So at the end of last game there was a comment made about how no one ever asks fighters to explain how they swing their swords. Fighters just roll dice, add up their bonuses and succeed or fail based on that. If you play a social character though most GMs dislike letting you steamroll over the NPCs with nothing more than awesome rolls. They want to know what lie you are telling them or how you intend to convince them to do X, Y, or Z. The same is true of situations in which the PCs need to think their way around a problem. Rolling Intelligence or your relevant problem solving skill and getting a success simply isn’t enough. GMs want to you, the Player, to think your way around the situation regardless of the fact that your character may be more intelligent than you are just like the fighter is stronger and more skilled at fighting than their player.It got me thinking. Is that fair? Do I do that? Should I do that? Yes, yes, and yes. There. Thanks for reading, folks! Just kidding. Wouldn’t it be weird if I was like that? Anyway, my real answer to the “Is that fair?” question is that it is and it isn’t. Gaming is about creativity and, to put it bluntly, I am more interested in how you think your way out of a problem or what lies you choose to tell than in how the fighter chooses to swing his sword. So a good portion of that is my interest as a GM. The game is entertaining to me because of what my Players choose to do with reference to the story. Whether the fighter chooses to swing down and smash the ork’s clavicle or to stab in through its ribs simply doesn’t get my GM rocks off. Sorry to all you fighter enthusiasts out there. On the other hand, I am very open to the 7th Sea take on descriptive fighting. Put simply, if you describe your combat moves with panache and style, you get bonus dice to enact them. I adapt this to most of the games I run by reducing difficulties for attacks made in this way (sometimes publicly and sometimes just behind the GM screen). Now I want to be clear about this though, we’re talking about panache and style, not head shots. Describing to me how much you desire to shoot your enemy right between the eyes will only net you the standard penalties and bonuses. Do not mistake being specific having style. One is colorful and interesting. The other is Call of Duty 11 (or whatever iteration they happen to be on now) which I really couldn’t care less about if you offered to pay me. That leaves us with those poor social “face” characters and brainiacs who actually have to plan out their successes instead of just throwing dice at the problem. I don’t really have much sympathy for this group because I usually allow the whole group of Players to participate in discussion of plans and whatnot regardless of their Characters’ intelligence and charisma scores. So you get a committee to help you plan and if it seems that my players are drawing a blank on something, I usually let their brain or face make their roll with all their bonuses in order to get a hint in the right direction (or what at least looks like the right direction from my point of view) or to get me to throw them a bone. “Remember that thing you picked up at the last starbase? You think you could jury-rig that on to this object here to kind of get what you need.” “The guard looks really tired to you. Maybe if you told him his boss also noticed and sent you out to take his place so he could get some sleep it might sound more believable.” That sort of thing. Even in these situations though I try not to think of everything for my Players. My goal is just to get them over the immediate blockage and back into the flow of things, not send them to the end of the game. I mean, what fun would that be? So I do believe in letting my players use their stats to get around non-combat problems. I simply frown upon it being their first option. If they can’t think of anything on their own, then maybe a roll for a clue is a good idea, but otherwise it’s time to flex those brain muscles people! If you want to make a face that you don’t need to role-play through any interactions or a brain who doesn’t actually need to plan anything, then you should probably find yourself a different (dare I say, less competent?) GM.
Rolls for Roles