What Do Your Attributes Mean? (Part One)
Attributes. Almost every game has them. The classic six are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, and frankly this is a pretty good list. Personally, I much prefer the eight of Shadowrun (Strength, Agility, Reaction, Body, Intuition, Logic, Willpower, and Charisma) or of Anima: Beyond Fantasy (Strength, Agility, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Perception, Power, and Willpower), but the classic six are a good standby. The six are used in most d20 games and others besides, and have been the staple due to their origin with the original tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. Even so, I find myself being asked by many new players what these attributes actually mean and how they affect the character they belong to.
A character’s attributes usually act as the base from which most, if not all, other derived values are determined. A character’s skills, combat abilities, resistances, and many other variables are determined, at least at base, by your attribute values. This aside, they can be a great starting point for fleshing out a new character. One by one, let’s have a look at these classic six.
Strength. Obviously, this is the attribute that determines how strong of a character you have. Average strength characters are just that; average. Not overly strong, not overly weak. What this means is that physical power is likely not something they focus on. Low strength characters typically must find some alternate specialty to which they can focus, as they are not all that physically impressive or imposing. High strength characters, on the other hand, have likely always been strong and thus tend to see every problem as something they can solve through physical power. Obviously, warrior archetypes favor this attribute above all others, but not all. After all there is always…
Dexterity. Quickness, coordination, and overall grace are all factors of dexterity. It often represents a character’s base ability to defend, attack at range (and sometimes melee also), quickness based resistances, and many skills. Honestly, this is often why I feel that dexterity alone is a bit too strong of a physical attribute and prefer games where it is broken down (such as into dexterity and agility, or into dexterity and reaction). Dexterous people are very coordinated and rarely caught off guard, which can make them bold, whereas low dexterity characters tend be more unsure of themselves, at least in terms of physicality. This does not often mean they are overtly clumsy, though this is often made the case.
Constitution, the last of the common physical stats. Constitution represents your character’s general health and physical well being. After all, you can be strong and fast without being healthy. Most characters have constitution as an average to high attribute, as most are too afraid to risk making the stat that usually determines your character’s Life Points/Hit Points too low. Even so, low constitution characters can be a great challenge and a lot of fun to play. Low constitution characters tend to be frail, small of body, and somewhat prone to sickness and inflection. This leads to questions like “Why are you an adventurer?” which are left entirely to the character to answer. High constitution characters tend to be the proverbial “tanks” of the group, easily able to soak up all the punishment that the game dishes at them, making them often very confident characters. In many cases, high strength and high constitution go together, though it can be interesting to see cases where there is an imbalance between the two, making for characters who cannot always do what is expected of them.
That is all for the three common physical stats. Next time, we will take a look at the three common mental ones.
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