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

Li Shenron

Legend
It's not a bad idea per se... it's just that alternative ability scores have been tried countless of times in other RPGs or D&D variants and the conclusion is always that another variant is necessary.
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
Even better no ability score! just use the actual proficiency bonus, whether you are proficient and use no bonus 0, when you are not proficient.

I care about balance, but I like the mechanics of abilities. Each ability is an "aptitude", a cluster of skills that a character will inherently tend to be good at, even without having training for it. It is an excellent mechanic to quantify talent.



It's not a bad idea per se... it's just that alternative ability scores have been tried countless of times in other RPGs or D&D variants and the conclusion is always that another variant is necessary.

Creating abilities is tricky, because a roleplay game is a complex ecosystem with many and unpredictable variables.

Creating abilities from within the D&D traditions is constrained.

Creating abilities that players either love or can live with is hard.

My system that the original post presents works from within the D&D traditions. Everyone in this thread understands what Perception and Athletics are, and why they can work as a abilities.



Imagine a size-athletics based game (replacing strength-constitution). And maybe we replace Dexterity with Agility, just to rename everything.

Yeah. When the eight abilities pair off into four:

The Strength-Constitution score determines the Size as follows.

Minimum Strength-Constitution Score: Size
• 25+: Gargantuan
• 21: Huge
• 17: Large
• 13: Heavyweight (Medium)
• 9: Lightweight (Medium)
• 5: Small
• 1: Tiny

Personally, I am comfortable with a one-to-one correlation so that the score simply determines the size. Heh, but many gamers love their strong-tough halflings, and so on. So based on feedback, the Strength-Constitution score serves as a minimum requirement if a player wants a larger character concept.

Meanwhile, the Dexterity-Athletics pair represents agility, generally.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
With regard to the foursome:

Tough: Strength-Constitution (big brute)
Agile: Dexterity-Athletics (precision and mobility)
Knowing: Intelligence-Perception (intellect, observation, and intuition)
Social: Charisma-Wisdom (social skills, emotional intelligence, and mystique)



Sometimes I play around with a catchy acronym but the above is the gist of the four abilities.

I consider these four abilities the essential archetypes of most gaming systems, and perhaps even most story telling.



Trope of the Five-Guy Band
• Tough Guy (drums) (one-man-army)
• Rogue Guy (guitarist) (bad boy, shrewd, often a foil complementing the jock guy)
• Smart Guy (synthesizer keyboard) (advisor, technician, inventor)
• Heart Guy (accompanying singer) (idealistic hero, inspirational hero, "the chick" in an otherwise all-male band)

• Jock Guy (lead singer) (well-rounded, a little bit of everything, often the hero of the story since Gilgamesh)
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
The original post describes my creating a system (a character sheet) that allows the DM and players to choose whether to have four abilities, or the traditional six.

I did this by separating out Perception and Abilities as separate abilities. So that the eight could pair off into four, or correspond arrange according to the six.

To my surprise, the eight too as eight separate abilities seem reasonably balanced with each other.

So the system (the character sheet) allows the table to choose during the ability score generation, whether to have four, eight, or six ability scores.

These eight are great, because some gamers are "lumpers" and like to consolidate and some gamers are "splitters" and like to quantify smaller details. Hence, choose four, six, or eight depending on ones own style.



Going beyond the original post.

The eight derive from a bottom-up analysis of the gaming system. Which mechanics do players normally roll during a gaming session? These are the mechanics that need to organize in a way that is salient and useful and about equally balanced with each other.

(Top-down analysis tends to create categories that sound like a comprehensive simulation. But in practice, some of these categories fail be useful during actual gameplay, because they lack meaningful mechanics that make them valuable. Consider the current imbalance between Dexterity and Intelligence. Being "smart" or "educated" sounds like something that should be valuable, but knowledge skills are problematic during gameplay, and there are no other mechanics for Intelligence. Knowledge is problematic because if a DM needs players to know something, the DM will inform them one way or an other regardless of Intelligence score, and oppositely, if the DM doesnt want the players to know something, they will never know it, regardless of Intelligence score. The DM has gamist reasons to divulge information. Thus the usefulness of Intelligence varies from DM to DM. Personally, because my DM style adjudicates narratively, before resorting to dice-rolling, I often use knowledge skills to determine success if a story idea is plausible but uncertain. So, our games get alot of mileage out of knowledge skills − and Intelligence.)

I am surprised these eight seem roughly balanced with each other. One of the benefits of having fewer abilities − four − is the lumping makes it easier to bundle an assemblage of mechanics that is roughly equal to other assemblages. Because the abilities convey assymetric benefits (such as Strength extra damage versus Wisdom charm resistance), I didnt think it was possible to split the abilities into eight and have them balance each other. But I consider these eight comparable. I find it worthwhile to invest pointbuy and increases in any of them.

There is still value in lumping. For example. For the Strength-Constitution pair, one aspect gives active abilities that help compensate for the boringness of the passive aspect. For the Intelligence-Perception pair, the perceptive aspect is very useful mechanically and happens often during a gaming session, whereas the intelligent aspect of lore is useful for controlling a narrative but more nebulous mechanically. The pairing combines aspects that complement each other, and make each of the four overall choices more holistic and robust choices.

I prefer mechanical "elegance", making the abilities as simple as possible but not simpler. So both consolidation and flexibility are valuable to me. This is why my gaming style prefers four abilities.

But splitting is a legitimate gaming style too, and having eight separate abilities can finetune a concept carefully.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
If I were to have complete freedom to redo the "Six Stats" and have it actually accepted, rather than backlashed against, I would break it into three categories, offensive and defensive.

  • Physical
    • Offense: Might, perhaps. Or let players self define it as either Strength or Dexterity for imagery's sake.
    • Defense: Durability or Constitution. Maybe Deftness for people who want to have their extra HP as "Dodge Points"
  • Mental
    • Offense: Cunning, Intelligence, maybe something Erudite.
    • Defense: Wisdom, maybe Insight?
  • Social
    • Offense: Charisma in how well you can affect people.
    • Defense: Poise or Certainty. Both in your own identity and in other people's perceptions of you.
It would make using attributes in opposed manners much easier, and give you three defensive groups for an easy saving throw metric that also sort of applies to opposed skill use. Someone trying to undermine you in a social situation? You roll with Poise to be unflapped.
 
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Rogerd1

Explorer
You could go Savage Worlds with strength, agility, smarts, spirit.

Which is very similar to Diceless; strength, endurance, psyche, warfare.

You even homebrew some principles from Modern Age, such that they have a focus with each stat.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
You could go Savage Worlds with strength, agility, smarts, spirit.

Which is very similar to Diceless; strength, endurance, psyche, warfare.

You even homebrew some principles from Modern Age, such that they have a focus with each stat.
Yeah, when comparing various popular gaming engines, the foursome emerges as a useful reference for comparison.

"Strength Agility Smarts Spirit" ≈ "Strength-Constitution Dexterity-Athletics Intelligence-Perception Charisma-Wisdom"
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Here is an attachment to a PDF of the first page of a character sheet in progress. I intend to implement something like this in the future.

Any thoughts on it?

Note, Athletics and Perception format as abilities. (But players can still treat them as if skills, if they wish.)

Also note, the tweaking of the physical skills. The "Mobility" skill combines the Athletics/Acrobatics skills and relates to gymnastics, parkour, and things like stunt flying. The "Precision" skill is mostly manual dexterity, slight-of-hand (disarm trap, pick pocket).

I hope the other formatting decisions are self-explanatory, including borrowing from the monster stat block.
 

Attachments

  • Yaarel 2021 - Character Sheet.pdf
    166.7 KB · Views: 27

Even better no ability score! just use the actual proficiency bonus, whether you are proficient and use no bonus 0, when you are not proficient.
I jury rigged a variant for 5e without ability scores and posted it somewhere on the forum..

From memory you just double your proficiency bonus. Expertise adds +2 to a skill. The math is a bit underpowered vs base but it's pretty close.

Not terribly exciting for some people though, although if you reworked the feats and gave them out more frequently you'd have plenty of capacity for customisation.
 

@Yaarel i havent followed this thread very closely. How do you handle the pairings of attributes and skills?

Skills are interesting to me in 5e as they strike me as one of the most modular components of 5e. Changing abilities has effects on various class abilities and can make modifying them difficult where as skills often can be changed with little to no impact on other rules in the game.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
@Yaarel i havent followed this thread very closely. How do you handle the pairings of attributes and skills?

Skills are interesting to me in 5e as they strike me as one of the most modular components of 5e. Changing abilities has effects on various class abilities and can make modifying them difficult where as skills often can be changed with little to no impact on other rules in the game.
Skills are important in our games to adjudicate narrative scenarios. Many ideas to successfully overcome challenges never reach combat.

The abilities are important because they are aptitudes. Each is a cluster of skills that a character will tend to be good at generally, even if without training. I prefer to call them "aptitudes" and "aptitude scores", rather than "abilities". They are exactly an aptitude, whereas an ability can vaguely mean anything. To improve an aptitude while leveling is something like cross-training, getting better at a flexible cluster of skills generally, in a way that is more adaptable for new challenges.

Normally, we use aptitude checks, and players can choose to add whichever skill seems to make sense in the challenge. (The DM decides if a skill can apply. But the players are thoughtful and reasonable. There is rarely a disagreement between player and DM, unless there is a misunderstanding about the nature of the challenge, which clears up easily.

So it will be easy for us to use either four aptitudes, six aptitudes, or eight aptitudes. Whichever aptitude best applies to the challenge is the one used for the check. Players can choose whatever skill seems relevant and add its bonus to the check.

Of course, players prefer to choose a skill with a higher bonus. But this is the skill that the character is good at, and can use more resourcefully. So this tendency is working as intended. It deepens the flavor of the character, when a player describes how the skill applies. The only question is if the skill genuinely applies to the challenge. Again, the players tend to be fair and honest.

Tools are skills. Tools expand the list of possible skills. The skills proper tend to be a general theoretical knowledge. Tools tend to be a specialized applied knowledge. Compare the difference between Deception (Intelligence for fraud, Perception for replica, or Charisma for acting) versus the Disguise Kit. Where Deception proficiency can be used for a variety of applications generally, the Disguise Kit proficiency relates to anything and everything relevant to creating or using a Disguise Kit specifically. For example, one could use the Disguise Kit proficiency to mix chemicals to create a substance suitable for altering the features of the face convincingly, while the Deception skill could not be used to create this. Oppositely, one could use Deception to deceive a leader about some political affair, but could not use the Disguise Kit to do this.

Note, my character sheet organizes the skills proper into Physical skills, Social skills, Knowledge skills, Magic skills, and Tool skills. The Magic skills are Arcana, Nature, and Religion. Earlier Religion felt redundant because History (culture) and Arcana (spells, planes) are more useful and replace it. Meanwhile Survival is more useful and replaces Nature. For this reason, I have been rethinking these skills.

• Arcana ≈ Ethereal Plane, Feywild, Shadowfell, magical force, telekinesis, force constructs.
• Nature ≈ Elemental Planes, elements, plants, elemental magic, alchemy, chemistry, physics, animism, wilderness, cosmos
• Religion ≈ Astral Plane, Celestial/Fiend, thoughts, dreams, symbols, languages, worldviews, meaning

Nature applies to Plant as a kind of element, but not to animals. Animal Handling normally applies to nonmagical challenges, but also applies to various magical challenges. For example, it can recognize that an animal is actually a wildshaped Druid and facilitate "eye-of-newt"-style potions that transfer creature properties.

These three plus one skills turn out to be a great way to divide up magic, thematically. Each skill is useful. Nature turns out to be highly useful. Even Religion becomes necessary for many planar campaigns.



It seems to me, 5e somewhat stumbled into the concept of tool proficiencies accidentally. But because of its specialization and crafting applications, flexibility and verisimilitude, tools make 5e the best edition for skills so far.
 
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