The Blessing of Bad Ability Scores

Some people would consider this a shit roll

Some people would consider this a shit roll

There is a constant fear of low ability scores during character creation. Everyone wants a myrmidon, and not Jim GarbageWater the outcast elf who is weak, blind, and cannot walk over a mile without taking a 15 minute break to catch his breath.

The traditional rolling of dice for stat scores represents the ultimate randomness of the universe. It is an on going trope in our society that skills and abilities are evened out for each person, as if assigned from a magical pool. The trope demands that, for example, super strong people have to sacrifice something*.

This of course, is not the truth. There are people who are smart, strong, and good looking. There are people who are dumb, weak, and routinely beat by the ugly stick. In character creation, you can occasionally land a series of "bad" stat rolls. Just another character for the garbage heap.

 

I Rolled Poorly

If you make a character with bad stats, its ok. Those characters can be just as deep and fulfilling to play. You might want to focus on why your character has those poor stats to begin with. Low strength score? Maybe your character never exercised. Low constitution? Maybe your fighter had prior wounds that never healed right. Flawed characters can add a depth that the constant string of almost-perfect adventurers seemingly lack.

 

Advice from the Second Edition

As I have mentioned before, I cut my teeth on reading (but not playing) 2nd Edition. Here is what the Player's Handbook has to say:

Obviously, [the character's] ability scores (often called "stats") are not the greatest in the world. Yet it is possible to turn these "disappointing" status into a character who is both interesting and fun to play. Too often players become obsessed with "good" stats. These players immediately give up on a character of he does not have at least one ability of 17 or higher! Needless to say, these players would never consider playing a character with an ability score of 6 or 7.
In truth, [the character's] survivability has a lot less to do with his ability scores than with your desire to role-play him. If you give up on him, of course he won't survive! But if you take an interest in the character and role-play him well , then even a character with the lowest possible scores can present a fun, challenging, and all-around exciting time. [. . .]
Don't give up on a character just because he has a low score. Instead, view it as an opportunity to role-play, to create a unique and entertaining personality in the game. Not only will you have fun creating that personality, but other players and the DM will have fun reacting to him.

This quote has been burned into my brain for the last 15 years. I could not say it better myself.


*Some societies refer to these stereotypes as "jocks"