The Virtual Roll and Brevity

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.

Comments (8)

Kerin (November 17th, 2007)

I found the original post quite readable! Given your own propensity for mangling the occasional sentence on this very blog, I’m not certain that it’s quite time for you to be critiquing yet.

Noj (April 17th, 2008)

I’d have to say that I dislike this idea. It gives unfair advantages to those more eloquent with words, and severe disadvantages to those who aren’t quite so eloquent. It seems to take away the aspect of playing a role, which is the main reason for D&D’s existance (Other than having fun ripping things apart). Your character can do things you can’t, and can’t do things than you can. In order to fix the balence for well-made speeches, it would be much more roll-rewarding for rolling a d20 before the speech (Having the player announce that they were going to make a speech) and then base their speech around the roll, after adding their modifiers. For instance, a roll of 7, with a bonus of 4 equals a check of 11 for the diplomacy skill. If one were to use the example from the Paladin’s dilema with the King and the priest was against it, the paladin’s speech may forget to include some major points, but still be a structurally sound argument. If the priest from the example were to get a skill check of 23 on diplomacy, he would then step back OOCly, look at the argument, and then show all of the flaws in it, as well as listing other reasons going to a war would be a bad choice for the king. Conversely, a roll of around 5 or so would have the priest doing as he did in the original example, merely saying repeatedly how he dislikes the idea. Of course, it’s always up for the players and DM’s to decide what a roll constitutes as ICly, but it’s always nice to see yourself make a high roll on a diplomacy or bluff check, then think about it to make it sound good OOCly, then use it ICly, so you can make good adjustments based on the roll’s result. Even the best diplomat can completely miss the point (Indicating a low roll or even a drastic failure), yet the worst diplomat can still somehow hit a hidden or important point in a discussion (High roll or natural 20). This style leaves the RP intact, if not reinforced, and leaves OOC further out of the mechanics of games.

Bandaid (April 17th, 2008)


Noj (April 17th, 2008)

A tad of a double-post to reinforce some ideas I misclarified earlier (That I realized after re-reading the post I made, and the article on virtual roles.) I said earlier about virtual roles penalizing people who weren’t eloquent normally with speach, and by saying that I mainly meant that it would be more difficult for people who aren’t good diplomats in real life to be good diplomats in D&D. Thus, if they wanted to play a charismatic rogue, then would rarely be able to make good arguments, and their virtual roles would be lower than someone in the same position. If they rolled first, they are given the opertunity to look at the role, then step back on the whole problem and aproach it based on the role, perhaps asking the DM what some good points would be to bring up. It leaves the roleplaying of the character up to the player based more on the character’s skill, and still allows for superb IC points to be made, instead of skipping over the dialogue and merely saying the person was convinced, or didn’t like the idea. It reinforces in general the idea that in D&D any person can be anything or anyone they want to be, instead of merely souped up versions of themselves.

Bandaid (April 17th, 2008)


Bandaid (April 17th, 2008)

Noj has aids

Bandaid (April 17th, 2008)

Anyhow, the validity in his points are quite superfluous really, because in the end, the final decision is made by the players in the game. However, the best option would be actually for the player to still generate the story themselves, and then if the people do not think that it was a valid argument, then yes, you proceed to rolling, that way if someone has a natural gift at playing their kind of character, they are rewarded for it.

Kerin (September 27th, 2009)

Wow. I read this post - nodding to myself as if it was for the first time - and then noted the first comment.

"What a dick," I thought - and shook my head. Some people are just assh-

…Oh god.

Comments for this article are closed.