Carl, who has no profile, added a well-argued dilemma related to my position in the previous post. I include part of it here for convenience (the complete would be comment #20 here):
... we still have no mechanic for charisma/intelligence/wisdom in the DMG. I fully-support slow-witted players running super-genius mages. This is a fantasy game afterall, and every player should be allowed to indulge their fantasty [sic]. But how do we handle the problem-solving situation that's bound to arise? Do I as the DM decide that the character is smart enough to see the solution to the puzzle, even if the player cannot, and then essentially take control of their character for a moment along the lines of, "Wiznor glances at the pieces on the chessboard for only a moment before moving a single pawn and declaring, 'Checkmate. Now, tell me where the princess is being held.'
Poignant, since I was about to sit down and discuss my thoughts about influencing NPC's since writing this post.
But first, Carl, let me discuss your point.
Without any doubt, the lack of Interaction/Intelligence Mechanic (I'll call it IMech) was a drastic oversight, or at the very least showed a supreme a lack of foresight. It is handled pathetically in the DMG (reaction/loyalty) as a very obvious afterthought that, I doubt, received any serious play-testing. The failure to recognize that IMech needs to be as complex as combat resolution has been consistently ignored by every edition that has come out since ... arguably as fan-service to those thousands in the roleplaying camp who would see it as blasphemy should any serious effort be put towards limiting the 'essentials' of play such as puzzle solving, taunting opponents, haggling and self-panegyrics, with the associated aspects of coersion and deception. Beyond Carl's point of puzzle-solving, there is an equal resistance against rolls that would allow players to say, "I attempt to bribe the guard - am I allowed through?"; or "I lie to the bartender - does he give me a free drink?"; and finally, "I enter the king's castle as a spy - where are the jewels kept?"
Once you have given some aspect of control over to IMech dice rolls, you can be certain that players will set about abusing it at once, pushing the envelope to make their lives easier. Peripheral knowledge is useless in getting their characters past this crisis ... just show the way out and tell them how many monsters they have to fight. IMech problems slow a game down, they often devolve into bookkeeping (this guy's name, his position, the location of the contact, which door to knock on, where to find him again, this password, that phrase I have to repeat exactly when we come to the gate), puzzles prove all too often too difficult to solve, or ultimately only lead to new problems (what, this is Final Fantasy?) ... geez, if I can handle all this crap I don't care about - but the DM does - with a few die rolls, please tell me what to throw.
It isn't that throwing dice is more interesting. But it takes much, much less time. For exactly the same result. You have to have a particular sort of character to enjoy going around and around with a fictional being voiced by the DM, with a particular view of looking at things. I confess I love writing dialogue - the books I write are full of it - but most people I've played with either didn't pick up on subtleties, or don't give a rat's ass.
Suppose, for instance, I have the NPC only say, "Yep, used to go up there. Been six years now. Want some tea?"
If I'm lucky, a player will ask "Why?" More often, they'll ask something completely immaterial, such as, "So what do you do now?"; or "What kind of tea is it?"; or "How far is it to the next town?"
At which point I'll answer, they'll wave goodbye and continue their way along the road and wonder just why in the fuck was I wasting their time with that guy and his stupid campfire. They never learn about the crack in the mountain behind them, or Attila's Bridle or anything else I may have planned for a four-session romp through that dungeon.
Which puts me in the situation of either A) hitting them in the face with it by having the guy say, "Yeah, you know there's a crack that leads into the mountain up there, probably good for treasure, just telling everyone that passes today"; or B) throwing meaningless encounter after meaningless encounter until someone bites.
If you're the sort of DM that designs everything ahead of time, you have to pick option A. You have to give the player's information they never asked for, like, "He seems to be hiding something"; or "He keeps staring up at the mountain, oh, loooook at him really stare hard"; or "He needs help to get something up the mountain and he asks you to come along."
And don't tell me the gentle reader doesn't do it. Death Frost Doom was full of that shit, as has every other module I've ever seen. This kind of writing drifts into fantasy fiction and wow, does it ever look like dingo's feces on the page. You have to paint signs all over the damn place that might as well read, "THIS WAY TO MONSTER" and "TOUCH HERE TO RECEIVE EFFECT."
The question arises that, if you have to distribute the information bluntly to the players in order for them to correctly follow the clues, what difference does it make if the clues are solved by dice?
Look at the Carl's Puzzle above. What is the purpose of the puzzle? To get information. Why do we want to get information? To get to the actual rescuing. Puzzle solving is really nothing more than research, and the process of research is, for most people, deathly dull. Speaking for myself, I do the research to write the book, or the article, or the post, but its the actual writing that I actually like. The research is a means to an end.
Why not simply hand a book to the players, tell them that there's something relevant in chapter five that pertains to the situation they're in, and wait for them to find it? Here's what I'm getting at: for many players, it would be no less boring, no less interesting, no less time consuming than having to solve any other puzzle. To speak on their behalf, they would clap their hands with joy if they could roll a die and have the damn thing out of their way.
Those in the roleplaying camp would argue that the chatter is really exciting and interesting, that's it's fun to challenge wits with the DM, and succeed in convincing the DM to give them what they want, because it's really satisfying to succeed at a battle where I prove I'm smarter than ...
Well, that only brings me back to the last post. Really, whatever. I feel I must point out that for all the many people in the world who love to do a particular kind of puzzle, there are many, many more who don't. And if puzzle solving is your thing, and you're not getting it from D&D, there are plenty of other sources.
Quite a digression, but I'm in no hurry. The whole matter with IMech is that along with being heartily discouraged by much of the gaming community, it is immensely difficult to invent. Most inventors who have tried to sell their ideas to the gaming public have been kicked into the gutter for even the attempt. If I want to write a post that gets little or no response, I'll advance ideas about how to do it (the post I was originally going to write today).
However, it is deeply needed; if only to give the game a new vista in which to expand. The roleplayers have to be told to sit down and shut up for awhile, that fixing the IMech problem is the puzzle we're trying to solve that doesn't involve besting someone who knows the answer. No one knows the answer. That's what makes it a much more interesting puzzle. I happen to think that it is worthwhile ... if for no other reason than that an interplay of arguments supported by dice in a sort of combat framework might support investigations into strategies and gaming concepts previously unconsidered.
I will pick up the subject of my intended charisma post in a day or two, but for now let me offer the sort of thinking process that I think we need to start with. Rather than simplifying Carl's chessboard down to where a single pawn needs to be moved, perhaps the comparable intelligence of the players indicates how many random moves the dumber player must make before being able to actually play. Perhaps additional experience with the game (measured by regular play) can decrease the likelihood of one's own random moves and increase the likelihood of the opponent. Obviously, in any case, the player would need some fundamental knowledge of the game, or else all the random moves in the world wouldn't help. But I can see how incremental changes in the mechanical aspects of the game could be influence by IMech considerations.