November 1, 2013
What Do Your Attributes Mean? (Part 2)
Be sure to read Part 1.
As with your character’s physical attributes, their mental attributes can be used to help flesh out who they are. Using the mostly commonly used six attributes, these mental abilities include Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Unlike physical attributes, mental attributes are used by different classes and archetypes to determine magical abilities, making them prime attributes for spell-casters in fantasy games. When looking at these three attributes, it is important to recognize that these do not wholly shape a character’s personality any more than the three physical attributes do. While they make for great framework, the personality you give your character is entirely based on you and what you want their personality to be.
Intelligence: This attribute determines just how smart your character is. More accurately, how “book smart” they are. As this is the attribute the controls logic, deductive reasoning, and memory. Low intelligence characters, a trope that often goes along with many characters with high physical attributes, tend to be easily stumped by complicated problems, foiled by the various knowledge and lore checks called for in the game, and quick to discredit intellectual discourse. This does not mean they are necessarily foolish, only that they lack the learning of higher intelligence characters. High intelligence characters are smart, often incredibly smart. They tend to be know-it-all scholars and adept problem solvers that everyone finds useful, but also somewhat annoying at the same time. In many fantasy games, intelligence is also the attribute used in arcane spell casting, meaning it is favored by wizards who use it to determine how many spells they are able to memorize each day. Knowledge is power, and if that power is manifest as actual magic, this is all the more true.
Wisdom: If intelligence represents book smarts, than wisdom is the attribute of street smarts/common sense. It represents your character’s level of awareness and understanding of things, as well as their resistance to mental based magic and similar effects. Wisdom is rarely an ignored attribute (called the “dump stat”) due to it being one of the three attributes everyone uses for their saving throws. Characters with low wisdom tend to be impatient, anxious, and eager to prove themselves. At the same time, they also tend to be unaware of things going on around them and are often caught by surprise when something unexpected happens. High wisdom characters are exactly what you expect; wise. They tend to be aware of everything going on around them and able to react to it with grace and skill. In many fantasy based games, wisdom is the attribute used for divine magic, and thus it is favored by classes like the cleric and paladin, as well as hunter/survivor characters like rangers and barbarians.
Charisma: The social attribute, charisma determines a character’s social inclination and personal magnetism. Characters with a low charisma tend to be unsure of themselves, socially awkward, and often find themselves at a loss for words. Character’s with high charisma tend toward the “face” archetype, the master of social graces. In short, they are charming. In some cases, this attribute is mistaken for a “beauty” indication, but this not the case. Someone can easily be very charming, but not very attractive. By that same token, there can also be incredibly beautiful people who are socially awkward and unsure of themselves. While charisma and beauty can go hand-in-hand, this does not have to be the case. In some fantasy games, people who are able to control magic innately rather than through learning and study, such as the Dungeons & Dragons sorcerer and bard, use charisma in place of intelligence for their magical powers, which can often lead to characters with an even greater level of confidence, as their power literally comes from their own confidence in themselves.
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So, the next time you are unsure of just who you want your character to be, look at the attributes you assigned them. These can tell you a great deal about your character and set the groundwork for determining just what sort of character they are.