Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hacking Hackmaster Part 2 (who needs charisma anyway?)

So, a wizard enters a bar...

...and sees this stunningly beautiful woman. The player decides to have some fun with it and tries to seduce her. Normally in D&D this calls for a charisma check. But why, could one ask, doesn't he use his intelligence to impress her? He's an academic, after all. It's his thing. As a DM you could be inclined to let it roll this way. And the next thing you know, is that the barbarian at the table sees the wizard go all intellectual on the hottie, looks at his charisma score and decides to use his impressive strength to even the odds. Well, he might have a point, too. It's hard to imagine Conan display some charme on the ladies, while being all macho and muscular might do the trick just fine. Then comes the thief of the group and wants to whisper her in the ear what his dextrous fingers could do for her...

The point is: no one needs charisma, ever. You shine with what you have. You could say, everybody being famous for his charisma (in the real world, mind you) shines just through an intelligent display of his advantages. Any diplomatic endeavour in politics? You might just as well use your intelligence, wisdom or your strength (if you are a bully and like that sort of thing). Your cleric needs some henchmen?  Why not opt for wisdom? He might have it reasonably high and the kind of people he gets along with tend to like religious stuff. It's much more believable.

But where to go from there?

Some time last year all this buzz about the new Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG hit the OSR and one particular post peaked my interest (Jeff's Gameblog is all awesome, by the way, but you might know that already). It was about the features of the new game and someone in the comments wrote this wonderfull idea:
"Looks like a great houserule:
1. Add a new statistic to any classic D&D: Luck, generated normally.
2. At the beginning of each session role a die on a chart for what it effects. 
You could even include reversing effects. What if your luck will modify damage roles against you for this session?"
 Great! One cigarette on the balcony later Charisma was dumped and instead we had Luck in our game. And to make it all stick, I let the players roll a d6 before every session with the following benefits:

  1.  Luck adjustment to every to hit roll
  2.  Luck adjustment to Armor Class
  3.  Luck adjustment for special actions*
  4.  Luck adjustment for saves
  5.  Luck adjustment to fatigue**
  6.  Luck adjustment to damage rolls

They liked it a lot. And it gave me the opportunity to steal (er.. borrow, really) another idea from Hackmaster. Because in Hackmaster you could sacrifice 90 % of your accumulated honor to avoid certain doom. It was a perfect fit. From then on a player could spend 8 points of his luck to cheat death. It would regenerate as soon as he gets a new level. Until then he had to live with the penalty thereof. His luck had changed!

So what about the woman at the beginning who was lucky enough to be that genetically compatible (spell: beautiful). Well, your answer is right there...

Also read: Part 1

*We use that in fights, but that is a story for another post (sorry).
**Need to write something about fatigue, too.


  1. I like Charisma. And I think it doesn't work to pick up chicks based on the bulge of your muscles. Charisma is by definition your ability to interact with people. So the Barbarian with high STR and low CHA has the personality of an uncultured jock or typical club-douche. The Thief with high DEX but low CHA might be able to roll a nickel across the back of his knuckles but the lady is going to be freaked out by his skeeziness. Same with the intellectual with low CHA, he might know some higher math or be able to structure an argument, but he's hopeless at any kind of social interaction. MAYBE it could work to say that this woman is turned on by (roll 1d6, refer to ability score list in order) in addition to caring about Charisma. But Charisma is how well you present your other qualities or mask their absence, which means low CHA and high everything else means you might actually be strong or wise, but nobody will care.

    I think Conan was originally supposed to be an all-around good stats guy. Cunning, intrepid, strong, agile, etc. It's only certain authors / directors who made him out to be an artless beefslab.

  2. Hi! And thank you for commenting! I didn't argue that CHA as an ability doesn't work. As you point out, it works just fine. The idea is, it might not be necessary.

    As an counter argument I would offer that without the display of the other 5 attributes you can't produce Charisma in any social interaction. With an Intelligence of 3 you won't be able to express yourself properly, a low Constitution makes you very weak and vulnerable (and it shows), while a lack of Dexterity... well, I could go on like this. The point is that Charisma (in social interaction) is the SUMM of those 5 ability scores and playing the game is the display. That's actually an argument one of my players made yesterday while we were discussing the issue: Charisma is something you want to achieve while playing the character. It's something the player does, not an attribute.

    I won't deny that our cultural perception of Conan is diverse at best. Doesn't make it wrong to quote one of those varieties, though.

    I like your idea of rolling 1d6 to determine what an NPC might prefer very much and might use it as soon as the opportunity arises!

  3. I want to agree with you on this one - because it is a good thought - but I'm not sure if I can. I think Charisma is actually the ability to think quickly. It's a parallel to dexterity. You can have all the intelligence or strength or wisdom in the world but if you don't have a way of quickly showing it to the crowd, you're not going to be impressing anyone.

    Luck as an attribute score I do like, if only so you can say "just give me a luck check" which I find comes up time and time again.

    As far as picking up girls is concerned, it's all about luck :-).

    1. I had exactly this argument with a friend of mine and he said something that convinced me otherwise. Mostly he'd have agreed with what you said. Charisma can be seen as exactly this. He just saw Charisma not as one ability score among others but as the sum of the other five. So if you are muscular, persevering, agile, witty and wise, you'd most certainly count as charismatic (and hated a lot, but that's a different matter altogether) because that is what it means. That video you linked is another good example. Sapiosexual (going for the INT) is a thing as is heterosexual or partialism ("Look at those arms!") ... It's not all "Charisma" or it's all "Charisma" :) Luck works pretty nice as ability score. Never missed Charisma.


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