D&D General Decoupling Ability Scores from Offense

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Wild idea that came up while talking to my players. One of my friends, whom I've been playing with for 20 years now, was commenting someone he was playing with wasn't having fun because their character was weak. This other player is more of a casual player, but was growing disinterested because his character just couldn't do very much. My friend helped make some changes to his character, and suddenly he was much more effective, and he started having more fun with the game (and not just the pizza and beer socializing).

So we got to talking about how unfortunate it is that the game makes it possible to accidentally make a weak character. We had actually been running into this issue from the very beginning of our time playing D&D, from someone rolling particularly higher stats than another player to a 3E ranger taking weapon finesse and a Str 10 since it seemed like it would be fine.

There are so many unspoken "rules" of character building for making optimal characters that its easy to make a suboptimal character. You "need" a 16 in your primary stat. If you're a medium armor class, you really want a dex 14. Everyone wants a con 14. Certain feats are better than others. And so forth.

Yes, you don't "have" to, thats what the air quotes are for.

But, what if you didn't need to do all this? What if your level determined your offensive capability? What if, say, a level 10 rogue is deadly because they're a level 10 rogue, regardless of if they're an agile thief, a cunning mastermind, or a charming rake?

What if your to hit and damage bonuses were determined by your class level? What if your ability scores contributed to skills and saves, but were also used for item and feat prerequisites? So, a high strength, high con fighter would naturally favor heavy two handed weapons, especially things in the axe/hammer groups, while a balanced str/dex fighter would favor sword and shield or long bow, or a high dex fighter may favor shortswords and crossbows?

Your wizard could be an intelligent scholar, or they could be a natural and are just figuring it out (or maybe you'd want to require a mental stat prerequisite for magic for a certain flavor, up to you).

But, the end result is level determines power, your ability scores determine how you flavor and differentiate your character.

It would be a very different edition, but what do you think?
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Wild idea that came up while talking to my players. One of my friends, whom I've been playing with for 20 years now, was commenting someone he was playing with wasn't having fun because their character was weak. This other player is more of a casual player, but was growing disinterested because his character just couldn't do very much. My friend helped make some changes to his character, and suddenly he was much more effective, and he started having more fun with the game (and not just the pizza and beer socializing).

So we got to talking about how unfortunate it is that the game makes it possible to accidentally make a weak character. We had actually been running into this issue from the very beginning of our time playing D&D, from someone rolling particularly higher stats than another player to a 3E ranger taking weapon finesse and a Str 10 since it seemed like it would be fine.

There are so many unspoken "rules" of character building for making optimal characters that its easy to make a suboptimal character. You "need" a 16 in your primary stat. If you're a medium armor class, you really want a dex 14. Everyone wants a con 14. Certain feats are better than others. And so forth.

Yes, you don't "have" to, thats what the air quotes are for.

But, what if you didn't need to do all this? What if your level determined your offensive capability? What if, say, a level 10 rogue is deadly because they're a level 10 rogue, regardless of if they're an agile thief, a cunning mastermind, or a charming rake?

What if your to hit and damage bonuses were determined by your class level? What if your ability scores contributed to skills and saves, but were also used for item and feat prerequisites? So, a high strength, high con fighter would naturally favor heavy two handed weapons, especially things in the axe/hammer groups, while a balanced str/dex fighter would favor sword and shield or long bow, or a high dex fighter may favor shortswords and crossbows?

Your wizard could be an intelligent scholar, or they could be a natural and are just figuring it out (or maybe you'd want to require a mental stat prerequisite for magic for a certain flavor, up to you).

But, the end result is level determines power, your ability scores determine how you flavor and differentiate your character.

It would be a very different edition, but what do you think?
I think it’s a fantastic idea.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
I'm with Charlaquin. That is, frankly, amazing.

Make Attributes a part of the Exploration/Social pillar with some minimum requirements for different weapon types (No Greatsword without a 13 Strength, no Cantrip without a Spellcasting Modifier goes here under 13) and armors...

... hot dicks. I think you're onto something, Xeviat!
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
I'm with Charlaquin. That is, frankly, amazing.

Make Attributes a part of the Exploration/Social pillar with some minimum requirements for different weapon types (No Greatsword without a 13 Strength, no Cantrip without a Spellcasting Modifier goes here under 13) and armors...

... hot dicks. I think you're onto something, Xeviat!
Hmmmm ... if feats were tweaked to be about options and not power (like learning a new cantrip, or a power attack that is balanced against a basic attack), then feats could be built into normal progression ... otherwise rebalancing the game for combat feats might be weird.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Instead of Stat mods to AC or HP we could have Proficiency Bonus apply in different ways and to different degrees.

Fighters could get their proficiency bonus to AC with whatever armor their wearing (And have armors limit proficiency bonus to AC the same way the armors limit dexterity). Monks getting "Expertise" in unarmored defense to double their Prof Mod to AC while wearing no armor...

Weapon Styles would become expertise in their use, as well.

Feats could bridge the gap? Give you some Combat function and some Exploration/Social function?

What do you think of Proficiency Bonus applied at every level for Hit Points with retroactive increases?

It would turn 5th level into a big gain for combat (Increase cantrip damage, extra attack, hit points go up by 1 per level for every level you've gotten so far)
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I'm a fan, it's an option that's been discussed a few times on these forums. In one of my games, I'm using the option that players can use proficiency bonus in place of their stat mod bonus for attack rolls and for determining spell save DCs. (Example, a 5th level fighter with a 12 Dex would make his longbow attacks at +6 (3 prof + 3 prof) instead of +4 (3 prof + 1 Dex).
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
But, the end result is level determines power, your ability scores determine how you flavor and differentiate your character.

It would be a very different edition, but what do you think?

Basically, TSR-era but even more limited in terms of ability score bonuses.

One of the few things I truly preferred (as opposed to jokingly prefer) about the older rulesets, and one of the things I love, is that characters accrue their significant advantages (saves, to hit) from increasing their level.

A higher-level fighter is just better at fighting, period. Much, much better.

Overall, I love this concept. The race for ASIs and the samey-ness of certain builds (not to mention the prevalence of 20 dexterity adventurers in the world at large) is not something I like about 5e.
 



Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
To keep things about where they are, now...

I think the easiest method would be to give players "Expertise" in a handful of weapon options, as well as any spellcasting they happen to have. And then have proficiency apply to Hit Points gained and retroactively. And AC in general based on what you're proficient in.

That would create three "Tiers" of proficiency for weapons. But even the best trained level 1 swordsman would "Only" get a +4 to attack when the current expectation (16 in attack stat) would give them 5. But I'm not sure just how much of a "Problem" that really is in the end.

Then have Barbarians Monks gain expertise in unarmored? That'd give them a 14 AC at level 1 where most would have a 15 under current rules... Of course they'd be rocking a 22 at level 20 soooo... Maybe it cancels out well enough?

Proficiency mod only once to Damage starts out at +2 ends up at +6... not the worst, I suppose.

It feels like we're averaging everyone down by 1 point early on and boosting them by 1 point later on? Could fix that by having the Proficiency Bonus start at 3, instead, to maintain low-level play balance...
 

What if your to hit and damage bonuses were determined by your class level? What if your ability scores contributed to skills and saves, but were also used for item and feat prerequisites? So, a high strength, high con fighter would naturally favor heavy two handed weapons, especially things in the axe/hammer groups, while a balanced str/dex fighter would favor sword and shield or long bow, or a high dex fighter may favor shortswords and crossbows?
Sounds brilliant on paper. I am afraid in practice that you are going to inevitably end up with some options that out perform vs. others the same way that they do in the existing game. You are still going to get savvy players that understand that the two handed fighter outperforms the sword and board version in most situations. You are still going to end up with noob players that dump Int on their knife throwing rogue without realizing that is the prereq for the feats they need to make their concept work.

Ultimately you identify a problem (game is too complex, with trap options that hurt noobs and OP options that reward system mastery); propose a solution (power is based on solely on class and level); and then circle right back to the problem you identified in the first place (picking the right attribute opens up specific feat chains and combat options - which are unlikely to be any better balanced in the options your were complaining about in the first place).

Don't get me wrong - I think the idea sounds great. But the devil is in the details and experience has shown me that RPGs can have lots of cool options, or be perfectly balanced, but not both.
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Don't get me wrong - I think the idea sounds great. But the devil is in the details and experience has shown me that RPGs can have lots of cool options, or be perfectly balanced, but not both.
Perfect balance isn't quite the goal. Perceived balance is. But saying perfect balance is impossible is not an excuse to not try to balance things.

You bring up a good point about prerequisites. I think they'd be called out clearly in the ability score chapter. Tell people what they can get from having each stat be high so they can decide how they want to build their character.

I wouldn't want to do away with ability scores entirely. I find them to be a good descriptive short hand and they fit with literary tropes.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Perfect balance isn't quite the goal. Perceived balance is. But saying perfect balance is impossible is not an excuse to not try to balance things.

You bring up a good point about prerequisites. I think they'd be called out clearly in the ability score chapter. Tell people what they can get from having each stat be high so they can decide how they want to build their character.

I wouldn't want to do away with ability scores entirely. I find them to be a good descriptive short hand and they fit with literary tropes.
But... but! Also super useful for Social/Exploration pillar stuff!

Suddenly Attributes are just for Skills and Ability Checks and stuff. You still get your increasing proficiency over time, but a rogue's talents with sleight of hand being based on Dex could still be an important character aspect!
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Putting proficiency in certain places works. I wouldn't put double prof in other places, though. Part of me wants to do a different more smooth scale. Or feats could replace the typical boost to 18 and 20 to primary score.
 

I guess I'm going be the odd man out here, but I hate this idea. So, every rogue hits the same? My build for a smarty-pants rogue that outwits his opponents rolls with the same hit and damage numbers as my brutish rogue focused on melee combat, and as my dagger-throwing ninja-esque rogue?

I need character creation rules that don't just describe characters and being different. I need crunchy math that makes them play differently as well. Anything else just feels same-y.
 
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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Putting proficiency in certain places works. I wouldn't put double prof in other places, though. Part of me wants to do a different more smooth scale. Or feats could replace the typical boost to 18 and 20 to primary score.
3 numbers. Offensive Proficiency. Defensive Proficiency. Skill Proficiency.

We can change the names around as we go... but thoughts?

Monks and Barbs get to use their Offensive Proficiency to Defense if they're unarmored. Everything else just slides along as normal.

Offensive Proficiency starts at 5. Defensive at 3. Skill at 2. Give 'em different speeds of progression, even, if you like!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm with Charlaquin. That is, frankly, amazing.

Make Attributes a part of the Exploration/Social pillar

So... you can still accidentally make a character who stinks at Exploration and Social stuff?

If you are going to get rid of the risk of building a character who isn't good at stuff, shouldn't you do it across the board?
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
So... you can still accidentally make a character who stinks at Exploration and Social stuff?

If you are going to get rid of the risk of building a character who isn't good at stuff, shouldn't you do it across the board?
Except you -can't-, though.

You'll just make a character who is good at different Social/Exploration stuff than what some people might expect for your character class.

With combat if you pick the wrong stats you can't access the "Best Combos" for your class/build/whatever. Doesn't work that way with skills.

Just winds up making you a fighter that's really good at Persuasion if you put that 15 into Charisma. Or really good at Sneaking if it's in Dex. Perception if you make it Wisdom.

Things like that.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
Maybe, just maybe have the items used for fighting have a ''quality'' or ''masterwork'' or whatever bonus.

Then when you make an attack roll, you roll 1d20, then you add your proficiency and the item's ''whatever'' bonus.

Say a simple longsword has a ''masterwork'' bonus of +2. You, as a 3rd level fighter, attack the goblin with an AC of 15. You roll your d20+2+2 and get a 18 total. Its a hit, you add both your proficiency bonus and item bonus to the damage!

Armors work like in regular 5e, but the Armor's AC is its Item Bonus and you get to add your proficiency bonus to the total AC. So that 3rd level fighter wearing a heavy leather armor (Item bonus = 12) and a shield (Item bonus = 2) would stand at a pretty nice 16 AC.

You do the same with Spell DC and Spell attack rolls, where Focus also have an Item bonus.

Then you can have a little table of masterwork quality an related bonus:

Basic: as in the PHB
Crude: -2 to the item's bonus
Poor: -1 to the item's bonus
Splendid: +2 to item's bonus

and obviously those item are also modified by their enchantment, if any.
So you can have a crude magic dagger, or a splendid armor of arrow catching etc
 

I'm intrigued. I wonder where it might break things, though.

Some thoughts:

In combat, you try to grapple a giant. What determines who wins?

You try to feint someone in combat, to get advantage on your attack next round. Do you make a Deception check (modified by Charisma), or is it just a proficiency bonus check?

The Dragonlance mage character Raistlin is renowned for being fragile and sickly, having sacrificed his health for magical power. How do you model this? Instead of having a low Con, does he have some special curse, and in exchange get some nifty magical powers?

Conan (strong) fights Inigo Montoya (nimble). How does this fight mechanically differ from having two Conans fight each other, or two Inigos?
 

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