Wednesday, October 5, 2016

PCs vs. The Average Guy

When discussing what adventurers may do the descriptive text of the rules is often at odds with the mechanics of the rules.
[83.1] "It is to be assumed in all rules concerning the amount of activity an adventurer may accomplish that adventurers are an above average lot of people and should not be compared to present day humans. Also, when compared to non-adventuring members of their respective races, adventurers have, on the average, 50% higher numerical totals in all characteristics."
While I agree with the general sentiment of the first sentence the second does not make sense when looking at the actual mechanics of DQ. I touched on this in my previous post about Stealth.

Recapping what I said there, from [5. Characteristic Generation], we know that the range of values for a characteristic "will normally be between 5 and 25" which gives us an average of 15. From that we can determine that the average human characteristic, such as Physical Strength (PS), is 10. There are a couple of issues with accepting this as stated.

The non-human PC races Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc and Giant are listed in the Monsters section of the rules and the average characteristics given there for the various races are typically only 1 less than that for the adventuring members of the population. Humans do not have an individual entry in the Monsters section which, if it existed, might have cleared up some of the confusion. In the 3rd edition rules the non-human race modifiers were increased as had been suggested in Ares 12 but the entries for those races under Monsters weren't changed except for Elf. Curiously the only change for Elves was the top end of WP was increased by 1 so the average only increased by 0.5. Boosting the non-human PC characteristic modifiers brought the average difference between PC and NPC up to 2. An interesting side effect of not modifying the entries under Monsters in the 3rd edition is that the average non-human NPC has some characteristics that are higher and some lower than the average adventurer of that same race instead of the same or lower.

That was a long-winded way of saying that for non-human races the adventuring members are not 50% higher but only 7-20% higher.

The other issue with having such a large disparity between NPCs and PCS is that the PS and MD requirements of most weapons would prohibit the average person from being able to wield them. This makes little sense as the average person in a medieval setting would spend their days performing manual labor of some type. Their physical attributes could not be as poor as the rules suggest and still be able to perform their jobs. It is the average person that would make up the bulk of the troops for any army and not adventurers. They would be able to wield a spear or sword along with a shield at a basic level of proficiency. To a degree some of the problem is with the PS and MD requirements for weapons. Many of them are just too high and not just for the average human but also the other races. Elves are supposed to be fond of bows but the average Elf can't even use a Short Bow. "Halfling warriors use <...> smaller weapons, including maces <...>." Except they can't. But now I'm getting off into another topic entirely so we'll leave that for another post.

Let's add another complication. For any non-Adept their average characteristic is actually higher than 15 as MA is irrelevant if you aren't an Adept. The average number of points split between the 6 primary characteristics (PS, MD, AG, EN, WP, MA) is 90 which gives the aforementioned 15. But for the non-Adept only 5 points goes in to MA leaving 85 points for 5 stats giving a 17 average. What would that mean for the average guy when [83.1] is taken into consideration? About the same really as average guy ends up with an 11.3 average. Rounding that up to 12 is better if not much.

But there is a sentence under 5. Characteristic Generation that says, "A value of 5 represents the minimum performance possible by an adventuring character." The implication here is that the non-adventuring NPC could be lower than 5. If we start with the base pool of points of 90 and divide by 150% we get 60. If the average human was allowed to have a 0 for MA then splitting 60 points among the remaining 5 characteristics gives us an average of 12. Essentially the same as in the previous paragraph.

Obviously when creating NPCs for a campaign a GM is going to give them characteristics that make sense for their profession and any other skills they possess. If we follow the example given for the non-human races than the average human would have characteristics of 13 or 14. This isn't so bad and would allow them to wield weapons previously denied them because of low PS or MD.  Whether by accident or intent, having the non-human non-adventurers be only 1 or 2 points lower on average probably hit the right balance.

In my opinion what differentiates the adventurer from the average guy is their mental attributes that aren't defined in DQ. Whatever it is that has that particular character out in the wilderness or down in a dungeon risking life and limb. Maybe it is curiosity, greed, pursuit of knowledge, vengeance or something else. In any case, while the adventuring member of a given race might have higher physical characteristics and probably has higher combat skills, it should be that characters spirit, or whatever you want to call it, that is what separates the average guy from the adventurer.

A PDF showing a comparison between average characteristics for PCs versus NPCs of four of the non-human PC races (Orc, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling)  and between 2nd ed. and 3rd ed. has been placed on the Downloads page.


  1. Interesting. It has expanded my view of average characters.

  2. I'm thinking that 15 should be the average characteristic score for average humans. I had previously mentioned England requiring its yeoman class to practice every week with the longbow. (maybe we should add the posts we traded on the GMs list here also)

    Here is another example: The roman legionairre and their tower shields and pilums (a "heavy" javelin). Throughout a good portion of the Roman Empire legionairres were recruited from their indigenous farmers.

    Would that mean that a legionairre needed an MD of 20 or 21 to wield their pilums and shields? Of course they fought typically in formation and the pilums were used to at least get their opponents to discard their shields.

    A legionairre switching to their gladius (ie short sword) would still need an MD of 18.

    Perhaps the problem here may be the MD penalty itself. Not all weapons are going to be impacted the same way if one chooses to use a shield.

    1. I actually agree with the DQ rules suggestion that PCs are (or should be) above average examples of their respective races. My issue is with the contention the are 50% higher as that would make the rest of the world full of bumbling idiots. The second issue is that the requirements for weapons are either too high for the average people who should be capable of using them. My belief is that you had one game designer making rules about what the average person would be like, another doing the weapons and basing them on average adventurers and a third doing the monsters and NPC races.

      Re: MD penalties and shields.

      I'm not sure if you are saying what I think you are saying but, IMO, the MD requirement for a weapon is what is needed to train, i.e. get rank, with a weapon. The MD penalty from wielding a shield at the same time wouldn't keep you from wielding a weapon just because your MD dropped a point or two.

      At least that's the way we've always played.

  3. Interesting. Yes, recognize one can train w/o shield and gain ranks as long as the MD was sufficient to wield the weapon. I have long missed 20.2 note of reducing BC by 5 for every point an individuals MODIFIED MD was less than the requirement. This note IS NOT in the 17.6 SC Modifiers Summary. Had erroneously thought that would preclude effective use of a weapon.

    20.2 does support your interpretation here.

    1. It's somewhat ambiguous and unfortunately one of these little rule details that are kind of hidden away. I just felt that it was already overly difficult to use weapons. Especially for NPCs.