This is the time of year that the Orthodox Church is reading St. Paul's Letter to the Romans
. I mention this, because I've been pouring over the original Greek and ran into this word: χάρισμα
. Those of us who have spent any time in the hobby will immediately recognize its English progeny: charisma
. What we won't recognize, however, is its meaning. Whereas we see charisma being related to attractiveness, charm and leadership qualities, χάρισμα
means a gift freely given.
This got me thinking about characteristics and what they mean. In OD&D there is a kind of nice symmetry with the six characteristics. Three are prime requisites corresponding to the three base classes and which affect XP acquisition. The other three have a mechanic related (directly or indirectly) to combat. Constitution affects Hit Points, Dexterity affects missile combat and Charisma affects the number of henchmen one can bring to bear and how loyal they are.
The introduction of the Thief class disrupts this symmetry. If there is one thing about the Holmes edition that really irks me, it is that the prime requisite for Thieves has two
mechanical bonuses (XP and missile fire) while every other class only gets one
As I see it, there are two ways to fix this:
- Do what was done in later editions of the game — give more mechanical bonuses to the other three prime requisites. There are two consequences to this approach (neither of which I am fond of). Intelligence gets short shrift in combat. Outside of extra languages, more spells, and/or skill bonuses Intelligence never really gets to shine once swords are drawn. Charisma becomes a dump stat. As characters gain more and more mechanical benefits for high ability scores, they become more and more robust. Therefore, the need to have henchmen in order to survive (especially at lower levels) disappears.
- The other option is to use χάρισμα as a jumping off point to redefine the ability scores in order to maintain the prime requisite's primary function as XP modifier.
The root word of χάρισμα
(charis) which is often translated as grace
. In Paul, it is most often encountered is its plural form χαρίσματα
(charismata) or gifts
. The implication is that God freely pours out His grace upon us, and this manifests itself as gifts — preaching, teaching, etc. Given that the source of the Cleric's abilities —spells and turning — are granted by a divine power (God), it seems to me that Charisma is a better fit for a prime requisite than Wisdom for the Cleric.
Though Wisdom literally means the quality of being wise, that is not how it is used mechanically in later editions of the game. Rather, it is used to grant bonuses to saves vs. spells and to awareness-type skills. This mechanical expression more closely resembles an Orthodox Christian theological notion called the nous
The word nous
is difficult to translate. The best way I have found is the idea of receptive intelligence
. When we have "aha!" moments, or instantaneous sparks of inspiration that is the nous
in action. In other words, it is that part of us that is spiritually and physically aware of our surroundings. It receives information and processes it in a way that our reason cannot. Given that one of the primary functions of the Thief us to be aware of their surroundings, Wisdom (ironically) can become the prime requisite of Thieves, if it is understood to be the nous
. In order to avoid the mental dissonance of criminal activity and being wise, I might be tempted to rename the ability Awareness
Therefore, we now have four prime requisites: Strength, Intelligence, Charisma and Awareness. They all have the primary mechanical function of affecting XP; however, in order to do this Charisma must be stripped of the henchman mechanics. Either that, or the mechanic can be spread across all
of the prime requisites.
I come to this from the perspective that when we think of great leaders, we will most often find people who have great skill in their chosen field. Alexander the Great was a great military mind. Pope John Paul II was a great theological mind. Bill Belichick, while not being very charismatic, certainly has a great football mind. Thus, when it comes to attracting and keeping hirelings, having a high prime requisite can represent that great mind found in the likes of Alexander the Great, Pope John Paul II and Bill Belichek.
One could go further and say that each prime requisite affects the loyalty of its given class. Thus, a magic user with a high Intelligence would have better loyalty from magic user hirelings than fighting-men. The reverse would be true of a fighting-man with high strength.
Therefore, the highest prime requisite score would determine the max number of hirelings total that can be hired. Strength would determine the highest number of fighting-men and their loyalty. Intelligence would would determine the highest number of magic users and their loyalty. Charisma would determine the highest number of clerics and their loyalty. Awareness would determine the highest number of Thieves and their loyalty.
The end result of this retooling of characteristics is a return to the symmetry of OD&D, where all prime requisites grant the same bonus to every class and where Dexterity and Constitution grant the same combat bonuses to every class.