Sunday, October 4, 2009

What's in a Name? or Ability Scores and their names

Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma are the old school ability scores. Many a game-night and many a tale that followed did flow from using those six ability scores and the names they were given. But would different tales and games unfold if those abilities bore different names?

Let's start with Wisdom, this is often the most essential attribute for clerics and sometimes provides an advantage to save vs magic. Let's call this ability Piety; it'll do everything a Wisdom score used to do but will have a tighter reflection on how devout a character is and how in tune they are with the spirits/gods of their faith.

Next Dexterity, this often is used to apply a modifier to chance to hit with ranged weapons, get the heck out of the way in combat and possibly dodge traps, well let's call this Luck and see how it feels. Characters with high Luck scores get lucky shots in, manage to not be standing in the wrong place and are good with cards. Thieves are often linked to Dexterity, with that becoming luck a Thief shifts very slightly from a capable nimble fellow to an opportunist willing to test their fortunes in a wild and dangerous world.

Now Charisma, hmmm this is leadership and appeal let's try calling it Glamour not fashion celebrity but the ability to sway others opinions and perceptions of oneself. The quasi-magical nature of this can add an air of mystery and otherness to those with extreme scores.

Intelligence is often used as a measure of how much one knows and their ability to learn. Unfortunately the player of the character is often not always as intelligent as their character so how to make this work in play possibly by redefining as Lore a characters ability to know and use information.

Next up Constitution this is often used for health and hardiness. Change it to Spirit to reflect a oness drive and determination and we have a new definition for a set of modifiers that is otherwise identical.

finally we have Strength reworked as Stature which reflects one size and reach. A character with greater stature still get the combat modifiers associated with strength but with the reworking of the score as it relates to size it's application to non-human races can have some impact.

Let's look at the same character with the old and new Definitions

Str: 15 ,Int: 12 ,Wis: 9, Dex: 14, Con: 9, Cha: 11
A strong character, on the brighter end of average, not the most sensible of people but certainly nonbodies fool, failry agile and coordinated, of ordinary health at best and pretty average appeal.

Sta: 15, Lor: 12, Pty: 9, Luk: 14, Spt: 9, Glm:11
A large character, with a bit more knowledge then the avergae man but not exceptional, no great faith but also hardly a slacker or heretic in his faith, with better then average luck with a a lack of overt determination and no notable ability to dissuade or influence others.

Identical scores, identical modifiers that go along analogous but not completely identical characters. Playing with names and definitions and we get a different campaign.


  1. This can also be done satirically: Clinton R. Nixon's Donjon ("Links" on that page takes you to a free version of the text) uses Virility, Cerebrality, Discernment, Adroitness, Wherewithal, and Sociality.

  2. Mazes & Minotaurs calls them
    MIGHT (physical strength)
    SKILL (adroitness and martial training)
    WITS (alertness and cleverness)
    LUCK (good fortune and divine favor)
    WILL (resolve and self-discipline)
    GRACE (charm and appeal)

  3. How about Hol?

    * Greymatta: Intellectual capacity (if any)
    * Meat: Physical strength
    * Feets: Dexterity
    * Mouth: Charisma
    * Nuts: Spiritual resolve

    And I always like TOON for the "Chutzpah" stat.

  4. I can dig it.

    Most of the demi-humans would have a limit on Stature. Elves would have a Glamour bonus, I take it? Dwarves would have a bonus for Spirit. Halflings might have some extra Luck.

  5. Rearranged for the standard order which you present:



  6. Wow 5 responses, that's a record for me.

    I recalled someone else posting about reworking wisdom as Perception and couldn't get the idea of redefining ability scores out of my head.

    G. Benedicto- i suppose so, such bonuses would make sense in some campaigns. One could also go for overt restrictions based on what is rolled.

  7. Very interesting food for thought...