Soft attribute bonuses for 2E

One of the biggest problems with actually running 2E is the attributes = hard math bonuses to combat mental trap that later editions have pushed.

Too many people lose their minds when asked to roll 3d6 and don't get a statically unlikely roll. While completely missing the fact that carrying capacity is both an extremely important stat that matters FAR more in actual 2E play than getting a +1/2 to hit in a combat that has a VERY real chance of killing a character if they are trying to rely on their attribute bonuses instead of having stacked the odds from situational bonuses. If someone was in the military they will look at carrying capacity, immediately translate that into equipment, and translate equipment into expanded operational capabilities.

High intelligence doesn't actually give any hard bonuses to being a better wizard. There is literally no way to derive the intelligence score of a wizard by observing them in combat unless the game has gotten to 9th level or higher, at which point the GM has added enough magic items and house rules that you couldn't figure out the wizard's intelligence anyways. It literally didn't matter if you rolled a 9 int and you wanted to play a wizard, your wizard was just kinda dumb and was maybe having to put some extra roleplay into researching really hard to get a set of spells and working extra hard at maximizing the utility of those spells. Rolling 3d6 on intelligence was just giving your character definition, not setting math bonuses to try and kill monsters with.

So I'm thinking that for 2E, that I should just strip out all the hard math bonuses out of the attributes. No bonus to hit or damage, no ac modifiers, no bonus spells. That way I can tell players to roll 3d6 down the line without needing to talk them down off a ledge because they didn't roll a result with a tiny bonus that is going to just make them overconfident and get their character killed from trying to use it.

What I do need to try and think up some soft bonuses to add to the attributes. Things like carrying capacity or chance to learn a spell. Where having a higher stat means they can do more while being decoupled from the combat math.

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Simon Miles

Creator of the World of Barnaynia FRPG setting
A very interesting idea! When I read this the other day I started trying to think of some appropriate soft skills for Int and Wis. I immediately hit upon the major issue with all Role-Playing games; that the character would, by default, always use the player's Int and Wis, no matter what it said on the character sheet (except for Language bonuses). I don't know if this was the thinking behind the original design but I do remember a big debate many years ago about whether you should even have mind stats in an RPG at all, since they would always have the players' limitations; the last thing you want is coming to a puzzle and roling against your Int to see if the character can work it out - it makes puzzles just another monster to beat with a good roll.
I concluded after a short while that Int and Wis could only realistically affect starting skills and training. In my campaigns time spent training doesn't have to be as prescribed in the rules; I worked out some different training times and rates based on the quality of the trainer you could afford (the Payers' Guide to Dunromin at but I didn't put in any adjustments for Int and Wis; I missed a trick. I will sort this in the third edition. Probably...
So I draw a blank. I can't think of any soft skills for Int and Wis; maybe I should think about the other stats?
As I typed this a dim and distant memory sparked: I haven't played Runequest for decades but I did love the system and I recall they had Int modifiers on all basic skills. I know this was the basic skillset for that games designers games including CoC but my CoC rules are in the attic and I can't check them...
TLDR (too late) yes, I think soft skills are a great idea but I can't come up with any for Int and Wis...


Why even use attributes at this point? Why not use a version of point buy where you buy the bits you want (higher encumbrance, easier to learn spells, more henchmen etc.) and be done with it? Even rolling under your stats for NWPs can be used as the S&P variant instead.

Well, because stats matter. Str gives you high carrying capacity. A wizard with a strong back can benefit from strength and so can a fighter with a strong back.

Points buy is when you get into the "why bother" territory. When everyone point buys the optimal character then just throw out the options and just give them the optimal character.

Love this idea!
What about bonus hit points? What about monsters?
It certainly is easier to excise the bonuses in the earlier editions and BECMI than it is in 5e.


There's no point to even having a Dex score if you remove combat bonuses, because that's all it does. Likewise, a Wisdom of 12-18 is singularly pointless too.


Well, because stats matter. Str gives you high carrying capacity. A wizard with a strong back can benefit from strength and so can a fighter with a strong back.
I seem to recall the dig spell needing a shovel and a strong back for components. Might have been from a Dragon Magazine article about spells for anyone.

Hence the post asking for what soft bonuses would be good for the stats to have in lieu of combat bonuses that very few honest rollers actually ever get.

Also, stats are useful for rolling ability checks. Which us one of the problems with combat focused bonuses on things is it makes people forget that they can, and given how badly combat in 2E can go, and should be using for non-combat.

The extreme emotional reactions to not getting combat bonuses when rolling stats indicates that combat bonuses are clouding the understanding that attributes are there to interact with the world, not interact with a combat simulator that is actually going to just kill your character sooner or later if you fail to interact with the world before interacting with the combat simulator.


If you want help, maybe not accusing people of "extreme emotional reactions" would be a good start.

Besides, if your players need to be "talked down off a ledge" because they don't have high stats, (a) I don't think that 3d6 in order is the right method for your players, and (b) they're still going to be upset by not getting whatever "soft" bonuses you're thinking of offering in return.


Hate to bring the game up again, but Castles and Crusades way of handling is cool:

Keep the bonuses that affect combat small, like B/X.
Let the player choose some attributes to be good at. Anytime they take an action that needs a roll to decide outcome, they get a bonus if it pertains to that attribute they chose.

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