This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.
I’ve taken issue with the way attributes are handled in D&D for a very long time — both the names of the attributes and the way game effects are based on them. I don’t like the fact that half-orcs are, on average, mentally retarded (with a -2 Intelligence); I don’t like the fact that being likable grants you more power as a sorcerer; I don’t like the fact that people essentially have to be more learned to be better at hiding in shadows; I don’t like the fact that the ability to make out details of someone approaching from a distance is based on whether you’re wise; I don’t like the fact that being attractive is essentially a prerequisite for being any good at scaring the crap out of someone.
For the most part, this is solved by doing nothing more drastic to the game system than changing the names of the attributes. As a result, I’m going to start using a new set of attributes in my games:
- ST: Strength (same as always)
- DX: Dexterity (same as always)
- CN: Constitution (same as always)
- SC: Scholarship (formerly Intelligence)
- IN: Intuition (formerly Wisdom)
- PR: Presence (formerly Charisma)
The Scholarship attribute is not native Intelligence, nor is it a character’s current level of education. Rather, it is the character’s affinity for academic knowledge and educational study.
The Intuition attribute is the cunning, common sense reasoning, awareness, and mystical connectedness of the character. There’s a nice differentiation between Intuition and the concept of wisdom that we encounter in everyday life, too, that was not well represented with the attribute known as Wisdom.
The Presence attribute is a character’s force of personality and ability to impose his or her will on others through manipulation, intimidation, cajoling, and other nonphysical and nonmagical means of influencing others’ decisions and emotions. This also helps remind people that the physical attractiveness of a character is not necessarily identical to a given attribute — a character may be both beautiful and uncharismatic, and neither necessarily has a strong relationship to the Presence attribute itself.
You might think these changes would require a whole bunch of new rules to make things work out smoothly. I’ve listed and explained all the rules changes I think are required to make this work well.
This does increase the problem of connecting the Scholarship/Intelligence attribute with one’s skill point total in OGL/d20 games (i.e., D&D and Pathfinder), however. As such, when determining skill point totals, I’ll just let a player use the higher of SC and IN to determine skill points. As such, a Cleric who would have gotten two skill points per level with an Intelligence of 10 and Wisdom of 17, instead gets five skill points per level with a Scholarship of 10 and Intuition of 17. If you’re going to use this modified list of attributes, I recommend you do the same. It helps if you remember that a character with a higher Intuition is more likely to have a greater focus on experiential and innate talent based skills, whereas a character with a higher Scholarship is more likely to have a greater focus on academic skills (book learnin’). In cases where a character has more academic skills than talent-based skills, despite having a higher Intuition than Scholarship, I’m willing to just let it go with giving the PC the benefit of the doubt on points so that I don’t penalize a player for having attributes that best suit the character concept (I tend to prefer point-buy systems over dice-rolling for attribute determination).
That’s it. No, really — after thinking about it and discussing it with my SigO, I don’t think there are any other cases of basic game rules that need to be adjusted at all to fit with this change in the attributes’ names and concepts.