prompt: wisdom, title: definitions & digressions in misc. flash fiction

  • June 7, 2021, 7:33 p.m.
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  • Public

In the oeuvre of “Dungeons and Dragons”, there are six statistics you build your little imaginary dark-elf murder-hoboing Cthulhu-indentured warlock around: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Charisma, Intelligence and Wisdom. When first planning your hobbit with the Lucky Feat who always breaks the fourth-wall because she’s a cleric to an extra-dimensional trickster god who’s actually You The Player, you’ll roll a bunch of dice of varying shapes and numerations to figure out how powerful they are in each category to start. Below eight in a number, you are hampered from the get-go, hit eighteen or twenty, you’re about as capable as a mortal unassisted by divine aid can be. An appropriate alternate title for the game could be “Mazes and Mathematics” really.

The three physical statistics are relatively easy to get your head around, I think. Strength is how much your half-orc bard who makes her instruments out of her fallen enemies can lift, how hard she can swing her femur guitar-axe. Dexterity, how quickly your Tiefling thief or “thiefling” can move to dodge or swing their quarterstaff, can pick a pocket or the lock on a rusty treasure chest. Constitution, how much of a hit your mutant-horse wizard who is totally self-centaured can take, if he can concentrate when taking a hit, how far he can clop on a forced-march without collapse.

The mental statistics are hazier to parse out from each other, etymologically, of course. Where does Intelligence begin and Wisdom end? When is slyness based in knowledge and when is it based in instinctive short-form improve skills? They’re all a bit more tangled up conceptually, however, I have stumbled on an explicative framework that might illuminate it all for you.

Intelligence is knowing from the particulars of the literal text that Frankenstein was the name of the doctor, not the monster who depending on the version of the tale often either had no name at all or took the name Adam for himself. Wisdom is a slightly different beast, about understanding context and nuance beyond the literality of the words before you. Wisdom is knowing that, in the end, Doctor Frankenstein was the real monster and the creature was merely the victim of all that.

Charisma, though, stands on its own from either, charisma is knowing how to use intelligence and wisdom, when not to use them too. Charisma is understanding that in most circles dissecting those labels at length would be laborious didactic at best and antagonistically obnoxious at worst. Charisma is not even getting into the argument of which is “really” Frankenstein because most people want to see the lightning bolts and watch the seven-foot-tall dude wreck up an old castle.

It is a lesson that transcends mere goblin-murder simulators, of course. Know your audience. Understand when people don’t want to talk the semantics that thrill you, sometimes they just want to get the idea across and move on. But you can never know the thoughts of others, of course, until you go and roll the dice.

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