Monday, December 15, 2014

Racial Ability Score Modifiers, Redux

Elf: +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution.

I never quite liked that, since it could lead to starting stats higher than 18, and I abhor anything that could possibly lend itself to min-maxing.

What about:

Elf: +Dexterity, -Constitution

And then you just roll stats as normal, except that if the elf's constitution is higher than the elf's dexterity, you switch the two stats?  It still lends itself to fictional consistency (elves are nimble but not very sturdy) while keeping elf stats in the same bounded range as the other races/classes/race-classes.  And you still have the opportunity to have an elf character who has constitution as high as the human--it's just exceedingly rare.


  1. Very elegant. It also ties in well with the D&D 5e core mechanic of advantage/disadvantage implemented as "roll twice, pick best/worst".

    I never liked +/- systems for stats in D&D -- the 3d6 system is carefully designed to model a bell curve distribution of human qualities, and it works really well when paired with d20-based tests (i.e. the strongest man is almost twice as likely to succeed as the average man, but never 100%, while the weakest man is very unlikely to succeed, but never 0%).

  2. I would also add that it makes it so that no Elf will be any more hardy than they are dexterous. I call that a feature, not a bug.

    Applied to orcs, that means low strength orcs would always be at least as dumb. It is only the paragons of a race that can excel in places their race might falter, which I think is interesting fictionally and mechanically (you literally can judge an Orc by their strength or a Dwarf by their constitution).

  3. I was skeptical when I read this but tried this with the new campaign, and it works GREAT.

    I do 3d6 in order (pick best from lot of 5) and this allows for just a bit of customization: "Oh, if I play an elf I can switch out this high CON for the low INT and be the mage I want to play" It opens up a few more possibilities and in general just meshes great with straight-roll ability generation.

    I'm thinking of opening it up to all the various human nationalities in my world, so those skinny thoughtful Stygian gusy will swap +intelligence for -strength, while the gregarious fat merchants of Hoom +charisma for -dexterity. This will get my characters to sample a broad range of nationalities and add flavor to Human.

    Keep up the great work!