Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wisdom vs. Intelligence

There are some people in life who are very intelligent, perhaps super-genius-level mental giants... who also happen to be unwise.  Despite all of that amazing brain power, they still make unbelievably foolish decisions.   I know several such people in the real world.  One I'm thinking of was studying to be both a doctor and a lawyer... because she could.  She had the brains to memorize and cogitate all of that stuff.  Amazing.  But then she married a biker who wound up screwing up her life and things went south from there.   Oh well.  She amounted to nothing.   But is still amazingly smart at math and figures and history and geology and all sorts of facts based things.

Conversely there are some people who are wise, but not particularly good at things that involve Big-Brains.  But they make good life decisions, and are happy people, enjoying their less brainy pursuits patiently and without stress or life-disabling anxiety.  They are peaceful souls.

So that brings to mind that in my original Elthos RPG system I used to have two Requisites, one for Intelligence and one for Wisdom, which of course was gleaned from the original D&D rules.  Intelligence was what Spell Chanters want, while Wisdom is what Clerics want.  This too was a bit overly simplified, in the sense that there could also be evil clerics, who also make very very bad life decisions.   You know the type.  Evil, wicked Clerics can do a lot of harm to others as well as themselves, raising undead, sacrificing virgins to nameless deities from the black depths, you know that sort of guy.  So it's actually really not quite right that the Cleric should, as a class, require a high requisite.  Maybe it should be that the Cleric if Good requires high, but if Evil requires low.   So the rule might be better stated as Clerics require an Extreme Wisdom, either high or low.

Now, all of this is kind of a problem for me in my new, revised, and vastly shrunk-down-to-size version of my rules system, named Elthos "One Die System".  It uses, of course you can tell, one six-sided die.  And it also has far fewer requisites... in fact the absolute minimum I could get away with.   Strength (which covers Constitution, and Endurance), Wisdom (which covers Intelligence), and Dexterity (which covers in my old system Agility).  I dispensed with Appearance, Voice and Charisma altogether.   So the ODS has three requisites.   And each of the four classes requires some minimum combination of those, as per usual for traditionalist style RPGs.

But with only one requisite, Wisdom, it makes it a bit of a challenge.  How do I, mechanically, handle the distinction between Clerics and Spell Chanters?   Well, in the ODS I don't.  I just use the same Requisite, and we kind of glide along with that, with the distinction being simply the Player's option when selecting Character class, and the slight difference that Spell Chanters require a minimum of 4 (out of 6), while Clerics require a minimum of 5 Wisdom to be eligible for those classes.   After two years of continuous play testing it has actually never shown up as a problem, nor have the Players expressed any concern about it.

So how much does it matter?   It depends.   If you are playing a Simulationist style game (see GNS Theory), it would probably matter a lot more than if you're playing a Narativist game.   In my case, since I tend toward Narativism over Simulationism, it's ok.   For other GMs it might not be ok.   But for me and my merry band of Players it's been nothing but fun, and so I'm inclined to keep the system the way it is.   With the possible exception of adopting this idea that Evil Clerics must have a low Wisdom, while Good Clerics must have a high Wisdom.


Anonymous said...

Are you sure knowing a bunch of facts and being able to utilize them make someone intelligent? It isn't like doctors and lawyers are researchers who have to "see things" most can't and come up with new ideas.

vbwyrde said...

Interesting point. Kind of like my distinction between high and low Wisdom. Perhaps there is a similar kind of thing with Intelligence. Certainly one could argue there are different types of Intelligence, which is why some people are good at math, but not good at writing, for example. One requires memorization, and the other requires creativity and imagination. But perhaps creativity and imagination are somehow linked to Wisdom? Hmmm... interesting thought. Maybe something like this:

Wis: 1, Int: 1 = Total Idiot
Wis: 3, Int: 1 = Dumb as rocks, but fair minded
Wis: 6, Int: 1 = Dumb as rocks, but peaceful soul
Wis: 1, Int: 3 = Wicked, but not stupid
Wis: 1, Int: 6 = Great memory, poor imagination
Wis: 3, Int: 4 = Pretty good memory, ok creativity.
Wis: 6, Int: 6 = Fantastic Imagination and Memory

Something along those lines maybe?

aka John said...

Can a wise & smart person still be very selfish or only care about his own self-interests? I think evil people can make good life decisions, usually for the wrong reason.

Monica said...

Personally, I think trying to separate attributes on the basis of whether a person can have a high score in one thing and a low score in another is a bad idea. The same goes for skills, really. The issue is, that answer to that question is basically always yes. Take intelligence. You could split that up into memory and reasoning--there are people with photographic memories who can remember all the formulas but can't parse the information well enough to use it. You could further split memory into the five senses--there are people with photographic memories, phonographic memories, etc. You could also split reasoning into a whole bunch of aptitudes: people can be good at math or languages or philosophy, but not any of the others. There's basically no end to that rabbit hole.

Far better, I think, to focus on two other questions. First, are some attributes more useful than others? If you're finding that, for instance, a strong character is just more effective than a dexterous character, you may want to think about splitting some of the things strength does into another attribute (or maybe just rejiggering how much strength contributes to things like HP). Second (and perhaps more importantly for you), is it important to my kinds of games that the system be able to model someone who is good at this thing but not that thing? That is, is it important that my system result in the spell chanter successfully rolling to remember some piece of information more often than the cleric, or the cleric successfully rolling make wise choices or whatever more often than the spell chanter? For intelligence/wisdom, my answer is likely not. If the spell chanter wants to play a guy who makes poor life decisions, he can just make poor life decisions, he doesn't need the system to reinforce that. If both are rolling to remember the details about that rumor they heard about in town, we can just flavor the results as "the spell chanter has a better memory, but the cleric wisely recognized that the information might be useful and paid more attention." Although, frankly, I've always felt like wisdom was a silly choice for a faith stat. That's neither here nor there, however.

vbwyrde said...

Right. I'm also coming to the conclusion that my conjecture is overcomplicating things, and quite unnecessarily after all. These are, as Monica suggests, things that can be adjudicated in-play by the Players and GM without the need for a mechanic. Makes more sense and keeps the ODS system at the intended level of simplicity. Thanks for your thoughts everyone. :)