Monday, 12 August 2013

The Order of Stats

I started playing D&D with the red box and then AD&D 2nd edition, so the order in which I write stats tends to be STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA. Other variations exist depending on the edition. However, I think I am right in saying that almost everybody will at least put STR first and CHA last. Anything else seems somehow wrong.

Undoubtedly this is mostly because of tradition, but I also think it is because adolescent boys will tend to think of STR as the most important stat and CHA as the least, and most D&D players started playing as adolescent boys.

I wonder if one very simple element of the minimalist approach to setting design could be the re-ordering of stats. A rarefied, high-magic setting might have the order: INT, WIS, CHA, DEX, CON, STR. A setting of tiny principalities where diplomacy and courtly intrigue are all-important might have: CHA, INT, WIS, DEX, CON, STR. A harsh desert setting might have CON, WIS, INT, DEX, STR, CHA. While there would be no mechanical effect, something about mood would be very efficiently communicated through such minor tweaks.


  1. I grew up playing a mix of redbox and AD&D then moving quickly to 2nd edition, and played that for ~15 years exclusively along with my core players.

    We just started a Swords and Wizardry game where the stats are ordered STR,INT,WIS,CON,DEX,CHR...

    I was shocked at how much it affected my players as they rolled up their characters. I think the little change you are proposing would communicate mood with this minor tweak.

  2. I think that's reading too deeply into it. CHA is an afterthought, not being the primary stat for any of the original classes, and the groups that make the activities where CHA would be important more central are less likely to resort to a straight-up reaction roll to resolve them.

    LotFP does them in alpha order, and all that does is confuse my players.

  3. I admit I reflexively write them in "classic" order STR,INT,WIS,DEX,CON,CHR, although when I think about it,I write them in 2nd edition fashion which groups them in body and mind.

    I've always seen the two as what is practical for making a character vs. what is practical playing. The classic array is all about what can I be, that two minutes of page flipping, because nobody had the bright idea yet to stick all the requirements on one page. That two minutes of mystery, where you're still anything.

    That first role, strength, always holds out hope for the 18, the holy grail of player stats. The joy of breaking out your percentile dice and basking in the jealousy of your colleagues. No other stat can reward you with a second moment of anticipation this way, you never have 18-73 dexterity.

    Then it is on to Intelligence, do I have the stuff to make a powerful wizard? Is their a ranger in my future? Wisdom, last chance for a powerhouse. Dexterity? Well I guess I might be a thief. Then on to Constitution, which has so little influence on class, but is all important in the game, leads to thoughts of "but if I'm a dwarf..". Then you wind up with Charisma, where a high score often leads to the "But I can be a Paladin" or Bard debate. Coming up with the rare classes was a bit like being on a streak in Vegas.

    Rolling them in a reverse order just seems wrong to me. It lacks the excitement I've been conditioned to expect.

    1. When a friend of mine rolled his first AD&D-Character ever, he had a Strength of 18 - so, when he was told do roll two d10s, he did that- and was disappointed: "Damn, I rolled two 0s"...

    2. That's what I love about rolling in some sort of predetermined order. That not-knowing what character is going to come out is a delicious feeling.

  4. And to bring up a former post of yours. I have an irrational dice fetish where I need to role attributes in the proper order.

  5. To me there are really 2 attributes (physical and non-physical) each with 3 sub-attributes each. So I do them the same order, Str/Dex/Con being all physical and the primary focus of the game, Int/Wis/Cha the less-focused non-physical. One of my players does them in the old-style of Str/Int/Wis/Con/Dex/Cha and it totally bends my brain when I have to look at his sheet.
    Not sure if the order would make as much of a difference as the number. Combine all 3 physical into one physical score and leave the other 3 non-physical as is (say- Phys, Int, Wis, Cha); now you've got a very different game. Would love to experiment if I could get my group on board.

    1. I believe that is the rationale behind the change in stat order between 1st and 2nd editions.

      Why not 3 stats - physical, intellectual, spiritual? Representing three classes of fighter, magic-user, priest.

    2. Well, getting a little off-topic (since this is a D&D blog) for my own game I'm designing I use 5:


      I find that by adding sub-attributes to that you can model pretty much any part of any living being (until I find a way that doesn't, at which point I'll have to re-work them :)

  6. I think this is very astute. I doubt I'd ever run a game with different attribute orders - my players are maybe still adolescent boys despite being thirty or close to it and not all boys - but maybe as a one-shot, or a hypothetical game, or . . . or . . . or maybe just not, but you make an interesting point.

  7. RE: Minimalist Worldbuilding. Yes, it definitely would. I long ago got rid of the classic 6 and replaced them with all mental stats. Nothing sets the tone like a character sheet.

  8. I suppose it would only communicate mood if the reader was also seeing mood into the order they are presented.

  9. I think they should be listed: Con, Dex, Str, Cha, Int, Wis.

    1. @Tetsubo: out of curiosity, why? Con/Dex I can sort of see as defensive/reactive in a way, Str/Cha as the active in effecting the world/other people and Int/Wis as just passive; but I'm guessing so I'd like to hear your reasoning.

  10. I think if you're playing a high-magic setting, you should frame the stats as what they do for you magically.

    STR = how many spellbooks you can carry on your adventure, ability to carry out treasure
    INT = memory - spell capacity, technical skill - casting speed and highest spell lv you can understand
    WIS = willpower - mental defense
    DEX = manual agility - somatic components - casting speed
    CON = concentration - resist spell disruption, fortitude - highest spell level you can physically cast and resist spellcasting fatigue
    CHA = force of personality - affects enemy saves, summoning reaction rolls

    So rather than changing the order, or changing the actual stats, figure out why that stat is so important in your game of all-Magic-Users so there are no dump stats.

  11. I dropped out of D&D before the second edition was published, so what follows has been frozen in amber for 25 years or so.

    I always assumed the traditional stat ordering -- STR/INT/WIS/DEX/CON/CHR -- was a nod to the original four classes in an order of some kind of "importance": fighter, magic-user, cleric, thief. I honestly cannot imagine writing the stats down in any other order.

    I agree with Gort's Friend, there's a tinge of anticipation rolling in that order. Not only does that first 17 or 18 you roll kind of lock into place your class and therefore your role in the game, the first low roll slams a door shut. By the fourth stat roll you pretty much know what you're going to be, or if you should give up and start over.

    I personally liked it when players took on classes that their stats didn't seem suitable for. I played a dwarf thief (max DEX of 17, as I recall) for years and loved it. Sacrilege and not by-the-book, but a lot more fun than the guys playing their 18 STR/17 INT chaotic neutral half-elf fighter/magic-users.