Monday, September 19, 2022

Choice of Primary Ability Score

While it's not the only reason, one of the primary motivations beyond removing racial ability bonuses in 5e (and D&D One) is so every race can be optimal at every class. Whether optimized race/class combos are a thing one feels like is necessary, it seems to me the unasked question here is my are classes still tied to specific abilities to begin with? Why can't you have a dexterity based fighter or even an intelligence based one? They'd be a bit different "in the fiction" from a strength-based fighter, but wouldn't that be part of the fun?

I know primary ability scores are still a thing for legacy reasons, but if you can given up racial ability bonuses (and penalties!) and broaden spellcasters to be able to use various ability scores for spellcasting, then I hardly think this is a bridge too far.


Dick McGee said...

Agreed. Honestly, 5e is the first edition of D&D I've been totally disinterested in, and whatever they wind up calling 6th isn't likely to pull me back. I started in 1978, and I was a huge fan of 3/3.5 and 4e so I'm not exactly blinded by nostalgia for the TSR days - but 5th just never worked for me and having broken the habit, I don't see myself bothering keep up with further developments.

Which makes my opinion of the coming rules pretty meaningless to WotC, since I won't be buying it any more than I did 5th.

iemcd said...

I think the risk of a system like that is it makes minmaxing too easy. I could switch my spellcasting to CON and my formerly-racial bonus to CON and get those sweet hitpoints at no "cost." I don't know if that's actually optimal, but I imagine that type of thing would be the immediate concern: effectively collapsing the list of ability scores to the few that have unchanging applications.
(I don't normally worry about player minmaxing, but this does seem undesirable on the face of it, and I'm not sure where that line was.)
You could come up with exclusive stat roles to be assigned ("one for spellcasting, one for initiative," etc.) but then you'd have to refer to them by their role and not what they represent, and so all you've done is rename them all.
There's more limited ways you could uncouple them ("choose one of these stats for spellcasting") that would avoid this issue.
I guess you'd also avoid the issue if you only uncouple classes from ability scores and leave racial bonuses where they are, but I assume that's unpalatable. I think it's an interesting statement to say "different races /are/ are inherently different, but it doesn't stop them from doing what they want to do in their own way." But it might be a little nuanced for the political moment.

JB said...

Why not just give every player a different colored set of poker chips based on their character’s level? Then every time they want to succeed at doing something cool, they toss a chip to the DM. When they accomplish objectives in-play the DM can award them more chips (up to their maximum based on level) so long as they stick to their character’s “theme” (half-orc paladin with tragic childhood, elven prankster bard, whatever).

Wouldn’t that just be easier? Let’s make the game easier. Right now, it’s obviously too hard.

Trey said...

Interesting idea! Though that would be a fairly divergent system for D&D. Why retain level of all the D&Dish usual traits?

Trey said...

@iemcd - Keeping the racial bonuses static and making the class ones variable would be my idea.

JB said...

Hmm. Obviously, I'm a little rusty with my snark.

Trey said...

Well, I thought it out of character for you, and not an idea I thought was particularly one I was interested in, but if you meant to fly an idea that was mechanical ridiculous at face, then you'll need to try a little harder. Maybe something with funny hats?

JB said...

Oh, it's not the mechanic that's ridiculous...karma mechanics of this sort (used to promote narrative themes in RPGs) have been around for a long time. I have several of them on my shelf at the moment. They work just fine in play.

The ridiculousness (as I see it) comes from the further mangling of the D&D game system, and the on-going tendency to dumb-down the game mechanics...or, at least, eliminate any challenge once inherent to play. To the point that there's nothing of the original pulse-pounding entertainment value of the original game and that (instead) players are left sitting around a table, posturing, "sharing spotlight," and doing some sort of improv storytelling.

Um. Okay...I guess. Seems pretty lame to me. At least, in comparison to the original thing. I guess it's better than just watching TV?

Trey said...

I'm not sure I see the "mangling" or "dumbing down" with what WOTC has done or with what I'm suggesting. Those appear to be value judgement being applied that suggest "D&D should rightly be a certain way" or "to want to play differently from how I like to is objective less smart." Both of those things I think are prima facial untrue.

I would agree with you so far as I think optimization of characters is unnecessary and even undesirable, but I don't think it follows that wanting a character maximally able to face mechanical challenges in the game is in any way posturing or doing improv storytelling. It is possible that these hypothetical players will do that thing, but I can't tell that from merely knowing they want to play a mechanically optimized character.

Beyond that, I'm not really much interested in how other people play. A whole lot of people do stuff that seems like it would be dull to me, on both sides of a old school/new school divide.

JB said...

Sure man...people can do what they do and find whatever fun they want in it. I have a buddy who grew up playing 2E, but they way they played was for each player to pick a monster out of the Monstrous Compendium and then run combats against each other with prizes based on the critters' treasure type. I'm sure it was entertaining, but it' D&D?

"Mangling" and "dumbing down" are, I admit, pejorative terms. I could have substituted "modifying" and "streamlining" and the sentence would have worked to convey what I wanted...would you then have considered my statement to be a value judgment? Or one of fact? I'm inclined to think I was TRYING to discuss the latter ("fact") but I also wanted to make sure I communicated my distaste for this development (thus my use of pejorative terms).

Because they ARE modifying the original rules, they DO have a tendency towards streamlining, and the challenge of game play (and even character what ever you want! No restrictions!) IS being eliminated, bit-by-bit from play. That's factual, man.

Personally, I don't see that as a good thing. But THAT is just an opinion.

The removal of limits and restrictions is a shift in aid of "opening up" play that I can ONLY see as a means to aid storytelling. It is a change from system constraint (play within the rules) to open concept play. "I want my fighter to win with brains! Why isn't that allowed?" is (to me) the same as asking "Why can't my wizard use a sword like Elric?" or "Why doesn't armor reduce damage instead of chance to hit?"

Generally, I suppose, it doesn't REALLY matter: I'll play what I play, you'll play what you play, other folks will play what they play. But it wasn't "opening up" the rules that made the game popular back in the day. And it isn't opening the game that's led to the new resurgence in the game's popularity (THAT can be laid at the feet of the ubiquitous internet and the ability to proliferate using its power). Thinking these modifications are making for a better play experience not accurate thinking?

[trying to be non-pejorative here]

But, hey. Whatever. Just one dude's judgment.

Trey said...

I hear that effort at nonpejorativeness.

I feel like the reason for some of these things is not so much storytelling but the desire to play an "optimized" character of the sort they want to play. Like you, I do feel like optimization should be that important, so it's a different mindset, but I'm fine with people decided thinking certain sorts of flexibility (your wizard with a sword) example takes fidelity over "the way D&D has always been." In the old days, we just shifted to Runequest or GURPS or whatever, not to be arbitrarily restricted by D&D--and I hardly think those are games any more focused on "storytelling."

Now the kids have decided they just want D&D to be different. As long as they aren't confiscating the old game, well, different strokes!

Ragnar Hill said...

I do not mind any edition, I play Iron Falcon to Pathfinder 2e. It is interesting the removal of the prime ability score, giving everyone an equal chance is making the new edition more like Whitehack rpg, where making smart fighters or strong thieves, etc, is just a feature of the game from the start.