View Full Version : A System with No Charisma

2007-07-03, 07:16 PM
I'm currently adapting a rules-lite system called "Powergame" for a setting I'm working on. It's worth noting this is nothing like D20, so try to forget your preconceptions of the different stats if D20's your main system. In this system characters have eight stats:

Strength: Hitting and causing damage. Lifting and breaking stuff.
Toughness: Taking damage. Resisting poison.
Agility: Dodging, balancing, firing missile weapons, skill with hands.
Speed: Movement speed and reaction time.
Charisma: People Skills.
Intelligence: Learning and Deducing.
Will: Willpower, used against mind-affecting attacks and psychological effects.
Alertness: Spotting and hearing things.

This system and setting will have no hard rules for magic, but magic will not be linked to Intelligence. If anything it's more likely to use Will. Despite learning being in the description, Intelligence also has nothing to do with levelling or learning new skills. Likewise there are no combat/magic mechanics that make use of Charisma. It's purely there for social/leadership situations.

It's my intention for every stat to be useful and there to be no obvious dump stat. Currently it seems to me that Intelligence and Charisma have "dump" written all over them.

With this in mind I'm wondering if you think it's plausible for a system to run with no Intelligence or Charisma stats. Situations requiring these would instead rely on the player. The player would have to convince me (the DM), acting as an NPC, rather than simply rolling a Charisma check to bribe the guard. If the player wants to solve a puzzle he has to do it himself rather than rolling an Intelligence test. Likewise if he wants to roll to see if his character knows something about a surrounding area he will roll against his Knowledge skill in that area. These skills are handled seperately from core Attributes, mostly.

The DM should be able to use common sense in most social situations rather than relying on numbers. If the DM knows that the NPC the player's trying to barter with hates the player's race then simply play the NPC as is appropriate! Likewise for NPCs that are more likely to be friendly to the character. Just be friendly. If the character really feels the need to have something on the character sheet representing his/her charisma it can be noted down as a "Good Thing" in the appropriate section. This will be taken into account by the DM in social situations and can be much more specific than a single number. For example, an incredibly attractive female character might be limited to using her charms on male NPCs of the same race. That minotaur probably isn't going to care how pretty your eyes are. An inspirational general might be able to lead men to their death but is he really going to be able to haggle down that trader's price as well as the fast talking buyer? And what use are the buyer's market skills when he's convincing his army not to run away? There's definitely a strong case for making social skills seperate to attributes.

For more forceful uses of Charisma, such as a character attempting to magically charm another, as per your traditional Vampire, the special ability will have it's own number to use in the Abilities section of the character. This will be tested against the Will of the defender, for obvious reasons.

There are some situations where I feel an Int or Cha test is required, but I suggest that these can be rolled up with Will to create a catch all stat for mental strength and personality. Determination is a name I was toying with but for now let's leave it as Will.

A strong minded character would stand a good chance of intimidating an NPC with words, using his Will score. More blunt methods of intimidation could go down to Strength but I certainly think it can work without Charisma.

Leadership of an army could use Will too. It takes a steady nerve to order your men forward without them hearing a quiver in your voice.

I can't think of any Intelligence tests that couldn't be covered by either direct player input, use of a skill or testing against the player's Will. An example given in the Powergame rules is a professor researching ancient texts all night to find the right piece of information. This is clearly a matter of having the right knowledge and strong determination rather than an innate intelligence.

Thanks a lot for any feedback!

Oh, and if it matters, the setting itself is based on a fusion of superheroes and classical antiquity. The PCs could be similar to the likes of Hercules, Jason and Theseus but pumped up with regards to power or could be more similar to the Hulk, The Flash or Storm if they'd been born a few thousand years earlier.

2007-07-03, 07:54 PM
I think it's perfectly possible, at least with the Charisma. I know that at least one of my DMs sometimes prefers to roleplay interactions rather than use rolls. Other systems don't even have a stat based off of it, but they might have some skills related to social interaction. (Such as GURPS.)

For Intelligence: If they don't have any skills based off of it, and don't get skill 'points' based off of it, I don't see why it shouldn't work.

The only problem I could possibly see is what about people who want to play characters that are smarter than they are? They couldn't, because their own intelligence would be a limiting factor. And people who want to play more charismatic characters might not actually know the proper way to interact with people.

2007-07-03, 08:17 PM
Why not just give everyone a flat, average-like value for their starting Intelligence an Charisma, then let them assign their other stats normally?

2007-07-03, 08:33 PM
Yes! Abolish the standard RPG stats!

Intelligence is based on the assumption that some people can have better mental functions than others based on genes, which is probably completely false. Instead, I think that people simply need practice to perform better with all kinds of learning, whether its mathematics, memorization, or swordplay. It makes absolutely no sense for a group with the same genetic material to have different abilities to reason from birth. Since the whole idea of intelligence is based on IQ, which is based on genetics, its really just a backwords, workaround way of describing how someone's good at something.

Look at professional-level people and you'll see another good point--its very hard for people to study two or more "knowledge" disciplines that would transfer to "intelligence" in DnD. People can be good at math, and then even good at poetry, but after that not usually good at, say, biology. With skillpoints based on "intelligence", it usually just doesn't work. The difference between a race that's more mentally advanced is still there, but there's also this huge difference between people with high "intelligence" and, say, a fighter. There's nothing to say that a fighter's mental facilities could be just as developed as a wizards as long as there's no mind-altering substances involved, the fighter just didn't choose to study magic.

Its similar with Charisma, but there's a less interesting argument. After reaching a certain point of social proficiency, nobody ever gets better in real life. Its just silly to say that, by adventuring or even by practicing, a person can become much more beautiful/social/dragonbloody/etc.

Oh, yeah, and it makes for a more interesting and fresh game system. :smallsmile:

I've been thinking about one of my own for quite some time now.

2007-07-03, 08:36 PM
Intelligence is based on the assumption that some people can have better mental functions than others based on genes, which is probably completely false.

Teach your Dog calculus, then get back to me on that.

2007-07-03, 09:00 PM
Teach your Dog calculus, then get back to me on that.

Notice I said "people". :smallsigh:

A dog has a different set of genes and people are all relatively similar! Gimme one of those starving African kids and I'll teach him Calculus, right after we finish basic math and language (and some extra food). Or even one of those wannabe gangster/player/dude/whatever wrecks.

I'm not saying that it doesn't take time, and that people don't sometimes die before completely understanding things that they want to. I'm just saying that something as silly as "intelligence" doesn't do anything for it.

2007-07-03, 09:17 PM
not to be snarky, but notice you said genetics. :smallbiggrin: As Dirty Harry said, a man's got to no his limitations, and some of those limitations are genetic. The idea that anyone could be Einstein if only they spent the time on it is wrong.

Are there aspects of what we call intelligence that aren't dominated by genes? yes. But at a certain point, and in certain subjects, having "the same basic genetic material, isn't enough. Rather then your dog, go out and teach a orangutang, our closest kin genetically speaking, to do calculus. You'll find it fiedishly difficult. Even the great apes with a facility for language "speak" and read at a relativly meager level by human standards.

Now, I am no eugenicist, nor do I think that great intelligence has some special value over and above any other trait, physical or emotional, in terms of making one person "better" than another person. But, the idea that genetics does not play a roll in determining that characteristic is as incorrect as saying that you DNA has nothing to do with your height. You can feed a person better and they'll grow taller. You can make them stretch and activate certain hormones and they'll grow taller still but, at a certain point, the genes present a barrier.

Sorry for derailing the thread.

2007-07-03, 09:26 PM
I had a system set up in which you needed all three mental stats for casting.

Int was used to determine bonus spells, Wis determines which spells you can learn (Wis-10 being the highest spell level you can cast), and Cha being used for DC's.

Basically, Int was your 'thinkatelligence', how many spells you can pick up. Wisdom was how powerful a spell you could safely handle, and Charisma was the force of personality which focused the spell.

Well, it was a little more complicated. Basically, you were capped to a number of spells per level and total number of spells known (sorcerer-like) based on a formula which uses Int, which he could then cast spontaniously.

The formula for highest level spell known was a little more complicated than wis-10, basically requiring a 12 for 1st level spells and ending with 18 for 9th level spells.

The DC system is as is

2007-07-03, 09:28 PM
Think about the catgirls! :smallcool:

Sure, I find your system interesting. Been devising something similar over here...


2007-07-04, 05:24 AM
Thanks for the feedback, guys. Nice to hear there's some support for a system like this!

With regards to a player wanting to make a character smarter than they are, I think that's perfectly doable in this system. If we're talking raw problem solving intelligence then there's a "good thing" (I guess GTs are similar to feats) that gives him a chance of gaining insight into a situation where Intelligence would be used. So roll using this number against the difficulty of the situation and on a success you can give the player a nudge in the right direction, via a clue, as the Character has a sudden breakthrough.

I guess this would work for a relative dunce like me or you playing a Sherlock Holmes type character who always seems to come to the right conclusion.

Forgot to mention this in the first post but the system itself is up for free download here (http://www.uta.fi/~trmika/gameindex.html). Be aware it's a very open system that relies upon the DM knowing when to put his foot down.