Saturday, 14 January 2017

This Charming Mammoth (and Social/Mental Mechanics)

I've talked about my reasoning behind trying Charm in place of Willpower.

Essentially it strengthens the idea that Ability Scores generally have two uses in Into the Odd.

  1. Rolled against when you make a Save due to a risky situation.
  2. Whittled away as a resource when you take serious harm in that area.

(At some point I need to write about how point 2 fits in with DEX. It's not a problem, but it has some interesting implications)

1a. Charm Saves for Players

So my previous post talked a little about point 1, how you roll against your CHA. The key word to remember there is Risk. I'm not necessarily having players roll CHA as soon as they encounter another being, but if you attempt an uncertain interaction, that's when you roll. This could range from:

  • Asking a favour of someone who's friendly.
  • Calming down somebody who's hostile.
  • Trying to get somebody to spill some information without feeling strong-armed.
  • Convince somebody you're telling the truth.
And as with all Saves, smart play and obvious situations can bypass the need for a roll. 

Without a roll, but not without consequences. 
  • Throwing meat to alligators or paying a massive bribe? No roll, but you expend the resource and it's only a temporary fix.
  • Intimidating someone clearly weaker than you? They'll do what you want but now they're not going to avoid you, or maybe try to get you back.
  • Cashing in a favour from somebody you have a close relationship with? Fine, but they'll expect the same from you in future. 
1b Charm Saves for NPCs and Monsters

For allies, CHA can be used in a similar way to PCs. You send that lacky off to deal with a contact and they make a CHA Save to see if they get what they need without leaving a bad impression.

The most obvious use for opposing NPCs and monsters is for leaders trying to prevent a Morale failure amongst their troops. But while Charm is everything you project outwards, this in itself requires control over your subconscious. A lack of Charm reflects a focus on base needs, someone easily dominated by others and their own urges. 
So what about that individual monster with CHA 1. What does it matter that this Slime Thing is totally without Charm?


If the Slime Thing is hurt, and I know it's a mindless thing that will always fight to the death, I'm probably never going to roll its CHA. 

But consider the humanoid Slime Hybrids that lost half of their Charm as part of their transformation. The former humans might have CHA 5, which can be rolled against when there's a risk of their human side showing through (such as running from harm, or refusing to absorb those orphans). 

Or on the other side of the coin, a Cosmic Angel with CHA 17 might have a secret Vice that they must roll a CHA Save to avoid indulging in, given the opportunity. 

So rather than rolling WIL to see if the monster of NPC does the smart thing, I'd roll CHA to see if they have the composure to act against their base urges, which will vary based on the type of being they are. 

Can a Monster force you to roll a CHA Save to avoid some nasty effect? Absolutely! 

Can it roll against its own CHA to convince you of something? No, and I'm sure the reasons for that are obvious. It creates some asymmetry between PCs and NPCs but it's not a problem.

2. Charm Damage

Now what about Point 2. WIL Damage represented sanity-sapping stuff, but what does it mean to lose your Charm?


You become more detached. Those that depend on you for leadership become less sure of you. You turn inward more and more until at Charm 0 you can't interact with the outside world at all.

You Restore your Charm through psychiatric therapy, spiritual meditation, or heavy carousing.

Things that drain your Charm are sapping away at everything that makes you you.

Using CHA isn't as straightforward as using STR and DEX, but it's an opportunity to get creative with the behaviour of your monsters and NPCs. 

Conceptualising Charm

As an aside, I previously toyed with the names Modernity and Civility for the social/mental Ability Score. Thematic, but doesn't work so well in practice. Still, an element of that flavour remains. The big movers and shakers in Bastion usually have higher CHA scores, and animals usually have low scores. 

Charm and Oddities

In my own games, the reliance of Arcana/Oddities on WIL/CHA is gone. The fact that these are the only two names I've changed from the book probably shows my lingering dissatisfaction with that part of the game.

Now everyone can have Oddities. They're more likely to be disposable, or specific in use, though you might still find the occasional super-flexible item that becomes one of your go-to solutions, as long as there's an additional trade off to its use.

Less mentally bending the Oddity to do what you want. More using problem solving to create situations where your Oddities can help you. It puts more weight on your decisions than whether or not you can convince the Referee to let you make a WIL Save to have your Arcanum to solve the problem.

Might some Oddities still drain your CHA away as a trade off? Yes! But there's nothing stopping them draining away your other scores too.

This Charming Mammoth

That's a lot of theory. So let's finally get to the post title.

Mr Ears - Mock Mammoth Bartender
STR 18, DEX 5, CHA 18, 5hp, Massive Furry Body (Armour 3, bypassed by Fire), Wooden Tusks (d8), Threadbare Suit, Warm Fuzzy Voice.

  • Runs the bar at the Apocryphal Specimen Museum containing the remains of animals that probably didn't ever exist. 
  • Offers to cradle you in his trunk while you pour your heart out to him (two drink minimum). An hour of doing this restores your CHA but Mr Ears knows your secrets now. 
  • Knows every drink recipe but has a super clumsy trunk, so requires a DEX Save to avoid spilling even the most basic thing. Is utterly ashamed when he spills something.

2 comments:

  1. This might be the Final Fantasy talking, but what about "Mind" as a stat name?

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  2. I really like the idea of WIL describing a sort of innate mental toughness (which can be a big part of what makes someone charismatic), and I liked that social situations are mostly resolved by the referee's judgement, without dice rolls. It seems like it keeps the spotlight on player skill (much like not having an Intelligence score to roll against when you need a clue or a good idea--it's up to the player to provide the smarts, not their character sheet).

    So like a character can be very (Wil)lful, and depending on the player, that could be played as wise, stoic charisma, or as unpleasant, grouchy stubborness. I think charm and affability are overrated as leadership qualities (why should the flattering and attractive socialite be better at leading men into harm's way than the gruff sergeant?)

    TL;DR, I'd be somewhat concerned that CHA would play too much like D&D 3.5's diplomacy skill, and cut out interesting gameplay, with the added result that a player who has a way with words is stymied by playing a character who's obliged to be a bit of a clod. WIL seems more like the quality that can't be represented with roleplay, and thus needs to be represented mechanically.

    Anyways, thanks for the excellent blog. Stumbled upon it last week and I'm now positively smitten with Into the Odd.

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