Lead Character Charisma

I was recently browsing my copy of ACKS, and I noticed this passage about the impact of charisma on reaction rolls (page 99):

In cases where the reaction of the monsters to the party is not obvious, a reaction roll may be made. The Judge rolls 2d6, adding the Charisma bonus of the “lead” character (or applying his Charisma penalty) along with any other adjustments he feels are reasonable, and consults the Monster Reaction table below…

This is, of course, just the standard 2d6 D&D reaction roll (the best social mechanic in the history of RPGs). The part that stood out for me was the application of the lead character’s charisma to the check. For games with a Moldvay style ability score modifier, this would lead to an interesting trade-off, as the character with the highest charisma is unlikely to be the best frontline fighter. Do you want to expose a potentially more vulnerable character to frontal assaults in return for a greater chance at indifferent and friendly reactions? Trade-offs like this are what make the game interesting to me.

For comparison, here is how the D&D Rules Cyclopedia handles charisma and encounter reaction rolls (page 93):

After the first round, the DM should modify the 2d6 roll of the character talking for the group by the character’s Charisma bonuses or penalties. For the first reaction roll, the DM shouldn’t take Charisma adjustments into account.

So I think this “lead character charisma” thing is an ACKS innovation (please correct me if you know otherwise). Moldvay does not include any mention of charisma in his section MONSTER ACTIONS (page B24), though his section on charisma (page B7) does mention the applicability of charisma to talking with monsters (implicitly, this seems to agree with the RC version, that the initial reaction should not be modified by charisma):

The adjustment to reactions may help or hinder “first impressions” when talking to an encountered creature or person (see Monster Reactions, page B24, and NPC Reactions, page B21).

It’s interesting how many variations on this there are, even just within the original and basic D&D traditions. OD&D, for example, does not list charisma as something that should affect random actions by monsters. See The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, page 12:

The dice score is to be modified by additions and subtractions for such things as bribes offered, fear, alignment of the parties concerned, etc.

As expected, the OD&D version plays down character attributes in favor of player skill and strategies.

For me, the ACKS passage brings to mind images of monsters slithering in the darkness of the underworld, but still fascinated by the otherworldly beauty or presence of some character like a bard, paladin, or elf. For some reason I find this compelling. It’s an interesting idea, though if followed strictly it might lead to characters with leaders that have 18 charisma (+3 in ACKS) never being attacked immediately by creatures that use the reaction table (some creatures, like undead and mortal enemies, are of course a special matter).

7 thoughts on “Lead Character Charisma

  1. Zenopus Archives

    OD&D has a similar table on page 12 of M&M that does indicate that the result is adjusted for charisma. It’s unclear when this table is supposed to be used rather than the one in Vol 3 (though they are the same except for the scores for 2 and 12). Holmes condensed these to just one table for all monster reactions where the DM “should make adjustments if the party spokesman has high charimsa or offers special inducements” (pg 11).

    1. Brendan

      The way I read the table on M&M p12 is that it is intended for negotiation with potential retainers, not for general reaction purposes (as the TU&WA table seems to be). I think this is buttressed by the entries (“Accepts offer”, “Enthusiast, Loyalty +3”) and the reference to the same table on the next page suggesting that it may be used as a morale table. But you’re right, adjustment for charisma is noted there.

    2. Brendan

      Of course, I should have included the Holmes version, too

      Obviously, some of these creatures will not always be hostile. Some may offer aid and assistance. To determine the reaction of such creatures, roll 2 dice:


      Score Reaction

      2 Attacks immediately!
      3-5 Hostile reaction
      6-8 Uncertain, make another offer, roll again
      9-11 Accepts offer, friendly
      12 Enthusiastic, volunteers help

      The Dungeon Master should make adjustments if the party spokesman has high charisma or offers special inducements.

      — Holmes Basic D&D page 11

      While this is more ambiguous than than the “lead character” wording, it seems that “spokesman” implies that parley has been initiated, and thus would not be valid unless the party had an opportunity to talk (and thus another reaction roll).

  2. Austin Schaefer

    Actually, this is exact text is (I think) borrowed from Basic Fantasy. Not sure if it originated there, or if it in turn comes from somewhere else. The only differences are that ACKS changes Game Master to Judge, and removes Basic Fantasy’s gender-neutral language. From page 43 of the Basic Fantasy rules:

    In cases where the reaction of the monsters to the party is not obvious, a reaction roll may be made. The Game Master rolls 2d6, adding the Charisma bonus of the “lead” character (or applying his or her Charisma penalty) along with any other adjustments he or she feels are reasonable, and consults the table below.

  3. Alex J.

    I think the answer to Brendan’s conundrum in the last paragraph, is that most of the time, the reaction to the party is obvious: attack on sight, and not just for undead.

    1. Brendan

      Well, I don’t think it’s really a problem per se. If you want lots of combat, the solution is simple: just don’t use the reaction roll. I actually like there to be more variance in approach, because that frees me from needing to worry about encounter balance and allows players the option to be more creative than deciding between the fight or run binary.


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