10 February 2012

Unintelligent D&D

In my classic D&D games, ability scores...

...can provide an XP bonus (or penalty).

...give a bonus (or penalty) to certain rolls. Strength modifiers melee “to hit” and damage. Dexterity modifier AC and ranged “to hit”. Wisdom I allow to modify all saves. Constitution modifiers hit points. Charisma modifiers reaction rolls.

...can be used for ad hoc “ability checks” to resolve actions.

Intelligence does the first for mages. You may notice intelligence is missing from the second. I never call for an intelligence check. So, if I drop the XP modifier for prime requisites, intelligence doesn’t really do anything and isn’t really needed. And I was never really attached to the XP modifiers.


Brendan said...

What about languages known?

Robert Fisher said...

Doh! I remember writing something about that, but it didn’t make it into the post.

I have been using intelligence for languages, but I’ve never liked it. I don’t like basing the number of languages a character knows on an ability score. And making it “intelligence” I like even less.

The way demihumans automatically know two languages because, presumably, their native language wasn’t Common, but they needed to learn Common to find an adventuring group and get past the phone screen. That’s the way languages should work.

Your character gets a native language for free. As long as you can justify that your character actually uses another language—whether talking or reading—then your character knows it too.

And if you can figure out a way your character could’ve joined the group without knowing Common, that’d be cool. Go with that!

Anyway, we’ll see how that goes.

richard said...

ditto on languages. I ignore them altogether between PCs in my games because I don't need the slowdown in communication within the party. Then there's Flailsnails, where you pretty much have to assume a babelfish or something similar. Finally, do players need more barriers in their way, stopping them from speaking with the Ogre Mage rather than hitting it with axes? There might be times when you want a language barrier, but in general I'm in favour of not writing anything in the languages slot and deciding by fiat on the spot whether you can talk to the NPCs or not.

Glaurung_Quena said...

What I would use intelligence ability checks for: whether or not the PC has in-game knowledge of something. e.g, current events, the political situation in the fiefdom they're passing through, or some aspect of history. For instance, before sending them off the consult a sage, roll to see if one of them has read or heard tell about the particular bit of campaign back story that they have become curious about.

I guess that means I'm seeing it less as IQ and more as level of education/level of engagement with current events.

Brendan said...

If you just handwave languages known though, that eliminates some interesting kinds of challenges. I would not mind disassociating languages known from intelligence, but saying that everyone everywhere speaks the same language seems like just punting to me, though I suppose there is some fantasy literature precedent where you can talk to everything, even the animals.

Here's an example. In Matt Finch's Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom, there are papers written in elven script spelling out goblin words. My group had several characters that could read elven and a separate character who could speak goblin. The image of the elves reading out gibberish so that the halfling (I think it was the halfling) could translate the goblin back to common so everyone could understand it was quite humorous, and required them to think a bit because I described the pages initially as gibberish written in elven script. No languages, you miss that kind of challenge.

I am sympathetic to the idea that any barrier to possible negotiation is unfortunate though, as players choosing to parley is already rare enough.

One more thing regarding intelligence use. I know this has no relevance to anyone's campaign but mine, but in my house rules there is a "Use Super Science" ability. Everyone has a 1 in 6 chance to figure out how to use a piece to super science technology. Exceptional intelligence (i.e., 13 or higher) adds a bonus of 1 to that check (so it becomes 2 in 6).

But maybe there's a similar sort of thing that you might be able to apply intelligence to in your campaign? Bonus to saves agains mind-affecting spells and effects maybe?