D&D General Decoupling Ability Scores from Offense


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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Now if only we could decouple skill proficiency from level!
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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 great idea--and I think you could do a LOT worse than look at 4e for how to go about it. That is, both 4th edition D&D proper and Gamma World 7e did things in this direction, just in somewhat different ways.

That is, 4e had the Inherent Bonuses option: get rid of all the various benefits you normally get from equipment, and gain stuff at <listed rates.> Any weapon you pick up, if you can use it, you can hit with it the way the system expects you to, other than your stats. You'd just be adding that bit (and, it sounds like, typical feat bonuses as well).

GW7e was pretty constrained numbers-wise, but despite having a semi-unfavorable stat gen system (3d6 strict, as I recall), it had rules to make sure your basic stats were always good for what you needed. Your character has two origins (typically randomly-rolled). Each origin is associated with a key stat. Your first origin gets 18 in its main stat (regardless of what you rolled for that stat), and your secondary origin gets 16 (ditto). If your two origins share the same key stat, you get 20 in that stat, but all your other stats are rolled as normal--your focus is better, but you lose out on getting a second "free" good roll.

You wouldn't have to have the execution work exactly like either of these things. But starting from these ideas, considering what you like and don't like about each method, could prove useful.

I, personally, have the half-baked ideas of a "simple baseline" system that uses seven stats, but I'll spoilerblock the digression about it.
I'd have four stats for non-combat applications (Might, Dexterity, Wits, Presence) and three for combat effectiveness. The three combat stats would generally cover offensive potency (typically damage), rider potency (typically how much of a buff or debuff an action inflicts), and utility potency (typically number of targets, area size, or number of uses); I'd call them Impact, Finesse, and Scope. I have a notion of making the combat stats class- or source-specific, but I haven't thought enough about the consequences of doing so. As an example thereof, however, a Paladin might have Fervor (Impact), Grace (Finesse), and Patience (Scope); you still must choose how to allocate your points among those three, but they'd be designed to all be useful, so that focused and generalist characters could all work for doing something. So maybe you have a starting score of 1 in each, and get 6 more points to put into them, up to a max of 5. You could do 5/3/1, 4/4/1, 3/3/3, whatever you like. Still allows for build variation, but decoupled from the narrative concerns that are now handled by the four non-combat stats.
 

Now if only we could decouple skill proficiency from level!
A straight skill system does this. I liked the 3e skill system better than 5e because you could have different skills and raise them up separately but it relied too mush on stats and it wasn’t a straight skill system. Games like Fate have no levels but skill trees. Your highest skill is limited by your ‘level’ in a way but levels don’t have the same meaning in that game. You can play an entire campaign at the same ‘level’.

I feel like I’m being a sales person even though I don’t mean to but WWN did a good job of setting up skills too. As you level, you get skill points to spend. Higher skills cost more. Attacking and magicking are skills.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the suggestions presented already exist in other systems. Some are very similar to 5e.
 

Quartz

Hero
What if your to hit and damage bonuses were determined by your class level?

Skill can substitute for talent? Yes. You could take the higher of your Proficiency Bonus or your stat mod in appropriate situations. I've done this for the Fighter, allowing them to use PB instead of Dex when calculating AC:

Defensive Bonus: Your base Armour Class can become 10 + Armour + Defensive Bonus. Your Defensive Bonus is the lower of your Proficiency Bonus or your levels in the Fighter class and is limited by armour as your Dex bonus is (e.g. max of +2 with Medium Armour). You may add to your AC with a shield, Fighting Styles, magic, and the like. Your Defensive Bonus may not be used with Unarmoured Defence.

The awkward wording is there to prevent multiclassing cheese.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
This is one of those things that is going to require 3rd party creation and hopeful implementation by a large number of the player to become a "thing", because my sense is that it isn't something WotC would ever want to do on its own. The six ability scores are the clarion call of D&D as a game and as such the entire baseline and main focus that I don't think they'd ever want to reduce their use even further. If ability scores aren't used for things in the game, then they have no point. If they have no point, then they fall off the game. If they fall off the game, then you don't have "Dungeons & Dragons" anymore.

Do I think that most PCs start the game with a 16 in their main stat and thus their melee or spell Attack bonus is almost always a +5? Sure. Could you replace that +5 (consisting of a +3 from main ability mod plus +2 from proficiency) with a straight +5 attack bonus on your class level chart that goes up as you level? Sure. Does that actually DO anything that the game doesn't already do? No. The only thing it DOES do is stop some players from having their attacks be bad because they accidentally put a low number in their main ability score.

But then again... if players actually read the character creation section of the PH/Basic Rules... it makes it pretty clear what your primary stat is supposed to be and even says in the Quick Build section to make X ability score your highest score. If players don't read the book to learn how their character should work... that's not something WotC necessarily has to change the rules in order to avoid.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
The only thing it DOES do is stop some players from having their attacks be bad because they accidentally put a low number in their main ability score.

But then again... if players actually read the character creation section of the PH/Basic Rules... it makes it pretty clear what your primary stat is supposed to be and even says in the Quick Build section to make X ability score your highest score. If players don't read the book to learn how their character should work... that's not something WotC necessarily has to change the rules in order to avoid.
Sure, but the idea isn't only to prevent accidental bad builds. It's also to empower deliberate playing against type (I want to play a fighter who's good at History instead of Athletics), and/or to allow more freedom if random or procedural generation of stats is used.

I think seeing a Str 10 Int 16 fighter as good at combat as a Str 16 Int 10 fighter is either something that makes you say "Yes, I like that" or "No, that's wrong", and there's not really a lot of wiggle room. It's an aesthetic preference.
 

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).


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 ...).



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 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.
I think this would work better if there were useful, player-driven ways to use skills in combat for each ability score. As of right now it's really just Athletics and sometimes Stealth (environment permitting).

Note that, IIRC, the only printed rule for feinting in combat is a Battlemaster maneuver.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I think this would work better if there were useful, player-driven ways to use skills in combat for each ability score. As of right now it's really just Athletics and sometimes Stealth (environment permitting).

Note that, IIRC, the only printed rule for feinting in combat is a Battlemaster maneuver.
I think the special action features from the UA Skill for Feats would be awesome to add to the ''Using Ability Score'' section of the PHB.

Ex:
Persuasion
When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one attack with an attempt to deceive one humanoid you can see within 30 feet of you that can see and hear you. Make a Charisma (Deception) check contested by the target's Wisdom (Insight) check. If your check succeeds, your movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks from the target and your attack rolls against it have advantage; both benefits last until the end of your next turn or until you use this ability on a different target. If your check fails, the target can't be deceived by you in this way for 1 hour.

Sleight of Hands
As a bonus action, you can make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to plant something on someone else, conceal an object on a creature, lift a purse, or take something from a pocket.

Arcana
If the character perceived the casting, the spell's effect, or both, the character can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check with the reaction or action. The DC equals 15 + the spell's level. If the spell is cast as a class spell and the character is a member of that class, the check is made with advantage. For example, if the spellcaster casts a spell as a cleric, another cleric has advantage on the check to identify the spell. Some spells aren't associated with any class when they're cast, such as when a monster uses its Innate Spellcasting trait.

+ special actions from the DMG
 

Oofta

Legend
Sure, but the idea isn't only to prevent accidental bad builds. It's also to empower deliberate playing against type (I want to play a fighter who's good at History instead of Athletics), and/or to allow more freedom if random or procedural generation of stats is used.

I think seeing a Str 10 Int 16 fighter as good at combat as a Str 16 Int 10 fighter is either something that makes you say "Yes, I like that" or "No, that's wrong", and there's not really a lot of wiggle room. It's an aesthetic preference.
Then play against type. Create a strength based intelligent rogue or a dexterity based paladin. Make a cleric that's charismatic but not quite as wise as some of their brethren. But they were unique and different because they weren't combat optimized builds. It's perfectly fine to do all of those things and I have. They've all been fun to play and with 5E's structure it's not that much of a detriment.

If there is no assumption that rogues will have a high dex, you can't play against the assumed build. If everybody is special, no one is. The OP's solution robs Peter (people who enjoy making builds whether optimized or not) to pay Paul (the people who apparently don't read the guidelines in the PHB).
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I think the special action features from the UA Skill for Feats would be awesome to add to the ''Using Ability Score'' section of the PHB.

Ex:
Persuasion
When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one attack with an attempt to deceive one humanoid you can see within 30 feet of you that can see and hear you. Make a Charisma (Deception) check contested by the target's Wisdom (Insight) check. If your check succeeds, your movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks from the target and your attack rolls against it have advantage; both benefits last until the end of your next turn or until you use this ability on a different target. If your check fails, the target can't be deceived by you in this way for 1 hour.

Sleight of Hands
As a bonus action, you can make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to plant something on someone else, conceal an object on a creature, lift a purse, or take something from a pocket.

Arcana
If the character perceived the casting, the spell's effect, or both, the character can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check with the reaction or action. The DC equals 15 + the spell's level. If the spell is cast as a class spell and the character is a member of that class, the check is made with advantage. For example, if the spellcaster casts a spell as a cleric, another cleric has advantage on the check to identify the spell. Some spells aren't associated with any class when they're cast, such as when a monster uses its Innate Spellcasting trait.

+ special actions from the DMG
Love these.

Especially if we make Offhand Attacks a bonus attack during the Attack Action rather than a separate bonus action attack.

Then Rogues could Feint in combat to get advantage and sneak attack and still have their bonus action to dash.
 

Quartz

Hero
I think seeing a Str 10 Int 16 fighter as good at combat as a Str 16 Int 10 fighter

Isn't that - sort of - the Battlemaster? Or you could create a Fighter-only fighting style to cover that:

Experienced fighting: you may use the lower of your Proficiency Bonus or your levels in the Fighter class instead of your stat bonus when calculating 'to hit' rolls.

Math: hit roll = d20 + PB + MIN (PB, Fighter levels)
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
If there is no assumption that rogues will have a high dex, you can't play against the assumed build. If everybody is special, no one is. The OP's solution robs Peter (people who enjoy making builds whether optimized or not) to pay Paul (the people who apparently don't read the guidelines in the PHB).
Believe me, as an optimizer, I love the thought of being able to make builds that aren't bound by stat requirements.

I'd point out that I, personally, am not advocating for a full break from stat-to-class connection, it's not like Charisma bonus to saves is going away for paladins, or level+mod number of spells for prepared casters. Separating stat mod from offense simply makes it so that boosting your primary stat isn't optimal compared to taking feats.

To my mind, allowing characters to be built to fit player vision is a much higher play priority than privileging existing tropes (for a normal D&D 5e game); I'm aware that not everyone agrees with those play priorities.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Isn't that - sort of - the Battlemaster? Or you could create a Fighter-only fighting style to cover that:

Experienced fighting: you may use the lower of your Proficiency Bonus or your levels in the Fighter class instead of your stat bonus when calculating 'to hit' rolls.

Math: hit roll = d20 + PB + MIN (PB, Fighter levels)
Sure, but why not make it a global rule rather than fighter only? I like to support charisma based experts and dexterous spellcasters too.

My house rule is simply this: For all attack rolls and for spell save DC calculations, you may use your proficiency bonus in place of the corresponding stat modifier if the proficiency bonus is higher.
 

Quartz

Hero
My house rule is simply this: For all attack rolls and for spell save DC calculations, you may use your proficiency bonus in place of the corresponding stat modifier if the proficiency bonus is higher.

That's too good IMHO. And it begs the question: why have stats in the first place?
 

Quartz

Hero
Just to elaborate: going your way, you could define all d20 rolls by d20 + PB when you're not proficient, d20 + PB + PB when you're proficient, and d20 + PB + PB + PB when you're an expert. That's an abstraction too far for me.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Just to elaborate: going your way, you could define all d20 rolls by d20 + PB when you're not proficient, d20 + PB + PB when you're proficient, and d20 + PB + PB + PB when you're an expert. That's an abstraction too far for me.
Doesn't apply to skill checks, so expertise isn't in play. Attack rolls (and spell save DCs) only.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
That's too good IMHO. And it begs the question: why have stats in the first place?
If you can show me an example of "broken" (as opposed to just stronger than PHB baseline, which is NOT a good definition of broken), then we can have a discussion.

As to why stats: skills, saves, and helps define the characters' overall approach. Having high Int and low Dex is a good shorthand for a certain subset of character tropes, much like alignment is. Since I'm using this rule in my sidekick classes only game, having the extra definition is helpful.
 

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