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How do you play your bad stat?


Gamer Talk


Was chatting with a guy the other day who rolled a...well, a dwarf that never has to worry about his college application letters, shall we say. And we were talking about how he was going to play his genius. That got me to thinking. What do you do with that poor stat?

For instance, sure you can go the classic talk like an 8 year old route with a low int, but guys doing that tend to be chatty, too. If you had any kind of wisdom wouldn't you be able to intuit that staying quiet would be a good idea?

Low wisdom I always figured as being the air-headed anime character. Brilliant, deadly, whatever, but absolutely zero idea of what's going on around him/her and impulsive.

Charisma..well. Charisma I think is the easy one. You just have to always say the totally wrong thing.

My concern with this is always trying to avoid metagaming away the penalty. For this I've talked with my regular group, and we've started doing something vaguely along the lines of the Ork Gahad in Earthdawn (the wikipedia stuff has a better explanation than I can give). I find something bad related to one of those awful stats. This can be anything from kicking in the door to blurting out something during the diplomacy check or trying to throw the halfling across the pit (long story). That idea gets assigned a number on the d20. Every minute that we spend discussing something, plotting, etc. I roll. On that number (usually 1, because it fits), I go for it.

This does a couple things: First, it turns that weakness into something funny and occasionally useful (the angsty barbarian has ostracized himself from everyone in the inn with his poor manners? Have him stand where the rogue wants to do rogue things), and it avoids a some potential problems with metagaming your int 8 dude into a savant.

Finally, it really works to move the game along during those tension moments.

"Ok, we have to very carefully navigate this trap or we'll all horribly die. We absolutely CANNOT deviate from this plan that I will outline in the following eighty-three points and-"

"OH GOD HE'S ROLLING HURRY HURRY!"

Again, works for my group. YMMV.

Silver Crusade

Charisma is easy. Either really shy and withdrawn, or doesn't know when to shut up. Wisdom is my most common choice for dump stat. I can play impulsive, absent-minded, curious, or in his own little world ("I think so, Brain, but where are we going to find rubber pants out size?"). Low intelligence is tricky, because you don't want to behave more stupid than you really are. I try to avoid the usual slurred speech and putting "uhh" in front of every statement. One approach that works is the know it all who has it wrong. Another character I played with low intelligence just passed knowledge questions off. Knowing stuff is the Bard's job.


The low intellegence know-it-ll is one of my favorite ideas. Just because i don't have the relevant skills or stats doesn't stop me from thinking i do :) and just because the mage rolls 16 with a +12 and i roll 3 with a +1 doesn't mean he is always right :P.


My main society character is a half-orc named Thokkjr. Hes got 12 Int, 12 Wis, and 7 Cha.

I play this as he is fully as intelligent as the next guy (10 int), though he is aware is fairly socially awkward (12 wis), but sometimes just cant help himself, or doesnt see a reason TO help himself for that matter (7 cha).

The awkwardness shows itself most in situations when someone is telling an unimportant lie (one that him blowing the cover on isnt going to wind up getting us killed), in a setting where etiquette is important (where I generally do a 'deer in the headlights' look and then reference his poor emulation of whomever appears to best know what they are doing in the situation), and his general manner of speaking.

His speech, which I refer to as "Commorcish" is good enough to get the point across, but more often than not, he doesnt use articles (a, an, the), helping verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been), and at times messes up the tense of the sentence.
While this could come off as a low Int score, I prefer to credit it to his Cha for the "he was raised by Common speaking, not so intelligent, orcs". Think of it basically as his accent.

He's more than willing to listen, though is more than willing to share his thoughts as well. If it comes to planning something, he is the one that spouts off the first idea that comes to mind (the terrible one that everyone else knows will fail, which is why they didnt bother saying it).


So how do you roleplay low physical stats?

My cleric has low strength (8). She knows she's not all that strong, so she has taken steps to reduce her need to carry lots of stuff. She uses magic items for her defense (bracers of armor, ring of protection, amulet of natural armor, ioun stone). She wears a ring of sustenance so she doesn't need to carry rations and has a bag of holding. She even will once in a while ask for help moving heavy things (corpses).

Her dexterity is a little above the average (12). She has a certain amount of grace, but she's not the shadowdancer or the ranger (both scoring over 20). She's usually the last party member to act in battle, which I interpret as her taking her time thinking about her actions before committing to them, thus slowing her reaction time.

Her con score is also a little above average (12). She feels that she's not as physically durable as she once was (she's been dead twice now, once would have been 1st level), so she has a belt to boost her constitution to its normal levels. But she's actually formidable when it comes to enduring physical trials (high Fort save). She paces herself even though she's capable of pushing a bit harder.


My players (except for my wife's monk character - yeah go figure) all have used charisma as a bit of a dump stat. One of them plays a homebrew race kind of like a half dragon and she manages to be obnoxious and get on everyone's nerves. She is also very quick to anger and doesn't forgive easily. Another in my group plays a goblin that is all about the id and saying what is on his mind even if not at all appropriate.

My wife's character's dump stat was intelligence, which is not always good since she herself is very intelligent. She sometimes forgets that her character isn't the most intelligent. She has played it off for the most part that she has a lot of common sense (high wisdom) but no book smarts (low intelligence).


I played a character once who, as part of his backstory, was imprisoned as a statue in an empty room for tens of thousands of years. As a result, his Wisdom was 6, as he had grown peculiar and somewhat insane after such a long time of solitude.


One of my current characters is a half-orc oracle with a very high charisma and a below-average intelligence (I believe it's 8, but don't have the character sheet handy). Thus far, my biggest challenge has been playing her as a bit slow without crossing the line into being a complete idiot. After all, if 10-11 is average intelligence, than an 8 is just a bit below average. She sometimes has trouble with extremely complex plans or ideas and sometimes I'll have her take just a bit longer than everyone else to have a moment of intellectual clarity.


I played Miles the battle sorcerer, a character who had 8 Intelligence, 8 Wisdom, and 20 Charisma. That was a blast.

He never had any idea what was going on, and was incredibly confident in his own abilities (even if he didn't understand them more than intuitively), but he was also extremely cheerful, outgoing, and friendly. Oftentimes he would say or conjecture things that would make you want to dip your head in a vat of boiling water, but his simple approach to problems had a disarming allure to them at times. The party wizard couldn't stand him, since she studied magic diligently in order to be able to perform it while he got it naturally without a hint of mental discipline, but his kind nature and love for his friends won her over in the end.

One of our DM's favorite stories was when the party fighter tried to get him to shut up, but ended up being unwittingly outwitted by him. He never lived it down.

Fighter: We need to find a place to sleep for the night.
Miles: Oh! Sleeping! I'm really good at that!
Fighter: Oh? Why don't you show us?
Miles: Pff. It's daytime! Anyone who's good at sleeping knows you don't sleep in the daytime. *gives him this look like he doesn't know anything*


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm big on inverting expectations. The low CHA guy, is he ugly? No, he's amazingly attractive, but a total jerk who expects everything to do everything for him, because he's just that good looking. Low DEX? He's fast, but he's unlucky to the point of jinxed when it comes to things physical. Low INT? IQ-wise, he's a genus, but he just doesn't care.


J.S. wrote:
I'm big on inverting expectations. The low CHA guy, is he ugly? No, he's amazingly attractive, but a total jerk who expects everything to do everything for him, because he's just that good looking. Low DEX? He's fast, but he's unlucky to the point of jinxed when it comes to things physical. Low INT? IQ-wise, he's a genus, but he just doesn't care.

I like this idea a lot and may just have to try it for my next character. You're entirely correct in that having a low intelligence (for example) does not necessarily mean that you are an idiot, but could also mean that you exhibit a great deal of "intellecutal laziness" despite a high IQ or whatever.

Thanks for the ideas.


Brooks wrote:
You're entirely correct in that having a low intelligence (for example) does not necessarily mean that you are an idiot, but could also mean that you exhibit a great deal of "intellecutal laziness" despite a high IQ or whatever.

Actually, no. Low intelligence means you lack the capability, not the motivation. You just described someone with a high intelligence and low wisdom.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Brooks wrote:
J.S. wrote:
I'm big on inverting expectations. The low CHA guy, is he ugly? No, he's amazingly attractive, but a total jerk who expects everything to do everything for him, because he's just that good looking. Low DEX? He's fast, but he's unlucky to the point of jinxed when it comes to things physical. Low INT? IQ-wise, he's a genus, but he just doesn't care.

I like this idea a lot and may just have to try it for my next character. You're entirely correct in that having a low intelligence (for example) does not necessarily mean that you are an idiot, but could also mean that you exhibit a great deal of "intellecutal laziness" despite a high IQ or whatever.

Thanks for the ideas.

I disagree, and think that this can too easily lead to bad roleplaying. The idea here is that there's no functional difference between a guy with a low IQ and a guy with a high IQ who just doesn't use it. But what's really going to happen is it gives the player an excuse to play smart without having his character spend skill points to know things.

It's the type of situation I run into all the time with players who take Charisma as their dump stat and just "roleplay" away their faults. And it's why I force my players to roll Charisma checks with all of their NPC interactions - which quickly led to the player's frustration that their 7 Cha characters with no ranks in Diplomacy just couldn't sway people with their florid prose.


My group is old school, in that depending on the DM, you either roll 3d6 and assign them as they are rolled or roll 4d6 (drop the lowest) and assign as you see fit. With that in mind, as a group we've run the spectrum from super-hero stats (nothing lower than a 16) to just an everyday 'Joe' with no stat higher than an 11.

For me, I approach low stats in that the character, on some level, realizes he's deficient in whatever area or areas in which he has low stats. I then have them compensate by targeting skills that are diametrically opposed (completely subjective perspective) to wherever they're deficient.

Low Strength...physically weak character. Will avoid situations that require him to 'show his (LACK OF) muscle' unless absolutely necessary. Focuses on Charisma based skills and/or Dexterity based skills.

Low Constitution...either frail and sickly or unable to get physically fit. Tends to focus on Intelligence and Wisdom based skills, maybe strength too.

Low Dexterity...clumsy and uncoordinated. Tends to do everything in a stand and deliver format - plant feet and move only when necessary. Lots of points in balance to compensate, after that maybe Strength and any of the social attributes.

Low Intelligence...just plain stupid, tendency to have a vacant expression when things get too detailed, healthy or annoying dose of fear based on his limited understanding. Strength based skills. I know, dumb jock stereotype.

Low Wisdom...my personal favorite, complete lack of impulse control or common sense. I had an Elf character, 5 Wisdom, that while in the middle of traipsing through one or the realms of the Ravenloft setting from 2E DnD, came across marching columns of Kobolds by the thousands. I knew that the character had actually learned to speak Kobold, glibly vocalized that very fact to the players, just before I has my character blithely yell to the marching Kobolds "Hi guys!!! We're lost!!! Can you tell us how to get to (wherever it was we were heading)?!!!" I don't remember how we survived, but do remember my character getting smacked around by the memebers of teh grouop for that one. Tend to focus on skills that will allow him to interact as much as possible in order to cause the most havoc.

Low Charisma...tend to go with the painfulyl shy and withdrawn sort, who lacks confidence in himself and his own abilities, speaking softly with uncertainty. Intelligence and Wisdom based skill, maybe some Dex.

I blend as needed when have multiple low stats.

Andoran

I recall a Spycraft 1e Snoop character whose Con was decidely lacking. He was played as a geek anyway, but manifested the low Con as being very squeamish! The GM played along with this, and every time things got messy, asked for a Fort save, or poor old Faisal lost his cookies!

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