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D&D 5E With Only 4 Ability Scores, How Would You Handle Spellcasting Abilities (+)

I'd flip this.

Picking features that make you better at fighting with heavy weapons grants you a bonus to strength ability checks.

Ability checks are used when you don't have a feature that governs a situation. They are not used when using a feature. So you don't make an int check to see if you can counterspell if you have a counterspell feature.

What this does mean is that if you have features that focus in a specific area, your ability checks related to that area will have good bonuses.

This provides for verisimilitude - a character who uses a huge two handed weapon and smashes foes around will be able to lift stuff better than a book-reading artificer. Unless, of course, the book-reading artificer takes the "lift stuff better" feature, in which case the artificer wins.

This does mean that bards, by learning charisma-based magic, end up having a charisma bonus. Rogues, by learning sneak-based features, have a dexterity bonus. Your attribute bonuses "fill in the gaps".

Now, we could use 5e's "your attributes are defences", but I think a two-tiered defence model might make sense. In a two-tiered defence model, you have your defence (which may be a function of level) - your AC or the equivalent for magic.

And as a second tier, you could have saving throws. Saving throws are resources you expend, where you roll an attribute check in order to mitigate a defence failure. Possibly they are per-day or per-encounter type resources.

Like, imagine if each of your attributes had a 1/encounter saving throw attached to them. And each saving throw can be used in a variety of situations - you can use a dexterity saving throw to dodge a blow, a constitution saving throw to soak a blow, a charisma saving throw to trick a foe into missing, etc. Here, your bonus determines how reliable a saving throw is, with the idea that if you max out one stat you have an "overkill" bonus; but because you can only use a given saving throw 1/encounter, you are better off with multiple decent saving throws, and not just one insanely high one.

The point of all of this is to use mechanics to inform the story.
This is a very interesting perspective on the whole thing. I admit I don't know if I like it, but it certainly isn't like anything I've ever seen before.

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I suppose we could go the TWERPS* route and just have one ability - Strength. This isn't a rating of physical, muscular strength, but your overall badassery. In a matter of speaking, you'd be rolling against your level. Everything else is narrative.

* The World's Easiest Role-Playing System.

I'd go with three stats (though I'd prefer 6).
Physical, covering strength, agility, health.
Mental, covering memory, study, knowledge, sneakiness, retention.
Social, covering charisma, leadership, centredness, self-confidence.

There would be two types of spellcasters.
Learned casters get their power from study and research. They understand the architecture of magic, and use this knowedge to craft spells. Their prime ability score is Mental.
Gifted casters get their power from a Great Power. They might be priests, channeling their god's power in return for gaining converts. They might be warlocks, negotiating with (or maybe stealing from) a patron. They might be dilletantes who just learned a bit of magic, enough to get in trouble. Their prime ability score is Social.


The Urban Fantasy game I used to run had 6 abilities. 2 for each Body, Mind and Soul

There were 6 main types of magic. One for each

  • Body
    • Strength- Blood Magic
      • Bleeders
      • Nonbleeders
    • Agility- Implement Magic
      • Music magic
      • Dance magic
      • Wand magic
      • Hand Signs
  • Mind
    • Intellect- Thaumaturgy AKA Wizard Magic
    • Senses- Naturalism
      • Nature Magic
      • Astralogical Magic
      • Psionics
  • Soul
    • Personality- Elementalism
      • AKA hotheads shoot fireballs. ice queens freeze you
    • Spirit- Theurgy


I would get rid of the six abilities, and have characters pick ranks in the thinks they want to do: Fightin', Sneakin', Spellcastin', Miracle-workin' (if you want separate kinds of magics), Survivin', and the like.

Oh wait I guess that means I got rid of classes too.

Oh wait I guess that wouldn't be D&D then would it.

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