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Four Ability Scores

Yaarel

Explorer
My purpose was not for you to reinforce your idea that somehow the "foursome" you devised is perfect.
Heh, who is saying ‘perfect’? D&D is an evolving tradition. So, it is an open system thus mathematically impossible to have a ‘perfect’ mechanic that is true in every situation.

Just noting, the foursome is a powerful methodology.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Heh, who is saying ‘perfect’? D&D is an evolving tradition. So, it is an open system thus mathematically impossible to have a ‘perfect’ mechanic that is true in every situation.

Just noting, the foursome is a powerful methodology.
It just remaps actions to different ability scores and leaves a lot of the distinction internal to those stats.

If designing a system from scratch I personally would want to get rid of ability scores. However, if I wanted to keep ability scores then I would do something like this:

Physical:
Strength, Agility, Endurance

Intelligence:
Observation, Deduction

Charisma:
Influence, Detect Influence

Skills would cover activities that tend to depend more on skill -
Stealth, sleight of hand, thieves tools, history, nature, survival, animal handling, athletics etc.

Resolution mechanic would be something like, Pick your 2 highest abilities or skills that pertain to the resolution of this task. Add those together and that's your modifier for this skill check. If only 1 ability or skill is related then double that score for the modifier.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
If designing a system from scratch I personally would want to get rid of ability scores.
Personally I like ability scores. We are more than the sum of our learned skills. We are also talents, inherent aptitudes tending to be good a certain skills. I feel the ability tradition is a reasonable way to represent the concept of talent.

In D&D 5e, the benefit from talent (ability score) and the benefit from learning (skill proficiency) are roughly equal contributions. The maximum benefit from talent is +5 and maximum from learning is +6 (until a hypothetical epic tier).

Even the way 5e allows the character to improve the ability score feels verisimilitudinous. I feel, learning does improve the general aptitude, allowing more competence in other skills. Like the football player who studies ballet to improve his football performance, and so on.



However, if I wanted to keep ability scores then I would do something like this: ...

Intelligence:
Observation, Deduction

Charisma:
Influence, Detect Influence
These mental abilities in the quote seem to resemble:

• Intelligence: Perception, Investigation
• Charisma: Persuasion, Insight/Empathy

(Note, I prefer to call ‘Insight’, the ‘Empathy’ skill. I feel the term is more specific to social skills, and helps distinguishes its use from, say, ‘insight into what a mathematical integral represents’.)

Thinking about these, I contemplate the following.


• Intelligence: Perception, Investigation-Deception, Lore, Tools.

I suppose Perception and Investigation are separable. Perception is the ability to detect a faintly visible phenomenon, while Investigation is the ability to interpret and extrapolate what this faint evidence represents. In the extreme case, an animal might have a high Perception, yet remain clueless and unable to recognize, understand, or respond meaningfully.

On the other hand, the power to interpret clues, allows the perceiver to perceive much more. Something like Sherlock Holmes ‘notices’ more evidence (via Perception) because of the analytical skills (via Investigation). In this sense, especially for a human, it is impossible to separate Perception from Investigation.

On balance, it is reasonable to link both Perception and Investigation, and here the ‘Intelligence’ ability score represents this inherent link between Perception and Investigation.

Investigation also includes ‘intuition’, a gut feeling or inspired concept for how evidence pieces together.

I feel strongly that Deception belongs to Intelligence. The ability to forge a document, replicate some artifact, or come with a convincing lie that can survive the scrutiny of experts, requires extreme knowledgeability. Essentially, the Investigation skill that perceives a reality, is identical to Deception that constructs a reality. Moreover, Deception is really about the ability to create a simulation. The skill forms any kind of a virtual reality, and is not necessarily for the purpose of deception. It might be for an authentic vivid experience, such as painting a realistic lifelike portrait, or crafting an authentic replica of a destroyed artifact. I view Illusion magic as relating strictly to Intelligence and the ability to reconstruct a virtual reality that is convincing. The purpose of an illusion might be for improvement, without the intent of deception. One might use the Deception skill to forge a replica of a document to deceive an observer, or one could use the same skill to accurately recreate a page from a spellbook. I would prefer to call the Deception skill ‘Simulation’, in the sense of being able to replicate some phenomenon with precision. But in any case, the Investigation skill is moreorless the same thing as the Deception skill. The same Investigation that can discern the implications of the evidence and reconstruct the reality in ones mind, can also be used deceptively to convincingly fabricate a reality. Hence, Investigation-Deception.

I would also add ‘Lore’ to the Intelligence category, essentially representing memory, experiential knowledge, and formal and informal education. Lore subdivides into specific skill sets relating to the overall topic.

It turns out, D&D 5e evolved to feature the best ‘crafting’ skill of any edition of D&D. The catch is, 5e makes ‘crafting rules’ part of proficiency with tools. The tool set determines what kind of things a character can craft.

Ultimately, Intelligence represents an aptitude for observational and exploratory skills, including technological discovery and use.



• Charisma: Charm, Frighten, Empathy, Willpower

For me, Charisma is a catchall term for social skills, and is moreorless synonymous with ‘emotional intelligence’. The ability to read people and influence people are two aspects of Charisma.

Personally, I like the distinction between positive reinforcement (appealing to desires) versus negative reinforcement (appealing to fears). Charm/Persuasion and Frighten/Intimidation. Carrot and Stick. This Frighten would be identical to Intimidate, but one can more clearly ‘intimidate’ someone by reminding someone of undesirable consequence − without actually making any threat personally. Heh, such as saying, ‘If you do that, your daughter might end up dating such-and-such a person.’ There is no threat made, just a playing on fears. So ‘frighten’ is a clearer term, for any kind of negative reinforcement. When extreme, I am comfortable with these causing the ‘charmed condition’ and the ‘frightened condition’, respectively.

I view artistic beauty and esthetics as a Charm/Persuasion check. Any artistic creation or performance requires two separate skill checks. One is for the technical mastery (for examples, Intelligence Investigation-Reconstruction for a lifelike portrait or Agility Athletics for an impressive dance), the other is for its esthetic appeal (Charisma Charm).

Willpower is also a salient aspect of Charisma, in the sense of confidence, resolve, persistence, and an individuating autonomy that can resist social pressure. Hope too is an aspect of this Willpower. Willpower can be passive in the sense of resisting someone else’s Persuasion. Persuasion itself covers the more active use. But Willpower can also be active, in the sense of Maintaining Focus, Concentration, Exerting Psionic Force, or so on. Magic done by ‘force of personality’ essentially utilize Willpower.

For the sake of a clean line, all ‘Lore’ relating to social skills utilizes the Charisma ability, no matter how technical that psychological jargon might be. In any case, the only persons who can understand the jargon accurately are the ones with the emotional intelligence to inherently understand the emotional aspects that the jargon refers to.

Ultimately, Charisma represents social skills, including empathy and its ability to relate as a social creature, plus the ability to influence (via desire or fear), and the willpower to convey confidence. A leader needs all three aspects.



This post is already lengthy. I will think more about the physical ability, and post any thoughts on it later.

In sum:

• Intelligence: Perception, Investigation-Deception, Lore, Tools.
• Charisma: Charm, Frighten, Empathy, Willpower
 
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Yaarel

Explorer
Skills would cover activities that tend to depend more on skill -
Stealth, sleight of hand, thieves tools, history, nature, survival, animal handling, athletics etc.

Resolution mechanic would be something like, Pick your 2 highest abilities or skills that pertain to the resolution of this task. Add those together and that's your modifier for this skill check. If only 1 ability or skill is related then double that score for the modifier.
So, each ability counts twice. This would mean that a person with an unusually high ability score would rather double it, rather than add a proficiency bonus that would be a lower number. It seems to make ‘talent’ much more powerful at low levels of proficiency, and proficiency itself inconsequential to that specific check. Is this intentional?
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Personally I like ability scores. We are more than the sum of our learned skills. We are also talents, inherent aptitudes tending to be good a certain skills. I feel the ability tradition is a reasonable way to represent the concept of talent.
Of course. I'm not sure why you feel the need to differentiate which portions are skill based and which portions are inherent aptitudes. Much like hp is an amalgamation of luck, skill, physical resileience, etc. In a system like the one being described your "skills" would be an amalgamation of your talents, inherent aptitudes, experience and training.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
So, each ability counts twice. This would mean that a person with an unusually high ability score would rather double it, rather than add a proficiency bonus that would be a lower number. It seems to make ‘talent’ much more powerful at low levels of proficiency, and proficiency itself inconsequential to that specific check. Is this intentional?
Not at all. I think an example is in order.

In this system your skills and characestics would be separate and share no direct influence on each other.

So if you have Agility +3 and Stealth +4 and you are in a situation where you are stealthing up to a camp and you see a patrol. You may want to quickly duck behind cover to avoid being seen. In this cause you would get a +7 bonus because your Agility and your Stealth matter for the resolution.

If you were just carefully moving silently up behind a guard then you would get +8 because only your stealth matters and it would be doubled.
 
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Yaarel

Explorer
Not at all. I think an example is in order.

In this system your skills and characestics would be separate and share no direct influence on each other.

So if you have Agility +3 and Stealth +4 and you are in a situation where you are stealthing up to a camp and you see a patrol. You may want to quickly duck behind cover to avoid being seen. In this cause you would get a +7 bonus because your Agility and your Stealth matter for the resolution.

If you were just carefully moving silently up behind a guard then you would get +8 because only your stealth matters and it would be doubled.
Can you give an example of a mental check?
 

CleverNickName

Adventurer
That being said, it's a useless discussion point for D&D, since it will never, ever change from the Big 6. Ever.
I agree completely. And why would it? It's doubtful you would get any meaningful improvement or balance by removing granularity. Rolling Str and Con into the same stat, and letting Dex be even more useful than it already is, would likely create more headaches than it would cure.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
I agree completely. And why would it? It's doubtful you would get any meaningful improvement or balance by removing granularity. Rolling Str and Con into the same stat, and letting Dex be even more useful than it already is, would likely create more headaches than it would cure.
One can achieve more balance, by making ability scores equally useful to each other.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
Regarding the split of physical abilities,

• Strength-Constutitution
• Dexterity-Athletics

Dexterity becomes the go-to for physical skills (balance, climb, jump, tumble, etcetera).

Strength essentially becomes the Combat ability, adding its ability bonus to the melee weapon proficiency, sotospeak weapon skills, including grappling, and adding hit points to survive combat. Moreover, Strength allows heavier armors, substituting for Dexterity for AC.

Many Fighter characters will make Strength for combat encounters and Intelligence for Perception the two most prominent abilities.

Strength is an appealing choice comparing to Dexterity.
 
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Yaarel

Explorer
I'm not sure why you feel the need to differentiate which portions are skill based and which portions are inherent aptitudes.

Much like hp is an amalgamation of luck, skill, physical resileience, etc. In a system like the one being described your "skills" would be an amalgamation of your talents, inherent aptitudes, experience and training.
Why do I like abilities (the inherent aptitudes)?

Abilities are a simple way to provide an epitome of what a character concept is about.

For example, if a Wizard is about Intelligence and a Bard is about Charisma, it instantly communicates a large amount of information.

Races feel different because of affinities to abilities.

When I look at the statblock for a monster, I check out the abilities to know in live time how to play them.

Flavorwise, abilities are useful as a big-picture mechanic.

Mechanicswise, abilities are the engine of the D&D 5e gaming system. Everything. Everything. Everything. Refers to them. A player can think completely outside the box. No matter how surprised a DM is, the DM can think about which ability applies. Adjudicate it as an ability check. Even if a specific skill is completely absent, the ability can still apply.

Gamewise, abilities are powerful, and make D&D more open to imagination.



Why do I like FOUR abilities?

Four is a powerful number. Because of forward-backward-right-left, the foursome is probably hardwired into the neurology of the brain, and appears to be the fundamental unit of human memory, and how the brain processes information.

Four is useful.

The foursome seen in the Free League system and translating here enjoys extreme clarity. It is unambiguous which ability should apply to a specific ability check. This clarity makes the ability gaming engine more efficient, more comprehensive, and more powerful.

Narratively, the foursome coheres happily with wellknown tropes.

• Strength-Constitution ≈ Big Guy
• Dexterity-Athletics ≈ Jock Guy
• Intelligence-Perception ≈ Smart Guy
• Charisma-Wisdom ≈ Heart Guy

These four tropes relate to the Five Man Band. What makes the Five peculiar is the tendency for one of the five to be the dedicated ‘Hero’. Then, the second is ‘Lancer’ being the ‘opposite’ of the Hero, to accentuate the hero. Because of Gilgamesh and King Arthur, the Jock Guy is usually assumed to be the ‘Hero’ of the story. The Lancer, then, is his sidekick, where opposites attract. The other three are more exact. The ‘Chick’ of the Five Man Band is the Heart Guy. The Smart Guy is the Smart Guy, with various ways of being smart. The Big Guy is the Big Guy, being in some sense a one-man army who masters combat.

What makes the foursome more interesting is, there seems inherently no Hero. Any of the four can be the hero of the story, and many stories involving the foursome alternating who the center of the story is. Four is more fluid.

It is possible to arbitrarily overlay other kinds of narrative quartets (like the philosophies: Optimist, Cynic, Realist, and Apathetic).

But the narrative tropes of Big, Jock, Smart, and Heart are already a powerful tool for a storytelling game to tap into.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
3k viewers of this thread!



Carefully organizing the D&D abilities tradition, to make them more efficient and more balanced, adds value to the gaming system.

The sixsome are a fossilized ad-hoc tangle, being ambiguous and conflictive, and unequal in usefulness. By untangling the abilities − disambiguating when to use each, making each more equal to the other − the foursome opens up options that the previous tangle inhibited.

Especially the D&D player benefits, when trying to translate a character concept into the mechanics of D&D.



We can see how the Fighter class benefits. Most Fighter concepts will prioritize Strength-Constitution to excel at combat, via toughness. But the auxiliary ability is now an equally viable choice, depending on what kind of warrior concept the player wants to play.

• Intelligence-Perceptive. The observant guard. The military strategist. The skillful gadgeteer.

• Dexterity-Athletics. The gymnastic light armor swashbuckler. The stealthy covert operative.

• Charisma-Willpower. The celebrated hero of songs and tales. The intimidating military leader.

And so on, the auxiliary ability is just as important as the primary ability when articulating a character concept.

In the case of the Fighter, Intelligence and Charisma are no longer ‘dump stats’. Each is actually a great choice to build an effective Fighter with a very high investment in it. The deciding choice of a foursome ability, depends on the character concept. The players choice is free from the unwieldliness of sixsome abilities.



Likewise, consider the Wizard class. Most Wizard concepts will prioritize Intelligence-Perception, now an enviable ability to prioritize.

But now, the possibility of Strength-Constitution, opens up many character concepts. Not only will this battle-hardened Wizard gain survivability in combat encounters, but the possibility of functioning on the frontline opens up. The Wizard who knows how to wield a staff competently − or a sword like Gandolf − is a routine choice for players who seek this. (In addition to Elf Wizards with sword proficiency, and Dwarf Wizards with heavy armor, I allow players to swap a cantrip for proficiency in a specific martial weapon, or proficiency with light armor, or then heavy armor.)

Meanwhile, the athletics or stealth of Dexterity and the charm or fright of Charisma are also equally good choices for a Wizard to invest in.



Now, with a foursome, concept becomes far more important when building a character.
 
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dnd4vr

Adventurer
Now, with a foursome, concept becomes far more important when building a character.
You know, the core four have always been important:

Fighter - STR
Cleric - WIS
Magic-User - INT
Thief - DEX

I would favor keeping WIS over CHA, but I still don't think going to four over six is really that great a thing.

Still, if it works for you, have fun! :)
 

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