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Role-playing and Roll-playing

    In role-playing games you tend to have exceptional players: creative, inventive, and outgoing. These tend to be central to the role-playing experience: the difference between the player and the character. However, you wouldn't ask them to role-play their physical skill. You wouldn't want them to get up from the gaming table, drive to a ditch and see if they can jump over it to determine if their character leaps a chasm and escape a ravenous band of goblins. Or ask them to stand up and fight you to determine whether the character is successful in battle against an oku.


    Oddly enough, gamers have a bit of a double standard when it comes to mental-based skills. When the PCs are trying to persuade the NPC to give them information, they feel that it would be silly to limit the character's intelligence, charisma or wits based on the player. And yet, role-playing games are a verbal exercise at its core and to boil down the character-based interactions down to a some stats and dice determination success is thought to rob the game of its inherit fun.


    However, this attitude towards roll-playing skills can create a few unwanted and unnecessary situations. Though a player of normal strength can play a Conan character, and an player of average intelligence can role-play a brilliant mage, or scientist. Many shy or quiet people may have a difficult time playing the smooth-talking con man, or the diplomat. This is because, unlike his mage and fighter companions, the con man’s player actually has to DO his skills, instead of just rolling for success. He has to talk to the NPCs and be convincing. If the player does not have the conversation skills, he may not be as successful as his character’s skill level would indicate. This can be frustrating to these players.


    Many games mix role-playing with die-based resolution. When a social, knowledge type skill is used, the player role-plays the situation for a while and then the GM adjusts his skill roll accordingly. This gives shier players the ability to succeed at conversation skills due to his character’s skill, while preserving the role-playing aspect of the game. However, what happens when the player gives a great speech and still blows the roll or flubs the speech, but critically succeeds on the roll? What of situations where PC's determine that they are getting nowhere with a particular NPC and in desperation point out that their character has the conversation skill at such-and-such a level and can they make a skill roll? These situations are unsatisfying and can feel contrived.


    Whenever there is a gap between the role-playing ability and the character statistics, assume that a given PC is about as persuasive, powerful, seductive, intelligent or deceptive as their player makes them out to be, but still call for skill or attribute checks because of this. Keep in mind the wide dichotomy of role-playing and roll-playing, both are a matter of deeply held preferences within the RPG world. When in doubt work with the players to make sure everyone is having fun.


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