I read in some book (forget which) that players should use a low ability score as an opportunity for character development; for example, a low Con character could have insecurities and be very defensive about always getting tired/weak, and as a result seldom asks for help.

Similarly, how could you turn a low Dex score into an interesting character trait?


3 Answers 3


Your low-Dexterity character is a klutz. You'll want to demonstrate this in minor ways at first, to let your party get used to the idea.

Describe how your character is admiring apples at the fruit cart in the town market... and then drops one into the street, where it gets crushed under the wheel of a passing merchant's wheelbarrow. The fruitseller, unimpressed, tells your party, "That'll be a copper." No big deal for adventurers, sure. Do this a couple times. Maybe you accidentally knock a small animal cage open and have to catch the animal, pay for it, or prevent it from causing further market mayhem. Maybe you drop a dagger at the blacksmith's... luckily, no harm done, no fingers lost... but the blacksmith is now annoyedly huffing at your party; try haggling after that.

Then, after a couple successful adventures, offer to go potion-shopping... and see if your party will let you go alone. Say that somehow, they let you go. Roleplay being drawn to the bottle of a potion on display. Mention that you want to pick up the bottle to examine the craftsmanship of the glass, and how it refracts the light... and see how fast your companions interject with a "Don't touch that!"

Let's not talk about that one time, in the dungeon, when you were near the cauldron of boiling acid.

Or, maybe your character knows he or she is a klutz. You offer to sit in the cart instead of taking a turn clearing the trail ahead. You stand back when it comes to the heavy lifting. "Oh, it's best for all involved if I don't," you say, when the fighter wants you to open the door so they can charge in, or to the rogue who wants you to hold onto something so they can disarm the trap. You get a reputation for being lazy or too fussy, but really you know what'll happen if you lend a hand...

Did your character grow up rich? Maybe you are fussy. Maybe you've had others to do the manual labor for you all your life. You'd rather your party members do things for you, too, because old habits are hard to break, but you realize that it's not their job. But you're becoming really good at making excuses and being really polite, finding new ways to phrase your requests every time it comes up. Your party is going to catch on eventually, so expect to soon be on your own with these things, and like it.

Maybe your character overcompensates. At festivals, you makes a beeline to knife-throwing games because all you need is a little more practice, obviously. You never win anything, of course, unless you get terribly lucky. Then you let everybody know of your exceptional deed! This inflated self-recognition happens in combat, too. You roll a natural 20 (or whatever the equivalent is in the system you're playing) and suddenly your character is commenting on what a great strike that was, did you see that? You keep going on about it for a round or two, until your party reminds you that you're still in combat and can it wait, maybe, until everyone is out of danger? Okay? Please?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I really like this answer, but I think this is best done if the GM is involved as well, let them know you will be slipping up, and ask them to help you roleplay it. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2012 at 15:13

The obvious answers:

  1. the klutz - think Kramer from Seinfeld
    constantly slipping, knocking things over, ets
  2. the hulk - Think Fezzig in Princess Bride.
    not so much uncoordinated as just not aware of just how big he is (Andre did a great job)
  3. the fumble-finger drops-a-lot - Half of Jerry Lewis' characters.
    Anything he needs to hang onto is dropped. Anything he needs to drop tangles in his clothing.

The Not so Obvious:

  1. Mr I can't Shoot - Wash from Firefly.
    He can move, but he just can't get anything where he needs it without going there.
  2. I can't touch that - Cat from Red Dwarf
    If he weren't so squeamish, he'd be normal dex... but anything makes him squirm
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for both mentioning Wash and The Cat in the same answer, plus the selection of options \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    May 11, 2012 at 13:44

A low dex character is maladroit. There are a number of directions one could take this, depending on the player's preference for spotlight. If you want attention to be drawn, then a low dex character is unconsciously clumsy, causing situations due to his clumsiness, but acting more as a catalyst than a participant. The directions for development are interesting, the first direction is the learning-about-self. The clumisness is a reaction to something in their past, and as long as they don't face their history, they remain an epicenter of chaos. It's also a function of being self-aware: the character could always place blame on the accidents onto someone else.

In a more interesting vein, the low dex could be a festering war-wound or magical wound. In the war wound, it would inform interactions with other NPCs. Directions for growth would be quests for healing, learning to deal with it, or dealing with the true pain which the festering wound is just a symptom. For the magical wound it could be link to an villain or link to an ally (perhaps they caused it, accidentally, but restitution has never been made. Does the character know its source?)


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .