Wednesday, 22 December 2010

No dump stats = EVERY ability score counts for EVERY character

Anyone who has read my recent posts on the ability score Intelligence will know of my philosophy on ability scores: I want EVERY ability score to be important for EVERY character. Every player should rue a low score and be pleased with a high score. There should be no dump stats.

I was making some progress with rescuing Intelligence the number one dump stat in my opinion for all but magic-users. I created rules for Inspiration and decided that only Intelligence gives an XP bonus, there are no prime requisites.
Wisdom I defended by creating a rule for Intuition / Divine Guidance and also by reminding myself that from every edition of D&D after Holmes Wisdom gave a bonus to saving throws against certain magical attacks. See my Wisdom Retrospective for a summary of OD&D, Holmes, B/X, Mentzer/Allston and AD&D rules regarding Wisdom. Since it's a magical world this felt a strong enough defence of Wisdom to stop it becoming the new dump stat.

But it was in another post regarding find traps or FIND TRAPS where Robert Fisher in an almost throw away comment gave me my Eureka moment. Okay, I emailed him asking him to look at my post... absolutely shameless.
Anyway he took the bait and said in his comment, "I allow the Wisdom modifier to be applied to all saving throws."
Wow this is good. In my B/X Indy post I highlighted the importance of will as a facet of Wisdom but to once again quote EGG in AD&D, "For game purposes wisdom ability subsumes the categories of willpower, judgment, wile, enlightenment, and intuitiveness."   
Let's see how this looks:
Save vs Death Ray = WILL not to die, WILE to avoid the ray
Save vs Poison = WILL to fight off the poison, JUDGEMENT to suck or not suck, WILE to avoid the full fangs

Save vs Magic Wands = WILL to avoid the magical effect, WILE to avoid the wand

Save vs Paralysis = WILL to fight off the effect 
Save vs Turn to Stone = WILL to fight off the effect, WILE not to be looking at stone causing creature, JUDGEMENT to how best deal with that creature without looking

Save vs Dragon Breath = WILE to avoid the breath, JUDGEMENT to how best deal with a dragon, INTUITION to dive at the right moment

Save vs Rods, Staves or Spells = WILL to avoid the magical effect, WILE to avoid the attack

It's a stretch but I'm okay with it.

But the true THING OF BEAUTY is this:
Strength: melee attack and damage, plus I plan to link it to encumbrance allowance
Intelligence: only intelligence gives an XP bonus
Wisdom: Bonus to ALL saving throws
Dexterity: AC bonus, missile attack, personal initiative
Constitution: HIT POINTS
Charisma: Reaction rolls, retainers

I'm a fighter but wisdom and intelligence are still very good to have.
I'm a thief, wisdom and intelligence are probably more important than strength; since when has that ever happened in D&D play? Just like I thought they were for Indy.
I'm a magic-user, what to pick, what to pick...

More work needs to be done on making Intelligence and Wisdom useful for magic-users and clerics respectively. In B/X and especially if I abandon prime requisites, there are no game mechanics that make the spell caster stronger/weaker for their ability score. I am still not ready to throw away thirty years of gaming history where each of the four prime ability scores is linked to one of the four archetypal human character classes.
Charisma; I want to consider you and retainers in more detail in a late post. 

But for now I am satisfied. Thank you Robert Fisher

PS Rudely I had forgotten to welcome my two new followers in may last posts. Welcome The Angry Lurker and humber-grognard.


  1. 3d6 in order. You got what you got, no dumping. You could let people reroll any or all stats, but have to take the second roll. Tends to get rid of low scores, but not make too many more high scores. (Who'd reroll a 12 or higher).

  2. This may be uncouth to spell out, but I think it is DMs who create dump stats. In my games, I don't allow people to sacrifice stats, as this is the first step down the slippery slope. Next, a low stat like Cha (the perennial dump stat) should have in-game results, such as the super PCs being ostracized or treated as paraiahs or boors at the least, and chased away by the Guard at worst. Finally, I allow XP bonuses for good roleplaying of stats regardless of whether they are high or low, making it just as fun to play a hopeless character as an ubermensch. I also give a Growth point to every PC who gets a level, which players can spend to get a skill, increase a stat, or save for useas Luck in a dire situation. Low stats don't necessarily break the game, but powercreep does IMHO.

  3. @ GSV & @ Tedankhamen
    Thanks for checking me out as you must have seen the comment I left at Troll and Flame prior to making my post.
    It's hard to argue with 3d6 in order - it is the rules and the onus is on the person deviating from the rules to justify themselves. I want to justify myself, or attempt to do so anyway, but will have to do so after Christmas - check me out again in the new year. I will say that no dump stat can also apply to 3d6 in order - that is the dump stat can be a psychological not caring about the 6 intelligence, regardless of whether or not one can do anything about the score.
    The growth point is an interesting concept, I remember seeing, I think it was Lord Kilgore but might be wrong, debating the concept of rolling 3d6 but adding an extra 1d6 which represents maximum potential ability score growth for the character, eg 13 dexterity with a 3 extra potential. At each level one ability can be raised 1 point. So not everyone ends with all 18s, potential depends on what one rolls at character creation.