Friday, December 1, 2017

Charisma ... is it Comeliness, Fame, or Both?

... or something else entirely?

I actually dislike the idea that Charisma represents "Comeliness" or physical beauty, and that is explicitly not what it is in my game. I've had this discussion a couple times at the table to address the assumption that Charisma =/= beauty, but of course it always crops up here and there in offhand assumptions. Not that beauty doesn't play into Charisma, but it is neither necessary or sufficient for high Charisma.

My basic take on Charisma is that it is "charm." Handsome people of course have a natural kind of charm--but it's not difficult to imagine a beautiful person who is so awkward and difficult to get along with that their Charisma actually comes off as "average" right? Likewise, is it difficult to consider a person who would not be considered generically beautiful, and yet when they speak, people are magnetically attracted to their sense of humor, of comedic timing, or just sheer energy? (Hence the table-conversations, pointing out that high Charisma is not just beauty, low Charisma not just ugliness).

(I recently found The Hall of Blue Illumination, a podcast about the setting/game Tekumel/Empire of the Petal Throne, and on Episode 6, around the 16:20 mark, is a discussion of Comeliness in the rules. ... Now, apparently, according to Victor J. Raymond, Comeliness (replacing Charisma in Empire of the Petal Throne) was not original to the rules; and M.A.R Barker, the game creator, did not think that Charisma should be a character abstraction, but should be an outgrowth of actual play; but that Comeliness, as a physical measure of beauty, was an objective thing that a character could possess regardless of the player, like Strength or Constitution. There's something to this as an explanation of the stat ... and I really enjoyed the discussion on the podcast about what Comeliness could do for a game, i.e. slavers or priests hunting for an exceptionally beautiful character ... but for my B/X game I think I still prefer Charisma as something less concrete than mere physical beauty).

Some years ago, I found a post somewhere in the OSR blogosphere (alas, I have no idea where I found it, and I can't give credit where it's due!) discussing Charisma as a measure of fame or reputation. The post suggested that perhaps Charisma should be malleable according to success or failure on dungeon expeditions, to represent Charisma as fame rather than personal charm. I took this and ran with it; so for several years, characters that ran through my dungeons gained 1 point of Charisma (max 18) for every successful expedition (no character deaths, big haul), lost 1 point of Charisma (min 3) for every failure (no wealth, several character deaths), or no change for a wash (good haul and several deaths, or no deaths but no haul). This counted only for "lead" characters--henchmen didn't gain or lose charisma.

I like this rule because it represents well what I think of Charisma, but it has ultimately flattened a part of the game--whenever I turn to certain "old-hand" characters these days to ask for Charisma, I get the same answer: "18". Furthermore, I haven't been using this rule at all in the Greyhame Game ... and that's actually why I'm posting this, because I had a question from one of my old-hand players as to whether I would boost certain recent good hauls with higher Charisma? He offered a suggestion to look at it as fame or renown, a something separate from the attribute as Charisma, and I thought I'd hash something out here.


Local Reputation (as local as your referee wants it, be it per bar, per neighborhood, per town, per region, etc.)--roll only for the "captain" of the expedition, if any was elected; otherwise, roll once for one random character who participated

Returning from a Successful Expedition (no character deaths && good haul):
1 - reactions +1 (+4 max)
2 - retainer morale +1 (11 max)
3 - no. retainers +1
4 - basic equipment costs -5% (-50% max)
5 - major services cost -10% (e.g. hiring sages or armorers ... -25% max)
6 - owed one favor (referee discretion, not "worth" more than 1000 gp)
7 - infatuation (someone in town falls for you, for good or ill)
8 - gain attention of Thieves' Guild (referee discretion!)
9 - debt forgiven (1000-6000 gp; OR reactions +1 if no debt owed)
10 - attentions of a patron (referee discretion, but it should be positive)
11 - awesome parties (x2 xp from carousing)
12 - life of the party (x2 gp cost for carousing)

Returning from a Failed Expedition (1+ character deaths && poor or worse haul of loot):
1 - reactions -1 (-4 min)
2 - retainer morale -1 (4 min)
3 - no. retainers -1 (0 min)
4 - basic equipment costs +5% (+50% max)
5 - major services cost +10% (+25% max)
6 - evil reputation (would-be hirelings must roll "accept" twice before taking on with you)
7 - disinterest (someone who was interested in you moves on / you get snubbed in some way)
8 - lose attention of Thieves' Guild / gain attention of loan shark
9 - debt exacerbated--pay now, or owe an extra 50%, and if you don't pay up soon, to jail with you! (if no debt, -1 reactions)
10 - lose patron (if you don't have a patron, gain a bad reputation, e.g. patrons think twice before taking you on as a client)
11 - shunned (1/2 xp from carousing)
12 - ostracized (can't carouse at all!)

This is a rough draft, of course. Is granting it to just the captain too limited? Do d12 rolls offer too many options? Is adding yet another thing to the game too complicating (I would hope that d12 rolls granting 1 addition to a character sheet is better than coming up with some new score to keep track of ... but I don't know.)

Anyway, I'll likely try this out the next Greyhame Game in some way

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