Four Ability Scores

Yaarel

Adventurer
An elegant way to handle the D&D abilities system is to consolidate the current six to a salient four.

• Strength
• Dexterity

• Intelligence
• Charisma

This foursome allows for a useful distinction among the physical abilities and among the mental abilities.


Compare the new Forbidden Lands gaming system from the Free League Publishing (Tales of the Loop, Mutant Year Zero, etcetera). Its system utilizes this foursome, and the result is a simple but powerful gaming system that won an ENny award for its rules. It calls the foursome as follows.

• Strength
• Agility

• Wits
• Empathy

Meanwhile, skills determine the other modifiers. The clarity of when to use each ability minimizes the amount of rules necessary and makes spontaneous on the fly rulings intuitively straightforward.



For D&D, the foursome functions well as follows.

• Strength (merge Str and Con, it is the minimum prereq for size, and there is no finesse weapon)
• Dexterity (use Dex as-is, but now does all Athletics checks relating climb, jump, and movement)

− Pulling a teammate up is a Strength check, but pulling yourself up is a Dexterity check relating to movement and agility.

• Intelligence (use Int as-is, but includes Perception checks)
• Charisma (use Charisma as-is, but includes Empathy/Insight checks, and Willpower defense).

These adjustments result in an optimally efficient gaming system. Each ability has a clear meaning, and is roughly equal in value to the other three abilities.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
Unity Tabletop RPG
  • Might
  • Agility
  • Mind
  • Presence

Shadow of the Demon Lord
  • Strength
  • Agility
  • Intellect
  • Will

Overall, much as you allude to, this is not exactly a novel array of attributes for D&D-inspired games, but this is not likely, if ever, to change for D&D.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Seems like D&D can handle this optimization.

Making Intelligence do both Investigation and Perception (rather than divide them) seems easy enough.

Making Dexterity do both Athletics and Acrobatics (rather than divide them) seems easy enough.

Besides the skill tweaks, Strength and Constitution are the same number, and Wisdom and Charisma are the same number.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I don't think there is a big problem with the number of scores as much as what they represent.

Fantasy ages 6 ability scores are easy to understand without having to have discussions about using the players intelligence vs the characters, or dealing with the fact that having high Wisdom does not help the characters not make foolish choices.

They just make more sense to me.

Cunning is a measure of your character’s intelligence, knowledge, and education.
Dexterity encompasses agility, hand-eye coordination, and quickness.
Magic determines your character’s innate arcane power.
Perception covers all the senses and the ability to interpret sensory data.
Strength is your character’s physical brawn.
Willpower encompasses mental toughness, discipline, and confidence.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I don't think there is a big problem with the number of scores as much as what they represent.
For D&D, a sixsome of abilities comes with two persistent problems − they are unequal in usefulness − they are ambiguous.

For the AGE system, the sixsome improves by being unambiguous, yet remains unequal in usefulness. AGE too can improve further by combining Cunning and Perception, handling magic mentally, and thereby feature the salient foursome.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
Fantasy ages 6 ability scores are easy to understand without having to have discussions about using the players intelligence vs the characters, or dealing with the fact that having high Wisdom does not help the characters not make foolish choices.
Green Ronin's Fantasy Age system has more than 6 ability scores: Accuracy, Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Fighting, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, and Willpower.
 
I wrote a custom RPG, Dragonslayers of the Rio Grande, about cowboys hunting dragons. The stats were:

  • Awareness. Are you alert enough to hear boots outside your door? Perceptive enough to know the man you’re about to duel is about to draw? Have a keen enough eye to tell apart the tracks of a coyote and a chupacabra?
  • Brawn. Can you knock a man out in one punch? Hammer in railroad spikes faster than a steam driver? Hold shut the fanged maw of a dragon so it can’t bite you?
  • Cunning. Can you crack a safe? Is your poker face inscrutable? Do you step so softly you won’t wake a sleeping drake?
  • Daring. Have you ever jumped your horse off a cliff into a river? Would you battle a vampire atop a moving train as the bridge beneath you collapses? Are you man enough to charge a dragon, duck under its claws, and shoot it in its soft underbelly?
  • Education. Can you make your own gunpowder and dynamite? Do you know the real value of things, to make good deals with merchants and get rich rewards for your bounties? Do you understand enough Latin to break the curse that Cherokee shaman placed on you?
  • Fanciness. Do gentlemen of good character tip their hats to you, and respectable ladies adore your charms? Can you impress a judge into letting you off on bail? Could you pose as an empresario and infiltrate the Mexican congress?
  • Grit. When by rights you should fail, grit gives you that extra oomph to pull through.
  • Health. How much of a beating can you take?
  • Initiative. Who’s the fastest gun in the west?
  • Justice. How honorable and law-abiding are you?
  • Killing. Any fool can learn how to shoot a target, but most waver when they’re facing death and have to kill or be killed.
  • Luck. It ain’t just for cards and love-making. Some folks is just lucky, no two ways about it.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Every once in a while a thread of this nature emerges and I never understand why. Strength and Constitution are definitely distinct attributes, as are Intelligence/Wisdom and Wisdom/Charisma. While the core 6 can be broken down as finely as you want for "sub-attributes", they pretty well encompass everything.

What ambiguity do you perceive that you trying to solve with this?
 

Bynw

The Oyarsa of IRC
Having played and GM'd a large number of different RPGs over the decades I've been playing. The number of Ability scores very depending on the system and the feel that the game designers wanted. I like all of the games I've played in. From D&D with the classic 6 Ability scores, to Numenera with only 3. And other games with 4-6 but not always the same ones that D&D uses. And even RPGs that don't use Ability scores at all.

They all work equally fine. They all have the mechanics for the number of Ability scores and what they represent. Including those games that don't have any at all.

If you want to run your game with only 4 Ability scores. By all means do so, there is nothing stopping you from making that change to your game and still having it be D&D. But it makes a lot of extra work on the DM to convert everything over that was created for a 6 Ability score system into a 4 Ability score system. That's a lot of balance changes from modifications to the character classes, character creation systems, spells, combat, and skills.

Ask yourself is it worth the work to fix what you see as broken. If it is worth the work. Do it. If its not, then don't bother or find a game system that is better suited to your tastes. Maybe it can be tweaked easier than the proposed change.
 

Draegn

Explorer
My game we use

Strength
Dexterity
Constitution/Health
Endurance
Quickness

Intelligence/Knowledge
Wisdom/Common Sense
Reasoning/Puzzle solving

Charisma
Comeliness

Luck
Magic
Faith
 

BigBadDM

Explorer
This foursome allows for a useful distinction among the physical abilities and among the mental abilities.
Why not just simplify it even more and make it more elegant? Just use physical and mental for TWO abilites as you almost concluded but didn't quite make the jump--I even bolded it for ya.
 
As much as I think the Big Six are... less than ideal... I really don't think cutting them down even further is the way to go.

Strength and Constitution can be combined, or not, while Dexterity definitely needs to be split into two abilities. And the three mental abilities just do not serve any coherent purpose whatsoever in their current form.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Has anyone actually tried running their D&D game with only four stats? If they have... then it's more beneficial to all of us here on the boards if you tell all of us how it went.

Just saying "The game should be X!" is absolutely useless. No one's going to just decide to change their game because of the whim of some poster just talking out loud... someone who keeps saying "This is how it should be!" but apparently never actually doing it themselves. Why should any of us listen to that person? Don't talk the talk if you aren't walking the walk.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
If I where going to drop any mental ability score it would be Charisma. Intelligence is very different to wisdom.
I would drop Wisdom. It attempts to be too much - perception, willpower, intuition, some knowledge - and it does trample on both Intelligence (some forms of knowledge, interpretive insight, etc.) and Charisma (willpower). The justification that Wisdom includes common sense is a strike against it rather than for it, since the idea that high wisdom characters demonstrate high common sense is laughable. I don't think that Intelligence and Wisdom are that different even when people cite the clueless professor or the like.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Well, originally will power was part of Wisdom. Although many people seem to think it is part of Charisma now, nowhere in the Charisma description is will power listed.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
I don't agree.

My house rule is adding four more:

Astuteness (social manipulation or creativity to improvise).

Technique (art, playing, martial arts and maneuvers, dance, crafting)

Courage (facing fear and mental stress)

Grace (karma/luck/fate).

With two different pools of points to avoid abuse by munchkins.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Why not just simplify it even more and make it more elegant? Just use physical and mental for TWO abilites as you almost concluded but didn't quite make the jump--I even bolded it for ya.
You call that simplification? Your system has two ability scores! There should be ZERO ability scores. Beat that! :)

(Actually, I'm not joking. In my ideal D&D, ability scores would be abolished and everything would be simply "proficient" or "not proficient." If you want to be good at Perception, you don't have to worry about some second-order stat, you just take proficiency in Perception and boom. It won't happen - the time when the Sacred Six could have been altered passed when 1E was still young - but if I could redesign D&D from the days of Gygax onward, that's what I'd do.)
 

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