Making every point count: Ability Mod Variant

dave2008

Legend
I've often wanted to make every point of an ability score count. It seems like a fairly concept. Without putting to much thought into it yet, here is my proposed house rule:

Ability modifier = Ability Score - 10 (if your strength is 18 you get a +8 to hit and damage)
DC = ability score + proficiency
AC would need to be modified so that plate = 23, but it provides for more granularity for AC options
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
I've wanted to do this for a while, but I have reservations because it runs counter to another goal I have: reducing the necessity of maxing out key ability scores at all costs. Currently if you're a fighter with 16 Strength, you're under a lot of pressure to raise that with your ASI rather than picking a feat that might be more interesting. This math change would only exacerbate that.

So if I were to do this, I'd couple it with a couple of other changes to spread out the importance of multiple ability scores: no more finesse, Dex to attack and Strength to damage always; Strength instead of Dex to AC against melee attacks; and Con score to hp at 1st level but no modifier to hit dice afterward. But this would require a far more substantial overhaul of the system math and I just haven't been that interested in doing it.
 

Worrgrendel

Explorer
I've seen this idea float around before but math seem a little off on the DC and is only going to further divide those that are proficient and those that are not and still punishing both.

So let's take a 1st level Wizard with 16 INT.
Current rules have his Spell DC at 8 + prof (2)+ Int mod (3) = 13 DC
Your version would have DC at Ability Score (16) + prof (2) = 18 DC
Now let's say this Wizard hurls a fireball (I know, he's only level 1) at a group with a Fighter (Dex 10), Rogue (Dex 16), Wizard (Dex 12), and Bard (Dex 14).

ClassDex ScoreCurrent ModNew ModCurrent Dex SaveNex Dex SaveOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DC
Fighter
10​
0​
0​
0​
0​
13​
18​
Rogue
16​
3​
6​
5​
8​
8​
10​
Wizard
12​
1​
2​
1​
2​
12​
16​
Bard
14​
2​
4​
4​
6​
9​
12​

As you can see EVERYBODY is now worse off and those that are not proficient in a save are essentially screwed. The fighter goes from a 35% chance of success to a 10% chance of success.

Now the curve levels out a little bit once a stat is maxed at 20 (by level 8 for most classes if we assume all ABI's go to main stat) for CHARACTERS, but for monsters with stats above 20 the DC's will quickly be unreachable by anyone not maxed in that stat and proficient as well and almost all save will require a natural 20 to succeed.

Level 8DC 16DC 21
ClassDex ScoreCurrent ModNew ModCurrent Dex SaveNex Dex SaveOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DC
Fighter
10​
0​
0​
0​
0​
16​
20*​
Rogue
20​
5​
10​
8​
13​
8​
8​
Wizard
12​
1​
2​
1​
2​
15​
19​
Bard
14​
2​
4​
5​
7​
11​
14​

*Only saves on natural 20.

Here is a level 13 party vs Adult Blue Dragon CR 16:

Level 13Breath DC 19 DexBreath DC 28 DexWing Attack DC 20 DexWing Attack DC 30 Dex
ClassDex ScoreCurrent ModNew ModCurrent Dex SaveNew Dex SaveOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DCOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DC
Fighter
10​
0​
0​
0​
0​
19​
20*​
20*​
20*​
Rogue
20​
5​
10​
10​
15​
9​
13​
10​
15​
Wizard
12​
1​
2​
1​
2​
18​
20*​
19​
20*​
Bard
14​
2​
4​
7​
9​
12​
19​
13​
20*​

*Only saves on natural 20.

Even the maxed out Rogue falls from 50% success on Wing Attack to 25% success. Even the proficient Bard with decent Dex only saves on natural 20's anymore.

Not a bad concept but the math needs to be better figured out. No one will want to play a game that they fail at 90%+ of the time.
 

Esker

Abventuree
I like the goal, but I think this approach has some (perhaps) unintended consequences.

I take it by DC you mean spell save DC? And I take it you leave proficiency alone? This makes ability scores and AC upgrades matter disproportionately more than they did before. Not sure if that was part of your goal or not.

Let's look at some examples.

First, take a level 1 character with STR 16 vs an enemy with plate.

RAW the attack bonus is +5, so they need to roll a 13, or 15 if the target has a shield. With your variant, the bonus is +8, so they need a 15, or a 17 vs a shield. So they are hitting 1/4 to 1/3 as often.

Now this evens out as you go up in level, with parity at level 9 if you raise STR to 20. But what about vs lower AC enemies?

I'm not sure what your proposed translation is for types of armor other than plate, but I suppose you would take unarmored AC to just be the DEX score? So suppose the target has 16 DEX and no armor. RAW that's an AC of 13; now it's 16 (I guess). At level 1, our hypothetical character needs an 8 to hit under both RAW and your variant. Your variant pulls ahead though: at level 9 they always hit outside a natural 1, whereas the RAW character needs at least a 4.

So you've accentuated the difference between the two ends of the AC spectrum. Maybe that's ok, but it certainly alters balance.

How about save effects?

A level 1 caster with 16 in their casting stat would normally have a DC of 13; now they have a DC of 18. However the target presumably gets (ability - 10 + proficiency) added to their save. A target with a 12 in their stat and no proficiency now has a +2, whereas they had a +1 before. Before they needed a natural 12 to save; now they need a natural 16. A target with a 14 needed an 11, now they need a 14. A target with a 20 needed an 8; now they need an 8. So you've equalized save effects at the high end -- not sure that's the best balance point, since overall it makes casters much stronger if they are able to identify a weak save (and makes spells that target commonly good saves relatively much worse). But even if you modified the DC formula to achieve parity at moderate scores instead of high ones, you'd still be tilting the balance away from proficiency and toward ability scores.
 

Esker

Abventuree
You could achieve your stated goal in a narrow way by (a) having modifiers go up on odd values instead of even ones, and (b) requiring a d2 to succeed on a tie if you have an odd score (essentially giving you an extra 2.5% chance of success for each point). It leaves absolutely everything else untouched, and adds one additional die roll very infrequently.
 

dave2008

Legend
I've wanted to do this for a while, but I have reservations because it runs counter to another goal I have: reducing the necessity of maxing out key ability scores at all costs. Currently if you're a fighter with 16 Strength, you're under a lot of pressure to raise that with your ASI rather than picking a feat that might be more interesting. This math change would only exacerbate that.

So if I were to do this, I'd couple it with a couple of other changes to spread out the importance of multiple ability scores: no more finesse, Dex to attack and Strength to damage always; Strength instead of Dex to AC against melee attacks; and Con score to hp at 1st level but no modifier to hit dice afterward. But this would require a far more substantial overhaul of the system math and I just haven't been that interested in doing it.
Well, I don't allow pure ASIs. You have to pick a feat instead of taking an ASI. It would still make the +1 ASI feats more attractive though, which may not be the best result.
 

dave2008

Legend
I've seen this idea float around before but math seem a little off on the DC and is only going to further divide those that are proficient and those that are not and still punishing both.

So let's take a 1st level Wizard with 16 INT.
Current rules have his Spell DC at 8 + prof (2)+ Int mod (3) = 13 DC
Your version would have DC at Ability Score (16) + prof (2) = 18 DC
Now let's say this Wizard hurls a fireball (I know, he's only level 1) at a group with a Fighter (Dex 10), Rogue (Dex 16), Wizard (Dex 12), and Bard (Dex 14).

ClassDex ScoreCurrent ModNew ModCurrent Dex SaveNex Dex SaveOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DC
Fighter
10​
0​
0​
0​
0​
13​
18​
Rogue
16​
3​
6​
5​
8​
8​
10​
Wizard
12​
1​
2​
1​
2​
12​
16​
Bard
14​
2​
4​
4​
6​
9​
12​
As you can see EVERYBODY is now worse off and those that are not proficient in a save are essentially screwed. The fighter goes from a 35% chance of success to a 10% chance of success.


Now the curve levels out a little bit once a stat is maxed at 20 (by level 8 for most classes if we assume all ABI's go to main stat) for CHARACTERS, but for monsters with stats above 20 the DC's will quickly be unreachable by anyone not maxed in that stat and proficient as well and almost all save will require a natural 20 to succeed.

Level 8DC 16DC 21
ClassDex ScoreCurrent ModNew ModCurrent Dex SaveNex Dex SaveOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DC
Fighter
10​
0​
0​
0​
0​
16​
20*​
Rogue
20​
5​
10​
8​
13​
8​
8​
Wizard
12​
1​
2​
1​
2​
15​
19​
Bard
14​
2​
4​
5​
7​
11​
14​
*Only saves on natural 20.


Here is a level 13 party vs Adult Blue Dragon CR 16:

Level 13Breath DC 19 DexBreath DC 28 DexWing Attack DC 20 DexWing Attack DC 30 Dex
ClassDex ScoreCurrent ModNew ModCurrent Dex SaveNew Dex SaveOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DCOld d20 roll to hit DCNew d20 Roll to hit DC
Fighter
10​
0​
0​
0​
0​
19​
20*​
20*​
20*​
Rogue
20​
5​
10​
10​
15​
9​
13​
10​
15​
Wizard
12​
1​
2​
1​
2​
18​
20*​
19​
20*​
Bard
14​
2​
4​
7​
9​
12​
19​
13​
20*​
*Only saves on natural 20.


Even the maxed out Rogue falls from 50% success on Wing Attack to 25% success. Even the proficient Bard with decent Dex only saves on natural 20's anymore.

Not a bad concept but the math needs to be better figured out. No one will want to play a game that they fail at 90%+ of the time.
Thanks for the analysis! You definitely put some holes in my first thought. I will have to revise it.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
You could achieve your stated goal in a narrow way by (a) having modifiers go up on odd values instead of even ones, and (b) requiring a d2 to succeed on a tie if you have an odd score (essentially giving you an extra 2.5% chance of success for each point). It leaves absolutely everything else untouched, and adds one additional die roll very infrequently.
Could you compress the rolls a bit more by succeeding on a tie only if your natural roll is odd? Assuming you don't know the DC beforehand.
 
To keep this from being crazy, how about Presumed Competence? Where you rely more on proficiency modifiers for d20 rolls.

Your save DCs are 8 + 2*Proficiency (so 12 at level 1, up to 20 at level 17). Your attack rolls are 2*proficiency (so +4 at level 1, up to +12 at level 17).

"Vanilla" you get +5 to +11 attack and DC 13 to 19 saves. With this, you have +4 to +12 attack, and DC 12 to 20 saves.

Attributes still add to saves, skill checks and damage, where they are scaled up as you suggest: your modifier is (attribute - 10). Having a 20 strength gives you a +10 strength save, which makes strength-based spells not work well on you.

So a level 1 duelist fighter with 15 strength does a +4 attack for 1d8+7 damage.

"Double proficiency" (aka expertise) instead adds a flat +3.

This keeps max skill modifier more under control:
Before: +5 (stat) + 12 (expertise) = +17
Afterwards: +10 (stat) +9 (expertise) = +19

Next, we can have the rule that if your proficiency modifier is greater than your attribute modifier, you get to use your proficiency modifier. So someone with 8 int and arcana training at level 1 has a +4 arcana, but someone with a 14 int and arcana training has a +6 arcana.

That'll keep attributes from dominating skill checks completely. You can be an idiot who knows a bunch of history (8 int, +5 proficiency mod, expertise means you have a +13 history check).

Saves remain unchanged.

---

Adult Blue Dragon CR 16 has a save DC of 18 on everything, because it is based off of Proficiency not stats now.

---

This can cause some spellcasters to not care about stats, because the important bit (save DCs) is decoupled.
 

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
I've often wanted to make every point of an ability score count. It seems like a fairly concept. Without putting to much thought into it yet, here is my proposed house rule:

Ability modifier = Ability Score - 10 (if your strength is 18 you get a +8 to hit and damage)
DC = ability score + proficiency
AC would need to be modified so that plate = 23, but it provides for more granularity for AC options
I understand your goal, but for myself when I've looked into it there is just too much that needs to be changed.

Other than feats which offer a +1 ASI and races which get a +1 to an ability score, most modifications are +2 which result in a +1 bonus.

I've more thought about removing scores completely and just use the modifiers. Few places where the actual scores matter really and then your argument is really more about making every point of modifier count--which they already do. :)
 

Esker

Abventuree
Could you compress the rolls a bit more by succeeding on a tie only if your natural roll is odd? Assuming you don't know the DC beforehand.
Hmm, so this would be equivalent to saying that your ability modifier goes up on even scores against even DCs and on odd scores against odd DCs (or vice versa, depending on whether proficiency is even or odd). It's mostly like giving you an extra 2.5% chance of success for each point of your ability score, except that it's really 5% half the time and 0% the other half the time (assuming even and odd DCs are equally common). It has the slightly weird effect that you're better or worse for several rolls in a row against the same enemy, but that doesn't seem like a huge problem.
 

Esker

Abventuree
To keep this from being crazy, how about Presumed Competence? Where you rely more on proficiency modifiers for d20 rolls.

Your save DCs are 8 + 2*Proficiency (so 12 at level 1, up to 20 at level 17). Your attack rolls are 2*proficiency (so +4 at level 1, up to +12 at level 17).

"Vanilla" you get +5 to +11 attack and DC 13 to 19 saves. With this, you have +4 to +12 attack, and DC 12 to 20 saves.

Attributes still add to saves, skill checks and damage, where they are scaled up as you suggest: your modifier is (attribute - 10). Having a 20 strength gives you a +10 strength save, which makes strength-based spells not work well on you.

So a level 1 duelist fighter with 15 strength does a +4 attack for 1d8+7 damage.

"Double proficiency" (aka expertise) instead adds a flat +3.

This keeps max skill modifier more under control:
Before: +5 (stat) + 12 (expertise) = +17
Afterwards: +10 (stat) +9 (expertise) = +19

Next, we can have the rule that if your proficiency modifier is greater than your attribute modifier, you get to use your proficiency modifier. So someone with 8 int and arcana training at level 1 has a +4 arcana, but someone with a 14 int and arcana training has a +6 arcana.

That'll keep attributes from dominating skill checks completely. You can be an idiot who knows a bunch of history (8 int, +5 proficiency mod, expertise means you have a +13 history check).

Saves remain unchanged.

---

Adult Blue Dragon CR 16 has a save DC of 18 on everything, because it is based off of Proficiency not stats now.

---

This can cause some spellcasters to not care about stats, because the important bit (save DCs) is decoupled.
It's an interesting system, but it's a massive overhaul with massive effects on balance; well beyond giving value to those in between scores. It also somewhat undermines the original goal in that it makes ability score differences not matter at all for more things (and in certain ranges).
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
I'd thought about it as well, but there's so many changes i came to the conclusion I'd change it to:

Ability scores = modifier. So range -1 to 5. ASIs and other bonuses are /2
 

Esker

Abventuree
Or, you could just double proficiency, DCs and AC, make modifiers ability-10, and use a d40 (i.e., roll a d4 for the tens place, treating 4 as 0, and a d10 for the 1s place) to resolve everything in place of a d20. :)
 
I don't think I'd do this in 5E. Too much fiddling around. You'd have to rework all the races. +2 is now too powerful, while if you halve the bonus what happens to the +1s?

But it's a great system for hacking out a much simpler version of the game.
You could just about eliminate proficiencies all together. At 20 Strength you're at +10 which is just one point of the maximum you could get with ability + proficiency anyway.

It would also mean that your ability score is identical with the passive score. (Meaning they would actually matter).
 

Jediking

Explorer
I've seen (but never played with) some homebrew where an odd score will give an earlier bonus to skill checks, but not attack, damage, or saving throw. This keeps the "major" (ie combat) rolls still balanced, but gives a little extra bump to odd scores and improving skills.

Eg. A level 1 character proficient in Athletics with a STR score of 15 (mod +2) would have +4 to hit, +2 damage, but have +5 to Athletics, not +4 . If the character increased their Str score to 16, they would then have +5 to hit, +3 damage, but still have +5 to Athletics. Increasing to 17 would then bump Athletics to +6 but nothing else.
 

Flamestrike

Explorer
You could have it so you only pass an ability check or saving throw result that matches the DC exactly if your ability score is an odd number.
 

dave2008

Legend
Or, you could just double proficiency, DCs and AC, make modifiers ability-10, and use a d40 (i.e., roll a d4 for the tens place, treating 4 as 0, and a d10 for the 1s place) to resolve everything in place of a d20. :)
I would probably just use 2d20
 

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