Ability Score Driven D&D

This is in response to a Blogger post by Omnipotent Eye. Apparently it’s impossible for me to post on Blogger no matter what I do (WordPress, Anon, Input Name, etc). I just get a generic unhelpful error message that says something like “Blogger can’t be assed today.” I guess they really only want Blogger people to talk with Blogger people.

Omnipotent Eye talked about using Ability Scores as saves. Here’s the response I would have given if Blogger had cooperated.

Invent some shit on the spot. This is the Way.

Rocks fall? Have everyone roll d20 trying to get under DEX.

Wading through a leech-infested swamp? Roll d20 trying to get under CON.

Getting the tough sell from a merchant? Roll d20 under WIS.

Give a bonus for easy things, like the bite of a weak spider, or a penalty for tough things like the breath of a dragon. It’s appropriate to use the existing save bonus/penalty (whether a straight +/- in 1E/2E, or the number above or below 11 in 3E).

You could do the same thing with attack rolls. No reason why that type of success should be any different. I’d go with STR for melee, DEX for missile.

You can simulate the improving saving throws from gaining levels by giving +1 to save per 3 levels or something. That means a reduction on your roll, making it easier to get under your stat.

Likewise you can give bonuses for skills, as with the proficiency system in 2E D&D. If a character is said to have +2 with Carpentry, have him take a -2 on the d20 roll against STR when trying to raise a barn. Or maybe against INT when designing a building. But don’t give level-based bonuses for skill checks: it doesn’t make sense that just because someone is an accomplished swordsman that he has a better chance to design a building.

Although it might be better to just go with the same premise and consider whether the task falls under that class. If you’re a Fighter you’re good at fighting type stuff and maybe also wilderness things, sailing, falconry, horsemanship, equipment maintenance, etc. A Thief is good at picking locks, sneaking, climbing, hiding, bribery, escaping handcuffs, appraising and fencing loot, etc. A Magic-User is good at sage knowledge stuff in general but not necessarily application. Give them the level-based bonus (+1 per 3 levels or whatever you decided) to those tasks.

Then it’s just up to each class to have some special skill. Fighters get multiple attacks, good equipment choices, and high HP. Thieves get backstab, easy level advancement, maybe a luck bonus to saves. Magic-Users get spells.

Consequences: this system makes low level characters have a better chance at success than in 1E/2E D&D (I’m not sure about 3E, I remember something like a 50-50 chance or better at low level). They don’t improve as quickly. The DM has to figure out what a save should be against every single time. It makes ability scores really important. It requires changes to all the magic items, spells, and abilities that reference specific saves. It makes a “save vs. spells” a lot more complicated than 1E/2E people are used to (although it won’t make much difference for 3E people).

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3 Responses to “Ability Score Driven D&D”

  1. Gordon A. Cooper Says:

    I always used the “roll 1d20 under attribute” method for resolving miscellaneous tasks and stunts and such. Using that method for saving throws and combat is a logical next step, and that way lies Basic-Role-Playing (which is the foundation of many of my favorite role-playing games). The Idea Rolls and the like are the typical 3-18 range attributes multiplied by 5. You can just as easily cut out the math and roll 1d20 under the attribute itself. The entire percentile system for skills can be divided by 5 to allow a d20 roll. In fact, Issaries’ HeroQuest is essentially RuneQuest divided by 5 and played with a d20. Other games have taken a similar route. I like it. It’s simple and it makes sense. And it’s easy to teach to new players.

  2. 1d30 Says:

    Cool. It’s a fine balance we walk between simple rules and sufficiently interesting rules. I’ll look up the -Quests and BRP.

  3. Gordon A. Cooper Says:

    I meant to include these links in my comments:

    http://www.basicroleplaying.com (a.k.a. BRP Central)

    Basic Roleplaying Quick-Start Edition (now $2.00 at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG)

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