Monday, November 9, 2009

Things that Make Me Go Hmmm...

Over at Grognardia, James meditated on his mild discomfort with what he called "double-dipping" characteristics — those that have both a game mechanic and give XP bonuses (such as Dex for Thieves). In response, Matthew Slepin of Wheel of Samsara wrote this:

If you don't like the idea of XP benefits for high stats (and I do not like that at all; nor requirements for certain classes) then I think you're left with two rational decisions. Either make all the stats mean something or dump them.

This got me thinking: what if all the characteristics were dispensed of? All mechanical bonuses associated with characteristics could then be tied to classes. This got my creative juices flowing and I came up with the following:

  • Archer: This class is good with ranged weapons. They receive a +1 to hit with all ranged attacks.
  • Berserker: This class is good at delivering devastating blows in HTH. They receive a +1 to all damage rolls in HTH.
  • Sergeant: This class represents natural born leaders. Other classes may have a maximum of 3 hirelings. Sergeants may have up to 6. These hirelings have a +1 to their morale. Sergeants may also forfeit an action to provide a floating +1 bonus to a fellow party member for that round (to hit HTH, to hit ranged, damage or AC).
  • Shield Maiden/Tank: This class is good with armor, shields and defense. They receive a -1 bonus to their AC.
  • Weapon Master: This class is good with HTH weapons. They receive a +1 to hit with all HTH attacks.
  • Clerics, Elves and Magic Users do not receive any bonuses beyond their spell casting abilities.
  • Dwarves get a +1 HP for every HD.
  • Halflings get a +1 to all saving throws.

Now, personally, I like a little randomness in my character generation. This can be accomplished in any combination of the following:

  1. Roll a d10 to determine which class the character is.
  2. Roll a d6. On a 1-3 the class bonus remains at 1. On a 4-5 the bonus is 2. On a 6 the bonus is 3.
  3. In addition to the class bonus, roll on the following table:
1-2: +1 to hit with ranged attacks
3-4: +1 damage with HTH
5-6: -1 AC
7-8: +1 to hit with HTH
9-10: +1 HP per HD
11-12: +1 to all saving throws
13: -1 to hit with ranged attacks
14: -1 damage with HTH
15: +1 AC
16: -1 to hit with HTH
17: -1 HP per HD
18: -1 to all saving throws
19-20: Roll twice ignoring 19-20.

Archers, Berserkers, Sergeants, Shield Maidens/Tanks and Weapon Masters function as fighters. The other classes all function as otherwise written.

D&D without characteristics — makes me go hmmm...


  1. It can certainly be done. As you noted, all you really have to do is note circumstances where the character differs from an assumed norm.

    Personally, I don't mind XP benefits for high stats. I mean, I could probably never be as good a physicist as Albert Einstein, and I don't get any bonus perks to compensate for my dearth of natural talent in that area, either. Sometimes life just isn't fair. :)

  2. Will,

    I, too, am actually quite comfortable with XP benefits for high stats. It does represent natural talent where some folks are just going to be better than others. However, until yesterday I had never even considered getting rid of characteristics. I am not sure I am entirely comfortable with the idea, but I do see one huge upside. Sans characteristics, there can not be any kind of universal characteristic-based mechanic. No skill checks, no characteristic-based saves, etc. This automatically places more responsibility (and freedom) on the Referee to make ad hoc decisions and rulings. In turn, it forces players to rely on there skill as players instead of relying on a universal mechanic to get things done. This I see as a good thing.

  3. You might take a look at what True20 by Green Ronin did, which was eliminate the 3d6 values for stats and just have the bonuses, which made sense because all the stats to is translate to the bonuses anyway. It's not the same thing you're proposing, but it has the same ideology of getting rid of extraneous numbers.