D&D (2024) Should classes have primary ability scores?

Should D&D classes be mechanically associated with specific ability scores?

  • Absolutely, and these associations should be stronger than they are in 5e.

    Votes: 14 15.7%
  • Yes, 5e gives these associations roughly the right strength.

    Votes: 26 29.2%
  • To some degree, but there should be more flexibility than 5e provides.

    Votes: 35 39.3%
  • No, any class should have the capacity to be effective with any ability distribution.

    Votes: 14 15.7%

Amrûnril

Adventurer
In D&D, most classes have traditionally been associated with specific ability scores. Fighters tend to have high Strength, Wizards high Intelligence, and so forth. In 5e, conforming to these associations is usually key to building a character who will be effective in combat. For most classes, this primary ability score is the only one that contributes significantly to offensive potential, while several of the non-primary scores have no combat effect unless you happen to be facing an enemy targeting the associated save.

There is room for flexibility in some cases. Most Strength based classes can be effective with Dexterity and Finesse weapons, classes that use two ability scores can choose which to prioritize, and focusing on defense through Constitution or Dexterity is feasible in some combat roles. In general, though, prioritizing a class’s primary score more or less guarantees mechanical competence, while failing to do so can easily be a trap choice.

Under these mechanics, a Fighter who prioritizes Wisdom, for instance, will be at a clear disadvantage compared to one who prioritizes strength. To me, this seems like a major limitation of the system. One can easily imagine a D&Desque story where a sword-wielding warrior has only average strength but thrives in combat thanks to their awareness of their surroundings and ability to predict their opponents’ attacks. The same is true for many class-ability combinations that wouldn’t be mechanically effective in 5e.

A more flexible system would expand the potential for ability scores can act as an independent axis of character differentiation and customization. Just as a Halfling Rogue and an Elvish Rogue have distinct but similarly effective abilities, so too could a Dexterity-focused Rogue and an Intelligence-focused Rogue. Making this work would definitely be a challenge, but I think it would be a challenge well worth engaging with, given the degree of character diversity it could facilitate.


What do you think of Class/Ability Score associations? Are they beneficial to the game, or would a more flexible system be preferable?
 

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delericho

Legend
To a very large extent, I think those associations are inevitable. I think 5e more or less has the strength of the associations about right. Certainly, if contemplating a "wisdom-based fighter", for instance, I'd be inclined to suggest it might be easier to introduce a new class to fill that niche, rather than trying to force the existing Fighter class to do both.

YMMV, of course.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Gonna stroll down memory lane on this one. I really miss 3E/PF1 Class/ability score association. Between multiclass, prestige class, archetypes, and especially feats you had a truly flexible system. I could make any number of Rangers and they felt different mechanically from each other. The big issue was the gonzo no limit ability score mods in the game. The math got wonky and the gulf between optimal and suboptimal was huge. You ended up with a situation where single attribute dependent (SAD) classes had a distinct advantage over multiple attribute dependent (MAD) classes.

The modern solution seems to be make every class SAD. Get rid of prestige classes, severely limit archetypes, and keep a tight lid on multi-classing. The result is better balance and a smaller gulf between optimal and suboptimal. However, it has a very homogeneous feel in chargen and play at the table. For example, sometimes a defense maybe "use strength or use wisdom, use charisma or use constitution". The tight math basically comes out in the wash. At this point you might as well divorce attributes from defense/offense and just give class charts a progression. For example, the wizard starts with defense of 1,2,3 and the fighter starts with defense 3,2,1. The stats are going to be the same for everyone, so there is really no point in having them.

Now, 5E tried to bring back a need for every stat, but clearly that didn't pan out well. Some are very important and others can be avoided at no penalty. Sort of a split between the former gonzo stats and the tight stats. Its looser, so I like it, but still feel a real need is there for differentiation between characters and especially class. My solution would be to look at the 3E/PF1 Ranger design. The class has a combat selection feature, exploration features, and social features. The three pillars represent possibilities to engage in multiple stats and add more variety. Will we see an expansion for 1D&D? I cant say it seems like something folks wanted during NEXT, but surveys and 5E success seems to suggest its not likely to happen.
 

I voted no.

I'd really have classes function on their level and skills and non combat stuff should be based on stats.

I could see some spells calling for ability scores and some martial maneuvers, but I'd like to see every stat balanced for every class.
 

What do you think of Class/Ability Score associations? Are they beneficial to the game, or would a more flexible system be preferable?
I think martial classes could / should be designed along Strength (hits hard), Dexterity (hard to hit), or Constitution (takes a hit).
Caster classes could / should be designed along Intelligence (many spell options), Wisdom (plentiful casting options), or Charisma (potent spell options).

MAD is an ideal state for class design, with the understanding that you're actually not expected to have three really good stats to pad out the options. The stat array option seems designed for this. As you increase in level, you can pad out the #2 or #3 attribute to enhance the full capabilities of the class.

It used to be that Strength was not wholly a measure of the character's brawn, but also a measure of their talent for warfare. Same with the other attributes tied to a specific class. Things change.
 

aco175

Legend
I voted no as well. 4e had some of this with clerics attacking with their Wisdom and wizards using Intelligence to attack with a dagger or staff. That did not sit well with a lot of people and felt odd. I did like the save mechanic where you got the higher bonus of two stats for the saves.

The idea feel like another step towards just choosing from a list of skills instead of having a defined role in the world. If you want a fighter with a Wisdom coolness, you can be a monk.
 

Shiroiken

Legend
Probably unpopular, but I want stronger associations. The fighter should be the strength based warrior, barbarian the constitution based warrior, the rouge the dexterity based warrior, and the monk the wisdom based warrior. Dex based fighters shouldn't be a thing, and monks shouldn't need to prioritize dex over wisdom.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
The abilities are an important narrative concept.

The abilities distinguish between the Five-Guy-Band: Jock Guy, Rebel Guy, Strong Guy, Heart Guy, and Smart Guy.

An ability describes the kinds of things that a character tends to be good at.

The global tendencies of an ability are distinct from a specific skill or class feature.

Consider how the abilities correlate with essence of D&D:
• Strength/Constitution: Fighter
• Dexterity/Athletics-Acrobatics: Rogue
• Intelligence/Perception-Investigation: Wizard
• Charisma/Wisdom: Cleric

• Well-rounded MADness multiclass

These are salient tropes. Of course, subclasses can emphasize alternative abilities. Even these subclass variations prove the rule that abilities are salient.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Probably unpopular, but I want stronger associations. The fighter should be the strength based warrior, barbarian the constitution based warrior, the rouge the dexterity based warrior, and the monk the wisdom based warrior. Dex based fighters shouldn't be a thing, and monks shouldn't need to prioritize dex over wisdom.
Not the way I would go, but a solid choice for SAD game design.
 

Mephista

Adventurer
Yes and no. Like.... I'm down with a ranger or rogue going with Strength builds. Or if all spellcasters at the table used Intelligence or something.

I would not be inclined towards a Barbarian using Charisma to smack things with their weapon.
 

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