How To Improve Your Character Stats And Level Up In Real Life

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

In Dungeons & Dragons, every character has certain strengths and weaknesses, determined by their ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Your real-life self is made up of those abilities too, and you can level them up just like you do in-game.

Strength (STR)

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

Strength is pretty self-explanatory: it describes your level of muscle and physical power. And while you may not be striking down Orcs with your Sword of a Thousand Truths in everyday life, strength can still come in handy — not to mention improve your physical appearance. Whether you're trying to lose weight or build muscle on a skinny frame, weight lifting is a great way to build strength. Check out our guide to getting started, which includes finding a good beginner's program — like Starting Strength or Minimum Viable Fitness — that works for you.

Dexterity (DEX)

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

Dexterity is about other types of athleticism. In the world of Dungeons & Dragons, that means having the agility to dodge incoming blows, and the hand-eye coordination to shoot a bow and arrow. And while you could certainly practice martial arts or archery to build up those skills, there are plenty of fun sports you can start as an adult, from rock climbing to soccer to roller derby. You could also build up your athleticism and hand-eye coordination with nothing but a tennis ball...but that's not nearly as exciting. Unless you pretend it's an incoming fireball from a half-elf sorcerer.

Constitution (CON)

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

Constitution is a slightly more abstract concept, but it represents your character's health and stamina. It determines how many "hit points" your character has before they die, determines their resistance to poison, and gives them energy to keep going when they have a flail embedded in their shoulder. In the real world, you're more likely to encounter constitution when you're trying to tolerate physical pain or boost your immune system. Heck, even eating better can increase your constitution...because, you know, it makes you less likely to die from a heart attack.

Intelligence (INT)

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

In the land of Greyhawk, intelligence is important for wizards learning different spells. But in the real world, intelligence is valuable to all of us. It's a common belief that your IQ can't change over time, but this isn't necessarily true. So sharpen those critical thinking skills by learning to ask the right questions, boost your logical abilities by ditching those ugly fallacies, and when in doubt, fake it 'til you make it. You won't be casting Magic Missiles anytime soon, but at least you'll be able to hold your own in an argument and make more informed decisions.

Wisdom (WIS)

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

Not to be confused with intelligence, the somewhat confusing wisdom skill determines things like willpower, common sense, and perception. It serves similar functions in both the D&D world and the real world, like detecting when someone's lying or exercising self-control. In fact, willpower is an extremely useful skill when you're trying to build new, healthy habits. And while it isn't easy to increase the amount of willpower you have, you can ensure that you're making efficient use of the willpower you have. To use another RPG metaphor: think of it like magic points. "Spend" them where they're most important, because when you run out, you're screwed.

Charisma (CHA)

How to Improve Your Character Stats and Level Up in Real Life

Charisma is exactly what it sounds like, and it's just as useful in the real world as it is in fantasy land. Contrary to popular belief, charisma isn't something you're born with: it's a skill that you can develop by being expressive with your body and your voice. Good charisma also means engaging with others, and knowing when to listen instead of talk. Confidence makes a big difference here, too. The benefits of charisma go beyond "being liked", too. Just like in the land of Dungeons & Dragons, having charisma means being more persuasive and being a better leader, which are invaluable at work and at home.

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Title illustration by Tina Mailhot-Roberge. Photos by Benny Mazur, Ocean Yamaha, Benny Mazur, Benny Mazur, Pattie, and Benny Mazur.


    I think I'll just hope for the best and put all my points into luck.

      LOL, you've been playing too many Fighting Fantasy books ;-)

      (I used to go high Skill in those)

    I'd argue that Dexterity and Agility should be separate stats rather than conflated under the one. Agility is about speed and grace while dexterity is more about fine motor skills. Or at least that's been my interpretation over the years.

    Last edited 09/05/16 12:20 pm

      Rolemaster had Quickness and Agility, representing the fact that you could be quick or have great reflexes but still be clumsy. Or you could be slow but have great fine motor skills or great aim. I think Agility could also have been called Dexterity without losing the distinction.

    Traditionally, CHA is a dump stat, but as a law-talkin' guy, I kind of need it. So instead I'm using DEX/STR as my dump stats. CON is OK due to swimming several times per week. I'd hope that my INT/WIS were doing OK...

    Considering the avg human has 9 in all those stats, that character is a freaking super-human!

    Good article. I might actually save this. Always for self-improvement... if I could just get off the couch.

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