Dungeons and Dragons in Real Life

February 25, 2008 by
Filed under: Entertainment 

One Ring

photo by Saudalf

I was a D&D junkie.

Actually, I lied. I was never obsessed with playing the games, but was more of a fantasy genre fan. The few games I did play were fun, but they ultimately gave way to way “cooler” computer games like, um…Telengard and Infocom text-based games like Zork.

Some five or 10 years later, I found myself playing games like Baldur’s Gate — now there was a RPG game!

Anyway, these days, with the popularity of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Harry Potter, I wanted to talk about one aspect that all role-playing games seem to share.

Character Attributes

Whether on paper or on a computer game, determining your character’s attributes was always one of the first things you do. The attributes describe the various skills and abilities of your character. In D&D, the attributes are:

  • Strength – physical strength, comes in handy when you’re a Fighter
  • Dexterity – hand-eye coordination, adroitness, etc., requirements for a Thief
  • Intelligence – learning and retaining knowledge, critical thinking, crucial to spell-casting Wizards
  • Wisdom – ability to make good decisions, common sense, comprehension, usually tied to spiritualism in D&D, represented by Clerics
  • Constitution – physical endurance, health, toughness, enabling survival
  • Charisma – level of personality, attractiveness, persuasiveness, almost a throw-away attribute when I played, but seems to be utilized more in computer RPGs.

How high certain attributes were helped determine the way a character makes his or her way through the role-playing world.

For instance, strength is the ability that allows one to prevail in physical combat. A character belonging to the Fighter class must possess a high degree of strength. A thief must possess a high degree of dexterity in order to ply his “trade”, and to dodge projectile weapons.

In the end, the application of attributes in the D&D gameplay can be seen as a extremely souped-up version of “rock, paper, scissors”. Add in (modifiable) randomness from dice rolls, a basic plot, and some imagination, and many hours can be whiled away.

Character Alignment

Alignment in D&D describes a character’s morality in nine possible ways:

  • Lawful Good
  • Neutral Good
  • Chaotic Good
  • Lawful Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Chaotic Neutral
  • Lawful Evil
  • Neutral Evil
  • Chaotic Evil

There are two axes to alignment: Good — Neutral — Evil, and Lawful — Neutral — Chaotic

Good implies altruism, respect for life, sacrifice for others, etc., while Evil is the opposite. Lawful implies abiding law and order, while Chaotic means total freedom, anarchy.

How Attributes Apply in the Real World

In the games, your characters would have attributes that are higher than normal mortals, with a score of 9 as average, all the way up to 18. Different attributes would be higher depending on the class of character, e.g. fighter, wizard, thief, etc. Spells and magical items might boost any one of the attributes beyond 18, or even curse a character and “permanently” lower an attribute.

Let’s see how it would work with people in the real world:

  • Police Officers and Firefighters – they ideally fall into the Lawful Good alignment. Inspectors would need high Intelligence to solve crimes, while your city’s Bravest need good Strength and Constitution scores to fight fires.
  • Politicians – They would have high Charisma scores in order to get elected, and perhaps even some Intelligence, although it seems like sometimes that’s an afterthought. JFK, Ronald Reagan, even the “Governator” all have high Charisma. Not surprisingly, a couple were actors! Some politicians will be Lawful, but some are Chaotic. Despotic dictators would have a Chaotic Evil alignment. Many politicians, it would seem, have low Wisdom.
  • Elite Athletes – Depending on the sports, we would expect to see high attribute levels in Strength, Dexterity and/or Constitution. In the NFL, linemen would have high Strength, while receivers have high Dexterity, etc. Someone like Terrell Owens would have high Dexterity and Constitution, but his show-y antics and brash personality indicates low Wisdom, while his disregard and disrespect for many indicate a Chaotic Neutral alignment.
  • Scientists – Some of the best thinkers in the world would have high intelligence scores, such as Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin. Stephen Hawking also comes to mind, but he would also have a lower Charisma score.
  • Actors and other Celebrities – these usually have high Charisma. In the case of Britney or Lindsey, their recent personal problems show low Wisdom, as well as a shift to Chaotic Neutral alignment.
  • “Psychics”, TV Evangelists, and the like – they all exhibit high Charisma as well, with the ability to read, persuade and influence people, especially people who have lower Intelligence and Wisdom.
  • Bloggers – good bloggers would also have high Intelligence, and perhaps Wisdom, in order to build and maintain an ongoing blog with remarkable content. By the nature of the medium, they could have average physical Charisma and still be very successful.

Charisma Important in Real Life

While in the games I played, Charisma was never that big of a deal. My characters usually used all the other skills to get through the game, and when I was divvying out points from my allotted pool to each attribute, I would usually not give any to Charisma (unless I wanted to be a Paladin).

In real life, however, it would seem that having high Charisma helps a lot. As we can see, many profession depends on it. Indeed, Charisma is one of the things that gets you job prospects such as by networking with friends, and then even through the job interview process itself. If a supervisor had to choose between two equally skilled competent workers to promote, she would probably choose the one with higher Charisma (ability to get along with others, to talk, to be a team player, etc.)

Of course, we also need our Intelligence and Wisdom, and depending on the job, Strength, Dexterity and Constitution in varying degrees. And we all have these attributes, and can work on improving many of them.

I just find it interesting to start looking at people in the way sometimes, just as a little exercise in character analysis, and a little bit for fun.


15 Comments on Dungeons and Dragons in Real Life

  1. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on Mon, 25th Feb 2008 9:28 am
  2. Nez? Considering this post, you are going to *love* what Harry and I have brewing.

    As for RPG, my characters always had high charisma – I realized that being able to talk someone into something was more important than being able to hit them hard 😉

    From one gamer to another – cheers!

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Why Your Novel Isn’t Written Yet

  3. Brett Legree on Mon, 25th Feb 2008 10:17 am
  4. This was a very interesting post, Nez. I’m an old gamer as well, and it is interesting what you can learn from it to apply to life.

    I agree with both you and James on this. I have personal experience with this from the workplace.

    Many times where I work, you will see some crackerjack young engineer (fresh grad) come into a group with lots of great ideas.

    And they fail. They have no idea how to win over people.

    Being the smartest, or the fastest, or the strongest, doesn’t always work.

    There are those that think the secret to success in a lot of areas isn’t only to have a high IQ. There is also something else called EI, or sometimes EQ:


    I’ve found that I can relate to people at all levels, from trades to management. I wonder if that means I have a better than average EI?

    The more I think about it, the more I think that many creative types do.

    And I have taken some of the personality tests that are out there, most recently the Myers-Briggs test


    What did it tell me? Well, let’s just say I know I’m on the right track now. I love to write, and share with other people.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  5. Barbara on Mon, 25th Feb 2008 12:24 pm
  6. Hi Nez,

    I like the analogy, however at first I was lost with the “D&D” and “RPG”. Bear with me, I’m not a “gamer”.

    With regard to bloggers, it makes me wonder if charisma can be projected via ones writings? I’m thinking it could equate to creativity, the projection of credibility, and an easy to navigate theme.

    Barbara’s last blog post..Blogger Exposes Herself – Traffic Soars

  7. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on Mon, 25th Feb 2008 12:30 pm
  8. @ Barbara – Dungeons and Dragons, a popular role-playing game that started around the 80s, and Role-Playing Games, or RPG.

    I think for bloggers, charisma figures highly. It’s probably one of the reasons we recommend to write from the heart and take a personal tone – people like charismatic people, and nothing is more charismatic than reaching out through an online personality.

    In truth, blogging is very much like a role-playing game in itself, in that you have to create a persona to live by online. It’s you, yes, but it’s a text-based you that no one can touch or see.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Why Your Novel Isn’t Written Yet

  9. Nez on Mon, 25th Feb 2008 8:10 pm
  10. @ James: I’m looking forward to reading what you guys cook up.

    @ Brett: The irony is that I’m sure the original game makers based the system on either their own analysis of someone else’s analysis of personal attributes.

    I do like the concept of Emotional Intelligence – I’ll have to look into that.

    P.S. Askimet also marked your comment as spam.

    @ Barbara: I apologize for not explaining D&D as well as I should have. I shall keep that in mind in future posts.

    @ James II: That’s a good point about blogging as a type of role-playing.

  11. Brett Legree on Tue, 26th Feb 2008 1:29 am
  12. @ Nez – hmm, I was causing James some spam woes a couple of days ago as well – must be that I’m a Chaotic Evil monster who will hold your blog for ransom…

    Perhaps I sounded too much like an infomercial, which would be strange since I’m sure I watched about 20 minutes of TV in the last week, if that! Well, let us see if it does this time.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  13. sterling | bizlift on Tue, 26th Feb 2008 1:02 pm
  14. This article brings back fond memories of playing Zork, Ultima, and other old-school fantasy games.

    Good points on charisma. I always thought it was a waste when playing games, so would favor the attributes that helped in battle. But in real-life it’s not all about getting into fights. I also agree w/ Brett on importance of EQ.

    @Brett – I think the more links in a comment, the more likely akismet is to mark it as spam.

  15. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on Tue, 26th Feb 2008 1:05 pm
  16. Nope, Brett doesn’t link in his comments. He’s squeaky clean. It’s odd, because we had problems with him too on our blog :)

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Will Content Kill the Web?

  17. Brett Legree on Tue, 26th Feb 2008 1:20 pm
  18. Hmm. I work in the nuclear industry and have Secret Level II clearance (I’ll have to kill all of you, now that I told you that) :) so perhaps in some odd twist of fate, I’ve been marked as spam spam spam!

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..rapid prototyping life 2.0

  19. Nez on Tue, 26th Feb 2008 1:39 pm
  20. @Sterling: Thanks for stopping by.

    Who can forget the Ultima series, too? I think that might have been my first introduction to computer game soundtracks — I can still hum one or two songs from Ultima III.

    Thanks for all the comments, guys.

  21. Joshua Clanton - Design for the WEB on Mon, 3rd Mar 2008 8:48 am
  22. I love this post! I was never an RPG junkie, but I did play the Exile (now Avernum) games a fair bit. Hmm. I think I just had an idea for an RPG entry of my own.

    Thanks for the inspiration. :-)

    Joshua Clanton – Design for the WEB’s last blog post..Entrepartnership: An Interview with the Men With Pens

  23. Nez on Mon, 3rd Mar 2008 12:26 pm
  24. Joshua, you’re most welcome. Thanks for coming by!

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