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5E Weird Interpretations for High/Low Ability Scores

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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?
Because there are various ways to describe strong as strong and weak as weak. Same with the rest of the stats.

Let me ask you this. Why would page 14 go through the lengths that it does, and describe a multitude of ways to describe stats, yet not once desribe high as low or low as high if those were possibilities?

You'd think that they would have given at least ONE example, but they don't.
 

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DM Dave1

Adventurer
Because there are various ways to describe strong as strong and weak as weak. Same with the rest of the stats.

Let me ask you this. Why would page 14 go through the lengths that it does, and describe a multitude of ways to describe stats, yet not once desribe high as low or low as high if those were possibilities?

You'd think that they would have given at least ONE example, but they don't.

It doesn't describe high as medium or low as medium either. Where do you draw the line? Can a high Strength character appear normal (instead of burly or athletic or the like)? Like, say, Spiderman from the most recent movies? Or maybe appear normal to weak like Gon from Hunter X Hunter?
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
It doesn't describe high as medium or low as medium either. Where do you draw the line? Can a high Strength character appear normal? Like, say, Spiderman from the most recent movies?
I draw the line at “you’re pretending to be an elf wrong.”

Ability scores aren’t prescriptions on how you must portray your character. Because they aren’t a mandate on portrayal, a variety of portrayals are valid. That variety is down to personal (or table) tastes. And taste isn’t up for any reasonable debate.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
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.

Well, here's my thing...how do you abuse it? The only way to "abuse" it is to assume that having an 8 Int or an 8 Wis or an 8 Cha (any lower means you're rolling, which means balance didn't matter anyway) means the character shouldn't come up with a plan, or shouldn't control themselves, or shouldn't try to talk to people, and the inability to do so is part of the overall balance of the game. And the only way to abuse that is if the DM chooses to let your concept and characterization OVERRIDE mechanical checks that are the real balance point.

And really, that whole issue arises from the fact that D&D has traditionally favored DM-player negotiation over mechanical checks for most non-combat resolution. People started dumping CHA because it didn't have a non-mechanical effect (at least in AD&D times), but rather than simply use more Charisma checks, people started gating character concepts by ability score instead.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
It doesn't describe high as medium or low as medium either. Where do you draw the line? Can a high Strength character appear normal (instead of burly or athletic or the like)? Like, say, Spiderman from the most recent movies? Or maybe appear normal to weak like Gon from Hunter X Hunter?
Honestly, characters that are conceptually weak-to-moderate in a stat during RP but are actually high are even easier to justify.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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 works like any other D&D game. You say what you want to do and the DM adjudicates. Sometimes there's a roll. Sometimes there's not. If I think Colonel Mustard killed the victim based on what we've found so far, however, I can say my character does too regardless of my Int score and there's no ability check that can do anything about that. I, and therefore my character, might be wrong though. That's my risk to take.

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! :)

I would say it's only bizarre if one is carrying certain presuppositions which probably came from other games. I try not to do that as a rule. If the game doesn't say a player has to portray the character a certain way, then they don't. If it does, then they do. I don't think there's a viable case to be made from the D&D 5e rules that this is required. One could probably make the case using prior editions though.

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).

Unspoken agreements are prone to misunderstandings. I would say it's best to get table rules on the table prior to play.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Well, here's my thing...how do you abuse it? The only way to "abuse" it is to assume that having an 8 Int or an 8 Wis or an 8 Cha (any lower means you're rolling, which means balance didn't matter anyway) means the character shouldn't come up with a plan, or shouldn't control themselves, or shouldn't try to talk to people, and the inability to do so is part of the overall balance of the game. And the only way to abuse that is if the DM chooses to let your concept and characterization OVERRIDE mechanical checks that are the real balance point.

And really, that whole issue arises from the fact that D&D has traditionally favored DM-player negotiation over mechanical checks for most non-combat resolution. People started dumping CHA because it didn't have a non-mechanical effect (at least in AD&D times), but rather than simply use more Charisma checks, people started gating character concepts by ability score instead.

Exactly right in my view. Some look at this through the lens of other games instead of this game. In the doing, any player who does not comply with something like "Int 5 = baboon" is seen to be unfairly getting away with something, when really that's just not the case. They'll have to roll when it's appropriate to roll and the dice will decide how it turns out. On average they'll do worse than someone with a higher ability score.

The smart play at that point, of course, is to avoid rolling whenever you can and to stack the deck in your favor when you might have to (working together, Inspiration, bardic inspiration, portent, guidance, etc.). But this is smart play even with a high ability score because the d20 is really swingy so what's the meaningful difference at the table? None, I say. Let people pretend to be Int-5 Sherlock how they want to and you portray Int-5 Sherlock how you want. If you somehow can't bring yourself to do that, there's always table rules, I suppose. (Here I'm using the universal "you.")
 
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Yardiff

Adventurer
And take the first paragraph in that section:


So, in other words, they also might think and behave exactly the same. That's freakin' RAW, baby.
Thats AN interpretation of RAW, but Max's interpretation of the RAW is just as valid. That 'might' can easily be read/interpreted both ways.
 


Saelorn

Hero
2. The players describe what they want to do.
The actual actions, thoughts, and words of a PC are the domain of the player. The consequences of those actions, thought, and words are the domain of the DM. You are possibly conflating the two.
The players describe what they want to do. It does not say that the players describe what they actually do. The rules say that the DM narrates the result of their actions. The rules do not say that the player narrates the result of anything. And it wouldn't. Ever. Because that is explicitly the role of the DM and not the player.

This cannot possibly be explained any more clearly. You're just being disingenuous. There's no point in trying to hold a rational discussion with you.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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)?
I imagine people have all kinds of things going on in their heads during a game. What's happening inside isn't really relevant. Only what comes out into the shared imagined space is relevant.

The player can solve everything in his head in a Holmes like fashion, and in the shared imagined space be roleplaying the low Int that he has. That's fine.
 

Voranzovin

Villager
Well definitely. Book Holmes is all-round superior in capabilities, and merely misanthropic. But if we look at most modern portrayals of Holmes, whether they're the Benedict Cumberbatch take or Dr House or whatever, there seems to be centering around a more "anti-social" character, who is brilliant, but struggles with dealing with other people.

My personal feeling is that this is a bit more plausible for a "real-world"-ish scenario than the original Holmes, but YMMV. Certainly the RDJ Holmes was more in line with book Holmes though, in that he was charming (it's hard for RDJ to be otherwise, of course!).

There does seem to be a tendency in that direction, probably in an attempt to bring a frankly super-heroic character down to earth. I'm inclined to say some portrayals take it too far--I eventually stopped watching Sherlock because they'd turned him into such a jerk that I lost all interest in that version of the character. Book-Holmes can be acerbic and arrogant, but he's nowhere close to a "high-functioning sociopath."

I doubt there are any DCs in the Sherlock Holmes books, but I'm willing to be wrong if you can cite an example. I'll wait.

There are, of course, no DCs in the Sherlock Holmes books. We can, however, make some guesses as to what they would be if we did try to take the events portrayed in the books and put them in the context of DnD, even though doing this is an inherently questionable process because DnD does not actually model any literary genre--not even Sword and Sorcery--all that accurately.

Holmes, Lestrade, and Gregson are making Investigation and Perception checks all the time. Lestrade and Gregson, who are intelligent enough to have risen in the ranks of Scotland Yard and have a fair amount of experience, routinely fail. Ergo, the DCs must be pretty high. Holmes is basically never shown to fail an Investigation or Perception check. If there is a clue, Holmes usually sees it the moment he walks in the room, even if he doesn't understand it's significance yet. Ergo, Holmes must have sky-high Investigation and Perception.

He does sometimes fail Insight checks, usually when he's matched against a worthy opponent. He's more likely to get the wrong answer because he doesn't have all the facts yet, or because his own prejudices are getting in the way.

The character I'm playing right now might be described as "What if Sherlock Holmes was even grumpier, and also a wizard?" He does not, of course, have anything even approaching Holmes' across-the-board competence and near-infallibility, because that's not really what DnD is designed for. Playing a magical Holmes-ish character works very well though, with heavy reliance on spells like Detect Thoughts and Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, and the ability to cast Lightning Bolt goes a long way towards making up for the inability to effectively punch people.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It doesn't describe high as medium or low as medium either. Where do you draw the line? Can a high Strength character appear normal (instead of burly or athletic or the like)? Like, say, Spiderman from the most recent movies? Or maybe appear normal to weak like Gon from Hunter X Hunter?
Spiderman has "magical" strength. Before being bitten, he was not strong. I have no problem with a weak looking PC having magical runes giving high strength, but it will be vulnerable to things magic is vulnerable to.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Spiderman has "magical" strength. Before being bitten, he was not strong. I have no problem with a weak looking PC having magical runes giving high strength, but it will be vulnerable to things magic is vulnerable to.

Perhaps Spiderman is a bad example then.

Let me rephrase the question:
Without the intervention of magic, can a high Strength character appear normal (instead of burly or athletic or the like)?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There are, of course, no DCs in the Sherlock Holmes books. We can, however, make some guesses as to what they would be if we did try to take the events portrayed in the books and put them in the context of DnD, even though doing this is an inherently questionable process because DnD does not actually model any literary genre--not even Sword and Sorcery--all that accurately.

It's especially questionable since one person could argue the DC would be X to support their particular position while another person could argue the DC would be Y to support the opposite position. Or either could argue that a given attempt at a task would be automatic success or automatic failure with no roll at all. We'd quickly get nowhere. Luckily, we don't even have to go this far to recognize what are the rules and what is a preference.
 



Thats AN interpretation of RAW, but Max's interpretation of the RAW is just as valid. That 'might' can easily be read/interpreted both ways.

Yes, exactly. It's ambiguous.

One side in this debate is saying, "RAW dictates that ability scores be represented a certain way. Doing otherwise is breaking the rules."

The other side is saying, "Meh. The rules don't dictate any such thing. It's all preference. Your preference is valid, so is ours."
 

How do a STR 16 Halfling vs. STR 16 Elf vs. STR 16 Dragonborn differ in apparent burliness? (How could you tell by looking?)
It's not exact science. It just the general principle that the muscle mass is related to strength so really strong people can be visually be recognised as such. This of course mostly matters for describing NPCs.
 


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