D&D General Comparing editions: What is Dexterity?

JEB

Legend
Continuing from What is Strength?

Original D&D
  • Unlike Strength, Dexterity had a direct mechanical effect on combat from the very beginning: a Dex above 12 gave you a +1 to "fire any missile", while a 9 or lower gave you a -1. This effect applied to ranged attacks of all types, including spells.
  • Scores seem to max out at 18.
Original D&D plus Greyhawk
  • Prime requisite for the thief class, which presumably means (as with Strength and fighters) that higher scores increase XP earned (by 5% or 10%), and lower scores decrease it (by 10% or 20%).
  • Fighters with Dex 14 or higher can reduce opponents' chances of hitting them by 1 (5%) per point over 14. (But not thieves, apparently?)
  • Thieves can swap out 2 Intelligence and 1 Wisdom in exchange for raising their Dexterity (by how much they don't say, but appears to be lowering all three in exchange for raising Dex by 1). However, they can't reduce Int or Wis below average (9).
Holmes Basic (1977)
  • Dexterity "applies to speed and accuracy."
  • High Dexterity allows characters to "get off the first arrow, throw the first spell or draw a weapon and strike the first blow." When two opponents enter battle, the one with the higher Dexterity goes first. (The DM rolls randomly for a monster's Dex if they don't know it already.) If their scores are within 1-2 points of each other, they roll a d6, and the one with the higher result goes first.
  • Still the prime requisite for thieves, and confirmed to provide a penalty/bonus to XP when low/high.
  • Still provides a penalty/bonus to missile attacks when low/high, which implicitly include spells.
  • Thieves confirmed to be able to swap 2 Int and 1 Wis for a +1 to Dex. "Dexterity cannot be reduced."
  • Halflings are also encouraged to have at least a 9 in Dex.
AD&D 1st Edition
  • Thieves with a Dexterity of 16 or higher earn 10% more experience.
  • Low scores impose a penalty to surprise and missile attacks (but apparently not spell attacks), high scores provide a bonus.
  • Low scores impose a penalty to saving throws involving dodging, high scores provide a bonus.
  • Dex scores also affect thief skills.
  • Dexterity is capped by race (but not by gender).
  • Half-orc thieves with a Dex of 17, and gnome illusionists with Dex (and Int) 17, can exceed the normal level limits by 1.
  • Unlike Holmes Basic, Dexterity does not appear to factor into initiative: it's "seldom" a factor in who goes first.
  • Scores up to 18 are listed on the Dexterity reference table, but elves can have a 19 Dexterity.
Moldvay Basic (1981)
  • Dexterity is "a measure of speed and agility."
  • Prime requisite for thieves, and one of the primes for halflings, meaning it can affect experience.
  • Bonus affects to-hit with missile fire (but not spells) and adjusts AC. It also adjusts individual initiative, if using the optional "pair combat" rules (but does not affect group initiative).
  • Dexterity ability checks first suggested (roll under score to succeed).
  • No mention of race caps.
Mentzer Basic (1983)
  • Basically the same as Moldvay, except they remind you that you can't lower Dex scores.
  • Individual initiative (and Dex adjustments for same) remains an optional rule.
AD&D 2nd Edition
  • Thieves with a Dexterity of 16 or higher earn 10% more experience.
  • Low scores impose a penalty to surprise and missile attacks, high scores provide a bonus. (Unlike 1E these aren't crunched together in the table as the same thing, but they have exactly the same adjustments.)
  • Low scores impose a penalty to saving throws involving dodging, high scores provide a bonus.
  • Dex scores also affect thief skills.
  • Dexterity is still capped by race, but elves' maximum has been dropped from 19 in 1E to 18 in 2E.
  • Dexterity does not appear to affect initiative in the baseline or any optional rules (though plenty of other modifiers factor in).
  • Scores in table go up to 25.
Rules Cyclopedia
  • Basically the same as Moldvay and Mentzer.
  • Also a prime requisite for mystics, although it doesn't adjust their XP.
D&D 3.0
  • Dexterity "measures hand-eye coordination, agility, reflexes, and balance."
  • Dexterity score determines modifier that applies to ranged attack rolls; Armor Class; Reflex saving throws; assorted skill checks; and Dexterity checks generally (including initiative checks).
  • No upper limit on Dexterity scores.
  • No race-based ability caps.
D&D 3.5
  • Same as D&D 3.0.
D&D 4th Edition
  • Dexterity "measures hand-eye coordination, agility, reflexes, and balance." (Yes, exactly the same as 3.0 and 3.5.)
  • Ability modifier applies to Dexterity ability checks, basic ranged attacks (including to-hit and damage), and assorted skill checks, and may contribute to Armor Class (if wearing light armor) and Reflex defense. Dexterity modifier is also added to initiative checks.
  • No upper limit on Dexterity scores.
  • Powers for rangers and rogues may be based on Dexterity.
D&D Essentials
  • Basically the same as 4E, except they clarify that it might also benefit AC when wearing no armor.
D&D 5th Edition
  • Dexterity measures "agility, reflexes, and balance."
  • Ability modifier applies to Dexterity ability checks, including assorted skill checks and initiative checks. Example uses include picking locks, disabling traps, and escaping bonds.
  • Dexterity modifier adds to attack and damage rolls with ranged weapons, as well as for finesse melee weapons. Some or all of it may apply to your AC, depending on your armor.
  • Dexterity scores cap out at 30 (20 for PCs relying on ability score increases).
Let me know if I missed anything or got anything wrong!
 

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JEB

Legend
TL;DR version:

0E0E+GHHolmesB/XBECMIRC1E2E3E4E5E
Affects XPNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
Affects to-hitYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Affects damageNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoYesYes
Affects defenseNoYesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Affects initiativeNoNoYesYes (optional)Yes (optional)Yes (optional)NoNoYesYesYes
Ability checksNoNoNoYesYesYesAffects thief skillsAffects thief skillsYesYesYes
Race capsNoNoNoNoNoNoYesYesNoNoNo
Upper score limit18 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)At least 1925NoneNone30
 
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