It’s time to eliminate the Constitution score.

Not in D&D, mind you.  I’m afraid the six-stat array is one of the things that gives D&D an identity.  To eliminate it would violate of the Sacred Cow Act of 1976.  However, in the landscape of games that are not D&D but rather heritors of D&D’s legacy, the Constitution score must be eliminated in pursuit of the common good.

I should clarify briefly: when I say “Constitution” score, I refer to “Constitution” or ability scores that serve as analogues to Constitution.  Stamina, Toughness, Vigor, and so forth–all serve the same non-purpose as Constitution and should be wiped from the game.  I propose instead that the Constitution score and Strength score be merged into one, perhaps labeled as Brawn or Might.  (Assuming, of course, that you are using ability scores akin to D&D’s.)

brawn

Edge of the Empire gets it.

 

I will forestall this harsh judgment on a single condition: name me a reasonable benefit of the separation of Strength and Constitution.  In most games, the Constitution score is used as a measure of vitality, resistance to fatigue, capacity to endure hardship, and so on.  In the vast majority of cases, an increase in Strength will correspond with an increase in Constitution.  See, for instance, The Mountain that Rides and the Red Viper of Dorn.

The size difference is immense.  Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell) is certainly in fine shape, but Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Gregor Clegane) is a monstrosity, a contemporary Goliath towering over others.  Between the two, it’s obvious who has more “hit points.  Björnsson’s musculature and adipose tissue provide more resilience to harm, and his overall size means that he has more blood than the Red Viper, meaning he has to hemorrhage more blood before suffering hypovolemic shock (e.g., he bleeds more ‘efore he dies).

In terms of genre emulation, I can’t think of a character who doesn’t have above-average strength without above-average stamina, at least in comic books.  The Thing, The Hulk, The Blob, Sabretooth, Kingpin, Superman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, that fat Iron Man suit…  Strength and Constitution are inextricably linked, so why are they two separate ability scores?

Moreover, Constitution is a very strange ability.  Aside from (3e) D&D’s Concentration skill, there were no skills that keyed to it.  Whereas Strength impacted jumping, climbing, and so forth, Constitution’s primary utility was Fortitude saving throws and hit points–which turned it into a sort of “either get this or die” ability score.  Again, a curious design artifact, one that does not need to exist outside of D&D’s identity.  D&D 4e recognized this discrepancy, allowing characters to add either Strength or Constitution to their Fortitude defenses, but never went so far as to remove the ability score from the game.  (A decision that would have been met considerable resistance.)

As I mentioned above, combining the Strength and Constitution scores seems best to me, something that Ryan experimented with in his most recent Savage Worlds game.  Savage Worlds has five ability scores normally–Strength, Vigor, Agility, Smarts, and Spirit–and Ryan tested the waters of the no-Constitution idea by combining Strength and Vigor into Brawn.  This was done partially to offset how powerful Agility is in Savage Worlds, as some of the most important skills key off of it, and it’s a house rule that we are likely to continue.  The effects thus far are that characters are marginally more durable and more competent in melee combat.  The most noticeable impact is that one character, a professor wielding a sword-cane, doesn’t have to invest in three stats to be effective.  Normally, a melee character must boost his Agility to raise his Fighting skill, then he must boost his Vigor to increase his Toughness so as not to die, and he must boost his Strength to inflict damage.

This address a minor imbalance in the system, and the results have been positive, so I foresee the end of Constitution (Vigor) in our future Savage Worlds games–and in other RPGs I play.