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5E Weird Interpretations for High/Low Ability Scores

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
So how is it okay that that's the case with INT and WIS and CHA, but not with all stats? This is a clear double-standard, and one which isn't apparently well-supported by any kind of actual rationale beyond "I want it thatta way!", to quote the Backstreet Boys.
Yep. A low wisdom might be foolhardy or absentminded or oblivious. There is no, might be very wise. Those "mights" are right in line with the what abilities represent sections with ability checks.
...
You are adding to the game that which is not there.

5e lacks the prohibition against (fragrantly?) using out of character knowledge, like 1e and 2e do. That means that by 5e RAW the player can have the characters thoughts reflect the players in terms of critical thinking skills, knowledge of the monster manual, knowledge of tactics, reciting romantic poetry, etc... So the only time the INT, WIS, and CHA rolls are needed by raw is when the character is attempting an act with a chance of failure ("My [5 int fighter] attempts to recall his days of studying engineering so he can disable the trap.") as opposed to the character acting on something the player had them think of ([after hearing the description] "My [5 int fighter] pulls the third level on the left after I have the other fighter pound a wooden wedge into the gear.").

I'd house rule against flagrant uses of OOC knowledge like that, but others would allow it and say it causes no troubles at their tables.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yep. A low wisdom might be foolhardy or absentminded or oblivious. There is no, might be very wise. Those "mights" are right in line with the what abilities represent sections with ability checks.

If you are misrepresenting low or high stats, you are going against what both page 14 and the ability check section are telling you.

A low Int might be represented a number of ways that indicate poor reasoning ability. There is no way of representing a low Int by being Holmes that fits page 14 or the ability check section.

You are adding to the game that which is not there.
I might interpret ability scores one way or I might interpret them another. That's what the book is saying. It gives suggestions, but ultimately it's up to the player. I'm sorry that your preference is not mandated by the rules, but it is what it is. Do you feel you need your preference mandated by rules?
 

My position is easy to understand: The player decides how they portray their own character.
So that's a yes? I could dumpstat STR/DEX/CON in your game, yet describe my PC as some tireless athlete?

If so that's actually kind of cool, but I feel like you're being deliberately evasive and the answer is actually no.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
So that's a yes? I could dumpstat STR/DEX/CON in your game, yet describe my PC as some tireless athlete?
What things requiring athletics/attack/etc...don't have a chance of failure and so are not adjudicated by dice rolls based on attributes?
What things using STR/DEX/CON don't have definitively prescriptive rules... like the ridiculous carrying capacity limits?

Presumably the things lacking some restraint like an ability check or a hard rule would be allowable by RAW, right?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
5e lacks the prohibition against (fragrantly?) using out of character knowledge, like 1e and 2e do. That means that by 5e RAW the player can have the characters thoughts reflect the players in terms of critical thinking skills, knowledge of the monster manual, knowledge of tactics, reciting romantic poetry, etc... So the only time the INT, WIS, and CHA rolls are needed by raw is when the character is attempting an act with a chance of failure ("My [5 int fighter] attempts to recall his days of studying engineering so he can disable the trap.") as opposed to the character acting on something the player had them think of ([after hearing the description] "My [5 int fighter] pulls the third level on the left after I have the other fighter pound a wooden wedge into the gear.").

I'd house rule against flagrant uses of OOC knowledge like that, but others would allow it and say it causes not troubles at their tables.
Yes, there's no outright prohibition, but the game does dictate what a low intelligence score means for your character. So if you are roleplaying a Holmes like intellect while have a 5 Int score, you are misrepresenting your stat which is poor roleplaying. Your table may be cool with that, but it's still roleplaying against what the game has set forth for your PC.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I might interpret ability scores one way or I might interpret them another. That's what the book is saying. It gives suggestions, but ultimately it's up to the player. I'm sorry that your preference is not mandated by the rules, but it is what it is. Do you feel you need your preference mandated by rules?
You might interpret up as down, black as white and living as dead, too. Those would be just as accurate. The game just does not back you up on this.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So that's a yes? I could dumpstat STR/DEX/CON in your game, yet describe my PC as some tireless athlete?

If so that's actually kind of cool, but I feel like you're being deliberately evasive and the answer is actually no.
I'm not being evasive. My answer stands. You get to decide how you portray your character and not a single player at my table, nor me as DM, will ever question it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You might interpret up as down, black as white and living as dead, too. Those would be just as accurate. The game just does not back you up on this.
The game leave it to the player to decide. You can play your Int-5 character as a dunce. Someone else can play them as a genius. If you prohibit the latter, that's a table rule and you're within your rights to establish such a table rule if you want. I don't.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Yes, there's no outright prohibition, but the game does dictate what a low intelligence score means for your character. So if you are roleplaying a Holmes like intellect while have a 5 Int score, you are misrepresenting your stat which is poor roleplaying. Your table may be cool with that, but it's still roleplaying against what the game has set forth for your PC.
The game used to deal with the problem of a 5 INT "genius" in the rules in 1e and 2e by talking about using out of character knowledge and saying it's bad. That strikes me as saying it isn't entirely obvious that it is bad (is a rule needed against the obvious? -- the movie Babe not withstanding).

Now in 5e -- in an era where there are lots of games that encourage non-DM players to shape the world, seem not to have a problem with OOC knowledge and don't have ability scores -- they decided not to include a prohibition against OOC knowledge. Do you think that was intentional, a mistake and we could get them to admit it should be there on twitter, or that it has somehow become obvious since 2e that OOC knowledge is bad?

[And, well, my table wouldn't be cool with it :) ].
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The game used to deal with the problem of a 5 INT "genius" in the rules in 1e and 2e by talking about using out of character knowledge and saying it's bad. That strikes me as saying it isn't entirely obvious that it is bad (is a rule needed against the obvious? -- the movie Babe not withstanding).

Now in 5e -- in an era where there are lots of games that encourage characters to shape the world, seem not to have a problem with OOC knowledge and don't have ability scores -- they decided not to include a prohibition against OOC knowledge. Do you think that was intentional, a mistake and we could get them to admit it should be there on twitter, or that it has somehow become obvious since 2e that OOC knowledge is bad?
Another way of thinking about it might be that they leave it to the individual groups and players to decide. In my games, if you don't want to use "OOC knowledge" you can just choose not to do that. What you don't get to choose is how someone else at the table handles it since that is their character. This seems to me to be the easiest solution.
 

I'm not being evasive. My answer stands. You get to decide how you portray your character and not a single player at my table, nor me as DM, will ever question it.
Your inability to answer a very simple and direct question absolutely reads as evasiveness, so you may want to be aware that argument-wise, you look like a politician squirming to avoid directly answering a question in an interview. I'm sure that's not how it looks to you but hopefully it's helpful to understand how it may appear from another perspective.

So we have to go with inference, and thus we must see the answer as "Yes". I guess that's fine, but I'm super-skeptical that's how it actually works out at your table.

It's totally fair to call your interpretation bizarre or legalistic though, I'd suggest, and I don't believe for a second it's intended. It could be shattered in a heartbeat by a new 5.5 PHB even slightly differently describing what stats are. I guess it very much fits the title of the thread, so there's that! :)

Another way of thinking about it might be that they leave it to the individual groups and players to decide. In my games, if you don't want to use "OOC knowledge" you can just choose not to do that. What you don't get to choose is how someone else at the table handles it since that is their character. This seems to me to be the easiest solution.
I think it's fair to complain to the DM if one player insists on using OOC knowledge and ignoring their stats if the rest of the players, by unspoken agreement and long tradition (like, 40 years of tradition) are not using OOC knowledge and treating their stats as meaning something. It's certainly fine for a DM to tell a player to get wrecked for trying to use OOC knowledge (which would include some of the proposed approaches to stats).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The game leave it to the player to decide. You can play your Int-5 character as a dunce. Someone else can play them as a genius. If you prohibit the latter, that's a table rule and you're within your rights to establish such a table rule if you want. I don't.
No, it doesn't leave it to the players to decide. Context matters and there is no context on page 14 that allows low to equal high or vice versa. The game only leaves it to the players to decide which low description to use for a low stat and which high description to use for a high stat. The rest you are making up.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The game used to deal with the problem of a 5 INT "genius" in the rules in 1e and 2e by talking about using out of character knowledge and saying it's bad. That strikes me as saying it isn't entirely obvious that it is bad (is a rule needed against the obvious? -- the movie Babe not withstanding).

Now in 5e -- in an era where there are lots of games that encourage non-DM players to shape the world, seem not to have a problem with OOC knowledge and don't have ability scores -- they decided not to include a prohibition against OOC knowledge. Do you think that was intentional, a mistake and we could get them to admit it should be there on twitter, or that it has somehow become obvious since 2e that OOC knowledge is bad?

[And, well, my table wouldn't be cool with it :) ].
I think that the context on page 14 indicates pretty clearly that low = low and high = high. There is not one example of low = high or high = low. This backs up the ability check section. I think they left out a prohibition, because it's pretty clear which way the game goes on it. :)
 

I think that the context on page 14 indicates pretty clearly that low = low and high = high. There is not one example of low = high or high = low. This backs up the ability check section. I think they left out a prohibition, because it's pretty clear which way the game goes on it. :)
Yeah. That said, from a purely rules-lawyering perspective I think we have to say @iserith has indeed rules-lawyered this. There is a legal loophole, and he's trying to fly a 747 for it, but he just might make it! :)

There are different schools of jurisprudence. Most judges at least attempt to consider what was actually meant, vs. what was actually written down (a lot of laws, like a lot of rules, are extremely badly-written, especially when the lawmakers are not, themselves, legally trained, and have cheap, lazy or incompetent lawyers on staff), but there is an approach which looks purely at what's on the page and nothing else, which I've sometimes heard called "legalism", and that is what seems to be in play here, in service of the goal of freeing players from the bounds of bad stats. A noble goal, perhaps.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
What things requiring athletics/attack/etc...don't have a chance of failure and so are not adjudicated by dice rolls based on attributes?
What things using STR/DEX/CON don't have definitively prescriptive rules... like the ridiculous carrying capacity limits?
Recall of knowledge is explicitly within the ability check system just the same as athletics. If I can just describe myself as remembering and knowing things without a roll, I should similarly be allowed to describe myself as succeeding at athletics checks without a roll. They are identical circumstances other than one is physical and one is mental.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Yeah. That said, from a purely rules-lawyering perspective I think we have to say @iserith has indeed rules-lawyered this. There is a legal loophole, and he's trying to fly a 747 for it, but he just might make it! :)

There are different schools of jurisprudence. Most judges at least attempt to consider what was actually meant, vs. what was actually written down (a lot of laws, like a lot of rules, are extremely badly-written, especially when the lawmakers are not, themselves, legally trained, and have cheap, lazy or incompetent lawyers on staff), but there is an approach which looks purely at what's on the page and nothing else, which I've sometimes heard called "legalism", and that is what seems to be in play here, in service of the goal of freeing players from the bounds of bad stats. A noble goal, perhaps.
You realize this has nothing to do with powergaming, right? You're smart enough to know this is a discussion about player agency and authorship, not about a quest for power.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
I think that the context on page 14 indicates pretty clearly that low = low and high = high. There is not one example of low = high or high = low. This backs up the ability check section. I think they left out a prohibition, because it's pretty clear which way the game goes on it. :)
Why does pg 14 go to lengths to use "might", "usually" , and "probably" when describing the characteristics of high or low ability scores? Why does pg 14 not say "always", "has to be", or "must be played as" instead?
 

So, here's a thought experiment:

Let's say Player A has rolled some stat array, and wants to play a low ability score a certain way.

Their DM (Ruin Explorer, or Saelorn, etc.) says, "No, that's against the rules. Your stat does not mean X, it means Y."

Player A isn't happy with this, but instead of kicking up a fuss, decides to just roleplay in their head.

So now whenever the relevant ability score is used, they roll their dice, add or subtract the relevant modifier, and report the results. "Twelve." Or whatever.

Meanwhile, in their head they imagine the outcome according to their preferred fiction.

When an action that might be relevant to that stat is taken but doesn't require a dice roll, they do a similar thing: they share with the table a minimally descriptive action, but in their head imagine it happening according to the fiction they've concocted?

Are they still breaking any rules (for those who think it's rule-breaking)?
 

You realize this has nothing to do with powergaming, right? You're smart enough to know this is a discussion about player agency and authorship, not about a quest for power.
I'm old enough and experienced enough to have SEEN this approach used for power-gaming, mate.

It's not theoretical.

I've seen it abused. I've OOC knowledge particularly wildly abused by certain players, especially when I was younger. But I've also seen "My stats aren't my stats" abused - by an extreme power-game/munchkin. I know that's not the intention behind it in this case, but I've seen it happen.

Actually I can think of multiple examples. The classic example is just someone who refuses to RP their character in a way that remotely matches the stats, because that would mean they were at a disadvantage in certain situations. That is absolutely power-gaming. It's not merely "authorship" (something D&D does poorly with anyway, this isn't Dungeon World, more's the pity), but rather it's attempting to manipulate things so your PC has an advantage that isn't actually reflected by the decisions you've taken mechanically. And I've literally had people explain what they were doing, i.e. putting a low stat in INT, because it didn't matter, and they could just RP however they liked - or CHA, again, as I've said, with no consequences. It's particularly effective in games where DMs call for fewer rolls (which, sadly, is the kind of game I prefer).

Another, more bizarre example is the player I had back in like 1992, who suggested we eliminate all mental stats. He was a massive power-gamer, and we sighingly agreed to give it a go, because he wouldn't shut up about it, and then he immediately proceeded to try and power-game the shit out of it, and got into arguments whenever it was suggested that his PC saying X might not be as effective as he insisted it should be.

Are they still breaking any rules (for those who think it's rule-breaking)?
They aren't breaking the rules. They are breaking with the idea that RPGs are a shared fiction. If they're unwilling to be part of the shared fiction with the other players and DM, frankly they're jerks, whatever their dubious justification is.
 
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Why does pg 14 go to lengths to use "might", "usually" , and "probably" when describing the characteristics of high or low ability scores? Why does pg 14 not say "always", "has to be", or "must be played as" instead?
And take the first paragraph in that section:
A very strong character with low Intelligence might think and behave very differently from a very smart character with low Strength.
So, in other words, they also might think and behave exactly the same. That's freakin' RAW, baby.
 

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