I don’t care how high your stats are. I don’t care that you took the “witty and charming” background. No matter what kind of monster combo you’ve cobbled together from the depths of the Super Powers Compendium, at some point, you’re going to have to step out from behind your dice and actually play the game. You’re going to have to roleplay.

Of course, there’s the ever-popular argument that, “You wouldn’t make Throg’s player lift a boulder in real life. Why are you forcing me to be this silver-tongued, fast-talking, master manipulator? You’re punishing me for not having a 27 Charisma in real life!” For the longest time I was bothered by this line of reasoning, and had no real way to refute it. On the surface, it does seem like players ought to resolve social situations with dice, just like they do in combat encounters. Happily, one of the hosts of Happy Jacks recently saved me from the logic trap, providing the next step in the argument. To paraphrase a bit: “Throg can’t just roll a single stat called ‘tactics’ and win at combat.” For me, there’s the conundrum solved. In the same way that you’ve got to use some amount of skill and system mastery to win in combat situations, you’ve got to make your arguments persuasive in “social combat.” You’ve got to play to NPCs’ hopes and fears, undertake a bit of flattery, or concoct a clever lie. This is social tactics, and is about player skill rather than character capabilities. And whether you like it or not—whether it’s fair or not—skillful players have an advantage in games.

What do the rest of you guys think? When do you allow a handwave on simple “gather information” checks, and when do you insist that the player actually engage in a battle of wits?