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%

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
It depends a lot on what you're trying to do--the easy answer is 'homebrew to your taste'. If you're theoretically redesigning the whole system, the problem is that once classes hang around for a while they tend to develop archetypes people want to play, and then you're stuck slotting those into one of the ability scores as 'prime requisites'...er, associations. Sometimes they fit, sometimes they don't.

I actually studied (informally) a bit of Hermetic stuff as research for a never-written fantasy novel, and sometimes the correspondences lined up pretty cleanly (fire, iron, red, Mars, war) and sometimes they had a list of things and you could see they were just trying to fill out colors, elements, etc. (Green is copper because of the patina on copper...fine, but then blue is associated with tin and Jupiter why? Wouldn't purple, the royal color, make more sense? The main ore of tin, cassiterite, is black, but you already used that for lead, which actually looks more bluish as a metal... why isn't copper red, the metal itself is, oh wait you took that for iron.) You have a similar problem with the Chinese elements, though there they had a system of relationships they were trying to fill out too--I can get that water puts out fire and gives rise to wood, but the bit about dew collecting on metal in the morning strikes me as an obvious bit of Procrustes.

You wind up getting the same sort of effect when you try to tie each class to an ability score. OK, wizards are smart and fighters are strong since 1974. Bards really should be charismatic and rogues dextrous to pick locks and pockets such. You can give clerics wisdom as the other big mental ability, though there are plenty of anchorites and mystics who ought to have plenty of spiritual power but little common sense. Druids are kind of a type of cleric, so that fits as well. Warlocks have whatever ability they need to channel their powers. But then it starts getting complicated. The monk has been around forever so people want to play martial artists (and a significant subset of geeks like martial arts because they build self-confidence and physical ability without having to play team sports, not to mention having exotic origins and being associated with interesting philosophies), but they really need strength, dexterity, and some constitution. Similarly, the paladin as a fighter/cleric has split abilities too. Same for the ranger as a fighter/druid. The barbarian...well, that's a fighter with an anger problem. Maybe it's constitution because you need a place to put that somewhere?
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Back in the 3.5 days my eldest daughter saw me creating a character and wanted to create one. So I had her tell me what she wanted to be able to do. She came up with a wonderful mish-mash from fairy tales and the like.

It was a perfectly good character.

It was not a good D&D character.

It was scattered across multiple classes, didn't have the majority of abilities of any class, and couldn't hold it's own in combat whihc has been a required part of a D&D class for a long time.

So we worked at it, and the two parts that were the most important were "turn into a cat" and "heal people". So we went Druid.

She rolled her ability scores and I explained what each was. She wanted to be as agile as Peter Parker (not as Spider-man, a fat that stuck with me) and wanted her lowest ability in Wisdom because she wanted someone impulsive and with little common sense.

Not the best fit for a Druid.

What I learned from this is that D&D has a bunch of niches that we expect, and we've internalized them so much that they don't chafe, instead they just channel our creativity.

So I think ability scores, and having them variously tied to classes is one fo the things that makes D&D feel like D&D. A classless system that can rework (or just refluff) to match any set of strengths and weaknesses would be a fine game and I'd play it. But that's not the D&D feel.

That said, I like being able to play a STR fighter or a DEX fighter, both successful and with different feels. So having a bit more flexibility in classes is shown it can work. Are you the performing Charisma bard or the storytelling loremaster Intelligence bard? I think we can do that, open up more archetypes without needing more classes, and still feel like D&D.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It wasn't so long ago that the game actually paid the players (in bonus XP) to optimize one stat over all others. Remember the Prime Requisite back in red-box Basic? I love that edition of the game, but there are parts of it that I don't miss.

5E does a fine job of it.
 
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Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I feel like we should be able to have Int Sorcererers (called Psions?), Druids, Clerics, and Warlocks.

I feel like we should have Dex Paladins and Barbarians.

I feel like we should have Str Monks.

I feel like we should have Wis… err, Wizards.

I could see Artificers who are more technical and DEXterous than particularly Intelligent and inventive.

But some classes are closely tied to a specific ability scores: Bards need Charisma. Rogues need Dexterity. This could change if we saw Bards as artists in general - you could have performance artists who are more dextrous than charismatic, or fine artists who are dextrous or wise and revealing hidden truth of human life.

I feel like we could have a few choices of character concept.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Personally I think all classes should be more MAD. It’s ok to have a “primary” in the sense of attack rolls, but there should be class/subclass features keyed to other abilities. Paladin and Monk are on the right track. A couple of Rogue subclasses are heading the right direction, too.

And while we are at it, Bard should be an Int class, with Cha secondary. The glib/charming Bard is an archetype, but the core concept is about knowledge and proficiency and training, not personality. Even the subclasses are called “Colleges”.

EDIT: And casters could make attack rolls with Dex but compute save DCs with their casting stat.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Personally I think all classes should be more MAD. It’s ok to have a “primary” in the sense of attack rolls, but there should be class/subclass features keyed to other abilities. Paladin and Monk are on the right track. A couple of Rogue subclasses are heading the right direction, too.

And while we are at it, Bard should be an Int class, with Cha secondary. The glib/charming Bard is an archetype, but the core concept is about knowledge and proficiency and training, not personality. Even the subclasses are called “Colleges”.

EDIT: And casters could make attack rolls with Dex but compute save DCs with their casting stat.

I think the core concept has drifted from the 1e Celtic bard (which was related to druids historically, and was a double class change from fighter to thief to druid) through the 2e fighter/mage/thief generalist to be the 'Charisma class' that gets by on personality from 3e on, which filled the hole for the lack of a class that focused on social abilities.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I think the core concept has drifted from the 1e Celtic bard (which was related to druids historically, and was a double class change from fighter to thief to druid) through the 2e fighter/mage/thief generalist to be the 'Charisma class' that gets by on personality from 3e on, which filled the hole for the lack of a class that focused on social abilities.

Sure. But now there are four Charisma classes.

Not that I actually expect or hope for a change like this. Just blue sky brainstorming for amusement.
 

If there is a baseline expectation of what your POWER STAT should be at, then that sounds like something that should go up automatically. If every Wizard already has 16 Int, then 18 Int, then 20 Int, why not just have a class power stat mod of +3, +4, +5 and let the stats do other things that are of use to every character.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
If there is a baseline expectation of what your POWER STAT should be at, then that sounds like something that should go up automatically. If every Wizard already has 16 Int, then 18 Int, then 20 Int, why not just have a class power stat mod of +3, +4, +5 and let the stats do other things that are of use to every character.

That's the argument "we have proficiency bonus, why bother with attributes?"

I've been reading an rpg called Quest (Home). It's d20 based, and the DC is the same for everything (with degrees of success). Then each class has it's own feat chains, and different feats improve various actions you can take...such as attacking with melee weapons, casting spells, sneaking around, etc.

I haven't actually played it yet, but I find it compelling. Your character is "strong" if you take abilities that let you do strong things.
 

But some classes are closely tied to a specific ability scores: Bards need Charisma. Rogues need Dexterity. This could change if we saw Bards as artists in general - you could have performance artists who are more dextrous than charismatic, or fine artists who are dextrous or wise and revealing hidden truth of human life.

I feel like we could have a few choices of character concept.
Well... if you count classes and subclasses, there's already 35-40. Arguably, if you wanted a Charismatic wizard you could pick sorcerer. It makes sense to me that a particular class be tied to a specific attribute, but that's why I mentioned making sure that there were ways to allow other themes that could take advantage of other attributes. So an intelligent fighter would need a good strength to do damage, but might have 1 + INT bonus in reactions. With some other martial maneuvers to use those reactions on, this would allow the fighter to simulate someone who has high tactical or situational foresight due to their intellect. So, not only could they interrupt some else's plans (I knew you were going to do that by the shift in your weight) but also in a more explorative context (This rope bridge / earthen dam / whatever is weaker than it appears. See there, there, and there? That needs to be reinforced before we cross.).
 

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