Well, you don’t want to die, do you?

Con stands alone amongst the stats in the way it works and applies to every class. It has no skill areas associated with it to which you can add proficiency and governs no melee attacks or spell attacks. It’s likely the only Con check a PC will make is a Con save.

Con saves are one of the three major saves along with Dex and Wisdom and can be against terrible effects – the ‘save or suck’ situation. It also affects spell casters’ ability to maintain concentration on spells. It’s probably the best save to have a strong mod in. Dex saves usually just reduce damage, Wisdom saves prevent nasty effects but Con saves are used to resist both damage and status effects as well as controlling spell concentration.

Con governs Hit Points

Every level gained increases a character’s max HP and their Con mod is applied to their dice roll or average. Every Hit Dice rolled on a short rest also adds a character’s con mod to the HP restored. In a game with such a weight of rules dealing with combat and HP loss, Con is important to everyone. Dump stat it at your peril

Characters who take on a front-line damage absorbing role (Tanks) need a healthy con mod to endure the big hits they take but a +2 or +3 mod doesn’t make as much difference when you roll d10 or d12 for your Hit Points as it does if you are rolling a d6, and no-one wants to burn a spell slot on a concentration spell for it to fizzle out after one round.

I have some gripe with how universally applicable it is to characters. When using Point Buy for character generation, in games like mine which are tactical and death is realistic, no-one would sensibly run a Con 8 character or even Con 10. I’ve seen high charisma fighters, low dex bards, high strength rogues and low charisma paladins. Players are willing and keen to sometimes run a sub-optimal character and that is interesting and fun but in a ‘point-buy game’, everyone seems to sit down with Con 12 – 16 because at the end of the day, no-one wants to die.

 

 

I think Con is well placed within the stats though. It’s not very exciting or flashy but it is useful. If a player has boosted their Con through their choices, I don’t think it’s for me to undermine those choices by using kid gloves on a low con character who has benefitted in other ways by taking that hit; or failing to take a hit as the case may be

I think it’s worth mentioning that tanky fighters and barbarians really draw a player to boosting Con as they need lots of HP and it’s one of their save proficiencies. These classes also draw players towards strength given their weapon proficiencies (all of them), armour proficiencies and the barbarian’s rage feature only attracts the damage bonus when making a strength based attack. I’ve gone through Strength at length elsewhere in this series so I won’t rehash that here.

Pumping up Con and Strength to the expense of other stats doesn’t give a character very impressive skill mods in the first few levels of the game. There is only one skill attached to the primary stats of these classes and the player might feel their numbers don’t look very exciting. As I keep stressing, this isn’t necessarily a problem and most players won’t worry about it as long as their character looks cool at the table. It also makes these classes easier to run for new players and so I suspect this is for very carefully considered design reasons.

However, if you need to address this it’s easy to throw in a few Con saves that affect the whole party with status conditions or just hit the big con mod characters with a few solo saves. The ‘opt in’ saves can be fun and also increase the sense of player agency. A drinking competition or mystery bottle of booze is always a fun moment, (is it a potion? Will I get +1 to my rage damage? Will I just get drunk? They’re all wins to a barbarian!)