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I just rolled up stats for a new campaign, and ended up with the following:

  • 15 Strength
  • 13 Dexterity
  • 6 Constitution
  • 18 Intelligence
  • 8 Wisdom
  • 6 Charisma

I'm going to be playing a wizard, but I'm stuck on how to describe my character. Normally with a high-INT low-CON wizard I'd go with the standard Raistlin trope - physically weak, but strong in arcane power. However, if I describe my character as physically weak, it'll seem really weird when he has higher STR than the rest of the party and a decent DEX score.

How can I describe a character with very low health (I'll have 4hp at level 1, all the way up to 42 at level 20) who is yet able to lift 225 pounds or jump a fifteen foot gap?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I tagged with "dungeons-and-dragons" because this problem would be equally possible and relevant in 3.5e or 4e (that I know for sure) and possibly in older editions as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dacromir
    Feb 6, 2018 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relephant \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Feb 6, 2018 at 3:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you aware that you can arrange those stats in a different order? Paragraph 4 on the linked page. (If you are aware and picked a low con anyway, pls advise). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Our table is doing it Matt Colville style - 4d6 drop the lower straight down the line, no re-arranging, restart if you didn't get two fifteens. I actually enjoy it because it leads to characters I otherwise wouldn't play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dacromir
    Feb 6, 2018 at 16:42

4 Answers 4

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As the stats describe

From PHB Chapter 7:

  • Strength measures bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which you can exert raw physical force.
  • Dexterity measures agility, reflexes, and balance.
  • Constitution measures health, stamina, and vital force.

Your character has the musculature of a bodybuilder, the reflexes of a cat but the cardio-vascular system of a terminal heart patient. You can exert raw power and dance beautifully ... just not for very long.

Indeed, perhaps you have an adult congenital heart defect, or stable angina or a respiratory disease like tuberculosis or asthma (not subject to magical cure for whatever reason).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Concise and yet medically specific! +1 \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 3:55
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Another possibility is acquired injury. Real-world pro wrestlers are strong and often agile people who tend to accumulate serious health conditions. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not subject to magical cure due to ... being cursed by a deity? \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2023 at 12:21
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From the D&D 5e PHB, page 177:

Constitution measures health, stamina, and vital force.

The ability description goes on to give deeper examples, but there already are three great ways to imagine a strong and dexterous character who has low constitution:

  • They may be in poor health. Perhaps prone to constant sickness, fainting, and bruising at the slightest bump.

  • They may have poor stamina. This character is capable of climbing a sheer wall or vaulting a wide chasm... once. Then they need to rest a while.

  • They may have poor vitality. This means a lack of vigorousness, liveliness, spunk. Perhaps this character is capable of astounding feats... but can hardly be called upon to do them without complaining or dragging their feet.

This short list represents a few fun ways to take a mechanical disadvantage and make an interesting character out of it. And of course, these three traits also can be found together.

You may be disappointed to see how Constitution might undercut your character's Strength and Dexterity - after all, what's the point of being a great athlete if you can't go the distance? But don't forget that an ability score of 6 - which imposes a -2 modifier - is no more a guarantee that your character will fail to perform than a 14 (modifier of +2) guarantees success!

Inter-Ability Score Synergy

Your character is also "lucky" enough to have a low charisma. Now, many people assume low charisma means ugly, or rude, or socially awkward in some way. But charisma is also tied to willpower in 5th edition. Page 178 of the PHB (emphasis mine):

Charisma ... includes such factors as confidence and eloquence, and it can represent a charming or commanding personality.

Also consider that a charisma saving throw is required of a creature targeted by spells such as Bane (which forces penalties upon the target) and Seeming (which can change your appearance against your will).

Therefore, a low constitution/charisma combo might suggest a character who is a bit of a wimp: low threshold for pain, easily bullied, perhaps a bit scared of being hit. That's just one suggestion, and of course you should only play a character that way to the extent that it's fun for you. But it's an example of combining scores into a deeper portrait of your wizard.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for good points and referencing - but could you correct the typo "PHb". It's hurting my eyes. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Nov 7, 2022 at 10:31
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Being strong doesn't mean being tough as well. A common stereotype in games is the bruiser character with a glass jaw. Here, your character might suffer from chronic illnesses from childhood but decided to workout with weights due to bullying (or some similar background story), and while this improved his/her strength, their constitution still remained pretty poor in adulthood. I found this page that helps describe stats in simple terms:

Constitution (from a previous edition)

1 (–5): Minimal immune system, body reacts violently to anything foreign
2-3 (–4): Frail, suffers frequent broken bones
4-5 (–3): Bruises very easily, knocked out by a light punch
6-7 (–2): Unusually prone to disease and infection
8-9 (–1): Easily winded, incapable of a full day’s hard labor
10-11 (0): Occasionally contracts mild sicknesses
12-13 (1): Can take a few hits before being knocked unconscious
14-15 (2): Able to labor for twelve hours most days
16-17 (3): Easily shrugs off most illnesses
18-19 (4): Able to stay awake for days on end
20-21 (5): Very difficult to wear down, almost never feels fatigue
22-23 (6): Never gets sick, even to the most virulent diseases
24-25 (7): Tireless paragon of physical endurance

https://dmingwithcharisma.com/2011/10/dd-stats-in-simple-language/

There are descriptions for the other stats as well there.

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-2
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Your character has a chronic illness. It could manifest in several ways.

  1. Consumption/anemia style. He is still athletic and strong. Indeed, the disease keeps him lean and with bursts of adrenaline he can run, jump, dodge. lift etc but then cannot get out of oxygen debt and so is left panting, coughing up blood and possibly wasted for the rest of the day.
  2. Alcoholism/Liver Cancer. Your character is big guy, tall and wide and while not necessarily spry incredibly sure footed. Think aged running back. However, he always has an uneasy quality to him and constantly looks as if he may be coming down with the flu. He doesn't do well without enough sleep and can become easily agitated if asked to focus for a long time.
  3. Intestinal inflammation. Your character looks like a college athlete, is ripped and can perform brilliantly on the heat of battle even for long stretches on end. That when he is not having an episode which leaves him nauseous and vomiting for hours on end. Afterwards he can only eat bits of food and takes long to recover. These episodes presumably strike through eating or drinking something slightly "bad" but even with scrupulous attention they still strike at random give the lack of preservatives in your world.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 16, 2023 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello. I'm not the one who downvoted, but theissues I see with your answer are 1) it hardly adds anything new, and 2) third point is punishing way beyond what game mechanics support, and may make game unplayable for the whole party. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    May 17, 2023 at 7:58

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