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    Default Is INT useless?

    Hey all

    Initially being a person who started in Pathfinder and 3.5e, I've come to the realization that the Intelligence stat is not very useful in 5e. I'm wondering if i'm missing something or not looking at INT in 5e the right way.

    First, only one class and two sub-class (Wizard and Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster respectively) use INT as a stat. Even then, the wizard is the only class that when multi-classing, requires a decent INT score.

    Out of all the saves that monsters and spells will have you roll against, INT is definitely one of the ones used the least.

    Few skills are not impacted by INT. While INT is used for some really useful skills such as investigation, it doesn't hold up to having a high STR or DEX which has uses in and out of combat, or WIS or CHA, both which have ton of uses outside of combat and are needed for multiple classes.

    What, as both a gm and a player, am I missing? Is INT really as useless as i make it out to be?
    Last edited by Briton; 2018-01-01 at 06:42 PM.
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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    wont say it's useless.
    depends on how you play.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Nope.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Intelligence is a useless, if you just pick up a stick and beat people to death.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    It is going to be DM and party dependant.

    Gimme a party of five that thinks they're all optimized by dumping INT and I'll have some fun.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    White room optimization? Yeah, INT is a pretty poor stat to invest in unless necessary.
    In actual play? You might be able to get away with it sometimes, but not being an idiot is a big deal for most adventuring parties.

    Also you might be missing Intellect Devourers, Illusions and Maze
    Last edited by Kane0; 2018-01-01 at 07:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkVIIIMarc View Post
    It is going to be DM and party dependant.

    Gimme a party of five that thinks they're all optimized by dumping INT and I'll have some fun.
    Better answer than mine, in all respects.

    All ability scores usefulness will depend on how often they get used. This mostly depends on your DM.

    Obviously, the vast majority of the time for many games, the most useful ability score will be your classes primary and secondary (if any) ability scores, because class features. But after that it depends entirely on what kind of game the DM runs.

    For example, Intelligence (Investigation) checks are one of the more common checks in my games. And they can save lives.

    I also commonly call for Intelligence checks to PCs to recall things in pressure situations, since that's it primary purpose other than deduction. That's not to mean a state of the characters knowledge, or 'do you know' check. I usually try to avoid those, since that's not what the PHB says Intelligence is for, plus I don't like them. But if the player can't remember something (common), and the character may not recall immediately under a pressure situation, Int check. In a non-pressure situation the automatic success rule would apply, so generally after a little bit of thinking they'll remember the answer.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    It really depends on play style. INT has less combat-related value than the other stats but obviously is important for roleplay reasons. In my experience, the intelligence based skills come up a LOT. I do think it'd be nice to have more classes/subclasses with intelligence based abilities.

    Useless is a real overstatement.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    As others have mentioned, it's really dependent on the DM and how much metagaming your table allows. From what I've experienced, there's a tendency to flavor characters for roleplaying, but most players have a lot of trouble not playing themselves strategically.

    IMO a character with 10 INT should not be a tactical genius, quickly able to adapt to unique situations and improvise on the fly. I think players have the tendency to play 8 INT as a borderline vegetable, so it can get exaggerated too far in the opposite direction (although that's as low as you can stat in AL). I think INT in 5e isn't utilized as effectively as it can and people tend to give way more leniency towards that stat in terms of role playing, metagaming or character decisions.

    You could even house rule certain things like high INT characters are allowed to give tactical advice OOC to allies, while low INT characters aren't. I played a super genius tactician in AL and I tried to impress upon my allies that he was running them through drills during downtime to prevent things like more than 2 party members ever being in a line when facing a breath weapon, etc.

    In terms of game mechanics, you can discourage dumping INT by using history checks to recall who a NPC is, why they're important, etc. If you wanted to really highlight that kind of check, you could severely limit note taking by players (not very elegant imo), or honor their notes, but have the player make a check to see if their character can actually recall that info. I wouldn't want to punish anyone who bothers to jot down important information, so maybe give them some kind of bonus to the check.

    I think part of the problem is that the players are living and breathing in the game world like their characters. When you have a week or longer break between games, it's harder to identify something that your character would easily remember and what was a fleeting detail.

    You could also reward characters with higher INT by having them know things about whatever foe they're facing.
    Last edited by willdaBEAST; 2018-01-01 at 07:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by willdaBEAST View Post
    I think part of the problem is that the players are living and breathing in the game world like their characters. When you have a week or longer break between games, it's harder to identify something that your character would easily remember and what was a fleeting detail.
    Yeah. If you're going to do this, it's important not to make them for things that should clearly be automatic success. Just as with any other die roll really, but worth mentioning.

    Also worth mentioning again: any character can automatically succeed at a check if it's possible to succeed and the only consequences of failure is time, by taking ten times as long. If recalling the thing isn't a DC 20 check (for an Int 10), and the PC has a minute to think about it, then no check should be needed.

    OTOH if they're trying to recall if an enemy in battle from two weeks prior was wearing an specific sigil stiched on their clothes or not ... that might easily be DC above 20 (with 26+ being impossible unless a skill applies). Similar for a Sherlock-like recall of details of a scene a day later.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2018-01-01 at 07:47 PM.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by willdaBEAST View Post
    IMO a character with 10 INT should not be a tactical genius, quickly able to adapt to unique situations and improvise on the fly. I think players have the tendency to play 8 INT as a borderline vegetable, so it can get exaggerated too far in the opposite direction (although that's as low as you can stat in AL). I think INT in 5e isn't utilized as effectively as it can and people tend to give way more leniency towards that stat in terms of role playing, metagaming or character decisions.

    You could even house rule certain things like high INT characters are allowed to give tactical advice OOC to allies, while low INT characters aren't. I played a super genius tactician in AL and I tried to impress upon my allies that he was running them through drills during downtime to prevent things like more than 2 party members ever being in a line when facing a breath weapon, etc.
    I think having a decent mix of INT and WIS is necessary for the sort of tactical thing you're talking about, honestly. Good INT with low WIS feels like it would be more... well, white room tactical thinking. Maybe brilliant plans, but ones that don't necessarily take into account how your enemy might respond to said plans, so they fall apart. Good WIS with low INT might mean you're intuitive when it comes to battle, which can also result in good tactics, but said tactics won't be as tight as they could be and likely have holes/you'd probably be likely to overlook certain possibilities that would shore up your plan better. And, of course, if you have good INT and good WIS both but dumped CHA, you might not be able to convince even other intelligent, wise people that your tactics are sound.

    That said, I feel like that house rule isn't the best idea mostly for the fact that it's so subjective. Not just what gives someone the ability to be tactical, I more mean the lines between ability scores. The old 3.5 ones no longer apply, so what exactly is the line where someone can be tactical? Is there a line where someone can be tactical, but another line where their tactics are actually super good? I think people here tend to remember that INT 8 doesn't mean your character is an idiot, but it can be hard to remember the opposite, that an INT 16 character isn't significantly more of a genius than an INT 14 character. "High (enough) INT," "(too) low INT" seems like it's vague enough and subjective enough that players are likely to be dissatisfied and argue. And for good reason, imo; should an INT 13 Battle Master not be able to advise his teammates? And if he can't, can he still use, say, Maneuvering Attack?
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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    It all depends on how your group runs Knowledge skills. If they're not good for much, Int is pretty useless. If the DM is willing to pass out useful information with a successful check, then Int is pretty valuable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Yeah. If you're going to do this, it's important not to make them for things that should clearly be automatic success. Just as with any other die roll really, but worth mentioning.

    Also worth mentioning again: any character can automatically succeed at a check if it's possible to succeed and the only consequences of failure is time, by taking ten times as long. If recalling the thing isn't a DC 20 check (for an Int 10), and the PC has a minute to think about it, then no check should be needed.

    OTOH if they're trying to recall if an enemy in battle from two weeks prior was wearing an specific sigil stiched on their clothes or not ... that might easily be DC above 20 (with 26+ being impossible unless a skill applies). Similar for a Sherlock-like recall of details of a scene a day later.
    I would actually argue that retrying most Int-type knowledge checks should be impossible unless you acquire new information somehow. If you don't succeed at kicking down a door, there's nothing stopping you from trying again, but if you don't know something at first, having another 10 minutes to think rarely* helps.


    *Unless you're just having problems due to stress, which happens to me.
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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    INT is certainly less mechanically interesting in regards to how it interacts with class mechanics (i.e. usually it doesn't). It mostly shows up in relevant skills, and in order for it to be relevant the DM has to want it to be relevant. INT based skills tend to be associated with discovering something, and in many adventures the thing you're trying to discover is actually necessary to move on with the game. The DM has to build their adventure such that failure is actually a possibility for that Investigation check, otherwise putting the points into INT is a sucker's bet for anyone who isn't playing an INT based Arcane Caster, because failing the check will just result in the DM bending over backwards to give you a reason to find what you were looking for. Similar with many Arcana or History checks. Ideally you want stuff to show up where failure doesn't totally derail the game, but success will give you a measurable benefit. In games like that INT is definitely worth it.

    There are also various minor things that show up, INT saves for illusions, or Intellect Devourers that put the fear of god into those Fighters that dumped INT all the way down to 8. They're not as common as the skill checks in my experience though.

    Personally, if I had my way INT would also give you bonus skill or language proficiencies, but that's not the world we live in.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Yeah, and a 10 is not a TERRIBLE score especially if the character has decent Widsom. Even a 10 INT / 10 WIS character is by no means a special means case. Maybe compared to his brawn or charisma his intelligence fails but he is not a jock who can't read. He's likely a great athlete who if he blew a knee would have a normal job as 10's are a pretty normal score.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    10 is the "average person" score

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by MxKit View Post
    I think having a decent mix of INT and WIS is necessary for the sort of tactical thing you're talking about, honestly. Good INT with low WIS feels like it would be more... well, white room tactical thinking. Maybe brilliant plans, but ones that don't necessarily take into account how your enemy might respond to said plans, so they fall apart. Good WIS with low INT might mean you're intuitive when it comes to battle, which can also result in good tactics, but said tactics won't be as tight as they could be and likely have holes/you'd probably be likely to overlook certain possibilities that would shore up your plan better. And, of course, if you have good INT and good WIS both but dumped CHA, you might not be able to convince even other intelligent, wise people that your tactics are sound.

    That said, I feel like that house rule isn't the best idea mostly for the fact that it's so subjective. Not just what gives someone the ability to be tactical, I more mean the lines between ability scores. The old 3.5 ones no longer apply, so what exactly is the line where someone can be tactical? Is there a line where someone can be tactical, but another line where their tactics are actually super good? I think people here tend to remember that INT 8 doesn't mean your character is an idiot, but it can be hard to remember the opposite, that an INT 16 character isn't significantly more of a genius than an INT 14 character. "High (enough) INT," "(too) low INT" seems like it's vague enough and subjective enough that players are likely to be dissatisfied and argue. And for good reason, imo; should an INT 13 Battle Master not be able to advise his teammates? And if he can't, can he still use, say, Maneuvering Attack?
    I agree with INT and WIS being tied to a true tactician. I also agree the house rule I suggested isn't great, I'm just trying to brainstorm ways to encourage not dumping INT.

    My breakdown of INT would be:

    2 broccoli

    4 animal

    6 cognitively impaired

    8 below average

    10 average

    12 above average

    14 very intelligent

    16 genius

    18 savant

    20 godly intelligence. Not omniscient but able to predict patterns of behavior to a degree that they could appear to be omniscient to the layman.

    If I were to use a house rule like I suggested, you def need to make exceptions for classes like Battle Master and Mastermind Rogues, but my cut off would be maybe 14 INT (which is arbitrary). When I DM I don't let my players have complicated strategy discussions in the middle of combat, IMO that ruins the immersion. I have absolutely no problem and encourage them to have those kinds of conversations outside of combat (especially if they role-play them). I think you also have to assume that any trained soldier would have at least some basic tactical understanding. When I say strategy I mean beyond flanking, pincer attacks, etc. I'm referring more to exploiting tendencies, or setting up complicated plans contingent on various moving parts. I think as players we also face the obstacle of knowing too much history, what we might think of as commonly known could be mind-blowing to a brilliant general 400 years ago. Kind of like how a lot of the humor in Seinfeld feels almost cliché now, when it was game changing at the time.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    as noted, it really depends.

    i've played in games where you would ask a question about the world, and if it wasn't common knowledge, the DM would respond by telling you to make a check to see what you know. you could generally ask for just about anything; the monster you're facing, how strong you think that wall you're considering smashing might be, whether or not a certain piece of art engraved into the wall is typical for the location you're in, etc, and get that as a response. in that campaign, nobody thought int was useless, and nobody thought the int-related skill proficiencies were useless.

    and that has always felt about how it should to me. if you have good history, you may know something about how this ancient tribe of hobgoblins typically fights (do they use traps, do they pin you in place with infantry while their cavalry is swinging around from behind to flank you, etc). if you have good arcana, you may know that it isn't typical for an efreet and a djinn to be working together. if you have good religion, you may know that the art you're looking at seems very out of place in this ruined temple of bahamut, and may even be able to tell that it is commonly used in the worship of a devil prince. if you have good nature, you may know that wolves will normally not voluntarily attack large groups of humans, and thus the recent wolf attacks on caravans passing through the area probably have something more behind them than just a pack of wolves doing wolf things.

    and if you dumped int and took no proficiency in those skills, well... you better hope someone else does.

    (note: that won't work as well for common knowledge; a DC 10 check, in a group of 4 PCs, even with -1 to the roll, someone is gonna make it. but for moderately hard to difficult things to know, it can be a big deal; for a DC 18 check, nearly 2/3 of the time a party of 4 with -1 to the roll won't know, which is about as likely as a single PC with only +4 to the roll (say, a level 1 knowledge cleric with int 10). for a DC 20 check, it is literally impossible for the -1 int party to know, while that single +4 bonus PC has a 25% chance... not great, but better than 0 certainly. if you can give them advantage (say, with enhance ability), or have two people with that +4 bonus, it's almost 50/50. now, obviously, not everything should be DC 18-20, but there are plenty of things that are going to be pretty uncommon knowledge, just like there are today.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    In our games, a successful Arcana, History, or investigate check is often the difference between I interact with cool statue successfully and find some secret loot, and OMG, we did the wrong thing, we’re cursed, and our arms fell off.

    Several times I point out to my GM that my PC is smarter than me, and he allows an intelligence check for insights about a difficult situation.

    It plays a large enough role in exploration that our Rogue keeps a decent intelligence stat.

    We are currently running a bunch of the old school modules right now as well, so that may be a factor.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    I would actually argue that retrying most Int-type knowledge checks should be impossible unless you acquire new information somehow. If you don't succeed at kicking down a door, there's nothing stopping you from trying again, but if you don't know something at first, having another 10 minutes to think rarely* helps.

    *Unless you're just having problems due to stress, which happens to me.
    If you can't remember the name of a song immediately, you stop thinking about it until you go "oh that's right, I remember now"? Because that happens to me all the time.

    And when I say under stress, I mean a combat round. 6 seconds under stress (usually combat, but anything in which time matters that much) vs a minute to think about . But that's just my times I generally use as guidelines. If you're making a general check with a DC specific to a minute of thinking*, yeah ten minutes might not help. The DMG automatic success rule says both it is possible to succeed, and it has for no penalty for failure except time. That doesn't require treating it as older editions take 20. I just most often treat it that way for convenience. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to do that.

    Also, note that I'm explicitly talking about recall checks here, not state-of-knowledge checks.

    (*Which raises an interesting possibility of setting different DCs for 6 seconds vs a minute of thinking vs ten, as opposed to check vs auto success.)
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2018-01-01 at 08:44 PM.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    A group with low Investigation and no Knowledge are going to get decimated in my games.

    People would probably value Int more if DMs were better at using it. There's a lot of tables where Perception is insanely overused for things that should be Investigation checks.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    It's worth noting that while INT saves are pretty rare, failing one will typically **** you up real good. Even more so than Charisma, which can still be pretty devastating.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Useless? No.

    Least useful stat of the six to the majority of characters? Yes.

    But it is very good to have at least one high int character per party. Investigation and knowledge come up a lot.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Saying that Int is relatively useless in 5eif you aren't going for a specific class and your group doesn't use knowledge skills in any gatekeeping fashion is like calling Charisma a dump stat in 2e AD&D if you weren't going for a specific class and your group didn't use the reaction table-- well, sure, it's useless if you deliberately choose not to use the things it is for.

    All the Str, Dex, Con, and so forth won't change how easy a day you have as much as only attempting the challenges you need to attempt to achieve your goals. So that means not fighting where you can talk (in the TSR-era/reaction table scenario), and not going into the Caves of Chaos when what you are looking for is actually located in the Labyrinth of Lawfulness (which investigation or the appropriate knowledge skill might have indicated).

    But yes, as others have mentioned, Intelligence's contribution to game-mechanics-fiddliness is rather muted in this edition. Since I consider the # of languages characters get to be insufficient, I give them an extra language known for each point of bonus as an additional perk.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    But yes, as others have mentioned, Intelligence's contribution to game-mechanics-fiddliness is rather muted in this edition. Since I consider the # of languages characters get to be insufficient, I give them an extra language known for each point of bonus as an additional perk.
    That's especially useful in settings where there are a bunch of languages other than Common, with or without Common being a trade tongue. Forgotten Realms has lots of human tongues for example. Or Mystara (BECMI's Known World), which doesn't have a Common. You can get by with Thyatin most places, but having a bunch of regional languages known from higher Int is extremely helpful.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    There are many ways to challenge so called "optimizers" with dumped INT.

    These are the spells that target Intelligence:

    2nd level - phantasmal force
    3rd level - enemies abound (Xanathar's)
    5th level - synaptic static (Xanathar's)
    6th level - mental prison (Xanathar's)
    8th level - feeblemind
    8th level - psychic scream (Xanathar's)

    All of these spells are pretty powerful.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oerlaf View Post
    There are many ways to challenge so called "optimizers" with dumped INT.

    These are the spells that target Intelligence:

    2nd level - phantasmal force
    3rd level - enemies abound (Xanathar's)
    5th level - synaptic static (Xanathar's)
    6th level - mental prison (Xanathar's)
    8th level - feeblemind
    8th level - psychic scream (Xanathar's)

    All of these spells are pretty powerful.
    and maze. don't forget that :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by SharkForce View Post
    and maze. don't forget that :)
    Maze is even more powerful because it requires an Intelligence check, not a saving throw :)

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oerlaf View Post
    Maze is even more powerful because it requires an Intelligence check, not a saving throw :)
    oh, almost forgot... another fun option: symbol (generally coming from a wish spell, because 1 hour casting time).

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Int is the weakest of the stats

    but I bet that because you said 'useless' people are going to tell you you're wrong, because this forum is full of pedantry arguments.

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    Default Re: Is INT useless?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talamare View Post
    Int is the weakest of the stats

    but I bet that because you said 'useless' people are going to tell you you're wrong, because this forum is full of pedantry arguments.
    It's not pendantry. Int isn't the weakest stat for many characters; Wizard, EK, AT, anyone wanting to play a scholar, or a cunning character, someone that doesn't want to be fooled by illusions, or going into the underdark or across Planes, someone that just wants to be smarter than average or not suck at knowledge skills.

    Yeah, on paper Int is "weakest" for many characters, but it isn't without use, even for them.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

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