MAD vs. SAD in 4E design

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One change that I'd really like to see in 4E is the removal of SAD from all character classes. SAD is possibly the most broken element of 3.x, especially in regards to full-progression casters. No other successful RPG that I've played has the SAD problem that D&D has; you simply can't make successful characters in other games that rely on having only one high stat. The design of 4E really needs to address this problem in order for the system to be playable and balanced: make Con and Wis mean something to arcane casters, and don't let the druid dump all his physical stats and rely on Wis alone.

I've seen numerous complaints over the years that MAD weakens certain classes, but the real problem is SAD. All classes need to be subject to MAD; each class should rely on 3 or 4 of the 6 ability scores. This will contribute greatly to making the game more balanced.
I've seen numerous complaints over the years that MAD weakens certain classes, but the real problem is SAD. All classes need to be subject to MAD; each class should rely on 3 or 4 of the 6 ability scores. This will contribute greatly to making the game more balanced.

Yeah. By ensuring that everyone point-buys flat, even stats. Boring.
Yeah. By ensuring that everyone point-buys flat, even stats. Boring.

But stats don't make your character interesting, your backstory and personality make your character interesting; you need balance to make your interesting character work.
But stats don't make your character interesting, your backstory and personality make your character interesting; you need balance to make your interesting character work.

What he means is that every character would basiclly have average around the board stats. Which is boring.

I'd say each class should use at least 2 stats, 3 being max. I too dislike classes that get by on one stat, but then again, I hate classes that require a good score in basiclly everything to be any use.
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The design of 4E really needs to address this problem in order for the system to be playable and balanced: make Con and Wis mean something to arcane casters, and don't let the druid dump all his physical stats and rely on Wis alone.

With the new rules, druids need con more than ever. Spellcasters also need con as well. The myth that spellcasters really need only 1 stat is just that - a myth.
Yeah. By ensuring that everyone point-buys flat, even stats. Boring.

Who point buys non-even stats? MAD or SAD, you mostly just always point-buy even stats.

With the new rules, druids need con more than ever. Spellcasters also need con as well. The myth that spellcasters really need only 1 stat is just that - a myth.

Who doesn't need Con though? Casters need Con+1, Gish usually need Con+2, and fighters usually need Con+3.
Who point buys non-even stats? MAD or SAD, you mostly just always point-buy even stats.

Valdrax meant "level" -- as in, all purchased equally to each other rather than with one ability outstanding focus. MAD is a resource allocation problem: multiple demands with limited supply. The need to have some bonus in each ability results in no significant difference between characters reguardless of class.

SAD's "problem" is that each class has the same focus. All wizards will be highly inteligent, all sorcerers will be charismatic, all rogues will be agile and dextrous, differing only by the choise of secondary abilities. Characters of different classes, though, have different abilities.
Valdrax meant "level" -- as in, all purchased equally to each other rather than with one ability outstanding focus. MAD is a resource allocation problem: multiple demands with limited supply. The need to have some bonus in each ability results in no significant difference between characters reguardless of class.

Eloquently put. This is exactly what I meant except expressed better than I would have.

SAD's "problem" is that each class has the same focus. All wizards will be highly inteligent, all sorcerers will be charismatic, all rogues will be agile and dextrous, differing only by the choise of secondary abilities. Characters of different classes, though, have different abilities.

Generally true. Standard point-buy SAD characters can be equally boring (an 18, 4 10's and a 9), but a dependency on two attributes is usually sufficient to put a kibosh on that.
Valdrax meant "level" -- as in, all purchased equally to each other rather than with one ability outstanding focus.

Ooooh, I see. Well, that's a black mark against point buy in my book. Alternately, the player is just being lame. I almost always go for 16,14,12,12,10,10 myself.

Maybe with new multiclassing rules we'll see more multiclassing going on, and so more ability mixing.
Valdrax meant "level" -- as in, all purchased equally to each other rather than with one ability outstanding focus. MAD is a resource allocation problem: multiple demands with limited supply. The need to have some bonus in each ability results in no significant difference between characters reguardless of class.

SAD's "problem" is that each class has the same focus. All wizards will be highly inteligent, all sorcerers will be charismatic, all rogues will be agile and dextrous, differing only by the choise of secondary abilities. Characters of different classes, though, have different abilities.

That's not the real problem with SAD, that's just a RP issue. The problem is balance, as in without some kind of opportunity cost, there isn't any. A wizard built with Point Buy is always going to have an 18 Int because it's always the best choice. If Wis and Con were close to as important to the wizard as Int, the player would actually have a choice to make. When you're considering putting a 16 in Int so you can squeeze in a little more Wis or Con, then you have game balance. I'm not suggesting that every class should look like monk -- more that all of the classes should look more like ranger, where you have to make important choices with your stats depending on what kind of functionality you want from your character.
Hmmm. What about Multiple Possible Ability Dependency? Maybe some set of wizard stuff requires Cha, so you can focus on that and go high-Cha, or just do ordinary wizard stuff and go high-Int?
My group plays with the Point Buy method for the most part. That method extorts a heavy price for uber-specialization.

Using the Wizard example, on a 32-point buy, with an 18 in there you're looking at 8 14 14 18 12 8 or thereabouts (+7 net modifiers). Without the 18, you could go with 10 14 14 16 14 10, for a more well-rounded character with +9 in net modifiers.

Point Buy makes you pay for min-maxing, so I don't see the problem with "SAD."
I missed the lingo on this one . . . and the thread would make a lot more sense if I didn't. :D

What is MAD?
What is SAD?
That's not the real problem with SAD, that's just a RP issue. The problem is balance, as in without some kind of opportunity cost, there isn't any. A wizard built with Point Buy is always going to have an 18 Int because it's always the best choice. If Wis and Con were close to as important to the wizard as Int, the player would actually have a choice to make. When you're considering putting a 16 in Int so you can squeeze in a little more Wis or Con, then you have game balance. I'm not suggesting that every class should look like monk -- more that all of the classes should look more like ranger, where you have to make important choices with your stats depending on what kind of functionality you want from your character.

Exactly. That's the problem that I see with SAD.

This is one of the reasons that I like the elite array. It's not boring. I find it the easiest, best way to get a player to actually THINK about where he is putting a score, and why.

Sid Meyer claims that a game is about "interesting choices". SAD is not an interesting choice.
MAD = multiple attribute dependency. Think monk or paladin.
SAD = single attribute dependency. Think druid or possibly even warlock.

A wizard built with Point Buy is always going to have an 18 Int because it's always the best choice.

I wouldn't. That extra 2 points of int requires 6 stat points, which could be put into con and dex, or even str. It may not represent an opportunity cost for you, but it sure does for me, especially since I don' really like lopsided builds with 1-2 maxed out stats and 8s in the rest.

I would never buy a natural 18 int this way.

If Wis and Con were close to as important to the wizard as Int, the player would actually have a choice to make. When you're considering putting a 16 in Int so you can squeeze in a little more Wis or Con, then you have game balance.

I have always been considering that from day 1.

So what now?
The trouble isn't the dependence of the attributes but how unbalanced is the power of each, I mean how powerful are mental stats, while a fighter only get a lineal benefit from high str a wizard with a high int not only gets a lineal benefit with the DC of the spells but also an exponential one with the extra spells.

Make all the stats with similar grow and the same importance and a class being mad or sad will be meaningless.
runestar, I appreciate your comments and that is certainly a viable way of building a character. However, I'm of the opinion that most players building a full-progression caster will max out their casting stat before even looking at the rest, because the payoff is so big and because you don't need the side benefits of higher HP or saves -- the character is just as viable without them and is better at the one thing it does all the time. What I'd like to see is something closer to what BillTheManiac suggests where different class abilities will key off of different ability scores -- kind of like how the fighter is presented in the Design and Development article.
I agree that I'd like to see more of a MAD situation, or more of an issue where there's not just a single "can't do without it" stat for a class. For instance, for wizards you absolutely need INT (in 3ed), I'd much rather see something where a high WIS or high CHA might get you something different, or heck maybe a physical stat in there. At least something so that not only can you solely invest in a single stat, but so that investing in various different stats is actually viable.
What I'd like to see is something closer to what BillTheManiac suggests where different class abilities will key off of different ability scores -- kind of like how the fighter is presented in the Design and Development article.

I don't think I'd mind that. It would be an improvement over MAD in 3e where you really needed all the dependent attributes to be high to be viable. If different paths within the same class were keyed to different attributes, then that would be pretty cool -- again, as long as the choice didn't make you have to suffer weakness in key areas and make your character less cool overall.

Also, no more than 2-3 stats for a viable build. 4+ means nothing but lucky rolls can salvage the class.
I don't think I'd mind that. It would be an improvement over MAD in 3e where you really needed all the dependent attributes to be high to be viable. If different paths within the same class were keyed to different attributes, then that would be pretty cool -- again, as long as the choice didn't make you have to suffer weakness in key areas and make your character less cool overall.

Also, no more than 2-3 stats for a viable build. 4+ means nothing but lucky rolls can salvage the class.

You make a good point about rolling stats -- one I had overlooked, since I've used point buy exclusively since before 3.5 came out. I'm actually hoping that the designers finally do away with rolled stats in 4E.
Every stat should provide useful utility for every core class. Every individual within that class should function a little differently based on the stats they have chosen. It's OK to make some talent branches better for certain stats than others.

EXAMPLE: FIGHTER

Some of these exist in 3rd edition. But not all of them.

Strength
High-strength fighters should be able to effectively wield larger weapons (such as powerful two-handed weaponry) and wear heavier armor.

Dexterity
High-dexterity fighters should be able to dodge blows in combat, more effectively wield lighter weapons (no Weapon Finesse feat required please), and better use ranged weaponry.

Constitution
High-constitution fighters should be able to outlast their opponents and have more uses of per-combat abilities due to heightened stamina.

Intelligence
High-intelligence fighters should be more effective with tactical options and should have the capability to better trick enemies with clever maneuvers. They should also be able to more easily identify and exploit weaknesses in enemies.

Wisdom
High-wisdom fighters should be able to gain a "sixth sense" about fighting, translating into uncanny dodge-like abilities and immediate action "counters" to enemy spellcasting. They should also have cooler heads in battle, translating to access to stances and maneuvers that require higher levels of concentration.

Charisma
High-charisma fighters should be more easily able to direct and control the actions of their opponents. They should get some minor Leader-type abilities as well (since it's been made known that classes will sometimes get some abilities of other roles rather than being shoehorned into one). Battle cries and intimidation efforts should be more effective.

Each of these benefits should be numerically comparable. The character should not be expected to take other classes to get better advantage of the statistic (such as Warlord for the Charisma; probably the toughest one to pull off here).
For a while I've wanted classes to be like the Tome of Battle classes in that the classes are MAD but not necessarily MAD, if that makes sense. For example, the warblade needs Str for melee, Dex for protection, and Con for hit points. However, he has class abilities that add Int to other things, so he can decrease his reliance on one of the physical scores or even replace one of them, like the Weapon Finesse/Shadow Blade swordsage does.

I think classes should never be SAD, but should not be forced into having multiple high stats. Gaining bonuses from other stats, like the paladin's Divine Grace or monks's Wis to AC, help the character broaden his abilities while still remaining competent. I don't particularly like how all wizards are intelligent, all sorcerers are charismatic, etc., so a system wherein spells per day, spell DCs, and spells known were based on Int, Wis, and Cha (not necessarily in that order) but could add part of other scores to them--like a cross between favored soul and wizard casting--would be a very welcome improvement.
Every stat should provide useful utility for every core class. Every individual within that class should function a little differently based on the stats they have chosen. It's OK to make some talent branches better for certain stats than others.

EXAMPLE: FIGHTER

Some of these exist in 3rd edition. But not all of them.

Strength
High-strength fighters should be able to effectively wield larger weapons (such as powerful two-handed weaponry) and wear heavier armor.

Dexterity
High-dexterity fighters should be able to dodge blows in combat, more effectively wield lighter weapons (no Weapon Finesse feat required please), and better use ranged weaponry.

Constitution
High-constitution fighters should be able to outlast their opponents and have more uses of per-combat abilities due to heightened stamina.

Intelligence
High-intelligence fighters should be more effective with tactical options and should have the capability to better trick enemies with clever maneuvers. They should also be able to more easily identify and exploit weaknesses in enemies.

Wisdom
High-wisdom fighters should be able to gain a "sixth sense" about fighting, translating into uncanny dodge-like abilities and immediate action "counters" to enemy spellcasting. They should also have cooler heads in battle, translating to access to stances and maneuvers that require higher levels of concentration.

Charisma
High-charisma fighters should be more easily able to direct and control the actions of their opponents. They should get some minor Leader-type abilities as well (since it's been made known that classes will sometimes get some abilities of other roles rather than being shoehorned into one). Battle cries and intimidation efforts should be more effective.

Each of these benefits should be numerically comparable. The character should not be expected to take other classes to get better advantage of the statistic (such as Warlord for the Charisma; probably the toughest one to pull off here).

Yes. A character is encouraged to specialize (certainly there are no ridiculous "all 14s" blocks out there), but still feels the sting of a low score, in that he or she can't do something interesting as well as he or she could.
I agree. Instead of MAD or SAD, every class should have MEB: multiple effective builds. (Not that 3.5 is terrible in that regard, but I think it could be improved.)
Every stat should provide useful utility for every core class. Every individual within that class should function a little differently based on the stats they have chosen. It's OK to make some talent branches better for certain stats than others.

I agree, totally. Sadly, from Rich Baker's blog:

Fighters have no real use for a high Intelligence

Well, it's asking a lot for every character to get use out of every stat. Even paladins have little use for Int and monks little use for Cha. I'd be pretty happy if every class had maybe three stats that had significant impact on their class abilities.
I agree. Instead of MAD or SAD, every class should have MEB: multiple effective builds. (Not that 3.5 is terrible in that regard, but I think it could be improved.)

Increased MEB for all classes has my full support.
i agree, its uncool that arcane casters and druids are SAD all the time, and i find it odd how all monks and paladins are so constantly MAD.

No class should be SAD, it usually means they are morose and only do one thing well, because they are just too depressed to do other things and thats boring. however its hard to do things when your MAD all the time because they act so inefficient and wasteful, no one wants to hang around someone like that, being MAD all the time is an obvious weakness.

and if a game forces their players to choose to be SAD or MAD all the time its just a bad market strategy when your supposed to be having fun.

this makes me MAD and ill be SAD if it doesn't change.
The Book of Nine Swords did something akin to what you are discussing, in that certain abilities had saves affixed to them, and those saves had different ability scores they were dependant upon.

If that is taken one step further in 4E with the /encounter and /day abilities of a fighter...or for that matter, any type of class, you will get your well-rounded stat-application from your players, or specialization. But they will have much harder choices to make than they will in 3.0 and 3.5 :D
Here's my idea. Each class has one "must be strong" stat.

Paladin, Fighter: Strength
Rogue, Ranger: Dex
Wizard: Int
Warlord, Sorcerer, Warlock: Cha

Then each class has reasonable use for all 5 stats. So there are no weak fighters, but there are smart fighters. There are also dumb fighters. There are strong wizards, but no dumb wizards. In particular, there are weak, clumsy, wimpy, absent-minded, nerdy, genius wizards. They're not just the only option. Fast, tough, observant wizards aren't the only option either.

Possible Ability Dependency for 4E!
One way to address this for casters is to key different aspects of the character to different stats. Just as a martial fighter benefits from Str, Con, and possibly Dex, a caster might use Int for spells known, Con for spells per day, and Cha for their spell attack modifier.

If you have to choose between variety, quantity, and power, you have "interesting choices."

Just a thought.
I agree. Instead of MAD or SAD, every class should have MEB: multiple effective builds. (Not that 3.5 is terrible in that regard, but I think it could be improved.)

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I agree. Instead of MAD or SAD, every class should have MEB: multiple effective builds. (Not that 3.5 is terrible in that regard, but I think it could be improved.)

For a good example of this, look at the warblade. Int is good, but you don't need it. Strength is good, but you don't need that either with the right maneuvers/feats. Same goes for Dex, and Con is...Con. You can make a character with almost any combination of Str/Con/Dex/Int as its focus and function just fine.
For a good example of this, look at the warblade. Int is good, but you don't need it. Strength is good, but you don't need that either with the right maneuvers/feats. Same goes for Dex, and Con is...Con. You can make a character with almost any combination of Str/Con/Dex/Int as its focus and function just fine.

Yep. I think they did that deliberation in ToB. Crusaders like Str of course, but can particularly use Con since they get benefits when they take damage. And they get Cha to Will saves and smites.

Swordsages need Dex, Wis, Str and Con, like a monk. But unlike a monk, they can make up for a deficit in any of them by choosing appropriate maneuvers.

PHB II has some of that too, if not quite as clearly. Beguilers could focus on Int, Dex or perhaps Cha and still be quite effective. Dragon shamans are really flexible, you can focus them a lot of ways. Duskblades can tweak the balance between their martial and arcane abilities. I guess knights are a little static though... you pretty much need great Str, good Con, and decent Cha.
Conventional wisdom says Fighter's pretty SAD, right? Maybe DAD (Dual Ability Dependency).

A Fighter needs 13 Int to get Combat Expertise and the feats that flow from it. There's some utility for a Fighter with above average brains in his head.

He needs 13 Dex to get Dodge and its subfeats. Clumsy old Flannigan the Fighter won't have access to Spring Attack or Whirlwind Attack. He needs 15 Dex to go anywhere with TWF.

Suddenly, Fighters need Dex and Int in addition to Str and Con to have access to some of the best options. If a fighter has very high Int and/or Cha he shouldn't be a grunt, he should be commanding. But wait! Such a fighter who took the Leadership feat (he's got the free slot, amirite?) would get a boost to his Leadershp score, attracting better cohorts and more followers.

In short, a SAD Fighter is going to be looking pretty glum while my MAD Fighter is Expertise-countering his Power Attack, disarming him, tripping him, and flanking him with cohorts and followers.

I could work out a similar scenario for say, Wizards, where Con and Dex, while not crucial, certainly provide great fringe benefits. It's MAD enough for me already.
Conventional wisdom says Fighter's pretty SAD, right? Maybe DAD (Dual Ability Dependency).

A Fighter needs 13 Int to get Combat Expertise and the feats that flow from it. There's some utility for a Fighter with above average brains in his head.

He needs 13 Dex to get Dodge and its subfeats. Clumsy old Flannigan the Fighter won't have access to Spring Attack or Whirlwind Attack. He needs 15 Dex to go anywhere with TWF.

Suddenly, Fighters need Dex and Int in addition to Str and Con to have access to some of the best options. If a fighter has very high Int and/or Cha he shouldn't be a grunt, he should be commanding. But wait! Such a fighter who took the Leadership feat (he's got the free slot, amirite?) would get a boost to his Leadershp score, attracting better cohorts and more followers.

In short, a SAD Fighter is going to be looking pretty glum while my MAD Fighter is Expertise-countering his Power Attack, disarming him, tripping him, and flanking him with cohorts and followers.

I could work out a similar scenario for say, Wizards, where Con and Dex, while not crucial, certainly provide great fringe benefits. It's MAD enough for me already.

Conventional wisdom is that the fighter is BAD. That's not an acronym.

All jokes aside, the Fighter has the sort of attribute spread that 4E should have in the low levels, but gets few to no scaling bonuses for mental stats. A fighter with an Int higher than 14 is wasting a good roll. Ditto Charisma. So while you can build a Fighter around Str or Dex, and everyone needs Con, your mental stats are never going to go beyond the "pretty clever", because you get no return on the extra investment. It's like wizards and Str. Pain (opportunity cost), but no gain.
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I don't think fighters are particularly SAD or MAD. They are a good design as far as MEB goes. Their problems lie in other areas that have been covered in endless debates.

Of the PHB classes, I'd rate:

Barbarian - pretty much SAD. I don't think you can make a modest Str barbarian as effective as a high Str one.

Bard - Not really SAD or MAD, but rather inflexible. You need as good a Cha and Dex as you can get.

Cleric - Borderline SAD. On the other hand, the class is strong enough that you can play against the optimum and still be pretty effective.

Druid - Nasty SAD with wildshape, not quite so bad with the PHBII rules. But like the cleric, strong enough to get away with whatever you want.

Fighter - Reasonably MEB.

Monk - Classic MAD.

Paladin - MAD, though I don't think quite as bad as the monk.

Ranger - Inflexible. You really need Str and Dex both high, and a reasonably good wisdom... deviating from that gets hard.

Rogue - Reasonably MEB.

Sorcerer - Basically SAD, though you can't neglect Dex and Con. One exception is the ray specialist, who could get away with placing Dex over Cha.

Wizard - Probably more SAD than the sorc, since even a ray specialist won't be as focused the sorc version.
I'm a little down that we've been told the fighter still can't make much use of INT, I was hoping to make a high DEX and INT swashbuckler style fighter. But, that might just mean he'd be better as a rogue, or a rogue/fighter, or something similar, so I'm at least hoping the option will exist.
Might be more of a ranger thing too. A swashbuckler sounds more like a striker than a defender.
Might be more of a ranger thing too. A swashbuckler sounds more like a striker than a defender.

Yeah, that's what I was starting to think too, it's more likely to be striker and not as good of a defender unless high AC can work for a defender role rather than "meat shield".
I don't like this one class = one role. I think a class might have multiple roles. But you'd have to choose one role to specialize in or some such. But that's for another thread.

I agree whole heartedly that they're should be multiple possible ways to allocate you're ability scores. Particularly I would like to play an intelligent, charismatic fighter similar to OotS's Roy. Though Roy'd probably be a multiclass Fighter/Warlord the fighter should definetly have a use for both Intelligence and Charisma.
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