DIY RPG Productions Rules Development Notes- Thoughts on Ability Scores and Modifiers

AI knew I wanted my system to be easily hackable, OSR-inspired/based, and could handle running D&D (and the like) modules with little change or thought. 

In the main book I will be keeping the six stats most of us are all used to: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.  All who play D&D or one of its many variants know these abilities, what they do, etc. 

I give a quick note having less abilities:

Note Different Ability Names: Some Game Masters (GMs) may feel these ability names do not fit the tone of their campaign setting or maybe they prefer fewer Abilities (or hell, some GM’s want more Abilities).  An example of this would be: Physique (merges STR, DEX, and CON), Smarts (merges INT and aspects of WIS), Grit (bravery, etc. from WIS), and Charm (Functions as CHR).  As another example, in Death is the New Pink, I refer to the stats as Badassery (Melee fighting, fortitude, intimidation, and toughness), Dodging Some Shit (Stealth, athletics, reflexes), and Moxie (Confidence, physic powers, discipline, and charisma).

So that’s that…  Ok- so what about generating abilities scores and what do they mean?

When developing this I decided to keep the “roll 3d6, add them together, and do it six times” thing.  I feel the Bell curve serves an important function in character creation and I miss it when it’s not present. 

Once the numbers have been generated, consult the table (see below) and write down the modifier next to score.  The player allocates these numbers to the six abilities as best fits their rolled background (more on this later) and play-style. 

3d6 Score Modifier
3-10 0
11-13 +1
14-15 +2
16-17 +3
18 +4

I’m keeping it familiar, but again- I’m trying to chew the fat.  When I looked at what really mattered when playing- it was the modifier (I’m not talking about roll under mechanics- as previously stated I’m moving forward with a target number/roll over mechanics).  Often, when I’m running games for newbies I get asked why they have 18 Strength and a +4 modifier, what do they do, why are they separate, etc. and I started thinking about it: Why do we have both?  I mean I get that the total is a means to an end to get to the modifier, but is having both necessary?

With how abilities and modifiers work in 3.x, the score is basically a form of advancement currency that functions to slow ability advancement or degradation.  What I mean is, if you have a 16 Strength- that gives you a +3 modifier and you won’t see that sexy +4 until you get your Strength up to 18 (so start juicing, motherfuckers!).  Characters only gain the ability to increase an attribute by +1 every four levels “naturally”, otherwise it’s using potions, magic items, spells, etc. and most of those are temporary.  The other side of the coin is losing ability scores.  You get hit by a wight that deals 1 point of Constitution damage per attack, it’s not as devastating when you get smacked from a 17 to a 16. 

In my current brain space and how I want to play games, this just seems like unnecessary bookkeeping to me.  If a PC has a +4 Constitution and get smacked in their stupid face by a wight and fails their save- guess what…?  They now have a +3 Constitution- guess it’s time they start learning how to dodge. 

That’s pretty much it for ability scores and how to generate them- so let’s move on to…

Modifiers!

Ability modifiers generated through character creation range from 0 to +4.  These modifiers can be increased to a max of +6 through spending Experience Points (more on this later).  Enchantments, spells, magic items, and even some standard items can increase the modifier to +8 (either permanently or for a limited time).

Characters can become proficient in skills which grants a +2 bonus to their roll (more on this later too).  There will be Traits that will give a character Advantage to their roll as well. 

All in all, the highest bonus a character could have is +10 and I have a feeling that will be uncommon. 

Mechanics

That is the barebones of my mechanics- the no frills, three sentence explanation of how the rules work. 

Doing Stuff: Roll 1d20, add appropriate modifiers and attempt to beat the target number.

The target numbers for my rules are: Moderate: 10; Hard: 15; Extreme: 20; Impossible: Roll a natural 20. The two most common TN used will be Moderate and Hard

Things that help the situation will give a +2 bonus to the roll. For example: Thieves tools for picking locks, alchemist kit for making poisons, rock climbing gear for scaling a mountain/building, etc.

Note: Big thanks to Kyrinn and Gregor for kicking me in the head to look at my target numbers again.

Note: The other day I mentioned my thoughts behind only rolling when necessary and when it presents an interesting situation or option. 

Killing Stuff: Roll 1d20, add STR/DEX modifier and +2 for Weapon Specialization (if applicable) and compare to the defender’s armor threshold and roll damage. 

Alternatively- Even Smaller Modifiers– I am pondering that through character generation, the highest modifier one can start with is +2 or +3 and through leveling up one can get to +4 and that would be it. I’d still keep the +2 bonus for being proficient in a skill. My current mindspace seems to like this better.

Also- big thanks to everyone who has given me great constructive feedback. I really appreciate it. It’s great to see this all from different angles.

Next one- I think I’ll tackle my thoughts on where I want to go with races in my system.

#diy_productions_rules_dev_note

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About wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn. View all posts by wrathofzombie

3 responses to “DIY RPG Productions Rules Development Notes- Thoughts on Ability Scores and Modifiers

  • tidfisk

    I like that you didn’t create any negative modifiers. I’ve recently been toying with an idea that involves using the base attribute modifiers to contribute to a d6 skill system but was finding that negative modifiers broke it. This got me questioning the need for negative modifiers at all. It kind of goes back to the question of, “Why have scores that create unnecessary weakness?” It does work well for DCC, though. Also, I like the new target numbers.

    • wrathofzombie

      Thanks.

      I think negative modifiers are interesting depending on the setting and system. When I have a character in a OSR game with a negative modifier- I create a backstory for that (albeit a tiny one). Have a bad Dexterity- my character’s got a pegleg. He lost his leg the first time he adventured. Bad Con- character has Consumption, etc.

      I did ponder negative modifiers, but decided not to do them as I am designing this for casual gamers/GMs with a limited time due to adulting.

  • Eric B Kiser

    WoZ, what you’ve put out so far looks really great. I’ve had a lot of the same frustrations and I look to see how it all comes together.

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