Monday, July 8, 2013

Ability Scores Matter?

One of the things touted by the D&D Next crew was that ability scores would matter in the new edition. Now, math-wise, I think they matter just a little too much and would prefer an 18 to just be a +3 bonus, but whatever. What I'm talking about here is how many classes are still just based on one stat and others are practically useless.

Let's take the fighter. He needs strength to attack, or maybe dexterity for a finesse weapon. Constitution does give the might HP bonus, so putting points into constitution is still pretty good. But intelligence only helps search and lore skills, wisdom is just spot and listen basically, and charisma is also just a skill or two that the fighter might take. What happened to the ideas from 4e where a fighter gets a Wisdom bonus to opportunity attacks? Or, given that the warlord seems to be being folded into the fighter, how about giving us a sweet sweet intelligence, wisdom, or charisma bonus with those expertise dice?

This isn't just the fighter's problem. The Wizard is almost solely intelligence-based (with a little con for HP and dexterity for AC). The Rogue is just dexterity plus maybe charisma or intelligence for skills, though he could attack with strength. The Cleric is wisdom plus maybe dexterity or strength for a weapon attack and constitution for HP.

I get not wanting classes to be overly reliant on multiple ability scores, but it feels like the game basically runs off of dexterity (AC, attacking with bows and finesse weapons) and constitution (Hit points). Strength gets a nod since it can be used for weapon attacks, intelligence gets a couple bonus languages which are just fluff, wisdom powers the pretty useful perception and anti-surprise skills, and only one party member needs charisma for the face-skills.

4e tried to make ability scores more useful with the non-AC defenses, but that ended up oddly pairing the stats so you could basically focus on only three instead of six. Third edition, oddly, made a lot of use for different ability scores. Charisma affected your leadership (if you took that feat), intelligence affected your skill points, and wisdom alone affected your will saves. Maybe not ideal, but it didn't feel like you were squandering points if you built a fighter with a high intelligence.

Now, I like the idea of the bounded-accuracy flatter math of D&D next, so I'm loathe to just start having characters throw a second ability modifier on rolls willy nilly. But there might be some class features that could be constructed, if not general everyone-features, which help make abilities more useful.

I'm not sure what, exactly, will help out here. But I suspect a few class features could be made more variable. Paladins, for example, could let wisdom fuel their divine grace as well as charisma, or some clerics might be charisma-based casters instead of wisdom. Some feats could go back to taking advantage of ability scores somehow (move 5' faster for a feat if you have a Dex of 14). Those sorts of feat requirements did impact 4e some, but they were often set at 12 or 13 and I think a 14 might be the thing to really restrict them (or reward a fighter for having intelligence). Finally, giving a bonus skill or two might from class might actually help encourage some other abilities. I liked how classes in previous packets got skills instead of advantage on skill checks that they might not have (i.e. wizard, cleric, druid).

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