Dear DovahQueen – How Low is Too Low

Bad rolls in character creation happen. But how low can we take and still roleplay a viable character? Today we look at playing a character with a Charisma score matching that of a monitor lizard.

Dear DovahQueen: I am rolling a fighter and got a 3. My GM said I could reroll but you know what? Charisma 3 sounds fun. Any advice on playing a character who is that unpleasant but still fun to play? –Just Misunderstood

Dear Ms. Stood: I have a lot of opinions on this subject, but first of all, let me be the first to apologize to you for your 3. That’s…hilariously low. Secondly, I think that choosing to take a 3 and run with it in a productive and positive way is a strong example of how unique our games can be. What’s interesting about Charisma, especially compared to all of the other stats, is how difficult it is to qualify. All of the other attributes are relatively straightforward with only Wisdom perhaps being the other most commonly oft-misunderstood in its meaning. When I was first being introduced to tabletop RPGs (many, many moons ago), Charisma was explained to me to be a direct measurement of how attractive a character is. In some ways, this certainly could be true, but it drastically cheapens what the score is capable of conveying. In order to understand how you roleplay a character with an abysmally low Cha, it’s important to truly define what all Charisma can explain.

Charisma, and to an extent attractiveness, isn’t just some raw thing made from genetically endowed bone structure and adipose concentrations. It’s the sum of many parts. Just as Dexterity can include hand-eye coordination, balance, proprioception, etc., Charisma could be defined by one’s personal hygiene, grooming habits, articulation, sense of humor, social intelligence, empathy, fashion choices, personal quirks, and/or more. One could be of high charisma simply for being exceptionally good at speaking to people by use of their words, intonation, and confidence. On the flip side of that coin, the character with low Charisma using the same concepts might have trouble communicating verbally with other people, could struggle to pick the right words for the situation, and/or might just have a particularly strong case of foot-in-mouth disorder. If another character with high Charisma might be particularly well groomed, match their clothing choices with their winter skin tone, and always observe the proper social etiquette, the lower Charisma character might be completely disheveled, smell bad, and pick their nose.

If I were you and I was playing a 3 charisma, I would know going into this that I will be playing the absolute lowest Charisma possible for a thinking creature. In system terms, you’re going to be on the same level as a spider: oblivious to any and all social contexts. This character will likely have zero hygiene, have no idea how to not sound like an asshole, even understand what an asshole is, barely form coherent sentences, smell like rotting eggs and dookie mixed with festering whale vomit in the hot sun, look like they were dressed by a blind hermit raised by wolves, and could generally be so hated that they’re not even allowed in town. So…feral. Your character would basically be feral. With intervention by the party, you *could* be able to interact within society without instantly being thrown in the stockade or out of town, but that’s only if your character would even accept intervention (which they probably wouldn’t).

Unless you’re prepared to behave like an actual Neanderthal, I’d be hesitant to go this route. As a Fighter class, you’ve obviously had training in the martial discipline so you’re not actually a savage, so it’s more likely that you would’ve suffered an injury that reduced you to this state. If you want to get psychology involved, you could be visibly missing a piece of your brain. Perhaps some hungry monster bit a fair chunk of the skull away and a healer was able to cure light the death away, but not regenerate the grey matter? The human brain can function surprisingly well (“well”) while missing large pieces of the brain, and there’s a load of precedent for people sustaining just such damage and surviving. Some of these people even go on to live normal-ish lives, albeit they’re almost never the same person as before the injury. If you go this route for your character, you could have a “caretaker” in the another one of the party members who knew you from before, speaks for you, forces you to bathe, chooses your outfits, and helps you make decisions when other people are involved.

It’s important to note that you didn’t pick an amazingly low Intelligence or Wisdom character so you are going to be able to recognize that you’re different. You’ll be aware that you don’t function in society and depending on your other mental attributes, you’ll be able to react to that fact accordingly. You may *know* you need a caretaker because people view you as beyond incorrigible for whatever reason even if you don’t understand what that reason is.

This will certainly be a difficult character to roleplay, and I’m not sure that even I’d be up to the task. Make sure that you think it over and speak, at length, with your GM about it. As a GM, I’m not even sure that I’d allow you to play it for fear that you didn’t know for certain what you were getting into or that it’d be too daunting of an RP experience. But if you and your GM feel confident that you can both handle it and have fun doing so, this could be a very memorable character that you all have a great time with.

 

 

You can request RPG advice or send your questions by email to deardovahqueen@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Loren Sieg

Loren has been writing and playing in tabletop RPGs for 15 years. As both a GM and player, she pours heart and soul into producing new content and helping shape the way tabletops are experienced. She's worked with companies including Paizo Inc., Legendary Games, Swords for Hire, and Encounter Table Publishing to publish material for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Dear DovahQueen began early in 2016, and Loren has been helping GMs and players fully realize their stories and game concepts ever since. When she's not knee-deep in characters sheets and critical hits, she can likely be found studying Biology at Indiana University and/or doing research on different types of marine life.

2 Comments

  1. Great article! Brings to mind a game we’re prepping to start in the next few months. One PC is a dwarven warpriest of Bolka with a very low charisma. I believe it is a 5 or 6. I proposed the warpriest suffers from Tourette’s and spontaneously has profane outbursts and/or has a serious case of halitosis. We’re still looking at how to address it since his deific choice and the domains really emphasize healing and community and such. It should be fun though.

  2. I’ve always imagined that serious halitosis, for a Dwarf, is so normal and culturally acceptable that they likely have competitions involving the robust qualities of one’s breath. In a weird sense, a Dwarf having a super low Charisma (in relation to the other races) could be potentially spun as having the highest form of communal bonding.

    Derrith Stonebelcher: *smells bad, food in beard, gross teeth, excessive body hair, screams curses as everyone*
    Derrith Stonebelcher: *heals someone* “GET BACK ON YER FEET YA BLASTED NINNY!”
    Everyone else: “There goes the finest Dwarf I ever did see!”

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