log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Balancing the ability scores and their contribution to different classes

squibbles

Adventurer
I couldn't get too far in the game, I have other issues with it. But I wholly agree with the challenges he took on as a designer, whether he succeeded or not.
I played through the game and its expansions (but not Deadfire) and very much enjoyed them. The classes, spells, resolution mechanics, and itemization were all things that made sense to me. But I never really grokked the ability scores; to me they feel inconsequential except at the extremes. Lots of build guides have weird design artifacts like max Intelligence, low Constitution Barbarians (because their melee attacks are AoE and Intelligence makes the AoE bigger, and they can use polearms to keep out of reach of being attacked).

I agree with you that some of those design goals are good ones, but I think the mechanics they arrived at break down if the fiction behind them needs to make sense. That works in a CRPG but is otherwise a pretty major problem.

There is probably a more conservative solution (elegant as you put it) that would result in better build diversity.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Doodling around with system ideas somewhere between PF and 5e, I keep coming up with wanting 4 physical stats:

Str - Damage + Carrying Capacity
Dex - To Hit + Hand-eye coordination skills
Agility - AC + Initiative (maybe)
Con - Hit Point bonus + fort save

Splitting the damage from too hit seems nice. As does not requiring the hand eye coordination to go with agility and speed. Separating them completely might fit better if armor had soak too, but that might add too much complexity.

For mental, I'd like to get rid of Intelligence. I'm still working on what I'd do with them.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The thread about the Ability Score Increases is still going strong. A bit too strong for my taste, but I do jump in to read samples of it.

In the last few pages, I've seen a few posts circling around the topic of cookie-cutter characters, classes having a critical ability score that needs to be a certain number or higher, etc. For some reason, it connected to a few other thoughts I had recently and with a video I've watched at lunch last week.

So, here are a few example points that highlight one aspect of the ability scores that I'm not fond of:
  • Classes having a specific ability score marked as their key ability score.
  • Classes receiving almost no benefits from many ability scores.
  • Some ability scores are really, from a macro perspective, not as useful as others. (dexterity being really good is a frequent topic of discussion)
  • Players feeling like they have to balance the mechanical aspect of the ability scores with what it suggests narratively and for their characters. In my opinion, it leads to people feeling like they can't fully make their character if their race doesn't give them a bonus in their key ability score.
Anyway, these are just some examples, and they're my opinion. In opposition to these points, I'd like to see things like:
  • Less emphasis on a single key ability score for a class
  • Having most ability scores be of value to most classes
  • Have the gap of how useful certain ability scores feel be reduced
  • Players being able to go from their character concept into mechanical character building without having to worry that their character will be fun.
1)
Barbarians need str, dex and con. You can make a fine barbarian focused on any of those 3 stats.
Bards need Cha, dex and con. You can make a fine bard focused on either Cha or Dex.
Clerics need str or dex, wis, con. You can make a fine cleric focused on str, dex, wis, or even con.
Fighters need str or dex, con. You can make a fine fighter focused on either str or dex.

The point I'm illustrating is not that classes have singular focus on ability scores. It's that once you've chosen a path for a particular character of a particular class, that's where the singular focus on ability scores comes in.

2)
Dexterity mostly sucks for Greatsword wielding fighter. Dexterity only appears good when you are comparing what it does in a vaccum to what the other stats do in a vaccum.

3)
Character building in a class based game is about building a character toward your classes strengths. It doesn't have to be perfectly optimized but it does need to be directionally there. If you do that you will have a fun character. I mean consider a fighter that has a low str, dex and con. Should that character be as effective as a fighter with good str, dex and con. I think not. And since some degree of effectiveness is almost always needed for fun then I don't think that last bullet point can ever be fulfilled.

Ultimately I'd suggest to consider reevaluating whether your criticisms are true and whether your goals are appropriate for a class based game is a good starting point.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I mean consider a fighter that has a low str, dex and con. Should that character be as effective as a fighter with good str, dex and con.
My point is not so much that you should be able to do a fighter focused on intelligence and wisdom and be as efficient. My point is for most classes, there's 3 or 4 ability scores that have very little impact of your actual game. I'd like for intelligence not to be worthless to fighters. Same for other combinations of ability scores and statistics. You play play a rogue with 18 dex, a reasonable amount of constitution and all the other stats as dump stats and he'll work just fine. Because rogues get very little incentive to splash into different ability scores.

Barbarians need str, dex and con. You can make a fine barbarian focused on any of those 3 stats.
Bards need Cha, dex and con. You can make a fine bard focused on either Cha or Dex.
Clerics need str or dex, wis, con. You can make a fine cleric focused on str, dex, wis, or even con.
Fighters need str or dex, con. You can make a fine fighter focused on either str or dex.
For every example you've given there, you'd try and get a minimal amount of constitution, because it's great, and then you'd focus on one of the other two. Why have six ability scores if all classes are entrenched in two or three maximum.

I think there's interesting ways that intelligence could be made to be useful to fighters and rogues, and dexterity to be made useful to wizards, etc.
 

Jmarso

Explorer
I'd like to see a couple things for fighters based on INT, like extra proficiencies for high INT or perhaps fewer maneuvers or being locked out of the battle master archetype (which is even described as an 'academic' field of combat) if your intelligence score is too low. Imagine having a smart fighter who could take proficiency in 1 or 2 INT based skills. He's still not a rogue, but now is more interesting to play and has more to contribute to the party. Actually, I'd like to see that for all classes, not just the fighter.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Fewer abilities => More opportunity for SAD in a TTRPG where you don't want combination computations
Eh, they just didn't go far enough. Four abilities is still too many. When you take the number down to zero, this problem goes away.

Ability scores are wholly unnecessary and a pox on the entire RPG genre. But I'm afraid we're stuck with them (and stuck with six of them) in D&D. Some traditions are too strong to break.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Ability scores are wholly unnecessary and a pox on the entire RPG genre. But I'm afraid we're stuck with them (and stuck with six of them) in D&D. Some traditions are too strong to break.
Out of curiosity, what don't you like about ability scores aside from what is already being discussed in this thread? What alternative would you go for?
 

I've thought of hacking together a skills only mini RPG.

It seems more intuitive that there's innate abilities that affect a group of skills, but I'm not so convinced that's always the case.

Thinking on sports, my weightlifting doesn't translate at all to my tennis conditioning, nor do either have a big impact on my ability to jump long distances or wrestle someone.

With a skills only approach you could have a character who is considered strong on the basis that they have many strength type skills, or intelligent because they possess a lot of lore skills, etc.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Alternatively, and I've posted about this on the boards before, if I were redoing the stats for D&D, I'd pair them up like 4e but throw out the idea of players picking one or the other to use for their primary saves/defenses.

I think this would boil down to 3 'types' of characters; Str, Cha, and Int.

I think they can leave things more or less as-is but do a better job of sprinkling the secondary benefits of each stat around better.

Thus, Int to initiative (quickness of mind to act first), removal of acrobatics (or a more rigid rewriting of it) and expansion of athletics. Moving some cha skills to other stats.

Maybe change how constitution contributes to health; in present form with enough con it sort of supersedes the class based hit die. Mainly an issue when playing with generous stats, but people seem to do that often.

I guess the bigger issues is that there are effective dump stats (there should not be) and the between-attribute balance in secondary effects seems to depend on assuming pointbuy.
 

Minigiant

Legend
SAD classes are as bad a classes with dump states as both make characters that are one sided.

A barbarian who only needs STR because its the only score that benefits her and a barbarian who only needs STR because the other scores are useless are both walking idiots.

Better subclasses might help.

  • Barbarian
    • Ancestral Guardian
      • STR for attacks and Armor
      • CON for HP
      • WIS for Spiritual Defenses
    • Berserker
      • STR for attacks and Armor
      • CON for HP
    • Hulk
      • STR for attacks and Armor
    • Juggernaut/Ulfhednar
      • CON for HP and AC
    • Savage
      • STR for attacks
      • DEX for AC
      • CON for HP and AC
    • Storm Herald
      • STR for attacks and Armor
      • CHA for Storm Aura
    • Thane
      • STR for attacks and Armor
      • CHA for Warcry and Diplomacy
    • Totem Warrior
      • STR for attacks and Armor
      • WIS for Totem Attunement
    • Whirling Slayer
      • DEX for attacks and Armor
      • CON for HP
    • Zealot
      • STR for attacks and Armor
      • WIS for Divine toughness
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top