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I've been roleplaying as my Dwarven Warlock for a short while now, and I've grown quite attached to her as a character. She has a wisdom score of 8, intelligence score of 12 and a charisma of 17.

She was 'tricked' into stealing the book that would become her Book of Shadows. The patron is a Great Old One named the Draumrsteig (which means Dream Wanderer). She is not happy with this arrangement however.

However I am catching myself falling into the same issue as when I used to play a not-very-intelligent Half-Ogre at my university LARP society, and had to act dumb, How can I play dumb? - namely, not being able to make sensible decisions, and resisting the urge to resolve stuff in a holistic self-aware way.

That previous question contains a lot of good advice, but I'd say there's a clear distinction between low intelligence and low wisdom, as asked in Mismatch between intelligence and wisdom - how to play it? The answers are good, but my character only has above average intelligence, so making her fit the 'incredibly learned wizard who basically needs a handler wherever he goes due to his eccentricity' trope doesn't gel well with me.

I started off thinking a good way to play this character was to make her gullible, but she has the following (randomly generated) ideals and flaws:

Ideal: Respect. All people, rich or poor, deserve respect. (Good)
Flaw: I will never fully trust anyone other than myself.

These combined seem to make the character wisely cautious of people (untrusting) without going to the extent of being recklessly disrespectful (respect). I like these as character traits in principle (so I don't want to re-roll or just ignore them), but I'm struggling to feel like I'm roleplaying those traits and the low wisdom to my best ability. Especially as besides those considerations I'm playing her as brash and reckless

As an example, my character's Book of Shadows has been a plot point, and it has reacted badly to her attempts at destroying it (Tentacles. E̶͖̎VERYW̵̺̿HERE. Including around my character's neck when she tried to force it into an anti-magic room). Another character who didn't witness that event wanted to experiment with the book and my character protested, which seemed like a wise response for her; not gullible, reckless or absent-minded. At the very least she was untrusting.

I feel like I'm making the character slow on the uptake, and having 'penny dropping' moments, which is more low intelligence.

I also feel like I'm picking up (as a player) when I feel other players' characters seem to 'not be feeling ok' or roleplaying as being uneasy. I then feel my need to make sure that character is OK myself, bleeding though, and have my character check on that character. However I feel a low wisdom character would be more oblivious to that level of insight, perhaps?

I have read a few things about roleplaying low wisdom. The ones that most spoke to me were the Geek and Sundry article, but I dislike the idea of my character's low-wisdom making them as ego-centric as Ruby Rhod (even though they might be as brash). Being as naïve as Anna from Frozen is something my character has experienced already, but that requires others to carry on trying to manipulate her, and my character not learning from mistakes which feels more low intelligence, not low wisdom.

How can I roleplay this character better?

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Be unwisely cautious and respectful

Any flaw can work with any stats - it’s all in how you apply them. In your case, never fully trusting someone should be detrimental to your character more often than it helps, and this fits a low Wisdom score. If someone trustworthy offers help or resources, turn them down (where it won’t derail the game) regardless of whether that’s a good idea; ask questions that reveal you don’t trust whoever you’re talking to; act a little paranoid and interpret what folks say or do in a less favourable light.

Respecting everyone is a great ideal that will likely put you at (fun) odds with your companions, and it’s an easy one to marry with low Wisdom too - stick to it not just because you believe in it, but like it’s a rule you always follow even when it’s detrimental. The conflict between ideal and flaw will come into play here too; find ways to show respect while still not trusting folks.

You can also use the flaw and ideal to flavour the responses you the player want them to give. For example, if you want to check on another character, do it with a suspicious air; they want to know why they’re upset because they think they might be lying or hiding something or going to choose a problem later.

Being slow on the uptake fits for a low Wisdom

As defined by the Player’s Handbook:

Wisdom reflects how attuned you are to the world around you and represents perceptiveness and intuition.

Further, Wisdom checks are said to

reflect an effort to read body language, understand someone’s feelings, notice things about the environment, or care for an injured person.

So Wisdom is all about awareness and following and understanding a conversation or situation, rather than recalling or deeply understanding information. Being “slow on the uptake” in the moment - particularly in a social or conversational setting - fits well.

And, like the other Ability Scores, Wisdom is broad. You don’t have to be generally “bad at Wisdom” - the rolls will take care of that for you - but can instead give your character specific areas of weakness. Mechanically this is represented by your proficiencies and lack thereof, but you can lean into that for roleplaying too. Not proficient in perception? Then (outside of rolls) perhaps your character is a bit preoccupied or unobservant. Not proficient in Insight? Perhaps your character is okay at picking up on the moods of folks they know, but - to stick with the flaw - often thinks people they don’t know are lying when they’re not, or picks up on deceit but misunderstands what about. Or maybe they’re just bad at reading strangers entirely, which is what led to their generally suspicious nature.

Flavour with their Great Old One patron

Having a mysterious dream-flavoured Patron helps here too. Does Draumrsteig whisper to them constantly, making them a little disconnected from the world around them? Does it give them visions or ideas of others tricking them, enhancing their distrust? Maybe they don’t even realise this is happening.

…but 8 Wisdom isn’t that low

Remember the average person on the street has a Wisdom score of 10; even from a mechanical perspective you are less wise than average in the smallest noticeable way. You may have party members who are much wiser than you, but that means they are impressively in tune with the world, not that you’re incredibly unwise.

You don’t have to be insensitive or rash - which I would class more as personality traits than abilities - but you’re a little less intuitive and aware of the world around you than average.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent answer, but until know I have been playing the character as unwisely incautious until now. Perhaps their caution is only around people they don't know like you say... \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2021 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage cheers! I updated it to include a few notes about roleplaying the ideal as well. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2021 at 23:07
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Wisdom is heavily about your good understanding of the world and your perception, so you can play off flaws well with that.

These flaws only apply to people who are not overt villains, generally. It's good to avoid them foolishly trusting openly evil people. As with most characters, you should be playing them in a way that's entertaining to others.

Have them believe others.

Whilst they may not trust others, when people say things they may believe and memorize that with their ok intelligence. Conspiracy theories, people claiming to be allies while being evil, lots of stuff. This lets you play your character as a bit silly, or as a little too understanding of the motives of evil people.

Fall to peer pressure.

Your character respects others. That means if they push you to do something, you might just do it. If someone tells you to try a drug, you might. If a mob tells you that x person needs to be lynched, maybe they do. Be more vulnerable to agreeing with people who

Have them act impulsively.

Triggering traps early, punching someone who insults them, insulting someone of importance. This is something to do carefully, so you keep being an asset, but you can certainly play off your impulsiveness, and it's often fun to be wild.

Focus on the wrong things.

Low wisdom means low perception. You might obsess over the arcane meaning of some runes while a trap is about to be triggered. You might obsess over the implications of some weird herb while it tries to kill you.

Here's some ways you could play off low wisdom.

Book of Shadows.

You know intellectually it's a bad idea to experiment with the book, but also, it may be fun to experiment with tentacles. Be open to being peer pressured to experiment, against your better judgement, or being persuaded the risks are lower.

Mad science is fun.

Penny drop moments

Consider, does your character know the answer to such questions, or are they uncertain? They'll know many factual details about the world and such from their int, but they won't have the insight to pick up subtle interpersonal relationship issues.

Helping other characters.

OOC, you can just do entertaining things to amuse them if you feel they are moody. You can play up your flaws to praise them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I added some extra detail to my question if that interests you \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2021 at 0:18

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