Ranking My RPG Stats

Over on Twitter last night, Gail Simone asked:

John Scalzi

This is a fun little exercise to consider, and while I answered this briefly over on that service (because everything on Twitter still needs to be brief), I thought it would be fun to rank them out over here in more detail. I won’t be offering a d20 number for each, because I’m not nearly objective enough for such gradations, but I think I can roughly guess where each of these attributes stand in a general ranking. So:

1: INTELLIGENCE. Look, I’m a pretty smart guy. Also, I have tons of information, useless and otherwise, rattling around in my skull. Up until the rise of Internet search engines, I would semi-frequently get 2am calls from drunken friends, asking me to settle bar bets about random shit, because there was a rather-better-than-average chance I would know the answer (within an order of approximation serviceable for bar bets). Additionally, I am usually fairly quick-witted, and pretty good at communicating ideas and concepts to others. The downside is that I am still occasionally guilty of doing “-splaining” of various sorts, but that’s a function of wisdom, I suppose, not intelligence. Point is, this is easily my top stat, and I think people would look at me funny if I suggested otherwise.

2. CHARISMA. I am, at best, average-looking, and my “at best” becomes more infrequent the older I get. But beyond that, I can be pretty charming, engaging and persuasive. I can work a room pretty well, make people happy to see me, and generally make a good impression. Also, and no one was more surprised to learn this than me, I am a decent manager of humans, partly because I take time to understand folks and use that knowledge to (eventually) get everyone harmoniously pointed in the right direction. Because I am a socialized introvert, there is a time limit on how long I can do all these things, and after a few hours I usually need to run away and take a nap. But while I’m on, I’m on.

3. WISDOM. Wisdom is the Dunning-Kruger stat in the real world, by which I mean people who will tell you they are very wise are probably fooling themselves, and people who actually have a decent amount of wisdom are wise to the fact that they are, shall we say, deeply fallible across several categories. My own take on myself is that younger iterations of me believed they were wiser than the current iteration of me does. I know a lot of my own personal failings, and I’m aware there are probably more than a few I’ve missed. That said, what I do have a lot of, at age 53, is experience, and experience is a good teacher, even if all it tells you is how much of what you’ve learned isn’t applicable anymore. Mostly as I get older I realize that when in doubt, the right thing to do is to be kind. Is that wisdom? Debatable, but it means I’m not a raging dickhead all the time, and I will take that.

4. CONSTITUTION. I think I have a very average amount of constitution, and it could be better; I was exercising a lot a year or two back and that helped, but I fell off recently and that’s been catching up with me now. Be that as it may, I am mostly healthy, with no major issues other than laziness. I don’t get sick very often, and when I do (last year’s COVID brain befuddlement notwithstanding) I usually just take a 20-hour nap and my body bounces back. I’m mostly okay, you know? Could be better! But okay.

5. STRENGTH. I also think I have a very average amount of strength for a man of my age, build, and life activity. It could be better but that would require effort, and, ugh, effort, whhhhyyyyyy. Also, bluntly, when feats of strength are required at the Scalzi Compound, they usually fall to Krissy, who is, no joke, just freakishly strong and thinks nothing of the fact. Several years ago some Internet wits were trying to negg me by suggesting my wife was stronger than I was; my response to that was a) it’s not a neg, she absolutely is, and b) she is probably stronger than they are, too. I think it’s awesome my wife is a fuckin’ Amazon, personally. I’m perfectly happy to have her be the strong one in the family.

6. DEXTERITY. I mean, I once cut myself on yogurt. This is definitely my dump stat. There is a reason that the day I turned 40 I started training myself to grab for the railings on whatever set of stairs I was about to use. I have no illusions that they will be the death of me if I don’t.

How would you rank your own RPG stats?

— JS

40 Comments on “Ranking My RPG Stats”

  1. The separation of INT and WIS is basically encoding your own observation about the failure mode of clever…

  2. Ugh, I think all my stats would be on the low side. I’m 64 and while I beat (thank you western medicine) cancer and got through open heart surgery some years ago… I won’t be taking on any hard quests in my life now.

    I’ll stay back in town and organize the loot you adventurers bring back. I’ll keep your homes up and ready for your return. Anytime you all head out I’ll wave and callout, “have fun storming the castle!” ;-)

  3. Grabbing for the stair railing! I’m with you John. Use what ever aids to allow us to live a longer life.

  4. My order:

    1) Int – I’m pretty smart, as it goes
    2) Wis- I’ve definitely added extra points here over the years, it went up from young me.
    3) Str- I have always been able to lift heavy things, regardless of how much I train
    4) Cha- I need to work at it, but if I put forth effort, I can be charming
    5) Con- decent endurance, but medical stuff has caught up with me.
    6) Dex- safety scissors please. And a helmet. And possibly another helmet.

  5. I was a RPG Programmer (old language) for 30+ years. I’m guessing it’s not the same RPG you’re talking about.

  6. Hmm. I had to look up whatever the heck an “rpg character sheet” was … Not my planet, monkey boy! ;)

  7. STR 13
    DEX 12
    CON 15
    INT 19
    WIS 15
    CHA 8
    I might be more charismatic than I give myself credit, but it’s definitely my dump stat, I mean, I am a nice guy, but get me in speaking to a crowd and you will see a real train wreck.
    I am relatively strong, but my dex has been going down over the years (i’m just a little older than John).
    In my own mind, I am more the mad scientist type, think doc brown, doctor who, doctor house, macgyver, and rick sanchez

  8. 1) Cha – I have had it said about me that I could “sell ice to Eskimos”. I’m not sure it was meant as a compliment in that circumstance (not to mention the problematic Native American name). But for a somewhat introverted person, I know I can put on my outdoor face/voice when I need to and do it well. I also ace interviews and have been offered jobs that I’m not at all qualified for, based on an in-person interview.

    2) Str – Like Krissy, I’m freakishly strong for a 54 year old woman. I’ve been lifting weights for a while now, but even when I first started lifting, I surprised (might even say stunned) several trainers who had to drastically reassess my ability after our first training sessions. My partner is still stronger, but he often underestimates my ability to move things.

    3-4) Int/Wis – I’m pretty sure these are close to tied. I used to think I was really intelligent and then I met my partner who is freakin’ scary intelligent. I make up for it with a huge amount of common sense and intuition. Wisdom – well they say that comes with age, and maybe at 54, I’ve finally developed some. :) But these two stats frequently flip flop.

    5) Con – As with others, age and medical stuff has been an issue for me. I have more stamina than a lot of people my age because I keep up with exercise but relative to my own past, I can definitely see a decline.

    6) Dex- My mother used to joke that my middle name was “Grace” – as in, I had none. I once stepped clean into a toilet while attempting to clean the window behind it and got my foot stuck. I’ve tripped while walking on a flat surface more often than I can count. I’ve stabbed myself in the thigh with gardening shears. I’ve had inanimate objects leap out of my hand for absolutely no reason I can figure out.

  9. Stat with healthy bonuses: Int
    Stats with moderate bonuses: Dex, Cha
    Stats that are 0 or negative bonus: Con, Str
    Wisdom: innate was in the negatives, but that’s where my level bonuses have gone. I joke that I accumulate wisdom at a slower rate than chronological age. Maybe a slight bonus by now? (54 years old)

  10. I’d put INT and WIS as my two highest stats. CON is pretty good; I tend not to get sick and if I do it doesn’t last long. DEX is reasonable; I do a lot of crafting that requires precision. CHA is average, and STR is the dump stat.

  11. Let’s see..

    Feeling good about: INT, WIS. The intelligence has always been there, and many many lessons learned in ways from amusing to heartbreaking have helped with the wisdom, so far as any of us are really wise.

    Tolerable: CON. I beat cancer a while back, and rarely get sick. I need to get my cardio in a better place.

    Trending Downward: STR, DEX. These were pretty good when I was younger. Not so much at 57.

    Bleh: CHA. People who really know me like me, but I’m such an introvert that not many people get that close. But I can put on the “friendly guy face” well enough to get by.

    Gail Simone is the one person I miss the most from Twitter. Sigh.

  12. We did this in the Army back in the late 80s.. created characters based on our own stats. 1st Edition had guidelines for some and we came up with others on our own (tests of strength/endurance/agility or group judgement).
    Now, 35 years later, my stats would be different and a couple of shuffling.|

    then: Int, Con, Dex, Str, Wis, Cha. Only below average was Cha… i couldn’t sell myself water in the desert.

    Now: Int, Dex, Wis, Con, Str, Cha (mostly because i’ve gotten back out of shape during the pandemic which might say my Wisdom is overstated). charismatic skills improve only thru wisdom.

  13. I’m average for my age (48) in most of these areas. My absolute dump stat is charisma. Anyone who doesn’t know me and gets stuck in a room/car with me for any length of time starts panicking. “She HATES me! She’s either a snob, or she really hates me.” Dude, I just don’t talk to you unless I have something to say. I rarely have something to say.

  14. When I or my students hurt themselves in some nonsensical way, I usually bring up you and the yogurt.

  15. A big part of the trouble with Wisdom is that, in D&D, that word doesn’t mean what you think it means. Are you strong-willed? Do you have good senses? Can you tell if someone is lying? Can you spend a week in the woods without starving? That’s D&D’s idea of a high Wisdom.

    So, that said, as a typical computer geek who was recently in a cast, I’ll lay claim to high Int and low Str. Not sure I can judge the others (which I guess proves my Wis doesn’t suck :-D ).

  16. That is an interesting exercise you did.

    I am a little surprised that at your age you feel weak. Probably too much time sitting in front of the computer due to your profession.

    At 78 (wow, I have trouble believing I’m that old), I can only say that the problem gets worse with age. We both have to fight against it.

  17. My strengths? Not on the list. Mainly that I don’t need much beyond what I have.

    Weaknesses? Lazy. Boy, am I with you on that one. I wish it meant I was also with you on being a well-known writer :lol:

  18. John; you cut yourself on… yogurt?

    PLEASE tell us more!

    I once super glued my right index finger to my left eyelid.

  19. My stats would be similar to yours, though I’d put Constitution definitely ahead of Wisdom and possibly ahead of Charisma.

    I thought my Dex was near as low as one could get, but I have never cut myself on yogurt, so thanks for that confidence booster!

  20. ranked: INT, CON, STR, WIS, CHA, DEX

    I do puzzle hunts for fun and (so far) bounce back easily from sickness and injuries. STR would be higher if I weren’t off the wagon on exercise :P

    But WIS is pretty low and DEX is at the bottom…as the causes of many of those injuries I shrug off XD

  21. hmmm… “playing to your strengths”… that’s proof of wisdom right there…

    of which… I ran across the guy who marketed the (infamous) “pocket fisherman” and that veggie slicer thingie (voted “most likely to cause a bloody mess in the kitchen” and third place for “products resulting in interesting scars”)… his claim to fame being having invented the ‘infomerical’

    whereas OGH created an abomination sure to outlive our civilization: bacon glued onto bemused cat

    take away: it is a random set of attributes you get but all about exploiting ’em better than anyone else


  22. I think I’m REASONABLY all those things. Except Charisma. I don’t have that. I might be pretty much immune to that in others.

  23. Probably, from highest to lowest:
    My first thought was that wisdom would be higher, but I know I don’t have enough life experience for that. I’d say intelligence is highest just from virtue of not being as bad as the others, and charisma is most certainly my dump stat. Otherwise, the physical stats are nothing to write home about at best.

  24. I, too have way too much trivia and stuff rolling in my head. Have you thought about going on Jeopardy!? I made it all the way to the final cut, and didn’t make it. The experience was one I thoroughly enjoyed.

  25. I’m a min-maxer.

    INT – high.
    WIS – hopefully increasing.
    CHA – variable. Terrible to most people, hilarious to friends.
    DEX – also variable. I tripped over a bathtub once and regularly injure myself sleeping, but I can fence and type.
    CON – now with even more chronic conditions!
    STR – double nope.

  26. Intelligence is by far my highest stat, and I have some evidence to support that claim. About a decade ago I decided to take the Mensa entrance exam (because a friend had done it and that gave me the impetus to do the same, though I’d been thinking about it for a while.) I was accepted and have been a member since.

    My dump stat is definitely Charisma. For work I’ve taken both the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator test and the DISC assessment. On DISC the D and I scores generally indicate extroversion and S and C indicate introversion. On a scale of 1-100 my S and C scores were over 60 points higher than my D and I scores.

    Of the physical stats, my Dexterity (especially in my hands, since I type very well) is probably highest. Maybe Constitution, since I’ve had some pretty nasty illnesses or injuries that I’ve handled well.

  27. Fun exercise, but wish I had ranked myself 40 years ago so I could see how things change. Intelligence is number 1. Wisdom has grown over the years, but still isn’t nearly where it needs to be.

    Strength is declining. I used to be much stronger than a skinny guy had any right to be, but not anymore — back problems caught up with me. I got it from my father — he was also freakishly farm-boy strong and I saw him do things that still amaze me.

    Constitution is fine. I’m pretty good on dexterity but it’s not as easy to do fine work as it used to be.

    The one thing that really surprised me a few years back was charisma. I’m also a socialized introvert and I can switch on the charisma when I have to, but never really pushed it, because it’s so draining. A boss asked me to man a couple of sales booths at different events because we had paid for them and nobody else was available. I said, sure, but don’t expect much. I killed it — sold more than four times what the regular salesperson did on average. I absolutely don’t want to do it for a living, but it’s nice that I can still surprise myself.

  28. What I hate about these D&D type stats is that they are not malleable.

    If someone is not very strong or charismatic they might think “I guess that’s the way I am.”

    It’s fatalistic, discouraging, an excuse for laziness, take your pick. Any or all of the above.

    Most of these “fixed traits” are actually highly elastic.

    I run marathons and ultra marathons, so I guess I’m tops in Constitution. But it was not always so. When my first child was born I was a very fat smoker. Carrying my baby up the stairs I could barely make it. “Something has to change.” I thought. “This is bullshit.” I started running, lifting weights, eating well and now I am probably in the top 1% physically fit.

    Similarly, I’ve always been a klutz, and I had my hands badly burned in a childhood accident. Between scar tissue, nerve damage and atrophy, I literally could not zip up my pants. The Shriners sent a magician called “The Great Scott!” To teach me card and coin tricks to help me regain what use I could, and he visited me twice a week for 18 months. My scarred hands are quite now quite clever.

    Wisdom has never been a strength, but experience is a great teacher, and I’m certainly a lot wiser than I was back in the days of my youth.

    As a 15 year old I was socially awkward and unattractive. I thought that might actually be nice if people, particularly girls liked me. I worked on my charisma: my dress, my grooming, my attitude. I started thinking about other people’s wants and how I might satisfy them and how I was perceived. That improved things dramatically.

    Things go the other way too. I think I’m gifted in my intelligence, and have tested so, but I have often times found myself on the short end of the stick in battles of wits with people I judged as much less intelligent than I. How does this happen? Someone who doesn’t think they’re smart doesn’t take their intelligence for granted. They don’t trust their intelligence. They put processes in place to protect themselves from their stupidity. They are willing to accept the possibility they are wrong. They doubt. They are less likely to fall victim to confirmation bias and the classical logical fallacies. Any con man tell you it’s easier to con a smart man than a dumb one.

    That’s how the dumb people beat the smart ones, which begs the question, who is the smart one then? It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are. What matters is your functional intelligence.

  29. I admit that I cheated; I asked a few friends to rate me.

    It was an interesting study because I seem to be someone else to each of them. I am humbled by the fact that each of them did it, more so by the mental effort they each put into it.

    The fantastical part was that I think I am someone other than they think I am, even though each had a wildly different score, mine was much different than any of theirs.

    I am not going to waste y’alls time other than to say I do not think of myself as charismatic, but two friends put that at the top of the list.

  30. My problem is that all six of those attributes would rank in the top three. Also, humility is left out.

  31. John, I daresay you are mistaken to worry about “-splaining.” I for one can’t cushion every ego from every blow.

    A newspaper reporter, writing about a Great Big Fire five days after it happened, will still explain “there was a fire.”

    A proper journalist will still expand on a set of initials using proper words, the first time the initials are used, because “there are new babies being born every minute” who do not know the acronym.

    Of course, whenever possible without doing contortions, one could check as to see whether “-splaining” is needed.

    Some friends read neither books nor newspapers. I took care to ask if they knew what an oligarch was (no) and an advent calendar (no and yes) So I explained stuff before I told a joke:

    “I accidentally bought a Russian advent calendar. Every time I open a window an oligarch falls out.”

  32. @ Just sayin’:

    “What I hate about these D&D type stats is that they are not malleable.”

    Not really.

    D&D and similar systems make it very clear that stats only give you a greater natural aptitude at doing certain things than at doing others. Training and learning (leveling up) very quickly overcome natural (dis)advantages, and are much more important in the medium to long run.

    I.e. great starting INT is only as good as the training you put into INT-related skills. Crappy DEX can be overcome with training. It’s the opposite of promoting laziness.

    “Any con man tell you it’s easier to con a smart man than a dumb one.”

    Heard that one before, but it’s a little short on evidence. I suspect it’s more to do with people who think they’re smart than with smart people. Or it could just be sour grapes (leading to confirmation bias).

    @ Angry socialist:

    “CHA – variable. Terrible to most people, hilarious to friends.”

    I’ve got one of these too! Maybe we can form a club… and then not talk to each other?

    For me, STR and CON are probably top (the latter more to do with Fortitude saves than with stamina). My INT has secured me a very comfortable lifestyle, so that’s got to be up there too.

    As for the other three, I still have people willing to talk to me, have managed to avoid the usual pitfalls of life for dudes in my age group, and can (generally) walk in a straight line without tripping over my feet. Not all three are dump stats, but they’re not remarkable either.

  33. Fatman:

    Those are very good points, and I’ll accept your corrections regarding how these stats work in D&D.

    What I was trying to say, and what I think your correction is helping me say more clearly is that in real life it works a little differently. You can change your stats.

    A dummy slogs his was through algebra, he is changing and altering his mind and creating new neural pathways. Maybe he started studying algebra at a 9 intelligence. By the time he’s done, maybe he is an 11. He studies calculus, and again slogs his way through, gaining not just knowledge and skill but additional mental horsepower which he can now apply to whatever other intellectual pursuits he undertakes.

    Please please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think the gaming stats models take this effect into account.

    I think it’s important point because it means the genetic fix is not in. You are not stuck at a say, 9 intelligence. You can improve through work.

    Also, if you’re an 18 intelligence, it doesn’t mean you are going to stay there. You don’t exercise the noodle, you will lose your ability to reason and learn.

  34. @ Just sayin:

    “Please please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think the gaming stats models take this effect into account”

    That’s fairly accurate. D&D also allows for stat increases, but they’re modest. E.g. you need a huge amount of experience to bump a stat up enough to change the stat modifier to your skill. You get there much faster by dedicating skill points, or whatever the game calls them.

    Which I think is reflective of real life (if a bit simplified for gaming purposes). People can get a little smarter, or a little stronger, but they rarely move far from their genetic potential. I’d argue that someone studying algebra is adding points to their algebra skill, not developing a meaningful amount of additional processing power. But that’s really a minor quibble.

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