Rolling for Dungeons and Dragons
While nearly every player wants to play the biggest and baddest warrior on the block, or the wizard with the power to level mountains and reshape continents, having characters that excel at everything can quickly become boring in Dungeons and Dragons. What is the fun of playing an adventurer with stats and skills so finely tuned that the chances of them failing at something becomes nearly improbable? Many amazing stories can come from high risks and lucky rolls, but if you’re not really taking a risk by jumping across the street from rooftop to rooftop trying to escape a burning building while dodging dragon fire because your chances of failing are nearly impossible, then the story loses a lot of what makes these types of scenes exciting. It is the chance of failure that makes the story because the outcome is much more up in the air. For this reason, leaning into bad stat roles and character flaws can make an adventurer so much more fun to play. While this may sound a bit counter-intuitive, let’s look at some standard Dungeon and Dragon stats and view how you can add excitement to an adventurer with less than desirable rolls.
Dungeons and Dragons Rolling
The Strength stat is the measure of raw physical ability you reliably have. While a poor strength score can simply be played off as ‘my character is physically weak’, that reasoning can be expanded. The simple trope of living a sheltered life is always a classic, but why are some other reasons they could be weak? How do their physical limitations change how they tackle problems? Do they rely more heavily on speed or intelligence to compensate? Maybe they received poor training from an incompetent charlatan tutor. Do they suffer from a disability that makes physical feats difficult for them? Maybe your Ranger suffers from a terrible injury where a brown bear tore into their back. While the wound has healed, it never quite recovered, and they have a tough time twisting or putting pressure on their back. You could then play your character in a way that makes them seem reluctant to admit they have a problem, and still tries to show off the strength of their youth, leading to some interesting situations. You could even give them epic scars and stories to go along with it!
Agility, hand-eye coordination, and quickness are the traits of a dexterous individual. With these in mind, let’s look at how you could play someone with a poor dexterity score. Simply being clumsy and uncoordinated is a good start, but once again, let’s dig deeper into the why of that situation. An ear injury when they were younger may throw off your character’s balance. By choosing this route, you could make your character deaf in one ear giving rise to some memorable social situations. Maybe they were born with a club foot and walk with a slight limp. You could even give them glasses for astigmatism. I have personally played with a halfling ranger that suffered from being nearsighted. Giving in to this flaw made a unique character that did not use a bow but instead dual-wielded whips, as anything further than 15 feet away would start to become fuzzy without glasses. The character’s entire fighting style was built around the dynamics between her and her pet, making an exciting and fun character to watch, all because she leaned into a poor roll without worrying what would be optimal.
As a measure of your physical wellness, a poor Constitution score can easily be written off as being sickly. Suffering from a grave illness when they were younger could do this to your adventurer. Falling back on the sheltered lifestyle that is commonplace for poor strength scores is always an option here as well, but let’s see what else we can come up with! Maybe instead of a disease or illness, your character was poisoned in their youth, making them paranoid and wary of strange food and people. Could the poisoner have been someone they knew and respected, giving them life-long trust issues that they can work through as character development? Maybe it is not a physical ailment, but a magical one. An ancient curse was put on their family that the adventurer is currently trying to break. Do they wheeze when they run? Maybe coughing when they talk? Do they always wear a mask for fear of getting sick? These are all elements that can be rolled into an interesting backstory to be explored.
Though a high intelligence score in Dungeons and Dragons reflects well on your character’s ability to recall their studies and apply logic to the world around them, a low intelligence score can be a lot of fun to play with. It may be easy to fall into the role of “my fighter is an idiot”, but there can be so much more nuance to the Intelligence stat. Sure, maybe your fighter is as dumb as a sack of rocks, but do THEY know they are dumb? What if your sorceress was raised in a noble and sheltered environment where she learned about politics, but little about day-to-day common-sense issues? Though capable of holding her own in the court, she would be completely out of her element trying to explain simple things to a merchant or soldier, who would view her as a fool. Perhaps they are actually quite brilliant but have a horrible memory. Every once in a while, a high die roll could be justified as a fleeting moment of clarity. Maybe the culture they are from is so different from the setting they are in now, they are constantly blundering and making fools of themselves because of their lack of knowledge in custom and decorum.
A poor wisdom score can simply apply to your character’s common sense. Maybe they have a vast amount of knowledge about a plethora of topics but tend to ramble or blurt out information no one asked for. They could be prone to flights of fancy, with their heads so far in the clouds that they are rarely paying attention to the world around them. A low wisdom score can play very nicely into the strength and weaknesses of other stats by adding context. High intelligence? Always lost in a book, either reading or perhaps writing one. Poor Strength score? Perhaps they over-estimate their own abilities, leading to hilarious outcomes. High Charisma? Tries to use their battle scars and size to intimidate everyone around them into getting what they want, even people they really shouldn’t be. You can tie a poor wisdom score into a lot of poor life choices your character has made or continues to make!
While Charisma is the stat that Dungeons and Dragons rely on for social interactions, so many get locked into the idea that it represents physical beauty. According to the rules as written, however, intimidation is also a Charisma-based skill. Maybe instead of using otherworldly beauty to get what they want from those around them, they use the fear their mere presence exudes. How would one go about playing a low charisma character then? Well, as with Wisdom, you could tie it into another stat. Is your character physically weak or sickly? They probably don’t strike much of a figure that anyone would listen to. Poor intelligence or Wisdom? They have a habit of talking about things they know little about in a poorly veiled attempt at sounding like an expert. Does a physical deformity from a low Dexterity or Constitution make them uncomfortable to look at? It could be that it ties to no other stat, and they are just annoying! Will they not shut up when they are nervous? Do they speak their mind, regardless of their audience? A character that is overly sarcastic would definitely begin to grate on those who are forced to interact with them. Just make sure you don’t start annoying the actual players in your game! Being a statistic that is tied to social interactions, you can have a lot of fun with a low Charisma score beyond just “being homely”.
Obviously, many of these flaws in Dungeons and Dragons can be tied to the strengths or weaknesses of other stats, so thinking creatively about each and how they could tie into others can be a lot of fun. Each has the potential to make a fun and interesting character with very real flaws that could turn into foundations for fantastic adventurers and stories. Never feel discouraged or disappointed in a poor stat roll. Instead, turn them into character-defining traits that can be used as a lens to view the world you play in. Try to remind yourself that your greatest triumphs are so much more significant when the odds are not in your favor. That is what makes the best stories!
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