AN IN DEPTH ANALYSIS OF HOW THE ROLES OF THE SIX STATISTICS INFLUENCE PLAYER EXPERIENCE

 

The six stats in D&D are at the core who a character is. Our characters are certainly more than the six abilities but in any game of ‘Dice & Decisions’, how our characters interact with the world around them is regulated by their stats which in turn affects how we and other perceive them and feel about them. It’s not controversial to say that the six stats don’t have an equal impact on the game. Some stats are used more often, or are more important to a player who wants to create a powerful character. Other stats are important but are used in a more passive way, with fewer chances to choose to rely on them for the player, and whilst useful can have a lesser influence on a player’s sense of fun and their validation for creating their character in the way they have.

There is, however, no reflection of differing value to the stats in character creation. Whether you roll for stats, use standard array or point buy, it is as easy to place a 15 in Dexterity as it is to place a 15 in Intelligence and arguably a player should be able to feel that either choice is properly rewarded and reflected in their game experience.

I’m not trying to give any advice on fixing bugs in the D&D system. The system is flexible enough that there are no real problems to fix. Neither is this meant as a character optimization guide. These are just observations and some suggestions on ways you, the DM, might run the system to create the player experience that you wish. Players should feel their characters work as they intended when they created them. If you feel that these considerations do raise some issues in the 5e in ruleset then you might be better off trying Pathfinder 2e before hacking into 5e’s mechanics. Pathfinder addresses a lot of these at a cost of added complexity that can get in the way of smooth, narratively focused gameplay. These considerations are useful to 5e to maybe inform your DMing style and approach, not to suggest ruining its beautiful simplicity.

The Mental Stats

There is an obvious distinction between the physical stats of Strength, Dex and Con and the mental stats of Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. The player’s own physicality has no bearing on the game at all but their cognitive abilities and personality do affect how they play their character, whether or not the character shares those assets and traits. A shy and unobtrusive person will play a high charisma character differently than they would if they were loud and exhibitionist in their bearing. A towering warrior is the same towering warrior whether the player behind him is physically powerful or not.

This creates an additional obligation for the DM. A reckless ‘Leeroy Jenkins’ player running a wise cleric creates a dissonance as to what the character’s true manner is. It’s perhaps easier for a player to ‘act dumb’ when playing a low Intelligence or low Wisdom character than it is to ‘act clever’ when playing a character more capable than they are. How many of us can really claim to have Intelligence or Wisdom scores over 16? This means a character will be able to see things more clearly than the player can. The DM should try to make the player experience feeling as clever and insightful as their character is.