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5E Removing Ability Score from offense

Xeviat

Adventurer
Supporter
All the talk about moving ability score bonuses around in the Race/Lineage system, and issues of minmaxing, has got me thinking. What if we removed offensive power from ability scores?

Here me out, this is going to get weird. So, when you compare PC math using point buy to the CR scale in the DMG, it strongly looks like the game assumes you're starting with a 16 in your primary offense stat and increasing at 4th and 8th and then probably getting +1/+2/+3 weapons at some point. This is based on looking at the PC proficiency plus ability scale compared to the monster AC scale. Monster attack to player AC is similar.

This means if you start below 16 or you don't raise your offensive stat to 20, you may feel a little more misses than ideal. 5% here and there isn't much, but there's also player perception going here.

Tying offense to ability scores also makes it difficult to balance the ability scores. Intelligence and Charisma mean a lot less to people who don't have class abilities tied to them.

So what if we removed ability scores to offense entirely? What if your offensive oomph just came from your class level. A level 8 rogue is a great combatant because they're a level 8 rogue, not specifically because they're agile.

How would this work? Well, we already have a scaling proficiency bonus. Proficiency bonus goes from 2 to 6 instead of 2-3 to 5, so the scaling is really similar. Prof scales at 5, 9, 13, 17, so slotting in another scale at the midpoints (3, 7, 11, 15, 19), at somewhere in there, is possible. This would definitely not be for 5E proper, but maybe something that could be thought of for 6E or a fully variant system.

So what about ability scores differentiating characters? Won't this make everyone the same? Well, first of all, having fighters use Str or Dex for offense doesn't create varied characters, people still push for those stats to be high. What if, instead, we had feat/talent trees tied to the different ability scores (like 3rd edition feats, but build them up) so that an Intelligent fighter would play differently than a Strong fighter?

Now, what about spell casters? The caster classes are really tied to their primary ability score. An unintelligent Wizard might feel weird, but maybe they just tried harder, or maybe they figured things out on their own and they do them in their own way. A level 10 wizard is a good wizard, whether or not they're hyper intelligent or not.

Just a thought that could make the game more balanced, make builds more interesting and fun to put together, vary characters more, and make it easier for new players by removing trap builds and making more race/class combos work.

What do you think?
 

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In OD&D, if I recall correctly, the only modifiers you got were from magic item bonuses, though your level affected the numbers needed to roll. So it's not without precedent.

The questions I have next are what happens to the damage bonus? What about skills? Are they likewise uncoupled or do you keep your stat bonuses there?
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
My OSR/5e hack does something similar. Characters can use their proficiency modifier instead of their normal stat for attacks, damage, and special effect DCs. Characters benefit slightly from a higher stat at lower levels, but ultimately they don't need them.
 


BlivetWidget

Explorer
Now, what about spell casters? The caster classes are really tied to their primary ability score. An unintelligent Wizard might feel weird, but maybe they just tried harder, or maybe they figured things out on their own and they do them in their own way. A level 10 wizard is a good wizard, whether or not they're hyper intelligent or not.
I like it, and your example doesn't seem weird to me at all. Taking school as a reference point (you know, that time you were numerically compared to the people around you), I would argue that I outperformed my peers largely due to being more studious rather than being more intelligent (whatever that really means as a general term). Motivation and training, IMHO, absolutely plays a greater role in overall success IRL than a person's "stats". You can generally modify your approach to a problem to make better use of your strengths.

Another benefit of your suggested method is that it frees you up to put points towards stats for the skills you want. Granted, my vision of a wizard would still motivate me to put points into Intelligence because I want to be an arcanist, but for certain wizard schools, wisdom or charisma may be more natural fits.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Another benefit of your suggested method is that it frees you up to put points towards stats for the skills you want. Granted, my vision of a wizard would still motivate me to put points into Intelligence because I want to be an arcanist, but for certain wizard schools, wisdom or charisma may be more natural fits.
Enchantment/Charisma and Divination/Wisdom definitely come to mind.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Well in D&D when it comes to ability scores, there are the 3 options of Nature vs Nature. Either you assume that your primary ability score bonus is supposed to be above, below, or the same as your class level based bonus.

The question is how far do you good. Still having your prime ability mod still affect your damage rolls, saves, and DCs is still enough to continue stereotypical character building patterns.

Fighters will still go for 20 Strength or Dexterity. Casters will still have 20s in their spellcasting ability score.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
In the GLOG, you to hit number is not dependent of your stat or your class. It increases bases on level. Everyone fights more or less the same, save for the fighter (and fighter-ish) classes that have special bonuses (like more damage or more attacks). Strength adds to damage, and dex add to AC and/or movement.

So it has been done, and it works. Keep in mind though that the max AC achievable without magic is 17 (plate = 16, shield is +1).
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
If you look at the ADnD charts, your to hit bonus was always only half your damage bonus from strength rounded down.
So it is not without precedent.
So if you do it that way, there is no to hit difference between 14 Str and 16 Str (both +1) Having a 20 only gives +1 to damage above 18, so you are not too hard pressed to raise it above 18, allowing you to focus more on feats or different ability scores.
So what you need to be on par with the expected +5 to hit is starting with +4 proficiency bonus to hit. You only need a single extra +1 proficiency bonus on your way. My longstanding suggestion is increasing to hit at 3,7,11,15,19.
You should probably rebalance great weapon mastery to reduce proficiency bonus to hit by half and add it as bonus damage to balance the fact that you pay less to get it (and in the end it is -4 or -5/+9, which is still good! (Depending on the wording, you round up or down!)
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
What if we removed offensive power from ability scores?
You certainly could, but why? What would be the purpose of the change? As I see it, you are possibly gaining a +1 or maybe +2 bonus to your total modifier by the end of the game compared to if you begin at 16 (+3) and don't bump it.

FWIW we use a modifier proficiency progression from +2 to +8, capping abilities at +4 for a while. We did it because we felt proficiency should count for more in the game. The difference between a level 1 pc (+2) and level 18 (+8) of +6 feels better than the RAW difference of only +4.

So, why do you want this? From your OP I just don't see a big reason for it? Can you elaborate more please? Maybe some concrete examples?
 

dregntael

Explorer
I like the idea since it allows for more diverse character concept (the charismatic barbarian, the strong monk, the intelligent fighter, ...) without making you feel like you're not making full use of your class abilities. It also mostly solves the problem of racial stat bonuses pushing players to certain race/class combos, in a better way (IMO) than just allowing moving the stat bonuses.

If you want to stay close to the current math, the easiest thing is to start out with a +3 bonus at level 1 which increases to +4 at level 4 and +5 at level 8. But I bet it wouldn't break the game either to do what you propose and have it increase at levels 3/7/11/15/19.
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
Thinking about this again, there might be no harm at all just having everyone start at +5 to hit and end at +11 (i would not assume magic items).
Likewise Spell Caster DCs should go from 13 to 19.
Just balance some feats around it and you are done. Probably You should still give +1 to hit for every 2 points of strength/dexterity above 20 and -1 for every 2 points below 10.
That way you still have some modifier for exceptional low or high stats.
 

Horwath

Hero
Double proficiency bonus on attack rolls/save DCs, proficiency bonus on damage rolls instead of ability modifiers.

that would give spread of +4 to +12 from level 1 to level 17 and damage bonus of +2 to +6, without any magic OFC
 

Laurefindel

Adventurer
You certainly could, but why? What would be the purpose of the change? As I see it, you are possibly gaining a +1 or maybe +2 bonus to your total modifier by the end of the game compared to if you begin at 16 (+3) and don't bump it.

FWIW we use a modifier proficiency progression from +2 to +8, capping abilities at +4 for a while. We did it because we felt proficiency should count for more in the game. The difference between a level 1 pc (+2) and level 18 (+8) of +6 feels better than the RAW difference of only +4.

So, why do you want this? From your OP I just don't see a big reason for it? Can you elaborate more please? Maybe some concrete examples?
What I understood it that if stats are decoupled from offensive powers, then having a low(er) stat doesn't penalize you as much if racial modifiers are fixed and cannot be swapped

This way you can play a half-orc wizard without feeling gimped or having to swap your +2 STR to +2 INT
 

I fail to see the gain in this. What would it accomplish? What is wrong in having high stat having an actual impact on the game? If they don't have any bearing, why should we have stats in the first place?

Stats are a great way to define a character and whether they are high or low, they give a player a good idea of what the character is able to do. It also creates expectations that high stats are beneficial and low stats ate detrimental.

The asymetrical bonuses of 1st and 2nd editions have always been seen as weird and illogical. A return to this method would certainly not be welcomed. I think that limiting a stat to a max of 18 should accomplish the goal you have in mind.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I fail to see the gain in this. What would it accomplish? What is wrong in having high stat having an actual impact on the game? If they don't have any bearing, why should we have stats in the first place?

Stats are a great way to define a character and whether they are high or low, they give a player a good idea of what the character is able to do. It also creates expectations that high stats are beneficial and low stats ate detrimental.

The asymetrical bonuses of 1st and 2nd editions have always been seen as weird and illogical. A return to this method would certainly not be welcomed. I think that limiting a stat to a max of 18 should accomplish the goal you have in mind.
It moves the importance of the stat to skills and saves, not attacks. This lets you play a intelligent swordsman, a wise wizard, or a charismatic rogue without losing ground in your main combat feature.

If this doesn't immediately strike you as a good thing to enable, than I imagine such a rule change would not be your preference.
 

It is not the stats that prevent you from playing an intelligent fighter or a charismatic barbarian, it is the point buy and the standard array. These two methods makes it so that a player will always chose the stats that are the most relevant to their class and role.

Your best bet would be to roll stats in place and allow modifications on a 1 for 2 basis as in OD&D.
This would mean that character generation would look like this choose race. Choose class. Roll stats in place and then adjust for race and modify stats if needed on the lower a stat by two to raise one by one. You will the see a greater variety of characters but a lot of unhappy players. Well until they swallow the pill and see things your way.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
It is not the stats that prevent you from playing an intelligent fighter or a charismatic barbarian, it is the point buy and the standard array. These two methods makes it so that a player will always chose the stats that are the most relevant to their class and role.

Your best bet would be to roll stats in place and allow modifications on a 1 for 2 basis as in OD&D.
This would mean that character generation would look like this choose race. Choose class. Roll stats in place and then adjust for race and modify stats if needed on the lower a stat by two to raise one by one. You will the see a greater variety of characters but a lot of unhappy players. Well until they swallow the pill and see things your way.
So why not simply disconnect the connection between a stat and a class? I think you're arguing for a rationale for leaving them connected, but I'm not sure.
 

In reality, I am saying that variety will be better served with the OD&D method than a disconnected stat method that is proposed here.

To ensure even more variety, I would remove the condition that sneak attacks must be made with finesse (dex based) weapons and allow sneak attacks to be made with any weapons. Strong thieves could be a thing with this.

As I stated previously, stats create expectations and it is logical that a strong person strikes harder than a weak one. The proposed approach does promote a bit more diversity but at the cost of logic and natural expectations. Having the way I proposed would allow a lot of diversity but at the cost of a lot more randomness.
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
Personally, I've stopped having races grant ability score bonuses. I have a primary bonus (+2) tied to class, and the secondary bonus (+1) tied to their background. Each class and background offers two options out of the six possible ability scores to affect, and you can't double up on the same bonus to get a +3 to a stat. For me, this lets a PC get to feel competent in their class, as well as decouples race and class to open up new combinations that might otherwise be less likely to happen. Personally, it works really well at my table, and I haven't felt like it encourages or rewards min-maxers. But then again, I'm never worried about min-maxers. As long as everyone is having fun and there is an equal share of the spotlight (which I feel is largely the DM's job anyway) then let people min-max. Min-maxing isn't inherently bad nor the "wrong" way to play.
 

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