The Problem with CHA

Why has the Charisma stat been the stepchild of the six stats historically in D&D?

This is an honest question, I have my own thoughts, but wanted to hear what other people thought.
Because most players early in the game's history simply roleplayed out social scenes and used zero rolls to do so.  I still prefer to do it that way, so Charisma is one of those stats we only take enough of to believably talk at our actual ability levels.
Before 4E, CHA had very few rules actually tied to it. That and, as thestoryteller said, it was all but ignored in social situations earler in D&D's existence. In earlier editions, you used it for reaction checks, henchmen (and their loyalty base to you), and that's about it. It was the dump-stat of choice for discriminating players worldwide!
Why has the Charisma stat been the stepchild of the six stats historically in D&D?

This is an honest question, I have my own thoughts, but wanted to hear what other people thought.



Charisma... is the power stat of real life.
 
But its mechanically been underestimated in game ... hell a bunch of fighter moves in 4e could have used a boost from charisma because they in all likelihood featured deception, and charisma is about influencial in 4e as it has ever been and just about as good as any other stat.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I'd like to see Cha as the base stat for Clerics and divine magic. You don't have to be particularly wise or perceptive to be devoted to a god, but as an extension of your god's will on the mortal plane, you should definitely have a strong force of personality.

Not that that answers the question, but yeah.
Children believe what we tell them, they have complete faith in us. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity, and to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words: "A long time ago...." (Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast) Winner of You Build the Character #12, YbtC #22, YbtC #24, YbtC #28 and YbtC #35 Winner of You Make the... Contest #8
Evangelic Clerics = Charisma.
The Recorder Bearers of History = Intelligence
Mystical  = It takes discipline and perception to understand not just parrot  but know, and truly follow the ways of the Divine. 
 
And the Teachers of the Faith = All three Charisma/Wisdom/Intelligence.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I'd like to see Cha as the base stat for Clerics and divine magic. You don't have to be particularly wise or perceptive to be devoted to a god, but as an extension of your god's will on the mortal plane, you should definitely have a strong force of personality. Not that that answers the question, but yeah.




Originally the Cleric also needed Charisma in connection with turning undead. I think there were other powers that needed it too.
My PC is big and really, really strong.  He's got 18/00 Strength.

His footwork is solid. Dexterity 12.

 He excercises and trains hard every day. Constitution 15.

He's a bit short on common sense.  Wisdom 9.
 
He's not nearly as smart as I am though ;). Only has 11 for Intelligence.

Charisma?  Uh, 8.  Why?  No biggie.  I'm gonna be doing all the talking for 'im.  Right?

= = =

That's my take on why Charisma is often overlooked in D&D.  A bit of slippage, Freudian style.
/\ Art
I never dump stat charisma unless I'm trying to make an unlikable character.

Even in older versions our DM would take charisma into account for how NPCs reacted to our flowery speech.

But that's really about DM/player understanding and has no direct mechanical support.

So folks crunching numbers discredit its usefulness.

To me, all the flowery speech in the world gets you nowhere unless you back it up with personality.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

In 3.5, Charisma was often dumped - either by having the lowest rolled stat put into it or by not having any attribute points spent on it - because all it did for characters that didn't have some special feature that made something run off of Charisma was boost a few skills, and in 3.5 spending attribute points was not an efficient way to make your skills better. Attribute points are one of a character's most limited resources, and there are many less limited resources (like skill points and even feats) that improve skills more efficiently. It takes a huge investment of attribute points to make a meaningful difference in how often skill-based rolls will succeed or fail. Contrary to the popular perception of a charisma 8 character being unappealing (or outright repulsive, depending on who you ask), such a character is - by the rules of the game - almost imperceptably less charismatic than an "average" character, because the number of rolls that you're going to fail because you have a -1 instead of a +0 isn't all that high. You do have the option to ignore the rules that define the exact amount of difference a charisma penalty makes and impose additional restrictions on such a character, of course, but that's not really the default.

This is a separate line of thinking from the idea of "I'm speaking for my character, so the mechanical effect of my charisma score doesn't matter"; it's more like "Putting attribute points into charisma is an inefficient way to improve my character's mechanical capabilities, so I won't; the difference between a character with 'dumped' charisma and one with normal charimsa is, according to the rules, extremely difficult to notice."

Strength, incidentally, is dumped frequently for similar reasons (its only function for classes that aren't fighting with a weapon is carrying capacity, which is easy to work around), but there's generally less umbrage taken at the notion that someone would dump strength. There's also more classes that use it for a core function (basically anyone with a weapon attack as a primary combat action use.)

Charisma's "core function" equivalent, I believe, was at some point supposed to be that more skills keyed off of it than most other stats, but that ends up being not much of a core function when stats are an inefficient way to boost skills in the first place. Charisma-based skills are also ones that have a somewhat above-average level of sit-out-ability - they're skills that in many circumstances any one particular character doesn't have to make. (Obviously there are an infinite number of situations where everyone does have to make a charisma check, but it's not like Endurance or Athletics, which very frequently everyone has to make the check unless there's a magical alternative. At the same time, social checks are more likely to be things that everyone has to make than, say, Disable Device or Know (Anything) - those skills are even more sit-out-able.)

In 4e, charisma was dumped for similar reasons, although more classes had some use for it, and many other classes could dump either it OR wisdom, based on personal preference and which skills they wanted a little bonus to.


Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
1) Many group roleplay social interaction without any rolls much less CHA rolls

2) Many DMs do not penalize PC actions or restrict the availibilty of social actions of players based n their CHA.

3) Even if you did have a group that rolled social interaction, many groups never split up (because splitting up is often stupid) and only need one high CHA social PC

4) Few characters have additional bonuses for high CHA.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Charisma - as willpower - needs to save versus charm, fear, as well as compulsion. Also empathy checks, and other social skills.

Wisdom - as perception - needs to save versus hide, invisibility, and illusion. Also bluff checks, and detect bluff. (Keeping track of details is different from sensing desire to harm or exploit.)

Intelligence - as memory - checks for conceptual complexity.   
Charisma can include Creative Intelligence and is the seat of Improvisation and Talent as well as deception (Note Deception is probably central to 1/3 of all fighting moves. )
Inspiration and a Measure of Divine Gifts (aka the meaning of a charism contrasted to Wisdom which is discipline and divine learning). Also Spirit (the rebels free will) and the ability to Inspire and influence others. 

The game just needs to make those gifts useful to a broad spectrum of heros.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I've usually worked under the intent that the three "mental" stats mirror the three "physical" stats in some ways, particularly in the application of psionic rules.  Wisdom is your psychic Constitution, the robustness and durability of your psyche; Intelligence is your psychic Dexterity, how quick and maneuverable your thoughts are;  and Charisma is your psychic Strength, the outward projection of your psyche.
If you actually follow the rules, Charisma is a great stat out of combat, and solid in combat for classes that use it.

The problem is, a large number of groups don't follow the rules, and instead your effectiveness at social situations boils down to how good you are at BSing your DM, not how charismatic your character is, which then makes Charisma underestimated.
As a DM, I've always made sure Cha counts. I love it when a new player dumps Cha. They typically only do it once!

As a player, I've noticed DMs don't often take Cha into account. However, Cha was really strong in 3e and I have min-maxed my way into a crazy OP Cha character on more than one occasion just to show the DM how powerful Cha can be.

Check out this thread, called X stat to Y bonus. This is a very good resource for 3.5, 3.0 and pathfinder and lets you figure out how to maximize bonuses from a single ability score. Cha has by far the most bonuses you can add to various things just for having high Cha. I now look at this resource when building any 3.5 character, but this is doubly true when I build a Cha based character.

In 3.5, you are likely not surprised that there is more than one way to add Cha to saves. But, you may be surprised that there are 23 ways to do it with just Cha bonus! There 17 different ways to get Cha bonus to AC. There are many other bonuses such as initiative, to-hit and even all knowledge checks. These can stack too. So, you can literally get quadruple your Cha bonus to saves if you build your character right, and still have room to add to saves and initiative. Sure, some of these have limitations but there are many that do not allowing you to min-max to your hearts content.

Do you have an opinion on what campaign settings should be printed in D&D Next? If so, please cast your votes in this poll! Poll: What campaign settings do you want to see printed in D&D Next?
Why has the Charisma stat been the stepchild of the six stats historically in D&D?

This is an honest question, I have my own thoughts, but wanted to hear what other people thought.



Charisma... is the power stat of real life.
 
But its mechanically been underestimated in game ... hell a bunch of fighter moves in 4e could have used a boost from charisma because they in all likelihood featured deception, and charisma is about influencial in 4e as it has ever been and just about as good as any other stat.



+1

Great point.
I must admit - despite the long historical precedent of Wisdom for divine spells - I think that a good argument can be made that Charisma makes more sense....


Carl
I must admit - despite the long historical precedent of Wisdom for divine spells - I think that a good argument can be made that Charisma makes more sense....


Carl



If not a bit of everything...

Maybe charisma should be introduced as a blended model, mixed in with all the other attributes.
CHA will always be dumped until it has a universal player benefit.  If CHA influenced factors like healing received, duration of special effects caused, or chance of abilities to work (Like Final Fantasy Tactic's Brave and Faith System) then we'd see far more 10s than 8s.
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