Saturday, February 12, 2022

An Aside re: Charisma

From Chivalry & Sorcery (1977), p. 6:


Charisma is the ability of a character to arouse popular loyalty and enthusiasm by the force of his own personality and reflects his ability to command men in battle. It is a natural talent growing out of other characteristics. To find a character's basic Charisma, add his Intelligence, Wisdom, Appearance, Bardic Voice, and Dexterity scores, and divide the total by 5. If he is over 6 feet tall, add 1 point. Add all bonuses to the total.

From RuneQuest (1978), p. 12:

Charisma is a nebulous quality, and increasing or decreasing it is often up to the referee's whimsy. However, the following instances can have some effect:

a. Each 25% skill with Oratory learned increases a character's CHA by 1 point. Maximum of 4 points.

b. Each 25% increase in the use of one's main weapon (after 50%) adds 1 point. No limit to points.

c. Possession of good, showy, magical objects raises CHA by 1 point. Just 1 point is gained here. It does not matter if the character has just one or one hundred showy items.

d. Successful leadership of an expedition (i.e., the loss/gain ratio is satisfactory) can add a point to the character's CHA. A character may roll his CHA as a percent or lower for a gain, or the Referee may have some other criterion.

e. Unsuccessful leadership can lose CHA. A really disastrous expedition can cause the leader to have to make his CHA as a percentage or lose 1 to 3 CHA points. 


  1. When I remove mental stats in a game I have two ways to go: either refer to the player's own wits and charisma, or break down the stats into different skills (like Alertness, Lore, Science, Oratory, Fast Talk, Etiquette).
    But here it looks like you are hinting at a Reputation system for Charisma.
    I've seen it used mostly in Western, Supererò, Cyberpunk or Japanese-themed games.

    1. The RQ approach definitely feels more like a Reputation mechanic, since it'll be changing pretty regularly. It's amusing that someone who wants to game the system will likely want to avoid leadership roles. Apparently all the blame for a disastrous quest falls on the boss, not the stumblebums they've got with them. Shame the real world doesn't work that way, we'd have a lot fewer Peters in charge of things.

  2. Social stats and mechanics always feel a bit odd. These situations are much more fun to play out without dice, yet players want to invest in them and have it reflected on their character sheet. Regardless, the above two examples are wayyyyy too prescriptive for what should be a matter of "the DM decides when your stat increases or decreases."

  3. I think you absolutely need one or more stats/talents/skills to represent social ability and stature, for the same reason you need stats to represent your capacity to lift things or fire an arrow. Any time a player wants to manipulate their environment in some way that brings them into conflict with an NPC or other obstacle there is some chance of failure that depends in part on the character's strengths and weaknesses. If you resolve those chances only by DM fiat, based on the player's description of their actions, you remove a lot of the dramatic tension from play and create weird miss-matches between the character's traits and what the player gets them to accomplish. The main problem, in my mind, is that people don't use social stats/talents effectively because few games provide clear guidance as to how to do so. Every rpg specifies how your ST relates to your ability to fight people. Very few specify, in a useful way, how your CHA or status relates to your ability to influence or control people.

    1. I agree pretty completely. The point I'd add is that a problem with the idea of role-playing out social encounters is that a player might want to play somebody who is better at social encounters than they are: just like my ability to swing a sword when I'm playing a mighty-thewed warrior shouldn't depend on my ability to swing a similar sword in real life, my ability to sweet-talk the gold out of the king's treasury with his sincerest thanks for taking it when I'm playing a smooth-operating swindler shouldn't depend on my being so silver-tongued in person.

      But games rarely provide direction, and sometimes the direction that is there is confused and contradicting. Call of Cthulhu comes to mind as a game, for example, that has multiple skills for talking one's way into or out of a situation--in the current edition it's Fast Talk and Persuade, with occasional options/opportunities suggested for substituting Credit Rating and/or Psychology--with little guidance as to what the difference is between Fast Talk and Persuade (which is sad since it seems apparent from the game's context that Fast Talk was originally meant to capture the kind of patter you find in 30's books and movies like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and The Thin Man, but no one seems to have seen those movies or read those books anymore, which is a shame, so now younger players seem to treat it as if it's a redundant Persuade Lite; but I digress).

  4. Fascinating. Charisma all too often gets ignored or is used as a dump stat but becomes crucial (along with whatever you are using for an Orate skill) whenever you deal with henchmen or any faction beyond your PCs' backyard.

    I've been using the RQ system since 1978 and I've found it necessary to use a separate stat for appearance. Charisma and Appearance can affect each other but are not the same thing.

  5. I think En Garde!, and one of the games it influenced, Flashing Blades, are a couple of the only ones ever written that really treat social status, relationships and actions as core parts of roleplaying, with their own structured mechanics. You often hear people talk about how impossible it is to wrap rules around social behaviors and interactions; if you are one of those, these games will change your mind.

  6. The RQ quote is the best, clearest description of the concept of charisma I've ever seen.