D&D 5E Character sheet: Ability score or modifier in the big box?

Should the stat or modifier be emphasized (use big box) on the character sheet?


Joe Liker

First Post
I actually feel very strongly that it's insufferably rude and intrusive to tell another player how to record his/her character information.

As long as the information is all present and accurate, it's really none of your business how the record is formatted. "Correcting" anyone on something like this is highly inappropriate behavior.
 

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I kind of like the presentation of the Starter Set characters (and remember, they intentionally left the boxes unlabeled so we could do it however we like).

At my table players are free to list it however they want. I do make sure to let them know about the example of doing it an alternative (new) way, if they're used to doing it the old way.

On the other hand, I would not be happy if they ditched the 3-18 scores. They are product identity--part of what makes it D&D rather than an ever-evolving generic fantasy RPG.

This is the only reason why it's anything more than a minor annoyance. I don't want to see 3-18 disappear. I'm afraid that having the mod emphasized is sort of the first step towards eliminating the scores for 6E. That would make me sad. The scores are one of my sacred cows.

I doubt it. I consider it at least as likely that a 6e (in the reasonably distance future when it happens) will focus more on tradition than even 5e. They'll notice the complaints people have about some of the lore they unnecessarily changed and change it back. (IMO, while mechanics left much to be desired, D&D lore hit its high point in 2e. Improvements have come since then, but none of them are sufficient to justify the omissions and manglings.)

One nice thing that works well with keeping the ability scores as is, is when you are building a non standard human character in point buy where your primary ability score for the class is not the one you get a +1 in. You can set up your primary/secondary ability scores as 15/15 or 17/15 or 15/17 depending on which ability score bonuses you get. You can then split your ability score increase at level 4 to make that a 16/16 or 18/16 or 16/18 and get two modifier bumps and catch up to the other players.

Yes, this is a bit convoluted, but we have a few players at our table who did this. A halfing rogue/monk started with 17 Dex/15 wis; a Dragonborn wizard started with 15 Dex/15 Int. If the ability scores were reworked to just be the bonus, this granularity would be lost.

And some things should stay with tradition if the alternative does not make them significantly better.

Definitely. I would say that change for the sake of change has no point in a product such as a role-playing game. Change needs to materially improve a game and maintain product identity to be called for.
 


drjones

Explorer
The only absolutely WRONG way to do it is to assume that the way you like it is correct, important and justifies being aggressively weird about requiring the people one plays with to do it the same way.

I like the modifier big. Especially for players new to the edition who may be confused by the sheet in general it makes it very easy to point them to the numbers they will often be using.
 

eryndel

Explorer
I voted prefer stat/score. In fact, when I printed out character sheets to help my family make characters for Lost Mine, I had them just put the score in the larger box, modifier in the smaller. I didn't even recognize that the pregens were different until afterwards.

Still I can understand the utility of making the mod prominent.
 

the Jester

Legend
Whatever makes the person playing the character happy. Personally, I'm old school and will keep putting the score as the primary/big number.
 

Wormwood

Adventurer
Depends on the game. If I'm playing OD&D/Basic then my stat scores are what I want to look at, but in 5e the bonus is all I need to refer to in play.
 

murquhart72

Explorer
On my own character sheets, the actual ability scores should be presented prominently, and in the correct order of: strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, charisma.

Everyone else, of course, is welcome to write them down however they want.

Correct order puts Dexterity between Constitution and Charisma. Remember, Thieves are a class from a supplement, Dexterity doesn't really matter to each character as much as Constitution does ;)
 

redrick

First Post
I voted neutral because I most certainly don't think there is a right way to do it. When filling in my own character sheets, I put the score in the big box and the mod in the small box, but plenty of folks at the table do the reverse, and when filling out pre-gens for new players, I have put the mod in the big box before.

As far as the anachronism of 3-18 — it is a minor failing of D&D 5e for me that odd ability scores have almost no mechanical meaning. We use point buy and standard array at our table, and I often find myself using the point buy to just adjust my standard array for no odd scores after racial bonuses.

I do like that 3-18 still mean something beyond the actual mechanics of any given edition. AD&D's to-hit calculations are different from 5e's, but I can still look at 18 strength and say, "yeah, that's damn strong." So maybe, in a putative 6th edition, the math will change again, but that idea of "wow, yeah, 18, nice" will stay the same.
 

Arilyn

Hero
I prefer stat in big box and modifier in small, even though it's not logical. It would grate on me if I had to flip it, even though it's completely silly.
 

sim-h

Explorer
To me, there is a logical reason to do it with the statistic large (i.e. as the primary attention-grabbing item) and the modifier small (i.e. as the secondary item).

That reason is the human brain's capacity to learn and remember things.

If I say to you my Strength is 14, who doesn't know that I have a +2 modifier? Anyone who plays regularly will very quickly make those associations. Therefore the smaller number becomes largely used a backup or verification.

However if I say I have a +2 Strength modifier - what is my Strength score? You don't know, without looking at the smaller number.

Of course, one could argue you don't need to know the exact Strength score. But if that's the case why not just assign a modifier and not have a statistic at all?

I should say I would have no objection to a player doing it either way round at my table.
 


JonnyP71

Explorer
I write the score in the big box, and the modifier in the small one.

But then I also still prefer to see stats listed S/I/W/D/Co/Ch, not S/D/Co/I/W/CH
 

wcpfish

First Post
Never include "this is a thing?" in any poll. Results are always skewed to the "meh" result because people on the internet LOOOOVE to pretend they don't care about things. It's the ultimate (and to me laughable) too cool for school attitude. So you don't care, huh? You're just on one website (out of millions you could be on) that discusses gaming, reading one article (among the thousands of articles and forums you could have selected that you might care about) and you just happened to have nothing better to do than to take the time to vote to let the world know that you're sooooo above having an opinion......right..... p.s. my two cents-- the score gets listed first/modifier to the right, boxes can be same size or score larger. Modifier size being larger "feels" wrong even though my brain certainly understands why people prefer it. And bizarrely my group always listed S, D, I, W, Co, Ch despite me not recalling them appearing in that order ever in an actual product, lol.
 

I chose prefer the score. In my opinion, I prefer that the mechanical element of the game be downplayed as much as possible. The modifier, being large and upfront,immediately draws me into the game mechanics, whereas the score to me provides a (albeit arbitrary) rating of capability.

When I see the ability scores more prominently it draws my focus onto the nature of my character... it makes me first consider the character as a person and an entity in the world. The modifiers draw me immediately to math.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I generally put the score in the big box but that is mainly due to habit from years of entering the score as the first number and the modifier(s) second but I think it is probably better to put the modifier in the big box as the more useful number for play.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Just to be clear, I really like 5E and think the rule set is great. This is 100% about some style/presentation. It's also 100% nitpick and totally "fixed" by the conventions my players and I use. I'm just doing some prep for next week's game and venting. Figured I'd see it anyone agreed with me or not. Straightforward poll: top option agrees with me, bottom option is wrong (I kid).

This started as a raised eyebrow, but has become an increasing itch. It annoys me to no end that the expectation on the character sheet (per pregens) is to write the ability score modifiers large and the score itself underneath. I've seen it a couple times, on the WotC site, when looking for something else. It's jarring and stops me dead in my tracks. It's a visual thing and it just makes my brain scream, "you're using it wrong", every single time.

If I had a player at my table that did that, I'd correct him a couple of times then write him off as an idiot. It really started to get under my skin when I realized Dungeonscape may force users into this format. That presentation is so irksome that it pretty much kills the huge enthusiasm I had for the product. This is something that my group can ignore on the printed character sheets, but not for the tool. Hopefully, they include a "show ability scores correctly" toggle. Better yet, WotC stops using the backwards layout and burns all evidence of it. (If you can't tell, I strongly disagree with anyone who wants to replace 3-18 with just the modifiers -- the scores are writ in stone, but the modifiers are fair game to tweak from edition to edition.)
It makes more sense to write the modifier in the big box, because the modifier is the more important number to reference at a glance. Ability Score almost never matters except when Multiclassing and qualifying for Feats. The rare times it does matter, you’re usually doing character sheet management, so it’s not necessary for the number to be big and noticeable. On the other hand, the modifier comes up every time you roll a D20, and is important to be able to quickly assess.

I didn't even notice the other stylistic bit, at first. I don't really care for listing skills as "Strength (Athletics)". The skill is just "Athletics". The end. I get that, in 5E, the skills are tightly married to their ability score, but writing it that way is just silly. Although vaguely related, this isn't part of the poll.
That’s not why it’s written that way. The reason it’s written “Ability (Skill) check” is because there’s no such thing as a Skill check in 5e. There are exactly three kinds of d20 rolls: Attack rolls, Saving Throws, and Ability Checks. Proficiencies allow players to add their Proficiency Bonus to one of those three types of rolls when the Proficiency in question is applicable. So, for example, you don’t make Intimidation checks, you make Charisma checks, to which you can apply your Proficiency Bonus if you have Proficiency in the Intimidation Skill. As such, when modules call for checks, they first list the Ability required to make them, and then the relevant Skill or Tool Proficiency that players can apply if they have it. In fact, during the open playtest, Skills weren’t even tied to specific abilities. It was written that way because if they just wrote the Skill, you wouldn’t know what Ability to use with it. Even though they ended up tied to Abilities in the final version, there’s still an optional rule for using Skills with different abilities in the Player’s Handbook, which is one of the few optional rules allowed in Adventures League.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
I will always note my stats as Score, then modifiers/details.

How others note it is of no concern to me so long as they have the correct #s handy.

Btw, what would happen in the Dungeonscape program if you tried to enter the Stat in the large box & the modifier in the small one?
 

thorgrit

Explorer
I myself prefer to put the modifier big so I can refer to it more easily.

In 3e/4e any odd stats didn't really matter so much. The only times I remember them being relevant was for prerequisites (needed a dex 13 or int 13 for some feats, etc.) and the +1 you get to the score every 4 levels. Racial modifiers were always done in increments of 2, so a full step on the modifiers.

If it weren't for 5e changing races to have a mix of +1s and +2s I would enjoy burying that "we have to reference 3d6" sacred cow. At least for my own group, where we always used point buy and made even scores wherever possible. (We very rarely played any game long enough to scale 4 whole levels.)

Every group is different though, so I'm all for letting people do what's comfortable for them.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
That’s not why it’s written that way. The reason it’s written “Ability (Skill) check” is because there’s no such thing as a Skill check in 5e. There are exactly three kinds of d20 rolls: Attack rolls, Saving Throws, and Ability Checks. Proficiencies allow players to add their Proficiency Bonus to one of those three types of rolls when the Proficiency in question is applicable. So, for example, you don’t make Intimidation checks, you make Charisma checks, to which you can apply your Proficiency Bonus if you have Proficiency in the Intimidation Skill. As such, when modules call for checks, they first list the Ability required to make them, and then the relevant Skill or Tool Proficiency that players can apply if they have it. In fact, during the open playtest, Skills weren’t even tied to specific abilities. It was written that way because if they just wrote the Skill, you wouldn’t know what Ability to use with it. Even though they ended up tied to Abilities in the final version, there’s still an optional rule for using Skills with different abilities in the Player’s Handbook, which is one of the few optional rules allowed in Adventures League.
Yeah. In the intervening three years, I came to this realization. It actually took some playing around with Fate and thinking through the differences between FAE approaches (which are kinda, but not quite, like attributes) and Core (which is skill-only, with no attributes) for it to really click. If you look at 5E as an attribute-driven game, with skill proficiencies actually being sort of special "feats" that allow a bonus to attribute checks in certain cases, it makes a lot of sense. I've grown to actually prefer systems that pick either attribute-based or skill-based, rather than straddling the line.

I still don't like having the modifier more prominent than the stat, though. I don't see that ever changing, though I could be wrong. The NWP in 2E was attribute-based and emphasized the score over the modifier and it was absolutely horrible.
 

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