D&D General Decoupling Ability Scores from Offense

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
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?
1) No reason to change a Giant's stats or how they work. You have your bonus compared to his. Roll and find out!
2) Probably Deception for skill use. Which could lead to Inigo being particularly adept at feinting but unskilled in grappling)
3) Feat that allows you to expend your Hit Dice during short rests in exchange for more spell slots.
4) Conan Rages while Inigo Sneak Attacks? Alternatively: Skill Use and Combat Maneuvers in the fight.
 

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Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
Following my own idea of Item bonus, it think it would be nice to have new ''scores'', determined by the proficiency bonus + item bonus:

Accuracy: Proficiency + Weapon or Focus' item bonus.
- In combat, you add your Accuracy to your attack rolls and damage rolls. Works with weapons or spell attacks.

Intensity: 8 + proficiency + Weapon or Focus' item bonus.
- The target number a creature has to make to resist an effect provoked by an attack or spell from you.

Armor class: Armor's Item bonus + proficiency.
- The target number a creature has to beat to cause you damage.

Recovery rate: Constitution modifier + item's bonus
- You can add your Recovery rate to all healing received.

I'd still let ability dictate a few things like shoves and grapples and things like spell preparation.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
How many 5e characters have you actually played that had different attack bonuses though? Does that crunch actually make your characters different, or does it just create trap options? Cause in my experience, it’s the latter. It’s so predictable, I can tell with probably about 90% accuracy what a player’s bonus is to any given roll, without looking at their character sheet, just by knowing their class.
 

One way to alleviate the heavy focus on stats is to do what World Without Numbers has done and reduce the bonuses.

a 3 to 5 = -2
6 to 8 = -1
9-13 = +0
14 -17 = +1
18(Max)= +2

(it’s something like that. I don’t have the numbers exact)

there isn’t a big race to boost stats because, if you have a 9, you need to boost it all the way up to 14. Instead, if you want to be a better archer, you boost your ‘Shoot’ skill.

in any case, less focus on stats. The difference between 6 and 17 is only a two point difference.

you should try world without numbers before changing everything. It’s quite good and is close enough to D&D that it feels the same. It’s quite a bit more ‘gritty’ though. I started at 1st level with 1hp. It was intense.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I realize say this at the risk of bringing up a hot-button topic, but it occurs to me that this would probably fix my issues with racial ability score increases. My issue has always been the shoehorning of races into (or out of) class roles, so if a Goliath with a strength bonus and a Halfling with a strength penalty were both equally effective Barbarians but qualified for different Feats, I think I would be fine with that.
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
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.
Right now, "every" rogue already hits the same because "every" rogue starts with a 16 Dex and rushes it to 20 asap.

My idea would have different types of rogues having entirely different abilities based on their archetypes. Who cares if their to hit number is the same? They're already the same a lot of the time.

An option can exist to lower the values as a trade off for something else for less combative archetypes.
 

MGibster

Legend
I realize say this at the risk of bringing up a hot-button topic, but it occurs to me that this would probably fix my issues with racial ability score increases. My issue has always been the shoehorning of races into (or out of) class roles, so if a Goliath with a strength bonus and a Halfling with a strength penalty were both equally effective Barbarians but qualified for different Feats, I think I would be fine with that.
I think that issue is what prompted WotC to remove attribute penalties from 5th edition. (Maybe they removed them from 4th but I don't remember.) Without the penalty you wouldn't feel punished for creating a halfling fighter or a half-orc bard like you did with AD&D. One of the things I kind of like about 5th edition is that I don't feel pressured to make sure my character starts out with an 18 or 20 in their primary stat.

If we're going to make such a radical change as to get rid of attributes having any impact on combat abilities then just get rid of attributes altogether. But what of spells that temporarily reduce attributes? Would we just rewrite them to remove combat bonuses?
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
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?
Str still, it's a skill check? Make it skill vs a save; no one cares if they're not good at initiating grapples if they don't want to be, but they care about being able to get out of grabs reasonably (so proficiency in all saves to help keep the differences more bounded).
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?

Deception. Again, this is your choice of skills. There may be a few other skills that could be used similarly (perception to look for a weak spot, knowledge to know a creatures weakness, deception to feint ...).

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?

Sounds like a nifty curse. I hadn't initially said remove con from hp but we'd have to otherwise everyone would just have high con.

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

Conan and Inigo have access to different maneuvers, different skills, and use different kinds of weapons.

How do they differ now if they're both fighters? One has a greatsword, full plate, and high str, the other has rapier, shield, studded leather, and high dex. They have the same to hit and AC, and same HP if their con is the same. One has 2d6*+5, the other has 1d8+7 and +2 AC ... all these differences would be maintained even if you didn't add in a nifty maneuver or feat system.
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
I realize say this at the risk of bringing up a hot-button topic, but it occurs to me that this would probably fix my issues with racial ability score increases. My issue has always been the shoehorning of races into (or out of) class roles, so if a Goliath with a strength bonus and a Halfling with a strength penalty were both equally effective Barbarians but qualified for different Feats, I think I would be fine with that.
Racial ability score bonuses/penalties are a problem because the mental stats are connotationally loaded.
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
I think that issue is what prompted WotC to remove attribute penalties from 5th edition. (Maybe they removed them from 4th but I don't remember.) Without the penalty you wouldn't feel punished for creating a halfling fighter or a half-orc bard like you did with AD&D. One of the things I kind of like about 5th edition is that I don't feel pressured to make sure my character starts out with an 18 or 20 in their primary stat.

If we're going to make such a radical change as to get rid of attributes having any impact on combat abilities then just get rid of attributes altogether. But what of spells that temporarily reduce attributes? Would we just rewrite them to remove combat bonuses?
There aren't many spells that reduce stats. Polymorph sets stats to certain numbers, but I can't think of stat reducing spells. They're all built around bonuses and penalties now. Disadvantage on checks, or penalties on checks, feels like a weakening.
 


Oofta

Legend
I understand the point, I just disagree. First, you really don't need a 16 in your primary ability score at first level. I've had extremely successful PCs that started with a 14 and never got above a 16. It really wasn't all that noticeable in combat and he had more flexibility.

But I also think it takes something away from builds. Yes, you can make bad builds that are suboptimal but it's not as bad as the last couple of editions. Give new players a little bit of guidance, reinforce that you don't need a 16 in your primary ability score or race to 20.

But different strokes for different folks. I think the OP is suggesting a pretty major modification for an issue that can be addressed more easily in other ways.
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
I understand the point, I just disagree. First, you really don't need a 16 in your primary ability score at first level. I've had extremely successful PCs that started with a 14 and never got above a 16. It really wasn't all that noticeable in combat and he had more flexibility.

But I also think it takes something away from builds.

What's going to be taken away if everyone's offense to hit number is the same? I think its going to open up more builds instead of strongly incentivizing the 16-20 in your prime stat. Other options would be viable because they wouldn't be competing with it.

If it's truly going to ruin a character idea if they're actually good at combat (and I wouldn't want to tell the player "then just don't use your attacks"), there could be a trait for that, but based on ideas here someone with low str and low dex wouldn't meet weapon prerequisites and might be stuck with daggers and such; if they're not a Rogue, and then they don't take weapon special abilities and focus on other tiers, they wouldn't be a dagger master, but they could still knife someone if they had to.

Princess Leah had the highest accuracy rating in the original trilogy apparently.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
But different strokes for different folks. I think the OP is suggesting a pretty major modification for an issue that can be addressed more easily in other ways.
The thing is, it's actually a really simple fix. You can go down a rabbit hole with it patching various issues, but the core change (attacks follow a fixed progression that isn't based on stat) is a tiny house rule.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I did a homebrew rule that allowed Players to use any attribute to use any skill provided the player could narrate how they were doing it. Combat is also a skill

So a Charismatic fighter using Cha+bonus in making flashy distracting spins of their scimitar, an intelligent combatant that strikes with tactical accuracy, your strong tank fighter cleaving heads or your quick nimble knife thrower.

Really a skilled knife fighter should have the same chance of striking and hurting an opponent as a skilled great axe fighter - weapons should be the special effects which characters use to facilitate their attacks, but the strike should be due to Character skill not weapon type.
 
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Oofta

Legend
What's going to be taken away if everyone's offense to hit number is the same? I think its going to open up more builds instead of strongly incentivizing the 16-20 in your prime stat. Other options would be viable because they wouldn't be competing with it.

If it's truly going to ruin a character idea if they're actually good at combat (and I wouldn't want to tell the player "then just don't use your attacks"), there could be a trait for that, but based on ideas here someone with low str and low dex wouldn't meet weapon prerequisites and might be stuck with daggers and such; if they're not a Rogue, and then they don't take weapon special abilities and focus on other tiers, they wouldn't be a dagger master, but they could still knife someone if they had to.

Princess Leah had the highest accuracy rating in the original trilogy apparently.

Well, like I said, I think people over-emphasize getting maxed out scores. You don't notice it in combat. Stressing that, to me, is a better option than making a major change like the OP suggests.

On the other hand, it's not my game. 🤷‍♂️
 


Dausuul

Legend
But, the end result is level determines power, your ability scores determine how you flavor and differentiate your character.
I have been wanting this for ages. I applaud every little step Wizards takes toward decoupling ability scores from character power (and indeed from anything at all).
 

How many 5e characters have you actually played that had different attack bonuses though? Does that crunch actually make your characters different, or does it just create trap options?

All of them, and yes it makes my characters different.

To be transparent, I've only been playing 5e for about a year. In 3e (my previous edition), I've literally played rogues that mained every stat except Wis. Hit bonuses were all over the place, and the characters were extremely different.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
All of them,
I find that hard to believe.
and yes it makes my characters different.
Eh, if different attack bonuses does it for you, that’s cool. I don’t see any meaningful difference there, personally.
To be transparent, I've only been playing 5e for about a year. In 3e (my previous edition), I've literally played rogues that mained every stat except Wis. Hit bonuses were all over the place, and the characters were extremely different.
3e is a very different game than 5e. I don’t doubt that you could have made 3e characters with hit bonuses all over the place. I do doubt that more than a tiny fraction of those characters were competent in combat, but I suspect that’s not something you consider terribly important, in which case I can only say have fun playing the game the way you like to.
 

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