D&D General I can't understand why Gygax split a given stat into Str and Con

le Redoutable

Call me the Gaspi
I don't believe there was any "splitting" going on. It's a mistake to even think of it that way.

When D&D was first published, there were three classes — fighting man, magic-user, and cleric — and the game needed three separate "stats" to serve as the prime requisites for those classes, to tell you how quickly or slowly you'd gain XP when playing as that class. Hence Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom were added to the game.

The other three stats are the ones that actually affected your character in-game: Constitution adjusts hit points, Dexterity adjusts accuracy with missiles, and Charisma adjusts the number and loyalty of your followers. (While none of us can really know the thought process that Gary Gygax put into this, it certainly is elegant to have the three prime requisite stats "mirrored" by three "capability" stats.)

Now, there are exceptions to this clean division. Apart from magic-user XP, Intelligence also affected how many languages you spoke; and the notes for Strength indicated that it "could" be used to determine whether a character successfully performed some feat of physical prowess. But by the letter of the rules, Strength and Wisdom had no effect on a character beyond adjusting fighter or cleric XP. (Things like melee combat adjustments and magic saving throw adjustments came along later — way later in the case of Wisdom.)

That said, all three prime requisites could still have an impact on your advancement, if your scores were high enough. Fighters originally got to treat every 2 points of Int above 9 and every 3 points of Wis above 9 as +1 to their Str; clerics similarly treated every 2 points of Int above 9 and every 3 points of Str above 9 as +1 to their Wis; whereas mages derived no benefit at all from Str but got to treat every 2 points of Wis above 9 as +1 to their Int — all for XP adjusting purposes only, of course.
thanks for the pre-historic input :)
for my part I only follow Ad&d ( 1,1UA,2,2PO )

log in or register to remove this ad


Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
This is a game. I accept a great deal so that is it is play and not work.

that said, you cannot have a completely feeble person do well reliably in melee nor a completely clumsy one.

for mental stats it would be fairly easy to map them from real world constructs. Memory and executive functioning are well researched constructs among others.

An index of strength and dexterity would be a better gauge of medieval combat aptitude vs the dexterity god stat.

however, the game is really trying to get at tropes I think. A fat friar tuck who gets easily winded would not have repeated successes in melee vs skilled in shape opponents. He might get lucky but repeated or prolonged encounters would see him getting run through.

ultimately the question is “can I make the character from that movie/book?”

realism is a fine 3rd consideration. But D&D is not realistic. It’s an interactive piece of fiction from its inception. And that’s fine.

I would not cry if two stats made and index of sorts but I have had fun for decades with six stats…


One of the big questions that every game designer faces is: how many attributes/ability scores? This relates to questions of granularity vs. simplicity, and of course, the nature of the game and how it is structured.

One could also argue that, in designing a game, you could do away with attributes altogether and make everything skill-based and then just have some kind of "natural affinity" modifier, which would be neutral by default, with some ranging into either positive or negative. This would account for the fact that most skills and actions cannot be reduced to any single attribute; for instance, one's natural talent with a sword is a combination of many factors: physical strength, manual dexterity, grace, perception, reflexes, intellect, intuition, etc.

Or you could go the other way and simplify it to Mental, Physical, and Social, although that does away with differentiations like speed vs strength, health vs strength, willpower vs. intelllect, etc.

As for the OP's specific question, I think if you look at CON as being close to "health," it makes more sense. A person can have great physical power, but be physically unfit or prone to illness (think of an obese person with great strength).

I'd say the original six ability scores do a really job for what they set out to do. There's a reason beyond sacred cowism that they've stood the test of time - there's really been no need to change them.

le Redoutable

Call me the Gaspi
yes, but then, mental and physical health ( mental health is known and used in The Call of Chthulhu )
sportsmen say " un corps sain dans un esprit sain "


Arcadian Knight
the food for Athletes is Ambition;
also elves tend to have good fitness, but as I remember they have low CON ( ?? )
Early D&D Elves not so much on the fitness they were fragile (just a strange long lifespan specific peculiar immunities you would expect from being fit)... Tolkien/Norse Alfar were kind of anything you can do I can do better types and were healthier smarter wiser etc... as they were one of the god races alongside Vanir and Aesir.


Scion of Murgen (He/Him)


  • TWERPScover.jpg
    26.1 KB · Views: 37

le Redoutable

Call me the Gaspi
well, fitness clubs are good for abs;
( perhaps the main confusion comes from ) Ad&d 2 Player's Option, they split Con into fitness and health
and ( again from 2E PO ) Str was split into stamina and muscle

what if, Str was Nerves ??
Last edited:

le Redoutable

Call me the Gaspi
Oh yes there are. Tons of them actually. For instance some the youtuberatti of body builders, strength competitors and powerlifters that I watch have had little bits of D&D show up in their videos. From Jon Call, to Martins Licis (who actually played one or two sessions of D&D on his channel), to Omar Isuf (who's shirts are very cool), to Dr. Mike Israetel.

And others that, due to oblique references in their content, I suspect they play or used to, like Gregg Knuckols.

When I recently changed gyms a trainer asked about my lifting belt with the words "Bend Bars Lift Gates" embroidered on it. Turns out he's a huge fan of the Adventure Zone.

And I think many of them, me included, understand the difference between str and con.
hey! I'm not talking about players, I'm talking about characters ( lol )


A suffusion of yellow
if anything Strength should be combined with Dexterity in an Atheletics stat that covers the bodies ability to do stuff - dexterity/agility requires as much muscle control as strength does

and constitution doesnt require a person to be particulary adept at hitting things


Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I like how The Nightmares Underneath re-casts the ability scores to represent slightly different things. Cribbing from @Libertad 's excellent and detailed review (linked below):

Libertad said:
There’s no Strength score; instead there’s Ferocity which measures your overall capacity to inflict violence and adds to your to-hit rolls for melee and to all physical damage roll both ranged and melee.

Health, which is akin to Constitution, determines your carrying capacity on top of how many Wounds you can suffer before death.

Dexterity does not add to your Armour Rating but adds to your initiative modifier, surprise rolls, to-hit with missile weapons, and one’s Speed rating (how many squares you can move per round) plus everything else said score usually does.

Intelligence also covers perception and surprise rolls as well as general knowledge and “dungeon navigation” stuff.

Instead of Wisdom we have Willpower which is more or less your mental fortitude in trying times.

Charisma functions more or less the same, but can be used to reduce a community’s Resentment and people with high scores are often believed to be blessed by magic and/or the divine.


An Advertisement