How do you explain you character’s low mental attributes (Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma)? How do these low ability scores affect the way you role-play your PC? We continue looking at how an ability score of 8 has in-game consequences and provide some in-game suggestions to explain your low scores.
It’s unlikely that any PC will have a starting score below 8, but even an 8 is still on the low side of average. If you’re a power gamer you’ve probably pumped up a couple of your ability scores and sacrificed others. Just remember that your choice to have low mental attributes should have in-game, role-playing implications. In Playing Characters With Low Ability Scores we look at how to overcome problems that arise from players who refuse to play to their low ability scores.
The suggestions we provide below are not the only explanations, but they’re probably among the most common ones. How you choose to play your PC with an ability score of 8 is up to you, but there should be a noticeable difference between PCs with an 8 and an 18 in the same ability. In some cases low scores can be overcome with the right equipment, feat selection or common sense.
See Addressing Your Weaknesses (Part 1) to explain your low physical scores (Strength, Constitution and Dexterity).
- A low Intelligence means that your character is dumb. You learn slowly and you have poor reasoning skills. You’re still able to do things, but you need more time to complete tasks and require more direction.
- One possible explanation for your low Intelligence could be a lack of any formal training or education while growing up. You might have been a slave, a war refugee or a slumdog living on the streets. Or maybe you grew up in isolation and had no one to teach you.
- You’ve probably learned to rely more on instincts (Wisdom) than book smarts.
- You may have been smarter once, but a sever head trauma resulted in memory loss or just difficulty learning and processing new things.
- How do you compensate for your low Intelligence? Do you try to laugh off mistakes and play the part of the fool? Maybe you try to hide your ignorance by keeping quiet and not talking a lot. Do people think that you’re indecisive since you shrug your shoulders whenever you’re asked a direct question?
- You might fall into the opposite extreme, and are unaware of your own ineptitude. You constantly try to contribute, even though your ideas are outrageous and clearly inappropriate. Maybe you’ve learned to just repeat what everyone else is saying in order to sound smart and your companions just think you’re subservient.
- A little knowledge can be very dangerous. You’re not likely succeeding on monster knowledge checks, but that doesn’t mean you don’t voice an opinion. You might have a tendency to share what you know to be true (even though it’s completely inaccurate). A Skill Training feat in one of the knowledge skills is a good way to address this shortcoming.
- If you’ve got a low Intelligence then you should strongly consider taking a decent Dexterity, otherwise your AC and Reflex defense will suffer greatly. If neither of these is your best ability score you may want to consider wearing heavier armor or getting a shield.
- A low Wisdom means that you lack common sense and have poor instincts. You’re likely to make assumptions based on misinterpreting (or just missing) the facts. A low Wisdom doesn’t mean that you’re dumb, just oblivious.
- With a low Wisdom you likely lack focus. You tend to daydream and may be seen as unreliable. Wisdom often comes with age, so perhaps your character is just young and foolish. There’s also a good possibility that you’re just forgetful.
- You’re likely to assume that everyone knows what you mean or that if you know something that everyone else must also know it. This assumption may lead you to leave out details since its obviously common knowledge.
“Of course there are orcs in the forest. They’ve been following us for the past half-hour.”
- If you’ve got a low Wisdom your Perception and Insight are both going to suffer because of it. If you don’t want to be caught unaware all the time you may want to take a feat like Alertness or Skill Training to improve these skills.
- A low Charisma means that you’re not a people person. You suffer from a low self-esteem and have poor social skills. You could also be tremendously shy.
- Your low Charisma probably stems from a lack of self-confidence. Maybe you’ve been told you’re worthless all your life and you believe it. Your tormentor could be an abusive parent, overbearing sibling or a ruthless employer.
- Your feelings of poor self-worth likely mean that you take all comments as criticism.
- Maybe your low Charisma stems from tremendous guilt. You may carry a shameful secret that you fear may one day be discovered. Were you a slave, a bastard, a criminal, or from an enemy country? Perhaps you blame yourself for a great wrong like the death of a loved one or fleeing from an important battle.
- A crisis of faith may also explain your lack of confidence.
- A low Charisma doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unattractive, but it could be a contributing factor. Perhaps you’re badly scarred, have a birth defect or just look different. Your outward appearance only contributes to your low Charisma if you choose to let it.
- How do you compensate or try to overcome your low Charisma? Do you speak louder than anyone else to make sure you’re the centre of attention? Maybe you treat others the way you’ve been treated, lashing out and insulting anyone ugly or different.
- If you recognize that you’ve got a low Charisma perhaps you’re content to be the power behind the power. You whisper your good ideas into someone else’s ear and let them take credit, knowing smugly that your idea was accepted. Maybe you’re not that cunning and whisper into someone ear because you’re too shy to speak for yourself.
- There are many ways to overcome a low Charisma and most of them rely on role-playing. Few in-game mechanics will give you an edge. Surrounding yourself with charismatic friends is a good way to fade into the background if you seek anonymity.