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Those Bastards Illustrate Different Forms of Intelligence in 5E D&D

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Those Bastards is Nerdarchy’s (much less lewd than the title suggests) live stream game of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Every Tuesday from 8 to 10 p.m. EST the Nerdarchy crew comes together to play some 5E D&D. Of course it’s mostly just our excuse as a team to come together with our hobby and have some fun as friends but it’s also a way for you as the community to see how we apply many of the things we talk about, both here on the site and over on the YouTubes!

The current campaign is entitled Those Bastards. The premise is all of our characters are half siblings (same dad, different moms). As we discovered one another and our intertwining destinies we also learn more about one another’s characters. The running joke for most of the campaign has been the barbarian has the highest Intelligence score (at a 14). But make no mistake — our characters are no idiots… probably. Here’s the thing: our characters all get their own times to shine and show off their own skills. While it’s true that Vent (our fire genasi barbarian) is the most intelligent mechanically, there are other ways Those Bastards prove their mental fortitude.

Getting more from an ability score in 5E D&D

This week on my own YouTube channel I discussed a bit about the different mental ability scores in 5E D&D and how just because your character doesn’t have a high Intelligence score it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. So, having established that Intelligence (the ability score) and intelligence (as we know it in our world) are not the same thing, let’s discuss the different members of Those Bastards and how they each possess their own Intelligence.

Galiesin: Throwing that shade

First let’s talk about the eldest of the group, the half-elven shadow sorcerer Galiesin Trisrel, aka Sin. Sin has a high Charisma. His natural charm and demeanor attract attention the moment he enters a room. For Sin, his tendency to draw attention is both a gift and a curse, as evidenced by his elven grandfather’s disdain.

However, Galiesin uses his wit and snark along with a dash of good manners and posture to allure the many women he fancies. His silver tongue is shiny as the ring he took as a token, yet it can be sharp as a razor’s edge. For Sin, society is a maze, a game, and while at times Ted may present Sin as a bumbling oaf when it comes to actual knowledge, Sin’s ability to navigate people is second to none. Sin’s truest element is in politics and flattery.

As mentioned previously, Sin is also a sorcerer. Able to control and draw power from shadows, Sin believes his gift to come from the siblings’ father. Through his innate power Galiesin imposes his will on the world around him, weaving magic with his very essence and force of personality, a true mark of emotional intelligence in its truest sense.

Prudence: Cunning and mystical

A winged tiefling, Prudence resembles a gargoyle at first glance. The daughter of a night hag, Prudence learned druidic magic from her mother while one of the local townsfolk took her under his wing to train in the martial arts and spiritual discipline. With myriad influences training her in the ways of awareness, both of self and environment, Prudence exemplifies patience and cunning. Never one to dive into problems headlong, Prudence’s wisdom gives her insight, both into others and into herself.

Her greatest intelligence lies in her awareness of herself in every context. It is through this awareness she can act as an anchor, often inspiring her companions with common sense and a dash of advice. She recognizes her limitations, and thus she plays to her strengths. She also plays to the strengths of her allies, acting as the proverbial heart in terms of the five token band trope.

power gaming 5E D&D intelligence ability score
Whether you build a character, create one or anything in between, the possibilities are endless. [Art by Wayne Reynolds]

Vent: Eager intellectual

A fire genasi, Vent was raised on the elemental plane of fire by a brass dragon who taught him to love freedom and hate injustice. Vent possesses a decent wealth of information, from random facts and tidbits to understanding of cultures and societies.

While Vent’s explosive rage triggers his innate fire, it is his knowledge, optimism and eager confidence in what he knows to be true and right that solidifies him as the leader of our motley band.

It’s true that the joke is he’s the smartest of his siblings but in the context of who he is it just makes sense. He’s passionate in every sense. Whether he’s pursuing his destiny or raging to protect those he loves, passion and ardor define Vent. Among his passions is a thirst for knowledge. Vent loves learning and his curiosity regularly supersedes his better judgment. Yet he frequently walks away with the answers he seeks (or knowledge of where to find said answers), and his straightforward, earnest nature often earns him the trust of those he encounters, even if they are not so forthcoming or aim to take advantage of his naivety.

Vent is especially unique in terms of party role, as he fills the function of “leader” or “hero,” as well as “smart guy,” when it comes to the five-token band. He may not always know how to say things or be aware of everything that’s going on, but you definitely want him on your team for any quiz show, especially if the topics revolve around elemental magic or planar entities.

In many senses, Vent is the premier triple threat. He’s smart, he’s strong and he’s a good leader.

Oonga: Speaking loudly with action

Oonga, the half-orc youngest of the group (at 18), is the muscle. Filling the five token band role of the big guy Oonga’s not exactly what most would call a thinker. He’s much more of a doer. Oonga favors simple, direct solutions, usually those entailing violence. Oonga demonstrates a discomfort with unfamiliar situations. He likes taking charge of situations and given his background as an urchin he’s only known violence before he met his siblings.

Still, Oonga’s expertise with animals and his ability to recognize direct solutions to problems shines as its own, much less recognized form of intelligence. Without muddying his perceptions with politics or unnecessary information, Oonga sees things in his own way, which is usually very simple and direct. While it may not always breed the best results, Oonga does achieve results quickly and his keen survival instinct assists him and his siblings in a context that rounds the party’s skill bases.

What do you think?

Are you keeping up with Those Bastards? You can find the campaign playlist at Nerdarchy Live right here. What do you think about the different mental ability scores and how they’re used in D&D 5E? Let us know in the comments! [NERDITOR’S NOTE: We recently published another post about different kinds of intelligence and how they apply to 5E D&D here.]

As always, remember to return to Nerdarchy for more daily content. Later, nerds!

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Steven Partridge is a published fantasy author and staff writer for Nerdarchy. He also shows up Tuesdays at 8:00pm (EST) to play with Nerdarchy Crew, over on the Nerdarchy Live YouTube channel. Steven enjoys all things fantasy, and storytelling is his passion. Whether through novels, TTRPGs, or otherwise, he loves telling compelling tales within various speculative fiction genres. When he's not writing or working on videos for his YouTube channel, Steven can be found lap swimming or playing TTRPGs with his friends. He works in the mental health field and enjoys sharing conversations about diversity, especially as it relates to his own place within the Queer community.

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