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Monday, August 8, 2016

The best part of D&D 5th edition is that it's so darn breakable.

Let's break some  5th edition today.

Attributes are a great way to measure Characters against the environment:
(For most of these examples I'm going to use the "Strength" attribute because it's easy to quantify.)
"The wizard has a strength of 8 there is no way in  heck the wizard is going to beat the  cleric in arm wrestling  because the  cleric has a strength of 14.  Meanwhile, the  warrior who has a strength of 17 laughs at both of them."

I like to look at attributes in D&D almost the same way as the Amber diceless RPG did*. In my mind if a one character has a higher strength than another, even if it's only by one point, the character with the advantage is unequivocally stronger. A strength 16 warrior will NEVER beat A strength 17 fighter at arm wrestling unless they give themselves some kind of  exterior advantage.** 

Attributes are so useful as this kind of comparative standard I feel it would be a shame to ditch them altogether. *** What I want to look at are those modifiers. 

Here is my proposal.
In 5th edition :
  • Take attribute modifiers out of the skill check equation. 
    • This includes Hit rolls.
  • Take attribute modifiers out of the saving throw equation.
    • Leave the modifiers in the equations when figuring passive DC's such as perception, or for casting DC's.
  • Allow the player to take Advantage on a skill check or hit roll a number of times equal to their attribute modifier.
    • The points are reset after a long rest.
      • For example: A warrior with a Strength modifier of 2 is trying to  bash down a door. The player says "I want to put all my strength into it!" The player spends 1 point of his strength modifier and takes advantage on the roll. Now the player only has 1 point left to spend until the character gets a long rest.
  • IF the character has a negative modifier the GM can  force that player to take disadvantage on a roll that many times long rest.
      • For example Bard with a -1 strength tries to bash down the same door  the GM might say, "That's stout door and you don't think you have the strength to splinter it. Desperate times and all that, you have disadvantage on the roll."
      • A wise DM would do this  when things are most stressful for the characters.

What would this do to a game? 
Absolutely ruin it... no of course not, would I do that to the fine readers of this blog? ...........
(sure)

Below are the  effects I think this change would have.
  • It would  lower the modifiers on most roll the players make by an average of +2 and some times as much as +4.
    • This is the  biggest thing for me. I have a character currently who has a +7**** on investigation. High intelligence + it's one of my  trained skills + proficiency bonus. and so on. I feel that in some games having a few characters with high skill modifiers like that artificially inflate the  Difficulty class of  rolls. If the DC is a change to the character with  +7 then it's going to be neigh impossible for the rest of the party. Keeping the  modifiers on roll more level by removing the attribute modifiers from the  moment to moment rolls mitigates some of that
    • The way  5th edition has player building characters, it's rare to see a character without positive modifiers on their requisite attributes. Even using 4d6 drop the lowest and slotting the scores in order yields characters with at least two  positive modifiers most times. If your group are the "3d6 first roll in order" type of  masochists then this would be a particularly punishing way to run a game. Who knows if you're into that kind of thing.
  • It would make that "Give you character two attribute points or a feat at X level," less wonky.
    • Those two attribute points can quickly make a normal character into a brutal machine over the course of a few levels. With The proposed changes it may give them another two rolls with advantage after a long rest but not an additional +2 on every roll all the time.
  • It would make the Advantage / disadvantage mechanic more systematic and less about the GM just giving advantage when he or she feels it is warranted. 
    • In my games I find I give Advantage for player actions far more than I enforce disadvantage, which is my fault. Having a system that reminds me to use disadvantage would be nice.
  • It would give the GM a mechanic to poke players who uses some attributes as a "dump stat"
    • Nothing I hate more than that fighter who  drops a 6 on charisma because, "who cares I'll never use it." The player will care once that character starts drawing disadvantage on reaction rolls a few times a game. Especially if the GM makes sure it's the times that matter. The Gm generally does not have many mechanics to make a player use a particular attribute. If the Wizard is physically weak the player just tries to never have to lift heavy things or climb ropes. If a player makes a decision to  go into a situation where they might have to  lean on a stat they considered a "Dump stat" at character generation then  hitting that character with disadvantage seems fair. 
  • It does a nice job of representing the characters  having moments of great effort and exertion. Heroic moments rather than just a slow steady drip of awesomeness.
Well that's it.
I am more than  confident that there are a thousand reason why this idea would not work. No one is going to be hurt by giving it a shot. That's the nice thing about RPG's, (the best thing actually.)

Once a person gets the game and starts playing, they can play however they want, try whatever they want, ignore whatever they choose to.

Thanks for reading ..
-Mark. 



** By exterior advantage I mean things they come up with in the scenes narrative.  At this point I should just tell everyone my normal line of "This is just how I do things. Your mileage may vary. Not trying to tell you how to run your game." yadda yadda.
*** In our game Phase Abandon I ditched them, but D&D is a different animal.

**** Only +7 not +11 like I originally wrote, much/ many thanks to Douglas Cole for pointing out my error.