I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, January 19, 2018

The ability flower of D&D

I've been thinking of this image lately. It's something I came up with when considering D&D abilities. I remember there was an RPG with a similar concept, but I cannot remember its name (let me know if you do). I think it was an original system, not D&D based. But here is what I'd do for D&D:


We all know the six abilities in the inner hexes; I call the other six "secondary abilities". They are (for the lack of better names): Fortitude, Glamour, Will, Knowledge, Reflex and Athleticism (I assume you're familiar with Reflex/Fortitude/Will as saves).

And here is what they do:

Fortitude: in addition to being a save, it defines your HP. Strong characters are automatically tougher. You could probably get rid of the concept of different hit dice: fighters and barbarians would automatically have more HP. This is the most obvious one, since we can hardly think of an archetypal character that manages to be both incredibly strong AND frail, or incredibly though but weak at the same time.

Glamour: being healthy and charismatic might mean that you are attractive. "Glamour" is a nice word for elves and fairies, I think. But this is the hardest ability to work with, because Constitution and Charisma can be seem as opposites in D&D, and I do'nt think there are many monters in D&D you can fight with beauty. It is curious that "Comeliness" was, IIRC, the first ability to be added after the original six.

Will: in addition to being a save, it measures your courage and force of personality. People might follow you because you're wise, or because you're charismatic... or maybe both.

Knowledge: the ability to know stuff and put it to practice. Book learning combined with common sense. It might be obvious that real life "wisdom" is a combination of intelligence and knowledge.

Reflex: in addition to being a save, it can be used for initiative. It means that you think fast, and probably can act faster than other characters - or even predict their actions.

Athleticism: most real-life sports - and ESPECIALLY combat sports - rely on Strength AND Dexterity. You certainly need BOTH to use a longbow, rapier, or two-handed sword. More about that here.

In 4e, Reflex/Fortitude/Will were tied to THE BEST of two abilities. 5e does the same with Strength, Dexterity and combat: you use your best one to attack and defend.

This is not a great idea. In practice, it means that you can "dump" one of the abilities in favor of the other. So, in 4e, a strong character has more reasons to have low Constitution - which is counter-intuitive - and in 5e fighters are encouraged to have low Strength OR Dexterity, but not both.

So, my alternative would be making secondary abilities an average of two primary abilities. They could be raised separately through feats. But here is the twist: it would be very easy (through a feat, class feature, etc.) to use a secondary ability instead of a primary one - specially for skills - as long as it makes sense.

So, the primary ability would ALWAYS be important - but not necessarily mandatory.

Example: a wizard with Intelligence 18 (+4) and Dexterity 14 (+2) would have Reflex +3, and would be able to use it for initiative - and maybe even firearms!

As you may realize, this might have lots of interesting effects in D&D (and specially 5e)

- Combat and Dexterity being both important for combat, and specially grappling, at the same time.
- More muscles means more HP.
- Intelligence becomes more useful for non-casters because of initiative.
- Both the cleric and the wizard (Wisdom and Intelligence) could be proficient healers and scholars.
- Clerics are automatically good at the Religion skill.
- Leaders could rely on Wisdom, or even Constitution, instead of Charisma.
- You can be brave and unwise at the same time (not uncommon in the real world!).
- The wizard might be bad at dodging a sword, but smart enough to avoid the worst part of a fireball.
- All abilities become equally important to saves.

In short, it allows a number of interesting archetypes that are discouraged in 5e:

- The paladin that is not charismatic, but tough.
- The strong rogue.
- The fighter who is both strong and agile - or maybe just a strong archer.
- The scholarly cleric.

... and so on.

Well, this is all just a thought exercise. In reality, adding six abilities to the game might make things more complicated than necessary.

But I like the concept of using alternate ability scores. Well, this is ALREADY an optional rule in 5e - but, if used freely, will encourage MORE dump stats. So, off the top of my head, I would make this as an alternative to muti-classing if you have an ability score equal or greater than 13. Create a feat if you have to.

For example:

* If you have Charisma 13+, you can use your Constitution for Intimidation or Persuasion (when leading your men in battle).
* If you have Dexterity 13+, you can add your Intelligence to initiative instead of your Dexterity.
* If you have Dexterity 13+, you can use all ranged weapons with Strength.
* If you have Strength 13+, you can use all melee weapons with Dexterity.
* If you have Wisdom 13+, you can use Intelligence for Medicine, Animal Handling and Survival.

...etc.

Alternatively, you can use these concepts simply as inspiration when deciding if an alternate combination of ability and skill is viable... or if your PC looks good.

Monday, January 15, 2018

"Random point buy" abilities for D&D 5e

Each edition of D&D has its own rules for generating abilities - from the original 3d6 in order to the 10 different methods contained in AD&D 2e + Skills and powers.

I have my own: the yin-yang method

5e D&D has two basic methods of generating abilities (source - the text is modified from the PHB but the results are the same): 

Standard: Roll 4d6, discard the lowest die result, and add the three remaining results together. Record this total and repeat the process until six numbers are generated. Assign these totals to your ability scores as you see fit. This method is less random than Classic and tends to create characters with above-average ability scores.
Purchase: Each character receives 15 points to spend on increasing his basic attributes. In this method, all attributes start at a base of 10. A character can increase an individual score by spending some of his points. Likewise, he can gain more points to spend on other scores by decreasing one or more of his ability scores. No score can be reduced below 8 or raised above 15 using this method. See Table: Ability Score Costs for the costs of each score. After all the points are spent, apply any racial modifiers the character might have.
Table: Ability Score Costs
ScorePoints
8–2
9–1
100
111
122
133
145
157

The first method generates slightly higher ability scores, but the second method is balanced and fair - it guarantees nobody ends up with a "hopeless" character (well, if you WANT a hopeless character, try Dark Fantasy Basic).

If you PCs that are both random/surprising AND balanced at the same time, you must mix the two methods.

(bear in mind that ALL the numbers below can be modified by your race. Half-elves could start with 17 charisma, for example).

Take this example from the (very useful) Unearthed Arcana: Quick Characters. Just roll a d6 and check the table below.
Six options are good enough to give you some variation. Choose randomly, or let players pick their choices. Fast and easy.

Or you can use some different method. Here is what I used for Dark Fantasy Basic, adapted for 5e:

1. Generate your six ability scores using the yin-yang
method: roll 3d6 for your Strength and subtract that
value from 21 to find out your Intelligence (for example,
if your Strength is 15, your Intelligence is 6). Do the same
for Wisdom and Dexterity, and then Constitution and
Charisma.
2. Raise all your abilities that are lower than 6 to 6.
3. Change your highest ability score to 16 (if lower than 16)
OR one ability score of your choice to 10. Then swap abilities
around if you wish, provided no more than half your abilities
are changed.

But what if you wanted one single roll with more than sixty balanced possibilites instead?

Fortunately, someone compiled all possible point buy results (the work is credited to "the forum user overpromises on the wotc community forums"). I just added a table and a few ideas of my own.

Roll 1d100, OR a d8 and a d10. You choice. The d100 will give you slightly higher results.

You can ignore the blue area (number higher than 66) or use it as written below - but the "blue" results don't stack.

d100
d8
d10
Ability scores
1
1
1
15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8
2
1
2
15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8
3
1
3
15, 15, 14, 9, 9, 8
4
1
4
15, 15, 13, 12, 8, 8
5
1
5
15, 15, 13, 11, 9, 8
6
1
6
15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8
7
1
7
15, 15, 13, 10, 9, 9
8
1
8
15, 15, 12, 12, 9, 8
9
1
9
15, 15, 12, 11, 10, 8
10
1
10
15, 15, 12, 11, 9, 9
11
2
1
15, 15, 12, 10, 10, 9
12
2
2
15, 15, 11, 11, 11, 8
13
2
3
15, 15, 11, 11, 10, 9
14
2
4
15, 15, 11, 10, 10, 10
15
2
5
15, 14, 14, 12, 8, 8
16
2
6
15, 14, 14, 11, 9, 8
17
2
7
15, 14, 14, 10, 10, 8
18
2
8
15, 14, 14, 10, 9, 9
19
2
9
15, 14, 13, 13, 9, 8
20
2
10
15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8
21
3
1
15, 14, 13, 12, 9, 9
22
3
2
15, 14, 13, 11, 11, 8
23
3
3
15, 14, 13, 11, 10, 9
24
3
4
15, 14, 13, 10, 10, 10
25
3
5
15, 14, 12, 12, 11, 8
26
3
6
15, 14, 12, 12, 10, 9
27
3
7
15, 14, 12, 11, 11, 9
28
3
8
15, 14, 12, 11, 10, 10
29
3
9
15, 14, 11, 11, 11, 10
30
3
10
15, 13, 13, 13, 11, 8
31
4
1
15, 13, 13, 13, 10, 9
32
4
2
15, 13, 13, 12, 12, 8
33
4
3
15, 13, 13, 12, 11, 9
34
4
4
15, 13, 13, 12, 10, 10
35
4
5
15, 13, 13, 11, 11, 10
36
4
6
15, 13, 12, 12, 12, 9
37
4
7
15, 13, 12, 12, 11, 10
38
4
8
15, 13, 12, 11, 11, 11
39
4
9
15, 12, 12, 12, 12, 10
40
4
10
15, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11
41
5
1
14, 14, 14, 13, 9, 8
42
5
2
14, 14, 14, 12, 10, 8
43
5
3
14, 14, 14, 12, 9, 9
44
5
4
14, 14, 14, 11, 11, 8
45
5
5
14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 9
46
5
6
14, 14, 14, 10, 10, 10
47
5
7
14, 14, 13, 13, 11, 8
48
5
8
14, 14, 13, 13, 10, 9
49
5
9
14, 14, 13, 12, 12, 8
50
5
10
14, 14, 13, 12, 11, 9
51
6
1
14, 14, 13, 12, 10, 10
52
6
2
14, 14, 13, 11, 11, 10
53
6
3
14, 14, 12, 12, 12, 9
54
6
4
14, 14, 12, 12, 11, 10
55
6
5
14, 14, 12, 11, 11, 11
56
6
6
14, 13, 13, 13, 13, 8
57
6
7
14, 13, 13, 13, 12, 9
58
6
8
14, 13, 13, 13, 11, 10
59
6
9
14, 13, 13, 12, 12, 10
60
6
10
14, 13, 13, 12, 11, 11
61
7
1
14, 13, 12, 12, 12, 11
62
7
2
14, 12, 12, 12, 12, 12
63
7
3
13, 13, 13, 13, 13, 10
64
7
4
13, 13, 13, 13, 12, 11
65
7
5
13, 13, 13, 12, 12, 12
66
7
6
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
67
7
7
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
68
7
8
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
69
7
9
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
70
7
10
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
71
8
1
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
72
8
2
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
73
8
3
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
74
8
4
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
75
8
5
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.
76
8
6
Roll again and add +2, -1 and -1 to three abilities.
77
8
7
Roll again and add +2, -1 and -1 to three abilities.
78
8
8
Roll again and add +2, -1 and -1 to three abilities.
79
8
9
Roll again and add +2, -1 and -1 to three abilities.
80
8
10
Roll again and add +2, -1 and -1 to three abilities.
81+
-
-
Roll again and add +1 to one ability of your choice.

Now, as I've said before, rolling 4d6 will give you higher abilities - so letting players roll a number up to 65 AND let them add +1 to one ability (or +2 to one and -1 to two, etc.) is also a good idea. This way, they can start with a 16, 17 or more if they want to.

But consider that starting with a "balanced" PC has some advantages too, since increasing your abilities during the game has a fixed cost. You might end up with a strong, well-rounded character at level 12 or more, even though you're going to suffer in the first few levels, since your main stat will be comparatively low. It is also worth considering that odd scores are usually a bad idea unless you want to pick feats that will improve them, or want to multi-class, etc.

Some people seem to have the opposite problem - they would prefer starting with a 17 even if they have a few 7s, 8s, or 9s... Which makes things balanced, I guess.

In this case, you might just let them pick from the table above.

Is this useful? Do you have a different method? Let me know in the comments!

By the way, I've been looking for a similar table for my "3d6 in order" OSR games. What I want is to get a "balanced" set of six abilities with a single d100 roll (or two...). If you know anything like that, please let me know.
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