Thursday 20 December 2012

On Ability Scores (2)

More stuff that everyone and their dog has written about before:

In the last post I said that most NPCs in D&D should not have ability scores. By this, I don't mean that we shouldn't bother writing them down, I mean that they should not have them at all. Ability scores in D&D are not the same as characteristics in RuneQuest (RQ). In RQ, every living thing is statted out just like a PC because in RQ characteristics are a measure of something ‘real’. A Dragon’s STR can be compared directly to that of a PC. In D&D monsters do not have ability scores. If a monster needs only a bare stat line, so does an NPC, though they might have rich, complex histories and personalities.

In most versions of D&D, education does not raise INT, weight training does not raise STR, an improved diet does not raise CON. One of the weaknesses of thinking about D&D ability scores as a measure of something ‘real’ in the game world is that if, for example, we rationalising low CON as being the result of a PC’s obesity, a PCs CON score should be pretty mutable, changing with diet and exercise. If we treat D&D ability scores as representations of a Platonic ideal of the PC, the CON score will remain the same for the entire life of the PC. We might change the PC’s ability score modifiers though...

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