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how do you role-play "intelligence"?


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#1 tgcb

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:21 PM

Finally got to play an RPG after many years (sadly, not Runequest)....in any case noticing that the characters intelligence doesn't come into play much.

For example, if you have a character of average intelligence do you behave any different than if you're character had high (or low) intelligence? There are things you know as a player and get translated to your character, but do you "dumb down" or "smarten up" that transfer based on the actual characteristic?

In other words, I feel we just "role play ourselves" for the most part - and that's probably to be expected. But just curious how you others role-play this?

thanks!

Edited by tgcb, 09 February 2014 - 09:29 PM.


#2 Lord Sephleon

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 03:23 AM

Finally got to play an RPG after many years (sadly, not Runequest)....in any case noticing that the characters intelligence doesn't come into play much.

For example, if you have a character of average intelligence do you behave any different than if you're character had high (or low) intelligence? There are things you know as a player and get translated to your character, but do you "dumb down" or "smarten up" that transfer based on the actual characteristic?

In other words, I feel we just "role play ourselves" for the most part - and that's probably to be expected. But just curious how you others role-play this?

thanks!


This is a bit of a curious scenario since I personally rarely play characters with less than average intelligence because I love (and prefer) to be tactical, perceptive, and adaptable to situations.

A good way to play this (at least, in my experience) is to assume that your actual intelligence is somewhere in the average range (like maybe 8-13 on a 3-18 scale, though your mileage may vary).

Now let's assume you're playing a "genius" character (somewhere above your range). One thing you could do to roleplay "genius" intelligence is allow the other players to help you in decision-making and tactics out-of-character (as in, your character's mind has a complex thought structure that might be viewed as "other voices in my head"). Of course, the GM has to be okay with this as it IS sort of meta-gaming, but it's a viable option as a group of people are more likely to see multiple flaws in a plan or thought (or whatever the situation warrants) than a single person. Additionally, you could request more information from your GM than he already gave in a given situation, especially if your character might have some knowledge that could help. In this case, you'll want to ask specific questions leading toward those strengths.

Now, if you're playing someone with less intelligence than your given range, try to be more direct in your thoughts and actions, and don't think too much about things. For example, if the party comes upon a puzzle involving three statues, while the smarter people read the strange symbols and discuss how to solve the puzzle, you might poke, push, or move a statue out of impulse or impatience; the locked door could also be your target, if it's clearly where you're supposed to be going. If you're more of a smashy-type, you might start beating on objects (either chosen at random or maybe because you don't like the statue's face or some other detail about the object). If you (the player) have a great idea that you don't feel your character would think of, just don't say anything and come up with a less-intelligent solution (or, better yet, share the idea with the party's "genius" out-of-character.)

This is really all I can offer as it's the only solution my groups ever came up with. Some GMs are okay with the idea that you think normally even if your character clearly has a non-average intelligence as, honestly, it can be a pain to roleplay anyway.

Hope I at least helped spark some ideas.

#3 Zit

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 07:37 PM

"Idea rolls" are made for this and can help : even if not solving everything, they prevent arbitrary GM decisions. Help a smart character having the right idea by allowing him to make an INT roll: if he makes it, you give him a clue. Forbid a low INT character to have or apply complex ideas unless he makes his idea roll, idealy before he expresses it in front of the other players: even if well role-played, a player naturally loves to express his brilliant ideas, even if not fitting his character.

#4 fmitchell

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 01:55 AM

I've probably said this before, but "Intelligence" as a concept bothers me. Never mind how problematic the real-world definition is; in an RPG it can be frustrating to play with one lobe of your brain tied behind your back, and even more frustrating to pretend you're smarter than you are. Part of the problem may be the name; other games use Cunning, Reason, Wits, Knowledge, or Learning, and yet others split the functions of INT among two or three other attributes like Magical Aptitude, Technical Aptitude, and Perception.

Since BRP already has EDU (in modern and future games, at least), I prefer to think of INT as memory, presence of mind, and/or quick thinking under pressure. Like Charisma or social skills, INT represents the difference between being a certain kind of person in the situation and being a player sitting at a table. An Idea roll to think of something represents having lived an entire life continuously in an imaginary world, not being a modern gamer who only becomes this person for one session every week or two. Under this interpretation, a person with INT 8 might be a deep thinker but slow to react and not very studious, while a person with INT 16 may or may not be "smart" but easily notices, memorizes, and (unfortunately in a Lovecraftian universe) correlates the contents of his mind.

Edited by fmitchell, 11 February 2014 - 01:59 AM.

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#5 madprofessor

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Posted 12 February 2014 - 06:30 PM

Of course, there are a few games (Pendragon and DragonQuest, for example) that intentionally omit intelligence or other mental characteristics as a game stat. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think it allows for better immersion because the players are not as confined so they play more naturally. On the other, everybody always plays to the top of their ability which from my perspective as a GM, is a little bit bland.

In other games, I have some players who are good at roleplaying a low INT or CHA score, and that is kind of fun. Where the trouble comes in is where people try to play character above their personal abilities. I have one player who is honestly not that sharp, and is constantly doing in-game stuff that makes the party collectively gasp "no, no, no - don't push the button," and things like that. This player likes to play wizards and other "smart" characters. The Idea roll comes in quite handy with this player, but it doesn't work perfectly because I still have to explain that his character is unsure if pushing the button is good idea or not, and that it "might" cause a catastrophic world failure or whatever. The problem is that the idea roll causes a little mental dissonance in the player because he (as a player) has missed something that his character would have picked up on, and the player is unable to see the disconnect. Sometimes even with careful explanation, after an idea roll, pointing out the gap in his logic, he still presses the button, or presses all of the buttons. The Idea roll helps, but it is not a perfect solution to players running characters way above their own abilities. It's still all fun, even when the rest of the party is shaking their heads in dismay, so I don't feel too adverse to the occasionally unnatural role playing aspects of mental characteristics.

#6 Atgxtg

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Posted 12 February 2014 - 07:11 PM

Playing a character's "intelligence", intelligently can be tricky. It not too bad when the character's INT score is reasonably close to the players, but wide discrepancies cause problems.

While everybody can "dumb down" a character, most gamers tend to overdo it, and turn the character into barely functioning morons. It's hard to play a character who isn't very intelligent, but who should still be thinking. One of the best examples I've seen was when a player pretty much uncovered a secret shapeshifter in the group, simply by believing a lie and asking for clarification. The shapeshifter had run off and shapeshifted, leaving all his clothing and gear. The "dumb" character found the stuff and asked the other character why he left all his stuff behind a bush. The "smart" shapeshifter replied that he left it to go hunting, and he hunted better without it. The "moron" then asked him how he hunted better without his spear! The question immediately brought the situation to the attention of the other, "more intelligent" characters who also wanted to hear the answer.

"Smartening up" a character is even more tough. We can all turn it off, but we can't really make ourselves any smarter than we already are. Otherwise we would have all aced Calculus, right? A lot of the time, though, everybody can figure certain things out, it just that smart people tend to do so faster. What I did once to handle a very intelligent PC was to spend a lot of my "downtime" thinking about the situations we were in in our campaign, and then run though the various things we could try, figure out what obstacles we would face, and guesstimate what the likely outcome would be. When it we sat down to play and brought up ideas, I had already covered a lot of them, so it looked like my character was thinking things though much faster than everyone else and was way ahead of everybody- even though I had actually spent more time thinking on the problems than everyone else.
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#7 soltakss

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 10:41 AM

Skills and Idea Rolls really help.

Playing a highly intelligent character is difficult, as the PC will have ideas and brainwaves that the player might not. Use Idea rolls as well as relevant skills to work things out.

Playing less intelligent characters is also a struggle, as the player will have brilliant ideas that the PC might not. Again, use Idea rolls and skills to determine whether the PC would know something or would have a brainwave.
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