MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Whether to turn him into a swine or keep him enchanted as a lover

Posted on: 2020-07-28

If you read the original box set in 70’s, you could be excused for coming up with all kinds of applications for the player characters’ Ability scores.

For example, if you had to lift an opponent, in what way would Strength help?


We got some areas of use in the book already. Strength would help opening traps. Dexterity dictates generally how fast the character is, and can help in the attempt of getting off a missile or spell first. Charisma could influence how enemy characters treat you if imprisoned (transformed into swine or kept as ensorcelled lover?). Constitution indicates your general health. Intelligence and Wisdom are to help guide “whether or not certain action would be taken”.

I personally believe that Gygax meant for these scores to help the referee gage whether or not certain outcomes were possible.

  • Oh, you are not strong enough to open the sealed wooden barrel.
  • The witch turns your character’s bones into gummy worms and will not try to recruit her as a henchman, due to her low charisma.
  • The PC is not intelligent enough to attempt to run this futuristic and highly technological device.

Many players thought however, that the Ability scores could be used as difficulty threshold.

You can imagine any reasonable referee say, Roll under your Strength score to see if you succeed.

There is nothing in the rules to support that per se, but it is an easy way to resolve situations when the referee wishes a simple chance to decide, rather than having to rule what scores would demand a roll of a d6 or d100, and then decide the probability.

It is, with hindsight, kinda funny how Charisma is the most utilized Ability in OD&D, while Strength gets ZERO mechanical use in the box set outside of being a Prime requisite for Fighters (further usage comes later with the first suppliment for OD&D, Greyhawk). Strength: the true dump stat of OD&D. Oh, that and Wisdom.


We get an explanation of how Dexterity would affect initiative rolls in the FAQ in the second issue of TSR’s house magazine The Strategic Review. Gygax wrote there that a high Dexterity would give a +1 on initiative rolls (each side throws a d6).

I assume that the stated missile fire bonus/penalty could be used for initiative as well, but nothing is explicitely stated. Gygax wrote in an explanation in the article that orcs could get a penalty to their initiative roll, as they are slow, but that was deemed optional. So, +1 if high DEX, -1 with low (optional).

We also have the missing rule about how Constitution should affect being able to “withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc.”

The question is, could Constitution work the same way for Saving throws as Dexterity should affect iniatitive? You could assume Saving throws is what Gygax means by withstanding paralyzation or being turned to stone, having no other context in the box set. Could a high CON give a +1 to your roll?

The “etc.” does beg the question further; would this bonus affect all saving throws?

How high would the Constituion score need to be to get this bonus? Perhaps the bonus offered to Hit points could be of use here? CON 15 or higher: +1? And CON 6 or lower: -1?

There is sadly no uniformity to these bonuses and penalties, so it’s all up to the ref.

DEX 12 and above: +1
DEX 8 and below: -1
CON 15 and above: +1
CON 6 and below: -1
[with Greyhawk: STR 13 (To hit): +1
STR 6 and below (To hit): -1
STR 16 and above (damage): +1
STR 4 and below (damage): -1]

[Edit: The following supplement Greyhawk does add another function to Constitution, “Probability of Surviving Spells”, that affects the chance of surviving spells such as Stone To Flesh. Could this be what Gygax meant? Perhaps, but in the context of the original three booklets you are left wondering, as lethality was not expressed in the description. And was Paralyzation meant to be lethal?]

The next post will be on the classes’ Prime requisites.


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