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5E House rule impact: Replacing stat mod with proficiency bonus

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
So I'm considering the following house rules (wording still needs to be tightened up):

"When you make an attack with a weapon you are proficient with, you may use your proficiency bonus in place of your stat modifier for attack bonus and damage bonus if your proficiency bonus is higher."

"When you use your Spellcasting feature, you may use your proficiency bonus in place of your spellcasting modifier for spell attack bonuses and spell save DCs if your proficiency bonus is higher".

I expect the general impact to be less of a focus on maximizing stats, since you're probably not going to have more than a +1 bonus from a stat as compared to the level-equivalent proficiency bonus. So, hopefully, more focus on taking feats that fit concepts, and focus on raising stats that fit concepts.

Are there any negative impacts here that I'm not thinking of? I use a lot of monsters and spells that require Int, Cha, and Str saves so my players know they can't focus on just raising the 3 "big saves". People might boost Con first, I'm trying to decide if that's a problem or not since they'll be hurting their skills to do so.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I expect the general impact to be less of a focus on maximizing stats, since you're probably not going to have more than a +1 bonus from a stat as compared to the level-equivalent proficiency bonus.
I think you'll still see the same stress on maximizing the character's primary attack stat. It is pretty easy to have a +4 stat bonus at level 1, and very easy by level 4, but you don't get a +4 proficiency bonus until level 9. This variant really only makes secondary options a little more palatable.

Are there any negative impacts here that I'm not thinking of?
Well, by level 9, everyone has pretty high attack and damage bonuses for any form of attack they are proficient with. The wizard will have +4 to hit and damage with their quarterstaff, and so on. This isn't so much negative, as a thing you have to be prepared for.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
I think you'll still see the same stress on maximizing the character's primary attack stat. It is pretty easy to have a +4 stat bonus at level 1, and very easy by level 4, but you don't get a +4 proficiency bonus until level 9. This variant really only makes secondary options a little more palatable.
Yea, that's the point I'm definitely most curious on. I, personally, hate the thought of using a character resource on something that would eventually be superseded by my natural character progression. But I don't think everyone thinks like me (at least, I certainly hope not) so I'm not sure how common that thought would be.

Ideally, I want the players to not feel the need to be put their low-level ASIs and racial bonuses into primary stats, but still derive some benefit from doing so.


Well, by level 9, everyone has pretty high attack and damage bonuses for any form of attack they are proficient with. The wizard will have +4 to hit and damage with their quarterstaff, and so on. This isn't so much negative, as a thing you have to be prepared for.
Totally OK with that. I understand it's a net buff to the PCs, and if I get the wizards to wade into melee, I've already won as the DM. :)
 

It's interesting. It may or may not have the effect you are looking for, depending on your players. Some might see it as needing to maximize starting stats and then not putting any more effort into it. But you can also get to a +5 bonus quicker using ASIs than you can waiting for proficiency to get that high, which might not change how they level up. They might pick up feats that make them more powerful, but that no longer have the downside of possibly not increasing their attack bonus.
I think it really depends on how your players approach the game. It might be best to propose the concept to them and ask if they would change if they would change their character designs with this change.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Yea, that's the point I'm definitely most curious on. I, personally, hate the thought of using a character resource on something that would eventually be superseded by my natural character progression. But I don't think everyone thinks like me (at least, I certainly hope not) so I'm not sure how common that thought would be.
I think this may be a bit dependent on the group's playstyle. Your group may differ, but the commonly accepted point is that high level play is kind of rare. The proficiency bonus will become equivalent at level 9 and up. Is this game even going to last that long? Even if the game lasts to level 20, are they going to wait for half the game to go by to get that bonus? When they can plunk down a bit of resources now?

Also remember that the game leans to having your primary attack stat also be the stat of many of your relevant skills, which they are also going to want. That primary stat is not a one-trick-pony.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
LOL I would love this! I have a build up to 7th level I would enjoy playing under this idea!

Here is the summary:

STR 10, DEX 14, CON 16, INT 9, WIS 13, CHA 13 (using point-buy)
Variant human with Skilled Feat
Rogue (Scout) 3/ Cleric (Knowledge) 1/ Bard (Lore) 3
Expertise in Arcana, Nature, Religion, Survial plus 4 other skills
Proficiency in DEX and INT saves (so INT dump is not an issue)
With CON 16 has +3 to hit points per level (59 hp on average)

Using your idea, at level 7 he would be:
+6 with all skills, +9 with expertise skills
+6 on attack rolls with STR or DEX and +3 to damage with simple weapons and select martial weapons

If such a build is okay with you and your table, then I don't see any issues with your idea. :)
 
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Laurefindel

Adventurer
So I'm considering the following house rules (wording still needs to be tightened up):

"When you make an attack with a weapon you are proficient with, you may use your proficiency bonus in place of your stat modifier for attack bonus and damage bonus if your proficiency bonus is higher."

"When you use your Spellcasting feature, you may use your proficiency bonus in place of your spellcasting modifier for spell attack bonuses and spell save DCs if your proficiency bonus is higher".
So simply put, you have 14 in all your stats at level 1 for things with which you are proficient. At 5th level, it's the equivalent to have 16 in all your stats. At 9th level, its like having all 18s. At 13th level you've got all 20s and at 17th level (granting that the campaign makes it there), everyone has 22 everywhere.

Possible implications (both pros and cons)
People will aim to be proficient in as many things as possible.
Dump stats are less consequential with proficiencies.
Because it grants hit points and ties to very few proficiencies, Constitution becomes the one stat you need to boost early into the game.
Other than Con, high stats matter much less except in early levels.
Average stats aren't worth much. Expect "optimised" builds with high Constitution, high primary stat, and as low as possible in pretty much everything else. Standard array would be preferable to point-buy in that case.
It could enable more versatile roll-stats-in-order character generation.
Stats become more guidelines for personality/physical attribute than mechanical attributes.
Some formerly "low priority" feats become competitive.
Feats become competitive vs ability increase.
Comparatively, the gap between proficient and non-proficient deepens as the characters gain levels.

[edit] I assumed ability checks and saving throws would benefit from this as well, but it wasn't explicitely stated in your OP. Some of these implications may be overstated.
 
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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
[edit] I assumed ability checks and saving throws would benefit from this as well, but it wasn't explicitely stated in your OP. Some of these implications may be overstated.
Yes, this is explicitly for attacks and spells only. Saves and skills do not benefit.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
LOL I would love this! I have a build up to 7th level I would enjoy playing under this idea!

Here is the summary:

STR 10, DEX 14, CON 16, INT 9, WIS 13, CHA 13 (using point-buy)
Variant human with Skilled Feat
Rogue (Scout) 3/ Cleric (Knowledge) 1/ Bard (Lore) 3
Expertise in Arcana, Nature, Religion, Survial plus 4 other skills
Proficiency in DEX and INT saves (so INT dump is not an issue)
With CON 16 has +3 to hit points per level (59 hp on average)

Using your idea, at level 7 he would be:
+6 with all skills, +9 with expertise skills
+6 on attack rolls with STR or DEX and +3 to damage with simple weapons and select martial weapons

If such a build is okay with you and your table, then I don't see any issues with your idea. :)
Skills are a little off (they still add stat mod) but yea, pretty much. The “trained in every skill” build is pretty fun (I played a version before).
 

Laurefindel

Adventurer
Yes, this is explicitly for attacks and spells only. Saves and skills do not benefit.
Then characters would hesitate more before dumping everything.

I think it would put a lot less stress on maxing your primary abilities. Too much? I don't know, but cool things happen when players don't feel like they have to max their primes.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
Skills are a little off (they still add stat mod) but yea, pretty much. The “trained in every skill” build is pretty fun (I played a version before).
Sorry, I missed that this doesn't work for skills.

In that case, I would not be a fan of it because it creates more exceptions to a pretty simple set-up. You would have attacks/damage and spells/DCs with one rule, but skills with another. With the way 5E is designed, I wouldn't be a huge fan of that. Still, if I joined a table and this was the rule, I would try it and probably be fine with it.

While this would remove the stress/need/desire to max ability scores, IME that has never really been a big issue. The biggest complaint for players who max out scores through ASIs is missing out on feats. There is one problem with feat thought, which comes up: there aren't enough feats that cover each ability score. STR and DEX are most heavily favored by feats. We fixed it by allowing a feat which includes an ASI to apply to any ability score instead.

If your table feels compelled to max out scores, I don't know how much it will help. What level do you play to typically? If you are only getting to 10th or so like many tables, you are just matching 18s for +4. For the people who want their bonuses, they will still max out the score because that is their priority. For players who are willing to settle for lower +2s and +3s, you are (eventually) rewarding them at middle and higher levels.

I don't know. If I was a player who wanted to max things out, I might be a bit put off by this. I am investing in my ASI, but the other player will eventually benefit for free. Now, I am sure I will benefit in other ways maybe, but since it doesn't include skills how is not readily apparent to me.
 

I'd just use it for attack bonuses, and not damage bonuses.

Losing a point or two off damage isn't as big an impact as not being able to hit things.

Then a str 8 wizard has a +4 to +12 to hit with the quarterstaff, but still deals 1d8-1 damage.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Sorry, I missed that this doesn't work for skills.

In that case, I would not be a fan of it because it creates more exceptions to a pretty simple set-up. You would have attacks/damage and spells/DCs with one rule, but skills with another. With the way 5E is designed, I wouldn't be a huge fan of that. Still, if I joined a table and this was the rule, I would try it and probably be fine with it.
I see your point, but I would counter with that none of the rules have changed, attacks and spells still work in the same way they did previously. This is simply an alternate calculation that can be used instead.

While this would remove the stress/need/desire to max ability scores, IME that has never really been a big issue. The biggest complaint for players who max out scores through ASIs is missing out on feats. There is one problem with feat thought, which comes up: there aren't enough feats that cover each ability score. STR and DEX are most heavily favored by feats. We fixed it by allowing a feat which includes an ASI to apply to any ability score instead.
Adding on more feats is something I'm thinking about. I'm actually concerned that half-feats (that give +1 to a stat) might be undervalued, since the value of any one stat increase is less. I'm contemplating making them a +2, and regular ASI to +3.

If your table feels compelled to max out scores, I don't know how much it will help. What level do you play to typically? If you are only getting to 10th or so like many tables, you are just matching 18s for +4. For the people who want their bonuses, they will still max out the score because that is their priority. For players who are willing to settle for lower +2s and +3s, you are (eventually) rewarding them at middle and higher levels.
Usually into the mid-teens. Our last game ran from 5 to 16. Our current game is at 11th (started at 8th) and will probably go to about 15. Depends on how the next few sessions go.

Although, full disclosure, I'm contemplating this rule for a more out-there game that will start at 1 but have random stat generation.

I don't know. If I was a player who wanted to max things out, I might be a bit put off by this. I am investing in my ASI, but the other player will eventually benefit for free. Now, I am sure I will benefit in other ways maybe, but since it doesn't include skills how is not readily apparent to me.
Well, when you boost one of your stats high, the primary benefit is to skills (and saves). You can't have a high stealth without a high Dex, for example.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
It could enable more versatile roll-stats-in-order character generation.
Stats become more guidelines for personality/physical attribute than mechanical attributes.
Some formerly "low priority" feats become competitive.
Feats become competitive vs ability increase.
Comparatively, the gap between proficient and non-proficient deepens as the characters gain levels.
These are the kind of changes, specifically, that I hoped the rule would emphasize.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Okay, let's look at this over the most commonly played levels, 1-10.

I'm ignoring the bonus ASI that fighters and rogues get.

Traditional starts with a +3, this starts with +2
@4th, traditional the majority (>50%) of the time moves up to a +4. Right on it's heels, this moves up to +3 @5th.
@8th, traditional often goes up to +5 and caps. Again, this is one level behind and goes to +4.

What do I get from this?
With bounded accuracy, using proficiency instead of continuously amping your prime ability score is very feasible. Because of that I expect to see a lot more feats or alternate ability increases - but only on some classes.
For example, Wizard really has little else that triggers off INT, and it's not a big ability score in other ways. So I can see wizard happy with it and bumping CON, DEX or taking feats.
Bard, on the other hand, has their bardic inspiration uses based on CHR. They really need to continue to push it. Paladins auras and CHR. Monks need their WIS.

So with straight classed characters I see that this adds a very uneven advantage.

Multiclassed characters open up in interesting ways. 13 in an ability score to enable multiclassing isn't bad, and we have two big advantages:
1. You can mix and match without care for ability scores. Paladin/Cleric/Wizard. All the attacks and spell DCs don't lag.
2. You no longer need to get ASIs in order to keep up, one of the balancing points for multiclassing. You can cherry-pick without being left behind mathematically.

I think multiclassed characters get a very large boost from this.

In the end, because of how uneven the classes are in the use of ability scores outside attack/saves, I think that it's very uneven. It would need to be that you could sub your proficiency in for any and all ability score use in order to even out. And even in those cases, I would not allow multiclassing.
 

Esker

Hero
Multiclassed characters open up in interesting ways. 13 in an ability score to enable multiclassing isn't bad, and we have two big advantages:
1. You can mix and match without care for ability scores. Paladin/Cleric/Wizard. All the attacks and spell DCs don't lag.
2. You no longer need to get ASIs in order to keep up, one of the balancing points for multiclassing. You can cherry-pick without being left behind mathematically.
This is a really nice analysis, Blue. I was just going to point out that martials still want to invest at least to +2 in their attack stat for AC (more for rogues and monks), whereas warlocks and sorcerers (some of whom may not have anything riding on CHA besides spell attacks and DCs), and to a lesser extent Clerics, Druids and Wizards (who still have spell prep slots based on their casting stat) are free to pump CON and DEX at the expense their casting stat, possibly leaving that at 13 the entire game, taking feats (or further pumping CON/DEX) at 4th and 8th, while rarely being more than one modifier point behind someone who starts with less survivability and maxes their casting stat as early as possible.

I'm not sure I'd be too worried about your first point above, though, at least in itself. You can already choose multiclass combinations that share relevant stats, which is one reason why CHA is so powerful in 5e, since there are so many more stat-compatible multiclass options. I think this would give you more variety in viable multiclass options, giving us fewer sorlocks, bardlocks, and sorcadins, etc., with probably a few more wizard and cleric dips.

I mean, yes, mathematically, the optimal choices from a less restricted set will be at least as good as the optimal choices from a more restricted set, and so this is going to be some kind of power boost. But still, that part seems fine to me.
 

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