Why You Should Care.

The most crucial component of setting a goal is understanding your current state. If life is an RPG that I’m going to play, I need to know my current attributes. Does this game mechanic have a real life analog? If it does, can it be tracked with any amount of objectivity?

For consideration, let’s look at the classic model. D&D uses six “ability scores” to determine your character’s raw talent before skills, special powers, or equipment are used to specialize your character. Each governs how your character responds to a wide variety of actions. Here is a quick rundown of the ability scores at their most basic:

Strength
  • The accuracy of your character’s melee attacks
  • The damage of melee attacks.
  • The amount your character can lift
Constitution
  • The amount of damage your character can take before dying
  • Resistance to chemicals such as poisons and alcohol
  • Resistance to disease
  • Physical endurance
  • Resistance to being physically stunned
Dexterity
  • The accuracy of your character’s ranged attacks
  • Avoiding being hit by melee and ranged attacks
  • The ease at performing any physical skill that doesn’t require strength, from sleight of hand tricks to acrobatics
Intelligence
  • The number of languages your character knows by default
  • The amount that your skills improve with each level
  • Ease at deciphering, appraising, casting spells, learning spells
Wisdom
  • Resistance to coercion and domination through either lies or spells
  • How well your character can heal others
  • How perceptive your character is to his or her surroundings
Charisma
  • The strength of your character’s personality
  • How attractive others find your character
  • Your character’s ability to coerce or persuade
  • Your skill with handling animals

Comparison to Reality

How can we use these in our real lives? Do the D&D interpretations even make sense? If not, can they be redefined to have new relevance? It is not only important that an ability score be relevant to our actual experience, but that we both have a way of measuring it objectively and improving it linearly.

Strength

In reality, strength has no bearing whatsoever on how accurate your strikes are, either with a weapon or your fists. Also, the amount of damage that your strikes do is only heavily influenced by strength if your strikes are aimed at the best possible target. For instance, if you hit someone in the back with a baseball bat, your strength would matter, but not as much as if you hit them in the face. If you strike at someone with a blade, strength is nowhere near as important as strike placement, blade orientation, and speed.

However, this may be the easiest ability score to bring to life. The amount that someone can lift is very easy to measure. As long as we limit the strength attribute solely towards measuring our progression in resistance exercises, then we have a very linear way to improve.

Constitution

This stat is fairly nebulous. Whether or not you can run a marathon has almost no bearing whatsoever on your alcohol or poison tolerance. There’s something to be said about cardiovascular health and resistance to disease, but I can’t think of a way to measure that without seriously endangering somebody.

However, endurance is quantifiable. We can choose any extended, repetitive physical activity and measure personal performance. Therefore, I’m dropping “Constitution” and using “Endurance.”

Dexterity

Dexterity is kind of a catch-all stat in regards to physical skill. A lot of the physical skills associated with dexterity are mostly mental in nature. For instance, the ability to hit a moving target with a baseball relies on the strength of your arm, your perception of distance, your perception of time, your knowledge of the weight of the baseball, your ability to simulate the ball’s trajectory in your head, and the ability to alter your parameters based on the data collected from previous attempts under different conditions.

However, the more skills you know, the easier time you have learning new skills, so there should perhaps be a stat to measure your affinity for skills in general. Once it isn’t bound to physical dexterity, there’s no reason to keep mental skills from occupying this category as well. I’m dropping Dexterity and using “Skill” instead, where your skill rating increases based on how many skills you know, from bike riding to astrophysics.

Intelligence

There are a few ways to measure intelligence, mostly through tests. For now, I’m going to keep this stat and base it off of I.Q. This may seem like a much more static stat than the rest, but fear not. There are proven ways to increase your I.Q.

Wisdom

In reality, Wisdom is based not only on your life experiences, but on your training. I feel that Wisdom, in reality, should be folded into your Skill rating, so I’m dropping it entirely.

Charisma

Again, most of the actions that Charisma governs are actually learned skills. The ones that aren’t (physical attractiveness, personal renown, sexual allure, etc.) are only measurable by polling large groups of others. You can’t measure it for yourself. I’m dropping it.

Going Forward

This leaves us with four measurable stats that we can use to track our progression. In D&D, the assumption that a score of “10” in any attribute means that the character has an average amount of skill in that area. We’ll use the same assumption for our cause.

Strength

There are many ways to track this. For now, under the assumption that a given weight lifting regimen is comprehensive and increases overall strength, I am going to track this stat by the maximum amount of weight I can lift a single time. The equation will have to be altered to accurately represent the deviation from 10 for the chosen lifting technique.

My chosen technique is Bench Press. The equation will assume that someone with a score of 10 can lift 100 pounds. For every 40 pounds over 100, my Strength attribute will increase by 1 point.

(Bench Max – 100) / 40 + 10

Endurance

Probably the most efficient way to track this is by running, with either time or distance. However, I am currently too heavy to run without risking injury. Instead, I will be doing High Intensity Interval Training sessions on a commercial stationary bike used for spinning.

The workout is intense, and I can’t yet complete it. It lasts 20 minutes. I’m assuming that a score of 10 is for someone able to last 10 minutes. This exercise should yield a maximum measurable score of 13.

If Spinning Time < 10, then Endurance = Spinning Time.
If Spinning Time > 10, then Endurance = ( ( Spinning Time – 10 ) / 3 ) + 10

Intelligence

I took an IQ test when I was a child, and I scored favorably. As I understand it, however, age is a component of your score. I will have to take it again to have a better understanding of where I stand. If the average IQ is 100, then simply dividing my IQ by 10 should yield a reasonable Intelligence score to work with.

IQ Score / 10

Skill

Here’s the doozy. I’m compiling a list of all of my skills. I won’t include a skill if I don’t consider myself proficient. This is subjective, sure, but there’s no reason to lie. All skills in which I am proficient are worth only one point. All skills in which I am an expert are worth 1.5. The final Skill score will be the sum of the number of proficient skills and expert skills divided by 4.

(Number of Proficient Skills + (Number of Expert Skills * 1.5)) / 4

Discussion

None of these measurements are perfect or unchanging. In the case of decimals or fractions, always round down. I would actually love to hear your input, especially on alternate ways to calculate Strength and Endurance. If you can make a good enough case for the way an exercise could be expressed through the attribute system, I will add it to my rulebook for others to use.

In any case, welcome to the blog. I look forward to hearing from all of you.