I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fixing the Charisma problem

Charisma as a dump stat? No way! I'm talking old school D&D here - Charisma is TOO powerful, if anything.

But let's start from the beginning...

Yes, I'm still rewriting Moldvay Basic, one page at a time (and I hope you like that because there will be a few extra posts in the same vein before I finish...).

One things that retro-clones often do when rewriting Moldvay is "unifying" the Charisma 18 to +3 instead of +2 to get it in line with Strength, Intelligence, Constitution, etc. 

This is usually a bad idea, because Charisma is too important in Basic.

If you have a +3 bonus to add to reaction tables, you will seldom, if ever, encounter a hostile monster (less than 3% chance), and almost ALL your offers will be accepted by hirelings (well, you can always offer them LESS money to get a chance of failure, which is a good idea). But, basically, a +3 bonus wrecks the typical 2d6 table (below). In fact, even a +1 bonus to a 2d6 table can often destroy some interesting possibilites. Immediate attack can be fun from time to time!


2Immediate attack


6-8Uncertain, confused

9-11No attack, monster leaves

12Enthusiastic friendship

Not to mention retainers, or the fact that while some abilities may seem useless for some classes, Charisma can be useful for everybody. Always nice to have a few more fighters by your side!

But I kinda like "unified" stuff lately, and even big ability bonuses - as long as it works. How to fix this?

My current solution to this is that PC modifiers apply ONLY to d20 stuff (with the exception of weapon damage): attacks, AC, saving throws, etc. This allows me to use bigger modifiers (up to +5 for Strength 20, for example) while still leaving chance for failure (I'm currently using d20 skills).

2d6 tables are DM's tools: they define NPC reaction, weather, etc., but suffer no influence from PCs' stats.

What PCs can do is use their own actions (roleplaying) and (d20) skills to improve the results of the DM's roll. Thus, a Paladin with Charisma 18 (+3) and Persuasion +5 rolls 1d20, with a +8 bonus and a DC of 15 (for example), to turn a hostile creature uncertain, or to make and uncertain retainer accept an offer.

A similar check allows a warlord to rally the troops after they fail a morale check (I make retainers check morale once per combat, unlike Moldvay).

This is a nice way to use 2d6 tables in 5e without changing the system; use them as DM's tools.


  1. Greetings, first post here.

    Here’s a thought: how about using 3d6 tables, with ample intervals for each type of reaction?

    I understand it will flatten the distribution curve, but it might be able to withstand the hefty +3/+4 mods that a 5e char usually bandies around.

    Also, as someone who has had very limited contact with the older editions, a question prompts itself: who exactly modifies the reaction roll? The party "leader"? The character taking the point/closest to the creature? Whoever has the highest modifier?

    1. I tried 3d6 tables; they might work. Lately, I've been trying to use "unified" mechanics, so I try to minimize the number of different rolls I use. So far, I've been using a d20 roll for all skill checks; 3d6 is better in many ways, but 1d20 is more "archetypal D&D", it seems, and I'm enjoying it.

      About "whose charisma is it", I think the best answer (both for Moldvay, IMO, and me) is "the character doing the talking".

    2. Thanks for the comment BTW! And welcome to the blog!

  2. Going to make an assumption that since you're using DC/skill checks, you're NOT using 1-minute combat rounds.

    Since the initial reaction roll of an encounter is an instantaneous first impression, you're right that you don't want to directly apply any Charisma modifiers to that roll.

    However, rather than a Persuasion skill check to directly modify the reaction state up or down, allow roleplaying to permit further reaction rolls, up to the limit of the leader's Charisma.

    That is, if everyone has Cha dumped, the reaction roll is the reaction roll. Better leaders will parley, and may talk their way into further chances. Persuasion checks would be for specific favors, besides "don't attack us".

    Also, these discussions take precious time...

    1. Your assumption is right! I do mention in my clone that players might prefer giving up the initiative/surprise in order to allow a parley.

      Allowing further reaction roll is a decent idea.

      I do agree that role-playing is often better than rolling Charisma, but I want to find some balance in there; even OD&D mentions a character's charisma will affect monsters' attitudes.


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