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D&D 5E Possible Changes to Rebalance the Ability Scores

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
So, most who have played 5e have noticed that some of the ability scores need a bit of rebalancing when compared to different ability scores. I agree with this, but don't want this thread to debate on whether or not Intelligence and Strength suck, so I will just go ahead and assume that all of you agree that they do, but explain reasons for why they do just a bit to support my changes. Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence are objectively worse ability scores than Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Strength is useful, but Dexterity is much more useful than it in more cases than not. It's used for initiative, armor class, more skills, more common and important saving throws, is a prerequisite to multiclass into more viable classes for multiclass dips than the strength based ones, practically everyone needs it and those who don't really want it, it can be used for both melee and ranged combat, and has too many uses for me to list. Dexterity is clearly superior to Strength, and this needs to change in the next edition (5.5e/6e). Here are some suggestions for how to rebalance it:

  • Take away its importance for Initiative. In the new edition of D&D, I would recommend allowing a character to use their Dexterity, Intelligence, or Wisdom modifier for their initiative bonus. Dexterity makes sense to be used for initiative, as it shows how quickly you can react in combat, but the other two ability scores can fit the theme of good initiative as well. Intelligence would emulate an intelligent battle strategist analyzing the battlefield and having their mind in a constant mental state of combat-preparedness. Wisdom to show their constant awareness of their surroundings and ability to go before other creatures. This won't help Strength be better as much as it will make Dexterity be a bit less needed.
  • Nerf ranged weapons and boost melee combat. Ranged combat already has the benefit of being away from all the action, and the majority of monsters are stronger at melee combat than ranged. This makes an imbalance. I recommend either decreasing the damage dice of most ranged weapons by one size, and/or increasing the damage dice of melee combat one size. For example: Greatswords/Mauls do 2d8 damage, Glaives/Halberds do 1d12, Greataxes/Lances do 1d12+proficiency bonus or something like that. Melee combatants should get an automatic Parry reaction to prevent damage. Ranged Combatants should gain other disadvantages of attacking at range. Both should be equal. Maybe even give an AC boost to melee combatants, or two different armor classes, one for ranged attacks and another for melee. There could be different mechanics to balance these styles of combat as well. These boosts to melee combat could also apply to Finesse Weapons, but this change would still help balance out STR and DEX a bit.
  • Make more Strength based skills. Athletics is for grappling and other athletic actions. There could be a "Lift" skill that lets you temporarily lift twice your carrying capacity for an amount of time equal to your Constitution modifier. Other skills that are based on Strength could help keep it on par with Dexterity.
  • Make different types of shields that require certain strength to use. A small shield could be used by anyone and just give a +1 bonus to AC. A medium shield could be used by those with Strength of 16 or higher and give a +2 bonus to AC and possibly half-cover. A large/tower shield would require a strength of 18 or higher and give a +3 bonus to AC and give three-quarters cover. This is just a rough draft idea to help balance out strength and dexterity a bit, and the numbers would probably be different if they did something like this, but you get the idea.
  • Make heavy armor better. Dexterity is too useful when it comes to Armor Class, which is why I have the suggestion above, but that won't fix it. Not having high enough strength while wearing heavy armor will make attacks against you be made at advantage, or there could be some other extreme nerf to wearing heavy armor without high enough Strength. There could also be a benefit to wearing heavy armor, such as effects that would move you/knock you prone are halved/made at disadvantage.
  • Increase the amount of ways you can fight in combat. The Grappler feat (or an equivalent of it) could be automatically given to everyone. There could be different positioning tactics to increase melee damage (like the coup de grace, stacked flanking, and so on). This could just make melee combat a bit more interesting and less weapon-spamming, balancing it a bit with Spellcasting.
That is the gist of what I would change to make Strength be more on par with Dexterity. Both would be effective ways of play, and neither ability score would be clearly better than the other. Now onto Intelligence.

So, the main problem with Intelligence is that it is very uncommonly used in 5e. Only Wizards, Artificers, Arcane Tricksters, and Eldritch Knights care about having it, and the latter two care far less about it than their classes' main stats. Additionally, there are not many useful mechanics that everyone has access to that are dependent on it. Just compare it to Charisma. Bards, Paladins, Sorcerers, and Warlocks at least partially depend on having good Charisma, almost everyone else wants it for Persuasion, Deception, and Intimidation. The only skill that is based on Intelligence that is not dependent on your character's knowledge of lore is Investigation, which is outdone by Perception. The other skills are dependent on lore and only provide any game influencing knowledge about once a campaign each. These are my recommendations to fix Intelligence:

  • Make more classes and subclasses need it. The way to get stop people from multiclassing into Hexblade-Sorcadins is to give some equally good options Intelligence based characters. They could do this by adding more classes/subclasses that need it (Psionics, a Warlord class, an Arcane-Gish class, Runecasting, Intelligence-Sneak Attacking Rogues),
  • They could possibly change Warlocks to Intelligence, but I would personally keep them as Charisma (especially with other changes I'm going to recommend). I think that Charisma fits them better, as they do have to create pacts and barter with otherworldly powers.
  • Allow characters to start with more skills/tools/languages/weapon proficiencies equal to their Intelligence modifier. This would just boost the stat and make it a lot more valuable.
  • They could add more Intelligence based skills and have the current Intelligence based skills be more useful. There could be a skill that lets you analyze an weapon/object/contraption and try and figure out how it works. For example, they could walk up to a cannon, take this action, and figure out how to use it if they roll high enough. Or, Arcana could be used to give you some damage reduction to spells that you are familiar enough with. Investigation could be made to be more distinct from Perception and more useful. There are plenty of other additions/tweaking they could to with the Intelligence skills to make them worth taking.
  • Make intelligence saving throws more common and more important. One of the reasons why a barbarian is automatically dead/mind controlled if the party comes across an Intellect Devourer or Mind Flayer is because they automatically dump Intelligence. They automatically dump Intelligence because they don't have any reason to take it. If Intelligence saving throws are more common and useful, and the ability score did more than it currently does, everyone would be inclined to take it.
Those are some of the recommendations I have for balancing Intelligence out a bit. Just like the imbalance between Strength and Dexterity, the imbalance between Intelligence and Charisma (and Wisdom a bit) can be fixed by making the underpowered ability scores more useful and prevalent, as well as nerfing the overpowered ability scores a bit. Now onto the last ability score, Constitution.

Constitution is the weird one. It is not a bad ability score, but it is certainly not a balanced one, either. Its role in 5e is a bit ambiguous, and is strange for a few reasons. Firstly, like Dexterity, everyone wants Constitution, and for a similar reason. Having a high Constitution is how you get higher hit points, and literally everyone wants high hit points. While there are ways to have high AC without super high Dexterity (Loxodon, Heavy Armor, Medium Armor with decent DEX), there are practically no ways of adding a different agility score to your hit points, which is a bit strange due to 5e's definition of hit points as representing a combination of "physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck." If hit points involve mental durability, the will to live, and luck, why in the Nine Hells is Constitution the only ability score that can be added to it? Luck sounds like Dexterity and Charisma to me, mental durability and the will to live sound like Intelligence and Wisdom to me, and physical durability sounds like Strength and Constitution. That covers all of the ability scores, so why is it only Constitution that's added? I'm guessing it was carried over from previous editions and is a matter of tradition, but either way it should change. Due to the fact that everyone has to have it, that creates an imbalance between it and every other ability score. This makes Constitution too good/useful to be used as the main stat of a class, leaving players in a weird kind of limbo of trying to determine if they really need to increase their Constitution. Here is how I would fix this ability score:

  • First and most importantly, sever its ties to hit points. You can still add your Constitution modifier to your hit points, but only if you are a certain class. When a class would add their Constitution modifier to their hit points that they regain or receive when they level up, they instead can choose any ability score associated with their class to add their ability score modifier in place of their Constitution modifier, as shown below. This would let 5e's definition of hit points actually make some strange kind of sense, where a Rogue's hit points are their agility and luck to dodge out of the path of a blade that would slit their throat and a Barbarian's hit points are literally their physical health and might, and so on.
    • Artificers add Constitution and Intelligence.
    • Barbarians add Strength and Constitution.
    • Bards add Charisma and Dexterity.
    • Clerics add Wisdom and Charisma/Constitution.
    • Druids add Wisdom and Intelligence/Constitution.
    • Fighters add Strength/Dexterity and Constitution.
    • Monks add Wisdom and Dexterity.
    • Paladins add Constitution/Charisma and Strength.
    • Rangers add Strength/Dexterity and Wisdom.
    • Rogues add Dexterity and Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma.
    • Sorcerers add Constitution and Charisma.
    • Warlocks add Charisma and Dexterity.
    • Wizards add Intelligence and Wisdom/Dexterity.
  • Make Sorcerers use Constitution as their spellcasting ability. If their magic is innate and comes from their inherent arcane nature, they get proficiency with Constitution saving throws already, and there's a subclass named after your "Bloodline," they should not be Charisma based, they should be Constitution based.
  • Add more classes/subclasses that use Constitution for features (Blood Hunters, Long Death Monks, Oathbreaker Paladins, a barbarian subclass, Health Clerics, etc).
  • Add a skill called Endurance that is Constitution based. When swimming long distances, you have to make an athletics and endurance check to see how fast and how long you can swim. If lifting an object above your carrying capacity, you can roll Endurance to see how long you can hold it up. Endurance would be used for any other actions that require your to maintain a difficult task involving your health and tolerance of pain.
  • Make Concentration more common. Rage is concentration, rogue abilities, fighters will get fighting tactics that are concentration, Wild Shape could be concentration, certain Channel Divinities could be Concentration, etc.
  • For PCs, make an "Exhaustion Buffer" that lets you take an amount of Exhaustion equal to your Constitution modifier with no negative effects, and any additional exhaustion you take afterwards gives you harmful effects based on the Exhaustion table, starting at the first effect and continuing on as normal when taking even more exhaustion. At the end of a long rest, a character automatically loses one exhaustion and can make an Endurance check to get rid of an additional exhaustion. This would allow for both Exhaustion and Constitution to have more uses in the game.
  • Make Death Saving Throws be Constitution based. This would make it so even though they don't necessarily need Con for their HP, it is still important for their survival.
So, that's what I've got for rebalancing the ability scores. What do you think?
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
If making Intelligence more important (or making Dexterity less important) is the goal, I'd recommend:

1. Use Intelligence for initiative. Then, instead of being a measure of quick reflexes, it would become more a measure of being able to think quickly and react appropriately to danger.

2. Use Intelligence for ranged attacks. Ranged attacks would be more of a measure of the shooter's ability to calculate trajectory, and less a measure of hand-eye coordination.

3. Both.

I don't think Constitution needs to be "fixed," but I will concede that there is too much hit-point bloat in 5th Edition. To fix that, I think the easiest approach would be to just not have any modifiers to hit points. Your barbarian starts the game with 1d12 hit points, and gets 1d12 hit points per level, full stop.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
1. Use Intelligence for initiative. Then, instead of being a measure of quick reflexes, it would become more a measure of being able to think quickly and react appropriately to danger.
I gave the suggestion for letting Dex, Int, and Wis be used for Initiative in the OP (the player chooses which they use).
Use Intelligence for ranged attacks. Ranged attacks would be more of a measure of the shooter's ability to calculate trajectory, and less a measure of hand-eye coordination.
I disagree with this. I am intelligent, but absolutely suck at archery, dart throwing, and shooting. Ranged attacks should be Dexterity based, but certain ranged weapons should have a Strength requirement (Longbows mostly).
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I gave the suggestion for letting Dex, Int, and Wis be used for Initiative in the OP (the player chooses which they use).

I disagree with this. I am intelligent, but absolutely suck at archery, dart throwing, and shooting. Ranged attacks should be Dexterity based, but certain ranged weapons should have a Strength requirement (Longbows mostly).
It's okay to disagree; I don't mind. I can say that it works, though.

If Strength requirements are your thing, go for it. (It feels very reminiscent of the 'composite bows' of 3rd Edition, and I kind of miss it.)
 


Bawylie

A very OK person
Strength: half your ability modifier to hit / full ability modifier to damage.
Dexterity: full ability modifier to hit / half ability modifier to damage.

Con requirements for medium and heavy armor, instead of strength.

Str requirements for heavy weapons (including the longbow).

Intelligence, Charisma, Wisdom requirements for certain backgrounds. (Arguably, you could bring back ability requirements for classes and subclasses).
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Strength: half your ability modifier to hit / full ability modifier to damage.
Dexterity: full ability modifier to hit / half ability modifier to damage.
That is certainly an interesting suggestion. I'm not sure if I would ever do that, but if you have, I'd love to know how it went.
Con requirements for medium and heavy armor, instead of strength.
I would still require a Strength requirement, but there could also be a Con one for heavier armors.
Str requirements for heavy weapons (including the longbow).
I agree with this completely. I might even add different strength requirements for different weapons (15 for longbows, 17 for lances, and so on)
Intelligence, Charisma, Wisdom requirements for certain backgrounds.
I would do the opposite. I'd prefer to make backgrounds give you bonuses to an ability score(s) (Soldier gets +2 Strength or Dexterity, Sages get +2 Intelligence, Criminals get a +2 Dexterity or Strength, et cetera).
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I agree with Int, Dex, or Wis for initiative. In the initiative system document I hope to finish and sell someday, that's the first suggestion!

For the overall topic, I don't know if I care if they are more balanced, but I agree that Dex is SOOOOO important that I find it hard to believe anyone that wasn't playing against being good in combat would ignore it....
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I agree with Int, Dex, or Wis for initiative. In the initiative system document I hope to finish and sell someday, that's the first suggestion!
Great. I thought it fit, that would balance out Dex a bit more.
For the overall topic, I don't know if I care if they are more balanced, but I agree that Dex is SOOOOO important that I find it hard to believe anyone that wasn't playing against being good in combat would ignore it....
Dexterity is very important in D&D 5e. I think that it's a problem to have any noticeable imbalance between the six scores the game is based off of.
 

Horwath

Hero
1. Add both STR and CON for min requirements for wearing ALL armor.
Con could be 2 pts lower than STR.

I.E.
leather armor could be; STR 10+, CON 8+,
Full plate; STR 16+, CON 14+,
Shields; light(buckler); STR 12+, CON 10+, medium(standard); STR 14+, CON 12+, tower; STR 16+, CON 14+,
Etc...

2. Add INT in addition to DEX for initiative.

3. Add Extra skill, tools & language proficiency equal to int bonus(max +3).
I.E; 18 int would give 3 extra skills, 3 extra tools and 3 extra languages.

4. You can be attuned to 2 items or your CHA bonus. whatever is higher.

5. add extra expertise to skills and tools equal to half int bonus(round down), that is 1 expertise for 14+ int, 2 expertise for 18+ int,
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
1. Add both STR and CON for min requirements for wearing ALL armor.
Con could be 2 pts lower than STR.

I.E.
leather armor could be; STR 10+, CON 8+,
Full plate; STR 16+, CON 14+,
Shields; light(buckler); STR 12+, CON 10+, medium(standard); STR 14+, CON 12+, tower; STR 16+, CON 14+,
Etc...

2. Add INT in addition to DEX for initiative.

3. Add Extra skill, tools & language proficiency equal to int bonus(max +3).
I.E; 18 int would give 3 extra skills, 3 extra tools and 3 extra languages.

4. You can be attuned to 2 items or your CHA bonus. whatever is higher.

5. add extra expertise to skills and tools equal to half int bonus(round down), that is 1 expertise for 14+ int, 2 expertise for 18+ int,
Thanks for your suggestions! While I may not agree with some of them, I appreciate you sharing them.

I agree with the first point, and do share your wish for having more types of shield (I would only add 3, which you listed).

I would personally also allow for Wisdom as an option for Initiative instead of just INT and DEX.

One extra skill, tool, and language seems like too much of a benefit for just a +1 bonus to Intelligence. I would personally have you choose an amount of skills, tools, or languages equal to you Intelligence modifier.

I'm not sure about the attunement being tied to Charisma, but I would like it to be tied to proficiency bonus or something like that, but that wouldn't really effect the ability scores.

Free expertise seems a bit too much, but I could see something else like that helping balance Intelligence in later editions.
 

I really think the problem comes from Dexterity actually being two different abilities smooshed together: Agility (speed, balance, etc.) - that would be your Dex saves, your stealth, your balance, your AC bonus; and Dexterity (hand-eye coordination - ranged attack bonus).

however we are talking about sticking with the 6 abilities, so how about this:

Bows should use your Strength bonus, not your Dexterity. It's mainly upper body strength that makes someone more effective with the big bows, after all.
 

For Intelligence I deal with it in my game by making a lot more Investigation checks, and fewer Perception checks, since the line between them is rather thin.

I also make picking locks and disabling traps Intelligence + Thieves Tools, rather than Dexterity + Thieves Tools. For me dealing with a complex mechanism is as much your knowledge of your mechanism with how well you move your fingers around.
 

Horwath

Hero
Thanks for your suggestions! While I may not agree with some of them, I appreciate you sharing them.

I agree with the first point, and do share your wish for having more types of shield (I would only add 3, which you listed).

I would personally also allow for Wisdom as an option for Initiative instead of just INT and DEX.

One extra skill, tool, and language seems like too much of a benefit for just a +1 bonus to Intelligence. I would personally have you choose an amount of skills, tools, or languages equal to you Intelligence modifier.

I'm not sure about the attunement being tied to Charisma, but I would like it to be tied to proficiency bonus or something like that, but that wouldn't really effect the ability scores.

Free expertise seems a bit too much, but I could see something else like that helping balance Intelligence in later editions.

Maybe int bonus for all 3 is too much.
Skill or tool&language might be more balanced.
And you must stagger choices, pick skill then tool&language then skill again(if you have +3 bonus)

getting one expertise for 14 int is not much, and would reward investment in ability that has like 3 saves based on and useful for one class as primary ability.

Charisma as attunement is your force of personality vs. force of the magic in items.
 

Horwath

Hero
I really think the problem comes from Dexterity actually being two different abilities smooshed together: Agility (speed, balance, etc.) - that would be your Dex saves, your stealth, your balance, your AC bonus; and Dexterity (hand-eye coordination - ranged attack bonus).

however we are talking about sticking with the 6 abilities, so how about this:

Bows should use your Strength bonus, not your Dexterity. It's mainly upper body strength that makes someone more effective with the big bows, after all.

as attack and damage is tied to same ability in 5E, I would not change that.

But I would rank BASE damage of bows depending on users STR.

I.E.
1d4 STR 6+
1d6 STR 8+
1d8 STR 12+
1d10 STR 16+
1d12 STR 20+
2d6 STR 22+

having less STR than minimum will result with disadvantage on attack rolls and deal only minimum damage.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
To balance the stats a bit (mostly reducing the dominance of Dexterity):

--- Take all melee-combat offense (to hit, damage, etc.) away from Dex and give it to Str. No more finesse.

--- Take initiative away from Dex and don't put it anywhere. No more init modifiers.

--- Put some Str requirements on heavy armour and weapons; also, put hard limits on what Dex heavy armour will allow one to function as.

To make all the stats a bit more relevant, particularly when a stat is an odd number: bring back roll-under mechanics on a widespread basis.
 

Horwath

Hero
To balance the stats a bit (mostly reducing the dominance of Dexterity):

--- Take all melee-combat offense (to hit, damage, etc.) away from Dex and give it to Str. No more finesse.

--- Take initiative away from Dex and don't put it anywhere. No more init modifiers.

--- Put some Str requirements on heavy armour and weapons; also, put hard limits on what Dex heavy armour will allow one to function as.

To make all the stats a bit more relevant, particularly when a stat is an odd number: bring back roll-under mechanics on a widespread basis.

Or just remove Con and merge its mechaics into STR, then we will see how many finesse characters will dump STR
 

Dormammu

Explorer
I always had the feeling 5E was trying to downplay the system mastery elements of 3-4E. Are you sure Wizards cares whether stats are balanced? This observation is mostly in the context of the OP’s suggestion that the next edition must “fix” stats.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Way too many changes.

If you think Dexterity is the clear winner and Intelligence the clear loser, start by removing Dex bonus from something important and replace it with Int bonus. Initiative is a good start but I think AC is even more dramatic.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think that it's helpful to look at how other games have addressed similar issues.

* PF2, for example, links Initiative with Perception as the default, but also allows for other skills to be used in lieu of Perception based upon what the PCs may have been doing at the time: e.g., Stealth, Survival, Deception, Persuasion, etc.

* The AGE System links bonus damage for Ranged Combat to the Perception attribute as a factor of aiming.

I would also consider decoupling Initiative from Dexterity entirely and instead simply have it be linked with the character's Proficiency bonus: this is to say, it's linked to the character's overall experience as an adventure rather than any of their six attributes.

But I would not necessarily make too many drastic changes until you know how a smaller set of major changes work together.
 

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