Thursday, 20 January 2011

An ability score of 3 is unplayable (Argument 3 and CLOSE)

Momentous news for the Jovial Priest: Delta read my statistics posts and didn't think it was crap AND became a follower. Three cheers for shameless self promotion in emailing him. 
See his comments here and here.

Now let's finish this thing.
A recap for those just joining us.

Argument 1 – Using the ability score of intelligence as presented in the rules I argued that an Intelligence Score of 3 (was one step more intelligent than a dog – Intelligence 2). Additionally I argued that EGG strongly implied that your IQ divided by 10 was equal to your intelligence score. Therefore an Intelligence Score of 3 = IQ 30, which is severely mentally handicapped. 
Argument 1a – I supported Argument 1 by exploring the spell Feeblemind, which lowers a spell casters intelligence score (AD&D Moronic child, Intelligence score 5-7; B/X & Mentzer idiot, Intelligence score 2), which Mentzer describes as ‘helpless’.
Argument 2 – Comparing bell curves to a normal distribution (as is often done with the Intelligence score) and drawing on an excellent external post by Daniel Collins, I argued that applying a normal distribution to a 3-18 ability score is poor statistics and distorts ability scores at the extremes. If used on the Intelligence score, it makes clever people regard themselves as geniuses. If such poor statistics were applied to low Intelligence scores than an Intelligence score of 3 would be even worse than it is usually considered.
Argument 2aAbility scores, as ordinal data, do not have to be symmetrical in their pluses and minuses, just ordered. Symmetry leads to confusion and the belief that 3, ain’t that bad. It is. The rules regarding strength are confusing and inconsistent. -15% to hit with strength 3 is not consistent with the inability to lift more than 30 pounds over your head. You are likely much worse and much more debilitated as an adventurer.

My conclusion to date:
Reroll, readd, redo - An ability score of 3 is unplayable

I then had a brief interlude where I proposed that grip strength is the best real life comparator for strength compared to EGG's proposed military press.
Delta made a good comment that AD&D strength scores above 18 (ie percentile scores) have rules for lifting heavier weights. Page 15 DMG. Delta says: 18/00 you lift 470 pounds (capped at twice body weight). To be fair I didn't really account for this totally in my grip strength post but I still stand by grip strength / 10 = strength ability score because in the research I found it has an average of 10.4 for adult males across all age groups and a range between 3-18. Pretty perfect in other words. This is most helpful if one uses grip strength to explore lower strength scores as my second table in the post outlined strengths for children.
What grip strength doesn't do, which the military press comparator does do, is give you practical advice for how much you can carry. I have plans to link strength into encumbrance and movement but that's coming soon.

An ability score of 3 is unplayable (Argument 3)
This is about famous characters with low ability scores and why you may think you are role-playing a score of 3 but you are probably role-playing 6-8.

The poll is nearly complete regarding the constitution of Raistlin that most famous of Dragonlance character. 

Look at what Margaret Weis has to say: 

The Creation of Raistlin Majere

I'm often asked, "Who's your favorite character?" This is tantamount to asking a mother to name her favorite child! We love our children for themselves, a love individual as each child.
It is true, however, that a writer comes to know and like some characters better than others. Some I know better than I know my own friends and family! The innermost recesses we hide from the world are clearly visible to our Creator. Playing God with my characters, I see their weaknesses, their strengths, their inner doubts and turmoil, and their dark and secret parts. Raistlin Majere was such a character.
When I first met Raistlin, he was a name on a Character Sheet. I knew his "stats," developed for the Dragonlance role-playing game. I knew he was a third-level mage in his early twenties. I knew he was slight in build, wore red robes, and that he was known among his friends as "The Sly One." I knew he had a strong, well-built, powerful twin brother named Caramon. But he was just one of a number of characters-Tanis, Sturm, Flint, Tasslehoff-until I read the passage that said Raistlin had "golden skin and hourglass eyes."
"Why does he have golden skin and hourglass eyes?" I asked, puzzled. "Because the artists think he would look cool!" was the reply.
This intrigued me. I had to know the reason Raistlin had golden skin and hourglass eyes. In trying to solve this mystery, I was led to an understanding of the true nature of Raistlin's character.
That he would be jealous of his good-looking, stronger twin brother was a natural feeling to which every person who has ever grown up with a sibling could relate. That he was not generally trusted or well liked by his peers was obvious. If his friends called him "The Sly One," what would his enemies term him? Naturally he would be the target of bullies, which would lead his brother to protect him. It seemed to me that Raistlin would grow dependent on his brother for such protection, but that he would, at the same time, resent Caramon for it. Thus Raistlin would constantly struggle against a love as smothering as it was nurturing.
The fact that Raistlin was of slight build and physically weaker than his brother seemed to indicate a sickly youth, which might also be indicative of an introspective nature, particularly if he was forced to spend time cooped up in a sickbed. Such a childhood would have contributed to his feeling of alienation from his peers but would later give him empathy for others in like circumstances.
That Raistlin would turn to the study of magic was again obvious. Of course, it would be his elder half-sister, the restless and ambitious Kitiara, who would lead his thoughts in that direction. In a rough and dangerous world her younger brother lacked physical strength to wield a weapon. He needed some way to defend himself. Magic was the answer, especially since he already showed some talent in that area. Raistlin soon came to realize that magic was also the means by which he could gain power and ascendancy over others.
All very intriguing, but it didn't explain the golden skin and hourglass eyes. Certainly he wasn't born with them. His twin brother and his elder half-sister were perfectly normal-looking humans. Perhaps his study of magic had caused this transformation. He must have had to take a test to prove his abilities to the wizards who lived in the Towers of High Sorcery.
What sort of magical test would they give young wizards? A difficult test, probably extremely difficult. Otherwise anyone with a bit of talent could declare himself a wizard. What if the Test required that a mage stake his or her very life on the outcome? And what if something happened during the Test that caused Raistlin's skin to acquire a golden tinge and to give him eyes that would see the ravages of time upon all living things? Thus the Test in the Tower of High Sorcery came into existence. It was during that Test that Raistlin had the fateful meeting with the lich, Fistandantilus.
I became so fascinated with Raistlin that I wrote a short story about his journey to the Tower to take the Test. I also came to know a lot about Caramon on that trip. I saw Caramon's great inner goodness that to his friends would seem a weakness but that in the end would be the rock on which he would build a successful and happy life.
I'm still learning about Raistlin. With every book I write about him and his twin and their adventures in the world, I discover something new. Raistlin is, and continues to be, a favorite of all the many different characters it has been my privilege and my joy to know.
    Margaret Weis August 1998

Let me pick out a few illuminating phrases.
"When I first met Raistlin, he was a name on a Character Sheet. I knew his "stats," developed for the Dragonlance role-playing game."
"The fact that Raistlin was of slight build and physically weaker than his brother seemed to indicate a sickly youth."

Let's look at those "stats" as given in AD&D DL1 Dragons of Despair
Strength 10 (average)
Intelligence 17 
Wisdom 14
Dexterity 16
Constitution 10 (average)
Charisma 10 (average)

Let's say that word again - average. Heck I suspect I have a strength and constitution under average!

Coughing, rasping, sickly Raistlin, that iconic and famous creation of TSR, was average. In the same link Tracy Hickman says "Terry Phillips happened to choose Raistlin for his character and in that fated choice gave birth to one of Dragonlance's most enduring characters." Great, wonderful role playing in other words.

Except he wasn't role-playing the ability scores as given. And you, my few but generous readers, all agree. 
Votes for my poll: What do you think Raistlin's (Dragonlance) Constitution Ability Score is? No cheating or looking at your books - guess.
3 (42%) thought Constitution of 5
2 (28%, which included me) thought Constitution of 6
And we had one 8 and one 9.
No one, said 10, which is average on a 3d6 scale. (10.5 is mean)

I don't want to push this too far but hey I will. This is especially pertinent if you have read the books. 
Did any of you know that Flint the archetypal grumpy but loyal Dwarf was of low intelligence and could only write simple.

Strength 16
Intelligence 7
Wisdom 12
Dexterity 10
Constitution 18
Charisma 13
That constitution of 18 must explain why he died in the books of a heart attack, and was getting angina from the first chapter in the book. I kid you not. I don't care if he is old, what's the point of a high constitution if it doesn't protect you from the ill effects of ageing and disease.

Slow witted Caramon, brother of Raistlin
Strength 18/63
Intelligence 12
Wisdom 10
Dexterity 11
Constitution 17
Charisma 15
IQ therefore of 120. Dr Caramon your patient is ready to see you now. Not yet nurse, I need to finish reading the Wall Street Journal.

Ok, so the writers of Dragonlance didn't have a clue about ability scores. But it is my humble opinion that this is endemic in D&D role-playing and particularly at the lower end of the ability score range.

Have a read of this forum from Dragonsfoot.
Now I don't want to diss anyone from that forum, as there are some good points made, but I gently ask all you readers who have stuck by me through these posts. Were they role-playing an ability score of 3 or in fact something a lot higher?
I liked and approved of this one the best. "I had a character with a STR of 3 and a DEX of 17. I made him a 12-yr-old street urchin (Thief) and he just tried to live by his wits (and a light crossbow)." Using my newly proposed grip strength model he would have been 9-10 years old, but I heartily applaud the role players instincts.

Final famous ability score: foolish unwise Conan who only with age would grow to be a wise King. Delta quoted that Gygax thought at age 15 Conan's wisdom was 8.

An ability score of 3 is worse than you can imagine. It should be no fun to role-play. As a temporary effect - sure, but as a baseline - reroll.

So what do I suggest.

Firstly I acknowledge that for most ability scores the rules allow for a score of 3, so you can simply ignore me.

I do think that for intelligence this is an illogical choice and inconsistent with the rules as given and the strongly implied comparator to IQ but for the rest of the ability scores I can see it is a harder argument, particularly when the mechanical detriment (-3 to hit for example) is minor. 

Secondly, one can accept that for intelligence a score of 3 is unplayable but that the other ability scores have a much wider range in 'mankind' and a 3 reflects the minimum score for an adventurer. So the baker might have a strength of 2, a child 0.5. -3 to hit (-15%) and -3 damage (minimum of 1 damage - in B/X, can't find the same rule currently in AD&D), reflects this effectively.

I think this stretches the rules both as given and implied. If a strength 3 can only lift 30 pounds over one's head, this in my opinion if effectively non-combat regardless of the -3 to hit and -3 damage.

Thirdly, house rule harsher mechanical effects for low ability scores. That's where I am going... I'll see you soon.

Reroll, readd, redo - An ability score of 3 is unplayable


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