The Statistical Truth* About Gender And Racial Stat Modifiers

There has been a lot of controversy on these here Internets as of late about a Legends & Lore article that talked about things people wanted included in D&D Next. Specifically, a significant ruckus occurred in the direction of stat modifiers for gender and race. Wizards quickly quelled the hellstorm, and wisely revising their poll so as not to include silly things like THAC0 and sexism. Though the results of that first poll are now gone due to “technical issues”, there were still 330 or so people recorded as of yesterday afternoon that wanted gender and race stat modifiers included in D&D Next.

I’ve seen plenty of arguments as to why these rules are included.

These rules are more realistic, some would say. Women aren’t as strong as men. EVER. The prospect of a woman having 18 — much less 18(00)! — strength is just patently absurd. Plus, it’s a proven fact that women burst into flames when they don Gauntlets of Ogre Power. They’re not called Gauntlets of Woman Power, obviously. Dwarves never get sick. Elves are clearly more dextrous, because TREES. (Except for those new elves that jump in and out of the prime material plane when they’re not dreaming. They just get like, extra rewards points on their Visa cards.)

I hate to break it to these 330 people, but they are all wrong. Every last one of them. Not for some tree-hugging  moral reason. Oh, no.

Because it’s simply not true.

Public Records Don’t Lie

There’s a factor in play here unknown to most: the Forgotten Realms keeps detailed census data on all humanoid creatures (and several adjacent planes of existence, otherwise the Visa Elves wouldn’t get counted).

To be completely fair, the stat-modifier apologists are right — if this was 1972. This data was accurate at the time of the first publication of Dungeons & Dragons. However, this was forty years ago — which, as any scientist will tell you, is long enough for evolution to muck about with pretty much everything. Just look at the ancient peoples of our own 1970’s. Primitives.

Humans are now the least populous race in the Forgotten Realms, comprising only 6% of the population. However, their curious nature combined with their propensity to attempt to mate with anything that appears to be alive,  has caused a massive upsurge in the number of Half-Orcs and Half-Halflings in the Realms, clocking in at 14% and 18% respectively. Census data shows that the average STR score for Half-Orcs is 17, and their CHA has raised significantly due to better government-funded access to charm school education.

Half-Halflings, sometimes known as Tall Short Hairy-Men, have an enormous average INT score of 31 and are known for their use of powerful magics. However, they are also known for making their homes  in large barrels filled with brine and pickles, leaving their bodies as they astrally project for their entire lifespan. To date, nobody has figured out how they mate, but both the barrel and pickle industries in the Realms have enjoyed constant growth for the last several decades.

Pure-blooded Elves and Dwarves in the Realms are much more scarce than they used to be. This is primarily because, in 1987, a genetic predisposition toward epic-level hay fever spread through the elven populations of the world. The elves fled en masse underground, where there was war until the mid 90’s with the dwarves. Nobody knows for sure what happened, but in 2001, colonies of lanky, bulbous, aloof, cantankerous, rebellious teenage Elf-Dwarves started to emerge from the Underdark. Census data at the time reported an average CHA score of 5. It was thought that this number might rise as the teens grew out of their awkward phase, but the most current census data reports that sadly, CHA seems to be the dump-stat of the Elf-Dwarf.

On the topic of gender, The census data on males is largely unchanged. The average male STR score is still 18, as it has been for decades, but 60% of the male population now has a seduce ability. However, the average modern woman in the Forgotten Realms, according to current census data, has a 24 STR score, 4.8 children, and can breathe acid.

 * It’s an election year.
 Photo Credit


  1. Glad to see you’ve taken the article’s poll points with the seriousness in which they were meant when writing this article, rather than any other way.


  2. While this article is a joke, some of the opinions expressed in response to the original WotC poll were not. So it should go without saying that we will be taking a heavy hand with comment moderation in regards to this topics.

    …So if you want to post about how good ability caps are without being won over by the INDISPUTABLE TRUTH of Vanir’s article, think twice about leaving a comment.

  3. Honestly I don’t care whether or not sat limits reflect reality or not… I find “realism” to be a silly reason for anything when I’m talking about a game with with elves, dwarves, and house sized flying fire spitting lizards….

    Also, level limits are silly. 😛

  4. To contrast the humorous point of view of the article, I’d like to break out an important question asked of, and answered by, our favorite game designer Gary Gygax –

    Q: “I fondly remember answering a rather long tirade about the fact that nowadays female characters had basically the same STR as male characters, including lenghty references to biological and sociological surveys with the simple “Ok, but you’re fine with fireballs?”, and I’m glad to see you would basically have answered in kind. Realism in fantasy can only go so far, eh?”
    A: “: Just so. The only limit I placed on female PCS was no Str above 18. In actual history female participation in what would be considered adventuring was virtually nil. i am always amused when history programs on the tube attempt Political Corectness by featuring the only examples of female duelists, pirates, warriors, etc. They represent less than one percent of the whole being considered, and featuring one-armed men in the same roles would be at least as meaningful historically. Frankly, not only did society generally prevent such participation, but I believe most women were generally not the least interested in engaging in such dangerous and questionable activities.

    That said, I never enforced the rule in my own game, for the milieu is fantasy, and given that, why have a physical power barrier when there are no others? If any player, male or female, wants to have a female character that is as strong as any male, there is no reason not to allow that.”

    Straight from the horse’s mouth – “I may have put a slight limit on female strength in the game, but I never used it myself because it’s a bit silly.” He had the same thing to say about weapon vs armor tables and encumbrance, too – he was a smarter guy than a lot of folks give him credit for.

  5. Kyushu Miyamoto says:

    I think the people who wanted the ability caps both do and don’t have a point. On the one hand, it is true that women tend to have less muscular strength than men who engage in comparable physical activity. On the other…who’s to say my female fighter character doesn’t spend more time training and working out than the male fighters she encounters? Or she could even just one of those people blessed with really good genetics that break the mold?

  6. spitflame341 says:

    See that’s the thing that gets me Kyushu, is that people forget that you aren’t playing the average person. You are playing an exceptional being, one who does break the mold. That is the biggest reason I can think of as to why stat limits are ridiculous. If we were going with “realism” none of the characters would get above a 12 strength, To get an 18, you’d have to be a body builder, in which case you’d never go adventuring because you have to spend 12 hours every day in the gym to maintain that 18 STR. And you’d be liable to go broke because of membership fees and all the food you’d have to eat in order to maintain muscle mass. Besides – in real life, there are a great deal of women stronger than I am. Any woman who plays a professional sport, or joins the military, or works in a heavy labor job easily outclasses me in strength. Why not be true in a FANTASY game?

  7. Bravo. Wotc’s cheeky little comment was a nod to us old time gamers and the length of some very old and heated debates from the original “Edition” wars. They got the same pie in the face that Gygax and others did many years ago. It does go to show they haven’t learned from all of TSR’s mistakes.(jest)

    Keep in mind the 30+ years of gender debate is about a single table on pg 15. That table isn’t talking about humans or half orcs but does lay out max scores for females of other races. The DMG also has a list of the likely hood of encountering certain npcs of certain classes, there age references etc. Back in the old days we had a few novels and a bit of folklore to use a base reference. So when someone said my elf lifts a boulder and hurls it at you we kind of needed to know physically was elf as strong as a giant? what about a human? I am sure gender and stereotypical ideals crept there way into the table on page 15. I bet it was because of this type of round table discussion ie deciding what races would be like in dnd. But note they weren’t there for humans from the get go.

  8. I’d like to see one of these census forms (parchment?). I imagine:
    1. Please rate your physical strength from 3-18 with 3 being the lowest and 18 being the highest. If you rate an 18 please give a further rating of 01-00 (with 1 being the lowest and 00 being the highest (and the number to come after 99)).

    25. Please give your income (in gp) for the last year. Include any loot gained from dungeon runs or picking pockets.

    34. Please state your Alignment using the pre-modernisation 9 alignment system (a conversion guide is available in pamphlet 2008b).

  9. Dark Young says:

    I don’t really have anything to say regarding folks opinions on DnD Next. But I really liked this article. Thanks for the laughs Vanir.

  10. oregonpinkrose says:

    Thanks for the quote, TheHydraDM.
    That makes a lot of sense.
    I love how, even if you are the guy who Makes Up ALL The Rules, you have houserules!