Punishing Bad RP


Advice

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I feel like, just as a philosophical point in GMing, unless something interesting is liable to happen if the PCs fail the roll, there really shouldn't be a significant risk of failure anyway. If I don't have a "the king won't help no matter what as he is being mind-controlled" plot in mind or don't want to come up with one on the fly, after we've RPed the scene and it went well and people had fun, the roll is going to basically be for how much aid you're being offered.

After all, if the PCs are important enough to get a personal meeting with a head of state, no matter how badly they make their case (assuming this doesn't culminate in violence or being thrown out), a competent monarch would consider "maybe these uncultured louts are telling the truth, I should send someone I trust to check for me."

But we're still going to RP out the scene, because it's fun. If there's one person at the table for which this is not fun, assuming that person is not the GM, the remaining people at the table should work together to try to get that person to get involved in a way which is fun for them.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Okay.

Let's try this again.

Charisma 7 Barbarian played by the Debate Team Captain, with amazing people skills.

Charisma 18 Bard played by the 1st Board Chess Club person, who has horrible people skills.

I'm pulling random things out here, no stereotypes are implied nor should they be inferred.

Player of the Barbarian gives a rousing speech. GM likes it, gives circumstance bonuses (even though it's unlikely that the Barbarian would have enough skill to hit a given DC) and lets NPCs be swayed by it.

Player of the Bard tells the GM what the speech is about. GM hates it, doesn't give any bonuses (and maybe even gives a penalty for 'not roleplaying enough' but the Bard has more than enough mechanical skill to hit the given DC) and then DOESN'T let NPCS be swayed by it.

Seems a bit unfair, right?

Sure, it seems unfair, but only because you needlessly made it punitive against the player who didn't speak as well, which is not the thing that Vid, or me, or anyone else is suggesting is the right call, nor is it even a plausible extrapolation of what is being suggested. From where I am sitting, it is such a grotesque misrepresentation of what "giving roleplay bonuses" is as to be utterly unrecognizable. You might as well have added "and then the GM burned down everyone's house with combustible lemons" for all the relevance your example has to the practice of giving bonuses for good roleplay.

Unless and until someone can demonstrate why the practice of giving bonuses for playing the social part of the game better than others is in anyway different than the utterly uncontroversial practice of rewarding players who are better at the tactical combat part of the game than others, the response of "it feels unfair" cannot be considered a legitimate reason to be against the practice of circumstance bonuses. This doesn't mean that the hurt feelings of those who feel this way are unimportant, but it does mean that the proper response to those feelings are to help those individuals better understand that their feelings are rooted in a misperception of what is happening.

We get it - you feel like this is unfair. We even get why you feel this is unfair. All your side has done this entire thread is simply repeat that you feel it is unfair, and gin up example after example (some real, some entirely fabricated) of things that are NOT "giving a bonus for good roleplay", and then reacting to them and expecting those reactions to be taken at face value. What I am saying is you need to examine the reasons you feel the way you do, because those reasons aren't nearly as good as you assume they are.

Here, I'll demonstrate that I at least understand your position:

You feel that if one player gets a bonus for giving a rousing speech in character (especially if that character is not supposed to be charismatic), that is unfair to other players, particularly those who, for whatever reason, don't enjoy or are not comfortable with giving some kind of similar performance.

If that is not correct, please, by all means explain how and why it is inaccurate.

If it is correct, then please explain how it is distinct from this position:

I feel that if one player gets a flanking bonus for having mastery of the tactical combat system (especially if that player's character is not supposed to be skilled in combat), that is unfair to other players, particularly those who, for whatever reason, don't enjoy or are not comfortable with the spatial skills and numeric analysis skills that are required to develop similar system mastery.

I suspect that the answer will have something to do with "rules", which is why so much earlier effort went into demonstrating why that difference isn't really one at all, so if that is the route taken, you might as well address those earlier arguments too, but it's also possible there's a novel response as well. I guess maybe we'll see.

Grand Lodge

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It's a bad idea to punish players because they don't embellish their actions; it's not like in that 10 seconds where you explain that their 'role-playing' wasn't good enough they're suddenly going to have some introspective moment where they see the error of their ways. But it's a good idea to reward players who do go that extra effort. This is also something that should be outlined as an expectation during session 0.

As long as they can preface their action with some sort of description that is perfectly fine. Like say for example they're trying to intimidate a band of hobgoblins to back down from a skirmish.

"I intimidate for 42"
"Uh... what are you doing"
"Intimidating"
"Okay... they have a -2 as you demoralize them."

"I cut my hand and wipe the blood across my brow before giving my warcry. 42 intimidation!"
"Awesome! the hobgoblins back away, some drop their weapons while others look for an exit"

And I mean... a lot of tabletop players are charisma -4. If you catch my drift. Try to meet them half way.


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MrTsFloatinghead

I have always viewed combat as much more of a group effort.
I find it happens much more regularly in combat that my group of players will say to each other "Hey, if you move there, I can move there, and then we get a flanking bonus." The nature of the round by round combat basically ensures that everyone gets a turn to effect the outcome.

I can honestly say that I have never had anyone in any of my games, ever say, during someone elses RP "Hey, remember this guy is having an affair, weave that in to your speach." It just isn't something that really happens.

So the main difference for me is that the codified benefits in combat, are often applied by sharing the spotlight, and saying to someone "Hey, if you move here you get a bonus to stab the guy." is much less likely to make someone uncomfortable than trying to get them to create a narrative or descriptive improv.
Opposite to combat bonuses, RP bonuses to me come across as a very singular thing, with very little way to make it into a group thing, and almost promote attempting to hog the spotlight, at least to me.

____________________________________

I have no problem with bonuses, but I give bonuses for much more than just good RP. If you take the time to read up how to actually swing a sword and can show me that in combat, maybe I give you a +1, or if you are too shy for that but you spend some time researching and find some really cool fighting montages, and when your monk flies into battle you pull out a clip and go "I punch the guy like this" you would get the same bonus. So long as you put effort in each time.

I will do that for everything. If you make a rousing speech you get a bonus, or if you just sit down and think properly about how your character would act, and even if it is written down and handed to me on a piece of paper, you would get a bonus.
If you are an artist playing an artsy character and you actually do an impressive sketch to represent your character doing it, bonus. If you are not an artist and you try to draw something to represent your character doing a drawing, even if it is crap, so long as effort was put in, you get a bonus.
Trying to collapse a building with knowledge engineering? Describe how you search the building for weakspots etc, and be good rp, bonus. Or, spend some time researching ancient demolition and excavation techniques and explain (in a technical manner, this is supposed to be the not good RP guy bonus) how those techniques could be used here, bonus.

Now on the opposite side of this, I have no issue with asking my players to explain why their characters are doing something.
If my cha 5 dwarf barb decides to make a rousing speech when all he has done up to that point is grunt, I am going to ask my player if that makes sense, and might not give them a bonus if they can't explain how it fits their character


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
J4RH34D wrote:

MrTsFloatinghead

I have always viewed combat as much more of a group effort.
I find it happens much more regularly in combat that my group of players will say to each other "Hey, if you move there, I can move there, and then we get a flanking bonus." The nature of the round by round combat basically ensures that everyone gets a turn to effect the outcome.

I can honestly say that I have never had anyone in any of my games, ever say, during someone elses RP "Hey, remember this guy is having an affair, weave that in to your speach." It just isn't something that really happens.

So the main difference for me is that the codified benefits in combat, are often applied by sharing the spotlight, and saying to someone "Hey, if you move here you get a bonus to stab the guy." is much less likely to make someone uncomfortable than trying to get them to create a narrative or descriptive improv.
Opposite to combat bonuses, RP bonuses to me come across as a very singular thing, with very little way to make it into a group thing, and almost promote attempting to hog the spotlight, at least to me.

____________________________________

I have no problem with bonuses, but I give bonuses for much more than just good RP. If you take the time to read up how to actually swing a sword and can show me that in combat, maybe I give you a +1, or if you are too shy for that but you spend some time researching and find some really cool fighting montages, and when your monk flies into battle you pull out a clip and go "I punch the guy like this" you would get the same bonus. So long as you put effort in each time.

I will do that for everything. If you make a rousing speech you get a bonus, or if you just sit down and think properly about how your character would act, and even if it is written down and handed to me on a piece of paper, you would get a bonus.
If you are an artist playing an artsy character and you actually do an impressive sketch to represent your character doing it, bonus. If you are not an artist and you...

Thank you for the response, I sincerely appreciate it, and I think you have raised a really good point by bringing up the idea of the spotlight. I think, though, that there is a disconnect here, because everything you listed after the break is what I am saying is good to do. All of that is equally "RP", and all of that (including the examples above the break of a party working together in combat) would, in my mind, be worthy of some minor bonus (maybe a circumstance bonus, maybe bonus xp for something like character art or a well developed backstory, etc).

What I am adamantly opposed to is a position that seems to be saying "it is not okay to give out the bonus for the rousing speech, because some people aren't comfortable with giving a rousing speech, and/or giving that specific bonus out is somehow equal to punishing people who choose not to give the rousing speech, for whatever reason". To me, we are actually on the exact same side, and what I'm opposing is an argument that is logically equivalent to saying "It's unfair that J4RH34D gave one player a bonus for making a nice drawing, because some people might not be able to draw well, and might be uncomfortable being asked to do a drawing to earn that bonus". I guess what I'm a little unclear on is if the people I'm debating are actually opposed to ALL the bonuses you listed, or if it is just the speech one specifically that they find objectionable, but I don't think it really matters in terms of why I find their objections to be problematic.

Getting back to the spotlight issue, I guess my experience is very different (which is fine), but I absolutely would expect to say something like "You should totally remember to mention that we know about his affair in your intimidate check" at the table. Also, it sounds like maybe one good option to address this is encouraging the use of the "Assist" action. For example, maybe Greg the Gregarious (who is playing a low charisma barbarian, but is nonetheless personally quite socially adept) might (in character or out of character) mention that Frank the Face (who is playing the smooth talking swashbuckler, but is not personally as comfortable with social situations as Greg) should bring up the affair. I would argue that a GREAT way to handle that would be to effectively say that Greg succeeded at an "assist" action for Frank's check. Now Greg feels rewarded for his social skills, but Frank isn't being pushed out of the spotlight - it's still his roll, and his character's chance to shine, but now with a little extra juice from Greg.

Of course, I do agree that some players might feel like they were being encouraged to seize the spotlight with flashy speeches and the like, but that strikes me as more a problem with the players, not the game (as it were). One solution that jumps to mind is that all of these bonuses are at the GM's discretion by design - if someone is abusing them, I don't really understand why it wouldn't be okay for the GM to simply say "I think your epic speech RP bonus store is a bit low on stock today, sorry...". Ultimately, though, if a player is going to be a problem, I don't think cutting off one kind of RP bonus is likely to solve the problem, just shift it to another way of trying to dominate the spotlight. In the end, I think the only real solution is to simply talk out the issue with that player.


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Redelia wrote:
being shy can also be perfectly valid, normal, and healthy. It is not something that needs to be 'fixed,' 'worked on,' or 'grown out of.' It is also a part of who some people are, and is to be respected.

Speaking as someone who does have shyness / ultra-introversion / Asperger's / social anxiety / schizoid personality disorder / avoidant personality disorder / something like that (precise diagnosis is difficult) I do see my traits as something to be worked on, since my natural tendency otherwise is to completely cease all contact with the outside world.

And RPGs are a good way to work on that sort of thing. I'm not confident, but the character I'm controlling is confident, so I can (in character) try to say the sorts of things a confident person would say, and see what that would feel like.

If you're trying to 'force' a player to role-play their character's speech, then you've already failed. But 'encouraging' a player to do that is a very different thing.

As GM, it seems important to me that all PCs get to interact socially with the NPCs, not just the charismatic ones, because that's a fundamental part of the game I want to play. I want something more than 'PC with highest Diplomacy skill rolls a dice while everyone else sits there'.

If a player thinks they're too shy (or whatever) to even try to develop their PC through dialogue or other creative actions then I'd rather play a different game with them. I've heard good things about Gloomhaven, for example.

I have more people wanting join my campaign than I can fit, so if they're not willing to commit to role-playing in my role-playing game, I'd rather replace them with someone else. (I won't, because I'm too shy or whatever to actually kick anyone out. But I'll be thinking it.)


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MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
J4RH34D wrote:
Stuff
Very nice response

I think we are very much on the same page. And I suppose the difference is semantics. I would call very few of my examples below the break RP. Finding a video isn't RP, but it is effort put into your character and the game.

I don't think anyone ever has issues with rewarding putting in the effort, so long as you reward all effort equally.
I feel most people start talking about this subject saying "Should I give rewards for good RP?" and people start getting iffy with the fact that you cant reward the charismatic but not others.
Nobody has said giving rewards are bad. It's just that the way we talk about it "implies" a bias towards giving rewards for a certain set of behaviour, which is actually quite contrary to a lot of the personalities we see in TTRPGs.
To these people it can come across as almost an attack, which is why we tend to get so defensive and combative about it. It is a tender issue.
I know I was picked on at school quite mercilesly for my social ineptitude, and so having someone say "Hey, if you can be a good RPer you get a bonus" can sound a lot like "Hey, if you are socially inept you are never going to be able to get this bonus and will be worse than the people at the table that are not". I know logically it isn't true but I have to temper my emotions to not feel like I am being excluded from the bonus club for not meeting it's criteria.

That is why I stipulated that I do not give bonuses for good RP, because while I do that it is a subset of the bonuses I give. I feel this question/topic is better represented by asking "Should I give bonuses for people that are putting effort into enjoying the game and the game of those around them, in whatever way they are capable?"
I believe the answer to that is a firm yes from "everyone".

Another example, If I have a player who is tactically inept trying to play a general, I will give him bonuses when he has a good idea, or even potentially when he out of character asks for advice, or if he quotes sun tzu, or a lot of other things. I might even give a bonus to another player who helps our general player enjoy himself by making suggestions OOC on tactics so long as it is done well and the general player enjoys himself more as a result.

~~~~~~~~~~~
There is some psychology involved here. When someone says "We reward x behavior with bonus to checks" people have a tendency to read that as "We reward x, but not a b or c, with bonus to checks".
While the exclusion is never stated, people have a tendency to insert it. In this case this becomes "We reward good RP, but not good research, or effort, or any number of other things". While the person asking the question never meant for that exclusion to be present, it is treated as if it is there, which is what a lot of the arguing here revolves around.

~~~~~~~~~~~
TL;DR
There is enough stigmatization of the hobby, and of a large group of people that participate, that we should be careful how we phrase things to avoid getting peoples backs up. We should also be clear about what we are trying to achieve.
I firmly believe nobody is against rewards for effort.


A roleplaying encounter, for me as a GM, has several ‘components’. Content, tone/approach, and ‘zing’.

Content would be where, for an intimidate for example, you might bring an. Bonus up the guys sister and that you know where she lives. Now you can inform me that you are doing this by shakespear, or my just telling me. But it could be worth a bonus.

Tone/approach is the place for ‘in a low, hissing voice. Or I whisper into his ear, or ‘I start out conversational then move into more and more pointed questions. Or anything else having to do with mannerisms, body language and delivery. Again you can inform by doing or inform by telling. Either might be a bonus.

The third, zing, is something like ‘the perfect line’, the perfect stagecraft, wordplay - and while it’s possible to get this by description it’s really not as easy. It could still be a bonus. And the shy players are generally ok with that. They still have ways to ‘get theirs’ and still appreciate the zing as much as anyone else.


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MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
Unless and until someone can demonstrate why the practice of giving bonuses for playing the social part of the game better than others is in anyway different than the utterly uncontroversial practice of rewarding players who are better at the tactical combat part of the game than others, the response of "it feels unfair" cannot be considered a legitimate reason to be against the practice of circumstance bonuses. This doesn't mean that the hurt feelings of those who feel this way are unimportant, but it does mean that the proper response to those...

I'll give it one more shot.

No, it seems unfair because the system has the opportunity for bias inherent to it. Maybe you are able to execute it perfectly fairly all the time, but I'm also aware that people are usually completely blind to their own biases*. I know that I personally have been blind to some of my own. Therefore, I do not build gaming systems with bias baked in, nor do I use them in a way that opens them up to bias if I can avoid it.

You talked about Power Attack on a previous page. It was a massive false equivalency. I as GM have no authority or power to take away or give the benefits of Power Attack (lets assume we're following the rules of the game here). I can't change the benefits, or the penalties. The player can take the feat, or not take the feat. The player can activate the feat, or not activate the feat. There is no choice going on with the GM in this situation.

That is not true for giving a circumstance bonus for roleplaying. It is entirely at the GM's discretion. The standards for when it is given and when it is will be vague at best, and what meets those standards will entirely be at the whim of the GM. That is a system ripe for bias. If bias happens, that means their is a preference for one thing over another, which in this case means players.

If you favor one player over another, would you call that fair or unfair?

The only way to remove bias from that is to give the +2 bonus to all players for all roleplay. At which point you're not actually encouraging anything specific, which would defeat the expressed point of having the bonus.

An open, compassionate table is a better way to encourage roleplay. A hostile, hurtful table would not encourage roleplay, regardless of who big the in game bonus was for roleplaying. Meanwhile a compassionate table that encourages players doesn't need to give a bonus to get players to roleplay and participate.

I run games at conventions. Without giving out in game bonuses, I get everyone, without fail, to roleplay excitedly at my tables. These are complete strangers, who have never met me, and often never met each other. Now, it helps that people who come to my table are often looking forward to my game specifically, but I've had shy people who come out of their shells pretty quickly, because I make them feel comfortable, and I show enthusiasm for their participation.

I don't need a +2 bonus, I just use kindness.

*I can give some stark real world examples, but I'm afraid people would take them as insults.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Introversion, shyness, and social anxiety are all different things. They may go together for many people, but they are not the same thing.

Introversion is when time alone is what you need to recharge.

Social anxiety is a medical issue. Amateurs should not try to fix it.

Shyness is also a personality trait. It's taking lots of time to warm up to people. It's listening a lot before you speak.

I believe that, if left alone and not pushed, shy people can communicate very well. The time they take to listed before speaking is a help, not a hindrance to communication.

Perhaps a bit of my personal story would help here. I am an introvert and shy by nature. It's just how I'm wired, and it can't be changed. In junior high, someone tried to 'punish' and 'encourage' me to get over my shyness. It was as a result of this that I developed social anxiety. Being shy wasn't OK, so I developed a false front who would interact with people, and almost puke with anxiety in case the false front was wrong about something. I lived this way for over two decades, until I realized that being shy was not a character flaw or problem, but could actually be a strength. By being natural around people, i.e. listening for a while before speaking, not calling anyone a friend until I have known them for at least a year, I have been able to work through that social anxiety and become comfortable in my own skin again.

If I sat down with a gaming group in person, it would probably be at least 6 sessions before I started to 'come out of my shell.' Any attempt to 'encourage' or 'fix' me would probably mean that I never would. Once I felt comfortable with a group (which would be on my timetable, not anyone else's) I would be able to have fun acting as my character.

So once again, my shyness is not something I need someone to fix. Someone who has any sort of social anxiety does not need an amateur to try to 'fix' it; you'll probably only make it worse. Let those of use who are shy/introverted/have social anxiety come to you in our own time (and after getting help from an appropriate professional, in the case of social anxiety), and you will find us to be an asset to your table. Try to push us in ways or times that are not right for us, and you will probably lose us entirely.


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It’s very unfortunate that the case against giving bonuses for player skill is being conflated with and reduced to a game without any roleplay at all. Not rewarding players mechanically for their RL abilities does not mean an absence of role-play.

I need to think about things, brainstorm, consider options, mull them over and then maybe do all of that over again before I formulate an appropriate IC response. I usually spend a good deal of time between our weekly sessions thinking about what my character thinks and feels so I’m more prepared for the next time I have to come up with something off-the-cuff but often still find myself at a loss for words. None of this is the same as being naturally gregarious and none of this is the same as not role-playing. I’m an active and enthusiastic role-player, I’m just not glib and don’t work well under pressure.


J4RH34D wrote:
I can honestly say that I have never had anyone in any of my games, ever say, during someone elses RP "Hey, remember this guy is having an affair, weave that in to your speach." It just isn't something that really happens.

Myself I see this quite often, either as an 'aid another' or as a whisper into the ear of the face to suggest tactics. It's rare for me to see a single person talk without input from the other players.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Okay.

Let's try this again.

Charisma 7 Barbarian played by the Debate Team Captain, with amazing people skills.

Charisma 18 Bard played by the 1st Board Chess Club person, who has horrible people skills.

I'm pulling random things out here, no stereotypes are implied nor should they be inferred.

Player of the Barbarian gives a rousing speech. GM likes it, gives circumstance bonuses (even though it's unlikely that the Barbarian would have enough skill to hit a given DC) and lets NPCs be swayed by it.

Player of the Bard tells the GM what the speech is about. GM hates it, doesn't give any bonuses (and maybe even gives a penalty for 'not roleplaying enough' but the Bard has more than enough mechanical skill to hit the given DC) and then DOESN'T let NPCS be swayed by it.

Seems a bit unfair, right?

Except the Bard still gets all the bonuses and that barbarian is getting a penalty. The attribute and skills are getting added in. If that barb somehow beats the bard at a diplomacy check their is more at play then a simple +2 most likely the barb also rolled phenomenally. A +2 is not going to make up for THAT kind of difference. heck the +2 just barely makes up for his charisma penalty.

kind of a minor thing.
Also why in the world would those players choose to play those characters? I have never seen an anti-social player go Hey I wanna play the most social class ever!

Hi. I'm a shy, awkward, socially anxious player who doesn't know the first thing about social skills. Most of my characters are Bards, Oracles, Swashbucklers, and Sorcerers, AKA the super-high Cha classes, and it has nothing to do with wanting to be face. It's about the class features I enjoy (the Bard's music, the Swash's acrobatic combat, the casting of Sorc and Oracle, these are all things I enjoy.) And yet, since I'm usually the person with the highest Cha I wind up being the face most of the time. Fortunately my group is fairly easy-going and we play PbP anyways so I have plenty of time to think up a response.

With that bit of anecdote aside... my group is one of those "what you say" rather than "how you say it" though as a PbP a bit more does tend to go into "what you say" ^.^;


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born_of_fire wrote:

It’s very unfortunate that the case against giving bonuses for player skill is being conflated with and reduced to a game without any roleplay at all. Not rewarding players mechanically for their RL abilities does not mean an absence of role-play.

I need to think about things, brainstorm, consider options, mull them over and then maybe do all of that over again before I formulate an appropriate IC response. I usually spend a good deal of time between our weekly sessions thinking about what my character thinks and feels so I’m more prepared for the next time I have to come up with something off-the-cuff but often still find myself at a loss for words. None of this is the same as being naturally gregarious and none of this is the same as not role-playing. I’m an active and enthusiastic role-player, I’m just not glib and don’t work well under pressure.

I don't think that case is being made at all. Or at least, I'm not making that case.

In fact I think the conversation would go much better if people stop making any sort of assumption about how much, and the quality of, roleplaying is happening in other people's games.

It's one of the things that is bugging me a lot so far, in that I say I'm against bonuses for roleplaying, and then people act like I hate roleplaying. I don't hate roleplaying. I'm just opposed to giving subjective bonuses for it.


Irontruth wrote:
born_of_fire wrote:

It’s very unfortunate that the case against giving bonuses for player skill is being conflated with and reduced to a game without any roleplay at all. Not rewarding players mechanically for their RL abilities does not mean an absence of role-play.

I need to think about things, brainstorm, consider options, mull them over and then maybe do all of that over again before I formulate an appropriate IC response. I usually spend a good deal of time between our weekly sessions thinking about what my character thinks and feels so I’m more prepared for the next time I have to come up with something off-the-cuff but often still find myself at a loss for words. None of this is the same as being naturally gregarious and none of this is the same as not role-playing. I’m an active and enthusiastic role-player, I’m just not glib and don’t work well under pressure.

I don't think that case is being made at all. Or at least, I'm not making that case.

In fact I think the conversation would go much better if people stop making any sort of assumption about how much, and the quality of, roleplaying is happening in other people's games.

It's one of the things that is bugging me a lot so far, in that I say I'm against bonuses for roleplaying, and then people act like I hate roleplaying. I don't hate roleplaying. I'm just opposed to giving subjective bonuses for it.

I think we are squarely on the same page :)


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I lean much more towards the game part of the role-playing game. I know people who don't. We recognize that we don't have the same preferences and play in separate sessions (though I've provided quite a few NPC statblocks and level-up advice). I actively embrace playing "D&D for people who thought D&D's complexity was too watered down." I'm content with reading up on a story after the fact, and as such the only thing that matters during game time is the quality of the game. I don't view awarding some players (and thus relatively punishing others) for RP as a good system to implement: in situations where it applies, it doesn't add depth or meaningful choices, it just raises the bar to be competent compared to other players.

And yes, if somebody has a free +2 and somebody else doesn't, the latter player is being punished with 10% less chance at success.

The Exchange

ok, at this point I am really lost in this thread.

the title is..."Punishing Bad RP"... but that doesn't seem to me to be what is being talked about at all...

Could someone please define (with a couple simple examples for my simple mind) what IS "Bad RP"?

This might require someone to give a definition of what RP is... when I check online I get the two following definitions:
1. the acting out of the part of a particular person or character, for example as a technique in training or psychotherapy.
•Psychology
the unconscious acting out of a particular role in accordance with the perceived expectations of society.
2. participation in a role-playing game.

after that, could someone please define what is meant by "punishment" - again with a couple simple examples for my simple mind.

Thank you in advance for your assistance!


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well, it seems that in some views, "bad RP" is roll playing as opposed to role playing (saying, I'roll diplomacy rather than trying to say what the character would say) must admit that I'm not so keen on punishing that, given that I myself am a reclusive type and not a good actor, especially when I must do on the spot improv


nosig wrote:

ok, at this point I am really lost in this thread.

the title is..."Punishing Bad RP"... but that doesn't seem to me to be what is being talked about at all...

Could someone please define (with a couple simple examples for my simple mind) what IS "Bad RP"?

I think what happened is that the thread started on the wrong foot because everyone realizes almost immediately that punishing one's friends during leisure time for not playing a cooperative game in the right way is probably not ideal.

What I suspect happened was that the remaining people in the thread can be split between "what the OP said" and "what the OP meant". Since basically the question is "how do I get my players to get more into the game; to talk in character, and that sort of thing?" Most people's answer is probably something isomorphic to "encourage them" but the well had already been poisoned from the thread title so there are concerns about how explicitly rewarding people who get into it implicitly punishes people who, for whatever reason won't. I'm sure a bunch of people have had bad experiences with a GM who forced someone to speak extemporaneously when they were uncomfortable doing so and would like to spare others the same experience.

So I guess the productive question is how does one get Steve, who is happy to talk as Steve, instead talk more as "Magnus the Magnificent, Merfolk Magus" during the game.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Umm, maybe let Steve be. Maybe Steve has more fun talking as Steve. Talking in character is not listed anywhere in the CRB as a requirement to play Pathfinder.

I'm coming from the perspective here of PbP games, where we as a community have reached the consensus that using third person to talk about your character is necessary to avoid confusion. Talking in the first person as your character is in no way required for deep, meaningful roleplay.

Is "I attack the monster. <insert dice roll here>" supposed to be better roleplaying than "Magnus lifts his sword and swings it down at the orc. 'Repent, evil-doer!' he shouts."?

edit: this was supposed to be a reply to PossibleCabbage's post just above it, where he does imply that first person versus third person is the key to good roleplay.


Redelia wrote:

Umm, maybe let Steve be. Maybe Steve has more fun talking as Steve. Talking in character is not listed anywhere in the CRB as a requirement to play Pathfinder.

I'm coming from the perspective here of PbP games, where we as a community have reached the consensus that using third person to talk about your character is necessary to avoid confusion. Talking in the first person as your character is in no way required for deep, meaningful roleplay.

Is "I attack the monster. <insert dice roll here>" supposed to be better roleplaying than "Magnus lifts his sword and swings it down at the orc. 'Repent, evil-doer!' he shouts."?

Not really, but I'm not at all sure the distinction falls between using first person and third person, either.

And if you do more roleplaying, whatever exactly you mean by that, the best way to do is probably by example. I think nosig commented on that above.
Positive reinforcement can help, but doing so in the form of explicit rewards can be trickier than it seems. We don't always react as expected to tangible rewards.
Positive feedback and positive reactions from your peers at the table likely do more. Avoiding negative feedback is even more critical, we're usually far more sensitive to that.


I mean, of course sometimes using third person sometimes is essential, one's character invariably knows about things that you the player does not know. In a game I played in last month, there was a scene at a fancy party an NPC (who we were all pretty sure was a villain) said in parting something in Tien under her breath, and I said "wait a minute, I speak that, first I want to know what she said, and then I want to respond in idiomatically appropriate Tien something that is very rude by way of being extremely polite, in that way only polite society can manage." No way I could manage that off the top of my head, but it's something my character, steeped in high society, could manage.

I am guessing PhP is pretty far from my experience in that it is unlikely to involve long stretches of extended conversation (in which no dice are rolled for like 20 minutes). But I still think that maybe if you've sent the PCs to a fancy party or to take the role of actors in a play in order to solve a mystery or spring a trap on some saboteurs, or anything else that's going to involve a whole lot of talking, that we at leas try the first-person first. If you run into something that you know your character can talk about but you personally can't, then you step into the 3rd person.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Sometimes third person is essential, yes. And for some people, third person is just more fun. If someone knows this about themselves, why should they be pushed to do what is less fun for them? Why should mechanical bonuses be used to pressure people into doing what they don't like?


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nosig wrote:

ok, at this point I am really lost in this thread.

the title is..."Punishing Bad RP"... but that doesn't seem to me to be what is being talked about at all...

If you go back to the OP, you'll see that was never really the topic of conversation anyway. Rather, it's about whether or not offering incentives/bonuses for good role playing (or other good ideas brought to the game) was fair.


Redelia, I don't think anyone here is saying 1st-person is better than 3rd-person (or saying they only give bonuses to 1st-person remarks that use a character voice.) That's not what we're advocating.

If someone describes a scene that adds to the richness of the experience by drawing the listeners deeper into the game world, thereby adding to the immersion, that's what should be rewarded. That description could very well be 3rd-person, but whether it's 1st-person or 3rd-person isn't important, only the fact that it enrichens the immersion into the gameworld.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Redelia wrote:
Sometimes third person is essential, yes. And for some people, third person is just more fun. If someone knows this about themselves, why should they be pushed to do what is less fun for them? Why should mechanical bonuses be used to pressure people into doing what they don't like?

I'm not sure I'd characterize dangling carrots out there in a game as pressuring anyone. If the player wants to take one up in pursuit of a circumstance bonus, they're free to do so - or not as they choose.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:


...Also why in the world would those players choose to play those characters? I have never seen an anti-social player go Hey I wanna play the most social class ever!

Can't answer that, but as a fairly gregarious person I can say what a blast it is to play the BSF (as in big STUPID fighter), the strong silent type or the arrogant mage. I wouldn't expect any of these to get a bonus for roleplaying, and the arrogant mage would at least try to speak to people the group meets (and the BSF wouldn't realise he shouldn't). It can really enhance the roleplaying experience for these guys to act as face while the others try to sideline them, but to argue that they should get a roleplaying bonus for it is nonsense.

The point is that sometimes we want to play something we're not. I can well imagine a shy person wanting to play a confident speaker, just as I sometimes enjoy playing stupid, arrogant or silent characters. We should not be penalised for doing so.


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Bill Dunn wrote:
I'm not sure I'd characterize dangling carrots out there in a game as pressuring anyone. If the player wants to take one up in pursuit of a circumstance bonus, they're free to do so - or not as they choose.

You're pressured when your roll misses by 1 and the other players, meaning to or not, go 'oh man, if you'd have only made funny voices and acted it out like Bill you'd have MADE that roll...' . Even if the other players don't say anything the non-charismatic player can tell they are disappointed.


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So I guess the question is what does the GM do in case someone has rolled up a BSF (low intelligence, no knowledge skills) who nonetheless proceeds to behave as someone who is erudite and well-read, or someone who has set out to play an arrogant and patronizing mage (low charisma, no social skills) who nonetheless proceeds to try to get chummy with everybody the party meets. I don't really know how the aforementioned really differ from the high CHA bard with all the social skills who nonetheless refuses to talk to anyone.

Certainly one can play these characters as someone with an additional dimension (e.g. the BSF wishes he could understand things he doesn't and is deeply curious, the mage wishes she could make friends easily, and the bard is great at talking to people but just doesn't want to). So how do we differentiate "I am not playing a stereotype, I've thought this through and know what I'm doing" from "I am electing to just play a different character than the one I started the campaign with and have down on my sheet."

So I get the value of playing as a fantasy a person who is great at the things you wish you were good at or just to entertain the idea of being someone else. The significant hangup is that it's easier for a smart person to play dumb, or to pretend you know a lot about a topic you personally know very little about, or for a friendly person to play someone who is standoffish, than it is for a person who is not a confident speaker to play someone who is a supremely confident speaker. I guess the difference is that RPing persuasive person can be perceived to require "speaking persuasively" in a way distinct from how a character who is an expert on religion does not need to actually know about these religions (since they're not real) and can just make stuff up.

I would offer, that in fiction a person is not necessarily characterized as knowledgeable because they can spout facts, they're knowledgeable when those facts turn out to be accurate and relevant. A person is not necessarily persuasive because they can talk pretty, they're persuasive because people tend to be persuaded after talking to the persuasive person. So probably the best way to sell the non-confident speaker on speaking confidently in character might be to cajole them to talk then react as an NPC based as someone who was persuaded (assuming the roll backs this up) regardless of how shaky the speech was?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Gavmania wrote:
It can really enhance the roleplaying experience for these guys to act as face while the others try to sideline them, but to argue that they should get a roleplaying bonus for it is nonsense.

I would say that depends on how they choose to do it. If it really fits the situation, why shouldn't the GM let that add to the chances of the party succeeding in the current situation?

Quote:


The point is that sometimes we want to play something we're not. I can well imagine a shy person wanting to play a confident speaker, just as I sometimes enjoy playing stupid, arrogant or silent characters. We should not be penalised for doing so.

Indeed, sometimes people do play contrary to type. But sometimes, that involves responsibilities as well. I've played with another player who built a face-type character yet who constantly had to be prodded to act like it. And I don't mean acting via first person role playing either. I mean in having her PC be the primary point of contact in important social situations and taking the initiative in diplomacy or bluffing situations - the stuff her character was designed to excel at. It's kind of like creating a tank and then skulking in the rear of the party and not tanking.

There are some types of players who really will sit back in a game session and react rather than be proactive - they really should recognize that in themselves and play characters that are going to be playable in that mode. Don't play the StarFleet captain if you're really going to be more comfortable playing the navigator or good ol' country doctor.


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Irontruth wrote:


I'll give it one more shot.

Thank you!

Irontruth wrote:


No, it seems unfair because the system has the opportunity for bias inherent to it. Maybe you are able to execute it perfectly fairly all the time, but I'm also aware that people are usually completely blind to their own biases*. I know that I personally have been blind to some of my own. Therefore, I do not build gaming systems with bias baked in, nor do I use them in a way that opens them up to bias if I can avoid it.

I understand that you think that roleplay bonuses are uniquely biased. But all systems are inherently vulnerable to bias - I don't see any reason why offering a bonus is any more or less prone to bias than, say, choosing which character gets attacked, what does and doesn't count as cover, etc. Much more importantly, the assumption that I've been pushing on is the assumption that somehow the "combat rules" are unbiased - even if you presume those rules are significantly less subjective (more on that in a second), there's clear bias towards strong spatial skills, statistical analysis, and tactical thinking baked into the combat rules. What I'm having a hard time reconciling is the notion that removing more of the human judgement element from the game is somehow less biased. I mean, I get it, humans can suck, for sure, but a) you can't get rid of subjectivity in any case, and b) even if you could, that would just leave you at the mercy of the biases built into the rules, with no possible hedge against them.

Irontruth wrote:

You talked about Power Attack on a previous page. It was a massive false equivalency. I as GM have no authority or power to take away or give the benefits of Power Attack (lets assume we're following the rules of the game here). I can't change the benefits, or the penalties. The player can take the feat, or not take the feat. The player can activate the feat, or not activate the feat. There is no choice going on with the GM in this situation.

The bias in the Power Attack example was not that the GM can choose to use it or not, it's the bias built into the core of the rules - namely the bias towards players who are better at math and thus are more equipped to decide when taking and using power attack is a net benefit for their character. The math for that may not be easy for some people to do, and many people may not even bother - they are not likely to be as effective in combat as the player for whom that math is easy. That is bias, but it seems to be a bias that people are okay with, and I'm not seeing why that should be so.

As for the "GM has no authority", that is almost certainly the most profound point of disagreement between us. Of COURSE the GM has the authority to adjust the game to cope with player abilities. I'm not saying you can erase the Power Attack feat from a player's character, or change how it workds, but are you saying you've never tweaked an encounter to make it a little less difficult for a party of newer players, or that you've never gotten into the habit of giving the Big Bad additional hp so that your one super-combatant doesn't one-round it before the rest of the party even gets to act? Maybe you haven't - and that's your choice - but the choice to either adjust or not, to fudge or not, to change tactics or not, etc. is always a subjective choice, requiring the judgement of a human player. Indeed, that's why the game needs a GM in the first place.

Consider the following:

Walt the Wizard, Charlie the Cleric, Brad the Bard and Ragin' Roger the AM BARBARIAN disciple are having their first adventure. In their first encounter, they come across a band of *CR appropriate monsters* attacking an isolated farm. During the battle, Ragin' Roger buzz-saws through the enemies, including the "boss" that Brad was trying to heroically duel. Brad went to negative hit points early on, and was only alive due to the Cleric's intervention. Brad complains that the fight was too hard, and that it was unfair that his character was targeted, and is annoyed that Roger stole the spotlight. The GM listens, and then replies that he was simply following the rules for the encounter as written, that he's sorry that Brad feels that way, but that if he had adjusted the encounter to make Brad feel more useful, that would have been like punishing Roger for being "too good", and makes the reasonable argument that instead of feeling upset that Roger's player skill was unfairly rewarded, Brad should instead take it as an opportunity to improve his skills.

The next encounter is a social encounter in the nearby town, trying to figure out who set the *CR appropriate foes* on the isolated farm. Brad feels like this is his time to shine! He's naturally a very social person, which is why he decided to play a bard in the first place, and after that combat, he's feeling kind of like he needs to demonstrate his worth to the rest of the party. So, time for gather information. Roger abstains, as he is uncomfortable with social roleplay, and his character doesn't really have those skills anyway. Brad gives a nice engaging little description of what he's doing, including weaving in the established backstory that Brad is actually from the next little town over, so he probably knows some of these townsfolk, or at least their families. He even marks off some spent gold for the drinks he is buying, and makes up some little snippets of anecdotes to show how he's building trust with the NPC's. Then he rolls, and it's not great. Knowing that circumstance bonuses are within the GM's power to hand out, Brad asks if maybe he's earned one, since that would be enough to turn his final total of 14 to a 16 (likely enough to at least get SOME information). The GM shakes his head and says he doesn't do that, so Brad, ever the negotiator, notes that if he were allowed to use "knowledge (local)" for the check, it would be one higher (this check being boosted by a trait representing the aforementioned background). The GM starts to get a little annoyed, and says that it is unfair to players like Roger to subjectively change the rules to benefit Brad's real life player skills, and that it's not fair to the other players for Brad to hog the spotlight, so he tells Brad that his character makes some friends for the evening, but doesn't learn anything useful.

Brad feels that the game has been biased against him, because the GM could have easily chosen to reward Brad's player skills in the same way that sticking exactly to the RAW in combat rewarded Roger's player skills, but didn't. Brad feels like this is a double standard, because the given rationale for sticking to the RAW in combat was to reward the system mastery that Roger had developed over time, and Brad doesn't see any reason why his own work to develop his character's backstory and his personal RP skills shouldn't be similarly rewarded. Brad feels that even if the GM doesn't want to admit it, the decision to stick only to the very plain text of the rules is an inherently subjective judgement that places one type of skill above the other and says "this is most important", because when it comes to making adjustments to the game to better suit the table, Brad agrees with Rush that "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.". Brad is concerned that the GM, in assuming that strictly applying the rules is "unbiased", is fundamentally misunderstanding the role of the GM at the table, and in so doing is inadvertently making a choice that makes the game less fun for Brad and players like him.

Note that Brad's GM doesn't hate roleplay - indeed, Brad's GM has no negative motivations at all, he simply wants to make the game as fair as possible. Brad also has no negative motivations - he's not trying to be a narcissist, he's trying to be helpful to the party and have fun in the game, and just wants what he sees as his fair rewards for the things he is good at, much like Roger got in the fight. My perception of this thread is that people are being presented with Brad's viewpoint, and rejecting it in favor of the GM's. So, my question is:

Why is Brad wrong? Why is Brad's view of events invalid?

My contention is this: You asked if it's unfair to favor one player over another. I agree that it is. I contend that the GM's interpretation here unintentionally biases the game towards rewarding Roger-style players and not Brad-style players. I contend that the reason people don't see it that way is because they are blind to their biases towards assuming that the rules are "fair", and that strictly applying the letter of the rules without judgment is unbiased. I argue that the GM is incorrect in the assessment that removing GM judgment from the game is less biased, and that the GM can't escape responsibility for that bias by saying "I don't make the rules, just enforce them", since how the rules are enforced is a choice entirely within the GM's control.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that an inherent paradox of RPG rules sets is the existence of something like "rule 0", which makes it explicit that a root assumption of the game system is that there is going to be a GM making judgment calls constantly, and that it is expected that GMs are going to take the rules and adjust them and go beyond them when necessary to make the game better and more engaging for all players. Thus, to me, it is actually explicitly against the strict RAW to attempt to play the game strictly RAW.

You spoke in your post about shining a light on people's biases, and how it could be taken as an insult. Don't I well know it! My purpose here has been to shine a light on the biases inherent in the view that it is unbiased to remove GM judgment from the game, and biased to allow GMs to make subjective calls. This is not, and never has been an attack on anyone, but people have absolutely taken it that way. The problem is that there is no way to have this conversation without discussing underlying biases - indeed, the purpose of the thread is to attempt to call out the potential bias in giving out RP rewards, is it not? It's a pretty brutal double-standard to be willing to call out biases without being willing to examine your own.

I am not attacking the way you want to play at all. If giving out RP bonuses makes you uncomfortable, by all means, don't do it. What I'm saying is it is incorrect to frame that decision as being "unbiased" and thus the practice of giving bonuses is "biased". They are both biased - my way of playing is clearly biased towards acknowledging the subjective judgments inherent in the game, and I clearly have my reasons for why I feel this is preferable. You are allowed to have different preferences, of course. If people said "In my game, we are more biased towards a pure RAW approach to the game, because that's what we're comfortable with", I would have really no problem with that. I might push back a little because I think it's always worth widening Overton's Window a little, but at root of my postion is the idea that letting people make the game best for them is the fundamental good, so of course I would respect that stance. But that's not what people are saying. They are saying that their way of playing is "unbiased", which leads me to believe they don't understand the ways in which their own views are biased, and I believe they should.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
graystone wrote:
Bill Dunn wrote:
I'm not sure I'd characterize dangling carrots out there in a game as pressuring anyone. If the player wants to take one up in pursuit of a circumstance bonus, they're free to do so - or not as they choose.
You're pressured when your roll misses by 1 and the other players, meaning to or not, go 'oh man, if you'd have only made funny voices and acted it out like Bill you'd have MADE that roll...' . Even if the other players don't say anything the non-charismatic player can tell they are disappointed.

Is this different from players who aren't that interested in the tactical combat game and fail to eke out their flanking (or other) bonuses and miss by one? Is perceiving the disappointment of their fellow players in that situation acceptable while not in a role-playing situation?


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Guys, we're almost three hundred posts in and I'm seeing a lot of polite, rational discourse between parties who respectfully agree or disagree. If you want me to keep checking back into this thread, I'm gonna need to see at least a heated accusation of Stormwinding, some "badwrongfun", maybe a bit of hair-pulling. If somebody doesn't grab a folding chair when the ref isn't looking, I may just have to expand my perspective. I might even learn something new! *shudders*

Now get out there and ragepost!

Seriously, well done, folks.


Bill Dunn wrote:
Is this different from players who aren't that interested in the tactical combat game and fail to eke out their flanking (or other) bonuses and miss by one?

Yes.

Bill Dunn wrote:
Is perceiving the disappointment of their fellow players in that situation acceptable while not in a role-playing situation?

Combat is a different animal with different rules. An ally can easily make up for the less tactical player so if they non-tactical player doesn't go for the bonus an ally CAN. Combat is also not solely determined by a single, all or nothing roll so there is a stark difference between a single failed combat roll and a single Cha skill roll. Fail in combat once, you try again next round but fail in diplomacy and a potential ally is now attacking you.

IMO social vs combat is a comparison of non-equivalent rolls, in the apples and oranges type.


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graystone wrote:
Bill Dunn wrote:
Is this different from players who aren't that interested in the tactical combat game and fail to eke out their flanking (or other) bonuses and miss by one?

Yes.

Bill Dunn wrote:
Is perceiving the disappointment of their fellow players in that situation acceptable while not in a role-playing situation?

Combat is a different animal with different rules. An ally can easily make up for the less tactical player so if they non-tactical player doesn't go for the bonus an ally CAN. Combat is also not solely determined by a single, all or nothing roll so there is a stark difference between a single failed combat roll and a single Cha skill roll. Fail in combat once, you try again next round but fail in diplomacy and a potential ally is now attacking you.

IMO social vs combat is a comparison of non-equivalent rolls, in the apples and oranges type.

But, see, we're saying that allowing for RP bonuses to affect social situations can be good, because it makes it MORE like the things you are identifying as good about combat - it can make it more collaborative, and it adds additional elements that the players can at least notionally attempt to control so that it is not one single all or nothing roll. It is the roll being modified by the context of the RP, in the same way that rolling to hit in combat is modified by the context of the tactical RP on the map.


MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
I understand that you think that roleplay bonuses are uniquely biased. But all systems are inherently vulnerable to bias - I don't see any reason why offering a bonus is any more or less prone to bias than, say, choosing which character gets attacked, what does and doesn't count as cover, etc.

I could be wrong but I believe the bias Irontruth was referring to was stuff along the lines of "I'm attracted to this person so their speech sounds better and I'm more likely to give them a bonus" or "I had an argument with this person earlier, so their argument comes across as less persuasive and I'm less likely to give them a bonus" and the like. And this can even be completely subconscious bias (as they stated when they referenced people being "completely blind to their own biases".) So given there are at least somewhat concrete rules for what constitutes half or full cover to fall back on, I would argue that part at least is a different kind of bias.

As for tactics in general... I know it's not true of all groups, but in my group at least if a newer player forgets some combat mechanic, or is struggling with positioning, other players will give them advice (even if it's as simple as "Hey, don't forget my Inspire gives you a +whatever to attack and damage" or "If you move like this you won't get hit") but that's a lot harder to do for social skills.


MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
It is the roll being modified by the context of the RP

Its different if its about the actual content instead of how WELL it's stated: IE was it the subjects brought up or how charismatic the PLAYER is? One is 'tactics' and the other is out of character skill... The character can have tactics but can't have the out of character skill.


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Shinigami02 wrote:
MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
I understand that you think that roleplay bonuses are uniquely biased. But all systems are inherently vulnerable to bias - I don't see any reason why offering a bonus is any more or less prone to bias than, say, choosing which character gets attacked, what does and doesn't count as cover, etc.

I could be wrong but I believe the bias Irontruth was referring to was stuff along the lines of "I'm attracted to this person so their speech sounds better and I'm more likely to give them a bonus" or "I had an argument with this person earlier, so their argument comes across as less persuasive and I'm less likely to give them a bonus" and the like. And this can even be completely subconscious bias (as they stated when they referenced people being "completely blind to their own biases".) So given there are at least somewhat concrete rules for what constitutes half or full cover to fall back on, I would argue that part at least is a different kind of bias.

As for tactics in general... I know it's not true of all groups, but in my group at least if a newer player forgets some combat mechanic, or is struggling with positioning, other players will give them advice (even if it's as simple as "Hey, don't forget my Inspire gives you a +whatever to attack and damage" or "If you move like this you won't get hit") but that's a lot harder to do for social skills.

I don't disagree that those are biases, but those still aren't unique to RP (and I should be clear, RP does not mean "speaking in character" - it is everything a character is, and everything a player does to make that character more 'real' and the game more immersive). If a GM is going to be biased because of being attracted to someone, that same bias creeps in with things like whose character gets attacked, which players get a reminder about a potential AoO before they commit to moving, or maybe even an offer to rewind to undo a poor tactical move, or even if the GM doesn't do any of those things because the GM's best friend is at the table and is a strictly RAW player. I simply do not agree that rewarding RP has any more inherent risk of bias than any of the other parts of the GM job, and I think the reason why people feel differently is because they are not seeing the biases inherent in the system because they are comfortable with them (and also I just made my will save to not go full Monty Python there). Again, this is not an attack - at heart, maybe "bias" (on BOTH sides) is not really the right word. It seems to me that it's more a matter of preference.

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Removed a couple unhelpful or aggressive posts and replies. Remember the paizo.com forums are for dialogue and not fighting. Additionally, it is unhelpful to tell people that they shouldn't feel a particular way or that their feelings about something are wrong. We have a lot of diverse views on what people enjoy about RPGs and its important to remember that people holding different opinions about subjective topics are not objectively wrong.

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Moved thread to Advice forum.

Shadow Lodge

J4RH34D wrote:

I have always viewed combat as much more of a group effort.

I find it happens much more regularly in combat that my group of players will say to each other "Hey, if you move there, I can move there, and then we get a flanking bonus." The nature of the round by round combat basically ensures that everyone gets a turn to effect the outcome.

I can honestly say that I have never had anyone in any of my games, ever say, during someone elses RP "Hey, remember this guy is having an affair, weave that in to your speach." It just isn't something that really happens.

Quoting this because I don't think it's gotten enough attention, given the amount of discussion on different kinds of player skill.

If you're bad at character optimization, odds are good that someone in your gaming group can help – and if not, there are guides online. If you're bad at in the moment tactics, you can ask fellow players advice about what action to take. I think you're more likely to get too much tactical advice than not enough.

But personally, I've never been in a situation where I don't know what my character should say as part of a social check and another player has given me suggestions ("Tell the guard we're maintenance workers!"). I have been in situations where I'm struggling to think of something to say and a player with a less socially adept character stepped in and made the check instead. This keeps the game moving but does not encourage me to play social characters. Even if someone else comes up with the conversational tactics, I'd feel good about being able to make the roll with the skill bonus I invested in, and about the fact that my character is a smooth talker.

MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
The next encounter is a social encounter in the nearby town, trying to figure out who set the *CR appropriate foes* on the isolated farm. Brad feels like this is his time to shine! He's naturally a very social person, which is why he decided to play a bard in the first place, and after that combat, he's feeling kind of like he needs to demonstrate his worth to the rest of the party. So, time for gather information. Roger abstains, as he is uncomfortable with social roleplay, and his character doesn't really have those skills anyway. Brad gives a nice engaging little description of what he's doing, including weaving in the established backstory that Brad is actually from the next little town over, so he probably knows some of these townsfolk, or at least their families. He even marks off some spent gold for the drinks he is buying, and makes up some little snippets of anecdotes to show how he's building trust with the NPC's. Then he rolls, and it's not great. Knowing that circumstance bonuses are within the GM's power to hand out, Brad asks if maybe he's earned one, since that would be enough to turn his final total of 14 to a 16 (likely enough to at least get SOME information). The GM shakes his head and says he doesn't do that, so Brad, ever the negotiator, notes that if he were allowed to use "knowledge (local)" for the check, it would be one higher (this check being boosted by a trait representing the aforementioned background). The GM starts to get a little annoyed, and says that it is unfair to players like Roger to subjectively change the rules to benefit Brad's real life player skills, and that it's not fair to the other players for Brad to hog the spotlight, so he tells Brad that his character makes some friends for the evening, but doesn't learn anything useful.

I don't entirely side with the GM here – but I also don't think it adds anything to just have the check pass because sure, close enough, we'll call it a circumstance bonus. Bad rolls happen. Roger's barbarian can crit fail in combat. What I would do is make use of a technique I've seen in “softer” RP systems called “succeed with consequences.” So maybe Brad finds someone willing to talk, but they need some kind of additional assurances of safety (or just an extra bribe on top of the drinks Brad already bought.) Or maybe he didn't find anyone who has the information, but gets referred to the town gossip (and gets an opportunity to re-try the check by putting in a little extra in-character time). Or Brad gets the information, but attracts unwelcome attention in the process. Whatever adds to the story and recognizes that Brad's character is doing something he should be good at (even if he's having a bit of bad luck). If Brad enjoys the RP side of things, he'll presumably enjoy the extra twist in the scene.

Now, let's flip the scenario: what if it's Roger playing the bard and Brad playing the barbarian? Roger doesn't feel comfortable giving “an engaging little description” or making up “little snippets of anecdotes.” He just wants to say “I buy people drinks and make some small talk. Do they tell me anything interesting? My Gather Information is 14.” What do you do?

“Sorry, Roger, you didn't make the roll. Brad, your untrained barbarian rolled a 17? Then you hear...”
“Roger, that's not quite high enough. I'll give you a +2 if you roleplay your small talk a little better.”
“I'm sorry, I can't even let you roll Gather information unless you let me know exactly which NPCs you want to talk to and what kind of small talk you're making.”

PossibleCabbage wrote:
I would offer, that in fiction a person is not necessarily characterized as knowledgeable because they can spout facts, they're knowledgeable when those facts turn out to be accurate and relevant. A person is not necessarily persuasive because they can talk pretty, they're persuasive because people tend to be persuaded after talking to the persuasive person. So probably the best way to sell the non-confident speaker on speaking confidently in character might be to cajole them to talk then react as an NPC based as someone who was persuaded (assuming the roll backs this up) regardless of how shaky the speech was?

This is not a bad approach. First time I played a high-Cha character (a sorceress), all I really wanted was for people to react to my character as if she was Charismatic – paying attention to her, complimenting her, etc.

HWalsh wrote:

I mean, when was the last time someone made you roll when you said:

"I'm going to move here, then I am going to ready an action to strike when (so and so) moves into flank position on the other side of him."
Did the GM turn to you and say, "Make a wisdom check to see if you are wise enough to come up with that idea!"
No, of course not!

I'm pretty sure I actually have seen this suggested in a thread with the topic of “discouraging dump stats.” Something along the lines of “Make the barbarian make an Int check to flank and he'll think twice about that Int 7.”

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
graystone wrote:
MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
It is the roll being modified by the context of the RP
Its different if its about the actual content instead of how WELL it's stated: IE was it the subjects brought up or how charismatic the PLAYER is? One is 'tactics' and the other is out of character skill... The character can have tactics but can't have the out of character skill.

One can read a translation of Sun Tzu's The Art of War and get a very basic idea for tactics, or even von Clausewitz's work On War.

But that doesn't change the basic fact of a charismatic player finagling things they shouldn't have.

Where this becomes emphasized is in situations like Organized Play, where there are several different styles evident at a table -- in a 'home' campaign it'd be a little bit different, as a party that plays together consistently over time and social dynamics are figured out for the benefit of the group.

Ideally, there'd be no bias.

It's unlikely that there wouldn't be some.

Whether it be a bias towards roleplay I tend to fall into this category, which is why I've been participating in the discussion or a bias towards mechanics which I tend to not fall into, as it ruins my immersion a little bit and can give me a migraine if pushed too hard it is important to bring fairness to the table.

Neither weight overmuch a social individual nor punish them for being social.

Likewise, apply the same dynamic to combat.

There was a quote I was going to put from a basketball coach, but I can't find it... essentially that a perfect game is not one of errors made, but of moves that were not made with no errors...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
graystone wrote:
MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
It is the roll being modified by the context of the RP
Its different if its about the actual content instead of how WELL it's stated: IE was it the subjects brought up or how charismatic the PLAYER is? One is 'tactics' and the other is out of character skill... The character can have tactics but can't have the out of character skill.

And again, I'm totally onboard with saying that the FULL context matters. If someone's RP of an epic speech takes the form of pulling up a youtube link to Aragorn at the Black Gate and says "Like that, only with fewer hobbits", I may well be inclined to reward that. If a player writes a speech, and just hands it to me, sure, that's fine.

If a player does an interpretive dance, hey, maybe? If a player narrates out their character's actions in 3rd person, sure! If a player narrates out their character's actions in 3rd person, but in the style of a Dr. Seuss book, I mean, weird, but okay! Etc. Nobody in the thread that I have seen is saying that ONLY the presentation of the idea matters, just that it is okay that the presentation of the idea is ONE thing that can be rewarded.

The nuance that I think keeps getting lost is that intent matters. I agree that if the GM is saying "I'm giving you a bonus because you talk pretty", that's probably bad, but that painting "I'm giving you an RP bonus because your in-character acting added to the game" with the same brush is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Further, giving someone a reward for a specific personal skill is not automatically excluding people with different skills from the game, because it doesn't follow that rewarding one skill makes me less likely to give an equivalent reward for other skills. It's effort that matters to me, because I believe that by rewarding effort, I end up encouraging better outcomes overall.

This is where I don't understand Irontooth's assertion that giving the +2 bonus out for a bunch of things somehow defeats the purpose - the purpose is to have fun, right? If players find it fun to get the occasional bonus for doing something cool (and in my experience they do), then it manifestly does not defeat the purpose to give it out for multiple cool things.

Now, is it possible that setting the expectation of getting RP bonuses sometimes could make someone feel bad when they don't get one? Sure! But it's also just as possible that setting the expectation that giving out those kinds of bonuses should never happen also makes more gregarious players feel like their unique contributions are not valued, or even not welcome. Does this mean that GMs that don't offer RP rewards hate RP, or that it won't happen at those tables? Of course not, anymore than offering RP bonuses inevitably means that only RP matters and only the talkative players ever get to enjoy the game.

No matter what decision a GM makes, it's always going to be at heart a subjective call, so I don't see the charge of "RP bonuses are subjective" as having any real power. Deciding on no RP bonuses is an equally subjective choice, but it doesn't seem that way to many people because when someone makes a subjective decision that you are comfortable with, or that you are used to, it doesn't feel subjective at all. It just feels "normal".


MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
Now, is it possible that setting the expectation of getting RP bonuses sometimes could make someone feel bad when they don't get one? Sure! But it's also just as possible that setting the expectation that giving out those kinds of bonuses should never happen also makes more gregarious players feel like their unique contributions are not valued, or even not welcome. Does this mean that GMs that don't offer RP rewards hate RP, or that it won't happen at those tables? Of course not, anymore than offering RP bonuses inevitably means that only RP matters and only the talkative players ever get to enjoy the game.

IMO, the person that loves to embellish roleplaying does it because they enjoy doing it: as such, they aren't doing it for the bonus but instead because it's fun. The ONLY way it looks like "their unique contributions are not valued" is if you give them big bonuses for acting ability and then take it away. Otherwise, it's generally enough to have the other players/dm enjoy your performance for your "unique contributions" to be valued.

So from my perspective, the bonuses give rewards to people that really don't need them or expect them and therefore can only serve to dissuade non-gregarious, non-elegant speakers from taking on 'face' characters.


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MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
...

I agree bias will always exist. I disagree on adding more though. You won't get me to budge on that. There's really NOTHING to convince me of here. You aren't going to sway me.

Just because a potential for bias already exists, does not mean it is a good thing to add more. In fact, I think that is a bad thing. If you want to do it, go for it. I can't stop you, nor would I bother trying if I could.

You aren't going to get me to adopt it though, or to say that it is a good thing.


CrystalSeas wrote:


Yeah, part of the argument is the intrusion of real-life skills into character skills via roleplaying. Upstream are examples of characters with low charisma getting things like diplomacy bonuses because the player impresses the GM with their RL talking skills "in character".

Which seems to me to be both bad GMing and bad role-playing, fwiw.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Do we take the athlete and force them not to exercise so they won't make the out of shape feel bad?

No, but if you have an eager nine-year-old playing an Int 18 wizard, and an adult who is obsessed and very experienced with puzzles playing an Int 8 barbarian, as a GM I would see it as essential to rein in the adult if they use their RL skills to jump all over in-game puzzles in ways that are both out of character for their barbarian and getting in the way of the nine-year-old playing to their character's strengths.


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graystone wrote:
IMO, the person that loves to embellish roleplaying does it because they enjoy doing it: as such, they aren't doing it for the bonus but instead because it's fun.

This. This right here is the basis of why I wouldn't give someone a bonus (no matter how small) just because they're eloquent.

Most every role-player that I know does it for fun. What they consider fun can vary wildly from person to person. Some want to play the Face because it's their own personality and they want to play an awesome version of themselves. That player is going to have fun whether I give them a bonus for a good speech or not.
Some want to play the Face because they're really shy, aren't good at speaking, etc, etc, etc but want to play a character that is persuasive, good at talking, etc. I wouldn't punish them because they're playing a character that is the opposite of them. If they plan on having fun playing a very social character why would I ruin their fun by either penalizing them? (And yes, in my opinion giving a bonus to someone due to their out of character skills but not giving someone a bonus because they're socially awkward is penalizing the latter player).

Whether someone wants to improve themselves is up to them.
As a GM it's my responsibility to try to ensure everyone is having a good time.

If an eloquent player is playing a character that is socially awkward but playing them as a Face I'll allow it but I'm not going to give a bonus just because the player is good at talking. And if that player isn't having fun because they failed on something that they didn't make their character very good at then I'd be talking to them about changing their character.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
graystone wrote:
MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
Now, is it possible that setting the expectation of getting RP bonuses sometimes could make someone feel bad when they don't get one? Sure! But it's also just as possible that setting the expectation that giving out those kinds of bonuses should never happen also makes more gregarious players feel like their unique contributions are not valued, or even not welcome. Does this mean that GMs that don't offer RP rewards hate RP, or that it won't happen at those tables? Of course not, anymore than offering RP bonuses inevitably means that only RP matters and only the talkative players ever get to enjoy the game.

IMO, the person that loves to embellish roleplaying does it because they enjoy doing it: as such, they aren't doing it for the bonus but instead because it's fun. The ONLY way it looks like "their unique contributions are not valued" is if you give them big bonuses for acting ability and then take it away. Otherwise, it's generally enough to have the other players/dm enjoy your performance for your "unique contributions" to be valued.

So from my perspective, the bonuses give rewards to people that really don't need them or expect them and therefore can only serve to dissuade non-gregarious, non-elegant speakers from taking on 'face' characters.

As someone who does love to embellish and add that RP flair, I can tell you that in at least some cases, your perspective is wrong. Sure, I enjoy doing it, but that doesn't mean that I don't also appreciate being rewarded for it. The thing that's galling for me is that I can with absolute authority say that players who are good at combat optimization and tactics do that because they enjoy it to, because I do both. Why is it that one aspect of what I enjoy is more deserving of reward than another aspect I also enjoy? I'm not saying that I expect to get a reward every time, as that can get old quick, I know (and you'll note that I pointed out earlier that I'm okay with making a judgement call to cut off people who are trying to hog the spotlight). I'm certainly not saying there is one right level at which to reward RP that is universal - I'm saying that for me the right level is definitely not zero, and I am not unreasonable for feeling that way.

This is my point - your stance is a double standard. Players who enjoy and are good at mechanical optimization are naturally rewarded in the game with greater mechanical success (or at least great chance for success). On the other hand, players who enjoy and are good at the social aspects of the game are not (and should not be) rewarded with any greater chance for mechanical success in your view. You don't see that as biased. I do.

As to the concern that on balance RP bonuses only serve to dissuade some players from playing face characters, I'm sure that in some cases that is true. I'm also 100% certain that is some cases it is not true, since I didn't always feel comfortable RPing, especially with new groups, because I didn't want to intrude or have people feel like I was hogging the spot light. However, playing for a GM who offered a few little RP bonuses to other players signaled to me that it was okay to stretch out a little more, and I did, and I got a reward, and it felt cool, and the rest is history. This doesn't mean that RP bonuses are always the right answer, but I'm pretty sure it does objectively mean that RP bonuses are not always wrong, or always biased. If you don't feel you need RP bonuses, fine! Don't use them! If you don't like them, fine! Don't play with them. If you feel they are (or can be) biased, fine, let your concerns be known. But if you do, you have to be willing to also acknowledge the biases in your own approach, and see that your way is just as biased, just in a different direction.


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I don't like that Pathfinder inherently rewards mechanical knowledge and optimization. It is something I also work to minimize. I consider it a major weakness of the game system.

So no, I don't feel it is a double standard at all.

Besides, for any player at my table who is bad at mechanical optimization, I print them out a class guide to help them make decisions. There are other people on the internet who have done the optimization thinking for them already, so they can just enjoy their character.

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