Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ability Scores

The most common ability scores are strength, dexterity, constitution, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom, or some variation on them, like swapping constitution with vitality. For the Northern Realm, I began with the same ability scores but found it harder and harder to justify constitution. It seems like strength should have that covered. Could someone with a high strength really have a low constitution?

Then there's charisma. You see arguments crop up on forums about skills like bluff and diplomacy, and inevitably it becomes a shouting match between lawyers and 'What happened to role-playing!' I admit, I fall into the latter somewhat, but I'm realizing that if I want to encourage role-playing it should be built into the game. Step one, break up the mental statistics. Wisdom covered too much anyway, so I landed on intellect, intuition, and will. Second, no saves. The thought is, this will help spread out the importance of each ability score. Last, pare down the skills and associate them with players' words and actions, eg. composure.

Then there's luck. What I've noticed with alternative systems are they include things like faith, spirit, and the like. But with the underlying fairytale theme, luck felt like the natural choice, it also feels more like an inherent trait.

So next step, make all ability scores relevant for all characters- or at least useful. That means no dump stats. To make it work, the first thing to do is get rid of proficiencies. Classes already have specific abilities, they don't need to be railroaded into an archetype, right? If I want a smart fighter, why not? Next, tie each one to something important. Dexterity to attacks, initiative, and AC, strength to attacks and life, intellect to the number of spells known and important skills, including one that grants access to spells (even to non-spellcasters), intuition to cantrips, initiative, and perception, will to power and concentration, and last, luck to spell resistance and bonus dice.

It doesn't exactly make the mental stats as important for combat oriented classes, but it does make them viable. Plus, a bonus to initiative, possible spells, power for abilities, and the skills perception and engineering are still pretty damn important. And an added bonus, spellcasters are clearly the most powerful characters in all rpgs, so the very foundation of spellcasters is built on a balancing act of ability scores. All are important to them. Hopefully that means each spellcaster will come out unique without having to rely on a supermix of different classes and prestige classes.

Ultimately that's the goal, balance. The more eloquent the better. I want to avoid arbitrary rules that limit characters. Leaving it up to the players seems like the best way to do that, right?