View Full Version : Roleplaying Playing a character who's smarter than you.

Teapot Salty
2014-04-27, 08:56 PM
Hey guys. So, I was thinking about how playing a Vaarsuvius like character would be, and I though: how could I play a character who is smarter than me? I mean, for the sake of argument, let's say I have 10 int. Playing a character with 12 isn't that bad, simply because I can just act smart and let my checks do the talking. But lets say my character has 20 int. That is vastly smarter than I am, (vastly!) and I don't see how someone who is vastly less intelligent than there character could play/roleplay one properly. If you literally can't THINK on the same level as your character, how can you act as they would? What do you guys think? How would you handle it? And as always, go nuts.

2014-04-27, 09:19 PM
You can do quite a lot by using time to replace reactive intelligence.

Think about the game between sessions. You'll usually have a week or so when your character has often very little time. Think up cool things to do with your abilities and write them down or use something to jog your memory about them when things get tense, and also think about any possible way your abilities might help whatever current mess you are in.

During the game session, an important thing to do to seem tactically savvy is to plan your move while everybody else is playing. Maybe the situation will change enough that you'll have to adapt on the fly, but mostly you can use the time to analyze the situation and try to come up with the single most effective thing you can do. (this is generally good practice anyway, but if my character is impulsive, ditzy, distracted or whatever I might deliberately NOT do that but instead just plan to do something to whatever annoyed me the most in the prior round)

A high intelligence is mechanically represented by many skill points, high skill baselines in int-based skills etc. You can let the "dice do the talking" to some extent with high int in a way that is easier than it often is with a character who is much more socially adept than you are.

You can take a page from more story oriented game systems (Fate, Amber, Apocolypse etc) where you just write stuff into the adventure yourself by asserting them and backing it with the relevant skill, anywhere it isn't actually defined already. Since the GM doesn't have a +15 to Knowledge Architecture and Engineering either, just make something up that sounds cool, back it up with a high skill roll and it'll usually end up about like you hoped.

Finally, this is very important, high intelligence is just that. You're bright, but you don't know everything (that's represented by your total skill bonuses, and no matter how smart you are, you're likely to be a terrible cook without Profession Cook training, or at least some ranks in survival to roast something you catch) and it doesn't always mean you think well under pressure.

I'm a reasonably smart person in real life, so for me the challenge was always the high wisdom characters. On the other hand, that's gotten easier as I've gotten older. Most adventurers are what seem like children to me now (teens/20-somethings) in maturity, so being wiser than average for an adventurer isn't especially challenging.

2014-04-27, 09:31 PM
A couple of anecdotes from campaigns where I had to GM super-intelligent opposition.

Temple of Elemental Evil, 1st edition, had a BBEG early on who had high intelligence, wisdom and charisma who was the "Dark hope" of his patron deity. My solution to him was mostly to play him genre-savvy, with all the tricks he'd pull if he was a PC with a particularly creative group of players. Later on, after most of the top tier leadership of the Temple was killed, the underpriests got desperate enough to communicate directly with a bound god, of supernatural mental stats. Lets just say the defenses got MUCH more creative and nasty. I mostly substituted time and a rather extreme amount of system mastery (I'd played 1st edition off and on for about 15 years at the time) for raw smarts.

In Champions, I had a villain whose power was to shift most of his power between physical stats. So he could get really strong, or really tough, or incredibly charismatic etc...basic right? The very first scene I had him in had him robbing a bank, getting into a tight spot, turning on massive intelligence...and the first thing he thought was "Why the hell am I robbing banks anyway?". He went on to become a Kingpin like supervillain, almost never using his powers for anything but intelligence, working through others, playing factions off against each other and trading information for favors.

Finally, although it isn't really about super intelligence, there was a character inspired by Buckaroo Banzai's "Perfect Tommy" where he questioned some task he was given and Buckaroo says "because you're perfect". and he's like "good point". The most powerful mind controller on the planet gets a nearly unbeatable henchman by walking up to some random yahoo and saying "You're perfect" (in giant dark word balloons backed by all of her power). I've played versions of him both as a villain and a hero, but his thing is that mechanically, he's pretty good at everything, plus he has a small flexible "extra" power that he uses to pull a little extra out...and finally he has unspent character points so he can actually, say, put a point into "fly helicopter" when he needs to. Every time he lived up to his own hype by doing something like that, he became even more irritating as an opponent and more legendary as a friend. It got so that his allies started using it - in one scene he was blinded and deafened and swinging wildly at random (because he couldn't imagine not actually contributing) and the party illusionist made an illusion of his fist hitting...and the opposition believed it because...he's Mr Perfect after all. Of course he can hit you anyway....

A super intelligent D&D character could, with GM permission, not spend some skill points, reserving a pool to spend as needed to suddenly display expertise at something totally unexpected. This is particularly effective with classes that have broad skill lists, such as bards, and is also a way to simulate characters like Elves who have vast years to pick up odd talents. We used to call it the "Codger" pool....most games don't model really old characters very well, and yet have ways to be immortal or very long lived. "Oh yeah, I was a bomber pilot in WWII. Of course I can land this jumbo-jet safely". This could also be expanded to other class traits that are normally locked down, such as wizard spell research and spells known...with GM permission, the super-smart/wise/whatever character anticipated the actual need based on the trend of the adventure, and the player "shows" that forethought by having happened to research/learn just the right spell/feat/skill to save the party from the looming TPK during the last level-up.

The cost you pay for such a pool of unspent potential is of course...less power till you pull the trigger and spend the points. But it tends to come across about how you'd want for the super-genius, prophetic or zen-master type character.