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Bad Stats Rock!

Yep, I said it. The one thing that makes a power game cringe in his sleep! I actually like bad stats occasionally. I’ll take a low intelligence, or a low strength, or some other stat that’s not typically a “dump” stat, and have a field day with it. Of course, my play style almost demands it. Now, obviously you don’t want nothing but bad stats, because then the character is just incompetent, though that could be fun too. But a strategically placed bad stat can create some very cool characters.

Why low stats? Simple…role play opportunity. A low stat often will make a character stand out more than a typically min-maxed character. For example, a good friend of mine created a character named Oo-goo, a barbarian with an intelligence score just slightly above fungi. The player is very smart, but he wanted to play a dumb character, and he played it well. In fact, this friend is still called Oo-goo at my house from time to time.

Now, a barbarian with a low intelligence doesn’t sound like a stretch, but for a smart player who likes to be involved, it is. In the interest of playing in character and taking his INT score into account, he felt he shouldn’t solve any of the riddles or puzzles except by accident (and it really was by accident). Frankly, it worked! Oo-goo was a great character with personality out the wazoo that is remembered by everyone who played in that campaign!

Another fighter-type with low intelligence was Plow, a dwarven fighter. Plow got his name from the great sword he carried on his back that dug a trench everywhere he went. Again, he wasn’t bright at all, per a low INT score. For the player, he tried a different tact than Oo-goo. Plow had bought a pet duck somewhere along the way, and named it “Duckie”. Whenever Plow did something smart, he credited Duckie for the idea. Duckie actually became the party’s mascot in most ways (though never officially) and was a blast to play in the same campaign with. While technically the actions were out of character, it was explained away in a fun and memorable way, which is what really matters.

Taking a low stat and putting it into something more important to your character than INT can create some interesting possibilities. For example, a fighter with a low DEX. Perhaps he’s a big farm boy who is very strong and tough, but because of his build, he’s not the most agile person out there by anyone’s estimation. Perhaps a rogue with a low CON, because of all the time spent in the town sewers, he’s sickly. Or a wizard with a low wisdom (thereby affecting his will save) due to the time he spent as a slave, he wasn’t allowed to do a lot of thinking for himself and kowtows easily. How about a rogue that can’t lie to save his life?

No one is perfect, so why should your characters? Even the greatest heroes in fiction are less than perfect. Drizz’t is a freaking DROW living on the surface for Gygax’s sake! Why not add flaws to your character? While it may make it more difficult to play and be great at everything, it adds realism and fun! In time, you may find creative ways to use the flaw to actually accomplish your goal!

With your next character, try giving them a bad stat that isn’t a typical “dump” stat. You may find the character to be a hell of a lot of fun that way!


July 21, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


  1. Full agreement here.

    The most fun I ever had with this principle was actually in an Exalted game: I dump-statted Strength and Stamina, making a very maneuverable but very delicate character whose usual response to just about everything was to talk or think her way out of it. Her combat style managed to avoid a few of the major difficulties with this, enough that she was still playable, and after a while it just got to be an integral part of the concept–500 XP and more battles than I care to think about later, she still looks like she’d break if you threw a rock at her (and takes advantage of it at every opportunity).

    Comment by Ravyn | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. Good to know that I’m not completely whacked on this one 😀

    I’ve always had fun with bad stats…more than with good stats actually.

    Comment by Tom | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  3. Flaws, and bad stats add depth to a character. Even in Exalted where everyone’s playing a demigod, having some measure of weakness adds to their believability, and provides for a lot of opportunities for roleplay. 😀

    Comment by pointyman2000 | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  4. @pointyman2000: I’ll have to take your word for that, having never played Exalted, but you’re definitely dead-on with how weakness adds believability. Every character I’ve ever played who was uber-badass at 1st level sucked to play ultimately. Every player with some kind of weakness was fun to play ultimately. It was awesome.

    Comment by Tom | August 7, 2008 | Reply

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