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June 6, 2011 1:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I role-play a high Charisma score?

I'm playing Dungeons And Dragons 3.0 Edition. I've played several characters before and I like making them unique and special. My priest I played his high Wisdom as being very levelheaded and sensible but a bit stubborn. I played my barbarian with a low intelligence as not a moron, but just a bit slow on the uptake and tending to take things very literally. Now I am going to play a bard with a high charisma. My idea is that he is not all that good-looking but is just likeable and charming. The thing is, I've never been what you'd call a charismatic guy. How do I play a character that people will like, when they don't particularly like me myself?
posted by Pastor of Muppets to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Be very outgoing with other PCs and the DM's NPCs.
Listen to what they want and even help them get it, especially if doing so can also help further the goals of you and your party. The degree to which this is an honest effort to help people or just manipulation to further your own interests will, of course, depend on your alignment.

A charismatic character like a bard can be a great leader in D&D because this can open up plot hooks as well as alliances for the party.

Charisma in the game (as in life?) is a strong sense of self that attracts others, so having your character be confident is probably another good place to start. If they're a bard maybe they tell stories and ask to hear the stories of those they meet?
posted by Muttoneer at 2:26 AM on June 6, 2011

What I would do, is not aim to be likeable . It will be VERY hard to roleplay to be actually a genuinely, likeable, cool kind of guy (fantasty or otherwise) So what I tend to do with high-charisma characters is basically to be rediculously smarmy and cheesey "with the ladies".

So lots of super cheesey grins, speaking to all the female chars, and basically flirting with everybody (gents included, but less sexualy, unless your guy is into that).

Give you an example: Role playing a high strength char is plenty of "UG SMASH! RRAAAR" " TAKE MY MALLET INTO YOU YOU SCOUNDREL! HooOOAAR!" etc. But "High strength" has relatively very little bearing to your approach to people, simply it is the fact that you can lift more weight than the next guy. But the archetypeal character of high strength is dumb and loves hitting. Same thing with your charisma guy. The truth of the matter is someone with high char is someone that "gets on" with people. But, the good thing about roleplay is that it is strictly (and thankfully) NOT real life. So to get the most out of a character, you would take everything to the obvious, and fun extreme and be a hopeless romantic and desperataley cheesey slick-backed hair, rose-in-mouth, lover sort. Also a spanish accent. Homework: learn some non-religious Lyric Poetry , a good place to start is checking out Christine de Pizan

"It is more fun to get yourself in trouble with the barmaids brutish husband, for inviting her to your chambers than it is to smile and be friends with villagers.

p.s. great question and sorry if I come across as rambling :)
posted by Cogentesque at 2:35 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some characters with high charisma:
The recent incarnations of Dr.Who
David Bowie
Tammy Fay Baker

You say that you are not particularly charismatic, but you have seen characters like these being exceptionally charismatic. Imitate what you must until the character becomes your own and have fun.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:42 AM on June 6, 2011

As others have noted, high charisma can mean lots of things. In terms of the character you want to play... "Likeable" and "charming" are quite different concepts, I think, and not equally easy to roleplay. Likeable is comparatively easy, especially since you're usually roleplaying in the company of players that like you. Remember that you're not trying to be liked by everyone; you're playing a character that is supposed to be liked by other characters that are created by players that like you. This matters, since it means the other players and the DM are willing to extend more courtesy to you in this respect than people will in real life. After all, they care about the game as much as you do.

Moreover, some of the principles to being liked are pretty well documented: e.g., try to be interested in and respectful of the opinions and beliefs of other characters, even those people that aren't "important" (i.e., NPCs). Laugh at other people's jokes (but don't be too obvious), engage with their ideas (even the stupid ones) to a certain extent. Don't be trite though - when another PC/NPC opens a door conversationally to discuss a controversial topic, it's okay to disagree and to have strong opinions. The trick to playing a likeable but not tediously agreeable character is (in my view) much like the trick of being likeable in real life: to keep clear in your mind the distinction between respecting someone's views and representing your own. Naturally, the serious side to the character that follows those principles ought to be supplemented with a sense of humour, though there's a fair amount of flexibility about how you do it; as long as said humour isn't unnecessarily cutting or belittling of others.

Charming, on the other hand, is tricky. Consider how it works in real life: if you trawl through comment threads on almost any online forum (esp. in the context of talking about characters on TV), it's pretty clear that unless you're supremely skilled at matching your approach to the person you're trying to "charm", you're screwed. One persons "charmer" is another's "arsehole". And generally, as far as I can tell, in real life anyone who goes too strong on the charm offensive with respect to one group of people will tend to piss off a lot more people in the process of doing so.

So, in the context of wanting to be "likeable and charming", you're in a bit of a bind... if you go too hard on "charm" (in whatever way you do this) you're likely to end up with a character that ends up cheesy and smarmy (or some other failure), and a lot of NPCs will probably try to beat the crap out of you (depending on what kind of DM you've got). For my money, if the goal is to be both "likeable and charming", I think the right approach is to soft-pedal the charm. That is, dial up the humour a little more than you might if you were aiming solely for likeable, and aim for humour that ever so slightly compliments the listener's competences. A little self-deprecation in the joke, in particular, doesn't hurt. Basically, the charm ought to be aiming for "endearing", and - if you're lucky - the kind of thing that might make a shy listener blush, or at least feel a little embarrassed about the esteem in which your subtly sly remarks imply that you hold them. Almost any other form of charm is likely to piss off too many people to allow you to also be "likeable".

As for actual concrete methods for achieving that balance... well, if I knew how to describe or produce those perfectly I'd have written a self-help book years ago.
posted by mixing at 4:05 AM on June 6, 2011

For starters, your GM should be smart enough to know that the stats on a character sheet are supposed to aid RP. You may not be a social butterfly, but your character is, so he should be willing to let minor slips go.

The easiest way to RP a charismatic person is to treat people with respect. Oh, don't worry, you can still call them an asshole (to quote my 14 Charisma Barbarian, 'You may be a princess, but I swear if you keep acting like a spoiled brat you are going to make this a lot more difficult than it has to be') as long as there's a purpose to it. And even a high-Charisma character can still drop an F-bomb or two; in your case, though, you'd maybe be more of a 'fire for effect' profanity-user than lacing each sentence with every four-letter word known to mankind.

And feel free to ask that NPC you're talking to questions. Ask the shopkeeper how his business is doing, comment on one of his handmade wares. Try to be the voice of reason in an argument. Generally be A Nice Guy. You'd be surprised at how much someone's opinion of you can change just by treating them with respect.
posted by Heretical at 4:26 AM on June 6, 2011

Start every sentence (at least in your mind) with, "Hey there," or some other car-salesman-esque sort of thing. Think Herb Tarlek.

Use character's names a lot. "Smashing the door is a great idea, Thag the Door-Smasher, but so is picking the lock, like Creepy McLockpicker over there says."

Whenever you so something, shoot your cuffs or flick lint off your collar or perform some similar affectation that seems like a "cool" thing to do.

You know what being cool is? It's half being comfortable in your own skin, and it's half other people thinking you're cool. Get the rest of your party to accept that your bard is a cool guy (and don't be afraid to remind the other players, "Hey, you wouldn't get mad at that, because my guy is cool, remember"), and you're halfway there.
posted by Etrigan at 5:10 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

I like Etrigan's points a lot. A combination of over the top cuff-shooting and reminding characters (personally or through your DM) that their characters like your character sounds like a cool way to do it. You're not asking "how do I raise my charisma in real life?", but "how should I roleplay a high charisma number?", and I think that's totally the way to do it. Also, thanks to Etrigan for naming my next thief.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:33 AM on June 6, 2011

Just look for the opportunities, and let the DM handle things.

You don't really need to "role play" as much as get your character doing the things that his charisma gives an advantage to.

DM: "you are in a tavern, blah blah blah..."
You: "I try to chat up the barkeep, get him to open up about interesting gossip"

DM: "You see the castle charwoman walking towards the back entrance. She's the one you were flirting with last night"
You: "I try to talk her into letting me follow her in."

etc etc
posted by Meatbomb at 7:41 AM on June 6, 2011

As per Etrigan, you want to be reminding the DM (and other players) all the time about how to react to you - but not literarily!

That's what makes the "car salesman" idea so good - or any sort of character who talks a lot - because people will work out very quickly that when you're talking a lot, it's working. Just find a style in which you can keep up a monologue, and use that as "how he speaks", and everyone else will account for the 'but somehow it works'.

My favourite high-char character spoke almost entirely in made-up and incomprehensible and somehow threatening metaphors - he'd touch people's faces and empathize unexpected bits of his sentences and it just because very natural for everyone else to play cowed and bamboozled and somehow end up giving him what he wanted out of sheer confusion at not knowing what he was actually on about. That's not necessarily right for a bard, but the idea stands - just find a role in which you can be a whole lot of person, and any well-DMed world will love you in it.
posted by piato at 8:08 AM on June 6, 2011

1. Talk to your DM about what "Charisma" means.

For me? I judge Charisma to mean, "The ability to influence people to do what you want" more than being liked. In this case, an abusive asshole might have a high Charisma, even though no one likes him, while the nice guy never gets his way. (I use this definition because it neatly resolves that whole, "But what about horrible looking monsters with high Charisma?" and, "But it aids Intimidation?" and "What about negative Charisma?" kind of stuff).

2. Ask your DM what assumptions you can make based on that definition!

Maybe your DM will be cool with you always knowing someone in the major cities. "Oh, let's stay at this Inn - one of my old friends took over 5 years ago, it'll be good to catch up. Plus he'll give us a discount!"

Maybe it means what you say, gets more weight in a conversation. "Then the King looks to you, and asks, 'What is your view on this, Master Grunwald?' You get the feeling you're casting the tiebreaker vote, here."

Maybe it means you become famous before the other characters:
"Oh, you're the Legendary Dragon Slayer! And this must be your band of heroes!"
"No, no, Kinsald is the head of this merry band! I just come along for the stories!"
"Don't be so modest! Come, come! We've got food and drink for you! What an honor!"

3. Pick a model

Pick a single character or celebrity with charisma as a baseline idea. Play off it a bit, obviously. "What would Person X be like, if they were 18 and just starting to venture out in a world of magic and monsters?" "What would Person X be like, if they were a little less depressed about things in life?" etc.

Within in a few sessions, Person X will become more distant, as a root, and who your character actually is will start to take over.

Don't copy Person X's accent/speaking manner, if you do, though, because then it just becomes an impersonation. Think about how they approach things (directly? coy? erudite? snarky?) and apply that.
posted by yeloson at 8:57 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

In D20 Modern, at least, I use charisma almost like psi or force power or something—just a mental aura that subtly bends situations and others' desires to my will. If I ask for entrance to a random building, I'm more likely to get it. If I ask for money from a random person on the street, they'll probably give it to me. I can wave my hand and tell anyone "These aren't the droids you're looking for." I can ask anyone for anything—including intangibles, like that people do what I say or give audience to my ideas and schemes—and be much more likely to get it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:17 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

3rd ed. D&D interprets Charisma as being force of will and sense of presence. Both Emperor Palpatine and Han Solo would have high Charisma scores, for example. So a high-Charisma character need not necessarily be talking all the time or constantly interjecting their opinion, but they would ideally be a strong presence such that it's impossible to ignore that they're in the room. Social situations orient around such a character, as other people unconsciously react to that person's aura (either positively or negatively, but always strongly).

So there's a couple things you can do. As yeloson says well, talking to your DM about keeping your high stats in mind when in social situations can do a lot of work for you, just by virtue of NPCs either addressing your character more often or speaking to the other characters with your character's favor in mind. You want to be an affable presence, so maybe your DM will weight your casual comments accordingly: a lot of being likeable is in how others react to your likeability, so to speak.

Innkeeper: "I'm afraid we only have a few rooms, good sir, none meeting the high standards of one such as yourself."
You: "That's quite all right, we'll be happy for any hospitality you can provide."
Innkeeper: "Ah! The stories of your graciousness are not overtold!"

Or, you know, something like that. Basically, your DM can help you seem more likeable than you feel, just by reacting to you in a likeable way.

As for things you can do yourself: be deferent and gracious, not too much but just enough so that it seems that your character rolls with the punches, has a smile on his face, meets the world with equanimity. He's a pleasure to be around in good times and a source of good spirit in bad, self-deprecating at a feast in his honor and rallying the team during the dragon fight. He doesn't take anything too seriously but is always willing to listen to a friend, and so he's the kind of friend anyone would want to have.
posted by Errant at 12:25 PM on June 6, 2011

I've had similar problems, since I'm also not the most charismatic guy and I'm called on to roleplay high charisma characters every once in a while.

One thing I've experimented with that works well is making and holding eye contact, and not fiddling. If you think about how "force of personality" works, it's kind an intense concentration on whatever the person is engaged with, especially other people.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:06 PM on June 6, 2011

'He's the strong, silent type.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:28 PM on June 6, 2011

Okay, so I've been playing a high CHA rogue for a long time now (once the DM let me take the leadership feat we got me the stuff to bring me up to CHA 22.) He's a Halfling Pirate Captain with a large crew. Charisma is important.

Now, I'm a fairly charismatic guy, but I understand your situation. There's a woman in our group who ALWAYS makes high charisma characters, regardless of whether CHA is a useful stat, despite the fact that, while I think she's pretty awesome, she gets very little headway with the rest of the people around the table. So she ends up with bad builds and the RPing doesn't work how she wants it to. Now, with a Bard, you've got a good reason for high CHA. Moreover, the group expects you to use it, and so you can expect a bit of leeway. There are two options I can see here to make this easier for yourself.

1. It's likely that there is, within your group of friends, someone who is both not at the table and is also kind of notoriously cheesy in his ladies-man theatrics. If you can think of such a person, and keep it good-hearted, make your bard a parody of him. Make it so that your group is amused when "Shawn" or whoever comes out of your mouth when voicing this character.

2. Another great choice is to simply play your alignment to the fucking hilt. CHA doesn't mean that you are likable. It means that your voice is heard. This might be frustrating to your other players. I don't know. But your character can force the issue, and that's what you care about. When my campaign first started years ago, there was a LN Monk in the otherwise Chaotic party, and we ALWAYS ended up doing things his way, because he would force it that way. Now, that wasn't good roleplaying in that instance, but it's good advice to remember that a high CHA character will not give into an opposing alignment easily. That said, it's an easier trait to play as a dissenter than a leader, in actuality, because then your flights of fancy don't have real consequences on the rest of the party.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:15 PM on August 23, 2011

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