Before we get into the nitty-gritty of “what my ability scores mean to me,” let’s start with something we can all agree on: D&D Stats Explained With Tomatoes is freaking hilarious. All agreed? OK then. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start arguing with one another.

To begin with, even though the famous tomato example is amusing, it is not definitive. Allow me to draw your attention to this line: “Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad.” Think about that for a second. Is cookery necessarily Wisdom-based? What about those crazy molecular gastronomy gnomes? They seem pretty Int-based to me. And what if we’re talking about a sushi chef making the perfect cut on a fish? Wouldn’t that be Dex-based? Now we’re not even sticking to the mental stats. Aargh!

This is more than semantic quibbling. In the same way that a GM can make ad hoc calls to decide which ability score gets used in a roll (e.g. “You’re lifting weights to impress Her Highness? Give me a Strength… I mean… A Charisma check I guess?”), players get to make calls about the ways that ability scores themselves reflect character. All of this combines to mean something as unintuitive as it is unsettling: If our beloved tomato example isn’t definitive, neither are the ability score descriptions in the book.

You know those parts of rules that say things like “ignore whatever you don’t like” or “feel free to change things to fit your group?” This is one of those spots. Say you’ve got a low Constitution. Maybe that means you’re a Doc Holliday type with a chronic cough. Maybe your character is old and infirm. Maybe you’re overweight, or unusually thin, or cursed by dark magic, or any of a thousand other possibilities. Sure there are some ability scores that fit more naturally into certain rolls (I’ve got a high Strength, so I lift heavy objects for a living), but the same character trait can translate into Constitution (I lift heavy objects all day long).

So what’s my point in all this? Do not allow your stats to dictate your character. We’ve got a radical freedom at our fingertips, one made available by the weird Rorschach test of character creation. You’ve got the power to reinterpret those chicken entrails however you like. If you’ve got an affable lunkhead of a PC, you’re not somehow playing wrong because a low Charisma ought to mean a sullen personality. It’s not incorrect to treat a Dexterous character like Mr. Magoo, stumbling your way out of a fireball’s blast radius rather than dodging it like every other Legolas out there. These stats are a language to describe characters, not chains to bind them. Make sure you remember that as you roll up your next dude.

Question of the day then. Have you ever encountered an especially unconventional interpretation of an ability score? What was it? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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