5E Racial Ability Scores: Default Low Ability Score

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
So, I'm a bit of a grognard when it comes to how ability scores are generated for PCs. I've always liked that each race (besides humans) had a negative ability score adjustment. I realize that sort of concept has fallen out of favor and the D&D community is not likely to want to go back to it (if there is ever a new edition, which I doubt).

I've toyed with the idea of adding negative scores to the existing D&D 5E races (based mainly on 2E and 3E), but I don't think players would be willing to accept it.

However, late last night, I had an idea for an optional house rule.

What about the idea of specifying for each race a Default Low Ability Score? You'd roll as normal for your scores but when assigning the values (assuming you do it that way), you have to put the lowest score rolled in the Default Low Ability Score for the race you choose. For example, say you roll a 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. You decide you're going to pick Elf as your race. Assuming you choose, say, high elf instead of one of the other subraces, you'd have to put the lowest rolled score (8) into Constitution (as per the Elf in 3E). There's no penalty to the roll, but you have to put the lowest score into Con.

Each race (or subrace) would have its own Default Low Ability Score (DLAB). Each DM would decide based on the campaign being played. Your high elf might not be the same as mine. You might prefer the elf to have its DLAB be Strength instead of Constitution. And for races that used to have more than one negative score (as per the Half-Orc in 3E), the player can choose either one or the other as the DLAB.

Now, I know a lot of people prefer to assign ability scores based on point buy, so it might be that when you use points for the DLAB, you pay more to increase it. 1 point becomes 2 and 2 becomes 3. I don't use point buy very often in my games, so it isn't something I am passionate about. Maybe this idea doesn't work with point buy or maybe you have to use fractions to make it fair (but complicated).

I just wanted to run it by the people here on EN World and get everyone's opinion. And I'm all for suggestions for how to make the idea better or if you have your own house rules about making 5E feel more like the older editions when generating ability scores.

Knightfall
 
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I like the idea.

I think it would work also, or even better, for the highest ability score "DHAB". So if you play an Elf Wizard you have to have Dex as highest ability score. It'll probably make people play more iconic race-class combinations.

I don't think you need to change the point-buy cost however, just say that at the end of the point-buy process you still need to have DLAB and DHAB of the chosen race.
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
Wouldn't it be better to just ask your players to play the more iconic races? Imagine rolling a 7. Now that player is not playing elf (or any race that has to put their lowest to CON), since they will be behind on the expected HP curve and likely dying. I mean if your players dig that, sure go for it. As a default idea, I don't see the point of it that could not be resolved by just talking to your players.

e: this is also likely to make the difference between good rolls and bad rolls even worse, which is not a problem that needs more compounding
 

Coroc

Explorer
I am also a fan of the bonus malus scores, but with 5e that does not work well because of the bound accuracy.

E.g. you say elf gets a quasi -2 for a constitution of 8. That is fine for 3.x e, because the elfs con saving throw will progress with his class but it will definitely progress.
With 5e it might be that it won't . Like never. If the elf does play a wizard he got prof in int and wis saves. So at level 20 assuming he never put a stat increase into his 8 con he will be stuck with a -1 on con saves. A lowly poisonous or whatever critte could finish him off.
Unless of course your player puts his next 3 attribute increases not in feats but to get his con from 8 to 14, which is practically a must, if he wants to survive the average challenges of adventuring which include con saves. Exhaustion is deadly for this one. Poison. Swimming / running / climbing long distances. This dude is snowflaked by design :p
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
Unless of course your player puts his next 3 attribute increases not in feats but to get his con from 8 to 14, which is practically a must, if he wants to survive the average challenges of adventuring which include con saves.
The Resilient (Constitution) feat probably accomplishes this better than ASIs.
 

Coroc

Explorer
The Resilient (Constitution) feat probably accomplishes this better than ASIs.
Of course, still it is only for saving throws, not for checks plus it requires the use of feats which his optional on some tables.

See, if it were me they need not have to changed the three save system of 3e for 5e but they have now, but still those three saves are the most used.
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
I like the idea.

I think it would work also, or even better, for the highest ability score "DHAB". So if you play an Elf Wizard you have to have Dex as highest ability score. It'll probably make people play more iconic race-class combinations.
I hadn't thought of that. It's an interesting idea I'm now going to think about. :unsure:

Li Shenron said:
I don't think you need to change the point-buy cost however, just say that at the end of the point-buy process you still need to have DLAB and DHAB of the chosen race.
Yes, it depends a great deal on DM implementation. I think some players would go for it while others might object to the concept. And I would rather not mess with the point buy system.

I like it.
I think I'll steal both the idea of DLAB & DHAB. :)
Steal away. :D
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Wouldn't it be better to just ask your players to play the more iconic races? Imagine rolling a 7. Now that player is not playing elf (or any race that has to put their lowest to CON), since they will be behind on the expected HP curve and likely dying. I mean if your players dig that, sure go for it. As a default idea, I don't see the point of it that could not be resolved by just talking to your players.

e: this is also likely to make the difference between good rolls and bad rolls even worse, which is not a problem that needs more compounding
As a DM, I try not to limit which races my players want to play. Yes, you can always ask players to play the iconic archetypes, but I've rarely had that issue in my games. It has been harder to get some players to go off the map and play something different.

And I would say each of the elven subraces could/would have a different DLAB. High Elf would be CON (or something else if you don't want the PC behind the HP curve). Wood Elf would most likely be CHA, if you want to make them isolationists. Or you give the player the option of either CON or CHA for the DLAB for both the High and Wood Elf subraces. For drow, CHA doesn't work so you'd have to pick something else in addition to CON as an option. Maybe WIS.

And I realize not every group would want to use this house rule, which is why I'd consider an option thing to try. If it doesn't work for your group, that's okay. I might try to get a gaming group to try it and they might not like the idea at all. It all depends on how well each DM knows his players and if they want to try to create a classic feel to a 5E game.

I should also mention that I almost always let my players roll 4d6 (drop lowest) nine times, pick the best six, and arrange to taste.
 
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clearstream

Explorer
So, I'm a bit of a grognard when it comes to how ability scores are generated for PCs. I've always liked that each race (besides humans) had a negative ability score adjustment. I realize that sort of concept has fallen out of favor and the D&D community is not likely to want to go back to it (if there is ever a new edition, which I doubt).

I've toyed with the idea of adding negative scores to the existing D&D 5E races (based mainly on 2E and 3E), but I don't think players would be willing to accept it.

However, late last night, I had an idea for an optional house rule.

What about the idea of specifying for each race a Default Low Ability Score? You'd roll as normal for your scores but when assigning the values (assuming you do it that way), you have to put the lowest score rolled in the Default Low Ability Score for the race you choose. For example, say you roll a 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. You decide you're going to pick Elf as your race. Assuming you choose, say, high elf instead of one of the other subraces, you'd have to put the lowest rolled score (8) into Constitution (as per the Elf in 3E). There's no penalty to the roll, but you have to put the lowest score into Con.

Each race (or subrace) would have its own Default Low Ability Score (DLAB). Each DM would decide based on the campaign being played. Your high elf might not be the same as mine. You might prefer the elf to have its DLAB be Strength instead of Constitution. And for races that used to have more than one negative score (as per the Half-Orc in 3E), the player can choose either one or the other as the DLAB.

Now, I know a lot of people prefer to assign ability scores based on point buy, so it might be that when you use points for the DLAB, you pay more to increase it. 1 point becomes 2 and 2 becomes 3. I don't use point buy very often in my games, so it isn't something I am passionate about. Maybe this idea doesn't work with point buy or maybe you have to use fractions to make it fair (but complicated).

I just wanted to run it by the people here on EN World and get everyone's opinion. And I'm all for suggestions for how to make the idea better or if you have your own house rules about making 5E feel more like the older editions when generating ability scores.

Knightfall
It would create yet stronger valency between class and race, and my feeling is that would be a bad thing. Class dictates race too heavily already in all likelihood.
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
I am also a fan of the bonus malus scores, but with 5e that does not work well because of the bound accuracy.

E.g. you say elf gets a quasi -2 for a constitution of 8. That is fine for 3.x e, because the elfs con saving throw will progress with his class but it will definitely progress.
With 5e it might be that it won't . Like never. If the elf does play a wizard he got prof in int and wis saves. So at level 20 assuming he never put a stat increase into his 8 con he will be stuck with a -1 on con saves. A lowly poisonous or whatever critte could finish him off.
Unless of course your player puts his next 3 attribute increases not in feats but to get his con from 8 to 14, which is practically a must, if he wants to survive the average challenges of adventuring which include con saves. Exhaustion is deadly for this one. Poison. Swimming / running / climbing long distances. This dude is snowflaked by design :p
Hmm, I hadn't considered bounded accuracy. :unsure:

The flatness of the math of 5E is a mild pet peeve of mine. Personally, I think there should be bigger difference between a low-level character and a high-level character, but as I've said, I'm a bit of a (3E) grognard. I don't mind the idea of the numbers being less dramatic than in previous editions, but I'd like to increase the range of the Proficiency Bonuses for the classes, a little. Maybe maxing out at +8 to +10 instead of +6 to stretch the power of higher-level PCs.

Of course, this could/would lead to having to rework the monsters at higher levels to make them suitable challenges for those PCs, but I'm not at that point yet. It's still all on the drawing board.
 

Coroc

Explorer
Hmm, I hadn't considered bounded accuracy. :unsure:

The flatness of the math of 5E is a mild pet peeve of mine. Personally, I think there should be bigger difference between a low-level character and a high-level character, but as I've said, I'm a bit of a (3E) grognard. I don't mind the idea of the numbers being less dramatic than in previous editions, but I'd like to increase the range of the Proficiency Bonuses for the classes, a little. Maybe maxing out at +8 to +10 instead of +6 to stretch the power of higher-level PCs.

Of course, this could/would lead to having to rework the monsters at higher levels to make them suitable challenges for those PCs, but I'm not at that point yet. It's still all on the drawing board.
Well basically you can boost select stats and connected metastats via attribute increase, feats, items etc., like in any edition, so you might get your +8 or +10 anyway or even more if you focus the build on it.

But as we found out in another thread there are some very important metastats in 5e. The little math exercise in that thread proved AC being one and i think standard saves are sure another. Your con determines your health also, and it might cause you to get exhaustion more easy which is very unsettling, at least when i am aplayer i really hate it.
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Here's a quick breakdown of what I would do. These options are based primarily on v.3.5.

Default Low Ability Scores [PHB]
Common Races

Dwarf
  • Hill Dwarf: Charisma
  • Mountain Dwarf: EITHER Charisma (and a -1 to stat) OR two lowest stats go into Charisma and Dexterity, respectively
Elf
  • High Elf: Constitution
  • Wood Elf: Charisma
  • Drow: Constitution or Wisdom (player's choice)
Halfling
  • Lightfoot: Strength
  • Stout: Strength or Charisma (player's choice)
Human: Either n/a; or roll 1d6

Uncommon Races
Dragonborn: Dexterity or Intelligence (?) *
Gnome
  • Forest Gnome: EITHER Strength (and a -1 to stat) OR two lowest stats go into Strength and Charisma, respectively
  • Rock Gnome: Strength
Half-Elf: roll 1d6 (re-roll 6?)
Half-Orc: Intelligence or Charisma (player's choice)
Tiefling: Dexterity or Wisdom (?) *

* These two races might need some tweaking for my games. :unsure:
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What about the idea of specifying for each race a Default Low Ability Score?
I think this is much more harsh than, say, having a -1 or -2 on the same ability score for the race. At least that leaves the player a choice for how to handle it. This is dictating a dump stat for the entire race, no choice. In terms of player acceptance, that's probably not going to go over well.
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
I think this is much more harsh than, say, having a -1 or -2 on the same ability score for the race. At least that leaves the player a choice for how to handle it. This is dictating a dump stat for the entire race, no choice. In terms of player acceptance, that's probably not going to go over well.
Having a -1 or -2 on the score is what I would prefer to do, but the more I got into the idea, the more I felt that players wouldn't accept it. I can see why some would call it dictating a dump stat and balk at the idea completely. If I could find a happy mean/median between the two, that would be ideal. In truth, there isn't a quick fix for what I want, but I want to explore the option.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
On one side, this will prevent things like Half-Orc wizards (assuming their low is INT), but considering the average low in a rolled situation this will basically always be a penalty score.

On the other hand, you put a race with a penalty to CON and it will plummet in popularity. Put one with a penalty in DEX and you'll only see heavy armor wearers of that race, either casters or STR weapon wielders.

Worse, it affects other concepts. I want to play the blunt halfling. Oh sorry, your CHR has to be higher than your STR, because your STR will take your lowest score. Regardless if you want to play a low CHR character.

With 4d6 drop the lowest, it is exceeding unlikely statistically that it would be a 13,so it will stop multiclassing into anything with it. Say a dwarf subrace has a DLAB of DEX - that means that that basically that entire race can't multiclass into rogues.

I think it prevents some unusual characters, where the ability scores and the classes don't line up, by giving every member of that (sub)race to have a low and likely penalty score in the same place.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
The flatness of the math of 5E is a mild pet peeve of mine. Personally, I think there should be bigger difference between a low-level character and a high-level character, but as I've said, I'm a bit of a (3E) grognard. I don't mind the idea of the numbers being less dramatic than in previous editions, but I'd like to increase the range of the Proficiency Bonuses for the classes, a little. Maybe maxing out at +8 to +10 instead of +6 to stretch the power of higher-level PCs.

Of course, this could/would lead to having to rework the monsters at higher levels to make them suitable challenges for those PCs, but I'm not at that point yet. It's still all on the drawing board.
FWIW, we use a proficiency bonus of +2,2,3,3,3,4,4,4,5,5,5,6,6,6,7,7,7,8,8,8 and love it. Works great IMO for making that difference a bit more between levels. We also limit ability scores at 19, but have a homebrew feat called Raising the Bar which allows a character to have a 20 in one score.

Our DM compensates by simply adding +1 more for some CRs, +2 for higher ones, and I think he might go as +3, but I would have to ask him to know for certain.

I kind of like your idea in the OP, but would rather simply have either a penalty to scores like in AD&D for races and most likely a lower max score. I am one of those old school players who feel halflings and gnomes should not have STR 18 or higher! :)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That seems even worse than having a -2 to con while wanting to play an elf frontliner. I can make an elf with a decent con if I roll well that way, your way I simply cannot ever do so unless I roll exceptionally well overall (no low scores at all).

The point of ditching the - is to reduce pidgeonholing. I'd not be okay with making that very thing even worse.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Of course, this could/would lead to having to rework the monsters at higher levels to make them suitable challenges for those PCs, but I'm not at that point yet. It's still all on the drawing board.
I talked to my DM tonight and what he does for creatures is pretty simple to use if you adopt our +8 max proficiency progression:

CR 0 - 4, no adjustment
CR 5 - 14 = +1
CR 15 - 24 = +2
CR 25+ = +3

The modifier is applied to all the listed in the stat block saving throws and skills, as well as attack rolls.

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For example, a drow elite warrior is CR 5 so gains a +1 to DEX, CON, and WIS saves over the value listed in the stat block. It would also gain +1 more to Perception and Stealth (again, those listed in the block). And finally all of the attack rolls under that actions section (i.e. shortsword and hand crossbow).
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I no longer use racial ability score boosts. Instead I have racial ability minimums.

For example, for a High Elf, the Dexterity must be 12 or higher and the Intelligence 11 or higher. On average, these High Elf abilities are higher than Human, and never below average.

I am happy with how this is working out, both for flavor and mechanics. It also allows the High Elf to be just as good as any other race in any class. A High Elf Paladin with very high Strength and Charisma? Great!



I wouldnt worry about weak abilities, but if you want, the opposite might possible. Say, the maximum score for a High Elf at level 1, might be 16 Constitution. Then allow the player to improve Constitution normally, upto 20, while leveling.
 

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