Ben Robbins updates blog ars ludi to present and idea called the virtual roll. It’s a good example of two things. One, an innovative yet straightforward solution to an existing issue, and two, how difficult it can be to write concisely.
The “virtual roll” is a simple and straightforward answer to the problem presented by mixing roleplaying with the Bluff and Diplomacy skills: Allowing roleplaying to replace the skills makes them worthless, and merely giving a numerical bonus for an excellent bluff or argument still allows a player to fumble the roll and fail regardless. If you simply grant large bonus, say, +10, a natural 20 can count as a natural 30, and this breaks the game.
The solution (presented by ars ludi) is to judge the player’s roleplaying, award a score out of twenty, and count that as the player’s roll. This is an excellent method, and remarkably straightforward. Players are limited to the same range of results, but are rewarded for good roleplaying and clever argument. Skill ranks and circumstance bonuses are still worth acquiring, and you can still roll for it the old-fashioned way when you’re out of ideas. As the DM, you might even divide some or all of the twenty points among the players who can “vote” on a player’s Bluff and Diplomacy like a Youtube rating.
A clever and well considered solution, but I can’t help but wonder if ars ludi could have said all that in less than 1,161 words. The ability to write concisely, despite my oft-rambling entries here, is an important skill for any writer.