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Ability Score Rebalancing

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Actually once you step,outside the dnd/srd/d20 bubble it seems like very many games abandoned these six in favore of more or less.
Yeah, I've seen and played games with more (as many as 12!) and less (as few as 3) but you still run into the same issues. The problem isn't with the core six, they work very well IMO offering enough to make them distinct. Other games have different labels and organize abilities differently, but really it is just a new version of the same thing.

Here is a set I developed for a game I made about 20 years ago.

abilities.png

Your BODY trait has three scores: Power, Reflexes, and Stamina
MIND is Aptitude, Reason, and Retention
SOUL is Faith, Intuition, and Willpower

These are crossed to create your other three traits:
PRESENCE is Power, Aptitude, and Faith
REACTION is Reflexes, Reason, and Intuition
RESOLVE is Stamina, Retention, and Willpower

You generate the nine scores, and use those to determine your six traits. But, like one of the main goals of 5E I decided as accurate as the system is, it is too complex and cumbersome. Looks sort of similar to your idea, huh? But we eventually abandoned the nine abilities to focus on the six traits.
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
The only change I've needed was to give Int a modifier on the number of languages and tools. This keeps it from being a complete toilet ability (negative costs you a language or tool) and justifies giving it a small bonus for non-wizards. Wisdom and Charisma don't really need anything, because they have some of the most vital non-combat skills in the game (Insight, Perception, Survival, Deception, Persuasion). Dex is a bit strong, but I can live with it.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Yeah, I've seen and played games with more (as many as 12!) and less (as few as 3) but you still run into the same issues. The problem isn't with the core six, they work very well IMO offering enough to make them distinct. Other games have different labels and organize abilities differently, but really it is just a new version of the same thing.

Here is a set I developed for a game I made about 20 years ago.

View attachment 107231

Your BODY trait has three scores: Power, Reflexes, and Stamina
MIND is Aptitude, Reason, and Retention
SOUL is Faith, Intuition, and Willpower

These are crossed to create your other three traits:
PRESENCE is Power, Aptitude, and Faith
REACTION is Reflexes, Reason, and Intuition
RESOLVE is Stamina, Retention, and Willpower

You generate the nine scores, and use those to determine your six traits. But, like one of the main goals of 5E I decided as accurate as the system is, it is too complex and cumbersome. Looks sort of similar to your idea, huh? But we eventually abandoned the nine abilities to focus on the six traits.
The problem isn't with the core six, they work very well IMO offering enough to make them distinct.

Yeah see that is where the triad to me is a way to address what you see as the problem.

You start with "what role does those score play in its triad." Then ypu pick triads that will see significant play.

Everything smaller becomes a skill or a feat or a trait or whatever you want to call the lesser-adders.

So, really you have very distinct elements for each that see play.

The bigger design issue is actually how you want the triads chosen.

I mean, the three i presented were basically body, brains and BS - if you will forgive the aliterative nod replacing social.

But in 5e, the actual three pillars are combat, exploration and social - so maybe even then those three triads would not be appropriate.

Maybe you should have triads of - well, combat, exploration and social and then your "weapons" (be they swords or spells or fists) would all use your three combat stats. perhaps a lot of the actual physical aspects might get reflected in the explore traits - right alongside your spotting and stealth and even certain knowledge type stuff... Then the key elements like physical training for athletics and acrobatic vs book learning etc etc would be seen in the "skills" (lesser-adders.)

just thoughts - some of it i have used in play from time to time but i have not implemented a full system based on it so...
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
The only change I've needed was to give Int a modifier on the number of languages and tools. This keeps it from being a complete toilet ability (negative costs you a language or tool) and justifies giving it a small bonus for non-wizards. Wisdom and Charisma don't really need anything, because they have some of the most vital non-combat skills in the game (Insight, Perception, Survival, Deception, Persuasion). Dex is a bit strong, but I can live with it.
Why do you find knowing things to be unimportant?
 

bedir than

Explorer
The only change I've needed was to give Int a modifier on the number of languages and tools. This keeps it from being a complete toilet ability (negative costs you a language or tool) and justifies giving it a small bonus for non-wizards. Wisdom and Charisma don't really need anything, because they have some of the most vital non-combat skills in the game (Insight, Perception, Survival, Deception, Persuasion). Dex is a bit strong, but I can live with it.
After Xanathar's and Saltmarsh the importance of tools is elevated enough in my campaign that the lack of importance of intelligence is the base game essentially disappeared with the change you made.
I do have a tool proficiency for siege weapons.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I think shifting initiative to Int is a good way to reduce the dex super stat and make int more well rounded. Initiative is always good.

The cha = inspiration is solid. Gives player some control over when they get advantage benefits.

Wisdom because of perception is already pretty good, I see it as a dump stat less than the other two.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
I played this game for 30 years before coming to the conclusion that it was a waste of time. The question is not whether the abilities are perfectly balanced, but whether they are balanced enough. And they are.
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
Why do you find knowing things to be unimportant?
I assume you refer to the "knowledge skills" Arcana, History Nature, and Religion; if not, please clarify. IME, the knowledge skills are very DM dependent, especially since there is no specifically listed use for any of these rolls in the PHB or DMG. Some DMs use them quite a bit, making them very important, but seldom vital to the success of an adventure, even if they do make it easier. Other DMs barely think about them, and either give out the information without a check, make the check too high to be worthwhile, or (worst of all) having the roll give out completely worthless, or even distracting information. Obviously most DMs fit somewhere between these extremes, but it does reduce the overall value of these skills for most games. Giving Intelligence a slight bonus (languages and tools) helps make it less of a "dump stat."

To be fair, I know some DMs also nerf other skills, but at least there is a section in the PHB or DMG that says how they're to be used. I also knew a DM that hated rogues with a fiery passion, making stealth virtually impossible to use. These are far more the exception than the rule, however, making them overall more important in most games.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
I assume you refer to the "knowledge skills" Arcana, History Nature, and Religion; if not, please clarify. IME, the knowledge skills are very DM dependent, especially since there is no specifically listed use for any of these rolls in the PHB or DMG. Some DMs use them quite a bit, making them very important, but seldom vital to the success of an adventure, even if they do make it easier. Other DMs barely think about them, and either give out the information without a check, make the check too high to be worthwhile, or (worst of all) having the roll give out completely worthless, or even distracting information. Obviously most DMs fit somewhere between these extremes, but it does reduce the overall value of these skills for most games. Giving Intelligence a slight bonus (languages and tools) helps make it less of a "dump stat."

To be fair, I know some DMs also nerf other skills, but at least there is a section in the PHB or DMG that says how they're to be used. I also knew a DM that hated rogues with a fiery passion, making stealth virtually impossible to use. These are far more the exception than the rule, however, making them overall more important in most games.
If you want Int to be less of a dump stat then create more int classes and subclasses.

Do you know why the rogue swashbuckler dumps int? Because dex, charisma and con are always going to be more important to him.
Do you know why the wizard always dumps charisma? Because Dex, Int and Con are always going to be more important to him.
Do you know why the monk dumps strength? Because Dex, Wisdom and Con are always going to be more important to him.

There's literally nothing you can do to the dump stats to make them of equal value to the stats that the classes are already going to be taking and so the main stats are always going to be more important.

Also, literally every change you make is either a buff or a nerf. If you give int a bonus that becomes a detriment when negative then you've just nerfed any class that doesn't main stat int. Now they lose something for having 8 int, effectively nerfing them if they go 8 int and nerfing them in their other stats if that was the reason they choose to go 10 int instead of 8.

I prefer not to have non-wizards be nerfed, or at least if we are going to go that route at least nerf wizards that dump strength/charisma/wisdom equally
 

Yaarel

Explorer
Give Perception to Intelligence.

Perceptive people are intelligent.

Perceptiveness explains the Initiative bonus − the person perceives and assesses the threat that is approaching.

Give Perception and Initiative to Intelligence.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Give Perception to Intelligence.

Perceptive people are intelligent.

Perceptiveness explains the Initiative bonus − the person perceives and assesses the threat that is approaching.

Give Perception and Initiative to Intelligence.
Better yet do as we did and unlink all skills from ability scores. :) Mix-and-match them in whatever way makes sense and life is easier IMO.

But I agree INT could easily be used for Initiative, or an option for it at least.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
IDK, INT would be like my third pick for Initiative, after DEX and WIS. I get why people are looking at INT for game balance reasons, but it "doesn't make enough sense" to me that I find it a bit of a turn off. Also, at higher levels, I don't think the Wizard also needs to be the fastest reacting character.

Reaction time is a mixed bag, and there are arguments to be made for all three of DEX, WIS and INT. Maybe that's not a bad answer actually, why not make initiative more MAD and allow up to +2 from each of those three stats rather than basing in just on one?

I've also been giving serious thought to changing STR/DEX to be just damage mods/hit mods and doing away with full DEX or STR based combat.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
IDK, INT would be like my third pick for Initiative, after DEX and WIS. I get why people are looking at INT for game balance reasons, but it "doesn't make enough sense" to me that I find it a bit of a turn off. Also, at higher levels, I don't think the Wizard also needs to be the fastest reacting character.

Reaction time is a mixed bag, and there are arguments to be made for all three of DEX, WIS and INT. Maybe that's not a bad answer actually, why not make initiative more MAD and allow up to +2 from each of those three stats rather than basing in just on one?

I've also been giving serious thought to changing STR/DEX to be just damage mods/hit mods and doing away with full DEX or STR based combat.
One option we considered was using all three and adding them up for the total modifier, but characters strong in those three will likely always go first.

Going with only DEX attack and only STR damage is a good option IMO also. It makes is so even tanky-armor-type will want at least some DEX.
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
If you want Int to be less of a dump stat then create more int classes and subclasses.
Not big on homebrewing classes & sub-classes. I wish the Warlock was Int instead of Cha, because it would have put another spellcaster using Int and balanced it out a bit. Oddly, despite my heavy dislike of 4E, I really liked the concept of the gish class (Swordblade?), and would love to have seen that as a 1/2 caster class like the paladin and ranger for the wizard.

Do you know why the rogue swashbuckler dumps int? Because dex, charisma and con are always going to be more important to him.
Do you know why the wizard always dumps charisma? Because Dex, Int and Con are always going to be more important to him.
Do you know why the monk dumps strength? Because Dex, Wisdom and Con are always going to be more important to him.

There's literally nothing you can do to the dump stats to make them of equal value to the stats that the classes are already going to be taking and so the main stats are always going to be more important.
Your experiences have been vastly different than mine. IME everyone except the wizard, eldritch knight, and arcane trickster will dump Int, with the occasional RP type player who wants to have an average or higher intelligence character. Also, almost every non-bladesinger wizard I've seen dumps Str the same way everyone else dumps Int. This is partially due to stereotypes, but also due to the fact that the "penalties" for a low score in those is irrelvant to the character.

Also, literally every change you make is either a buff or a nerf. If you give int a bonus that becomes a detriment when negative then you've just nerfed any class that doesn't main stat int. Now they lose something for having 8 int, effectively nerfing them if they go 8 int and nerfing them in their other stats if that was the reason they choose to go 10 int instead of 8.
It's a small buff/nerf, yes. This is deliberate. Having a low ability score is supposed to be an actual penalty, not something that is just shrugged off. By your argument, Con is a nerf to every class, since everyone needs it, but no one ever uses it as a primary ability.

If they had balanced the saving throws across all 6 abilities (which I feel is their biggest failure of 5E), this discussion would be irrelevant, since having a low ability score would make you vulnerable to something. Instead, you have 3 abilities (Str, Int, Cha) that can be safely ignored by a large number of characters with minimal drawback.

I prefer not to have non-wizards be nerfed, or at least if we are going to go that route at least nerf wizards that dump strength/charisma/wisdom equally
Using the Encumbrance variant is a great way to prevent Str as a dump score. Dumping Wis is a terrible idea, as you will be surprised frequently and there are a LOT of Wis saves that can be terrible to fail. I'll agree on Cha, and have found only the follower loyalty rule (DMG or XGtE) as a potential penalty. If I could think of something else, I would probably implement it.
 

Quartz

Explorer
I'd start off simply: bows use Str, not Dex; it's crossbows that use Dex to hit and damage, being sniper weapons. A Str 3 Dex 18 PC is not going to be pulling a longbow.
 
Like many others, in my 35+ years of gaming, I have played non-D&D/D20 systems that have used either more or less than 6 ability scores. I have found that, if done right, a system with 8 ability scores can work better than the D&D model. Generally, with 8 primary abilities, secondary abilities are an average of two of the primary scores. An example from what people have posted here would be Initiative. That would be an average of Dex and Int. Attacks would be an average of Str and Dex. Damage would be an average of Str or Dex, depending on weapon type, and Int. Int in this case is representing the character's knowledge of combat and weak points, etc.

But another thing to take into account, regardless of system, is whether you are playing with min-max asshats or with players who like to make balanced characters. No matter how many ability scores you use, or how balanced you try to make things, there will always be those players who will try to game the system.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I'd start off simply: bows use Str, not Dex; it's crossbows that use Dex to hit and damage, being sniper weapons. A Str 3 Dex 18 PC is not going to be pulling a longbow.
If you've ever handled a recreated long bow, a Str 10 can have issues pulling it. I would definitely apply Str penalties to attack as well as damage before Dex ever comes into the picture.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Give Perception to Intelligence.

Perceptive people are intelligent.

Perceptiveness explains the Initiative bonus − the person perceives and assesses the threat that is approaching.

Give Perception and Initiative to Intelligence.
The absent minded professor springs to mind
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Not big on homebrewing classes & sub-classes. I wish the Warlock was Int instead of Cha, because it would have put another spellcaster using Int and balanced it out a bit. Oddly, despite my heavy dislike of 4E, I really liked the concept of the gish class (Swordblade?), and would love to have seen that as a 1/2 caster class like the paladin and ranger for the wizard.

Your experiences have been vastly different than mine. IME everyone except the wizard, eldritch knight, and arcane trickster will dump Int, with the occasional RP type player who wants to have an average or higher intelligence character. Also, almost every non-bladesinger wizard I've seen dumps Str the same way everyone else dumps Int. This is partially due to stereotypes, but also due to the fact that the "penalties" for a low score in those is irrelvant to the character.

It's a small buff/nerf, yes. This is deliberate. Having a low ability score is supposed to be an actual penalty, not something that is just shrugged off. By your argument, Con is a nerf to every class, since everyone needs it, but no one ever uses it as a primary ability.

If they had balanced the saving throws across all 6 abilities (which I feel is their biggest failure of 5E), this discussion would be irrelevant, since having a low ability score would make you vulnerable to something. Instead, you have 3 abilities (Str, Int, Cha) that can be safely ignored by a large number of characters with minimal drawback.

Using the Encumbrance variant is a great way to prevent Str as a dump score. Dumping Wis is a terrible idea, as you will be surprised frequently and there are a LOT of Wis saves that can be terrible to fail. I'll agree on Cha, and have found only the follower loyalty rule (DMG or XGtE) as a potential penalty. If I could think of something else, I would probably implement it.
"Your experiences have been vastly different than mine. IME everyone except the wizard, eldritch knight, and arcane trickster will dump Int, with the occasional RP type player who wants to have an average or higher intelligence character."

Looking across the last 4 5e games I was in, the only PCs who went with 8 int were barbarians or other barbarisn-like characters.

Most had 10s in Int, except the bard orctogue who was going for investigator or knowledge guy (and the arcane trickster.)

But, as I have said before, a lot is gonna depend on the nature of challenges presented in the campaign. If the GM doesnt present challenges that show investigation as worth being good at or knowledge skills that matter to success, then one ought to not expect to see all that much investment in those by the players driven to make character choices solely by mechanical considerations.

In my current 5e game, I have an 8, 10, 10, 12, 16 int spread among PCs.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
"Your experiences have been vastly different than mine. IME everyone except the wizard, eldritch knight, and arcane trickster will dump Int, with the occasional RP type player who wants to have an average or higher intelligence character."

Looking across the last 4 5e games I was in, the only PCs who went with 8 int were barbarians or other barbarisn-like characters.

Most had 10s in Int, except the bard orctogue who was going for investigator or knowledge guy (and the arcane trickster.)

But, as I have said before, a lot is gonna depend on the nature of challenges presented in the campaign. If the GM doesnt present challenges that show investigation as worth being good at or knowledge skills that matter to success, then one ought to not expect to see all that much investment in those by the players driven to make character choices solely by mechanical considerations.

In my current 5e game, I have an 8, 10, 10, 12, 16 int spread among PCs.
I wanted to add - penalizing a language when negative INT or extra languages when high int isn’t going to change whether someone dumps int or not

it might make a few go to 10 int instead of 8. But then they are just putting the 8 in str or cha or wisdom or dex.
 

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