Dungeons & Delvers: Ability Scores

Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book uses the standard six ability scores from Dungeon & Dragons, but instead of giving you a value that in turn gives you a modifier, we just go with the latter. So, for example, instead of noting that your Strength is 12 with a +1 modifier, you'd just write Strength +1.

Recently I've seen at least one other d20/D&Dish role-playing game that also just uses modifiers, as well as murmurings about the pros and cons of just going with mods: since we've been doing this for I think about three years now, I figured I'd let you know about a few potential issues if you are considering doing the same.

First up, generating ability scores. In Dungeons & Delvers we provide an array (+2, +1, +1, +0, +0, -1, though I'm wondering if that's still a bit too generous), but if you want to randomly generate them it's almost exactly the same: you roll 3d6 and check a table, but you just note the modifier. This way you get the same odds of having a given modifier as you would in Dungeon & Dragons (though we use the ranges from the Easy to Master "black box", where a 9-12 is +0, 13-15 is +1, etc).

With that out of the way, the first potential issue is abilities and effects that increase or reduce ability scores. In Dungeons & Dragons, changing an ability score by 1 point will sometimes do nothing at all. If you're going with older editions even two points might not cause any changes. This is why in 3rd and 4th Edition racial modifiers were always even numbers: if an elf only granted a +1 bonus to Dexterity, it might mean nothing happened, so you got +2 Dexterity (and -2 Constitution in 3rd Edition).

If you're just using modifiers, then any change means something; if you're converting stuff from other editions you'll want to keep that in mind. For example, take all the 3rd Edition spells that granted temporary bonuses to ability scores: bull's strength grants a +4 bonus to Strength, which means it increases the modifier by 2. If you're only using modifiers, to keep everything the same you'd just have it increase your Strength by 2.

The other big thing is what happens when the score would be reduced to 0 or less. In 3rd Edition if any ability score was reduced to 0, you were effectively rendered completely helpless or (in the case of Constitution) died.

In Dungeons & Delvers a modifier of 0 is just the average, so that doesn't work. In the end I just had to append something like, "If the target's [ability score] would be reduced to -5, then [this other thing happens]" to each ability or effect that reduces ability scores. For example, shadows can reduce your Strength when they hit you, so I mention that a target's Strength getting reduced to -5 causes them to die and rise as a shadow at the next sunset.

Yeah it can get repetitive, but it makes sure that the GM knows what's going to happen without having to reference some other part of the book (or another book entirely).

The last thing is deriving more granular data from an ability score, such as a carrying capacity table, and rules for holding your breath, starvation, and so on. If you have ability score values that normally range from 3 to 18, you can be more precise than if you're just using modifiers that run from -3 to +3 (methinks I should do a somewhat abstract encumbrance mechanic, yet another thing to put in the upcoming Appendix D supplement I suppose).

Otherwise that's really it. I mostly started doing this to make it a bit easier for our kids during all the playtest games. I don't really think it drastically improves the game, though: it just didn't make much sense to stick with the modifier-from-value thing.

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want!

After months of doing other things, we turned our attention to and released The Warden. It's based on the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons class of the same name, but judging by the responses we did an excellent job converting it over.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

No comments

Powered by Blogger.