Monday, September 17, 2012

Ability Scores are Obsolete and Stupid

As I said last post, I've simplified the fourth edition character sheet a bit. Its only a small change, but it saves you a bit of headache, and makes character creation take a little less time (okay, DnD char-gen will always be a time-consuming nightmare, but this helps a bit).

Basically, since the beginning of third edition there has been no reason for ability scores to exist in their traditional form. Except for very few cases, the only thing you use is your ability bonus (your ability score -10 /2); the score itself is just a clunky and totally unnecessary detour before arriving at the bonus, an artifact of first and second edition that no longer makes sense.

So, just get rid of them. Ability Scores and Ability Bonuses are now the same thing. Instead of 10 being the baseline for abilities, its 0. For instance, I usually used to have my playerts start all their ability scores at 8, and then give them 28 points to distribute (with every point increase above 14 in one stat costing double). Nowadays, I tell them to start at -1, and give them 14 points to distribute with the cost doubling after 2. Each racial and leveling bonus adds +1 to the ability stat, rather than the default +2.

The only place where this doesn't work is when you're determining your starting hit points in fourth edition (not a problem if you're playing third). There are two solutions to this.


  • Double your CON score and add 10 when using it to determine starting hit points.


or the much more elegant


  • Just replace Constitution with a set number for this purpose (I use 15). Its not like the variance in starting hp matters after the first few levels anyway.

Like I said, its not an amazing revolutionary change that fixes everything. But I do like it better than the default.

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