log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Eight Abilities (Str-Con, Dex-Ath, Int-Per, Cha-Wis)

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I am a fan of reducing the six abilities to four abilities. Each of these four is salient and balances well with each other.

I find the tradition of six abilities problematic, especially how some abilities are more powerful than others, and how it is often blurry which one to apply.

In the process of designing a character sheet that allows the player to choose whether to use four abilities or six abilities. I separated out Athletics and Perception.

Thus the six expand to eight abilities, forming four pairs.

STRENGTHCONSTITUTION
DEXTERITYATHLETICS
INTELLIGENCEPERCEPTION
CHARISMAWISDOM



If a player wants to use the traditional six abilities, then place the Strength number in Athletics too, and place the Wisdom number in Perception too.

If a player wants to use four abilities, then the number of the ability on the left in the first column applies to the ability on the right in the second column too. Hence there is one number for each of the four pairs: Strength-Constitution, Dexterity-Athletics, Intelligence-Perception, and Charisma-Wisdom.



I notice, when I separate out Wisdom and Perception, all of the problematics with the traditional six abilities seem to resolve. Each of these two new abilities, Athletics and Perception, stands well on its own. I see the appeal of having eight separate abilities.

For example.

Perception. Perception as an ability represents the five senses, strictly: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touch. Perception cannot figure things out, it merely detects subtle or obscure sensory information. As a separate ability, it is now possible for certain animals to have a high Perception, without necessarily being "wise". When Perception was a skill it was too powerful compared to the other skills. But now as an ability, it balances well with the other abilities. If someone wants to find something hidden, one makes a Perception (Stealth) ability check. Moreover, Perception can notice an unfamiliar threat coming, thus is now the ability bonus that adds to the Initiative check, replacing Dexterity. Perception is the go-to for the "alert" character.

Wisdom. The Wisdom ability loses its incongruous five senses of Perception. But Wisdom retains its mental aspects of will power and empathy, and better represents someone wise, in the sense of "know thyself" and understand others. Regarding empathy, insight, and will, Wisdom is the go-to for maintaining morale and group wellbeing.

Athletics. Becoming an ability, Athletics is synonymous with mobility: running, jumping, falling, climbing, balancing, tumbling − any kind of physical stunt. In the sense of agility, leaping, and dodging out of the way, Athletics is now the ability bonus that adds to Armor Class and the "Reflex" save, replacing Dexterity. A Multi-Ability-Dependence is no longer necessary to invest in, to awkwardly use both Strength and Dexterity to do physical stunts. The Athletics ability is now the go-to for all "swashbuckling" characters and adventures.

Strength. The Strength ability loses its Athletics. But it remains powerful in melee, hitting hard and dealing heavy damage. It also remains responsible for lifting weights and carrying, correlates with size, and represents brute force generally. A lumbering giant is high Strength and low Athletics. Small animals are often mobile, being low Strength but high Athletics. A hero who has both high Strength and high Athletics can do physical stunts even in heavy armor.

Dexterity. The Dexterity ability loses its Initiative and its AC bonus and Reflex. But it maintains any special uses of a shield. Dexterity remains valuable for missile attacks, finesse attacks, Stealth, and Sleight of Hand. It represents manual dexterity generally, and especially when steadiness and precision are necessary. It is a go-to for rogues and snipers.

Intelligence. The Intelligence ability remains as-is. Its ability check enjoys academic research, memory, analysis, logic, intuition, detecting patterns, and scientific discernment. It puts the pieces together. Meanwhile the knowledge skills tend to belong to Intelligence. Arguably the Deception skill too. In combat, Intelligence is likely to notice strategic or tactical vulnerabilities. There needs to be more combat applications for Intelligence checks. But already, with Dexterity balancing more reasonably compared to the other seven abilities, and Wisdom lacking Perception, Intelligence finds itself more comparable among the eight abilities. It is an appealing go-to for the "smart" and resourceful character.

Constitution. The Constitution ability remains as-is. While it is awkwardly passive for an "ability", its fortitude, toughness, stamina, and concentration remain valuable among the eight abilities.

Charisma. Charisma and Wisdom are the social abilities, somewhat like extrovert and introvert, respectively. Charisma is the charm via fear and fascination and mystery. There is a sense of fate and destiny. One expresses one true self. It masters art, esthetics, style, edginess, popularity, magnetism, and social impact. Charisma is the go-to for the character who is larger than life.



There is more to be said for how the eight abilities pair off into four: Str-Con, Dex-Ath, Int-Per, Cha-Wis. Perhaps the best reason to pair them is, a Wizard can benefit from high Strength while also using Constitution for concentration, and a Fighter can benefit from high Intelligence while also using Perception for alertness.

For now, I am exploring how well the abilities work as eight stand-alone abilities. Each is distinctive and seems to balance well among the eight abilities.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

niklinna

Looking for group
Ooh, somebody's been reading Star Frontiers. Just kidding, they had this goofy thing where each pair could be adjusted, but that meant if your Strength went up, your Stamina (=Constitution) went down. Like, huh??
 


niklinna

Looking for group
Many, many years ago I abstracted abilities out into a drill-down system using the same structure within domains of activity (Physical, Mental, Social, Psychic, Magic, etc.). The 2nd level (open circles) would be most typical, but you didn't have to use the same level for all abilities (or across all domains). So, in the outline below, you could use Interaction (top-level), and then Force and Health (2nd-level). The 3rd-level abilities are differentated by time scale, physical scope, and detail.
  • Interaction
    • Perception
      • Alertness (something's happening)
      • Awareness (you know what it is)
      • Insight (you notice or suss out subtle details)
    • Movement
      • Speed (initiative, how fast you can do a thing, not how fast you move)
      • Agility
      • Precision (manual dexterity)
  • Imposition
    • Force
      • Power (basically damage, but also movement rate)
      • Strength
      • Endurance (how long you can use your Power or Strength)
    • Health
      • Vitality (basically hit points, lose 'em and die)
      • Toughness (hit points, lose 'em and be KO'ed)
      • Constitution (resistance to metabolic stresses)
It had cross-cut groupings too: Reflex (Alertness & Speed), Action (Awareness & Agility), Craft (Insight & Precision), Might (Power & Vitality), Brawn (Strength & Toughness), Mettle (Endurance & Constitution). You could combine the 3rd-level attributes in either dimension, or across domains.

This was not really for a playable system, but a model to understand how different game systems organized their abilities, and what they considered important to differentiate. Abilities in the Physical domain are usually differentiated the most (in D&D terms, STR, DEX, CON, HP), while Mental are a bit more chunked (INT, WIS), and Social quite often vestigial (CHA). The mapping isn't always straightforward (D&D uses WIS for Perception across all domains, for example), but even so most systems' abilities covered contiguous regions of my model.

My model isn't so good for things like acrobatics & athletics, which combine abilities under Perception, Movement, and Health in particular ways and with different emphasis. Agility presumes a certain amount of Strength, after all, just to be able to stand up, jump, and leap, or lift an object to swing or throw. There's only so much reduction to single numbers you can do.
 

I will sign anything that seperates perception from wisdom and dexterity from initiative.

I am not so sure about athletics. I am however not so sure about dex as a wizard's secondary stat. It is needed because of the requirement to be fast and evasive. But then you are also good at using the sling or crossbow... so maybe athletics as a pure defensive stat makes sense... but then the wizard is also the best climber...

Maybe a different Idea is decoupling certain things from stats altogether and make it a function of class, maybe as abilities you can chose from.
A wizard can be nimble or portly. One gets +x to AC, one gets +x to concentration checks.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Charisma and Wisdom are an odd pairing, at least in terms of connotations.

Spirit and Willpower, however, could perform a similar function while being connotatively linked.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
Legend of the Five Rings seperated stats into a physical/mental combo - for example, I think it was Strength and Perception that went into the Water ring, and Intelligence and Agility (being more active) went into Fire.

The catch was .. there were times you didn't use your Strength, but you'd use your Water ring, especially for spell casting, and your ring's value was equal to the LOWEST of the pair. So, if someone was just pure, raw strength, their Water wasn't probably so hot and could be used against them.

Random food for thought.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Essentially, all abilities that we choose for a TTRPG are arbitrary. Yes, we can say, "We need some sort of physical attribute, and some sort of mental attribute, and maybe we need to differentiate brute strength and finesse" - or maybe not!

In the end, though, everyone has great and amazing proposals to reform the six ability scores (I am not being sarcastic here, your proposal looks good, as have many others I have seen).

Here's the issue; it's not enough that your proposal be better than the current system; it has to be so clearly better than the current system and all other possible systems to overcome the fact that we now have almost fifty years of using the same six ability scores.

Which means that the real issue, since this is all arbitrary, is that because people can all propose "better than" systems that will be all different, none of them will achieve a consensus to overrule the strong broad consensus that the standard flawed system has.

The devil you know, and all that.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I've been muddling through something for trying with a home made system for a while, and it feels like the split into four physical things can balance them more... but makes me wonder if I then want armor to soak instead of be misses...

Strength - damage (& carrying capacity)
Dexterity - to hit (& open lock/pick pocket)
Agility - ac and initative (& tumbling type things)
Constitution - hit point mod (& some saves/avoiding exhaustion)

For mental, it feels like a lot of that depends on how you want the magic system to work and if you want an IQ type stat. I find classic intelligence and wisdom a bit annoying for PCs going by what their names mean in plain English, and so might only need three...

Psyche - defensive willpower and storing spell formulas
Awareness - perception, avoiding surprise, and connection to natural phenomena
Charisma - offensive willpower and force of personality for social rolls

and then I'm contemplating a spirit world, and the connection to it would be measured by Affinity.
 

Honestly, the idea that there need to be attributes (or attributes that matter to massively multiple portions of the game) should probably be the first thing that should be examined for a theoretical new game. In my own latest 'osr game in perpetual development' attributes exist, but only inform the skill system and a few other things (high Str gives a small encumbrance boost, Int extra starting languages, etc.), while the primary game functions of how good you fight or save or the like are governed by class, level, and some attribute-independent build resources (I guess feats or backgrounds or the like).
 

jgsugden

Legend
I think we're looking at the wrong problem here. The real problem here is the belief that you have to have meaningful balance between the stats to have fun. You absolutely do not.

In my experience, we give way too much min/max attention to attribute scores. They're there to describe the characters and facilitate mechanics that support the story we tell about them. If you don't think every PC you run has to be Superman, but can instead be Star Lord or Daredevil, you'll have more fun.

I've had a great time playing a character with a 14 as their highest attribute in a party with characters that "rolled" multiple 18s, and as a DM I've had a lot of low stat PCs played in my games that were highly enjoyable for their players.

First of all, you can balance around the uneven stats. A high quality magic weapon that suits the PC with low stats, or Gauntlets of Ogre Power, or a variety of other tools can magically level a playing field if you think it needs to be leveled.

Second, you don't need it leveled. The 'pipsqueak' hero is a cliche. Harry Potter wasn't the smartest, strongest, fastest (except on a broom which was only a minor benefit), charismatic or wisest of his peers - but he was thrust into the center of the story. What would his attributes have been? Anything higher than a 14? Heck, he might not have had any stat higher than a 12! That series is the most beloved story of the modern era - and the protagonist explicitly is only special because (spoilers) dead people loved him once.

Finally, we WAY overestimate how often a little difference in ability score has any impact on the game at all mechanically. Here is a simulation to run. Three low level ranger archers that are identical except for one having an 18 dexterity, another a 16, an the third a 14. They all share the same die rolls when at a "shoot a magical bear" target range (AC 11, HP 34). Using their Hunter's Mark, the first one attacks at +6 for (d8+d6+4). The second at +5 for (d8+d6+3), the last +4 for (d8+d6+2). If they all use the same die rolls, see how often there is a difference when the bear dies - not how much damage it takes - but when it dies. There is some, but not as much as you'd think based upon the huge deal we make about these differences in stats. Now, consider that a one round of difference in when the bear dies in a real combat also only matters if the bear lands an attack during that extra round(s) it survives against the lower ability score attacker....

The system works as is. I've played around with it a lot over the decades and I've always come back to the same conclusions - nothing is perfect, but the RAW are a pretty good balance of utility and simplicity.
 

I think we're looking at the wrong problem here. The real problem here is the belief that you have to have meaningful balance between the stats to have fun. You absolutely do not.

In my experience, we give way too much min/max attention to attribute scores. They're there to describe the characters and facilitate mechanics that support the story we tell about them. If you don't think every PC you run has to be Superman, but can instead be Star Lord or Daredevil, you'll have more fun.

I've had a great time playing a character with a 14 as their highest attribute in a party with characters that "rolled" multiple 18s, and as a DM I've had a lot of low stat PCs played in my games that were highly enjoyable for their players.

First of all, you can balance around the uneven stats. A high quality magic weapon that suits the PC with low stats, or Gauntlets of Ogre Power, or a variety of other tools can magically level a playing field if you think it needs to be leveled.

Second, you don't need it leveled. The 'pipsqueak' hero is a cliche. Harry Potter wasn't the smartest, strongest, fastest (except on a broom which was only a minor benefit), charismatic or wisest of his peers - but he was thrust into the center of the story. What would his attributes have been? Anything higher than a 14? Heck, he might not have had any stat higher than a 12! That series is the most beloved story of the modern era - and the protagonist explicitly is only special because (spoilers) dead people loved him once.

Finally, we WAY overestimate how often a little difference in ability score has any impact on the game at all mechanically. Here is a simulation to run. Three low level ranger archers that are identical except for one having an 18 dexterity, another a 16, an the third a 14. They all share the same die rolls when at a "shoot a magical bear" target range (AC 11, HP 34). Using their Hunter's Mark, the first one attacks at +6 for (d8+d6+4). The second at +5 for (d8+d6+3), the last +4 for (d8+d6+2). If they all use the same die rolls, see how often there is a difference when the bear dies - not how much damage it takes - but when it dies. There is some, but not as much as you'd think based upon the huge deal we make about these differences in stats. Now, consider that a one round of difference in when the bear dies in a real combat also only matters if the bear lands an attack during that extra round(s) it survives against the lower ability score attacker....

The system works as is. I've played around with it a lot over the decades and I've always come back to the same conclusions - nothing is perfect, but the RAW are a pretty good balance of utility and simplicity.
true but this does not infer the attempts at building better or balancing are pointless or impossible, it may be difficult and never perfect but better is always better as that is tautological by nature.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
In almost any RPG, you really should have a Size attribute.

Being bigger or smaller matters to a lot of fiction. In a fantasy game, creatures vary from pixies to dragons in size.

Once you have that, Athletics becomes very nicely orthogonal to it. Athletics is how "toned" you are given how big you are. While this doesn't quite catch fast twitch/slow twitch differences, it matches fiction pretty well.

So a conan-type barbarian can be a large size large athletics, while a nimble rogue who jumps from rooftop to rooftop is small size large athletics.

I think attributes should reflect "what kind of character in a story".

There is probably room for a 3rd physical stat to be the "quick/precise/balanced dude". But it overlaps a lot with athletics.

That kind of "fiction first" I think is important. You'll notice this removes constitution. It is true that fast/slow twitch muscles are a thing, and VO2 can be different than your max press; but in a fictional character, isn't that a bit too much detail?

For mental stats, I'd be tempted to again try to be fiction first. What kind of smart characters are there?

The Bookish character.
The experienced wise old dude. But usually they are bookish as well; bookish isn't always wise, but wise is almost always bookish.
The "street smart" character. This is sort of experienced minus bookish.
The perceptive character, capping out at Sherlock.
The silver tongued character. Can manipulate and understand other people.

Anything else?
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Just a random thought to play with, develop, or throw away...

What about combining or averaging the "extra"/new abilities?

Take Strength and Dexterity -take the average of the score or the average of the bonuses or combine the bonuses outright or however you think makes the most sense = your Athletics score/bonus.

Intelligence and Wisdom combine [however] to = your Perception score/bonus.
 

The proposed rules are very similar to Mutants & Masterminds. In that system the values aren't perfectly balanced, but it's easy to calculate a stat's worth. Note that in M&M Strength does not apply to attack rolls.

Strength gave the ability to lift things and damage. (The ability to lift things isn't nearly as useful in D&D, IME.) Also applies to "Athletics" (this is Climb and Jump, but not Acrobatics).
Stamina is the same as Constitution.
Agility is basically "Dex bonus to AC", Reflex saves, Initiative and skill bonuses.
Dexterity was ranged attack bonus and a few skills. Underpowered in that system.
Intelligence was skills only... but there's a lot of skills. It doesn't really map to D&D, since save DCs aren't based on ability scores in M&M.
Awareness is the same thing as Wisdom.
Presence is Charisma, and underpowered for the same reason Intelligence is.
I left out one stat as it simply wouldn't make sense in a D&D context.

Some stat combos don't make sense to me. Warhammer Fantasy RPG (2nd Edition) has Intelligence and sensory ability mapped onto one (Intelligence), which makes no sense to me. If someone is intelligent and absent-minded, does that mean they have low intelligence? Or does intelligence always come paired with hyperawareness?

I wouldn't suggest this for D&D though. There have been five editions and stats only underwent one significant change (in 3e), such a massive difference that D&D practically become a totally different game at that point.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Essentially, all abilities that we choose for a TTRPG are arbitrary. Yes, we can say, "We need some sort of physical attribute, and some sort of mental attribute, and maybe we need to differentiate brute strength and finesse" - or maybe not!

In the end, though, everyone has great and amazing proposals to reform the six ability scores (I am not being sarcastic here, your proposal looks good, as have many others I have seen).

Here's the issue; it's not enough that your proposal be better than the current system; it has to be so clearly better than the current system and all other possible systems to overcome the fact that we now have almost fifty years of using the same six ability scores.

Which means that the real issue, since this is all arbitrary, is that because people can all propose "better than" systems that will be all different, none of them will achieve a consensus to overrule the strong broad consensus that the standard flawed system has.

The devil you know, and all that.
A bit of a caveat here, but I would add "with respect to changing attributes in D&D." Some other games the D&D six attributes because it's what they are most familiar with, particularly in the OSR sphere. Other systems obviously don't care about D&D's six attributes and will change theirs accordingly. But trying to change the attributes of D&D? That time has come and gone, whether sadly or not. I certainly have issues with D&D's attributes. It is less how arbitrary they are, but more with how a lot of weird gunk has accumulated in the stats over the years, and there is a lot of weird overlap between them and a few other issues (e.g., active vs. passive). I probably would have also changed how certain classes are associated with certain ones, but tradition and what not.
 


MGibster

Legend
A bit of a caveat here, but I would add "with respect to changing attributes in D&D." Some other games the D&D six attributes because it's what they are most familiar with, particularly in the OSR sphere. Other systems obviously don't care about D&D's six attributes and will change theirs accordingly. But trying to change the attributes of D&D? That time has come and gone, whether sadly or not. I certainly have issues with D&D's attributes.

Let's bring back comeliness! I think Snarf already said it best: We've got 50 years of using these attributes. Why is it worth our while to change?

Adroit
Brains
Brawn
Charm
Doughty
Moxie
Oh, come on. We're talking about a fantasy RPG not a 1920s gangster game!
Edit: And I'm joking...any stat line called Moxie gets my approval.
 
Last edited:

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am a fan of reducing the six abilities to four abilities.
...
Thus the six expand to eight abilities, forming four pairs.
...
I see the appeal of having eight separate abilities.

I am a fan of fewer, so I'll make more?

I don't think that, given the perceived problems of the OP, we actually solve them this way. Which is not to say that you can't like this scheme - just that it doesn't clearly address the stated issues.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top