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Killing the sacred cow: playing D&D with only 4 abilities instead of 6. And returning to 3 saves instead of 6.


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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I'm going to echo others - what's the point? What are you trying to achieve?

Also, I don't view strength and con as the same thing at all. We all assume that people with lots of muscle are incredibly fit and never get sick, but it's simply not true. As far as more muscle providing "protection" from damage ... more muscle just pushes critical veins closer to the surface where they are more exposed. You've been watching too many Rambo movies. ;)

Have you ever seen a rock climber? Someone who has to have a lot of stamina/constitution? They tend to be on the scrawny side, not beefcake. Body builders frequently are terrible at rock climbing because they have no endurance.

As far as charisma being ignored, all I can say is that it is not the case in my game. Social interaction is a big part of the game and while the DC may be adjusted based on RP and character's actions it frequently comes down to a charisma check. Besides which, it's a pretty critical skill to several classes.
 


Rod Staffwand

aka Ermlaspur Flormbator
My homebrew 5e variant that I've been mucking about with uses 4 stats: Str, Dex, Int and Cha each with an associated saving throw. The system is carried over from my time mucking about with Microlite and similar systems. I've found that D&D runs faster and better (for me at least) with these four stats. They're easier to balance against each other and allow for very identifiable build-options and trade-offs.

I wouldn't advise it for everyone, since you do need to rewrite a ton of content, but I was already taking the trouble of fixing 5e anyway, so I figured I'd go for it.
 

I'm going to echo others - what's the point? What are you trying to achieve?

Try and look at it this way:

5th edition is fine as it is, and overall a lot of people seem to like it. And because they like it, we get a lot of homebrew stuff. This not only includes new monsters, new classes, new feats... but also variants on the rules themselves. And I think that's great. It may not be for everybody, but it certainly is interesting to look at alternate takes on the rules.

People used to do this with 3rd edition all the time (and they still do), and often it added to the game. It gave us more options as players and DM's to explore. If you don't like it, ignore it. But if the concept sounds interesting to you, then it might be fun to further explore the ideas that the OP put forward.

The core rules are not holy. They can be changed, if you want to.
 

Have you ever seen a rock climber? Someone who has to have a lot of stamina/constitution? They tend to be on the scrawny side, not beefcake. Body builders frequently are terrible at rock climbing because they have no endurance.
Body builders don't actually have a lot of strength either. (I mean, more than me, but still.) And rock climbers are really strong -- there's a reason climbing in D&D is a Strength check. So I think what you're actually saying here is that there's more to strength than sheer muscle mass.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Body builders don't actually have a lot of strength either. (I mean, more than me, but still.) And rock climbers are really strong -- there's a reason climbing in D&D is a Strength check. So I think what you're actually saying here is that there's more to strength than sheer muscle mass.

I would say that how much you can bench press has nothing to do with your endurance.

If I was going to tweak stats, I'd probably go the other way (at least for certain abilities) and break them down even more like you could with 2nd ed player's options (I think). I don't remember the details and I don't have my old books handy but it was along the lines of breaking down strength into explosive (short term) strength vs long term endurance strength. Charisma was broken down into beauty and persuasiveness, etc.

It's difficult to model the complexity of human physiology into simple numbers, I think D&D does a decent job. Someone who can bench press a small car may or may not be able to run a marathon, or may have a glass jaw if they get into a fight.

If people want to tweak the game (I know I have some small modifications) and the group has fun with it, that's great. Have fun. I just think strength (in D&D defined as how much you can lift) has that much to do with con (how many hits you can take and how much endurance you have).
 

If I was going to tweak stats, I'd probably go the other way (at least for certain abilities) and break them down even more like you could with 2nd ed player's options (I think). I don't remember the details and I don't have my old books handy but it was along the lines of breaking down strength into explosive (short term) strength vs long term endurance strength. Charisma was broken down into beauty and persuasiveness, etc.

It's difficult to model the complexity of human physiology into simple numbers, I think D&D does a decent job. Someone who can bench press a small car may or may not be able to run a marathon, or may have a glass jaw if they get into a fight.
Really, if you want to go down that rabbit hole, there's no end to it. A marathon runner may have a glass jaw too, and a great rope-a-dope boxer may not be able to run a marathon. We can lump or split the ability scores as much as we want. And if someone feels like they want to reduce the number of scores, Strength + Constitution is hardly the craziest merger they could make. (Though I'd do Wis + Cha first, personally.)
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
Supporter
I don't like constitution because no one is willing to have it be low. I keep seeing 12s and 14s, then one 16. It's never someone's highest stat, and never someone's lowest stat.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

I don't like constitution because no one is willing to have it be low. I keep seeing 12s and 14s, then one 16. It's never someone's highest stat, and never someone's lowest stat.

I think this is a good point, and it is one of the reasons why I'm not opposed to the idea of getting rid of the stat.

It's one of those stats that you don't want to take, but if you don't, your hit point total suffers for it. It might be more fun to just spec towards what you want, and still have a decent amount of health.

For example, you could have every class start with a base amount of health, specific to their class (not a random dice roll based on an ability score), and give some extra amounts of health for having any stat above a certain maximum.

That way you would be rewarded for having a really high strength, or a really high dexterity, or maybe even a really high charisma, with having more hit points.

Reward instead of punishment. And you wouldn't need a constitution score at all.
 
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Caliban

Rules Monkey
Why stop there? You can easily reduce it to just three stats - Body (Str/Con), Mind (Int/Dex - quick mind, quick reflexes), and Spirit (Wis/Cha). Other systems have done so.

Personally, it wouldn't really feel like D&D to me at that point, but that's just me.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
Try and look at it this way:

5th edition is fine as it is, and overall a lot of people seem to like it. And because they like it, we get a lot of homebrew stuff. This not only includes new monsters, new classes, new feats... but also variants on the rules themselves. And I think that's great. It may not be for everybody, but it certainly is interesting to look at alternate takes on the rules.

People used to do this with 3rd edition all the time (and they still do), and often it added to the game. It gave us more options as players and DM's to explore. If you don't like it, ignore it. But if the concept sounds interesting to you, then it might be fun to further explore the ideas that the OP put forward.

The core rules are not holy. They can be changed, if you want to.

It seems to me that you are not answering the question that was asked.

As I see it, the question that was asked was basically "what specific goals are you trying to achieve by doing this?"
As I see it, the question you have just answered was "why bother doing this at all?"

Making a change should have some specific goal in mind so as to guide one's thinking when designing and implementing the change, and when evaluating the success of the change.
 

auburn2

Explorer
I don't like it. I disagree with your argument that people tank Charisma. If your game is simply hack and slash it may not be that important to SOME characters that don't use it, but in a role play game (the kind I like) it is vital. Arguably the most used and important ability in the game

It is also a primary stat for half the classes in the game; Cleric, Bard, Warlock and Sorcerer all have core abilities centered on Charisma and they really can't really dump it (well Cleric could conceivably but only with some serious negatives).

In 5e with all the dexterity weapons I would say strength is the most dumped stat. You can have a viable low-strength character in any class in the game and you can even have an entire party of low strength characters and not miss much. On the other hand you can't succeed with a party full of low charisma characters.

I also think having 3 out of 4 abilities tied to a save severely unbalances the abilities with the non-save ability being the little sister.

I think tying strength and constitution together also does not make sense. The logic is ok for hp for basic (slashing piercing blug) damage, but not for things like resistance to poision or disease. Having "meat" does not really help with that at all.
 
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It seems to me that you are not answering the question that was asked.

As I see it, the question that was asked was basically "what specific goals are you trying to achieve by doing this?"
As I see it, the question you have just answered was "why bother doing this at all?"

As I read it, the latter was the question being asked. That's how it came across to me anyway.

Making a change should have some specific goal in mind so as to guide one's thinking when designing and implementing the change, and when evaluating the success of the change.

No, I don't think that's true. Sometimes you can simply think about changing a system for the sake of discussion or brainstorming, without any clear goal in mind.

All you have to do is ask one simple question: "Do we need 6 ability scores? Why not less?"

And I would probably add to that a question of my own: "Do we need a save for each ability score? Is having 6 saves better than having three saves?"

And to the latter, my answer would obviously be: "No". In fact, some of the saves feel really forced. I get what they were going for, by trying to not have these separate three scores like in 3.x. But having a Charisma save is weird. And what is the difference between the int and wisdom save? Why not simply have one willpower save like before?

The only ones that makes sense to me are the strength save, and the dexterity save... and the constitution save is basically just the Fortitude save wearing a fake beard and a hat.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
As I read it, the latter was the question being asked. That's how it came across to me anyway.

That's fair. Different perspectives and all that.


No, I don't think that's true. Sometimes you can simply think about changing a system for the sake of discussion or brainstorming, without any clear goal in mind.

All you have to do is ask one simple question: "Do we need 6 ability scores? Why not less?"

Can you? Yes, absolutely. And that's a fine place to start from because it questions the status quo and postulates a direction for change. Once you transition from that thought to "let's experiment with a change in mechanics" you should probably have some kind of goal in mind to help you focus and evaluate the outcome. Or, at the very least, let me rephrase that as "it would generally be quite helpful to have a goal in mind when making a mechanical change."

Now, "let's trim down the number of saves" can certainly be a valid goal to choose, even if it's on the relatively simplistic side of goal-setting.


And I would probably add to that a question of my own: "Do we need a save for each ability score? Is having 6 saves better than having three saves?"

And to the latter, my answer would obviously be: "No". In fact, some of the saves feel really forced. I get what they were going for, by trying to not have these separate three scores like in 3.x. But having a Charisma save is weird. And what is the difference between the int and wisdom save? Why not simply have one willpower save like before?

The only ones that makes sense to me are the strength save, and the dexterity save... and the constitution save is basically just the Fortitude save wearing a fake beard and a hat.

Well, half of the saves are really just the three saves of the last two editions wearing different hats. A Dex save is still a reflex save, a Con save is still a Fort save, and a Wis save is still a Will save. If you have proficiency with your Reflex, Fortitude and Will saves in 5e you have proficiency with almost every save you'll be asked to make: the spells and situations you'll face will usually require one of these three, with the other three being the odd men out (and quite clearly implemented simply to ramp up the MAD for all characters).

The PHB even recognizes this on the sly by giving every class proficiency with one good save (Dex, Con, or Wis) which comes up with the greatest frequency, and with one bad save (Str, Int, or Cha) which comes up far less often. No class gets two of the good saves or is saddled with two of the bad saves, which is pretty telling as far as their value goes.

I'm not really fond of the six save system either. I think three saves worked great, and I don't really see how my gaming experience has improved by moving from three to six saves.
 
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Can you? Yes, absolutely. And that's a fine place to start from because it questions the status quo and postulates a direction for change. Once you transition from that thought to "let's experiment with a change in mechanics" you should probably have some kind of goal in mind to help you focus and evaluate the outcome. Or, at the very least, let me rephrase that as "it would generally be quite helpful to have a goal in mind when making a mechanical change."

I totally agree.

So, then I think the question is, what are the merits of having less ability scores? Are there things about the 6 ability score system that can be improved by having less of them?

My biggest gripe has always been Wisdom and Intelligence. Even in 3.x the difference between these two always felt a bit unclear. They could easily be one stat.

I also feel that charisma has always been a strange stat. I mean, arguably someone who is really really strong, can be pretty intimidating. And someone who is really ugly looking and unlikable, could be intimidating as well. So why is intimidation tied directly to charisma? It would seem to me that persuasion and intimidation are a combination of intelligence and appearance. You have to be smart with words in order to convince people that you are right.

Constitution is the one stat that doesn't seem to have any real purpose, other than increasing your hit points. But wouldn't someone with a lot of physical strength have a very well trained body? Similarly, wouldn't someone who is really athletic, also be very healthy?

So what if constitution didn't exist? What if you simply specced towards what you really wanted to take, and still ended up with a fair amount of health either way?

Perhaps this could even be taken to a really far extreme? What if you only had three ability scores, and each one had their own save?

Strength, Agility and Wits? (Renamed for flavor)

or what if you replaced all physical stats, with role playing ability scores instead?
 
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Satyrn

First Post
don't want that. I left intelligence(cunning) in game to give options to make skill monkeys.
That was what I liked most about your OP. It was an interesting design choice that I did not see coming. At first I was thinking you were messed up putting all those skill under Cunning, then I noticed that you were granting bonus skill profs and thought "well, now he's going overboard," but then grokked your goal. It's an excellent idea.


One note, though: 5e rates languages and tools equally, skills as stronger. Which means I think you should switch around how you do the bonus proficiencies to:



  1. Extra trained skills per point of bonus,
  2. Extra known languages or tools per point of bonus.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Why not just two scores? "Body" and "Mind". Everything physical is determined by your Body score. Everything mental is determined by your Mind score.
 


One note, though: 5e rates languages and tools equally, skills as stronger.
You can learn languages and tools through downtime training, while skills are limited to races, classes, and feats. But there's nothing that implies one skill equals two tools. In fact, the Skilled feat has you pick skills or tools on an even basis.
 

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