Is there really a "Bad" Stat?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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pauljathome wrote:

Oh, I concede that there are some differences in character efficiency that are large enough for one to be effectively objectively better than the other. A wizard with an Int of 18 is effectively objectively better than a wizard with an Int of 10. But, even THERE, somebody will come up with a counter example showing that, even THERE, the Int 18 Wizard is NOT objectively better than the Int 10 Wizard (although they ARE better in a huge majority of cases).

Most characters SHOULD max out their KSA UNLESS THEY HAVE A GOOD REASON TO DO OTHERWISE

Right, so by your own admission, some build decisions are objectively more effective than others, because not all attributes are equal. QED. Why deploy so much verbiage towards pretending otherwise in the same comment? Why shift the goalposts to the topic of fun when I never claimed that mechanically optimal characters were always more fun than mechanically suboptimal ones?

Silver Crusade

Teridax wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
Because you have more than anecdotes to bring us? Or some whiteroom theory that a lot of people disprove in this discussion. You should realize that your theories are just as valid as our owns and that your experience is just as anecdotal as our own.

As a matter of fact, I do: as already pointed out, Paizo themselves have explicitly stated that some stats are valued more in the rules, in the exact same way I outlined. Specifically:

Paizo wrote:
The classic ability scores aren't of equal value in the rules. Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom tend to be more important unless a character requires a particular ability score from among the other three for a specific purpose.

Taking that quote, there are some very very significant caveats that you are ignoring. "Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom tend to be more important unless a character requires a particular ability score from among the other three for a specific purpose"

I actually totally agree with the Paizo quote and I suspect others do too. When I raise Cha on my druid or Int on my Magus I DO have "a specific purpose".

But. more fundamentally, taking a statement by Paizo as an objective fact is pretty questionable. Do you think Paizo actually understands this game sufficiently better than many of the people who post here that their opinions are objectively better? Lots of people (including me) would disagree.

As an example, do you think the suggested character builds in the books are optimal?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Can have a discussion around what is optimal and it can be based on objective facts about the games mechanics. You just need to be specific about what you mean by optimal.

Spell DC for example. If you want to be optimal at using spells that rely on Will saves to be optimal at this you need a class that gets the best spell casting proficiency available, a spell casting attribute at the highest available, and unless another party member is going to bon mot for you it might be good to be able to do that as well. A sorcerer might be optimal for this activity. They use charisma as the ability modifier so they also will have the best chance at succeeding at bon mot.
I am sure other factors can be considered but based on the specific ones I am considering sorcerer with bon mot and a +4 cha is optimal.
Notice no other stat is part of this consideration. Im not including how to be optimal at rolling fortitude saves or optimal at survival in general or anything else. Generally i think there are several common things that when someone says the word optimal they are implying, one is survivability, the other is offensive ability in class. But this has many variations so specificity is still important.

Silver Crusade

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Teridax wrote:
pauljathome wrote:

Oh, I concede that there are some differences in character efficiency that are large enough for one to be effectively objectively better than the other. A wizard with an Int of 18 is effectively objectively better than a wizard with an Int of 10. But, even THERE, somebody will come up with a counter example showing that, even THERE, the Int 18 Wizard is NOT objectively better than the Int 10 Wizard (although they ARE better in a huge majority of cases).

Most characters SHOULD max out their KSA UNLESS THEY HAVE A GOOD REASON TO DO OTHERWISE

Right, so by your own admission, some build decisions are objectively more effective than others, because not all attributes are equal. QED. Why deploy so much verbiage towards pretending otherwise in the same comment? Why shift the goalposts to the topic of fun when I never claimed that mechanically optimal characters were always more fun than mechanically suboptimal ones?

You really need to read more closely what I said.

Objective vs subjective, at least when used in normal conversation, is NOT a binary.

I conceded that SOME differences are large enough that they ARE close to objectively correct. But, even then, there is still an element of subjectivity.

But even though some build decisions are, essentially (BUT NOT LITERALLY) objectively better than others (having a KAS of 18 instead of 10) does not remotely mean that all build decisions are even vaguely close to being objectively better or worse.

WE pretty much all (certainly including me) agree that you need a really, really good reason not to max out your KAS. There ARE good reasons for doing so but they are reasonably rare.

Where we disagree is your insistence that a Wis of 14 and Int of 10 (where Wis amd Int are both secondary stats) is objectively better than a Wis of 12 and an Int of 12. The differences there are not at all objective.


pauljathome wrote:

Taking that quote, there are some very very significant caveats that you are ignoring. "Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom tend to be more important unless a character requires a particular ability score from among the other three for a specific purpose"

I actually totally agree with the Paizo quote and I suspect others do too. When I raise Cha on my druid or Int on my Magus I DO have "a specific purpose".

Great, then we agree. The only ignorance at hand is yours towards my own celebration of the very nuance you are bringing up, as noted in one of my prior comments:

Teridax wrote:
In fact, the very existence of these non-standard adventures I would say demonstrates that there is an objective means of valuing ability scores, because their valuation changes in relation to the adventure's contents: an adventure with lots of social encounters and no combat would likely have Charisma as a god stat, and Constitution as the worst stat to boost. Similarly, an adventure that's just one big crime mystery to solve would likely have the Investigator be a top-tier class in that context, whereas otherwise the class is generally seen as fairly mid. Really, it's not that the valuation of ability scores is purely subjective (it appears you don't seem to believe this either), but that making a general case for their valuation still leaves room for more special cases where exceptional circumstances cause that valuation to change in largely predictable ways.

Once more, the point at hand is that the existence of meaningful exceptions does not disprove the general rule.

pauljathome wrote:
But. more fundamentally, taking a statement by Paizo as an objective fact is pretty questionable. Do you think Paizo actually understands this game sufficiently better than many of the people who post here that their opinions are objectively better? Lots of people (including me) would disagree.

Yes. Not only do I trust the game's own developers to understand their own game better than anyone else, I have no reason to assume that they'd be lying when they explicitly say that they value certain stats more than others in their own ruleset. This does not preclude them from making mistakes (that Alternative Scores variant is awful, for instance), but it does mean they operate from a position of unmatched expertise on the matter, in this particular case in a manner that does in fact correspond to the way most players build their characters. I am not so arrogant as to claim I know better than the developers in absence of substantial evidence, and I'd rather not illustrate the Dunning-Kruger effect with such unfounded braggadocio.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

You can say its objectively better at will saves to have 14 wis 10 int.
You can say 12 wis 12 int is objectively providing more languages and skills.

But then you have to decide what is more important. There is subjectivity in that sure, but if you both have a shared understanding that survivability is more important that what int offers than you may agree the 14 wis 10 int is better with that in mind.


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I'd say that yes, there's such a thing as an optimal character, at least for purposes such as combat/exploration. Social stuff and RP? That's a different ballgame.

However, it's much more elusive than in PF 1E, where "optimization" devolved into some variant of "play a wizard/druid/cleric and pick the right spells". That's a sign of the edition's balancing strengths. And I think a lot of people are WAAAAY too quick to claim their build is the most optimal and disregard everything else.

It's also important to realize that "optimal" varies from party to party. I don't mean that in the traditional "you do you and just have fun" way, though that's also fair. I mean that if you don't have a single Cha-based PC in your party, social encounters are going to HURT even if you're very solid everywhere else.

So with those caveats out of the way, combat and some non-combat optimization dictates that you maximize your ability to do important things well (combat control, deal damage, not die, make important skill checks). Pumping your primary stat feeds into basically all of those things, especially if your primary stat isn't Str or Con (they have basically no skills).

Past that, optimization boils down to weapon/feat/spell selections, but that's beyond the scope of this thread. I will say you can make a horrifically effective wizard while starting with Int 16, but that's mostly because walls and magic missiles don't require saves or attacks, and things like roaring applause and spiritual anamnesis only nominally do. Ditto heal/buffbot characters.

That's an anomaly, though. Most people have to attack or force saving throws.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Calliope5431 wrote:

I will say you can make a horrifically effective wizard while starting with Int 16, but that's mostly because walls and magic missiles don't require saves or attacks, and things like roaring applause and spiritual anamnesis only nominally do. Ditto heal/buffbot characters.

That's an anomaly, though. Most people have to attack or force saving throws.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I (and probably some of the others commenting in this discussion) resent the implication that if a character starts with "only" 16 instead of 18 in whatever ability is deemed "optimal" that the character is somehow "ineffective/gimped." Seriously, if a difference of +1 for half a character's levels (16 goes to 18 at 5th while 18 goes to 19, 18 goes to 19 at 10th while 19 goes to 20, 19 goes to 20 at 15th while 20 goes to 21, 21 goes to 22 at 20th) is the difference between a "good" character and a "bad" character then IMO your expectations are out of whack...


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Teridax wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
Another example (as it seems the studious Barbarian is unclear): I know of a lot of people who consider that casters can't deal as much damage than martials, and by a significant margin. I personally deal much more damage with my casters than with my martials. So how can these "anecdotes" be reunited under an "objective" theory of optimal?
That's the point: they can't, because anecdotal evidence is by nature incapable of proving a general point. Your personal stated experience of dealing more damage with casters than martial classes (are we talking AoE or single-target damage here?) has no bearing on the fact that martial classes are clearly designed to output more consistent single-target DPR than casters.

That's the point: You can't but I can. Your optimal with casters is lower than my optimal with casters. And unlike you I don't say you're wrong, because it's an objective truth that you get more damage out of martials than you get out of casters as much as it's an objective truth that I get more damage out of casters than I get out of martials. Because optimal is subjective.


Easl wrote:


I'm also a big supporter of the notion of tuning the campaign to the characters. If someone takes Vegetable Lore, I'm going to stick in some chances for it to be useful. My kid's first ttRPG (I was not GM), one of the players played a pie chef and the GM brought that into the story, with several different pie-related checks and scenes. So in that respect, too, the "objective" claim falls flat to me. I would counter the 'objectively worse stat' claim by saying that if a GM isn't at least somewhat considering the player's build choices in creating their adventures or modifying a canned AP...then I challenge: isn't that an objectively bad GM?

I am the opposite, the adventure content is what it is and not going to change or modify just because players made their characters in some way. But an adventure goes much beyond combat, so if the party is only focused in combat, maybe they lack something useful to make it easier.


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SuperBidi wrote:
That's the point: You can't but I can. Your optimal with casters is lower than my optimal with casters. And unlike you I don't say you're wrong, because it's an objective truth that you get more damage out of martials than you get out of casters as much as it's an objective truth that I get more damage out of casters than I get out of martials. Because optimal is subjective.

That's not how objective truths work. It is a mathematically demonstrable fact that martial classes in PF2e on average exceed the resourceless, single-target DPR of casters, and that most casters beat martial classes at AoE. That is what those classes are expressly designed to do. Claiming otherwise wouldn't invalidate this even if your personal experience did have you roll well enough to outdamage martials with your casters at DPR. At this point you are flat-out trying to deny the very existence of any sort of objective truth at all, which is peak sophistry.


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Teridax wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
That's the point: You can't but I can. Your optimal with casters is lower than my optimal with casters. And unlike you I don't say you're wrong, because it's an objective truth that you get more damage out of martials than you get out of casters as much as it's an objective truth that I get more damage out of casters than I get out of martials. Because optimal is subjective.
That's not how objective truths work. It is a mathematically demonstrable fact that martial classes in PF2e on average exceed the resourceless, single-target DPR of casters, and that most casters beat martial classes at AoE. That is what those classes are expressly designed to do. Claiming otherwise wouldn't invalidate this even if your personal experience did have you roll well enough to outdamage martials with your casters at DPR. At this point you are flat-out trying to deny the very existence of any sort of objective truth at all, which is peak sophistry.

I'm not denying the existence of objective truth, I'm just not stating the actual objective truth because it wouldn't be civil.


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Dragonchess Player wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:

I will say you can make a horrifically effective wizard while starting with Int 16, but that's mostly because walls and magic missiles don't require saves or attacks, and things like roaring applause and spiritual anamnesis only nominally do. Ditto heal/buffbot characters.

That's an anomaly, though. Most people have to attack or force saving throws.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I (and probably some of the others commenting in this discussion) resent the implication that if a character starts with "only" 16 instead of 18 in whatever ability is deemed "optimal" that the character is somehow "ineffective/gimped." Seriously, if a difference of +1 for half a character's levels (16 goes to 18 at 5th while 18 goes to 19, 18 goes to 19 at 10th while 19 goes to 20, 19 goes to 20 at 15th while 20 goes to 21, 21 goes to 22 at 20th) is the difference between a "good" character and a "bad" character then IMO your expectations are out of whack...

Not my implication. I build suboptimal characters frequently.

Being suboptimal is such a dirty word. I don't mean it as a pejorative. I mean it as "not perfectly optimized", rather than "you suck." This is a game about elves and magic swords. Anyone getting judgmental about chargen decisions like that is taking themselves way too seriously.

Here's where I hope I'm not putting words into your mouth. I find a lot of people get very defensive when someone points out that their character is numerically a little shy of optimal, and embrace the persona of "I don't do optimization, I do ROLEPLAYING!". And they deliberately make suboptimal decisions out of oddly-conceived principles. Again, nothing wrong with that, though it's a little weird to watch.

Anyway, my point is that no, I'm not attacking you or anyone else. I'm just pointing out that having a -1 to your main attack stat for the most played levels of your career (levels 1-9 tend to be played way more than 10+) may weaken your offense a moderate amount. And you may die slightly (only slightly) more frequently because of it. But if your character conception demands Str 16 on your wizard rather Int 18, far be it from me to make that decision for you.

My only other thought (and it's a small one, as you say) is...does having Str 14 (and Int 18) on your wizard rather than Str 16 (and Int 16) destroy your entire character concept? Because if you can live with Str 14, it might be best to go with the optimal decision. Not that you have to...just might be a decent idea. Just my two cents.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Bluemagetim wrote:

Can have a discussion around what is optimal and it can be based on objective facts about the games mechanics. You just need to be specific about what you mean by optimal.

Spell DC for example. If you want to be optimal at using spells that rely on Will saves to be optimal at this you need a class that gets the best spell casting proficiency available, a spell casting attribute at the highest available, and unless another party member is going to bon mot for you it might be good to be able to do that as well. A sorcerer might be optimal for this activity. They use charisma as the ability modifier so they also will have the best chance at succeeding at bon mot.
I am sure other factors can be considered but based on the specific ones I am considering sorcerer with bon mot and a +4 cha is optimal.
Notice no other stat is part of this consideration. Im not including how to be optimal at rolling fortitude saves or optimal at survival in general or anything else. Generally i think there are several common things that when someone says the word optimal they are implying, one is survivability, the other is offensive ability in class. But this has many variations so specificity is still important.

To show how this continues and point out why these subjective arguments are distractions. Lets take the Sorcerer example with +4 CHa and will go for bon mot. Fix that in place for the character.

Now what do you need to do with stats to be an optimal character. The answer is there are more than one way and it will depend on your goals and party coverage.

I would argue Wis is very important next. Why? sure it gives a bonus to will saves but more important it provides more perception, and that means a better chance of acting first with those spells against will saves. This is a point that no one has to agree with and can decide dex or con is just more important for whatever reasons. but Int wouldnt even make the conversation.
If there is nothing left in the concept goals Survivability is all that's left to build for and the rest of your attribute points would go into Dex and Con in some manner. But there is no way Int would be invested. It would not have anything to offer this character to survive or to improve your chance at succeeding at a DC against will.
For party comp optimizing it would be better to let another character help you identify which enemies are most susceptible to your will attacking spells rather than try to fit that into your build and lose survivability.

It all does start with goals for a character and once you start fixing those things in place you look at what points you have left to assign and you can do anything but some options give you things most of us understand to be more important than what others provide and that is the reason for the thread.
If you disagree that the survivability gained from dex con and wis are more important than the trained skills, language and improved RK from Int than were not on the same page. IF you do agree then the points about subjectivity are really distractions from what we actually agree on.


SuperBidi wrote:
I'm not denying the existence of objective truth, I'm just not stating the actual objective truth because it wouldn't be civil.

Forgive me if this does not inspire much confidence in your grasp of what constitutes objectivity. Your manufactured anecdotes are no substitute, let alone a counter to facts.

Onto more productive matters: while I personally would want attributes removed entirely, this is by no means the only means to address the rigidity of attributes in 2e, and many others would like to keep attributes in some form. Even the example of Lancer, a system I don't personally have experience with, features attributes of its own that appear to be much more flexible. This I think raises the question: if we wanted a similarly flexible attribute system in a future Pathfinder edition, how would we go about that? How would we go about making sure those attributes contribute in a meaningfully distinct way from skills or feats? What would that say about current mechanics like key attributes on classes?


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

How do you define "flexibility" and "rigidity" when speaking of attributes?

You want to get rid of attributes entirely. Does that mean get rid of attribute modifiers too? If so, how do you differentiate between characters? How will things like saves work?


Ed Reppert wrote:

How do you define "flexibility" and "rigidity" when speaking of attributes?

You want to get rid of attributes entirely. Does that mean get rid of attribute modifiers too? If so, how do you differentiate between characters? How will things like saves work?

Maybe development? As more skills/features you develop you increase associated stats.


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

What "associated stats"? How does this work?


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I have played plenty of characters who boosted 2 non-save attributes, mostly int+cha but str+cha as well. My current character, a witch, will also be pushing cha+int. It fits the character concept and that trumps everything else and that's that.

However, let's be honest here, if I could choose the attributes linked to my saves I would _never_ leave one, let alone two, of my saves lagging behind! Those saves _matter_. A lot actually. Especially as dex, con and wis seem to offer just as much as the other three even without the saves attached.

I will have fun with my witch and it will definitely not be unviable, but she will be vulnerable. It is an arbitrary cost you have to pay for some concepts but not others.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Calliope5431 wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:

I will say you can make a horrifically effective wizard while starting with Int 16, but that's mostly because walls and magic missiles don't require saves or attacks, and things like roaring applause and spiritual anamnesis only nominally do. Ditto heal/buffbot characters.

That's an anomaly, though. Most people have to attack or force saving throws.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I (and probably some of the others commenting in this discussion) resent the implication that if a character starts with "only" 16 instead of 18 in whatever ability is deemed "optimal" that the character is somehow "ineffective/gimped." Seriously, if a difference of +1 for half a character's levels (16 goes to 18 at 5th while 18 goes to 19, 18 goes to 19 at 10th while 19 goes to 20, 19 goes to 20 at 15th while 20 goes to 21, 21 goes to 22 at 20th) is the difference between a "good" character and a "bad" character then IMO your expectations are out of whack...

Not my implication. I build suboptimal characters frequently.

Being suboptimal is such a dirty word. I don't mean it as a pejorative. I mean it as "not perfectly optimized", rather than "you suck." This is a game about elves and magic swords. Anyone getting judgmental about chargen decisions like that is taking themselves way too seriously.

Here's where I hope I'm not putting words into your mouth. I find a lot of people get very defensive when someone points out that their character is numerically a little shy of optimal, and embrace the persona of "I don't do optimization, I do ROLEPLAYING!". And they deliberately make suboptimal decisions out of oddly-conceived principles. Again, nothing wrong with that, though it's a little weird to watch.

"Perfect optimization" is a canard.

A "suboptimal" 16 Int, 16 Cha witch that uses Bon Mot to set up spells targeting Will saves is often more effective (both individually and as part of a group) than an "optimal" 18 Int, 14 Wis witch.

In reality, both are optimized just for different criteria.

Deflecting to Stormwind Fallacy noted...


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Angwa wrote:

I have played plenty of characters who boosted 2 non-save attributes, mostly int+cha but str+cha as well. My current character, a witch, will also be pushing cha+int. It fits the character concept and that trumps everything else and that's that.

However, let's be honest here, if I could choose the attributes linked to my saves I would _never_ leave one, let alone two, of my saves lagging behind! Those saves _matter_. A lot actually. Especially as dex, con and wis seem to offer just as much as the other three even without the saves attached.

I will have fun with my witch and it will definitely not be unviable, but she will be vulnerable. It is an arbitrary cost you have to pay for some concepts but not others.

That framing might help here, as it seems the arguments against aren't actually contesting that INT and CHA are really really strong actually, but rather quibbling over the exact vernacular. That is ultimately my frustration, a player will want to do something like that and the system math makes them eat s@%~ for it for no real discernable reason.

5e seemed to sorta try to deal with this by having every attribute possibly be a save but that works out poorly. Having some other way to generate saves would probably help people have more wiggle room in chargen.


I think Intel can be fairly interesting if you build for it and take pleasure in the aspects of the game it is good at like Lore and intel-skill checks. Some people like playing the super smart player who knows a lot about things.

Power gamer combat stat for a class not using intel as a main stat, not worthwhile. Player looking to have fun playing a smart person that knows a lot and makes a lot of recall knowledge checks and likes to craft, they can enjoy intel a lot.


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SuperBidi wrote:
That's the point: You can't but I can. Your optimal with casters is lower than my optimal with casters. And unlike you I don't say you're wrong, because it's an objective truth that you get more damage out of martials than you get out of casters as much as it's an objective truth that I get more damage out of casters than I get out of martials. Because optimal is subjective.

I just want to pause here and savor something. @SuperBidi said this... and we can't actually solidly refute it. It's actually believable that "Does a fighter generate more damage than a sorceror" would be the sort of thing that might be dependent on the person running the character and the table they were running at. The classes in general are close enough that while we may have strong ideas about what's likely to be the case in most situations, it's close enough that the idea that the streams might invert is still plausible.

This? This is luxury.

3-Body Problem wrote:
AestheticDialectic wrote:
Intelligence was a better stat when it was what got you the best spells in the game. Wisdom used to only grant spells that maxed at lower level and charisma none at all. Problem at least partly lies with charisma being a casting stat at all
Charisma spent all of 3.x as the universal dump stat so you'd need to be very careful how you handled that.

Not quite universal. There were bard tricks, after all, and Sorcerors weren't exactly weak, and there was that one-level dip into Paladin for All The Saves, and oh my but Diplomancers were certainly a thing and Leadership was a thing, and turn/rebuke undead was a thing (in a few different ways) and there were some really cheeseball builds that made everything about Charisma... well, you get the idea. That said... yeah. Charisma was either a core part of your build that you'd exploit heavily (for a relatively small fraction of the builds) or an excellent dump stat (for everyone else).

Now in AD&D 1e? In AD&D 1e it was the dump stat to beat all other dump stats, and no denying it. Of course, in that system, you generally needed more than one. On the bright side, given the social skills of my peers and myself at the time, I suppose it helped us stay in character. The fact that Wisdom was the near-universal runner-up helped a bit too.

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