The Bard Grievance Thread


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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I'm curious to see the OP's responses to all these counter-arguments laid against him.

I usually hate playing a bard in pathfinder, unless it's a dervish dancer or dawnflower dervish, mainly because I'm not a "behind the scenes, buff up my party but personally be useless in the battle" kind of guy.

Thematically, I wasn't fond of them, until I played The Bard's Tale on PS2 back in the day. Oh, the title character wasn't very good at combat, as I recall, and his smattering of magic was next to useless, but oh was he a smart-@$$ son of a #%@^&! He was a selfish douche-bag, broke the fourth wall constantly by arguing with the narrator, and used summons to do all the work for him. (Pathfinder mechanic wise he was closer to a summoner, really.) I don't remember the plot of that game, it was a long time ago and it never grabbed me for repeat plays to memorize every detail, but it was a fun diversion and it got me to respect bards a little more.

On the whole -Shouldn't it be acted out in RP- debacle:

On a side note, while I'm not entirely sure how it got off on this tangent, I want to emphatically agree with Oniwaban's comment and say you shouldn't have to be good at roleplaying to be the party face. It's just not fair. Some people play the game to roleplay, true, but some play it for other reasons, and some are just people who are not very good at hamming up a scene. If you want to roleplay a whole conversation, fine, but if it's not your bag, you should be allowed to roll your dice, add your diplomacy/bluff/intimidate modifier, and give a summary of your character's request if that's what you want to do...and then...just like you imagine your character fighting or casting spells, imagine your character saying what is necessary, possibly summed up by the GM. Some people naturally suck at talking, but still want to play a charismatic guy; they shouldn't be stopped from doing that any more than it ought to be required to get a 180 on your IQ test if you're playing a wizard. You're don't require players to speak a foreign language to simulate the difficulty of speaking orcish. Nobody playing Pathfinder has actual universe-altering powers, yet people play casters left and right. Well, it goes on, but I think you get the point.

Just a flipping pet peeve of mine. For some people it's NOT about roleplay. And there's nothing wrong with that. Some people play for system mastery, dice rolling, and tactical combat, and they get looked down on by people who don't as somewhat lesser, and it gets on my frickin' nerves. I RP in my games, but it's only like 30% of the game for me. I have a friend who almost never talks in a single game, but he loves PF almost as much as I do, so who am I to tell him his half orc can't interrogate someone properly just because his summary of that is "I interrogate the prisoner. I got a 17 in intimidate," huh?

As a GM, personally I just give players a +2 to their roll if they want to ham it up and act out the whole scene, to reward RP, but I'm not gonna penalize my players if they wanna just roll and let the dice settle it.

Plus, if I'm playing a bard, you don't want me to sing every time I bardic performance. Trust me in that.

Liberty's Edge

thegreenteagamer wrote:


** spoiler omitted **...

Specifically addressing the spoilered part:

I only give a penalty on their roll if they do something terrible. For instance, I had a player insist they were trying to use diplomacy while they were screaming obscenities and violence at the target. I repeatedly asked if they meant intimidate. They didn't budge, so I did penalize them then. That has happened less than 3 times in 15+ years of DMing.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Eh. I personally do want someone to put an effort forward to roleplay their idea.

I just don't like the idea of someone getting penalized because they can't personally emulate their character concept. I mean, if someone does something blatantly dumb and just trying to diplomance their way out of everything I'd call them out on it, but in general I'm not gonna say "your speech wasn't good enough, -5".

Don't like the converse either: The player that dumps diplomacy or bluff because he thinks he's good at making up stuff himself so he doesn't need to roll.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

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In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

The only response the OP requires is "Cool story, bro!" :)


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Benchak the Nightstalker wrote:

In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

The only response the OP requires is "Cool story, bro!" :)

Bah, his story is boring, cliche, and full of plot holes. What isn't purple prose is succint to the point of confusion. His characters are flat and uninteresting, his descriptions are meandering and lifeless and his action scenes are laughable and his attempt at moralization is forced, simplistic and confusing. His story is not cool.

Scarab Sages

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Bards are the best.

You're just jealous because they don't need you anymore. /all bard party


JoeJ wrote:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
JoeJ wrote:
Anzyr wrote:

I'm saying that a Bard using Perform (Comedy) can be done just as seriously as those equally silly things. If one of them can be seriously, they all can.

Show me that it can.

Ciaphas Cain, holding off a monster he can't actually beat in combat while someone else lines up a kill shot:

Traitor's Hand wrote:

Cain: I thought the acolytes of Khorne were supposed to be warriors, not a bunch of pansies.

(a rather frustrated) Khorne Berserker: I'll feed you your own entrails!
Cain: Like I've never heard that one before...
And if you think that's not a serious story, you've never seen Warhammer 40k.

I'm sorry, I have no idea who that is. Was this doing something that could reasonably be considered a bardic performance in PF terms? You're certainly right about my not being familiar with Warhammer 40k. All I know is that it's a miniatures game with some (in my opinion) very silly figures.

Just to be clear, I don't agree with the OP. I like bards, I just expect player characters of any class to fit aesthetically into the world.

His role in the military is Commissar, morale officers outside the structure of the normal army and assigned to regiments to enforce discipline. Usually by murdering 10% of the regiment if they don't get in line fast enough. There's also ones that give inspiring speeches, threaten violence, etc. In this specific case he's using inspire courage so he doesn't flee in terror (he's kind of a coward) and so the rest of the unit sticks around and actually gets the kill on the Berzerker. He's presumably also helping them aim by keeping the Berzerker off-balance and angry.

All you need to know about Warhammer 40k is that the "nicest" race mass murders anyone who doesn't follow their religion, anyone who knows anything about other races, and most of their own people in suicidal charges. The rest are... worse. Much worse.

Dark Archive

Look at 'is yappie 'umie git. 'e forgot th' dakka, 'e did.


Actually Orks are like soccer holligans taken up to 100. They are actually pretty happy(when fighting) and will krump anyone regardless of affiliation.


JediahMountainstrong wrote:
Actually Orks are like soccer holligans taken up to 100. They are actually pretty happy(when fighting) and will krump anyone regardless of affiliation.

Don't they assault heavily-fortified fortresses because they think its rude not to fight in a location that these other guys have clearly set up to have a fight in?

Grand Lodge

Zolanoteph wrote:
The problem with this is that it lends itself to situations where characters in game give empowering speeches even though the player is inarticulate and unimaginative.

Following this logic, I'm going to require my players to show me they can clean & jerk 300 lbs. if they want to make a character with 18 strength.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I see the OP taking a lot of abuse... some of it for good reason.

Nevertheless, I can genuinely sympathize with some of the bard hate. If you're the kind of player who takes the game seriously, and tries to go for a grim, tough-guy feel in your games, then it's very clear why the bard is such a thorn.

Because, from its very conception, the bard class's primary function was as comic relief. I mean, the most direct inspiration for it came from Assurancetourix in the Asterix comic strip. More recently, OOTS brilliantly shows how silly it can be to sing for skill check bonuses.

Then again, one might easily counter that OOTS also shows how silly so many RPG conventions are.

Sure, there are lots of historical precedents for different flavors of bardic roles in heroic adventure. One need only think back to Gibson's Braveheart for the archetypical inspiring oratory. And there are many examples in this thread of useful bardic flavors that aren't completely bereft of value, or even of gritty, grim tough-guy feel.

But I can still "get" where the OP is coming from, with all this bard hate. I've never in 40 years actually chosen to play a bard, and although some of my players have, over the years, I sometimes had to bite my tongue to overlook the goofier side of bards. It always helped me just to think of bards as wizards who use music to make their magic. Once you add in "because it's magic", anything can fit in. <g>

YMMV.


Okay, throwing in another thing.

Bardic Performance isn't a cheer leading routine. They are supernatural abilities that actually enhance people the people listening.

And Wheldrake, that's literally what they are. They use music to make magic. It's a man that can stop a group of goblins in their tracks by playing a mystical song on his flute.

All of these abilities are mystical in nature, so you don't have to accept that it is just really awesome music playing that gets you pumped to fight.


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Wheldrake wrote:
Because, from its very conception, the bard class's primary function was as comic relief. I mean, the most direct inspiration for it came from Assurancetourix in the Asterix comic strip. More recently, OOTS brilliantly shows how silly it can be to sing for skill check bonuses.

Not even remotely true. Bards were originally the historians of the celts - keepers of oral traditions since the celts did not tend to write things down. The concept predates Dungeons and Dragons by many centuries in history, myth, and legend. The Asterix comics are based on the celts, so yes bards appear in them. But no, the comics were NOT the source of the bard in D&D.


Exocrat wrote:
Zolanoteph wrote:
The problem with this is that it lends itself to situations where characters in game give empowering speeches even though the player is inarticulate and unimaginative.
Following this logic, I'm going to require my players to show me they can clean & jerk 300 lbs. if they want to make a character with 18 strength.

This is the crux of the problem for the Bard. He exists at the nexus of a more general problem that has plagued D&D since the social side of the game got codified into explicit mechanics. Simply put, not all acts in the "fantasy universe" exist at the same level of abstraction. The comparisons between throwing fireballs, executing crazy martial attacks and doing a Bardic performance badly miss this point.

I can accept any of the PCs playing a fireball-throwing wizard because nobody I know can actually do that. I can accept the same in regards to moving incredibly silently at a run or carving up an Orc in full plate with a longsword in a matter of seconds, or any number of other activities which are commonplace in fantasy RPGs.

But I cannot accept that when it comes to social skills (where the Bard is often problematic) or the vast majority of "flavor" explanations given for Bardic performances, such as "giving commands or rousing speeches in combat", "cracking jokes", "war chants", "intimidating dance", "playing a lute", etc. These activities are not nearly so abstract to me. I cannot kill a man in full plate with a longsword, nor even conceive of it, and I haven't yet tried to cast Magic Missile, but I'm fairly confident I'd fail at that, as well. But I most certainly can crack jokes, dance (poorly), give commands and/or encouragement, etc.

This fits into the whole "should it be roleplayed" debate regarding social skills in D&D, as well. My opinion, in general, is that yes, "it" should be roleplayed as much as possible because social skills are not abstractions to the players in the way that fireballs or Whirlwind Attacks are. The Bard is sort of the poster child for this debate as he is both master of social skills and a creature whose effects, with standard flavor, very often come from decidedly non-fantastic sources.

------------------------------------------------------------------

The Bard's standard flavor breaks immersion for me, as it is not sufficiently abstract from normal life for my suspension of disbelief to kick in. This is not to say that the Bard cannot be somehow re-skinned, as Zhayne suggests. His effects are explicitly magical, and he could certainly be re-flavored as a form of Enchanter or a "sonic mage", or whatever in a way that would be much less immersion-breaking (for me, at least) than the way your average D&D Bard is played.

The thing is that, in my experience, Bards tend to get played with flavor close to the standard, and the standard flavor is already immersion-breaking for me. If a class requires some level of re-skinning in order for a meaningful chunk of the gaming population to find it less than ridiculous, then I think the error may well lie in the base design of the class, itself.


Bob Bob Bob wrote:
All you need to know about Warhammer 40k is that the "nicest" race mass murders anyone who doesn't follow their religion, anyone who knows anything about other races, and most of their own people in suicidal charges. The rest are... worse. Much worse.

The Imperium of Man and their god on the golden toilet isn't the nicest race in the game. That's probably the Tau. What with their not mass murdering enemies's that are willing to surrender. Of certain races. Sometimes. Oh, and they're basically space communists.

But yeah, the Imperium of Man is probably second or third nicest race, tied with Eldar, I guess, but I'm less clear on Eldar fluff.


the secret fire wrote:


I can accept any of the PCs playing a fireball-throwing wizard because nobody I know can actually do that. I can accept the same in regards to moving incredibly silently at a run or carving up an Orc in full plate with a longsword in a matter of seconds, or any number of other activities which are commonplace in fantasy RPGs.

But I cannot accept that when it comes to social skills (where the Bard is often problematic) or the vast majority of "flavor" explanations given for Bardic performances, such as "giving commands or rousing speeches in combat", "cracking jokes", "war chants", "intimidating dance", "playing a lute", etc. These activities are not nearly so abstract to me. I cannot kill a man in full plate with a longsword, nor even conceive of it, and I haven't yet tried to cast Magic Missile, but I'm fairly confident I'd fail at that, as well. But I most certainly can crack jokes, dance (poorly), give commands and/or encouragement, etc.

This fits into the whole "should it be roleplayed" debate regarding social skills in D&D, as well. My opinion, in general, is that yes, "it" should be roleplayed as much as possible because social skills are not abstractions to the players in the way that fireballs or...

It simply sounds like you are good at social situations. Many people are not.

You require your players to be the center of attention to 4-6 of his or her friends. Or, maybe not friends. Maybe just six people they get together with on occasion but just met.

Exocrat wrote:
Following this logic, I'm going to require my players to show me they can clean & jerk 300 lbs. if they want to make a character with 18 strength.

That was a sound statement.

The idea that "I can talk to people, so they should be able to roleplay it," merely extends Exocrat's statement to as long as my GM has the equivalent ability, I should be able to do it in RP too.


JoeJ wrote:

It's very easy (and, I'd say, appropriate) for the GM to add a few restrictions for purposes of flavor. For example, maybe visual performances are inherently distracting to watch, so Perform (Dance) is not a good idea for party buffs, but perfectly reasonable for Fascinate.

And I would probably not allow Bardic Inspiration to be done with Perform (Comedy) in any game that had a very serious tone because it would break the mood.

Comedy can be the three stooges. It can also be Mark Twain, Swift, Satire and an incisive understanding of human namture and psychological weak points and how they can be used to good effect.


thegreenteagamer wrote:

It simply sounds like you are good at social situations. Many people are not.

You require your players to be the center of attention to 4-6 of his or her friends. Or, maybe not friends. Maybe just six people they get together with on occasion but just met.

Well, I am definitely in the "not everybody should be the party face" camp. The thing is...D&D is inherently a social game. The players are constantly "using their social skills" while sitting around the table. If we take the social aspect of the game and reduce it to a die roll, then what we have left is a board game.

Imagine a whole party full of fully inarticulate people who are wholly disinterested in actually roleplaying encounters with NPCs. They could navigate social situations thus:

"The guard says you need a pass to get in."

"I bluff him...16+13...a 29 on my roll."

"Ok, the guard lets you by. You are now in the lord's council chamber. The council is in session, and look shocked to see you."

"I diplomacy them...7+15...a 22 on my roll."

"Ok...they will listen to what you have to say."

"I say we need help with the Orcs."

"Ok, they will give you 20 men for the mission."

"Ok. We leave."

------------------------------------------------------

This is what you get playing Baldur's Gate, not proper D&D. Players who are unwilling or unable to actually roleplay social interactions suck the life out of the game when they substitute die rolls for actually "acting it out" with NPCs.

Hey, life's tough. Not everybody was born to be the party face.


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Wheldrake wrote:
Because, from its very conception, the bard class's primary function was as comic relief. I mean, the most direct inspiration for it came from Assurancetourix in the Asterix comic strip. More recently, OOTS brilliantly shows how silly it can be to sing for skill check bonuses.

Not true. Not even close. The main source for the Bard, which goes back to AD&D days, comes from Celtic myth and to a lesser extent from the Vikings. There's not a lot of comedy there.

Another source, one which was acknowleded in the old Deities and Demigods, is the Kalevala. This is the Finnish National epic where amongst other things the Heroes perform magic with their songs. Virtually all of the heroes in the Kalevala are Bards.

Just because OOTS makes Bards out to be a joke it doesn't mean that 3.5 / PF Bards are. Only an idiot plays a lute in the middle of a fight and annoys the rest of the party by skulking at the back claiming that they need a standard action to maintain Inspire Courage.

Real Bards sing or orate. And since their players have actually read the rules they only need to spend a free action to maintain Inspire Courage and they can also cast spells and/or fight at the same time.

Unfortunately many players haven't read the rules and mistakenly still believe that to maintain Inspire Courage requires a standard action. And that they need to play a Bard as a jerk (usually that doesn't involve much work on their part as they're well-versed in such behaviour).

The last time I played a 3.5 Bard was by invitation to a group who believed that Bards were like OOTS. They assumed that every stupid thing about Bards was actually true. Boy, did I prove them wrong.

The DM almost burst a blood vessel when he found out that I was Inspiring Courage without playing an instrument, giving +10 to hit and +10D6 damage to the entire party and summoned creatures (Dragonfire Inspiration and Words of Creation) and that you did not need a standard action to maintain Inspire Courage. It got worse when I started to fight and sing at the same time and turned out to be a more effective spellcaster than anyone else in the party!


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Zolanoteph wrote:

So what do I think is wrong with the bard?

I must state clearly that my problems with the bard have nothing at all to do with power level. I'm a part time powergamer at worst and will play anything (even something suboptimal) if I like the concept. My problem with the bard is bardic performance.

Singing in battle

I can't get behind the idea that a character who sings or plays the drums/lute in battle. There's not much of an argument to be made here, this is just my gut reaction. Weather it's beating the drum, singing, playing the lute, you name it. When the ogre comes crashing through the gate, you better be swinging at axe, chucking a fireball or doing something practical/cool.

You're kidding, right?

Not all Bardic Performance is singing and dancing. One of the most optimal forms of Bardic Performance is actually Oratory, or in other words, praying, reciting religious excerpts, etc. Or even Comedy, usually with subtle hilarious gestures, or silly statements. There are all kinds of things that don't involve singing, dancing, or music; are you gonna start calling those people a bunch of hootenannies too?

It doesn't really matter if there were historical accuracies or magical influences regarding singing in the midst of battle, not all bardic performances work that way, and most optimal bards don't choose those options.

I have a bard who doesn't need to be swinging an axe or throwing fireballs to be practical and cool; he's a 100% team player and his purpose in life is to enable those who are in need of guidance to fulfill their true potential and destiny. He's also an Ex-Paladin (that is, he was once in the service, but it did not fit his calling, and so he retired from that way of life) that abandoned that profession for his higher purpose in life.

Zolanoteph wrote:

The Life Coach Problem

This is the phrase I use to describe my chief complaint with the bard, possibly the one that trumps all the others. The bard is a motivational speaker. The bard is a hero who is so good at telling other people that "they can do it!" that he becomes invaluable as a coach and leader. On a related note, the Mary Sue concept is baked right into the class: The bard is a master of skills, especially social skills, to the point where for all intents and purposes, everybody loves em'!

The problem with this is that it lends itself to situations where characters in game give empowering speeches even though the player is inarticulate and unimaginative. Or a situation where my fighter is hyped up by the unerring spirit of the party cheerleader. Think about this; I want to play a stoic, tough guy character. And here he is, being told "You can do it! You're a winner!" by this sissy singer/dancer/speech giver and this stuff is giving my character bonuses in combat. The flavor/mechanical implication is that the bard effects my character emotionally and has an intuitive ability to rally him to greater heights of valor. Shouldn't abilities like this happen through role playing in character? Why should the dice or the basic game mechanics tell me that you just gave an awesome performance and it effected me emotionally?

Ironically enough? Not all bards are designed that way. There are archetypes that make them viable for melee/ranged combat. The base bard himself is actually a very strong caster type, and some archetypes augment that even further without compromising his support capabilities.

In either case, it's quite clear that the only thing limiting the Bard's availability is both your imagination (which is quite skewed) and your ignorance of the mechanics that are already laid out (that support more than just a cheerleader playstyle).


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Like many a poor poster before me, I feel we should probably make a demonstration through satire (and/or tweaking the argument to a new application).

So what do I think is wrong with the wizard?

Chanting and waving arms around.

I can't get behind the idea of a guy who flaps their arms around in battle. There's not much of an argument to be made here, this is just my gut reaction. Whether it's throwing a fireball, making the room foggy, you name it. When the Ogre comes crashing through the gate, you better be swinging an axe, shouting your war cry or doing something cool.

1) But it's magic!
This represents a flavour I object to. While I get that worshipping some being of immense power is no more irrational than reading books. One strikes me as normative, the other as very nerdy.

OK...My heart's not in it. But I must take ire with this:

Quote:
What I will say is that I find the cries of bigotry to be a load of b.s. In my circle of friends, weather I DM or play, we play hypermasculine characters in a gritty, dark setting. There is nothing wrong with being effeminate but it has no place at our table or in our games. In a world based off prejudiced medieval Europe homosexuality or flamboyant behavior is NOT okay, nor is worshiping the wrong god or badmouthing the king. These reflect the attitudes of the setting and our desire to emulate the cruelty of certain historical settings.

So, you use an escapist medium to play big burly muscular men in a gritty world. And whilst you say you have no issue with people who act effeminate, it has no place in the medium to which you apply your escapism. Particularly since you want to emulate those grimdark medieval times.

Well, got to say - I fail to fathom a means how that isn't homophobic. Your fantasy is a world without effeminate people where none of you address this struggle because you prefer it not to be present at your table?
You claim you want to emulate a time in the past where people had to act in a certain way due to prejudice. You do realise that your world relies on a religious position inherent to one particular church, right? Homosexuality was pretty common in the classical era. Indeed, only with the rise of the Catholic church, did harsh punishment for general sodomy come about. It's a little hard to justify excluding assumptions being made. Then one has to question why those assumptions exist.

Quote:
I hate hate hate this attitude. Don't limit your players because you lack the imagination to make it fit. I'm running a game set in Victorian London - when one of my players wanted to play a Chinese monk I didn't say, "Oh nope, it's racist in that time period so whites only."

Wouldn't be an accurate reason to refuse. Empire, and all that.

Quote:
I (and many men) have unknowingly internalized a double standard

The problem with your argument is that it relies on the premise this internalization in our culture isn't inherently bias against LGBT groups.

To let you in on a secret, there's a reason the phrase "check your privilege" exists. Checked mine recently. I'm white, straight, male, middle class - pretty intact. I don't get asked why I am interested in physics as opposed to sport or art. Would be nice to say that doesn't happen in the 21st Century western world, but it does. And it does because we have a culture that still makes certain assumptions about your position in life on the back of that stuff.


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the secret fire wrote:
thegreenteagamer wrote:

It simply sounds like you are good at social situations. Many people are not.

You require your players to be the center of attention to 4-6 of his or her friends. Or, maybe not friends. Maybe just six people they get together with on occasion but just met.

Well, I am definitely in the "not everybody should be the party face" camp. The thing is...D&D is inherently a social game. The players are constantly "using their social skills" while sitting around the table. If we take the social aspect of the game and reduce it to a die roll, then what we have left is a board game.

Imagine a whole party full of fully inarticulate people who are wholly disinterested in actually roleplaying encounters with NPCs. They could navigate social situations thus:

"The guard says you need a pass to get in."

"I bluff him...16+13...a 29 on my roll."

"Ok, the guard lets you by. You are now in the lord's council chamber. The council is in session, and look shocked to see you."

"I diplomacy them...7+15...a 22 on my roll."

"Ok...they will listen to what you have to say."

"I say we need help with the Orcs."

"Ok, they will give you 20 men for the mission."

"Ok. We leave."

------------------------------------------------------

This is what you get playing Baldur's Gate, not proper D&D. Players who are unwilling or unable to actually roleplay social interactions suck the life out of the game when they substitute die rolls for actually "acting it out" with NPCs.

Hey, life's tough. Not everybody was born to be the party face.

I have literally played in and GM'd games like that. It's not the entirety of my experience, but roughly...oh, 30% of the games I've played in. People had fun. Who are you to say it isn't proper D&D? I have thoroughly read the CRB, and nowhere within does it say exactly how much roleplay is required to pull off a social roll.

Not everyone likes every aspect of tabletop (I'm usually bored to tears by mazes and puzzles, for example, and wish I could just roll an intelligence check for my character, who's stats are probably higher than my own, and let THEM solve the dang thing.) As a GM, at least a good GM, your job is to cater the game to your players, not expect your players to wrap themselves around your game. If I have a party of people who don't give a crap about the story, well, it hurts my feelings a bit, but instead of continuing to work on my epic and try to shoehorn the party into my tale of intrigue and the like, I just give them a good ol' fashioned hack n' slash. If I have a player who wants to be the face, and none of the other players have a problem with it, I don't care if all they do is roll the dice and give me a general description. Typically I embellish their description given the results of the roll, but frankly, it's clear this person isn't interested in the interaction, but merely wants to move the heck on with it to the parts he/she gives a turd about. Nothing wrong with that if everyone's on board with it.

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