is boring. Fighting is fun !
Ohhh, I know you're being sarcastic, but you're right on the money. Combat is playing the game, whereas social is clicking on dialogue choices. As Corwin pointed out, the way D&D made CHA important was by (arbitrarily) making it into a combat stat.

Let me emphasize that again. Clicking on dialogue choices is really not the heart of any kind of game that most people want to play. Clicking on monsters and killing them IS the heart of the kind of game many, many people want to play. It's not a coincidence that you can remove the dialogue (and the CHA) and still have a game, but you can't remove the fighting (or analogue thereof) without kicking yourself right out of the CRPG genre (and making something very few people will want to play).

Even if you are some sort of dialogue enthusiast, you have to see that from a skill check point of view, there's a huge difference from implementing dialogue checks and combat checks. If your guy has a 60% chance to hit, you keep swinging. Missing is part of combat. If, OTOH, your guy has a 60% chance of <doing something important> through dialogue, you get one chance. And if you fail, you feel ripped off and just reload. Which is to say, regardless of your level of willpower, the randomness and percentages which make combat systems nifty in the long term work because of the repetitive nature of combat, i.e. it doesn't take long to average out. Since dialogue is custom crafted and much sparser, the same kind of randomness and percentages end up seeming arbitrary and random.

To reiterate, if I want to take an awesome sword from a Baddy and my hit rate is 60%, I keep swinging and eventually I get the sword. If I want to talk a Baddy out of his awesome cookie, I get one or two chance(s) to fire off my nifty dialogue skill(s), and that's it, I rolled the d100 and there's nothing more I can do. And if that's not it, then did the skills have any meaning after all?
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March 3rd, 2009, 06:52
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
To reiterate, if I want to take an awesome sword from a Baddy and my hit rate is 60%, I keep swinging and eventually I get the sword. If I want to talk a Baddy out of his awesome cookie, I get one or two chance(s) to fire off my nifty dialogue skill(s), and that's it, I rolled the d100 and there's nothing more I can do. And if that's not it, then did the skills have any meaning after all?
Social isn't fighting. You only get so many tries to make a good impression. But with a sword you can hack, hack, hack away until you're dead or the other guy is.
In real life, there are people you will get along with and people you will not get along with. How do you transfer this into a game other than through skill checks or dialogue choices?

Plus it depends on how many monsters have "nifty cookies". Your skills will have meaning if you have more chances to use them or they can change the overall path of the game, like Witcher. Even though there was no skill check, through your dialogue choices you did have a huge effect on the game. I happen to like the skill checks, until they come up with something better I think it's the best way to roleplay. I sure as hell am not going to use my REAL charisma when roleplaying. I would never talk anyone out of anything!!!

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March 3rd, 2009, 10:22
I don't agree with this at all. In quite a few games I find it very useful to max charisma (NWN2, FO3 and Mass Effect being the latest), as it tends to open up new dialogue options and new ways to solve quests. It might not help me when fighting, but in most RPGs fighting is pretty easy anyway.

Charisma tends to improve the overall experience in my opinion.
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March 3rd, 2009, 11:37
One of my big issues with charisma is that even when games do allow you to talk your way round a fight and even get experience, you still get more experience and more stuff if you just kill everyone and loot their still warm bodies. There needs to be some mechanic that encourages non violent solutions before the diplomatic option becomes preferable.
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March 3rd, 2009, 18:19
Originally Posted by Benedict View Post
One of my big issues with charisma is that even when games do allow you to talk your way round a fight and even get experience, you still get more experience and more stuff if you just kill everyone and loot their still warm bodies. There needs to be some mechanic that encourages non violent solutions before the diplomatic option becomes preferable.
Experience isn't everything. Sometimes you can get more experience by killing everyone and everything you meet, but does that feel realistic to you? Plus you might actually end up losing experience overall if it turns out those villages you slaughtered would give you quests that would lead to many more monsters if you spared them a little longer.

Anyway, there are plenty of examples of games which rewarded you more for talking and actually reading the walls of text that some games throw at you:

1. Planescape: Torment ( in here having more Wisdom/Charisma/Intelligence allowed you to have much bigger and more complex social interactions that lead to great power-ups for you and your NPCs. What would you rather have, a little more exp from fighting, or being able to increase your NPCs abilities permanantely and learining unique spells by talking to them? Not to mention you literally miss half of game's story and point by having low social skills).
2. Fallout (where you can negotiate a release of a prostitue being held hostage, if you don't have high charisma the guy kills her, if you try to kill him first, he still kills her first. If you talk him out of it, you get more experience, and a nookie. This is just one of the examples in that game).
3. Vampire: Bloodlines (you don't get experience for killing stuff, you get experience for completing objectives. And many of them are completable through stealth or social interactions).
4. Arcanum ( you get more NPCs travelling with your party if you have higher socials skills. What do you want to be, a single Half Ogre that wants to barsh everything? Or a half elven seductress that highers several Half Ogres to guard her? )
5. BGII ( you get a lot more experience for completing quests then from killing anything ).


I'm sure there are others.
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March 4th, 2009, 11:45
Originally Posted by Sergius64 View Post
I'm sure there are others.
I agree all of those games did use charisma properly. It can be done but in the vast majority of games it just isn't.

Plus I agree that there's aesthetic role playing considerations, but unless they're done well enough to make role playing a real part of the game play then I tend to ignore it due to a lack of identification with my character.
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March 4th, 2009, 12:15
This topic is making me want to play AOD right now?

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March 4th, 2009, 17:12
Bloodlines was the first game where i really focused more on smooth-talking, and it was strangely gratifying at times. Of course, when the big fights that you cant talk your way out of start flogging you… argh.

I guess it makes the game more of a challenge then, which is better than it being too easy!
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