I know I said this post was going to be about Character Races, but I thought that we really should discuss Ability Scores before we go any further. My first question is: what do you want to call them? Ability Scores? Attributes? Stats? I use all three interchangably, but if we’re going to do this properly we better pick one term and stick to it.
Anyway – my overall intention is that stats are less important in HD&D than they are in either third or fourth edition. Although it looked as though fourth edition lessened the importance of stats (by allowing characters to choose which attribute modifies their defences), stats are actually more important.
In fourth edition, all classes need to have one excellent and two good stats. That is the foundation on which all powers are built on. That means that 4e pushes you into choosing a specific races – for the ability score bonuses – and then pushes you to arrange your stats in a particular order.
I want to get away from this metagame approach to attributes. Yes, you want to have high stats in areas where you excel, but the system shouldn’t force you to do that just to be moderately effective.
Note on Races
The following assumes that every race in HD&D gives you a +2 bonus to two attributes. You may not agree with that, but assume it’s true for the duration of this post. We’ll discuss racial modifiers at length in the next post!
The first point, that I will not be moved on, is that we are definitely not rolling ability scores. What the designers of third edition didn’t seem to appreciate (or if they did, it wasn’t reflected in the finished rules) is that attributes really, really matter in D&D. A character with average or poor stats is always going to be overshadowed by the lucky bugger who rolled three 18s. Point-buy stops that sort of thing from happening.
The question is: what sort of point buy do we use?
Fourth edition is as good a place as any to start. They have a number of suggested arrays for your attributes, the most common of which is 16, 14, 13, 12, 11 and 10. If you don’t want to use any of the pre-generated attribute arrays you can make your own with their point-buy system:
You start with six stats: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10 and 8. Then you have 22 points to spend on stats. The costs of raising a stat from 10 are as follows: 11 (1 point), 12 (2 points), 13 (3 points), 14 (5 points), 15 (7 points), 16 (9 points), 17 (12 points) and 18 (16 points). To improve the 8 you must first increase it to 10, which costs 2 points.
There is an automated tool to produce ability scores in this method, but you need to subscribe to the D&D Insider to access it.
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game published by Paizo Publishing has a slightly different idea. In this system, all your attributes start at 10, and you have a number of points to buy your stats. Unlike the D&D model you can choose to lower stats to get more points. You cannot lower a stat below 7. The cost of each stat is as follows:
7 (-4 points), 8 (-2 points), 9 (-1 point), 11 (+1 point), 12 (+2 points), 13 (+3 points), 14 (+5 points), 15 (+7 points), 16 (+10 points), 17 (+13 points) and 18 (+17). Subtly different from the WotC version.
The number of points you get depends on the needs of the campaign. This can be anything from 10 to 25 depending on how powerful the GM wants his players to be.
I like the idea of you starting with 10s in all your attributes and then modifying them accordingly with a point buy system. I also like the idea of being able to lower your attibutes below 10. But I don’t want a system where players think they are obligued to have two cripplingly low attributes, just so they can be godlike in other areas.
A want most characters to have a stat no higher than 18 including racial modifiers. So the point buy system should encourage you to buy a stat at no higher than 16. However, I want it to be difficult to get a character to have two 16s, without reducing the other attributes down to 10.
I think my ideal system would allow a character to have a respectable collection of stats (the WotC standard of 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 is good). An 18 should only be possible to the extreme detriment of your stats. After all if you buy an 18, it means you are starting with a stat of 20 once you have added in the racial modifiers. That sort of thing is not to be encourage, but I can see the justification for some PCs.
Here’s my proposal for point buy. Have a play it with it and tell me what you think:
The Proposed HD&D Point Buy
You start with 10 in every attribute and have 20 points to spend, using the costs on the table below. Under this method it costs 20 points to get an array of 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 (which is what I was aiming for). There is also the scope to reduce your attributes below 10 if you want. Reducing an attribute gives you extra points to spend.
No attribute can be reduced to less than 6, or increased to more than 18.
So what do you think? Do me a favour and create some ability arrays from these rules. Try to recreate old PCs from second or third edition. Does it work? Is it broken? Abuse this as much as you can and tell me the results.
It is my hope that having a stat of 18 will be seen as less advantageous than spreading those points around all your stats. It is my hope that 16 should be seen as optimal. Low stats will still hurt you more than high stats will benefit you, so beware!
Ability Score Advancement
I intend to use the rules for ability score advancement laid down in fourth edition. That is, you gain a +1 to two stats of your choice at levels 4, 8, 14, 18, 24 and 28; and +1 to all stats at levels 11 and 21.
Ageing does not affect your stats per se. You don’t take a dip in your physical stats when you hit middle age. Presumably there would be diseases or poisons that could permanently reduce your attributes, but on the whole these would be things that affect your character outside combat. I want to get away from a player deliberately ageing their PC wizard just to get the stat bonuses.
There will be no magic items, spells or outside influences that damage your character by reducing ability scores. That is just too fiddly to work out on the fly during a combat. Equally, there will be nothing that can raise your attibutes either.
Next, we really are going to discuss character races.