Saturday, November 5, 2011

Evolution of Ability Scores: Intelligence

Continuing with the OD&D standard arrangement of ability scores, next up is after Strength is Intelligence.

Within the context of OD&D, Intelligence had two primary uses. 1st, it was the prime requisite of Magic-Users. 2nd, intelligence was used to determine the number of languages a character knew at the beginning of play: one additional monster tongue for every point of intelligence above 10. Like the reference to traps for Strength, Intelligence "will also affect referees' decisions as to whether or not certain
action would be taken" (M&M pg. 10). Once again I'm not really sure what that means. It's almost as if the referee is allowed to take control or somehow limit a character's actions based on his/her Intelligence score.

The addition of Greyhawk brought with it a number of additional used for Intelligence concerning the knowledge of Magic-User spells. Without explaining the meaning of these three categories in much detail, Intelligence then gave a % chance know know any given spell, the min/max number spell of a certain spell level a character could know, and the highest level of spells a magic-user could ever learn ("Only magic-users above 13 intelligence are able to employ 7th level spells" - pg 8).

AD&D continued to build upon the basis of Grawhawk and OD&D. Since a minimum 9 Intelligence was required for a Magic-User character, the tables originally printed in Greyhawk were reworked to fit this new assumption. Furthermore, the number of language a character knew at the beginning of play is changed to the number of language a character could ever learn - thus requiring in game time for non-Magic-Users to make use of a high intelligence. I always though this was strange, especially combined with the fact that only an 8 intelligence was required to learn an additional language; regardless, I've never seen anyone take the time to pick one up as detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

B/X removes much of the complexity of Greyhawk and AD&D, instead based the number of spells a Magic-User has in his spell book solely on the character's level. Furthermore, an Intelligence of 18 only allows a character knowledge of 3 additional languages, unlike the 8 of OD&D or 7 in AD&D. Furthermore, B/X has reading and writing restrictions for characters with a low intelligence - the first time non-Magic-User characters are penalized for a below average score. Overall, Intelligence is likely the least useful score in B/X, even to Magic-Users.


  1. It always felt to me that the various game designers and editors were trying to find something for INT to do, besides the XP Bonus for Magic-Users.

    Most games I've run didn't rely on nor require much of languages. I can see a situation like a WWII-type campaign, where knowing any of the "major three" languages would affect NPC interactions, but in most games, they seem to be just another potential obstacle: "Anyone in the party speak Kobold so we can tell the attacking Kobold we're here to slay the beast that ravages their village? No? Ok, we waste the Kobold and move on."

    I never liked the Languages adjustment for INT. I grew up in a mono-lingual environment. But I've met kids of 10 who spoke three languages because of their environment. I'd conclude then INT has less to do with how many language one speaks than environment, and the effort one puts into study, does.

    In my Name Level campaigns, I drop INT altogether and just let characters choose 1d4-1 languages (a zero meaning they're illerate but speak a native language) or roll for them if I was feeling the need for a little randomness. I allow an additional language every 2 or 3 levels if there's reason to do so.

    What of Magic-Users? In the Name Level campaigns, all magic art is a highly rendered art, requiring more a steady hand, accurate gesture, or precise octave than an academic mind. Thus, their Prime Ability is DEX, not the (now missing) INT. Blasphemy; I know.

    1. Those are excellent points that I find very persuasive.

  2. I have a feeling your going enjoy some of my posts to come after a finish this set. I have somewhere where I'm going with it :)

    Good ideas, though. Even AD&D has a DEX requirement for Magic-Users.