Even More on D&D Stats in Simple Language (or, the Plight of the Huggable Skeleton)

Apparently I’ve made it to Reddit through no fault of my own, and I’m startled at the response. “The Definition of Charisma” was one of those posts I was really worried about because it’s the only one I can think of where I read comments on this blog, thought about them, and made an entire post about how the commenters were wrong. I even had somebody proof it to make sure it wasn’t too inflammatory. So I’m pleased as punch that it’s getting a reception this good.

And to the fellow who asked why skeletons and other mindless undead in Pathfinder have Charisma 10 and whether that means they’re just as empathetic as the average human…yeah, I don’t have an answer. I’m used to them having Charisma 1, or “more empathetic than a flower but just barely.” I plum forgot Pathfinder tweaked the undead rules so Charisma went to hit points (which is why skeletons et al. have Cha 10) and didn’t factor it into my definition.

My knee-jerk response is that skeletons are a singular exception because Paizo decided design flexibility was more important than narrative consistency in the rules. Let’s be honest; in D&D undead have a d12 Hit Dice and wizard BAB not because they’re as hardy as dragons but fight like drunken tee-ball players, but because that was the only way to keep them balanced. Without Constitution undead only gain hit points via Hit Dice. They have the maximum HD and the minimum BAB so the designers and DM can create undead with decent hit points without necessarily giving them accuracy that quickly outstrips the players’ defenses. Using Charisma for hit points means undead can be a more reasonable d8, their BAB can make sense, and designers can have especially tough or especially weak undead by tweaking Charisma. It’s almost elegant, so I have to appreciate it even as it kills my interpretation.

Since I don’t have a solution of my own, I’m interested in the author’s vitalism compromise, though I’m worried about extrapolating it beyond mindless undead. I don’t like that race determines life force, like orcs are less “alive” than humans who are less “alive” than halflings. That’s not to say it’s wrong. In fact, races with high Charisma do tend to have a certain joie de vivre that low-Cha races don’t. And I’ll admit I may be the worst person to ask about what race should determine. But I also won’t pretend it doesn’t bug me.

So for now I’m going to stick with my interpretation of Charisma. Thus skeletons are empathetic but hopelessly stupid about it. Their thought process roughly goes “Man, being undead is great! Those poor adventurers don’t know how awesome it is to be killed and reanimated as a shambling monstrosity. I should help them out with murder!”

As an aside, “The Eight Arms and Plight of the Huggable Skeleton” is going on the campaign shortlist.

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