Ability scores - Novel aproach.

So, I just had a novel idea. Well, I hope it's novel anyway; I don't keep up.

I was ildly rolling some d6 and got to thinking about ability scores. About how I've always loved rolling them. The process of seeing a character unfold before you in those 6 rolls is pure magic. I am sure you all know what I mean. High scores or low scores; you get an imediate image of the character. You love him no matter what. Pure creative imagination going on there.

But the magic wears off. After starting to flesh out your character you run into classes you can't get into og feats you can't get because of your low scores. So you choose what you CAN get into and try to tell youself that your are giving life to a simple character. That you are "roleplaying" and not min/maxing. That feeling lasts about half a level. Then you start to look at the player who rolled the two 18's with envy. He's stealing all the action. Then comes your secret thoughts of having your character killed so you can roll a new one and the cycle from love to hate is complete. In the end you realise, low scores just sucks.

So next comes arrays, point buys, roll 4 discard 1 or even cheating. When you get there, you might as well choose instead. No matter what, the magic of rolling your character is gone. And power creep comes next.

But what if... (and this is the novel idea I mentioned):

What if low scores didn't suck?!

What if low scores unlocked other talents and powers? Even classes?
What if some great feats required both a high score in one ability and a low in another?

Lets try an example feat:

Out of the mouth of babes 

Requirements: Cha 13+ and Int 7-

Your character is a simple person, but people trusts him and often tend to listen to what he has to say as his perspective often has a simple honest truth to it. And they tell him stuff too. What could it hurt that he knew, right? Gain +4 to Diplomacy and +4 to Streetwise

I hope you get the point...

Of course this means other things in regards to the system. Getting allround upgrades to ability scores wont be good anymore. You might even get to at point where you systemwise have to keep all scores at 3-18 for all levels. But this i fine by me.

What we might be getting by implementing this idea is at system that caters to all types of characters instead of just the top scores. Keeping scores in the 3-18 range would also be much more at the core of what defines D&D ( 26, 20, 10, 10, 10, 9 characters just feels so hollow). And best of all:

We could return the magic to the act of rolling your character!

Just a thought...
That would make a fun Dragon magazine article.  I wouldn't want it to be the default.
That would make a fun Dragon magazine article.  I wouldn't want it to be the default.


Why should there be a default?
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Funny. It's a great magazine article but realistically won't work.
Don't get me wrong when I first played in 79 u were lucky if yiu didn't have a 7 or less on a few stats rolling 3d6. For the game now it's silly unless they go back to 18 being highest score.
In that case a 3d6 or 4d6 or a new assigned would be made where below 9 numbers happen. However the core idea is to have heroes. More than ordinary people who can do amazing stuff. Like Conan, he- man, den, etc.
For the game now it's silly unless they go back to 18 being highest score.



That was also my conclusion. But would that really be so bad? The 3-18 range is kind of iconic for D&D and it seems to me a waste that this icon has been watered out over the last years and given in to power creep. It would mean other mecanics, sure, but it might be worth it. In my group there is no longer any focus on abilitys. Everybody has some scores in the 20's and all others are in the 10-14 range. There's no story to tell about the stats. My feylock has max charisma; everybody knows this around the table and expect it. She's a feylock after all. It's a normal score, course they all have one in the same range.

Now, I could choose to lower the charisma score in order to make this faylock something special. I would make for a nice storyarc. But realisticly, it would suck when I couldn't hit anything in combat.

My point is, that at this point there is no reel reason to focus on abilitys. You might as well have them given by your class (Or subclass). They are just not magic anymore.

However the core idea is to have heroes. More than ordinary people who can do amazing stuff. Like Conan, he- man, den, etc.



I know and agree. But that has almost always been the case (2E and forward). It's just that the jump from avarage to heroic got a lot bigger lately. 10 is now the low score, where it used to be an above avarage score. By removing ourself from the iconic 3-18 range we are making it matter less imho.
That would make a fun Dragon magazine article.  I wouldn't want it to be the default.


Why should there be a default?


By "default" I mean the game you play without using any options.  In other words, it makes a great option to add-in, rather than a a rule to opt-out.  Most rules should be add-ins, so the fact that I think this should also be an add-in isn't saying anything against the suggestion.
If stats don't matter than why have them in the first place. Even 3-18 stat rolls.

Stats provided a bonus or penalty to saves save table and ability save table

Stats also have a bonus to hit ac etc. to indicate your personal ability.

Old style rule on stats My hero roles 5 int. so I'm going to character play with a moron intelligence. Etc. because 9 is normal.
The next issue is I get lucky role good stats. Everyone else roles average to worse. Now people are upset and may kill off their character to re roll anew one. I remover this happening into ad&d when it first came out.

I wanted to play X character class but my highest stat is 12.

But also don't get me wrong. My best memory of d&d is basic. Of course it could be that everything was new. But hated that elf and dwarf was a race/class in itself.
1e Barbarians used to have a Wisdom Max, rather than a minimum...

You can't really make a statement about low stat characters without pissing off a bunch of people. Here's some examples.



  • low stat characters tend to be unable to qualify for a variety of job descriptions/classes

  • people with low stats make less enemies and tend to get along well or otherwise get ignored

  • apocalyptic events tend to happen around high stat, rather than low stat characters

  • good communities defend and identify with the low stat members

  • evil communities tend to enslave, kill, or eat the low stat members

  • lazy low stat characters tend to level very slow, sometimes not at all

  • ambitious low stat characters tend to gain levels and stats more rapidly than high stat characters

  • low stat and normal stat characters tend to be insulated from the threats of the "real" world


some people don't even like to level their characters - the idea of progression bothers them. Similarly, some people oppose the idea that low stats would prevent them from accessing some class or race. Both of these types have something against difficult situations. Some people also want to play powerful races, classes, and levels, but don't want to earn it.

Not everyone likes to earn their position or progress, and prefers handouts. I think that system can be supported with a module, probably the same that allows people to play dragons, fairies, and undead.

The idea that there may be a bonus to low stats is totally possible. Social Bonuses, Protection from Dramatic Events, and the plight of the Weak trying to become strong - these can all be handled through feats.

You might have a feat that allows low stat characters to gain stat bonuses later at reduced cost or double the rate. For instance, if your total bonus was 7 points below average, you might have 7 additional opportunities to increase your stats - they might even end up 7 attribute points above average when you are ready to retire.
Options are Liberating
Simple solution: No Ability Score minimums, for anything.
This biggest problem is no can agree on what a high ability score represents, let alone a low one. So instead of mixing the requirements, you could treat the low scores as disadvantages that are represented as feats that offer some incentive to roleplay to grant a small mechanical bonus. It grants benefits to the roleplayers and roll players. I guess you could do it with really high scores as well, because the other abilties suffer as a result and the character is not well rounded, or "average".
I've been noodling on ways to have fair-ish but random-ish stats for a while now.

Two of the best ideas I've seen are the Three dragon ante method, and the gamma world method.

In the TDA method you use draws from a deck of game cards to distribute your ability score points in a point buy system.

In the gamma world system your primary ability scores are preset by your character origins and then then the reamining scores are rolled on the old 3d6 so your core stats are always garunteed but your other stats are all wacko.


 An idea I came up with after studying those is to use rolled stats then compare them to a point-buy system and add/remove points till it matches up.

A more complex trick is to set the scores at some low even number, 6 for example,  then roll a d12 for each stat and add the result. Then compare to a point-buy chart and make sure your stats match up (add/remove missing/excess points).

A third option is to create a balanced array of ability scores and then assign each to a random stat by lottery.
the real problem with low stats isn't whether you have them, it's whether you can overcome them. If you can't, then we should get rid of low stats, not ability minimums.

This is where Aging and Wish came in for AD&D - they did a pretty good job of providing some hope for low stat characters. If you take those out, and don't put something equal or better in (it was by no means a perfect solution), then you have a problem. Even in CP2020 a lot of players wondered how they could improve stats without cyberware. Some said "current x10 IP" others said 50 flat IP. Point is, it WAS a problem.

So no matter what game system you have, when you have attributes, you also have to present a way of unscheduled Improvement. If everyone gets an attribute bonus every 3 levels, and you roll crappy, your stats are ALWAYS going to be lower than the other player characters, and that's not right. That's why scheduled attribute increases are worthless. They have to be unscheduled to fix the problem.
Options are Liberating
4e solved this problem, set it up so every stat contributes to a defense and then pair them so a single abyssmal score doesn't turn a character into a walking target. So unless you've got 4+ crappy stats you're fine.
I think I need to reiterate what my idea consited of at this point.

The point was NOT to get rid of low scores or anything like that, but to turn low scores into good scores by having them unlock new powers and interesting new character options that all-high scores does not qualify you for.

A new example (And I admit, it is stupid an not very thought out):

A new kind of devine character called "Fanatic", where your wisdom score actually has to be a low score (No reflection, just acting on dogma).
You could then use the negative wisdom modifier as a "positive" for certain powes. Example: "You cant use this power again for 3 + [Wis] turns". This could be some kind of suicidal maneuver where you would have to be a complete moron to attempt it again

Point is, with enough of these low score options in the system, low scores would no longer be something to avoid, but just a different way into interesting, but still playable, characters. 
Doesn't that kind inhibit a character from you know growing?

 
Most times I've played, we rolled stats.  But it was always with the unwritten rule that if they suck the DM will let you roll them again.  How much "suck" is required to roll again probably depends on the game, the DM, and what other people have rolled.  But basically it ends up with everybody with at least decent stats, but somebody might have really awesome, some might have slightly worse, but nothing terrible.
Doesn't that kind inhibit a character from you know growing? 



Well, in D&D growth comes from leveling and not from ability scores, so no I don't think so...
Hmmmm I don't think it would be good for class abilities, nothing you can't retrain in other words.

Also I recall a 3e article somewhere where they go into why this is a bad idea, but I can't remember enought to find it, and I dunno if it's relevant to the new editions, but something about this strikes me as off. Maybe I just hate the idea of rewarding those fanatical screwheads.
We recently started a Netheril Campaign. 4d6, drop the lowest, assign as rolled. My arcanist's  Stats ended up being:
8 str, 10 dex, 10 con, 14 int, 12 wis, 14 cha, and 11(12) com (modified for high charisma). We've been having a blast, even though I know I can't cast more than 40% of the available spells because my stats are too low, but I'm clinging to the idea that these limitations won't hold me back forever.

I like the idea of crappy stats providing access to 'normal' level feat chains (Dragon Lance Royalty used to have stat penalties for having an easy life, for instance, which means you could assume the low stats represented indulgence of a high social class by swapping cause and effect, and your low stat characters would be rich and influential).

What I don't like is stat locking or level locking stat growth. My dad didn't do body building until his late 30s, and in his 40s was Benching over 300 lbs. It's not olympic, but it's stronger than me. Illiterate adults learn to read, drop outs get GEDs, blue collars go back to school, and I think I just saw some 80+ year old German lady doing Gymnastics on the Daily Show.

That's why I'm suggesting low stat characters have an 'Ambition/Change my life around' set of Feats that allow them to Get stat bonuses off the beaten path of normal level gains.
Options are Liberating
Sign In to post comments