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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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closed as primarily opinion-based by Purple Monkey, Miniman, KRyan, Dale M, keithcurtis Feb 6 '18 at 4:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\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 '18 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relephant \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Feb 6 '18 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\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 '18 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 '18 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Very dangerous over short distances? \$\endgroup\$ – Weaveworker89 Feb 6 '18 at 21:07
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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\$ – Andrew Bergdahl Feb 6 '18 at 3:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another possibility is acquired injury. Real-world pro wrestlers are strong and often agile people who tend to accumulate serious health conditions. \$\endgroup\$ – Geoffrey Brent Feb 6 '18 at 12:08
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From the 5e PHb, page 177:

Constitution measures health, stamina, and vital force.

Page 177 goes on to give deeper examples, but here already are three great ways to imagine a strong and dextrous 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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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

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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