# D&D 5ENo ascending bonuses: A mathematical framework for 5e

#### billd91

##### Not your screen monkey (he/him)
He is better, his attacks do far more lethal damage for instance (1 hit on low level guy is a kill, low level guy can hack on you all day and do squat). Remember 'hits' are rather abstract in many respects.

But I don't think you want them operating on the same threshold. A higher level character may do more damage with a hit but without increases in his ability to hit, he bears the same chance of doing none. If you try to work the the narrative, he may be better at exploiting an opening in his target's defense because he's more likely to take the fight out of it, but he's no better at making an opening. And, again, he's no better at hitting a target on the archery range than a neophyte. Those ideas seem wrong to me.

#### AbdulAlhazred

##### Legend
But I don't think you want them operating on the same threshold. A higher level character may do more damage with a hit but without increases in his ability to hit, he bears the same chance of doing none. If you try to work the the narrative, he may be better at exploiting an opening in his target's defense because he's more likely to take the fight out of it, but he's no better at making an opening. And, again, he's no better at hitting a target on the archery range than a neophyte. Those ideas seem wrong to me.

But, as I said before, an archery contest isn't a fight and need not use the same mechanics.

As for the fight, does it really matter? The higher level guy's opening is a killing blow. The low level guy's opening is not even actually connecting, it is just making the higher level guy exert himself slightly or use up a tiny bit of his store of luck. It is all a matter of narrative. Beyond that why shouldn't the lower level guy be able to say hold off the higher level guy for a couple moments with some luck before he goes down? Again, more overall flexibility to create more different situations. The corner case would be a peasant that somehow happened to be clad in plate armor and dropped onto a battlefield and matched up against our peerless swordsman, but we have plenty of wonky corner cases now, and it just doesn't come up in actual play.

#### Nine Hands

##### Explorer
I'm used a similar system such as this (no ascending bonuses to hit, AC and defenses) but ascending HP and damage and it worked pretty well. It made the high level characters (15+) pretty easy to use.

#### Jeff Carlsen

I'm liking the way this looks, and it appears that most people in this thread agree, or at least want to see if it can work.

I'm going to play around with some numbers here.

If we assume that the general range for DC's is 1 through 20, we find a few advantages.

First, that range lines up with traditional ability scores, which are 3-18 with racial modifiers of plus or minus 2.
It fits comfortable in the 1-20 level paradigm.
It matches the d20.
I like symmetry where I can find it.

At a DC of 10, a roll with no modifiers has a 55% chance of success.
At a DC of 20, that roll has a 5% chance.

If we assume that a lack of training provides a penalty, than a +0 or +1 is the proper bonus for a level 1 character to attack foes at AC 10.

+10 to attack is where a character gains an inability to miss AC 10 and has a 50% chance to hit AC 20. This feels like a good range to me.

So, if modifiers were designed for a -5 to +10 range, including ability, skill, magic, and conditional modifiers combined, that gives us a comfortable level of progression and easy math.

Just some thoughts.

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#### Stalker0

##### Legend
Your structure does very well at handling near level encounters. The question becomes, do players feel enough sense of advancement when facing low level encounters?

In others words, should a 20th level character beat a 10th level one...most of the time, or nearly all of the time handily? Should a 10 difference in level make you that much more powerful?

And if so....does the nonscaling bonus system provide enough of that?

#### LurkAway

##### First Post
Your structure does very well at handling near level encounters. The question becomes, do players feel enough sense of advancement when facing low level encounters?

In others words, should a 20th level character beat a 10th level one...most of the time, or nearly all of the time handily? Should a 10 difference in level make you that much more powerful?

And if so....does the nonscaling bonus system provide enough of that?
On one hand, I think that when a 20th level fighter is facing off against a 10th level fighter, the sense of advancement is felt mainly with hit points and sword mastery. As long as the 20th level fighter has a sword proficiency or Sword Master Trait or whatever that provides the extra edge, it maintains that simulation of advancement.

OTOH, what happens if the 20th level fighter loses his sword and picks up a stick to fend off the 10th level fighter? The weapon specialization advantage no longer applies and the sense of advancement in accuracy to hit is only supplied by the difference in base attack bonuses. I think the math should work out such that the 20th level fighter with the stick can still overcome the 10th level fighter with a sword, but with greater difficulty.

If I'm visualizing this correctly, and mastery mechanics are used to get a feeling of advancement, then that the sense of advancement is not too broad and exaggerated. Heroes will feel significantly better at what they're heroic at (archery, sword mastery, rogue climbing), and only moderately better at everything else (fighting with a stick, bashing down a door, etc.). Correct me if I'm wrong.

So a couple of people pointed out some issues: How would a legendary archer fare in a contest with a lower level one? Ascending bonuses provide a feeling of advancement, what about that?

So a couple of ways to address that. One is to reintroduce say a +1 per 5 levels skill/inherent bonus that represents that. I would make it overlap but not stack with magic items and this also would help to balance out the inevitable impact of magic items on the game. I've always felt that the bonus a magic item provides to hit represents the item guiding the hand of a lesser user, whereas a veteran warrior wouldn't need such assistance. That does reintroduce an ascending bonus, but at a far reduced rate.

I think the idea has merit, but I want to look at the math a bit closer.

So:

To hit: +1/5 levels
Defenses: +1/5 levels

Hit points: +x / level
Damage: +y / level

I think this is viable, but there are some areas where abuse could come in. First off is feats. Feats should never never never give an unconditional bonus and even conditional bonuses should be rare. Game designers have an itchy little trigger finger when it comes to bonuses via feats that they would need to control. Ditto for racial abilities. Class abilities should probably have small bonuses, but the moment you make it feat plus race plus class (plus item/inherent) plus powers plus plus plus it gets out of hand.

Assuming a base 50% chance to hit (as a starting point for discussion) and assuming the +1/5 doesn't kick in until level 6/11/16/21/26 (because I think that +6 in a D20 system is way too large, even for a high Epic PC), this means that the 26th level PC has a 75% chance to hit and his 5th level foe has a 25% chance to hit back.

Now, damage and hit points become the issue. Let's assume for the sake of discussion that we are talking 3 hit points per level for hit points (to more or less follow a 3 hits to wipe out a same level foe model or 3 times as many hit points as increased damage). The 1st level PC has 20 hit points, the 5th level PC has 32 hit points, and the 26th level PC has 95 hit points.

For damage, let's assume the first level PC does 8 points of damage (3- hits to wipe out a same level foe) and that each level adds 1 point of damage. The 5th level PC does 12 points of damage and the 26th level PC does 33 points of damage.

To hit: +1/5 levels
Defenses: +1/5 levels

Hit points: +3 / level
Damage: +1 / level

The 26th level PC does 33 points of damage, so he wipes out a 32 hit point 5th level NPC on every swing (ignoring for the moment the fact that it might be a 29 to 37 point damage range). In 20 rounds, he kills 15 5th level foes. In that same 20 rounds at one foe attacking per round, his 5th level foes hit him 5 times for 12 points or a total of 60 points.

In earlier editions of the game system, these 5th level foes all needed to roll a 20 to hit this 26th level PC which means a single shot out of 20 hit. The 26th level PC would have taken a single scratch and not be almost 2/3rds damaged.

If one ups the hit points and hence the damage (in order to stay in the 3- hits to take out a same level foe model), the 26th level PC will be even more damaged percentage-wise.

So although I think the idea has merit and should have some serious investigation by WotC as an option, I do think that ideas that sound good on the surface do not necessarily result in game mechanics that work in practice.

Your original idea (without the +1 per 5 levels modifier) would have been even "less heroic" for the 26th level PC where the 5th level NPCs would be hitting 50% of the time and killing him in 16 rounds (~3 rounds if 5 foes were on him each round).

If one decreases the extra damage per level, then one also needs to decrease the number of hit points per level, otherwise it takes 3 hits to kill a same level foe at first level, but a lot more than 3 hits to kill a same level foe at 30th level. This is also known as grind.

If one increases the extra damage per level, then one also needs to increase the number of hit points per level, otherwise it takes 3 hits to kill a same level foe at first level, but only 1 or 2 hits to kill a same level foe at 30th level. This is also known as swinginess.

All in all, I'm not quite convinced that someone can get the math to work, but I'm willing to consider that I could be mistaken. I do think that Epic level Avatar God-like beings shouldn't necessarily be wiped out in 5 rounds if the DM sends a steady stream of 6 NPCs 21 levels lower at him every single round (where he won't be able to kill more than one of them back each round shy of special powers), but then again, I might be biased as to what I think the power level of a 26th level PC should be based on earlier versions of D&D.

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#### Chris_Nightwing

##### First Post
I am in favour of the OP's proposal. Consider taking away the 1/2 level bonus that applies to attacks, defenses and skills from 4th edition, how do you improve over levels?

- Your stats go up slowly, making your attacks, some skills and 1 or 2 defenses better.
- You gain powers which do more damage, or grant more bonuses to attacks, defenses and skills.

I'd estimate that your attack bonus would be at least +10 higher at 30th level than at 1st level. +6 from magic, +4 from stat increases; perhaps another +1 from epic destiny stat increase, and not to mention the tricks you'll have picked up from feats and powers (you could easily gain another +10 here, albeit circumstantially).

I much prefer this sort of progression. At current, 1st level characters dare not dream of attacking something even 5 levels higher than them, for the math decrees it too difficult. Monsters should be tougher because they have higher attacks, defenses and nastier powers, but adding +1/2 level makes the range of threats too rigid. Perhaps this makes things easier to plan as a DM, but wouldn't it be nice if, after 10 levels, you realise you have a chance against that monster you saw at the start because you've worked hard to get a +1 sword and a feat to increase your AC, rather than because you've slotted into the right challenge range?

#### HeinorNY

##### First Post
So a couple of people pointed out some issues: How would a legendary archer fare in a contest with a lower level one? Ascending bonuses provide a feeling of advancement, what about that?

Higher level characters could simply get an extra d20 roll in case of failure.

It's a "hidden" bonus that only comes into play when needed. Usually extra rolls are bad but since it's a very simple system math-wise, it could work. Also, quickly rolling again the same dice, for the same result isn't that bad.

#### Hassassin

##### First Post

In 4e the attack bonus, damage, AC and hp all automatically increase by level. This is indeed useless. You could remove either attack/AC scaling or damage/hp scaling without losing much.

The thing is, looking from a 3e perspective, without increasing attack bonuses you lose the option of divergence. Yes, count me as one who likes the fighter becoming so much better with weapons that the cleric can only keep up if he spends time and magic to compensate.

I'd like to see a 1st level party as barely distinguished generalists, who grow into their discrete competencies as they level up. Unless you opt to stay a generalist by multiclassing, of course.

Could this be done even with a non BAB system? Probably, but I'd like to see how before scrapping BAB. (I agree that leaving the BAB system as it is in 4e is useless, though.)

Now the damage/hp scaling, OTOH, I'd like to see go. The Nth level character facing an Nth level threat in 4e will die in just as many hits as the level before, so why exactly do we need damage and hp to increase? In earlier editions the number of hits did usually increase, which was even worse, since it made high level fights take longer.

#### Majoru Oakheart

First of all, I love this idea and had it myself. Bonuses should not increase as you go up levels. At least not without taking some option to increase it.

The thing is, looking from a 3e perspective, without increasing attack bonuses you lose the option of divergence. Yes, count me as one who likes the fighter becoming so much better with weapons that the cleric can only keep up if he spends time and magic to compensate.
I'm in agreement with this as well. But here I see the solution being something like giving the fighter a +1 to hit as a class feature. Possibly another +1 or 2 to hit at higher levels. Also, let them qualify for a feat or something that gives maybe 2 more bonus to hit.

So, that my 20th level Fighter has a +5 to hit while your cleric does not. Also, the level 1 fighter only has +1 to hit. It preserves the difference between our classes and the difference between levels.

Mind you, your cleric might decide to take fighting feats and get a +2 bonus to attack from them as well. Not as good as a pure fighter, but close. But, if you choose not to take the fighting feats, because you are concentrating on spellcasting, you'd be just as good at fighting with weapons as a first level cleric.
Now the damage/hp scaling, OTOH, I'd like to see go. The Nth level character facing an Nth level threat in 4e will die in just as many hits as the level before, so why exactly do we need damage and hp to increase? In earlier editions the number of hits did usually increase, which was even worse, since it made high level fights take longer.
I think damage scaling needs to be in there, just to maintain a bit of difference between high and low level characters and monsters.

Sure, a 20th level monster might only have an AC of 15, which means that a first level character could hit it(though rarely) but he'd be doing 1d8 points of damage vs it's 310 hitpoints. It might also only have a total bonus of +5 to hit you against your AC of 10. But it would also be doing 2d8+54 points of damage to you with it's attacks against your 20 hitpoints.

It would also solve some problems. Enough level 1 guards attacking that level 20 monster would eventually be able to beat it(69 hits from them could kill it. Which means, it would take 230 of them on average to kill it in a round).

Meanwhile, a 20th level fighter might have +5 to hit and be doing 2d8+54 points of damage as well, and will kill the monster in 5 hits, or about 9 rounds.

It provides some simulationist leanings for those people who like that sort of thing, while still providing the same sort of balanced math 4e already has.

#### Hassassin

##### First Post
I'm in agreement with this as well. But here I see the solution being something like giving the fighter a +1 to hit as a class feature. Possibly another +1 or 2 to hit at higher levels. Also, let them qualify for a feat or something that gives maybe 2 more bonus to hit.

So, that my 20th level Fighter has a +5 to hit while your cleric does not. Also, the level 1 fighter only has +1 to hit. It preserves the difference between our classes and the difference between levels.

Mind you, your cleric might decide to take fighting feats and get a +2 bonus to attack from them as well. Not as good as a pure fighter, but close. But, if you choose not to take the fighting feats, because you are concentrating on spellcasting, you'd be just as good at fighting with weapons as a first level cleric.

I would be fine with this, but what's the advantage compared to 3e base attack progression (fighter and cleric +1/+0 at first to +20/+15 at 20th) and multiclassing?

Sure, you could make poor base attack stay constant at +0, average to increase to +5 by 20th and good to increase to +10 by 20th. That way you'd get lower numbers. However, I don't really see the advantage of moving it to feats, since that just makes those feats must-have for the fighter.

I think damage scaling needs to be in there, just to maintain a bit of difference between high and low level characters and monsters.
[...]

But you get the same effect from attack/defense scaling. If a 20th level dragon was AC 30, but didn't have a lot of hp, a first level guard would be hard pressed to hit the weak spot, but still had a chance (natural 20). Take fifty of those guards and a couple of them will hit the first round, the same the next, and after a few more the dragon is dead. Meanwhile a 20th level fighter would have hit almost every round.

If only dmg/hp scales, a lot of first level characters will still be needed to match a 20th level one. If only attack/defense scales, the same is true. I don't see any good reasons to prefer the former. In the latter case damage differences between weapons actually mean something, hp correlates with ability to withstand literal damage, etc. which all seem like good ideas to me.

#### Mustrum_Ridcully

##### Hero
If only dmg/hp scales, a lot of first level characters will be needed to match a 20th level one. If only attack/defense scales, the same is true. I don't see any good reasons to prefer the former. In the latter case damage differences between weapons actually mean something, hp correlates with ability to withstand literal damage, etc. which all seem like good ideas to me.
They don't seem neccessarily ike good ideas to me, though:

1) There is a way to preserve the meaning of weapons in a damage-scaling system. For once, you can have special weapon properties. Accuracy, special techniques keying of weapons, reach, critical modifiers. And, the weapon damage itself can be scaled - you can increase the dice size (1d8 to 2d6 or whatever) or the number of dice rolled. (So a 1st level Fighter makes a +5 attack with 1d8 damage, the 6th level Fighter a +5 attack with 2d8 damage.)

2) I do not think that hit points as "flesh points" works particularly well. It creates a system that tends to be unforgiving and has too many randomization in its outcomes.
Potential pitfalls are also that you will probably find someone that wants to have something like action points, karma, hero points and the like to "compensate". And then you have again some special resource that serves the same purpose as scaling hit points did before. And it probably also leads to "armor = damage reduction", and I have yet to see a system where this works well and doesn't end up with invulnerable armored knights or instant-killing unarmored guys.

#### Hassassin

##### First Post
2) I do not think that hit points as "flesh points" works particularly well. It creates a system that tends to be unforgiving and has too many randomization in its outcomes.

You have a point with #1 (though I think all of those make the game more complex), but I don't think this is true. In 4e characters already in effect have only five or so "flesh points". Monsters do one more average damage per level, characters gain five more hit points per level.

(Numbers above may be wrong, idea is I think correct.)

#### SensoryThought

##### First Post
I do agree with Deadboy that it is doubtful 5e will remove level bonuses as slaying of a sacred cow, and I inherently railed against the idea on first hearing it.

Why? Partly, as said earlier, players like the feeling of progression and adding lots of pluses every level (or 2) keeps them on the treadmill.

I think some more fundamental questions have been posed though regarding how much should a level (or 2 or 5 or 10) mean in terms of relative power. Should power increases be linear or exponential? Should a level 5 fighter be able to beat 2 level 1 fighters? Or 5? Or 10? Should a level 20 fighter in a loincloth with a wet rolled up towel be able to beat the level 10 fighter with plate and a longsword? Should epic characters be demigods or just captain America style peak of humanity (great, but still human in capacity)?

Personally I like the exponential demigod high fantasy model, but I realize a lot of others prefer gritty realism. It does make game design hard though.

#### UngeheuerLich

##### Legend
maybe this is a point where the d20 fails vs the d100.
We once thougt 5% increments are fine enough... but maybe +1% per level would yield better results.

On the other hand, your attack bonus increased well (if you were a fighter and very very slow when you were a wizard) in ADnD. Your Armor remained about the same... but your hp increased. Damage did not so much.
So in ADnD you had a natural progression from low level to high. Low level was fast and swingy, high level was epic and much moe reliable.
All monsters were useful, as even goblins were able to hit a level 10 fighter, if they were able to hit him at level 1. They were not just inconveniences and could do damage, and were usually hit with every blow: no need for minions or elite. (trade in attack bonus for #attacks and you are equipped well enough as a DM to handle fights from lvl 1 to lvl 10.

BUT: Non AC defenses, especially will and fort need to go up, because your PC´s need to become more resilent to death effects and mental domination, because those attacks circumvent the hp defense. ADnD had this progression, as saving throws went up. And went up high.

So IMHO attack bonus may go up. HP should go up. AC and reflex (tied to hp damage) needs to stay the same. Damage too. Saving throws must go up. And not just in relation to your first level values, but relativ to the enemise as well...
IF you have 100hp, your enemy must have a lower chance todominate you.

Maybe 4e didn´t do so wrong in expressing those kind of spells as hp damage too. However it could have maybe been a wiser idea to allow trading hp for +x to defense as an immediate interrupt or some kinds of mental hp. So that it is not all mixed into one (which most people have problems getting your head wrapped around).

All difficult decisions. But in the end some progression would be great.

The inherent bonus competing with magical bonus is a great idea, no matter what we will see in 5e. Although you could as well argue, that a more proficient char can utilize the magic better...

#### billd91

##### Not your screen monkey (he/him)
But, as I said before, an archery contest isn't a fight and need not use the same mechanics.

Why have 2 subsystems for doing the same thing? Part of the point of practicing archery by shooting at targets is to get better at hitting things when it matters. Shouldn't one have some relationship to the other in an RPG?

#### Rune

##### Once A Fool
This system assumes two important things that are (for the most part) getting glossed over.

First, for all those claiming that a low-level archer will tie a legendary archer in an archery contest, this system assumes that characters obtain options as they level. This is important.

The legendary archer has probably picked up the "perfect aim" option (say, roll 2d20, drop the lowest). Likely has the "steady shot" option for contests involving shooting on the run. Likely has "quick aim" for contests involving moving, or timed targets. Certainly has the "extended range" option for contests involving accuracy at great range.

The low-level archer would have few, if any, of these game-changing options.

Your structure does very well at handling near level encounters. The question becomes, do players feel enough sense of advancement when facing low level encounters?

In others words, should a 20th level character beat a 10th level one...most of the time, or nearly all of the time handily? Should a 10 difference in level make you that much more powerful?

And if so....does the nonscaling bonus system provide enough of that?

The second thing is the pairing of HP and damage output with level advancement.

The 20th level fighter would have more hit points than the 10th level fighter, and the 20th level fighter would deal more damage to the 10th level one, and the 10th level fighter would deal less damage to the 20th level one. Such a fight would not just be over quicker and be more decisive than a fight between two equal-level fighters; it would be much quicker and much more decisive.

Personally, I think that's a good thing.

##### First Post
BUT: Non AC defenses, especially will and fort need to go up, because your PC´s need to become more resilent to death effects and mental domination, because those attacks circumvent the hp defense. ADnD had this progression, as saving throws went up. And went up high.
Or hit points need to expand their role beyond soaking up physical "damage" -- because players tend not to like pure save-or-die situations.

If you look at how D&D evolved, you can see the tension between hit points serving the useful role of keeping high-level -- and hard-earned -- characters alive, through battle after battle, and serving that role too well to provide enough tension or to seem plausible. So, various bypassing elements came into the game: vorpal weapons, save-or-die spells, etc.

There's a sweet spot there, where players feel threatened, and they might lose the fight, but there isn't such a big risk that all their hard work will be thrown away and the campaign will get derailed. We should focus our analysis on how to achieve and retain this feel.

#### Rune

##### Once A Fool
here's a sweet spot there, where players feel threatened, and they might lose the fight, but there isn't such a big risk that all their hard work will be thrown away and the campaign will get derailed. We should focus our analysis on how to achieve and retain this feel.

It seems like the best way to handle that kind of thing would be in the encounter design. If there was an emphasis on multiple victory or failure conditions, not every fight need end in death for either side.

Furthermore, such a failure need not just mean that the campaign is not derailed; it could even spur the campaign on by throwing in a twist. Even a victory could complicate things (in a good way).

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