log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Don't play "stupid" characters. It is ableist.

I expect you meant your question rhetorically, but the Bioware Neverwinter Nights CRPG (2002) shipped with "stupid" dialogue, of the "me no tink so good" variety for characters with lower than a certain intelligence score. To add insult to injury, only half orcs could qualify without being hit by intelligence draining powers.

But really, D&D has always been divided into roll-players and role-players, right from the start, and some of that role playing weren't done too good.
I am Drax. I don't speak rhetorically. I do remember Gully Dwarves in earlier iterations of the game, but can't remember when they were phased out. As for the division between playstyles, both may have existed for some time, but when did the "role" become more important? Or is it because most people that actually play the mechanics of the game are driven away from any platform that talks about D&D, and "roll" is still more important, just not on visible platforms?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I do remember Gully Dwarves in earlier iterations of the game, but can't remember when they were phased out.
Dragonlance, 1984. I don't think they where every officially phased out, just quietly shuffled under the carpet.
As for the division between playstyles, both may have existed for some time, but when did the "role" become more important? Or is it because most people that actually play the mechanics of the game are driven away from any platform that talks about D&D, and "roll" is still more important, just not on visible platforms?
It always was, if you moved in those circles. It's probably the people in your circle that has changed.

The thing is, people who learned to play D&D one way tend to think that's how everyone did it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I asked when did the inflection point happen, not whether every type of form of play under the so-called D&D tent is acceptable. From what I read here, or in just about any post anywhere, any article, the majority seem to now believe that sitting down with other people for 4 or 5 hours and talking about your char and its motivations is far more important that actually slaying a dragon.

I want to know when that happened.
1974. It has more to do with who you play with than anything.
 



Jahydin

Explorer
There has never been a direct correlation between IQ distribution and the 3d6 bell curve ever mentioned in an official D&D book. The closest anyone can get is that 1E had a reference to using a modified 3d6 roll for NPCs if you wanted to randomize their ability scores.

The range and median of 3d6 just happens to roughly correspond to the range of IQ. That's all. The numbers are only relative comparisons anyway, it's not like people in the real world walk around with IQ score nametag. That and IQ tests are pretty flawed indicators, general intelligence is too complex to boil down into a single number.
That's true, but...

This statement from the Monster Manuals: "Intelligence indicates the basic equivalent of human 'IQ'" (MM p. 6, FF p. 7, MM2 p. 6)"

With the fact the 3d6 roll is suppose to generate the entire range of possible IQ's...

And that they're both bell curves...

I don't think it's a huge stretch to compare them in such a way. And, it's kind of fun! :)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I didn't disappear on purpose, I just work 12 hour shifts. Let me see if I can vaguely comment on some things.

The thread isn't about playing characters with severe cognitive impairments. If that is what you're doing, well you know what you're doing. (side note too - Those people are usually a lot 'smarter' than people give them credit for. They often get infantilized and treated as less than human and that is something we should be challenging within ourselves as well).

The thread is about how the concept of 'intelligence' as understood colloquially is a bunch of nonsense. Yes "IQ" and "G Intelligence" too.

The concept we have of intelligence in our culture is so ingrained that people take it for granted. A truism.

Multiple people have have referred to intelligence as inherent, going so far as to say it's something a person is born with. This is dangerous thinking which has been used to support eugenics (not saying that is what people meant by it when posting).

It has been pointed out that Intelligence originally in D&D was thought to correlate to the IQ scale. The IQ scale is a load of nonsense and so is D&D's original concept of intelligence. Thankfully in 5e intelligence is very narrow. Part of the point of the OP is to not draw broad conclusions of the character because of what the trait of 'intelligence' is called but to look instead at what it actually does in game.

Many cognitive traits and abilities our culture values we label as intelligence and then we label those who are lacking in those traits as 'stupid'.

Even if we were to grant that what our culture values is inherently good and right and we call some of that intelligence it still isn't correct to say it is inherent. There are countless factors both internal and external that are going to change, sometimes drastically, how intelligent a person is perceived to be.

A lot of "intelligence" is actually either a measurement of accumulated knowledge or the result of behaviours. This is why I listed a few traits and behaviours in the OP. Some people responded 'but that isn't what intelligence is.' And that is the point. Those traits and behaviours can make someone appear to us as unintelligent. Someone made reference to ADHD and said something along the lines of that doesn't make someone 'stupid' they just have traits and behaviours which make it difficult to succeed in our culture which expects different things from them. Many people with ADHD have reported that they thought of themselves as 'stupid' before their diagnosis. That's the problem, that's the harm.

There are numerous others. Find something someone is internally motivated to learn and they're going to have a much easier time learning it. Teach things in different ways - esp. different than in books - and a lot of people will do better. People who can learn from books tend to have a lot more accumulated knowledge because that is what we have valued. Now thankfully with new technologies many people have access to different ways to learn. Sometimes it's a matter of addressing cognitive distortions which inhibit learning. These are often learned and reinforced and can be addressed. It might be a matter of teaching someone from a different culture what the culture they're in values and how to learn and adapt to it. Maybe it's a matter of addressing 'learned helplessness' where the person doesn't apply themselves or attempt to accumulate knowledge because they have a negative self image wherein they believe they are incapable of doing so. Etc. Etc.

I didn't create this thread because something catastrophic happened. This is a result of seeing hundreds of threads about 'how to play PC or NPC with X intelligence' and other such things and seeing what people view as 'smart' and 'stupid'. I'm just challenging the common framing, that's all.

It's not about being 'offended' by what someone does in their basement. It's about how they think of other people and how they reinforce their beliefs. The roleplaying as an event in their basement isn't harmful. It's what they do after. It's not about directly treating people poorly (but please don't), it's about reinforcing harmful beliefs and attitudes which hurt others.

Our culture views some people as 'lesser' and we should fight that wherever we can.

So, don't play a 'stupid' character but do give a character traits and behaviours that get in the way.

Please don't take this post as being exhaustive on the topic. This was a rambling post too where I'm responding to various ideas in this thread, there is no central thesis that is being argued coherently throughout. It's not a research paper.

I think ideas of "what is intelligence" is far too complex a topic to really get into in a forum like this. On the other hand I disagree with the assertion that intelligence is unassociated to biology, some people do have greater inherent reasoning abilities than others. That can of course be greatly influenced by environment and it's debatable whether anyone has ever come up with a good way to test or even describe intelligence. D&D oversimplifies it like most things, but so have IQ tests. But there are many people, no matter how motivated, will never be physicists. Heck, I score high on IQ tests and I'd never be a good physicist because of an inherent weakness with math.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that everyone has inherent strengths and weaknesses. I'm better at understanding concepts, reading comprehension and analysis than most people. On the other hand I have weaknesses in the areas of hardcore math (although I've gotten much better at doing simple math in my head due to some tricks and playing D&D). To say that somehow it's "ableist"*, discrimination against disabled people or that playing a weakness is automatically assuming that having less capability makes a person somehow diminished or lesser. Intelligence, high or low, does not make a person any more or less worthy than how tall they are.

In other words, you can play stupid without being insulting. Being less intelligent doesn't make you any less worthy as an individual. Depicting someone with low intelligence is different from playing someone who is ignorant, or even stupid for that matter. IMHO IQ tests are always going to be inherently flawed but that doesn't mean that the concept of inherent intellectual capacity (that can be affected by other factors) is false.

*Using the dictionary definition of ableism here.
 

I guess my question to all this is: What is okay to play? (Especially for the DM to play as an NPC.)

A heavy-set man that runs out of breath and has a hard time moving?
An ugly man covered with warts?
A jaded women with a southern accent who works at the brothel?
A naive teenager who was born with a condition that makes them stink?
A dirt-poor farmer that is illiterate?

I mean, in the end, if your table can't discern a game from reality, or if you are playing with impressionable young minds, then I would always say err on the side of caution. But if your table has adults, it is insulting to them (and their intelligence) to think they can't separate reality from a game.

The thought that, "I am the only one smart enough to see these boundaries clearly" is elitism.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
The important part is justifying our insensitivity
But if your table has adults, it is insulting to them (and their intelligence) to think they can't separate reality from a game.
What's really insulting is when they pretend the issue is 'fantasy vs reality' in order to maintain a damaging status quo they clearly either don't understand or whose sufferers they don't care about.

I notice when people try and slippery slope, they still keep their eyes on 'acceptable' targets like fat people or apparently the mentally disabled and never slide the other way into racial stereotypes. Why is that? It is because they know that would be wrong?
 

Jahydin

Explorer
I have one simple question. At what point in the history of the game of D&D did the backstory of a char and the subsequent acting out that char's personality supercede the actual mechanics of playing D&D? I remember very clearly how D&D was played some 40 years ago. At what point did it transition into a game where threads like this were even entertained?
I think this was certainly a thing back in the day (late 1E through 2E) thanks to everyone wanting to have grand adventures like the Dragonlance novels, but not having the right mechanics to support it. Many rules were ignored and die rolls "fudged" in those times...

I feel like when the mechanic heavy 3E dropped that mostly went away though. All the discussion was based around game math, rules, optimal/clever builds, and tactical combat. 4E even more so. It was a very "crunchy" time to be alive!

When 5E dropped, I think it was a good mix of both. I personally was really hoping that teased "Advanced" book would have come out to really get us back to 3E levels of crunch, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards anymore. As the game currently is though, there really isn't that much mechanically interesting to talk about.

Even this discussion, which tackles something as complicated as the range of IQ's and how to roleplay them, mechanically boils down to exceptionally smart PC's succeeding 15% more than their "average" Int companions.:sleep:
 

The important part is justifying our insensitivity

What's really insulting is when they pretend the issue is 'fantasy vs reality' in order to maintain a damaging status quo they clearly either don't understand or whose sufferers they don't care about.

I notice when people try and slippery slope, they still keep their eyes on 'acceptable' targets like fat people or apparently the mentally disabled and never slide the other way into racial stereotypes. Why is that? It is because they know that would be wrong?
Considering I play with some of the kindest people on earth, most of whom have devoted their lives to helping others with their career choice, and have done so for years, I really think the only fallacy occurring here is someone who thinks they are better than others.

And your verbiage is incorrect. They do not "target" heavy people or people who have a lower IQ; they roleplay a person to highlight a character trait. I have never seen a player decide to play an obese or low IQ character. I have seen almost every DM I know do it hundreds of times, because they are highlighting a character's trait. So when the party asks the sailor who is way down on the scale of IQ, and he responds with a smile and says, "I don't know," to every complex question, then they are highlighting one of his traits. They may also describe them as kind-hearted or charming. The fact they have a childlike intelligence is one of their traits.

Again, part of elitism is believing in one's superior intellect, which in turn, leads to issues being black and white. The opposite of intellect.
 

Faolyn

Hero
No, you seem to be interpreting it as saying "take care not to portray characters with low intelligence scores as offensive caricatures of people with learning difficulties". Which is fair enough, if obvious. But that's not actually what the OP says: they are themselves conflating learning difficulties with stupidity.
That's not entirely what I read. Take this line:

When you play 'stupid' characters are you are saying that there are stupid people and then you are imitating those people.
I read this as people saying that some people are stupid--and I do wish @ad_hoc would specify here what he means--and that they are deliberately mocking them (making them a "walking insult and punching bag").

Now, I fully admit that his examples of how to play a person with low Int are conflating non-intellect issues with low Int. I said as much in my initial post to this thread, but that was like on page 2 or something so it's easy to forget at this point. I believe the examples were just poorly thought-out and weren't him actually saying "you have ADHD/a learning disability/are a foreigner, therefore you're not that smart." But until @ad_hoc explains--I'm also assuming that he's been busy with holiday stuff--we don't know for certain.
 

Faolyn

Hero
There has never been a direct correlation between IQ distribution and the 3d6 bell curve ever mentioned in an official D&D book. The closest anyone can get is that 1E had a reference to using a modified 3d6 roll for NPCs if you wanted to randomize their ability scores.
Actually, I think it came from a joke article in an early Dragon magazine by... I want to say Roger Moore? showing how you could determine your real-world AD&D scores. Divide your IQ by 10. Also, your Charisma was determined by the number of interviews you'd given. Can't remember the issue, though.

I think too many people took it to heart.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
That's not entirely what I read. Take this line:


I read this as people saying that some people are stupid--and I do wish @ad_hoc would specify here what he means--and that they are deliberately mocking them (making them a "walking insult and punching bag").

Now, I fully admit that his examples of how to play a person with low Int are conflating non-intellect issues with low Int. I said as much in my initial post to this thread, but that was like on page 2 or something so it's easy to forget at this point. I believe the examples were just poorly thought-out and weren't him actually saying "you have ADHD/a learning disability/are a foreigner, therefore you're not that smart." But until @ad_hoc explains--I'm also assuming that he's been busy with holiday stuff--we don't know for certain.

I addressed this in a post a couple pages back.

The idea of inherent 'stupidness' is flawed and a (complicated) result of our culture.

So don't do that. Instead, here are a some traits and behaviours which lead people to perceive others as stupid. They aren't limited to the OP. I provided more in my follow up post but they are countless.

Stop thinking of others as being stupid. Instead think of them as a complicated bag of traits and behaviours and pick and pull some of those to portray someone who is deemed to be 'stupid' by society.

There are 2 benefits here:

1) You won't be perpetuating and reinforcing harmful beliefs.
2) You won't need to keep making 'how do I play low intelligence characters' because the traits and behaviours you have chosen will guide you.
 



Faolyn

Hero
I guess my question to all this is: What is okay to play? (Especially for the DM to play as an NPC.)

A heavy-set man that runs out of breath and has a hard time moving?
An ugly man covered with warts?
A jaded women with a southern accent who works at the brothel?
A naive teenager who was born with a condition that makes them stink?
A dirt-poor farmer that is illiterate?
Are you playing the character with actual reasons to be like this, or are you basically making fun of real people like this? I know people who would honestly play a character like this. I've also known people who would play these characters as jokes.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Are you playing the character with actual reasons to be like this, or are you basically making fun of real people like this? I know people who would honestly play a character like this. I've also known people who would play these characters as jokes.
I feel there is some important truth in this question that probably lies at the heart of the matter.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I addressed this in a post a couple pages back.

The idea of inherent 'stupidness' is flawed and a (complicated) result of our culture.

So don't do that. Instead, here are a some traits and behaviours which lead people to perceive others as stupid. They aren't limited to the OP. I provided more in my follow up post but they are countless.

Stop thinking of others as being stupid. Instead think of them as a complicated bag of traits and behaviours and pick and pull some of those to portray someone who is deemed to be 'stupid' by society.

There are 2 benefits here:

1) You won't be perpetuating and reinforcing harmful beliefs.
2) You won't need to keep making 'how do I play low intelligence characters' because the traits and behaviours you have chosen will guide you.
First off, I completely agree with your basic premise. However, as I pointed out in my initial post here (and others have pointed out as well), you went about this a bad way. Because Intelligence, the D&D score, isn't about how people perceive you; it's about your actual abilities. So if you're playing a person with Int 7, but you decide to play this person as being from a very different country and having problems adapting, you're saying "foreigner = stupid." Especially since your Int doesn't become higher if you were to travel back to your country, since that's not how D&D works. Same thing for any of the other ideas you posted there; none of them are really tied to Intelligence, the D&D stat--or any other D&D stat. At most, they're Personality Traits (to go along with Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws). "I am new to this country and I'm not adapting well."
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I think this was certainly a thing back in the day (late 1E through 2E) thanks to everyone wanting to have grand adventures like the Dragonlance novels, but not having the right mechanics to support it. Many rules were ignored and die rolls "fudged" in those times...

I feel like when the mechanic heavy 3E dropped that mostly went away though. All the discussion was based around game math, rules, optimal/clever builds, and tactical combat. 4E even more so. It was a very "crunchy" time to be alive!

When 5E dropped, I think it was a good mix of both. I personally was really hoping that teased "Advanced" book would have come out to really get us back to 3E levels of crunch, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards anymore. As the game currently is though, there really isn't that much mechanically interesting to talk about.

Even this discussion, which tackles something as complicated as the range of IQ's and how to roleplay them, mechanically boils down to exceptionally smart PC's succeeding 15% more than their "average" Int companions.:sleep:
Even during the run of 3e and 4e I remember how people would brag about the session they had last week where “no one touched a die!”
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top