D&D 5E No ascending bonuses: A mathematical framework for 5e

Dragonblade

Adventurer
I was proposing that bonuses be drastically reduced (but by 1/2 or 4/5ths, for example)---but dropping them altogether is fairly intriguing.

Giving this some thought.

Right. You would still have some bonuses when building your PC. Full Plate is still +8 to AC and so forth. You might still have a weapon focus feat and so on. So a level 1 PC in 5e would look a lot like a level 1 PC in 3e or 4e. Virtually identical in fact. (Yay, prior edition compatibility! :) )

But then you get off the ascending bonus treadmill, at least as far as level goes.

You could still have spells like Barkskin, but instead of an ever increasing bonus it just grants a flat +1 or +2. Caster level could effect say duration, or susceptibility to dispel. You'd have to be far stricter on bonus stacking rules as well, where most bonuses don't stack. But you could bring back some of the variety of 3e bonus types that 4e got rid off. Its a nod to verisimilitude for fans that want that, but it never becomes overwhelming for the 4e fans that wanted to get away from it. And like I mentioned before, it makes multi-classing far more viable without being over or under-powered.
 

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Crazy Jerome

First Post
I think one of the keys to making this work is make the scaling hit points and damage relatively tame. That includes, by default, lopping off the extremes on either end. It is a lot easier to provide options that tweak slowly scaling hit points and damage, than it is to handle huge differences.

After all, if a red dragon does 10d10 compared to some starting kobold's 1d4, and hit points are scaling similar to match, then you rapidly hit things above or below the expected range that have no shot. And if you go to rework this, you have to change every damage expression and hit point expression in the game.

OTOH, if you start the hit points somewhere between the 3E and 4E numbers (4E had the right idea, but maybe pushed it too far), and then have starting characters doing their d8+4 or whatever, then you can scale up more gradually into numbers that are nonetheless noticable.

Finally, if you want an option that gives you something more like, say, the AD&D 1st ed. range for characters from 1st to name level, you can apply in number of different options to the hit points and damage (whether crits that scale faster than the default, or magic equipment, or special monster abilities, etc.) That starting kobold that is a threat in the default is still running around with his decent hit points and hitting for decent damage, but he doesn't get any of these options. So a PC smacks him and he goes down.
 

AngryMojo

First Post
I kind of like the idea of no ascending bonuses at all, instead you get a bonus to affect a monster if you're higher level than it, assuming that's your character's schtick.

Fighter thwacking low-level goblin with a sword: Fighter has a bonus.
Fighter jabbing equal-level goblin chieftain with said sword: Even dice.
Fighter valiantly trying to smack a dragon: Fighter has a penalty.

Same thing with Wizards and magic, Rogues while sneak attacking, etc. Otherwise you're just basic attack vs. defense, with a penalty for attacking things bigger and stronger than you.

It's different and would take additional work to balance, but I think paring back the escalating bonuses or eliminating them would go a long way to helping the game math from breaking down at higher levels.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I would endorse this proposal, but without quite zeroing out the progression as you level up. Have attack bonus and defenses increase by 1 every 4-5 levels. Thus, a 20th-level character would have +4-5 to hit and +4-5 to AC as compared to a 1st-level character; a substantial difference, but the two can still be on the same battlefield. Skills could follow a similar progression.

An approach like this would keep the feel that you're getting more skilled as you advance, but would keep the numbers close enough that you never get totally "out of range" of lower-level opposition.
 

HardcoreDandDGirl

First Post
I could go for less bonus, but still bonus. Maybe instead of +1/2 level it is +1/5 level for everything. Then a level 30 pc is +6 higher from level to hit and def then a level 1 PC. Give both PCs and monsters less hp, and I could get behind this.
If done right, you could bake into the higher levels with feat or magic bonus without it fealing 'needed' I mean if you build needing +1 for every 6-10 levels, it would still be magical.
[Sblock= idea in theory]
Wizard 1d4+con score hp 3hp per level. At first level Int Vs NAD to hit
Fighter 1d10+con score hp 5hp per level. At first level Str+Prof Vs AC
If we started both with 16 prime stat and 12 Con it looks like this:
Level 1
Fighter 13-22hp +5 vs AC
Wizard 13-17hp +3 Vs Nad
Level 5
Fighter 33-42hp +6 vs AC
Wizard 25-29hp +4 Vs Nad
Level 11
Fighter 63-72hp +8 vs AC
Wizard 43-47hp +6 Vs Nad
Level 20
Fighter 108-117hp +10 vs AC
Wizard 61-64hp +8 Vs Nad
Level 30
Fighter 158-167hp +12 vs AC
Wizard 91-94hp +10 Vs Nad
Level 40
Fighter 208-217hp +14 vs AC
Wizard 121-124hp +12 Vs Nad
If we say a level 1 monster has a 13 AC and 10/11/12 Nads on average, then you have to be level 40 before it is auto hit.
I would assume that +2 to each defence every 5 levels would have is a 29 AC and 26/27/28 Nads… meaning to keep up a 50% to hit you would only need a +5 from class features, magic, and feat like things… [/sblock]
 
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TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
It is an interesting idea...and many other games come closer to it, in fact this may be an area where D&D is sort of the outlier.

But that's the problems. Does this work with a "unity" edition? The numbers have always gone up. Since OD&D. Maybe they go up less, or they all don't go up (in 3E and earlier, fighters actually did get better at hitting a typical opponent, and were more likely to make their saves, as they gained levels).
 

Rex Blunder

First Post
I have been thinking something similar for a while. When you level up, your HP and damage would increase much more than your hit bonus.

This would let characters of different level work together: a level 5 guy and a level 15 guy could both attack a dragon: the level 5 guy's hit might not do a significant amount of damage, but at least he would be chipping in. In the current system, the level 5 guy is only hitting on a 20, and still doing insignificant damage. That's ineffectiveness double dipping.

+5 swords would still be overpowered in this system. This could be fixed by following the not uncommon suggestion of giving magical weapons only a damage bonus.
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
I would endorse this proposal, but without quite zeroing out the progression as you level up. Have attack bonus and defenses increase by 1 every 4-5 levels. Thus, a 20th-level character would have +4-5 to hit and +4-5 to AC as compared to a 1st-level character; a substantial difference, but the two can still be on the same battlefield. Skills could follow a similar progression.

An approach like this would keep the feel that you're getting more skilled as you advance, but would keep the numbers close enough that you never get totally "out of range" of lower-level opposition.

Ok, so how about something like a +1 inherent bonus every 5 levels to represent increasing skill, but this bonus overlaps and doesn't stack with magic item enhancement bonuses. That way it keeps the integrity of no ascending bonuses and helps balance out magic item bonuses but keeps magic optional.

It may be just me, but I've always viewed magic item bonuses to hit as the item guiding the hands of a less experienced wielder, but in the hands of an expert, they don't need the item to tell them where to strike.

Likewise, you could designate other bonuses that overlap but don't stack. Armor and Natural Armor overlap but don't stack, since both bonuses are based on the same premise. Dodge, Deflection, and say Shield bonuses overlap but don't stack, and so on. This helps keep distinct bonuses viable but prevents crazy stacking.

Generally, I think magic should provide cool powers and options as opposed to numeric bonuses. Like a flaming sword should say provide +1d6 fire damage to attacks made with it, sheds light, and can set things on fire, and so on as opposed to a +X bonus. But +X items are classically D&D, so you have to keep that in some form. :)
 


Crazy Jerome

First Post
I would endorse this proposal, but without quite zeroing out the progression as you level up. Have attack bonus and defenses increase by 1 every 4-5 levels. Thus, a 20th-level character would have +4-5 to hit and +4-5 to AC as compared to a 1st-level character; a substantial difference, but the two can still be on the same battlefield. Skills could follow a similar progression.

I second this. It's half of the reasonable +1 to +10 you effectively have to play with in a system working with d20+mod. That's enough to be felt, but not so much that it doesn't allow for mistakes (e.g. some kind of epic level math problem that is unforseen) or future tinkering on the edges.

For the same reasons as in my previous post, I'd make it start at +3 and go up to +7 or +8, though. That leaves you room for mods and mistakes on either end of the range. If you want a mod to handle old-school cannon fodder at low levels, just drop the +3 completely, and or leave a +1 for trained militia or such. If you want to run a game that is more "farmboy to hero", you can replace that default range with a more spread out +1 to +10--centered on the normal math.
 

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