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Monday, 31 December 2012

Behind The Mask: Brains To Back Up The Brawn...

With all this recent talk about a potential Villains & Vigilantes campaign, I thought I'd take a moment to repost one of my favourite pieces that arose during our short-lived 2011 campaign:

When your superhero team is run by one of the smartest men in the world and includes the planet's foremost bionic engineer and a leading edge research scientist, the concept of measuring IQ is going to crop up eventually.

Now I knew these characters - Nick Law, The Surgeon and Nightshade - were smart but I had no real concept of just how smart, in real world terms.

This issue arose because I was figuring ways to rework Nick's eponymous NPC (a crucial figure in the universe of Knight City and 'commander' of The Agents Of C.O.M.P.A.S.S), so that he fit more comfortably in with the power levels of the group.

Naturally, my first course of action was to turn to the Monkey House Games forum and explain my dilemma: "Physical stats are reasonably easy to gauge (through such mechanics as carrying capacity) but how do you guys and gals go about rating the comparative intelligence of characters – say between superheroes and norms? What do you consider the upper limit for non-superpowered brainboxes – is it 18, 21, higher? What INT score, for instance, would you give Einstein or Reed Richards?"

Of the several helpful answers that were quickly given, the one that tickled my fancy best for its simplicity and ease of translation to game mechanics came from Justice (yes, that is his real name).

In Villains & Vigilantes terms, it boils down to this:
  • Start with a base 100 IQ for an Intelligence score of 10 and then add (or subtract)  five IQ points for every Intelligence point up (or down) from there.
(Being me, I'm considering a final tweak that subtracts five points from your character's IQ, but then adds 1d6 for a bit of variety).

That way, Pete's character, The Surgeon (INT: 28) ends up with an (untweaked) IQ of 190 while Kevin's Nightshade (INT: 18) has an IQ of 140.

Perhaps the best  way to comprehend how this would pan out in a game is to look at a selection of "celebrity" IQ scores and translate these into V&V Intelligence scores (data from here):
  • Marilyn Vos Savant - IQ 228 (INT: 36)
  • Albert Einstein/Stephen Hawking/Bill Gates/Quentin Tarantino/Reggie Jackson - IQ 160 (INT: 22)
  • Sheldon Cooper - IQ 187 (INT: 28)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger - IQ 135 (INT: 17)
  • Bill Clinton - IQ 137 (INT: 18)
  • Bobby Fischer - IQ 187 (INT: 28)
  • Dwight Eisenhower - IQ 122 (INT: 15)
  • George W. Bush - IQ 125 (INT: 15)
  • James Woods - IQ 180 (INT: 26)
  • Jodie Foster/Nicole Kidman - IQ 132 (INT: 17)
  • Lee Harvey Oswald - IQ 118 (INT: 14)
  • John F. Kennedy - IQ 119 (INT: 14)
  • Madonna - IQ 140 (INT: 18)
  • Muhammad Ali - IQ 78 (INT: 6)
  • Andy Warhol - IQ 86 (INT: 7)
Naturally, all this silliness comes with the caveat that measuring IQ is a slightly controversial subject and, although V&V is all about the math, this in in no way should be taken as a scientific study of relative intelligence. But it appears to work quite well for the game!

However, in his answer on the forum, Justice also included a chart from INTJforum, explaining the relative IQ levels -

Sidis
IQ over 189: In all of human history only about two dozen people have been this smart. William James Sidis is one example. He lectured Harvard mathematicians on four-dimensional mathematics at age 11 and was a professor of mathematics at Rice University at age 14. Because of his eccentricities, academics and the press mercilessly hounded him. At the age of 22 he published a book discussing black holes a full 15 years before Nobel Laureate Chandrasekhar thought of them. He eventually refused to do anything academic or have anything to do with academic society. Who knows what these people think about or what they think of the rest of humanity.

IQ 172 – 188
: While still of primary school age only around one-in-a-thousand university professors can look them in the eye intellectually. They tend to read competently before they are three years old. They are seldom understood or appreciated. A large proportion of this group opt out of society and never make revolutionary contributions in the standard academic fields or professions. It seems to be very difficult to motivate them to play the academic/scholarly/professional game because they regard even the most venerable of traditions and institutions as absurd or silly. Consider that their intellect is as far above that of the average person as the average person’s intellect is above that of someone with mental retardation.

IQ 156 – 171
: The smarter Nobel Prize winners and most historical geniuses (people like Einstein, Hawking, Byron, Milton, Kant, Newton, Russell, Rand) are to be found in this category. Most exceed the average postgraduate in academic competence - even professors - while still in primary school, and probably knew more than their teachers from about the 6th grade onwards. A common experience with people in this category or higher is that they are not wanted - that the masses (including the professional classes) find them an affront of some sort. Fortunately they are plentiful in absolute numbers, so many of them do rise above the envy and hostility.

IQ 140 – 155
: Most professional mathematicians, physicists, philosophers and high court judges or very senior counsel, can be found in this group. They are autodidacts par excellence. Highly regarded original academic work rarely occurs with lower IQs. Some in this group exceed the average university student in academic competence while still in primary school. Many Nobel laureates and some historical geniuses, like Sartre, are also to be found here. People in this category make up the society’s intellectual leaders. Most original ideas start with these people, however their contribution tends to be in bits and pieces rather than a whole new system or new way of seeing things.

IQ 124 – 140: This group forms the bulk of the better doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and other professionals, U.S. Presidents, CEOs of large companies and academics. This category of people and all those above them don’t require assistance to learn. These people tend to be the keepers, and transmitters, of knowledge and the higher points of any culture, but can’t create it themselves.
.
IQ 108 – 124: Their best work level is that of most teachers, low to middle level management and military officers, substandard to fair professionals and some elected national or provincial politicians. They can learn via the typical university format of lectures and textbooks. At times they might struggle at the university level, but graduation is not difficult. Their best reading level is editorials, magazines like Time, The Economist and Scientific American, and classical novels. This group makes up the moral, intellectual and practical leadership assistants of society.

IQ 92 – 108: This is the average person, able to function at the level of skilled blue-collar, clerical, sales or police work.This large group is the glue of society but given the wrong authority it (and the two groups below it) may do horrible things in the name of morality.

IQ 76 – 92:
Life is tough at this level. Anything other than unskilled labor is a trial, though simple semi-skilled work is possible. Learning is slow, simple and needs to be supervised closely to be effective. With application they may graduate from primary school but will nevertheless flounder quite badly in high school. Their reasoning is very superficial and concrete and they cannot see the essential form inherent in many examples of similar things. Most will never be functionally literate and the rest will not understand anything more complex than a popular magazine.
It has been estimated that people in this category commit about 75 per cent of all petty and violent crimes. The vast majority of serious social problems are associated with people in this category because there are so many of them statistically.

IQ 60 – 76: At this level and below people are inevitably functionally illiterate even if they have been taught to read for at least four years. They are socially and vocationally adequate (at menial labor) given special training and supervision. Many are able to lead a relatively independent life. At this point or below the law begins to regard them as being too stupid to know the difference between right and wrong and won’t hold them responsible should they commit a serious crime.

IQ 44 – 60: Limited support becomes essential and with extended special education a maximum of Grade four could be attained by age 18. Their social and communication skills are fair but there is little self-awareness. They can function vocationally in a sheltered workshop. They need supervision in their living arrangements and cannot live independently.
This is an abridged version of the text, for the complete wording, and to read Justice's full comments along with other suggestions on translating 'real life' measurements into game statistics visit the Monkey House Forum.

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