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balancing attributes in D20

Willy Elektrix

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I'm making a D20 game that uses 6 D&D-like attributes: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, perception, charisma.

Each of these stats is used for skill checks, but also derived stats. DEX seems to be used more than the other stats. I worry that DEX is a better value than the other attributes and am looking for ways to mitigate that. Below is a list of the all the derived stats.

Melee attack bonus: benefits from STR
Ranged attack bonus: benefits from DEX
Armor class: benefits from DEX
Hit points: benefits from CON
Fortitude save: benefits from CON
Reflex save: benefits from DEX
Willpower save: benefits from INT
Initiative: benefits from DEX or PER
Running speed: benefits from STR
Carrying capacity: benefits from STR
Psychic power points: benefits from INT, PER, and CHA

As you can see, characters who use ranged weapons get the benefit of DEX for their attack rolls, armor class, initiative, and reflex saves. If they have a high dexterity attribute, that seems pretty powerful.

I have thought about including some alternate attributes for the derived stats. For instance:

Melee attack bonus: benefits from STR or DEX
Ranged attack bonus: benefits from DEX or PER
Armor class: benefits from DEX or CON

That allows characters with low DEX to still have superb armor class, but it doesn't reduce the overall value of DEX.

I have also though about making the melee attack bonus, ranged attack bonus, and armor class each to be an average of two attributes. However, that seems a little inelegant.

Any ideas on how to approach this problem?
 
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Extrakun

Tinker of Games
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13th Age has saves based on the middle value of three stats. For instance, Physical Defence (i.e, reflex save + fortitude save) is the middle of your Strength, Con and Dex, while Mental Defense (will save) is the middle value of Charisma, Intelligent and Wisdom.

You could run with this idea and have Initiative to be be on the middle value of Intelligence, Perception and Dexterity.

I always find CON to be the red-headed step-child of the attributes mix. While all the other attributes does something active, Constitution is just for a passive Hit Points. I would suggest either finding an active role for Constitution, or just drop it entirely. If in your game Hit Points is not body points, but represent a pool of luck, awareness and stamina to avoid blows, you can just do without Con. Much people would just pick a primary stat, and then have their secondary stat as Con, because "duh, HP is important'. Or I would suggest CON has a better return for martial classes.

If you don't mind dropping CON, I would suggest HP being its own stand-alone number, and maybe have each class has a different modifier for HP
 

The Benj

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Or you could merge Strength and Constitution, and split Dexterity into two, one which handles manual stuff like hitting dudes and shooting, and one which handles bodily agility, like balancing, dodging and initiative.

What prompted the decision to strengthen Intelligence by giving it the summer like willpower elements of Wisdom?
 

Alban

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It seems strange to me that you say you want to balance DEX, but you consider adding new possible uses to it by allowing characters to use it for melee attack.
I'm not adverse to it, but only if you restrict it to some kind of weapons, such as light weapons.

Or you could merge Strength and Constitution, and split Dexterity into two, one which handles manual stuff like hitting dudes and shooting, and one which handles bodily agility, like balancing, dodging and initiative.
I agree.

The traditional D&D divide was only really meaningful in the Original D&D game, where each had its use:

-Str was the Fighting Man attribute
-Wis was the Cleric attribute
-Int was the Magic User attribute
-Dex was the Missile weapon attribute (and quickly also became the Thief attribute)
-Con was the Hit Points attribute
-Cha was the "attract followers" attribute
 

torbenm

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Or you could merge Strength and Constitution, and split Dexterity into two, one which handles manual stuff like hitting dudes and shooting, and one which handles bodily agility, like balancing, dodging and initiative.
My own six-attribute game has the following attributes: Brawn (strength and constitution), Agility, Dexterity, Reason (intelligence and wisdom), Perception and Spirit (charisma and wisdom). Note that the traditional D&D Wisdom attribute is integrated into two other attributes.

As for combat, smashing weapons and wound recovery use Brawn, Fencing weapons (which can parry) use Dexterity, thrown weapons and dodging use Agility, and missile weapons (bow, sling, etc.) and initiative use Perception. Spirit can be used for negotiation and Reason for tactical planning, but they have no other combat use.

Each attribute has its own school of magic: Brawn is used for Blood magic (affects self and the Earth element). Dexterity is used for Spellbinding (object enchantment and the Fire element), Agility for Spell weaving (movement and the Water element), Perception for Arcane magic (senses and the Air element), Spirit for Life magic (living things), and Reason for Necromancy (divining and once-living things).

Having different forms of combat using four different attributes and having one school of magic for each attribute balances out the attributes nicely.
 

MOTHdevil

Eric Etkin
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Seems to me that if you have a "Perception" stat, that this would actually grant a better AC bonus than DEX. I mean... Perception is about awareness to surroundings. DEX is merely reactive... also an AC bonus stat, but IMO less comprehensive since armor restrictions and situational unawareness will reduce its effectiveness.

Hmm... Maybe you could break up the DEX superiority by simply granting other stats more coverage. If I look at your original list, there's a number of things there I could see under purview of other stats:

Melee attack bonus: benefits from STR (what about INT? PER? Knowing WHERE to hit is sometimes better than just hitting hard)
Ranged attack bonus: benefits from DEX (what about INT? PER?)
Armor class: benefits from DEX (PER?)
Hit points: benefits from CON (If Hitpoints aren't simply a measure of your actual physical health, what about PER? DEX?)
Fortitude save: benefits from CON
Reflex save: benefits from DEX (PER?)
Willpower save: benefits from INT (CHA?)
Initiative: benefits from DEX or PER (IMO, I never understood why DEX affects this... moving quickly doesn't do squat if you don't know WHAT to do or HOW to react... I could just as easily see INT or PER working here)
Running speed: benefits from STR (Or DEX)
Carrying capacity: benefits from STR
Psychic power points: benefits from INT, PER, and CHA (PER doesn't make sense here... really... CHA is the only one I see qualifying. Maybe CON as well... the PC's overall heartiness)

Hrrm... looking at this stuff not that I've typed it out, I wonder if you should have these bonuses derived from an average of two stats? Especially if you can structure things such that the two stats are usually of opposing affect elsewhere.
 

xanatos1313

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Validated User
I've never really liked the idea of STR feeding a better melee attack. I always thought it made more sense for that to be DEX (the faster and more accurately you can move a sword, the more you'll hit). I think STR makes sense as a damage bonus to both melee and ranged. Hit harder, throw a knife harder, pull back a heavier bow (crossbow being the exception, of course). Honestly, combat in D20 favors DEX, because of course it does. The faster you are, the more accurate you are, the better fighter you are. Outside of combat, I think you could adjust skills that traditionally involve DEX to involve INT or PER. Lockpicking would be your knowledge of the mechanics (INT), or pickpocketing would rely on your awareness of your mark and surroundings (PER), etc.
 

CharonsLittleHelper

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I've never really liked the idea of STR feeding a better melee attack. I always thought it made more sense for that to be DEX (the faster and more accurately you can move a sword, the more you'll hit).
STR makes every bit as much sense. You swing faster - and skill with a sword is more represented by better BAB or THATCO (depending upon edition). Especially in a game where armor makes you harder to hit as opposed to giving Damage Reduction.

Myself - I split the baby. I have no base accuracy skill - and most melee weapons use both Brawn & Dexterity for accuracy, with Brawn adding to damage. But - that's a core aspect of my system - a lot of rolls add two attributes, as do a lot of stats. I intentionally built the game so that everyone is MAD to some degree, while at the same time making their point costs such that they can't be equal - as you only have 1-2 primary attributes, while secondary attributes cost x2, and tertiary cost x3 (on an exponential scale).

My 6 stats (not a d20 system - so limited use here) are Brawn, Dexterity, Agility, Stamina, Sharpness, and Willpower. While similar at points (I didn't want to be different for the sake of it) they split in different places than d20/D&D. If nothing else - in a game with guns Brawn had to be more useful than just melee, so it boosts Wounds (along with Stamina) and dictates your toughness (against poisons/bleeding/impacts etc.).
 
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Willy Elektrix

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Validated User
Thanks for your help folks! Keep the ideas coming. Here's some more background on my game. It's a sci-fi game without classes. Combat is pretty lethal and most characters can be killed in 2-3 attacks. Attributes range from 0 to 5, so the numbers are small.

After juggling some of your ideas, I'm thinking of doing something like this...

STR and CON get merged. Now there are only 5 attributes: STR, DEX, INT, PER, CHA

Melee attack bonus: STR + DEX averaged
Ranged attack bonus: DEX + PER averaged
Armor class: STR + DEX averaged
Hit points: based on STR (this bonus is small and only happens at character creation)
Initiative: based on DEX or PER
Reflex save: based on DEX
Fortitude save: based on STR
Willpower save: based on INT
Psychic power points: INT, PER, CHA combined
Running speed: based on STR
Carrying capacity: based on STR

I realize that this makes melee fighters slightly superior since they use the same attributes for attack and armor class. However, range is still a powerful benefit to ranged weapons, so it balances out.

Initiative and saving throws can only use one attribute because they are technically skill tests. Skill tests all use attribute + skill rating + 1d20 vs. target number.

I agree that it makes sense to split DEX and into dexterity and agility. However, if that was the case, dexterity wouldn't have hardly any skills related to it and would not be a good value. The skill system is at least as important as the combat system in this game.

This is what I've got, for not at least. What do you guys think? Is STR too powerful now?

What prompted the decision to strengthen Intelligence by giving it the summer like willpower elements of Wisdom?
I never liked the WIS attribute. It's basically just perception, so I called it perception. That being said, willpower saves are a skill roll in my game. Skill rolls are all based on an attribute + skill rating. What other attribute would be more closely tied to willpower? I agree, it doesn't mesh perfectly though.
 
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xanatos1313

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Validated User
STR makes every bit as much sense. You swing faster - and skill with a sword is more represented by better BAB or THATCO (depending upon edition). Especially in a game where armor makes you harder to hit as opposed to giving Damage Reduction.
I suppose that's true. I had a carefully planned rebuttal, but when I began to type it out, I slowly realized how wrong I was. Dexterity with a sword makes sense if one is looking to exploit a weakness in armor quickly (Finesse variant), but strength makes sense if one is working the sword in through armor up close like a crowbar, which I've heard happened quite a lot in the past.
 
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