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

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
The Flynn effect doesn't prove that general intelligence is crap. There are reasonable and interesting explanations for it. One, for example, is that human nutrition has improved substantially in the countries that have experienced it. Just as peoples' height has grown substantially in a lot of countries as a result of rising living standards, so has general intelligence.
Well, we can easily measure the differences in average height due to having an objective physical difference to see.

However, IQ tests have changed substantially over the years as far as my understanding goes; to the point that its likely the one I did years ago wouldn't be the one I would be given now. How do we rule out that having an effect? Follow on question: say I take an IQ test at the age of 80, and for the most part my brain functionality hasn't changed or degraded significantly. Will IQ tests, taking into account the changes necessary to 'accurately measure average intelligence' , still note my score as above average (really fascinating it did that as I am thick as heck in general, but certain aspects relating to the test really appealed to my interests as I had then - particularly the reading, which until the year I took it I immensely struggled with), or will mine being reduced - seemingly suggesting my, well, general intelligence has somehow decreased? How can we be sure newer tests aren't biased in some regard as well?

Has that potential effect ever been measured or discussed?

As well as that, one of the studies done recently in Kenya, in 2003, mentioned in that page, that parental literacy and family structure were likely hypothesis as to why these children had higher IQ scores. So are these children more 'intelligent', or better educated?

There are thoughtful and reasonable scholars trying to understand these phenomena. Try for example, looking up an academic review article about the state of intelligence research--like any academic subfield, there are many differing but reasonable evidence-based views.

That's not to say it can't also be true that political actors use this research to advance an agenda.

Apologies, I am quite poor at finding studies and doing that type of research - I only knew about the Shaun video from discovering his channel for other reasons. Could you point out these academic reviews and articles about the state of the intelligence fields, as you are so much more familiar with them than me?
 
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ad_hoc

(he/they)
You should try to consider the optics of your arguments a bit more. Yes, it is (unfortunately) true that a lot of people think foreigners are stupid. Suggesting that if someone wants to play a character who is perceived as stupid they ought to play a foreigner makes it look like you are one of those people. I understand that you aren’t, but that might not be as clear to all readers, and people will be less inclined to take your argument charitably if they get the impression that you’re a xenophobe. Moreover, people arguing in bad faith will absolutely not hesitate to take advantage of this potential misunderstanding, painting you as the bigoted one.

Only if they completely ignore the 20 posts I've made before. I get it, people will do that, but that's on them. If they're just hear to pick and choose sound bites to win internet arguments I don't care about them.

In the OP I say don't play 'stupid' characters. Then I list a bunch of different ways to play characters that are perceived as stupid. The same optics argument could be made about every one of those other traits and behaviours.

The whole point is that the concept of intelligence we have in our culture is a load of nonsense.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Narratively in D&D intelligence is more than memorizing facts.

5e PH page 12

Intelligence
Measures: Mental acuity, information recall, analytical skill
Important for: Wizard

Page 177
INTELLIGENCE
Intelligence measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall, and the ability to reason.
INTELLIGENCE CHECKS
An Intelligence check comes into play when you need to draw on logic, education, memory, or deductive reasoning. The Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion skills reflect aptitude in certain kinds of Intelligence checks.
“Ability to memorize facts” is a pretty decent summary of what you’re quoting from the book. A bit incomplete, as it leaves out the deductive reasoning element, but still, most of what the Intelligence ability is used for by characters other than wizards is memorizing facts - or rather, recalling facts that you’ve memorized. Heck, arguably with how wizard magic works, that’s how wizards use it too.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Only if they completely ignore the 20 posts I've made before. I get it, people will do that, but that's on them. If they're just hear to pick and choose sound bites to win internet arguments I don't care about them.
You’re only considering the bad faith actors here, and I agree with you, I don’t really care what they think. The problem is that they influence what “normies” think of the ideas you’re presenting. And if you want to see your ideas adopted by the broader culture, the “normies” are the ones you have to convince. If all you’re doing is preaching to the choir, you’re not moving the needle. That’s why optics are important.

In the OP I say don't play 'stupid' characters. Then I list a bunch of different ways to play characters that are perceived as stupid. The same optics argument could be made about every one of those other traits and behaviours.

The whole point is that the concept of intelligence we have in our culture is a load of nonsense.
Yes, and I agree with that point, but if you make it in a way that at a glance comes across like you’re saying in the same breath, “and those traits we associate with stupidity are actually just traits of being foreign,” no one who doesn’t already agree with you is going to want to read any further into it than that.
 


ad_hoc

(he/they)
You’re only considering the bad faith actors here, and I agree with you, I don’t really care what they think. The problem is that they influence what “normies” think of the ideas you’re presenting. And if you want to see your ideas adopted by the broader culture, the “normies” are the ones you have to convince. If all you’re doing is preaching to the choir, you’re not moving the needle. That’s why optics are important.


Yes, and I agree with that point, but if you make it in a way that at a glance comes across like you’re saying in the same breath, “and those traits we associate with stupidity are actually just traits of being foreign,” no one who doesn’t already agree with you is going to want to read any further into it than that.

You're not wrong.

To be honest I don't even know why I'm still responding to this thread.

I made the OP concise in part to avoid this sort of thing.

Then I made a follow up post and should have just ended it there.
 


Voadam

Legend
“Ability to memorize facts” is a pretty decent summary of what you’re quoting from the book. A bit incomplete, as it leaves out the deductive reasoning element, but still, most of what the Intelligence ability is used for by characters other than wizards is memorizing facts - or rather, recalling facts that you’ve memorized. Heck, arguably with how wizard magic works, that’s how wizards use it too.
I'd say it is part, but a big part is also not.

Mental acuity, analytical skill, ability to reason, logic, deductive reasoning, and investigation all seem like significant aspects that are not memorizing facts. Also education is arguably more about issues other than specific memorized facts (critical analysis being a big one).


Narratively in D&D intelligence is more than memorizing facts.

5e PH page 12

Intelligence
Measures: Mental acuity, information recall, analytical skill
Important for: Wizard

Page 177
INTELLIGENCE
Intelligence measures mental acuity, accuracy of recall, and the ability to reason.
INTELLIGENCE CHECKS
An Intelligence check comes into play when you need to draw on logic, education, memory, or deductive reasoning. The Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion skills reflect aptitude in certain kinds of Intelligence checks.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm not saying that it should be covered by Int.

Int covers the ability to memorize facts.
Among other things, yes.

In game terms, where would you put the following if not under Intelligence:

--- deductive reasoning, i.e. the drawing of conclusions based on facts memorized as above
--- logical thought (or lack thereof)
--- --- the ability to both develop and apply strategy and tactics (often important for adventurers!)
--- the ability to learn new things and-or concepts that don't necessarily involve factual memorization
--- creativity and-or imagination; the ability to imagine new things and-or concepts and, if able, make those things real

Of these, the only one that might have a case for not being part of Intelligence is the deductive reasoning piece; I could see an argument for that going under Wisdom instead, but I'm going with Int for it for now.

A very high-Int character can be at least vaguely assumed to be good at all of these, plus memorization and retention.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Well, we can easily measure the differences in average height due to having an objective physical difference to see.

Measurement of latent variables - the ones not directly observable in the way height supposedly is - has a long history (the field now called psychometrics - as opposed to psychometry which would be much more lucrative). Markus and Boorsboom have a nice book on discussing how to conceptualize the validity of such measurements (although the later chapters are especially dense, and the early ones wouldn't hurt by having either some college level statistical and/or psychological training). Frontiers of Test Validity Theory: Measurement, Causation, and Meaning (Multivariate Applications Series): Markus, Keith A., Borsboom, Denny: 9781841692203: Amazon.com: Books

"IQ" as an example of a latent variable certainly has been abused and much of the early work is closer to phrenology. That's a separate issue from whether there are underlying things the general public would label as "intelligence". Which is separate from if it is worth the consequences of pursuing.

As far as average height, that's only easy because we gloss over the technicalities. People for example shrink over the course of the day, so when you measure them makes a difference. As far as weight, one fun data set in an intro stat book is the daily measurements of "the kilogram". The statistical measurement error models for these physical measurements have some relationships to the psychometric ones.
 
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Kurotowa

Legend
Because the OP used a very poor choice of words to say "don't be a dick".
Pretty much. It's would be ...well, still contentious because some people are really adverse to change or having their habits challenged, but a bit more clear to say "Hey, we're trying to clear out harmful stereotypes about race and gender, let's also hit some of those untrue caricatures of uneducated or non-neurotypical folks because boy has Rainman not aged well and 'Me Grok, Grok smash' isn't much better."

As for the argument some have made that no one at your table is offended so it's fine, all that does is create an invisible exclusionary barrier because anyone who would feel attacked isn't going to last long. I mean, the way people here are reacting to even the suggestion of change, you think they'd take it better when the New Player asks it of them? Of course not, they'll say that New Player obviously isn't a good fit and kick them out, assuming New Player doesn't quit on their own. The point to being welcoming and kind is that you create a friendly place for people to join, rather than a harsh and unfriendly one that chases them away. They're not going to stick around fighting for reforms if they have no reason to be invested in the first place.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
Measurement of latent variables - the ones not directly observable in the way height supposedly is - has a long history (the field now called psychometrics - as opposed to psychometry which would be much more lucrative). Markus and Boorsboom have a nice book on discussing how to argue the validity of such measurements (although the later chapters are especially dense, and the early ones wouldn't hurt by having either some college level statistical and/or psychological training). Frontiers of Test Validity Theory: Measurement, Causation, and Meaning (Multivariate Applications Series): Markus, Keith A., Borsboom, Denny: 9781841692203: Amazon.com: Books

"IQ" as an example of a latent variable certainly has been abused and much of the early work is closer to phrenology. That's a separate issue from whether there are underlying things the general public would label as "intelligence". Which is separate from if it is worth the consequences of pursuing.

As far as average height, that's only easy because we gloss over the technicalities. People for example shrink over the course of the day, so when you measure them makes a difference. As far as weight, one fun data set in an intro stat book is the daily measurements of "the kilogram". The statistical measurement error models for these physical measurements have some relationships to the psychometric ones.
Sounds like it's an interesting book.

Also, that's really fascinating about average height.
 

Bolares

Hero
I'm talking fictionally. I don't think it's a good idea to take an actual real life culture that isn't yours and imitate it. That's terrible.
I don't see why it would be okay fictionally. There's no good reason to use "foreigner" as a substitute for "stupid". And even if I get why you made the comparison, it's still REALLY offensive. I've studied english for almost a decade, been fluent in it for another decade, but I'm still extremelly insecure about my English, both when writing and when speaking it, because on numerous ocasions I've been treated as stupid because of either my latino accent or typos (or using portuguese grammar rules when writing in English).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Okay look.

Lots of people want to play illiterate characters who don't know things and call them 'stupid'.

Now to that I say don't play stupid characters. If you want that experience there are lots of different ways to do it through traits and behaviours.
Literacy is an interesting aspect here.

In medieval society (which many D&D settings are based on at least to the lip-service level) literacy was very uncommon among the general non-elite populace; nothing to do with intelligence and lots to do with access to avenues of learning. What this means in game terms is that illiteracy does not necessarily reflect lack of intelligence: I can play a high-Int illiterate character just fine while at the same time I can play a literate character who is otherwise only slightly more intellectual than a rowboat, as both are well suited to the setting.

As for using traits and behaviors rather than stats to reflect a low intelligence, isn't that just shifting the perceived problem from one place to another?
Don't play 'stupid' characters.
I at all times reserve the right to play an idiot.

Further, I at all times reserve the right to play like an idiot.

(these two things are not unrelated!) :)
 

teitan

Legend
Playing a caricature is just that, a caricature. Are some stereotypes old and boring and insensitive? For sure. Back you 100% but not everything needs to be a cause. Sometimes causes like this are far more ableist and presumptive than the thing you’re trying to educate people on. Define “stupid character”, now define “stupid person” and show me someone who fits how people play “stupid characters”. If I’m playing Pinky, from Pinky and the Brain, I’m playing a “stupid character” but how is that character “ableist”? If I’m playing my character as mentally handicapped as portrayed in insensitive portrayals of individuals with Down’s syndrome? Yep and I would be upset if a player did that who was playing it for laughs but if they were playing it to explore the world through that lens? No. Get outta here, that’s their experience to try to have and if they’re being sensitive and sincere in their attempt to explore this experience and the other players are as well that’s not any of your business. We are all people trying to have an experience and RPGs can help people grow into new experiences by being different people in unique and different worlds and that includes the full gamut of different beings, cultures and differences.

What business does anyone have telling another table what they can and can not do ? This is the same argument against gay marriage or interracial marriages. What business of yours is it if it isn’t your table, your game? It has no bearing. If it’s your game and you’re not comfortable with it you can talk to the players there and say I don’t like this and come to an agreement to not approach those subjects at the table.

personally if I came to a table of insensitive butts about these topics I would just walk away and not play with them but that’s their game and it may never be a thing outside of that table and may just be an experience they need to release steam. The only thing we should be saying that’s not 100% ok is KKK/Nazi crap and you aren’t welcome here if you’re into that. It’s one thing to play a game of space Nazis. It’s another to idolize one.

I also include anyone who associates accents due to ESL as a lack of intelligence on that Nazi KKK list of this is not ok. I worked with a guy, thick middle eastern accent. Back in Iraq he was a doctor. People at our job thought he was stupid because he was hard to understand. I used to sit with him at lunch and one day he started talking to me about living in Iraq under Saddam and being a doctor and how he came to the US as a refugee after Saddam fell. He had been a prisoner of ISIS and freed by the marines and came to America and was taking English classes to help him with his accent so he could get into American medical school and get his medical license here. He’s now in his internship. People talked to him like he was stupid. One of the smartest people I know. I have other stories like this because I am a trainer. I work with ESL every day and teach them the job and have to help people overcome barriers and oftentimes with no English at all. I’ve had to teach lawyers and physicists how to do menial labor because they were refugees from African countries. One of my favorites is a former chief who lost his lands due to the Somalian civil unrest in the 90s, he calls me his Knight (I have a formal knighthood through Masonic/Gnostic connections) and we’ve taken computer certifications together. One of the great pleasures of my job is getting to know these people and teaching them how to express their intelligence and value in a different culture than their own so that they can get ahead at our job and in life. Never, ever call someone with an accent stupid. Ever. I will find you and you will regret it. Lol
 
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Bolares

Hero
You should try to consider the optics of your arguments a bit more. Yes, it is (unfortunately) true that a lot of people think foreigners are stupid. Suggesting that if someone wants to play a character who is perceived as stupid they ought to play a foreigner makes it look like you are one of those people. I understand that you aren’t, but that might not be as clear to all readers, and people will be less inclined to take your argument charitably if they get the impression that you’re a xenophobe. Moreover, people arguing in bad faith will absolutely not hesitate to take advantage of this potential misunderstanding, painting you as the bigoted one.
Thank you! That's the point I was trying to make. PLaying a foreigner should never even be in the same conversation as playing a stupid character. But it is, because a lot of people equate foreigner with stupid. By bringing "foreigner" to this conversation, even if the OP doesn't believe it, reinforces the harmfull steryotype.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
Well, we can easily measure the differences in average height due to having an objective physical difference to see.

However, IQ tests have changed substantially over the years as far as my understanding goes; to the point that its likely the one I did years ago wouldn't be the one I would be given now. How do we rule out that having an effect? Follow on question: say I take an IQ test at the age of 80, and for the most part my brain functionality hasn't changed or degraded significantly. Will IQ tests, taking into account the changes necessary to 'accurately measure average intelligence' (really fascinating it did that as I am thick as heck in general, but certain aspects relating to the test really appealed to my interests as I had then - particularly the reading, which until the year I took it I immensely struggled with), still note my score as above average, or will mine being reduced - seemingly suggesting my, well, general intelligence has somehow decreased? How can we be sure newer tests aren't biased in some regard as well?
Intelligence tests are supposed to be consistent over time, and usually are (on average), but there are all kinds of things that can bias them (which the test writers perpetually struggle to mitigate) and some intelligence tests are better measures of G than others.

As well as that, one of the studies done recently in Kenya, in 2003, mentioned in that page, that parental literacy and family structure were likely hypothesis as to why these children had higher IQ scores. So are these children more 'intelligent', or better educated?
I'm not sure. That may be disconfirming evidence but, you know, there needs to be consistent disconfirming evidence and also a good replacement explanation of what causes a phenomena, before the existing explanation is discarded.

Apologies, I am quite poor at finding studies and doing that type of research - I only knew about the Shaun video from discovering his channel for other reasons. Could you point out these academic reviews and articles about the state of the intelligence fields, as you are so much more familiar with them than me?
It can be tricky getting access to academic articles sometimes because of the pay-gating of the large journal publishers, but you can usually get them through your local library.

Annual Reviews is good place to find high level summaries of research about almost anything. They have one on intelligence from 2012. There is also the book chapter I linked in my first post in this thread. As access to those might be difficult, here is a full text link to a short article about the topic from 2019 (it argues against general intelligence, fyi) which summarizes prior research and cites lots of things, so you can follow its breadcrumbs if you're so inclined. Also, google scholar is your friend if you ever want to find things like this in the future.

---

To clarify; I am not of the opinion that general intelligence definitely governs human success and flourishing, just that there is a there there. A meaningful phenomenon has been observed, there has been a good faith effort to understand it, and it might be that general intelligence is a durable personal characteristic.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
To clarify; I am not of the opinion that general intelligence definitely governs human success and flourishing, just that there is a there there. A meaningful phenomenon has been observed, there has been a good faith effort to understand it, and it might be that general intelligence is a durable personal characteristic.
That is probably valid; I am just so suspicious of why people are invested in this and keep using it, due to abuse of the concept and the fact there are family reasons that have soured me on any concept of this. It makes the space much trickier to navigate.
 

teitan

Legend
A foreigner should never be played as stupid. A “fish out of water” yes. Not stupid. I even get annoyed with “stupid American” in Europe/Japan/Mexico movies, let alone other nationalities. The 80s stereotype of the Japanese man with a camera and his wife in the tennis visor was cringey even at 8 years old not discluding Long Duk Dong in 16 Candles.
 
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ad_hoc

(he/they)
Among other things, yes.

In game terms, where would you put the following if not under Intelligence:

--- deductive reasoning, i.e. the drawing of conclusions based on facts memorized as above
--- logical thought (or lack thereof)
--- --- the ability to both develop and apply strategy and tactics (often important for adventurers!)
--- the ability to learn new things and-or concepts that don't necessarily involve factual memorization
--- creativity and-or imagination; the ability to imagine new things and-or concepts and, if able, make those things real

Of these, the only one that might have a case for not being part of Intelligence is the deductive reasoning piece; I could see an argument for that going under Wisdom instead, but I'm going with Int for it for now.

A very high-Int character can be at least vaguely assumed to be good at all of these, plus memorization and retention.

I'm going to go ahead and say that Int, Wis, and Cha do not encompass all that it is to be a person. Most of that is untouched by the game and trying to fit it all into the stats is a large part of the problem people are running into with the score.

Most of what is under Intelligence are learned skills honed by repetition and highly influenced by things such as stress.

So what does Intelligence actually DO in the game?

Intelligence in 5e is basically cognitive resilience and recall of accumulated knowledge. Both of those are trained skills which benefit from continued practice, require good health, and managed stress.

For example, engaging in cognitive exercises every day will protect against the onset and severity of dementia.

There are a whole load of other things that people are dumping into the bucket of Intelligence that aren't actually in the game.
 

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