Ability Scores and Modifiers - toning it down a bit

I had an idea after looking at bonuses to attacks and damage in earlier editions of d&d.  How about toning down the modifiers for checks, saves, and attacks and keep the modifiers for damage as they are now.

Basically you get this

Ability Score        Check/Save/Atk Modfifier        Damage Modifier
         1                                    -3                                  -5
        2-3                                  -2                                  -4
        4-5                                  -2                                  -3
        6-7                                  -1                                  -2
        8-9                                  -1                                  -1
       10-11                                0                                   0
       12-13                               +1                                 +1
       14-15                               +1                                 +2
       16-17                               +2                                 +3
       18-19                               +2                                 +4
       20-21                               +3                                 +5
       22-23                               +3                                 +6
       24-25                               +4                                 +7
       26-27                               +4                                 +8
       28-29                               +5                                 +9
          30                                 +5                                 +10

This would make magic items that give ability score less damaging to the concept of bounded accuracy and make characters with more moderate ability scores more balanced with characters with really high ability scores.  It would only reduce the checks/attacks/saves for most characters by 1 or 2 points, so I think the math will still work or at least will only need minimal tweeking.  

What do you think?  I am thinking of seeing if I can convince a group to try playtesting this to see how it feels in action.
I have to agree with this theory although I'd be happier with half rounded down rathr than rounded up. But it would go a long way toward keeping attack bonus bloat under control.

There's no telling how much push back this will get but a lot of players have been using the same adjustments for attack and damage for a long time and might not want to give up the bonuses. 

I am certain this will help with the armor class problem though. 
I had an idea after looking at bonuses to attacks and damage in earlier editions of d&d.  How about toning down the modifiers for checks, saves, and attacks and keep the modifiers for damage as they are now.

I really like the idea, but it still seems a little high for me.  I want players to completely lose this obsession with maximizing their stats, since it detracts from the rest of the game.

What I want is either column A or colum B, and I'm currently undecided:

Ability Score                      Modfiier  A                      Modifier B
        1-2                                  -2                                   -1
        3-5                                  -1                                   -1
        6-14                                ---                                  ---
        16-18                              +1                                  +1
        19+                                 +2                                  +1
       

The metagame is not the game.

I had an idea after looking at bonuses to attacks and damage in earlier editions of d&d.  How about toning down the modifiers for checks, saves, and attacks and keep the modifiers for damage as they are now.

I really like the idea, but it still seems a little high for me.  I want players to completely lose this obsession with maximizing their stats, since it detracts from the rest of the game.

What I want is either column A or colum B, and I'm currently undecided:

Ability Score                      Modfiier  A                      Modifier B
        1-2                                  -2                                   -1
        3-5                                  -1                                   -1
        6-14                                ---                                  ---
        16-18                              +1                                  +1
        19+                                 +2                                  +1
       



As I see it even this wouldn't stop the problem you are looking to put a stop to. Everyone will be looking to get even those paultry bonuses since they are still better than nothing. 

If you really want to stop the desire for greater bomuses then you need to make tose bonuses close to meaningless. That means making every one so good without them that they don't really need them to feel special or powerful or what have you. 

Since you can't really do that then looking for ways to make players not look to power build is a waste of energy. It would be better for you to buils encounters with characters with low scores and marginal attacks hit as hard and as ofter as the min maxed character and make all DCs low enough that even the guy with the ability penalty can do the job.

If your campaign doesn't reward min maxing then your players aren't as likely to do it.  Some of those magic items can do the trick by being only as good as the max strenght guy is to start. Some would say why have them give a static bonus, but this right here is as good a reason as any.

I personally don't much care what the players do with their abilities. I build to the highest common denominaror anyway so a character that has poor numbers is usually retired before they start unless the player has her heart set on being a weak unintelligent uncharismatic slug with two left feet I'll have her reroll her character.
I want players to completely lose this obsession with maximizing their stats, since it detracts from the rest of the game.

I completely agree with this.

My tolerance for ability mods is a little higher than yours, but I feel where you're coming from. I think the solution is to regulate player's ability scores more so than the modifiers themselves. I think players have gotten brainwashed and trained into expecting super awesome/epic ability scores to offset the failings of the rest of the system; This seems like really bad design theory to me.

Scores over 15 should be exceedingly rare for starting characters. If they aren't, then the game is going to feel the pangs of imbalance sooner, rather than later.

D&D Next - Basic and Expert Editions

I firmly believe that there should be two editions of the game; the core rules released as a "Basic" set and a more complicated expanded rules edition released as an "Expert" set. These two editions would provide separate entry points to the game; one for new players or players that want a more classic D&D game and another entry point for experienced gamers that want more options and all the other things they have come to expect from previous editions.

Also, they must release several rules modules covering the main elements of the game (i.e., classes, races, combat, magic, monsters, etc.) upon launch to further expand the game for those that still need more complexity in a particular element of the game.


Here's a mockup of the Basic Set I created.



(CLICK HERE TO VIEW LARGER IMAGE)
  

Basic Set

This boxed set contains a simple, "bare bones" edition of the game; the core rules. It's for those that want a rules-light edition of the game that is extremely modifiable or for new players that get intimidated easily by too many rules and/or options. The Basic Set contains everything needed to play with all the "classic" D&D races (i.e., Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) and classes (i.e., Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard) all the way up to maximum level (i.e., 20th Level).

The Basic boxed set contains:

Quick Start Rules
A "choose your own way" adventure intended as an intro to RPGs and basic D&D terms.

Player's Handbook
(Softcover, 125 pages)
Features rules for playing the classic D&D races and classes all the way up to 20th level.

Dungeon Master's Guide

(Softcover, 125 pages)
Includes the basic rules for dungeon masters.

Monster Manual
(Softcover, 100 pages)
Includes all the classic iconic monsters from D&D. 

Introductory Adventure
(Keep on the Borderlands)
An introductory adventure for beginning players and DMs.

Also includes: 

Character Sheets
Reference Sheets
Set of Dice


Expert Set

A set of hardbound rules that contains the core rules plus expanded races and classes, more spells and a large selection of optional rules modules — that is, pretty much everything that experienced players have come to expect. Each expert edition manual may be purchased separately, or in a boxed set. The Expert set includes:

Expert PHB (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes core rules plus 10 playable races, 10 character classes, expanded selection of spells and rules modules for players.)
Expert DMG (Hardcover, 250 pages. $35 Includes core rules plus expanded rules modules for DMs.)
Expert MM (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes an expanded list of monsters and creatures to challenge characters)


Expansions

These expansion rules modules can be used with both the Basic and Expert sets. Each expansion covers one specific aspect of the game, such as character creation, combat, spells, monsters, etc.) 

Hall of Heroes (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes a vast selection of playable character races and classes, new and old all in one book)
Combat and Tactics (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes dozens of new and old optional rules for combat all in one book)
Creature Compendium (Hardcover, 350 pages.$35 Includes hundreds of monsters, new and old all in one book)
The Grimoire (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes hundreds of new and old spells all in one book)





A Million Hit Points of Light: Shedding Light on Damage

A Million Hit Points of Light: Shedding Light on Damage and Hit Points

In my personal campaigns, I use the following system for damage and dying. It's a slight modification of the long-standing principles etsablished by the D&D game, only with a new definition of what 0 or less hit points means. I've been using it for years because it works really well. However, I've made some adjustments to take advantage of the D&D Next rules. I've decided to present the first part in a Q&A format for better clarity. So let's begin...

What are hit points?
The premise is very simple, but often misunderstood; hit points are an abstraction that represent the character's ability to avoid serious damage, not necessarily their ability to take serious damage. This is a very important distinction. They represent a combination of skillful maneuvering, toughness, stamina and luck. Some targets have more hit points because they are physically tougher and are harder to injure...others have more because they are experienced combatants and have learned how to turn near fatal blows into mere scratches by skillful maneuvering...and then others are just plain lucky. Once a character runs out of hit points they become vulnerable to serious life-threatening injuries.

So what exactly does it mean to "hit" with a successful attack roll, then?
It means that through your own skill and ability you may have wounded your target if the target lacks the hit points to avoid the full brunt of the attack. That's an important thing to keep in mind; a successful "hit" does not necessarily mean you physically damaged your target. It just means that your attack was well placed and forced the target to exert themselves in such a way as to leave them vulnerable to further attacks. For example, instead of severing the target's arm, the attack merely grazes them leaving a minor cut.

But the attack did 25 points of damage! Why did it only "graze" the target?
Because the target has more than 25 hit points. Your attack forced them to exert a lot of energy to avoid the attack, but because of their combat skill, toughness, stamina and luck, they managed to avoid being seriously injured. However, because of this attack, they may not have the reserves to avoid your next attack. Perhaps you knocked them off balance or the attack left them so fatigued they lack the stamina to evade another attack. It's the DM's call on how they want to narrate the exact reason the blow didn't kill or wound the target.

Yeah, but what about "touch" attacks that rely on physical contact?
Making physical contact with a target is a lot different than striking them, so these types of attacks are the exception. If a touch attack succeeds, the attacker manages to make contact with their target.

If hit points and weapon damage don't always represent actual damage to the target, then what does it represent?
Think of the damage from an attack as more like a "threat level" rather than actual physical damage that transfers directly to the target's body. That is, the more damage an attack does, the harder it is to avoid serious injury. For example, an attack that causes 14 points of damage is more likely to wound the target than 3 points of damage (depending on how many hit points the target has left). The higher the damage, the greater the chance is that the target will become seriously injured. So, an attack that does 34 points of damage could be thought of as a "threat level of 34." If the target doesn't have the hit points to negate that threat, they become seriously injured.

Ok, but shouldn't armor reduce the amount of damage delivered from an attack?
It does reduce damage; by making it harder for an attack to cause serious injury. A successful hit against an armored target suggests that the attack may have circumvented the target's armor by striking in a vulnerable area.

What about poison and other types of non-combat damage?
Hit point loss from non-physical forms of damage represents the character spitting the poison out just in time before it takes full strength or perhaps the poison just wasn't strong enough to affect them drastically, but still weakens them. Again, it's the DMs call on how to narrate the reasons why the character avoids serious harm from the damage.

If hit points don't don't represent actual damage then how does that make sense with spells like Cure Serious Wounds and other forms of healing like healer kits with bandages?
Hit points do represent some physical damage, just not serious physical damage. Healing magic and other forms of healing still affect these minor wounds just as well as more serious wounds. For example, bandaging up minor cuts and abrasions helps the character rejuvenate and relieve the pain and/or fatigue of hit point loss. The key thing to remember is that it's an abstraction that allows the DM freedom to interpret and narrate it as they see fit.

What if my attack reduces the target to 0 or less hit points?
If a player is reduced to 0 or less hit points they are wounded. If a monster or NPC is reduce to 0 or less hit points they are killed.

Why are monsters killed immediately and not players?
Because unless the monsters are crucial to the story, it makes combat resolution much faster. It is assumed that players immediately execute a coup de grace on wounded monsters as a finishing move.

What if a character is wounded by poison or other types of non-physical damage?
If a character becomes wounded from non-combat damage they still receive the effects of being wounded, regardless if they show any physical signs of injury (i.e., internal injuries are still considered injuries).

Ok. I get it...but what happens once a character is wounded?
See below.
 

Damage and Dying

Once a character is reduced to 0 or less hit points, they start taking real damage. In other words, their reserves have run out and they can no longer avoid taking serious damage.

  1. Characters are fully operational as long as they have 1 hit point or more. They may have minor cuts, bruises, and superficial wounds, but they are are not impaired significantly. 
  2. Once they reach 0 or less hit points, they become Wounded (see below).That is, they have sustained a wound that impairs their ability to perform actions.
  3. If they reach a negative amount of hit points equal or greater than their Constitution score, they are Incapacitated. This means they are in critical condition and could possibly die.
  4. Characters will die if their hit points reach a negative amount greater than their Constitution score, plus their current level.

Unharmed: 1 hp or more
Wounded: 0 hp or less
Incapacitated: -(Constitution) to -(Constitution+Level)
Dead: Less than -(Constitution +Level)

Wounded
When the character reaches 0 or less hit points they become wounded. Wounded characters receive disadvantage on all attacks and saving throws until they heal back up to 1 hit point or more. This allows for a transitory stage between healthy and dying, without having to mess around with impairment rules while the character still has hit points left.

Incapacitated
Characters begin dying when they reach a negative amount of hit points equal to their Constitution score. At which point, they must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw on each of their following turns (the disadvantage from being wounded does not apply for these saving throws).

If successful, the character remains dying, but their condition does not worsen.

If the saving throw fails, another DC 10 Constitution saving throw must be made. If that one fails, the character succumbs to their wounds and dies. If successful, the character stabilizes and is no longer dying.

Finally, if a dying character receives first aid or healing at any point, they immediately stabilize.

Dead
Characters will die if they reach a negative amount of hit points equal to their Constitution, plus their current level. Thus, if an 8th level character with a Constitution score of 12 is down to 4 hit points then takes 24 points of damage (reducing their hit points to -20) the attack kills them outright.

I want players to completely lose this obsession with maximizing their stats, since it detracts from the rest of the game.

I completely agree with this.

My tolerance for ability mods is a little higher than yours, but I feel where you're coming from. I think the solution is to regulate player's ability scores more so than the modifiers themselves. I think players have gotten brainwashed and trained into expecting super awesome/epic ability scores to offset the failings of the rest of the system; This seems like really bad design theory to me.

Scores over 15 should be exceedingly rare for starting characters. If they aren't, then the game is going to feel the pangs of imbalance sooner, rather than later.



+1

I agree with this concept. I wouldn't even object to the occasional ability score increase (at each tier, perhaps), if the starting scores were kept in check.

I'm a proponent of rolling for ability scores. 
I would like to see them widen the scope of ability scores. I think each class should need to juggle 3 to 4 when deciding where to spend points. This could help round out characters a bit.

ugh please no. The numbers are all ready so diminished it's hardly worth the bother and attributes are the one place where we see signficiant growth as we level up. Even then you're looking at a +1 every 8 levels; hardly a cause for a nerf.


Everyone's freaking out over this magic stuff but maybe it's worth giving them the benefit of the doubt and believe the designers when they say that the magic items aren't intended to be part of the game balance? I don't know how they expect that to happen but I'm willing to find out more about it before I go proposing changes on the basis of magic items that aren't supposed to figure into the game balance.



But even if I wasn't in a "wait and see" mode, I'm really resentful of the entire 5e mentality that numbers can't matter. Part of watching your character getting more powerful is watching the numbers get bigger. Part of character creation is feeling like your stat selection matters. If the investment of an 18 only gives me +1 over the investment of a 12 then it's not worth the bother.


Damage modifiers don't cut it with things as they are because that makes physical damagers a lot more bound to their attributes than spell casters. it creates a situation where a wizard with a 12 int is only marginally less powerful than a wizard with an 18 int because most if not all of their spells don't use an attribute modifier for damage.

As I see it even this wouldn't stop the problem you are looking to put a stop to. Everyone will be looking to get even those paultry bonuses since they are still better than nothing.

Yup.  Ninteen in something suddenly becomes mandatory.

The huge dead zone in the middle was abandoned for good reason.
Again, it appeals to a specific kind of player.  Some players like to feel smart, for spending their point buy in a way to get the most benefit.  Some players enjoy the versatility of 3d6 in order, in skills and RP and whatnot, but hate feeling hosed when it comes down to the life and death of inevitable combat.

The metagame is not the game.

maybe but the disparity between a character with an int of 12 and one with an int of 18 should be huge. It should be reflected in the mechanics. Assuming they don't totally rework the way spells deal damage (and I doubt they would), it creates a problematic situation where the 12 is the same as a 17 and only slightly worse than an 18.


It was suggested in other threads that if you were going to reduce the numerical bonus of a high attribute you'd have to cook up some other incentive, and this illustrates that perfectly.


Now, if you were to devise a series of special abilities that keyed off each attribute, that'd be something.


maybe but the disparity between a character with an int of 12 and one with an int of 18 should be huge. It should be reflected in the mechanics. Assuming they don't totally rework the way spells deal damage (and I doubt they would), it creates a problematic situation where the 12 is the same as a 17 and only slightly worse than an 18.


It was suggested in other threads that if you were going to reduce the numerical bonus of a high attribute you'd have to cook up some other incentive, and this illustrates that perfectly.


Now, if you were to devise a series of special abilities that keyed off each attribute, that'd be something.




+5.

I've always been a strong proponent of halving the ability bonus on attack rolls.  I think halving and rounding up is the best compromise because it gives enough variation to keep the bonuses interesting.

People obsessing about abilities losing interest have to remember that PCs could still get full ability bonuses to saves, skills, damage, and spell DCs.  All this does is reduce the difficulty dealing with monster AC in the bounded system. 

I'm more torn about whether the reduce bonus should be extended to dexterity on AC.  The problems regarding monster AC are reduced if the max bonus from stats to AC is +3 at 20.  Armour can be greatly simplified into broad groupings:

Light +1 to +2 plus Dex (AC11-15)
Medium  +3 to +4 plus max +1 dex (AC13-15)
Heavy +5 to +6 (AC15-16)
Shield +1 to +2.

Limit magic to +2 (+3 for artifacts) or halve attack bonuses on items too and the problems with the bounded system begin to go away.

One other thing I'd do is limit skill bonuses to +6 but add +1 to all ability checks at level 10.

OK I'll have a go at this. I'll pick Int 'cause that's what I'm growling about.


DISCLAIMER: I'm writing this totally off the cuff and without any reference materials in front of me, so some of the specifics of the abilities might be inappropriate, but this is the sort of thing that would excite me if I was pumping up attributes. The abilities you get need to be significant and game changing because the modifiers you're sacrifice are similarly significant and game changing.


1    -5

2-3 -4
4-5 -3
6-7 -2
8-9 -1
10-11 +0
12-13 +1
14-15 +2
16-17 +2, bonus lore skill
18-19 +3
20-21 +3, arcane pre-eminence
22-23 +4
24-25 +4, mental quickening
26-27 +5
28-29 +5, total recall
30 +6


Bonus Lore Skill – does what it says on the tin. Player picks a lore skill and adds it to their sheet.


Arcane Pre-eminence – Once per session, an arcane spell caster may add their int modifier to all variable effects of spells for the duration of one encounter. If the spell all ready adds their int modifier, add 1.5x your int modifier to the variable effects of the spell.


Mental Quickening – Once per session, the character may cast any arcane spell they have available as a reaction attack.


Total Recall – Once per session, the character may refresh all depleted spell resources.

We discussed the following in an other thread. The goal is to make each ability score a meaningful improvement. It also works better within bounded accuracy.
 

The table stretches out the ability bonuses by separating out the attack bonus, defense bonus, and skill bonus. The skill bonus also determines damage, so together they have more substantial value. This way, each and every ability score improvement grants the hero a benefit. (Not just even numbers.)








































































































































































Score



+Attack



+Defense



+Skill/Damage



  0



−∞



−∞



−∞



  1



−3



−3



−3



  2



−3



−3



−2



  3



−3



−2



−2



  4



−2



−2



−2



  5



−2



−2



−1



  6



−2



−1



−1



  7



−1



−1



−1



  8



−1



−1



+0



  9



−1



+0



+0



10



+0



+0



+0



11



+0



+0



   +1



12



+0



   +1



+1



13



   +1



+1



+1



14



+1



+1



   +2



15



+1



   +2



+2



16



   +2



+2



+2



17



+2



+2



   +3



18



+2



   +3



+3



19



   +3



+3



+3



20



+3



+3



+4



21



+3



+4



+4



22



+4



+4



+4



23



+4



+4



+5



24



+4



+5



+5



25



+5



+5



+5


I guess what I don't like about adjusting things to reflect flattened/bounded system is it gives us very little to play with. The way classes have dealt with it is through abilities. Schemes, combat superiority, spells. The emphasis is more on what you can do and less on doing it better.


I like that consequence, but I don't think most of the suggestions on what to do with attributes reflect that shift in focus. If attributes aren't about doing things better than others (which is the consequence of flattening the modifiers), they have to enable us to do more.


Splitting the attribute bonus apart doesn't actually solve the issue, it just disperses it into more parts and makes it harder to see.



Armour.. this discussion is scattered all over the place but the main thing to ask is this: do all armours meet at the same point, or does light armour offer less than heavy armour?


The problem with offering less is the system is flattened and even losing 1 AC becomes really significant. Not normalising light armour to give the same AC in a different way will only place greater emphasis on dex as a defensive stat. A nerf to dex contributions doesn't change that, it only makes the problem even more apparent.


Really, light armour needs to meet the same point as heavy armour and the real decision people need to make is whether to use a shield or not. The reason you pick one kind of armour over another should be about how you get the AC, not what AC you get.

I dont see any problem with the ability scores and modifiers as they are now. If you think they are too high, then as the DM, use an ability score generation system that yields lower scores. If you think they're too low, use a more generous system. Easy. Done.

If that doesn't work for you, then by all means house-rule your game with different tables. I personally use many house-rules that would cause the community to cringe, but that's how I like my game.

The CORE RULES have to be simple and appeal to the majority of players.

Sure, you could have a multi-columned table of how a given score benefits Offense, Defense, and Skills. It would probably be easier to balance and tweak...but at the cost of a lot of more book keeping, tables to reference, numbers to look up, and generate mechanics bloat. Remember, the idea of D&D Next is simple core rules, not elaborate and complicated rules that require multiple tables.

Please introduce yourself to the new D&D 5e forums in this very friendly thread started by Pukunui!

 

Make 5e Saving Throws better using Ramzour's Six Ability Save System!

 

Lost Mine of Phandelver: || Problems and Ideas with the adventure ||  Finding the Ghost of Neverwinter Wood ||

Giving classes iconic abilities that don't break the game: Ramzour's Class Defining Ability system.

Rules for a simple non-XP based leveling up system, using the Proficiency Bonus

 

Personally, I prefer to eliminate scores completely. Just go with the ability modifier.



Instead of saying, “Strength 15”, the CORE RULES have to be simple. Say, “Strength +2”.
Personally, I prefer to eliminate scores completely.


Instead of saying, “Strength 15”, keep the CORE RULES simple. Say, “Strength +2”.


I remember an interview with one of the developers of 4E, where they talked about how they considered doing that. However, in a nutshell, the developer said they kept the Ability Scores and Modifiers mechanic because it felt better to them.

Standard Answer to all 5E rules questions: "Ask your DM."

Personally, I prefer to eliminate scores completely.


Instead of saying, “Strength 15”, keep the CORE RULES simple. Say, “Strength +2”.


I remember an interview with one of the developers of 4E, where they talked about how they considered doing that. However, in a nutshell, the developer said they kept the Ability Scores and Modifiers mechanic because it felt better to them.



That is an answer that predicts the scores wont be around much longer.
Once the scores stop hiding the mechanics, its easier to control the ability inflation. You see what the impact is, and get an immediate sense of what is appropriate or not. It is easier to calibrate where the appropriate thresholds are.

−2 Exceptional Human (Bottom Percentile)
−1 Below Average Human
+0 Average Human
+1 Above Average Human
+2 Exceptional Human (Top Percentile)

+3 Outlier Human

+4 Non-Human
Oh no.

The d20 overrules your modiier enough as it is.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

The other way to go is to remove the generic modifiers entirely and go back to the attribute actually directly interacting with the mechanics. I can see how someone might think it's more book keeping but it's actually the same as trimming out the attribute. Instead of going attribute -> modifier -> stuff we'd go attribute -> stuff.


I guess the reason they did it in the first place was it allowed them to add on to the system without creating tables for how attributes interacted with the new stuff.


The base numbers are still determining things though, like maximum spell level you can access. It also provides a range of scores that can make finer reflections of what a character is. I know a guy with a 15 str is slightly stronger than a guy with a 14 str. That 15 str can be used as a prerequisite as well, which notes that you need to be stronger than "+2" but not as strong as "+3".



Maybe it's cosmetic but the 3-18 attribute value system is actually functioning in many ways under the hood.

Oh no.

The d20 overrules your modiier enough as it is.



Once you add ability bonus, skill/proficiency bonus, specialization/feat bonus, tool/weapon bonus, situational/insight bonus, nevermind magic/enhancement/power bonus, rolling a d20 is often moot. The bonuses already remove the random element.



Using a “score” to mask the devastating consequences of a +4 boost to the gaming mechanics is part of the problem.



As soon as the bonuses total about +9, the majority of challenges become automatic successess.

The other way to go is to remove the generic modifiers entirely and go back to the attribute actually directly interacting with the mechanics. I can see how someone might think it's more book keeping but it's actually the same as trimming out the attribute. Instead of going attribute -> modifier -> stuff we'd go attribute -> stuff.


I guess the reason they did it in the first place was it allowed them to add on to the system without creating tables for how attributes interacted with the new stuff.


The base numbers are still determining things though, like maximum spell level you can access. It also provides a range of scores that can make finer reflections of what a character is. I know a guy with a 15 str is slightly stronger than a guy with a 14 str. That 15 str can be used as a prerequisite as well, which notes that you need to be stronger than "+2" but not as strong as "+3".



Maybe it's cosmetic but the 3-18 attribute value system is actually functioning in many ways under the hood.


 Using the score instead of the modifier is impossible because the range of the score between 3 and 18 (a 15 point spread) is much too large for a d20 to handle (only a 19 point spread).


The other way to go is to remove the generic modifiers entirely and go back to the attribute actually directly interacting with the mechanics. I can see how someone might think it's more book keeping but it's actually the same as trimming out the attribute. Instead of going attribute -> modifier -> stuff we'd go attribute -> stuff.


I guess the reason they did it in the first place was it allowed them to add on to the system without creating tables for how attributes interacted with the new stuff.


The base numbers are still determining things though, like maximum spell level you can access. It also provides a range of scores that can make finer reflections of what a character is. I know a guy with a 15 str is slightly stronger than a guy with a 14 str. That 15 str can be used as a prerequisite as well, which notes that you need to be stronger than "+2" but not as strong as "+3".



Maybe it's cosmetic but the 3-18 attribute value system is actually functioning in many ways under the hood.





It made sense went when they had ability threshold

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I meant eliminating the generic modifier. Obviously the attributes would produce modifiers but instead of "strength" always meaning "+2" it would mean any of a variety of things expressed on the table. I don't actually think that'll happen though.


I don't think all the extra little bonuses are going to figure in. For one thing, none of them use the attribute bonus more than once. For another, much of that has been replaced with advantage. We can see how attribute modifiers are becoming even more important because of all the focus on attributes and their impact on the system in discussions.


It's actually easier to raise DCs than it is to nerf attributes 'cause a DC operates in isolation. The only checks I'd be really careful about balance are opposed rolls and attack rolls, 'cause they interact with a wider variety of mechanics.



If I'm honest though I think this discussion is largely academic because for the game to feel like D&D something has to give and let us scale up some numbers. D&D's always been a number game, people who played 2e AD&D were after that and if they didn't want to do that there was always Vampire or whatever other less rigid system to use. Paranoia used to be my decompression from the D&D number game. 3e was similarly number heavy, and 4e by all acounts is the same.


Why would 5e be any different in this regard? Moreover, why should it be when it's all ready in an established niche and other games do less rigid things so much better?



I like toying with this idea, but I doubt it'll ever see the light of day in a book as anything but a spin off or optional variant.

Oh no.

The d20 overrules your modiier enough as it is.



Once you add ability bonus, skill/proficiency bonus, specialization/feat bonus, tool/weapon bonus, situational/insight bonus, nevermind magic/enhancement/power bonus, rolling a d20 is often moot. The bonuses already remove the random element.




That are no feat bonuses that aren't replacement for other bonuses. (TWD makes you offhand into a shield, Sniper negates a penalty)
Magic is not part of math

So a 1st level fighter or a skill character is rolling d20+3+Abilty mod vs like DC 15.
Frown

might as well go 11 or more pass. 10 or less fail.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Because there are no clear definitions for when to add bonuses and when not to add bonuses. It is certain, new features will come with more bonuses, because of the law of power creep. There is no effort to preempt the creation of new features.



As soon as the total reaches +9, the math breaks. From that point on the game becomes a “treadmill” with ever-higher defense/DC totals versus ever-higher attack/skill totals.


 
The rules can help ensure the success of bounded accuracy by eliminating the score, and defining a +4 as Nonhuman, and making certain kinds of extra bonuses illegal.

Players can optionally play with crazy-big math, but they are no longer within the realm of Human experience.   
since when was D&D ever about the realm of human experience? It's a high fantasy game where fighters are these inhuman weapon-gods and mages are these impossibly powerful and far more intelligent than mere mortals. Leaders are chiseled, perfect and never slip a word... that's not human experience at all.
Because there are no clear definitions for when to add bonuses and when not to add bonuses. It is certain, new features will come with more bonuses, because of the law of power creep. There is no effort to preempt the creation of new features.



As soon as the total reaches +9, the math breaks. From that point on the game becomes a “treadmill” with ever-higher defense/DC totals versus ever-higher attack/skill totals.


 
The rules can help ensure the success of bounded accuracy by eliminating the score, and defining a +4 as Nonhuman, and making certain kinds of extra bonuses illegal.

Players can optionally play with crazy-big math, but they are no longer within the realm of Human experience.   



That's more of a matter of too many modifers. If bounded accuracy works and the total # of modifiers are kept low then, there the problem never comes.

Modifiers over +9 warp math but mods under +4 are ignorable depending on the DC.

It's not about the modifier... it's the DC.

If the DC is high (16+), then you need a high modifier to have a character who reliably beats it.

It about making reliable characters hit with a roll over 10.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Because there are no clear definitions for when to add bonuses and when not to add bonuses. It is certain, new features will come with more bonuses, because of the law of power creep. There is no effort to preempt the creation of new features.



As soon as the total reaches +9, the math breaks. From that point on the game becomes a “treadmill” with ever-higher defense/DC totals versus ever-higher attack/skill totals.


 
The rules can help ensure the success of bounded accuracy by eliminating the score, and defining a +4 as Nonhuman, and making certain kinds of extra bonuses illegal.

Players can optionally play with crazy-big math, but they are no longer within the realm of Human experience.   



That's more of a matter of too many modifers. If bounded accuracy works and the total # of modifiers are kept low then, there the problem never comes.

Modifiers over +9 warp math but mods under +4 are ignorable depending on the DC.

It's not about the modifier... it's the DC.

If the DC is high (16+), then you need a high modifier to have a character who reliably beats it.

It about making reliable characters hit with a roll over 10.



The problem is more than too many modifiers. The problem is, +9 isnt alot of space to play with. If heroes have high scores between 18 and 20, then that is already half of the alotted space.

Skill bonuses are already brokenly high with +3. Thats already +7 or more to a skill check, making most skill challenges boring successes. +2 points from a magic item which always give away too many skill points, completely and utterly breaks the math of the game.

Help me out here.. how would a DC of 21 not make a 50% chance of failure on a roll with a +11 modifier?


I'm not really sure where you're coming from.


Help me out here.. how would a DC of 21 not make a 50% chance of failure on a roll with a +11 modifier?


I'm not really sure where you're coming from.




Regardless of the actual DC value, the expected value for a success versus a typical challenge for a given level, is to roll about a natural 10 on a d20.

If you add +9 to this d20 die roll, the minimum of a natural 1 plus the +9 bonus is an autosuccess. It is impossible to fail. The math breaks.



Any other bonuses, whether they add to the DC or add to the d20, are simply part of the treadmill of bigger levels with bigger math. This treadmill is what “bounded accuracy” explicitly prevents.
Once the scores stop hiding the mechanics, its easier to control the ability inflation. You see what the impact is, and get an immediate sense of what is appropriate or not. It is easier to calibrate where the appropriate thresholds are.

−2 Exceptional Human (Bottom Percentile)
−1 Below Average Human
+0 Average Human
+1 Above Average Human
+2 Exceptional Human (Top Percentile)

+3 Outlier Human

+4 Non-Human

The thing is, you can write that +2 means "Exceptional Human (Top Percentile)", but it doesn't. It means "succeeds at things related to the task an almost imperceptible amount more than an average person, such that you'd need careful tracking of the data over a significant number of trials in order to be able to confidantly say that he or she is even better at all."
I had an idea after looking at bonuses to attacks and damage in earlier editions of d&d.  How about toning down the modifiers for checks, saves, and attacks and keep the modifiers for damage as they are now.

I really like the idea, but it still seems a little high for me.  I want players to completely lose this obsession with maximizing their stats, since it detracts from the rest of the game.

What I want is either column A or colum B, and I'm currently undecided:

Ability Score                      Modfiier  A                      Modifier B
        1-2                                  -2                                   -1
        3-5                                  -1                                   -1
        6-14                                ---                                  ---
        16-18                              +1                                  +1
        19+                                 +2                                  +1
       



In general, heavily flattening ability scores will make players completely lose "this obsession with maximizing their stats", since it will in fact make stats not matter. Why even have stats if they don't do anything meaningful? "Roleplay"? Is roleplay assisted by having a character with an 18 in a stat not actually be noticably better at the associated tasks than a character with a 2? That doesn't seem like it helps roleplay to me. You've freed every fighter from having to make his Str super high! Now he can put a 14 in Cha if he wants to! ...But that 14 in Cha now means literally nothing.

Orzel is on point. The extent to which attributes contribute to success is already pretty small. I literally facepalm every time one of the monster design articles says something like "they're incredibly dumb (Int 6)", because according to the actual mechanics of the game, (as opposed to disconnected hallucinations about what ability scores signify) Int 6 is almost imperceptably less intelligent than an average human.

Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
The problem is when the imagined chance of success and the actual don't match, not the numbers individually.

Master Thief: Haha. This is a simple lock. No problem for a master like myself.

D20+3 vs 13 lock.
Rolls a 7

DM: YOU FAIL MISTER!

The master thief fails a simple lock. If you add exceptions design (skill mastery, ability threshold, take 10) he might autosucceed.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Once the scores stop hiding the mechanics, its easier to control the ability inflation. You see what the impact is, and get an immediate sense of what is appropriate or not. It is easier to calibrate where the appropriate thresholds are.

−2 Exceptional Human (Bottom Percentile)
−1 Below Average Human
+0 Average Human
+1 Above Average Human
+2 Exceptional Human (Top Percentile)

+3 Outlier Human

+4 Non-Human

The thing is, you can write that +2 means "Exceptional Human (Top Percentile)", but it doesn't. It means "succeeds at things related to the task an almost imperceptible amount more than an average person, such that you'd need careful tracking of the data over a significant number of trials in order to be able to confidantly say that he or she is even better at all."



I understand your point, and its significance: inherent talent needs to count for something.

At the same time, inherent talent succeeds best when it is in addition to training plus using the best tools possible plus when the circumstances are optimal (plus magic). So the talent doesnt happen in a vacuum. This talent “stacks” with all of the other factors that promote success, so the addition of talent creates extremely high probability of success. Especially within a system of bounded accuracy, where the difficulty of the challenge is more stable.




Also, I am looking at the old 1e Players Handbook. And According to Gygax, even a Strength 18 only awards a +1 bonus to the d20 roll to attack. Even the bizarre mechanic of Strength 18(00), representing an extreme outlier, only awards a +3 bonus to a d20 roll. More usefully for a systematic approach, Dexterity 16 grants +1 to the d20 roll, Dex 17 grants +2, and Dex 18 grants +3.

So, the definitions I gave above

+1 above average
+2 exceptional
+3 outlier
+4 NONHUMAN

are true to the origins of D&D.
@Lesp

Good old INT 6 monsters and their high chance to outsmart you.

Ogre Guard: No, sir. I will not let you pass this door today and any other day. Nor yesterday with arcane magic of chronological sorts. That was not the date of the Battle of Eve's Fallen so you must be a deceiver and charlatan. Away with you from my presence. I have various sorts of decomposing meat delicacies to sample and I have not eaten since brunch.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Also, I am looking at the old 1e Players Handbook. And According to Gygax, even a Strength 18 only awards a +1 bonus to the d20 roll to attack. Even the bizarre mechanic of Strength 18(00), representing an extreme outlier, only awards a +3 bonus to a d20 roll. More usefully for a systematic approach, Dexterity 16 grants +1 to the d20 roll, Dex 17 grants +2, and Dex 18 grants +3.

So, the definitions I gave above

+1 above average
+2 exceptional
+3 outlier
+4 NONHUMAN

are true to the origins of D&D.

If Gygax wrote that a fair d20 comes up as "7" 85% of the time, it wouldn't make it true. +3 is not an extreme outlier. +3 is bordering on noticably better. That's the whole point; you can't just apply whatever qualitative labels you like to different magnitudes of bonuses, because the game actually tells you outright how much better someone with a +3 is at something than someone with +0: only very slightly better. If you don't care about your labels matching what's actually happening in the game world, then sure, +4 is nonhuman. In reality, the raw talent of humans varies far more dramatically than that.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
I had an idea after looking at bonuses to attacks and damage in earlier editions of d&d.  How about toning down the modifiers for checks, saves, and attacks and keep the modifiers for damage as they are now.

Basically you get this

Ability Score        Check/Save/Atk Modfifier        Damage Modifier
         1                                    -3                                  -5
        2-3                                  -2                                  -4
        4-5                                  -2                                  -3
        6-7                                  -1                                  -2
        8-9                                  -1                                  -1
       10-11                                0                                   0
       12-13                               +1                                 +1
       14-15                               +1                                 +2
       16-17                               +2                                 +3
       18-19                               +2                                 +4
       20-21                               +3                                 +5
       22-23                               +3                                 +6
       24-25                               +4                                 +7
       26-27                               +4                                 +8
       28-29                               +5                                 +9
          30                                 +5                                 +10

This would make magic items that give ability score less damaging to the concept of bounded accuracy and make characters with more moderate ability scores more balanced with characters with really high ability scores.  It would only reduce the checks/attacks/saves for most characters by 1 or 2 points, so I think the math will still work or at least will only need minimal tweeking.  

What do you think?  I am thinking of seeing if I can convince a group to try playtesting this to see how it feels in action.



This exact progression (at least for attacks and damage, I hadn't considered other applications yet) occured to me a couple of days ago as well.

I think it is a great idea and the only argument against it (in my opinon) comes down to "But, it's a tiny bit harder to remember two progressions than it is one" - which is a really silly argument. 

Generally speaking a bonus to hit is worth twice as much as a bonus to damage.
It fits well with the bounded accuracy approach.
It eliminates many of the problems created by high stats.
It is more consistant with old school numbers.

In fact - this how the math worked (not the exact proogressions, but the idea that attack bonuses progressed much more slowly than damage bonuses) before 3.x came along and broke many parts of the game mechanics.

Aside: I actually pushed for/ hoped for a flatter progression as part of my wishlist for 5E before the playtest started.  I was hoping for +1 bonus for every three ability score points, not every two.  Perhaps I can't get the clock rolled back that far - but getting rid of the idea that all bonuses have to use the same progression to satisfy some arbitrary goal of symmetry is a start.

Carl
Regarding the OP table, I dislike the damage value being almost double the attack value.

The reason is, I prefer how 4e handles this aspect of the math. Instead of doubling the damage, it has a variety of flavorful mechanics that instead add the bonus of the secondary ability to the damage.

For example, the Storm Sorcerer uses the Charisma bonus for both attack and damage, but then also adds a Dexterity bonus to the damage. In this case, the Stormer magically unites with the swift speed and suppleness of winds, which imbue his body with speed and suppleness. In this case, the higher Dex doesnt cause more damage, but reflects being more in tune with more powerful magic.

Hypothetically, a Two-Weapon Fighter who uses the Strength bonus for attack and damage, might add the Dexterity bonus to damage to represent the addition presence of more weapon contact.

The smaller ability bonus to damage makes the mechanics able to express a wide variety of combat flavors.
The point of Bounded Accuracy is to limit the passive scaling effect on accuracy and DCs from LEVELS.

This in order for:
* A larger level range for specific encounters and situations to be relevant
* To let other modifiers than just level shine through.

The point of BS is not to limit EVERYTHING that affects success and failure.

Under BA Ability scores should have a massive effect on the chance of success, because that's the entire point.
Magic items should have a significant effect on whatever they are affecting because... that's the point of BA.

BA is the shift from character level / monster level as the major determinant of check modifier and DC towards
Ability scores, Class, Skills and specific effects (magic, situation, items, whatever).

Putting a dampening on both sides of the equation does nothing good (it just makes the game more random).