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D&D 5E Ability Scores

Einlanzer0

Explorer
This is not my first thread on ability scores, but I'm in the middle of a weeks-long brainstorming session and want to gather as much thought and feedback as possible. I think one of the few things WotC really dropped the ball on for 5e was in not putting a big emphasis on making sure the ability scores were designed well in terms of strategic offerings and balance. This has the effect of emphasizing dump stats, making characters less diverse, and building generally less interesting than it could be. I see several major issues:

1. Str and Dex have no synergy and instead just render each other obsolete
3. No other score is competitive with Con as a secondary, pretty much ever
4. Int in particular is almost completely irrelevant outside wizard spellcasting

...and a host of smaller ones. The thing is, these wouldn't really have been that hard to address properly. I have some ideas I want to playtest, some of which I've talked a little about in other threads.

First, I do not believe Finesse weapons (and Longbows) should get dex mod to damage, only to attack rolls. Anyone who fights in melee should benefit from both Str and Dex to some extent. Removing this doesn't affect Strength-based classes at all, but does nerf dex-based builds to varying degrees, based mostly on how damage is dealt. The effect on rogues, for example, is smaller than the effect on fighters.

So, what's the compensation? First, I don't think it needs to be perfect. It's my opinion that Dex is a bit too generous in the core rules, and that Dex builds compete too well with Str builds in terms of both damage and defense for the versatility and utility they provide, especially at lower levels. So, something that results in a very slight nerf overall is acceptable to me, while a 3.5 level nerf is not acceptable, because it makes Dex builds completely unattractive. My proposal is that Dex should modify your critical hit range. Instead of being a fixed 20, it goes down modestly with your Dex, say to 17 with a Dex of 20 (this would stack with the Champion's feature). Additionally, when you score a critical hit, you add both your Str and Dex modifiers to the damage. I think I would apply this to spellcasting as well as melee and ranged attacks. I this this makes both Str and Dex more tactically interesting as well as more "realistic". One of them (for any physical attacker) will be your primary, and the other one becomes an attractive potential secondary the same way Con is. This also translates into a more significant advantage, again, based on how the class deals damage. Rogues in particular would benefit, which I feel is appropriate.

For Con, there's nothing really that make sense to change. Rather, I think the solution is to provide a bit of extra utility to all three mental scores, in particular Int, which I strongly feel was made too irrelevant in 5e, that help those scores compete better with getting more HP. For intelligence, I recommend using older editions' benefit of adding additional proficiency in skills, tools, and languages based on Int (though not on a strictly 1:1 basis, because that would be too generous in 5e). Additionally, I'm working on rules to replace Hero Points with Tactical Points, which work similarly but are renewable and Int based, rather than being static and level based, which sucks. Wisdom doesn't really need any major expansions, but it's helped significantly in my campaigns by its use in sanity and madness rules (it has a new skill, Composure, and Medicine has been moved to Int). For Charisma, I like the idea of using it in the faction rules to give it more mechanically hard benefits. In addition, I'm playtesting using it in the Inspiration rules to make Inspiration recursive.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I agree that in 5E, Dex now seems to be the uber-stat. At the same time, I don't want to go out of my way to nerf dex based characters. They should be a viable build.

So what can you do about it? Well, in my campaign people can buy heavier weight bows (or modify magic bows) that require N strength to pull. So if you buy a bow reinforced to a +2, you have to have a 14 or better strength to pull and add +2 to attack and damage. This makes sense to me, the heavier the pull the more the arrow will penetrate. If you don't have a high enough strength, you have disadvantage on attacks but still add your strength mod to the damage.

I also try to throw in a variety of skill checks. Climb/Jump with Athletics, Investigation or Religion checks to reward intelligence and so on. In some cases I'll let people substitute Acrobatics for Athletics when climbing (think parkour) but not all of the time. It's one thing to swing from a chandelier using Acrobatics, another to think that you can jump the chasm by just doing a backflip.

I also pay attention to encumbrance. I don't make people track to the pound, but do require that people have a general idea. If someone wants to move a wounded compatriot out of the way, they have to be strong enough to drag them and so on.

My goal is not to penalize certain builds, just to reward others. Different archetypes should shine at different points.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
I agree that in 5E, Dex now seems to be the uber-stat. At the same time, I don't want to go out of my way to nerf dex based characters. They should be a viable build.

So what can you do about it? Well, in my campaign people can buy heavier weight bows (or modify magic bows) that require N strength to pull. So if you buy a bow reinforced to a +2, you have to have a 14 or better strength to pull and add +2 to attack and damage. This makes sense to me, the heavier the pull the more the arrow will penetrate. If you don't have a high enough strength, you have disadvantage on attacks but still add your strength mod to the damage.

I also try to throw in a variety of skill checks. Climb/Jump with Athletics, Investigation or Religion checks to reward intelligence and so on. In some cases I'll let people substitute Acrobatics for Athletics when climbing (think parkour) but not all of the time. It's one thing to swing from a chandelier using Acrobatics, another to think that you can jump the chasm by just doing a backflip.

I also pay attention to encumbrance. I don't make people track to the pound, but do require that people have a general idea. If someone wants to move a wounded compatriot out of the way, they have to be strong enough to drag them and so on.

My goal is not to penalize certain builds, just to reward others. Different archetypes should shine at different points.

I agree, but that's not my only issue. It bothers me just as much, if not more, that Str and Dex are interchangeable rather than supporting one another. Int and Dex were the same way in 4e. There's virtually never a reason to have a build that emphasizes some of both rather than pumping one and dumping the other. I think that's a big mechanical problem with the system as a whole. My primary goal is to address this, while also maybe slightly (at most) nerfing the overall effectiveness of Dex builds, since Dex builds give you a lot of utility that Str builds do not.

Using my proposed changes for Dex, I'd like some help figuring out what the best "break-even" point is. Is it a crit threshold of 18, 15, or lower?

If we assume a target with a target hit of 10 or higher, this is what we have for a level 1 Rogue assuming Dex 16 grants a crit threshold of 19:


Str 10, Dex 16 Standard Rules
90% - 1d6+1d6+3 = 10
10% - 2d6+2d6+3 = 16
Total damage over 10 rounds = 106


Str 10, Dex 16 Modified Rules
70% - 1d6+1d6 = 7
20% - 2d6+2d6+6 = 16
Total damage over 10 rounds = 80

This is a pretty strict nerf to Dex builds. However, for rogues in particular, the scaling on Sneak Attack will first mitigate and then overpower this, swinging the balance in the opposite direction. This is still unfair to fighters, however. So let's look at a crit of 18 instead of 19 at 16 Dex.

Str 10, Dex 16 Standard Rules
90% - 1d6+1d6+3 = 10
10% - 2d6+2d6+3 = 16
Overall average = 106


Str 10, Dex 16 Modified Rules
70% - 1d6+1d6 = 7
30% - 2d6+2d6+3 = 16
Total damage over 10 rounds = 97

This is starting to look a little more appropriate. Still a slight nerf to Dex builds, but, again, the target hit value also factors into the equation. If you need a 14 to hit the target, the extra crit chance becomes much more valuable in terms of your total potential damage. This would mean that Dex based builds have a particular potency against very high AC targets relative to Str based builds, which actually makes sense.

Dex < 12 = 20 crit
Dex between 12 and 15 = 19 crit
Dex between 16 and 19 = 18 crit
Dex 20+ = 17 crit. Or maybe not. I may cap it at 18. More theorycrafting will help make this determination.

Using this will be an overall slight nerf to fighters using Dex based builds, but they should still be significantly better than their 3.5 counterparts, and should compete well enough with Str builds - in particular against targets with high AC, where they would pick up an advantage. It actually will be a buff to Rogues as they rise in level, possibly so much of one that it will require rebalancing the Sneak Attack table. Most importantly, this will allow characters to invest in both Str and Dex if they really want to maximize their damage at the expense of survivability and utility.
 
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If fighting types benefited from both Strength and Dex, instead of needing one instead of the other, then there's a risk that you might reduce the number of options available.

In a worst-case scenario, if both your Strength and Dex modifiers added to your attack roll, it might feel like both are mandatory, so all fighters end up with Strength 20 and Dex 20 and they don't have enough points left over to be distinct in any way. If nothing else, the current system lets a character max out their mandatory stats while still having enough points left over to diversify in some way.

With the current proposal, I don't think it would get to the point that a Strength-based fighter would really care about investing in Dex, because crits in 5E are kind of lame for fighters (as contrasted with barbarians, who already care more about Dex since they don't have heavy armor; and especially rogues, who already only care about Dex and would massively benefit from expanded criticals on their sneak attacks).
 

Lehrbuch

First Post
This is not my first thread on ability scores, but I'm in the middle of a weeks-long brainstorming session and want to gather as much thought and feedback as possible. I think one of the few things WotC really dropped the ball on for 5e was in not putting a big emphasis on making sure the ability scores were designed well in terms of strategic offerings and balance. This has the effect of emphasizing dump stats, making characters less diverse, and building generally less interesting than it could be.

From my experience of playing 5e this isn't really a big deal. The main reason is that players play their PC not some other PC. If a player has a PC with a low Dex, but a high Cha, then as far as possible, she will try to arrange things so that she is rolling a Cha Ability Check, rather than a Dex one.

The main thing that you can do as DM is get out of the way. Don't create hurdles to stop the PCs doing what they are good at.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
You know what's weird? For all the commentary about how scores are useless, I still like to drop 14's into Con, Int and Cha. Aside from helping me out on saves, it feels like it helps round out my PCs being able to "do stuff" aside from "hit it with a stick".
 

Prism

Explorer
The problem you are describing focuses mainly on combat. What about skill use? If a high Dex character dumps strength then they have to accept that they can't climb, swim, break down doors or carry much equipment if you use the encumbrance variant. A high Str, low Dex character tends to alert the enemy that they are coming, rarely has a high initiative and is no good a balancing or picking locks. In our game we typically roll more skill checks in a session than combat rolls.

Having a good con is only useful for those moments that your character actually falls to very low hit points often. For example my 5th level con 12 fighter has not been to 5 hit points or less over the last couple of sessions so having a 14 in con would have made no difference. At the same time I have made a fair number of knowledge checks using his 14 int. In may ways I find Con one of the least useful stats. Its usually 3rd or 4th option in our group I reckon.

I like that 5e only emphasises 1 stat for combat use. It means that you can pick all your other stats based on purely the character you want to play, or skill use, or secondary role.
 

Horwath

Hero
I wrote up one suggestion that reduces number of abilities down to 4.
Thus making each more important and more hurting if it gets dumped down to 8 or 6.
http://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...ad-of-6-And-returning-to-3-saves-instead-of-6



Another solution would be that damage and attack roll comes from 2 abilities or double of one ability.

I.E.

melee attack roll would add 2×str mod to attack and 2×str mod to damage, 2handed would add 3×str to damage.

finesse attack roll would be then str+dex mod to attack and damage.

Bow attack roll would be dex+wis and damage dex+str mods.

base AC could be 10+dex+wis mod.

saves could be back at 3 again

Fort: str+con

Ref: dex+int

Will: wis+cha


skills could also work with 2 abilites then:

Athletics and acrobatic: str+dex
Stealth: dex+wis
Perception: wis+int
Intimidate:str+cha,
Insight: int+wis
Deception:wis+cha
Survival: int+wis
Knowledge:2×int
 

What about skill use? If a high Dex character dumps strength then they have to accept that they can't climb, swim, break down doors or carry much equipment if you use the encumbrance variant. A high Str, low Dex character tends to alert the enemy that they are coming, rarely has a high initiative and is no good a balancing or picking locks. In our game we typically roll more skill checks in a session than combat rolls.
If the rogue can't climb or swim, then that puts them in the same boat with the wizard and cleric, who can also do neither. If the mission at hand requires everyone in the party to do those things, then the rogue isn't exactly holding things back.

Having a moderately high stat is only useful if everyone has a moderately high (or higher) stat. It doesn't matter if you're rolling at +0 for Stealth, because the paladin is rolling at -1 with disadvantage and it only takes one loud person to spoil surprise for everyone.

The rogue doesn't need to break down doors, though, because the fighter or barbarian can do that. Likewise, the fighter doesn't need to pick locks, because the rogue is there to do that. And everyone except the bard can safely dump Charisma, because that's the only one character who needs to make Charisma-based checks.
 

Prism

Explorer
If the rogue can't climb or swim, then that puts them in the same boat with the wizard and cleric, who can also do neither. If the mission at hand requires everyone in the party to do those things, then the rogue isn't exactly holding things back.

I agree that not all characters need to do everything. That's kind of my point. Once you have decided on your high stat you can mostly put the other stats wherever you want based on what skill usage you fancy or simply to round out the character. The OP is suggesting a house rule to benefit characters taking str and dex rather than just one. For me, this removes flexibility for a benefit that I don't see. I rarely see combat types dump either stat as they don't want to be truly bad at those aspects, but if they do, I can't see the problem.

Having a moderately high stat is only useful if everyone has a moderately high (or higher) stat. It doesn't matter if you're rolling at +0 for Stealth, because the paladin is rolling at -1 with disadvantage and it only takes one loud person to spoil surprise for everyone.

The rogue doesn't need to break down doors, though, because the fighter or barbarian can do that. Likewise, the fighter doesn't need to pick locks, because the rogue is there to do that. And everyone except the bard can safely dump Charisma, because that's the only one character who needs to make Charisma-based checks.

Who is to say there is a strength fighter in the party? Or a rogue? Sometimes the rogue might be the intelligence guy when there is no wizard. Having free choice about most of your stats allows all sorts of flexibility.

Finally I disagree that everyone can dump charisma. A good portion of our game is interaction based and we roll plenty of cha checks during a game. Unless only one character wants to fully participate in a big section of the game then several characters tend to have some sort of cha focus. Its pretty boring when only one person does all the talking surely.
 

Finally I disagree that everyone can dump charisma. A good portion of our game is interaction based and we roll plenty of cha checks during a game. Unless only one character wants to fully participate in a big section of the game then several characters tend to have some sort of cha focus. Its pretty boring when only one person does all the talking surely.
Talking doesn't rely on Charisma, unless you're trying to manipulate someone. If you just want to talk, then that's one of those things where you don't usually need to roll dice.

Maybe you do it differently, though.
 

Prism

Explorer
Talking doesn't rely on Charisma, unless you're trying to manipulate someone. If you just want to talk, then that's one of those things where you don't usually need to roll dice.

Maybe you do it differently, though.

I agree, however we are often trying to manipulate someone when its important. We often use cha checks to gather information, we often capture enemies not kill them, we sometimes lie to enemies.

We also tend to roleplay the mental stats. I don't always want to play an unsociable character. If someone plays an 8 cha character I expect they will roleplay it as such - in our group of course
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
If fighting types benefited from both Strength and Dex, instead of needing one instead of the other, then there's a risk that you might reduce the number of options available.

In a worst-case scenario, if both your Strength and Dex modifiers added to your attack roll, it might feel like both are mandatory, so all fighters end up with Strength 20 and Dex 20 and they don't have enough points left over to be distinct in any way. If nothing else, the current system lets a character max out their mandatory stats while still having enough points left over to diversify in some way.

With the current proposal, I don't think it would get to the point that a Strength-based fighter would really care about investing in Dex, because crits in 5E are kind of lame for fighters (as contrasted with barbarians, who already care more about Dex since they don't have heavy armor; and especially rogues, who already only care about Dex and would massively benefit from expanded criticals on their sneak attacks).

But they would get significantly more benefit from doing it than they do currently, especially Champions, and Dex would become an attractive potential secondary without feeling mandatory. That's the point I'm going for. I'm curious how people feel about the overall strength of the Rogue class relative to fighter, because I haven't played one yet in 5e. If I were to use this proposal, it might require a rebalancing of Sneak Attack damage, which I have no issue at all with doing.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
I agree that not all characters need to do everything. That's kind of my point. Once you have decided on your high stat you can mostly put the other stats wherever you want based on what skill usage you fancy or simply to round out the character. The OP is suggesting a house rule to benefit characters taking str and dex rather than just one. For me, this removes flexibility for a benefit that I don't see. I rarely see combat types dump either stat as they don't want to be truly bad at those aspects, but if they do, I can't see the problem.



Who is to say there is a strength fighter in the party? Or a rogue? Sometimes the rogue might be the intelligence guy when there is no wizard. Having free choice about most of your stats allows all sorts of flexibility.

Finally I disagree that everyone can dump charisma. A good portion of our game is interaction based and we roll plenty of cha checks during a game. Unless only one character wants to fully participate in a big section of the game then several characters tend to have some sort of cha focus. Its pretty boring when only one person does all the talking surely.

The thing is, though, is they really aren't very competitive with one another. If we eliminate the role of the primary stat and only look at each attribute as a secondary ones, they are easy to rank in order of general usefulness:

1. Con
2. Wis
3. Dex
4. Cha
5. Str (with standard encumbrance rule)
6. Int

With alternate encumbrance rules, Str moves above Cha. Dex and Wis are neck-in-neck, with the deciding line probably being whether or not you wear armor. Int is borderline garbage that directly gimps you unless you have wizard spellcasting. Str is almost completely useless for anyone who doesn't use it for their attack and damage rolls, while the same is not true for Dex. My goal is to make each ability score significant enough that you always give up something significant to gain something else that's significant.

Regarding the proposed house rule for Dex - keep in mind that the goal is to not require both to maintain what the game has now. Str characters will have the exact same damage output with 10 Dex as they do in the standard rules, and Dex based characters only have very slightly less. Dex characters are more likely to want a modest investment in Str, while Str characters can make a choice between better crits, higher HP, or whatever.
 
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Prism

Explorer
The thing is, though, is they really aren't very competitive with one another. If we eliminate the role of the primary stat and only look at each attribute as a secondary ones, they are easy to rank in order of general usefulness:

1. Con
2. Wis
3. Dex
4. Cha
5. Str (with standard encumbrance rule)
6. Int

Ok I assume you are referring to combat only then. There are some cases where you could want both Dex and Str e.g barbarians, but yes then Con is probably top of the list. You could work out a framework for monster knowledge checks which would emphasis Int in combat a little more.

However for the other parts of the game Con is probably near the bottom of the list. For exploration I would put Wis, Int and Dex near the top, and for social then Cha and Wis. I feel that if you over emphasized Str, Dex and Con use for combat then out of combat skills might suffer to some degree.

I say this from the point of view that we have a large exploration and social focus in our games. We typically have only one combat per session - sometimes zero, sometimes more.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
Ok I assume you are referring to combat only then. There are some cases where you could want both Dex and Str e.g barbarians, but yes then Con is probably top of the list. You could work out a framework for monster knowledge checks which would emphasis Int in combat a little more.

However for the other parts of the game Con is probably near the bottom of the list. For exploration I would put Wis, Int and Dex near the top, and for social then Cha and Wis. I feel that if you over emphasized Str, Dex and Con use for combat then out of combat skills might suffer to some degree.

I say this from the point of view that we have a large exploration and social focus in our games. We typically have only one combat per session - sometimes zero, sometimes more.

I'm not really. Unless you are or have a DM that particularly emphasizes the social and exploration pillars, that ranking will hold across all game play. However, with that said, combat is disproportionately important, because that's generally the only way you die. The story tends to bend itself around what PCs can and can't accomplish outside of combat.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Side note: While I don't favor changing STR and DEX, and kind of like their exclusionary nature now, I do agree that INT has been made a bit of a red-headed stepchild due to the change to skills. i wish they had left in an alternate rules that gave people between one and three bonus skill proficiencies based on INT score, though it would have to have a different progression, because tying it to the regular (STAT - 10)/2 range would I think give too many bonus skills. Maybe +1 skill proficiency for 12-15, and +2 for 16-20? Or something similar.

As it is, I like what they've done with attack bonus and damage vs. spreading out saves and limiting armor types - while you'll never be completely rid of multiple ability dependency, I like reducing it where you can, ecause you cna then introduce lower point buys without players feeling they have to spread the points as thinly as possible.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think one of the few things WotC really dropped the ball on for 5e was in not putting a big emphasis on making sure the ability scores were designed well in terms of strategic offerings and balance. This has the effect of emphasizing dump stats, making characters less diverse, and building generally less interesting than it could be..

WoTC hasn't dropped the ball or placed the emphasis. Players do. WoTC has made it clear there are 3 pillars to the game which are all equally important. It's individual groups that place emphasis on particular stats based on play style. If you're a group that does almost nothing but combat, then the combat orientated stats will seem to be front and center. If you're a group that does a lot of interaction (role-playing) instead of combat, then other abilities will seem more important.

We really need to stop blaming WoTC for things that are more determined by our personal preferences than anything they are doing.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
Side note: While I don't favor changing STR and DEX, and kind of like their exclusionary nature now, I do agree that INT has been made a bit of a red-headed stepchild due to the change to skills. i wish they had left in an alternate rules that gave people between one and three bonus skill proficiencies based on INT score, though it would have to have a different progression, because tying it to the regular (STAT - 10)/2 range would I think give too many bonus skills. Maybe +1 skill proficiency for 12-15, and +2 for 16-20? Or something similar.

As it is, I like what they've done with attack bonus and damage vs. spreading out saves and limiting armor types - while you'll never be completely rid of multiple ability dependency, I like reducing it where you can, ecause you cna then introduce lower point buys without players feeling they have to spread the points as thinly as possible.

I had planned to use the same progression for my houserule for Int and Dex:

below 12 - no change
12-15 - +1 Crit range, +1 skill/tool prof. or addl. language
16-20 - +2 Crit range, +2 skill/tool prof or addl. language

If that didn't feel significant enough, I would playtest +3 for 20 and above.
 

Einlanzer0

Explorer
WoTC hasn't dropped the ball or placed the emphasis. Players do. WoTC has made it clear there are 3 pillars to the game which are all equally important. It's individual groups that place emphasis on particular stats based on play style. If you're a group that does almost nothing but combat, then the combat orientated stats will seem to be front and center. If you're a group that does a lot of interaction (role-playing) instead of combat, then other abilities will seem more important.

We really need to stop blaming WoTC for things that are more determined by our personal preferences than anything they are doing.

Sorry, but no. If there's a systemic problem, it's on WotC. As I said above, combat is disproportionately important because that's how the rules are designed. Exploration and social pillars are much lighter and softer rulesets with a lot more narrative flexibility. Combat rules are granular, individualized, and are much more likely to control success and failure on both a personal and campaign scale. This is why the ability scores are not equal - Wis, Con, and Dex > Int and Cha, and the only reason Wis is ranked higher than Int and Cha is because Perception has ramifications for combat. Str is unusual in that it's a powerful stat, but can be completely replaced by Dex. I find all of these things to be problematic in 5e's standard rules.

For the mental scores to compete with the physical scores, they need to play a more significant role in combat, and there's no reason why they shouldn't.
 
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